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Restaurant Review: The Imperial, London

The Imperial
577 Kings Road, London, SW6 2EH
Cuisine: British
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Jamie Tabberer: The Imperial is riding a wave of laid-back cool for sure, but knowingly, and with class – and with greater ease than its many crammed, beer-soaked competitors in the east.
 
Amid the sometimes overwhelming extravagance of West London's King's Road (in both shopping and culinary terms and reflected in its mind-bending length),  The Imperial is something of an inviting oasis.
 
It has warm, pub-like characteristics – at the bar, I overheard well-heeled but informal clientele refer to it affectionately as 'The Impy' – but with an impeccable cleanliness and a clean, modern aesthetic.
 
Meanwhile, the refined aromas of the open-plan kitchen precede one's arrival at the small, moodily-lit restaurant around the corner, connecting the establishment's two elements seamlessly.
 
The menu indicates a thoughtful approach to homegrown, traditional
cooking (wild mushrooms with brioche and duck egg; ham hock with parsley
terrine; pigeon with root vegetable slaw; venison with spiced red cabbage) but
with the occasional international flourish, such as the pairing of trout with
chorizo (albeit, salmon sashimi on the same menu as Ribeye steak with hand cut chips is perhaps a step too far for me).
 
My starter was my standout dish: generous, meaty chunks of torn smoked mackerel in a soft beetroot and apple slaw with horseradish crème fraîche - a rainbow of would-be sharp flavours, and yet the end result is impossibly light and delicate. The smoked duck with crunchy broccoli and some dashes of chilli and soy was my guest's slightly heavier choice.
 
For our mains we opted for a meltingly tender chicken breast served with an
autumnal combination of butternut and pecans, an absolutely delicious blue
cheese mousse and a smattering of honeyed figs. My guest's serving of pork belly and parsnip puree was similarly juicy and tender. Its accompaniment, kale, a nod to the current vegetable choice of hipsters worldwide.
 
Regards wine, we trusted our impeccably well-mannered waiter's English white recommendation: the Shawsgate Pandora 2011 was a bright accompaniment with a strong tang of ripe grape that proved refreshing between courses.
 
Finally, for dessert, I was immediately drawn to something I rarely see anymore: bread and butter pudding. It was indulgently rich and inevitably comforting; I just wish the helping had been bigger. The concoction of spices, or perhaps the heaviness of the cinnamon, will not be to everyone's taste, but I found it curious. And therein lies The Imperial's mission statement: an array of modern classics, each with the tiniest element of risk.
 
It all makes for an intriguing restaurant experience that one can enjoy without
breaking the bank – the average cost of a main is around £18.
 
One final note: I was overjoyed to find Aesop soap (Mandarin Rind and Rosemary Leaf – exquisite) in the gents and thus proceeded to wash my hands at least three times throughout my visit.
 
The Imperial is riding a wave of laid-back cool for sure, but knowingly, and with class – and with greater ease than its many crammed, beer-soaked competitors in the east.
 
 
 
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29 December 2013
By: Jamie Tabberer
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