It’s not often I get to West London, but when I heard about Wildflower – a new family-run all day cafe and bistro in Notting Hill, I was keen to book in. Saturday night table for two? Yes please.
We got off the tube at Bayswater and decided to have a ponder around the shops and squeeze in a couple of pre-dinner drinks. It was just before Christmas so the streets were filled with fresh Christmas trees and it was buzzing with Saturday night revellers. As a neighbourhood we don’t often get to explore, we didn’t mind the 20 minute walk towards Notting Hill after a couple of drinks.
Wildflower Cafe is at the Notting Hill end of Chepstow Road. You might not consider leaving the popular Westbourne Grove that’s jam-packed with all sorts of wonderful bars and famous Middle Eastern restaurants. But as we discovered, it’s worth taking the five minute walk down Chepstow Road, because Wildflower Cafe is a very special place.
This restaurant come florist had a hint of charm the moment we walked in. The setting is understated, but has a distinct theme of upscaled vintage meets modern. Old mirrors adorn one of the walls while an old measuring stick forms the banister to the stairs that lead to the kitchen and washroom downstairs. The chairs and tables are mismatched and there’s a very quirky trio of lights whose shades are made out of bowler hats. Then there’s the window that’s filled with fresh flowers, olive oils, preserves and a selection of chocolate brownies, Victoria sponges and all sorts of freshly baked cakes – the type that resemble one your grandma just pulled together. This place had character.
The menu itself changes throughout the day. By day, expect Asian crispy fish baguettes and steak sandwiches. And an ever changing blackboard of specials offers an array of pasta dishes, freshly made tarts and ‘Fizz ‘n’ chips’ (a glass of Prosecco and twice-cooked chips) as well. Come the weekend, I hear it’s all about the brunch. There’s the usual granola and eggs Benedict on the menu, but mix in a blood orange bucks fizz and you can see this is something a bit more special than another street corner caf.
For us, we were revelling in the bistro-style evening menu – a fuss-free option of three starters and three mains. And what a seductive menu it was.
Usually Mr OhSo and I wouldn’t order the same dish. But while the jerusalem artichoke soup and anchovy bruschetta both sounded delightful, we couldn’t resist both indulging in the smoked duck breast salad.
It was a plate of pink and green hues. Fine slithers of meaty duck breast were layered with slices of fresh apple and fig into a lovely flower-like circle. Topped with baby salad leaves, this was one of the finest and beguiling starts to a meal I’d had in months. And with the wildflower signature flower on top, I couldn’t stop snapping away at this beautiful plate of food.
Next, I had the pan fried salmon fillet. Admittedly, I have a tendency to order salmon a lot. But this was especially good.
With a nicely crisp skin, the middle of the salmon was not over done and the pureed fennel was flavoursome. As for the roast potatoes, they were also perfectly crisp and served as a perfect accompaniment to the tangy but subtle sauce vierge which pulled all the flavours together.
Meat-loving Mr OhSo went for the chargrilled venison. With a side of kale, joined by a combination of leaks and spelt barley, it was a rather rustic plate of food. The generous portion of venison was pink in the middle as game should be, and served with a red wine jus. Hearty, rich and flavoursome, this was honest and high quality cuisine that we thought, would probably be served at half the size if you were dining in a long-established restaurant in the West End.
By the time we’d finished our mains, a number of other diners had dropped in. The charming thing about Wildflower is you can tell its family-run. I’m not sure whether the shy waitress was one of the three siblings who set up this venue. But she was charming and switched on to our needs. And the atmosphere was effortlessly relaxed and informal.
For dessert, we were invited to peruse the freshly baked cakes in the window, but we decided to order off the menu.
Mr OhSo settled on the chocolate brownie…
…and I dived straight in to the fruit crumble with creme anglaise.
I could harp on all day about how great the crumble was. With a generous amount of fruit inside, the topping was extremely sweet and crunchy. And crazily moreish.
I loved the way this dessert was presented with a little milk bottle of creme anglaise, allowing you to pour it over the crumble as and when you liked. The creme anglaise had a nice thin consistency and wasn’t too sweet which offered a perfect accompaniment.
The special thing about the brownie – other than the warm, melt-in-your-mouth consistency – was the thick cardamon flavoured custard. I don’t think either of us had tried this before so there was excitement all round. I think we easily talked about ‘that amazing cardamon custard’ for at least a week after.
While I do enjoy the ambience of a larger restaurant, there’s something charming about this intimate venue. It was nice to see a large table of people chatting over candlelight and sipping wine while chatting to the chef. And it was lovely to feel like we could have done the same til the early hours, without being rushed out of the door.
I’m sure this place has a influx of lively brunchers and ‘yummy mummys’ by day, but there’s something undeniably cosy and homely about Wildflower by night.
While you pay for the quality of food here (the panfried salmon will cost £17.50 and the venison £16.50), it’s worth every penny and I wouldn’t think twice about paying this if I returned.
We braced the cold for the slightly tipsy but fully sated walk back to the tube station.
But what I really wanted to do was curl up and go to sleep. That’s how homely it feels.
For 2014 independent restaurants, this is one to watch.
Wildflower Cafe, 108 Chepstow Road, London, W2 5QS, 0207 792 9594
Oh So London was a guest of Wildflower Cafe. All opinions are our own. If you get to visit, tell us what you thought in the comments below or at OhSoLondon@gmail.com.