The New Angel in Notting Hill is an elegant yet relaxed upscale dining spot just around the corner from Westbourne Grove. It’s the reincarnation of Chef Patron John Burton-Race’s previous place in Dartmouth (also called The New Angel) which was apparently closed by his ex-wife while JBR was filming “I’m a Celebrity… get me out of here!” in Australia. A bit sad really because, if the new New Angel is anything to go by, it would have been a great place to visit. The atmosphere is pretty chill and the staff helpful without being obtrusive – especially the charming Stephan who talked us through the desserts. At £44/£54 for a 2/3 course meal, its reasonably priced for the area and on par with similar style restaurants around London although the bill quickly grows when you add a cheese course and wine.
Food: ★★★☆☆ Service: ★★★☆☆ Atmosphere: ★★★★☆ Value: ★★★☆☆ Overall: ★★★★☆
There is a small bar area at The New Angel, but you’re better off congregating at one of the excellent bars in the area. 65 & King has a good range of cocktails and, more importantly, runs a daily happy hour special from 5-8pm where the price is the time at which you order (ie. A cocktail ordered at 5.30pm will set you back £5.30).
Alternatively, check out Westbourne House is a decent option just down the street, Taqueria is good for margaritas although can be a bit crowded as its mainly a restaurant, and of course you’ve got a full range on Portobello Road just a couple of streets over.
What to eat?
We opted for the 3 course menu and conveniently ordered nearly everything on the menu within our group of 5. I’ll run through the highlights of what I tasted, but in general I found the starters to have great potential but need a little tweak, the mains to be truly delicious, and the desserts inconsistent with some spectacular wins and equally epic fails.
For my starter, I went with The New Angel steak tartar on the premise that anything that’s going to be a signature item should be special. The tartar is made from a very tender filet which melts in your mouth and benefits from a light hand on the seasoning to enhance without overpowering the delicate flavor. Head Chef Stephen Humphries has opted for a deconstructed approach with your salt coming from the capers scattered on the plate and the spiciness via a horseradish cream sauce. I love the idea and, for me, it was almost there but the horseradish needed a bit more of a kick and perhaps a darker shade as I nearly missed it due to the light off-cream color which blended with the plate.
The roasted scallops with curried cauliflower, pickled vegetables and onion bahji were another great idea with the heat from the cauliflower and tanginess of the veggies pairing well with the tender sweet scallops. The onion bahji were also tasty and crunchy and overall the dish was a welcome departure from the standard seared scallop starter every vaguely European restaurant offer. All it was missing was a touch more salt to bring out the flavors of the scallop to more evenly compete with the other components on the plate.
My fillet of Dutch veal with ceps, sprouting broccoli, goats curd and truffle tortellini, and wild mushroom cream was superb. Although at first I was a bit put off by the relatively small size, it’s a rich dish that turns out to be fairly filling. The tortellini was perfectly executed with a full bouquet and taste of the truffle used in the dish and the mushroom cream was finger-licking good. In fact, I snagged a bit of bread to mop up the rest of the cream. The veal fillets were tender and flavorful although a tad dry on the edges – but a minor critique in an otherwise well executed dish.
The mains selected by my dining companions (everything except the risotto) were similarly impressive with the gamey squab pigeon enriched by the addition of foie gras and the fish dishes being perfectly cooked to provide tender flaky flesh. I’m not usually keen on ordering fish at a restaurant as I find even the creative options to be largely uninspiring but the taste of the pan-fried John Dory with shellfish definitely had promise.
In general, the menu is very French with emphasis on the cream and butter which is definitely decadent and delicious but without being overwhelming rich and oily. The selection of breads and cheeses are something not to be missed with the onion and potato bread being my favorite. The cheese board (£12.50 as an additional course) boasts around 15 hand-picked cheeses mostly from France although with a few English blues. It takes a while to get through both the talk and the tasting but it’s worth a punt particularly for you cheeseaholics.
Desserts are a bit hit and miss. The raspberry three ways dessert (soufflé, white chocolate mousse, and chocolate covered sorbet) was the winner and I was also partial to my friend’s iced mango parfait with salted caramel popcorn and mango jelly and mousse. Then again, I’m a fan of nearly everything mango so slightly biased there.
The chocolate entry was described as a “Dark chocolate and walnut truffle cake with coffee sabayon mousse and bitter chocolate sorbet. Delicious, no? Unfortunately this was a case of deconstruction gone too far as instead of the rich fudgy truffle cake I was expecting, we ended up with a bit of everything that looked a bit messy as the mousse quickly melted. And when dealing with chocolate, watery smears are far from appetizing.
How are the drinks?
The New Angel offers up wines both by the bottle and glass with price points running from £6-10/glass and bottles starting around £25-30. The two wines we sampled (well others ordered a glass and I just tasted) were tasty and matched well with the food. The sommelier is on hand to offer advice and as you’d expect the wine list favors the French offerings.
And the service?
This was a soft open so lapses in the service were easily forgiven but during our time with The New Angel these were fairly limited. In fact, I appreciated the wit of one of the waiters when pressed on the coffee served and also the sincerity of the assistant manager, Csaba, who discussed the motivations and ideas behind the restaurants and dishes with us.
There were a couple of things I’d prefer to be improved. When you sit down, a champagne cart is pushed to your table which leads to a bit of an awkward moment if no-one is interested (or concerned about the price given the posh bottles) – I’d prefer to be asked rather than confronted with the option. Our waiter had a little trouble with the range of cheeses – with 15 different options it’s a challenge – which left us a little confused about which cheese to take.
One of my friends was a bit miffed that the waiter didn’t ask if he’d like a wine with the main since he had finished his first glass with a starter. That’s not a big one for me as I’d just grab the nearest waiter to order but I can understand given the level of restaurant expecting a bit more attention. Our service was also a tad slow as our 4 course meal (including the additional cheese course) ended up taking about 3.5 hours.
Worth the dosh?
At £54 for three courses, this puts it a bit higher than similar styled restaurants but still represents value for money depending on what you order. It’s not cheap but the quality of cooking is well above average and the atmosphere makes it perfect for impressing a date or to treat your parents. Actually, if the gf and I return I think we’d get two 2-course menus and share a starter and dessert as, for me, the best value was from the mains. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be an option to just get the mains.
The tasting menu for £75 looks promising and I’d be interested in a return visit to check it out.
Find The New Angel here