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Review

Babylon

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Babylon

Kensington Roof Gardens

99 High Street Kensington

London W8 5ED

0845 345 1723



Opening hours: 12 noon – 3pm then 7pm – 11.15pm (last orders) Monday to Saturday

Open for lunch 12 noon – 4pm Sunday



Average price per head: £50.00





I’ve never been one for the “don’t judge a book by its cover” school of thought. And judging by the appearance of Babylon, I’m not alone. This restaurant has got its first impression down pat: sleek, expensive and sophisticated.



This is matched by its clientele, made up of young, wealthy couples and businessman. But even for the less well-heeled journalist, the pampering starts the minute you arrive. The maitre d’ proudly welcomes you as if were visiting royalty, taking your coat and leading the way to the bar. You quickly understand of what he is so proud: not only do the restaurant and bar look inviting, all beeched silk wood and glass, the venue has one of the best views over London. High above the tree line, you can see as far as the Thames without moving from your table.



This unobtrusive service continued throughout the meal, with waiters happy to offer advice or disappear in the background. Hardened cynic that I am, this made me wonder whether the food would rest on the scenery’s laurels. But the menu was diverse and original, offering a wide range of both carniverous and vegetarian dishes - all of which, I soon discovered, were expertly presented. The starter of scallop carpaccio came with strands of apple and carrot, which brought out the smoothness of the scallops and the zestiness of the accompanying lemon. More suitable for a cold November evening, a foie gras with puy lentils was a well-balanced, strong and hearty starter.



The fireplace beside me must have made me forget the weather outside, as I chose another light, summery dish: seabass with a grapefruit, orange and fennel salad. I was intrigued whether the mix of an oft bland fish and delicate vegetable would mix with the citrus fruits. Unfortunately, the chef was unable to square that particular circle, leaving me to disect a beautifully presented dish into taste sensations under the smug gaze of my partner. He had taken the starters’ lesson to heart and had ordered another wintery and rich dish of rabbit wrapped in parma ham. Again, the sturdier dish won. The smooth rabbit worked well with the crispy ham coating and the Together with his jealously guarded truffle mash, the dish was superb: I did not get a look-in. The side orders of colcannon and an autumnal array of potatoes, parsnips and carrots added to the substantial and warming dish.



With a promise of a digestive walk around the gardens to follow, there was no reason not to delve into the desserts. These were further proof that this restaurant is paying attention to detail. Those with memories of school dinners should have Babylon’s treacle tart and be prepared to wonder how this canteen staple can be transformed into an elegant and refined dish. Another wonder is the variety of teas being made into ice creams: Babylon’s offering is Earl Grey. Put with “seasonal fruits” (pears), it convinced even a non-tea drinker like myself.



With a bottle of Sancerre expertly chosen by the Maitre d’, the meal came in at just over £100. A culinary and visual experience without any of the pretensiousness that often accompanies such meals: some things are worth paying for.