Like a magpie drawn to sparkly objects I am constantly tempted by the gleam of shiny new eateries. Not only has this led to a fair few duds, it has proven to be a serious drain on the wallet hence this year I endeavour to be a little more discerning in my restaurant selection, letting others hit up places ahead of me before diving in. I am also keen to return more to familiar haunts like Sakana-tei, Bob Bob Ricard, The Ledbury or Bincho, where I know we’ll be looked after and our money well spent.
One such place that we have been frequenting for years but have neglected of late, is Tom Pemberton’s Hereford Road. Tom was the former head chef at St John Bread and Wine, clearly evident in how the daily-changing menu reads – hearty plates of British produce – seasonal fruit and veg, sustainable line-caught fish and locally reared meat and poultry.
Fan of offal that I am, I make a beeline for meaty grilled Ox Hearts or tender Veal Sweetbreads whenever either appear on the menu. The latter is sometimes sautéed with cauliflower and capers, but I favour them deep-fried and crisp with a soft centre and served with a gently sharp tartare sauce that cuts through the creaminess. Heavenly.
For the less adventurous there are always several vegetarian starters, as well as plenty of fish and seafood options. When I can pull myself away from ordering animal bits, I’ll opt for perhaps the Braised Octopus with Aioli, Globe Artichoke with vinaigrette, or their Potted Crab which is very good indeed.
Mains are equally uncomplicated. Fish is left on the bone, grilled, roasted or pan-fried and plated up with a simple side; the selection on offer rotating with the seasons – maybe Mackerel and Piccalilli, Slip Soles with refreshing minted Cucumber or Grey Mullet and Purple Sprouting Broccoli.
Meat is also handled simply and accompanied by vegetables. When available, game is usually a solid choice as both a starter (Quail and Aioli) or main (Pigeon with Lentils and Chicory), but really you can’t go wrong with most things – a recently ordered Pot-Roasted Duck Leg with Carrots was moist, tender and full of flavour.
And of course I enjoy offally dishes such as pan-fried Calf’s Liver, Kidneys and Onions but I would be just as happy with a roast Veal or Pork Chop. There’s often items intended for sharing between two, like a whole Sea Bass, slow-cooked Roe Shoulder or Roasted Ox Tail (I have been dying to partake of one of these but it has yet to grace the menu on any of my visits).
Puddings are no-nonsense and rustic, including comforting favourites like Sticky Toffee Pudding, Vanilla Rice Pudding and Buttermilk Pudding (served with delicious thin biscuits), as well as a limited choice of homemade ice cream and local cheeses.
Hereford Road is a great little neighbourhood joint and we’re lucky to live a stone’s throw away – it’s especially convenient when we want a break from the kitchen but still crave home-style fare. However it’s not a destination restaurant as such and if seeking refinement or a sense of occasion you should look elsewhere (possibly to Ledbury, a short walk away). But if you are after good honest British cooking, this would certainly be the place for you.
3 Hereford Road
London W2 4AB
t. 020 7727 1144