Restaurant Review: Parlour

This unique eatery in Kensal Rise will transport you to a world of pure imagination – no golden ticket required

I’ve been talking about my dinner at Parlour in Kensal Green with anyone who’ll listen. Thankfully I have wonderful friends who’ve indulged me and let me gush like a schoolgirl with a massive crush on that cute boy in class. The only problem – and this is what makes this a tough one to write up – is that it was such a bizarre and magical experience, I don’t think I’ll do it justice. Still, I’ll try my best, and hopefully I’ll make a good case for why Parlour should be your next date venue.

It was a Tuesday night when we found ourselves there, which probably explained why it wasn’t crowded. I’m glad it wasn’t, because it allowed me to admire the candlelit room and notice the cosy courtyard outside. I was really looking forward to my night, since one of my friends who lives close by had raved about their brunches and I’d taken a sneak peak on the website and saw the caption on the homepage that reads, “Make it fun, make it memorable, make it Parlour!” I thought, “Well, they’re going to have to nail it tonight to justify that tag line.”

Heading to the bar, we ordered ourselves a Not In Hill, which was a light and delicious sort of marshmallow concoction with vanilla vodka, beautifully decorated with a sprig of lavender. I’ll be having another!

The coaster on which my cocktail was placed was our first clue that Parlour has a particular sense of humour about it. Cue photo…

We were asked, “You’re at the chef’s table tonight, did you know that?”, to which my date and I replied in sync, “No!” With a little kick of joy we were led over to the kitchen, with our table clinging to the side of it. The table was big enough for around eight people and segregated from the rest of the restaurant, making it feel like the restaurant was open just for us.

Soon after settling into our seat, chef Jesse Dunford Wood came out to greet us and explain the rules of the meal – yes, there were rules! For the night Jesse would transform into a Willy Wonka-type character. He had a twinkle in his eye, an air of mischievousness, and playful descriptions for all the food on the tip of his tongue.

The main message at the start of the meal was “pace yourself”. Jesse referred to the dinner as a “tsunami of food”. Got to say, he wasn’t far off – but I tell you, I’d put myself in the way of that tsunami any day.

First course: Pace yo’self

First off, Jesse brought out one dish that he described as “something that went wrong” and another that was “something that went right”. The “wrong” dish was hummus with rosemary pitta bread for dipping; the twist was that instead of chickpeas, chestnuts were used. Why isn’t this made in other places? It was scrumptious! The “right” was popcorn chicken nuggets served with (actual) popcorn.

Second course: Turns out I like dried salmon skin

We were then brought a wooden plank bearing Parlour’s “Back Door” smoked salmon, which is smoked on the premises, served with sourdough bread. There was also caviar and sour cream served on slices of dried crispy salmon skin. As someone who is a tad fussy with things like that, I was really surprised how much I liked it! In this round there were also quail legs served on top of black pudding jam. One word: lush.

Third course: I think I’ve found my new favourite place

This time when Jesse appeared out of the kitchen, he was carrying a sword and a bottle of Prosecco. Can you guess what came next? Yep, we witnessed sabrage. I might insist from this point forward that all my corked bottles are opened by a sharp swipe of a sword.

Next to arrive on our table was the raw vegetable “ravioli” with goat’s cheese, followed by duck liver pate, cold toast and marmalade, which we were told was the reason Jesse’s wife agreed to marry him. After trying it, I totally get it! And lastly, for this course anyway, we were brought blue cheese “custard” with pretzel sticks for dipping. I loved how the custard was served in a cracked egg shell in an egg cup.

Fourth course: Can you call the fourth course the main course?

This course looked and tasted like the main course, but four courses in, who can say? Regardless, a tasty dish of duck and a plate of trout and peppers were put in front of us and were pretty much devoured straight away.

Fifth course: The Grand Finale

“TA-DAA”… that’s what I think this course should be called. It could also be called “dessert”, but that doesn’t really do it justice.

It started off with Jesse appearing with headphones on and carrying a saw (yep, a saw!) with two more headphones dangling from it. We took them off him and placed them on our heads; music was playing. It was bizarre. We were sitting at the table but it felt like we were about to get involved in a silent disco. Then, as Jesse rushed off back to the kitchen, a smoke machine – that’s right, a smoke machine – started pumping out a misty vapour while orchestral music played in our ears. When Jesse returned, he had brought a few things. One was a roll of kitchen foil, which he spread across the length of the table. Next came bottles of different sauces – and what came after that was pretty amazing. Jesse started painting patterns on the foil with sauce while Pure Imagination from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory played.

He then started building up desserts: a giant s’more was assembled, a blowtorch toasted the marshmallow, macaroons were created, tarts and cakes were laid out, our spoons were filled with popping candy as A Spoonful of Sugar from Mary Poppins played.

Jesse made food an art and art out of food. The evening had narration and structure, but it also had unpredictable creativeness. What you can expect from Parlour is delicious food with a side of humour. As my experience was their special dinner package, I’d say this particular deal would be great if you’re looking for somewhere to really wow your date or introduce your friends to your new special someone. As a date venue overall, it had a wonderful chilled-out atmosphere and you can’t argue with the food. I will most certainly be returning.

The night definitely lived up to their promise. They made it fun. They made it memorable. It was most definitely Parlour.

www.parlourkensal.com

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