Does anyone do a family tree for chefs? Given how great London’s dining scene has become in the last 25 years or so, it would be interesting reading. The thought first struck me a few years ago when Pierre Koffman did that pop-up on the roof of Selfridges and got many of his former employees to muck-in: a restaurateur friend told me he popped in to say hello and, by his reckoning, there were half a dozen Michelin stars in the brigade.
The thought struck me again recently on a return visit to Hereford Road where chef Tom Pemberton – like so many formerly of St John – continues to cook up a storm without, it seems, a whole lot of attention from anyone outside Notting Hill Gate. The influencers and Instagrammers are notable by their absence which can hardly be viewed as a negative because that means I can generally get a late booking or a walk-in at lunch – two courses £13.50, three £15.50 – while, simultaneously, being a terrible thing because I’d very much like it to succeed so I can keep going there for lunch. Which, I might have mentioned, is a very silly £13.50 for two courses or £15.50 for three. Saying that, it’s been going 11 years now, so I’m guessing the neighbourhood comes out in support at night.
As you’d expect, given Tom’s background – and also the history of the building, which used to be a Victorian butcher’s shop – Hereford Road is big on British cooking, with a bias towards the seasonal, and more than a hint of St John’s famed nose-to-tail ethos and interesting, delicious bits of offal: a friend I lunch with there from time to time regularly switches out dessert for a second portion of fried calves brains or livers.
Much of the menu feels like it’s been assembled with precision and thought rather than cooked, and that’s no bad thing. Simple salads, solo vegetables and big bursts of fresh herbs are, more often than not, the order of the day, allowing the key ingredients – well and sustainably sourced, perfectly cooked and deeply unfussy – to take centre stage. Smoked cod’s roe, little gem and crumbs, for example, followed by whole grilled mackerel, cucumber, kohlrabi and chervil, with buttermilk pudding and plum. I mean, how could you not? That’s just beautiful and clean, food as fuel in the best possible way.
With its skylight and openable front, Hereford Road has been a wonderful hang-out during this extended summer and mild autumn but, as temperatures drop, being closer to the open kitchen watching Tom do his thing, or nestled into one of the spacious, comfy booths are similarly joy-inducing. A “proper” local that never disappoints. If only they’d open a sister place in North London…
Hereford Road Restaurant
3 Hereford Road
London, W2 4AB
Phone: 020 7727 1144