“Portobello Road, Portobello road, street where the riches of ages are stowed. Anything and everything a chap can unload, is bought off the barrow on Portobello road.”
Bedknobs & Broomsticks. One of the great childhood movies. And yes, I agree, Portobello Road is where the riches of ages are stowed. But instead of on market stalls they exist inside the drawing rooms of the local affluent townhouses which stand at the top of the real estate tree. They should change it to “Chepstow road Chepstow road, sitting rooms where the riches of ages are stowed”.
However, this got me pondering the question. Where do these habitants go to eat in the area either for a local bite or a celebratory knees up?
Certainly not Osteria Basilico. During the summer I saw one of the cast members of Towie eating outside there, so hmmm perhaps a bit passé now?
Not the Ladbroke Arms. It’s gotten too expensive for what it is and it’s too crowded and the formal dining area smells of the loos. So that’s a no no.
7 Saints? Perhaps. Although for all its desired cosiness, it’s quite confined and it doesn’t have the celebratory feel to it. So where? Where do they go to celebrate Grey’s 16th Birthday party?
The Ledbury? Naah. It’s too formal and you don’t want to have to spend 4 hours waiting for the 2-minute explanation of each course before you can eat it. Good puddings though.
Emily Roux may have just opened the answer to this Notting Hill billy conundrum.
Caractère, on Westbourne Park Road opened last month at the old Bumpkin site and it’s gotten all the locals razzed up.
This restaurant is like a love child of a Sketch and a Laylow. Sketch for its cool quirky interior, and Laylow for its localness and delicious food but with, don’t get me wrong, much more oomph.
Jimmy and I ate here a few weeks back with a dear male friend of ours who is a fellow foodie firmly onboard the food boat quest in search of the the newest most interesting restaurants. Like the restaurant itself, he provided entertainment, surprise and joy throughout the evening.
I like restaurants that have a heavy curtain on entry. It gives intimacy, keeps the draft at bay and as an extra bonus, keeps that element of intrigue alive that all new restaurants should have.
For Emily Roux, granddaughter and daughter to a culinary dynasty success story it must be a personal and professional challenge and pressure to make a success in the same field. The Roux name does have that certain je ne said quoi magnifique soufflé connotation to it. However, I’ve never been to Le Gavroche and can only imagine its formal, stiff strait jacket vibe just wouldn’t agree with me. The food, perhaps yes, but I think it’s safe to say I care as much about the vibe and the feeling I get from a restaurant as I do the food.
Caractère certainly gives you the feeling you are in the newest and chicest restaurant du jour.
Celeriac cacio e Pepe (above)
Rack of hardwick roast lamb grilled aubergine ras el hanout and lamb jus (above)
Seared mackeral with confit beetroot and black cardamom (below)
Grilled monkfish and parsley root (below) were just a few of some truly exquisite dishes.
They also had some clever canapes, one of which was dressed up in a Bourbon outfit but was a savoury burst of yumminess. Very clever.
Run and founded by Emily Roux (as we know) and her Italian husband Diego Ferrari who first met in Monaco when they both worked at Alain Ducasse’s legendary Louis XV. Now married they have ventured out on their own. So romantic. Two passionate cooks sharing their passion for passionate food and creating a delicious marriage of Italian and French cuisines in Caractère.
However, this marriage is an expensive one. The prices are significant, but this is the place for a special occasion and a celebration when you don’t want to have to travel central. Slightly too expensive for me to be my local, but probably sur le point of the Chepstow lot.
Questionable menu headings though. Curious (starters?) Subtle (secondi?) Delicate (main course?) Robust (main course part deux?) Greedy (dessert?) a bit odd. The normal Antipasti, Primi, Secondi, Secondi di Carne and Dolci are still okay. Let’s not over complicate uncomplicated things.
Also does anyone want the added guilt of being described as greedy for ordering a pudding?
Incidentally I ignored this completely and ordered the chocolate pudding which was sensational.
The other courses were exceptional but slightly too small. To leave full, you need to order well and we know what that means (£££).
However, as Cornelius Brown sang “There’s pure inspiration in every creation. Artifacts to glorify our regal abode, Are hidden in the flotsam in Westbourne Park Road”. Welcome to the neighbourhood Caractère.
Rating (0-5) ***