Test Drives

insideA look inside the main room at Caractere.

What can you tell us about Caractére?

It's the first restaurant from husband and wife team Emily Roux and Diego Ferreri. Roux is the latest in her culinary family to enter the restaurant business and looks after front of house while Ferrari, former head chef of Le Gavroche is in charge of the kitchen. 

And what kind of food can we expect?

It's certainly close to the French fine dining of Le Gavroche, but in a much more relaxed atmosphere. And expect larger portions than your usual French haute cuisine. 

Where is it?

It's in Notting Hill, about a 5-minute walk from Westbourne Park tube station. It's on the corner of Ledbury Street and only a couple of minutes walk from that restaurant. 

breadSourdough and exemplary butter at Caractere.

Where should we meet for a drink first?

In this area, some of the best choices lie on Portobello Road, which is just a few streets away, although nearby The Oak looks like a good bet too. 

And what's it like inside?

Caractere has taken over an old Bumpkin site, but it's changed dramatically from those days. The exposed brickwork matched with dark velvet seating gives it an extremely cosy look.

What about the food?

The menu itself is divided into sections which help to give a rough overview of the food on offer. So there's Curious (the closest to a starter section), Subtle (vegetarian), Delicate (seafood), Robust (meat), Strong (cheese) and Greedy (dessert). Everything's available a la carte, or you can go for their tasting menu and choose a (slightly smaller) dish from each of those sections for £78 (the table doesn't have to order the same dishes).

We went somewhere in-between - taking in most of the sections from the a la carte menu. Food was on the generous side, but also priced on the punchy side, so if fancy a lot of the dishes, the paired down tasting menu does sound like the best choice. There's also a set lunch menu, with only certain dishes available (including the cod, risotto and chocolate below), for £39 for three courses. 

Here's what we had on the night:

canapesWe do love a good set of canapes - particularly when one of them looks like a bourbon biscuit but is filled with sardine butter.

sweetbreadsCrispy veal sweetbread, roasted artichokes, olive paste and harissa jus (£13) - So we know that this isn't everyone's cup of tea but we just can't resist sweetbreads on the menu. Beautifully crispy and worked well with the harissa jus. 

scallopRoast diver scallops, salsify purée, mustard and beurre blanc (£16) - generously sized and perfectly cooked scallops. 

risotto“Acquarello” risotto, almond praline, reduced port and black crumble (£16) - we have to say, this picture really doesn't give away the size of the dish. It's on a dinner plate and bloody huge. We think you could easily share this between two. 

pepeCeleriac “cacio e pepe” with extra-aged balsamic vinegar (£18) - easily one of the stars of the night, so whether or not you're going vegetarian on your visit, this can't be missed. 

lambRoast rack of Herdwick lamb, grilled aubergine, ras el hanout and lamb jus (£31) - the priciest dish on the menu - but the quality of the lamb shines through. 

codSeared Cornish cod, crispy potatoes, lardo di Colonnata, horseradish (£21) - once again the adage that lardo makes every dish great will serve you well here.

And what about the "Greedy" section (dessert)?

Yes, we left room - and there's a signature dessert that you won't want to miss. 

milleArlettes mille-feuille with blackberries, diplomat cream and white chocolate ice cream (£10) - another must-order dish. As with the risotto above, we may not have really captured the scale of this dish. Again, that's dinner plate sized, so bloody huge. But it's also really light and worth leaving room for. Another dish that we think can be shared. 

chocolateChocolate cake, pecan praline, salted caramel sauce, mascarpone ice cream (£10) - this dollop of chocolatey goodness comes to you straight from the pan that you can see in the background. Perfect winter comfort food. 

And what about drink?

Wine starts at £8 a glass (125ml) or £30 a bottle - and there are a few available at the £30-33 price point. But if you're looking to push the boat out, there's always the "Grecco di Tufo, Giallo d’Arles, Quintodecimo" from Campania at £75. 

Overall?

Emily Roux and Diego Ferrari have got a winner on their hands here. The restaurant was buzzing when we visited on a Tuesday night  - not a free table to be had - and there's a real expertise on show in the food we had on the night. Expect quality fine dining in a laid back atmosphere. 

 

More about Caractère

Where is it? 209 Westbourne Park Road, London W11 1EA

How to book: Book online

Find out moreVisit the website and follow them on Instagram @caractererestaurant

 

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