Near Notting Hill Gate, on the site long known as The Ark (RIP), an unpretentious bistro offering a small-plates formula, and already exerting a wide-ranging appeal.
Since 1962, this funny little building near Notting Hill Gate – for most of that period called ‘The Ark’ – has been well-known as a restaurant destination and, especially in the early days, a budget-friendly one too. Our cabbie, to our surprise, didn’t recognise its (former) name, but he certainly knew there was a restaurant there. ‘Oh, the one by the bus stop?’, he said.
Well, the bus stop is still there, but the destination is now called The Shed – such an apt description that you rather wonder why they called it The Ark for so long. It’s furnished according to its name – no tablecloths or squashy banquettes here (and plenty of hard surfaces for the Muzak, your greatest old-time hits, to bounce off).
The menu is similarly in accord with the name – a fashionable small-plates formula yes, but a relatively limited selection of them, and none of them with any great foodie pretensions. Perhaps this is effectively just the ‘old Ark’, as both Mr and Mrs Harden (in those days, unknown to each other) recall it, rolled forward a quarter of a century?
That turns out to be pretty much the case. Solid (in the nicest way) sourdough sets the scene for a meal which comprised delights such as bread sticks with carrot hummus, lamb croquettes, and – surprise highlight – a sprout, cheese and apple salad. A so-called celeriac lasagne was a spectacular dud but, hey, it was early days. The espresso could do with work too.
With its boundlessly enthusiastic service, however, and a crowd-pleasing menu that’s pretty reasonably priced for Kensington, this is a place that is already attracting a wide-ranging following. (And it really was early days. As we left, we spotted no less a personage than Evening Standard’s Ms Maschler, on the next table – if there’s any closer culinary equivalent to the dawn chorus, we’ve yet to discover exactly what that is.)