Tom delights in the rarest of discoveries – the conversion of a London pub that works
A decade or so ago, in what seems to be a very different time, The Princess Royal (then known as The Commander) was another nondescript Notting Hill boozer, flogging overpriced, uninspired gastropub fodder, the kind of blithely harmless vagabond who gets forgotten in the time required to pass from the neck to the abdomen. Forgotten, that is, until you see the bill. Finally it closed, sitting empty and unloved, a once-handsome relic of a time long gone.
But Notting Hill, like nature, hates a vacuum. And the pub recently reopened after a sleek and extensive facelift, the latest offering from the Cubitt House group, with Ben Tish at the helm. I’ve long loved Tish’s cooking, from Salt Yard to Norma and The Game Bird, while Cubitt House has rarely put a foot wrong. And this princess is a peach.
‘Joyful lustful pairing’: cool Lindisfarne oysters with warm chorizo. Tom Parker Bowles enjoys the rarest of discoveries – the conversion of a London pub that works
Okay, so despite having a horseshoe-shaped central bar, The Princess Royal is more of a pub restaurant than a gastropub per se. And the better. We sit in an adjoining room filled with hanging greenery, the original Victorian tiled floors uncovered, the upholstery bright and bold.
As always with Tish, he is the star of the production, his focus is broadly sunny, southern Mediterranean. The red shrimp crudo is stunningly clean and richly rich, the quivering, translucent flesh obscenely fresh. Like beautifully picked Cornish crab, sweet as a mermaid’s sigh, with the first fresh peas of the season, a sprinkling of crunchy breadcrumbs and a subtle hint of chilli. In both dishes, however, the crustacean is the big star, with other elements to polish, cozy and flatten.
There is a sound of help and satisfaction
Splendid, briny Lindisfarne rock oysters come with a dollop of warm chorizo, a joyously lusty pairing, while lightly smoked anchovies sit on toast with soft-boiled quail eggs and pickled shallots. Whipped nduja, all delicious fat and fire, is spread over homemade fennel crackers. There’s a wonderfully juicy Gloucester Old Spot chop, a flat steak, cooked just the right blue, with a satisfying chew and subtle depth. Along with blistered, bubbling parmigiana that would make Nonna proud.
As the lights soften and the night deepens, the noise becomes an all-encompassing, joyous symphony of clinking glass, clinking cutlery and easy bonhomie. The sound of help, contentment and a reborn princess.
- About £45 per head. The Princess Royal, 47 Hereford Road, London W2; cubitthouse.co.uk
Drinks: Olly’s Cavalcade Cava
Spanish Cava is great, the prices attractive and July 12th is International Cava Day. Made in the same way as French Champagne but from Spanish grapes, it’s hard to find a better pairing with olives, shellfish – even fish and chips. It is mainly found in Penedés near Barcelona, it is aged for at least nine months, there are many good ones for a dime. For complexity and richness, spray on the Reserva (aged 15 months).
WINE OF THE WEEK: Specially Selected Vintage Cava 2017 (11.5%), £7.49, Aldi. Fresh pineapple rolled in exotic spices, it is aromatic, delicious and so good value for money
Kylie Minogue Organic Brut Reserva Cava (11.5%), £12, wine supplied. co.uk Rich in flavor, pristine and with all the high notes. Well done, Kylie.
Prestige Cava Rosado Brut NV (12%), £10, Marks & Spencer. Fruity summer fun, this rosé fizz has delicious depth as well as an enticing texture. Delicious!
Taste the difference Reserva Vintage Brut Nature Cava 2017 (12%), £9, Sainsbury’s. Arrow apple-y: expect punchy bubbles and lots of flavor.
Best Marques de los Rios Cava Brut (11.5%), £9, Morrisons. Beautifully rich and intense. Serve chilled with a bowl of salted almonds and rest.