The anticipation for dinner at Ffiona’s in Kensington had been heightened by all the previous social networking with her and other foodbloggers. She and her restaurant have a huge following online and so by the time I arrived at this Kensington institute I felt like I already knew the owner of this fabulous unique restaurant off Kensington Church Street. We arrived at 7.30 and were welcomed with a huge smile by Ffiona herself and given a choice of tables in the unfortunately quite quiet candle-lit restaurant and, on revealing that it was my boyfriends birthday, we promptly ordered the half bottle of delicious champagne that was offered to us. In such a romantic atmosphere and with that friendly a welcome I think at that point if she’d offered us a normal sized bottle (‘normal’ being a bottle affordable to any other pair than a charity worker and a student) then I would have accepted it. Luckily I had Mike in toe to remind me I was paying.
A slightly awkward waitress who spoke very limited English offered us huge laminated menu’s and gave us some bread and salty butter. I immediately asked for recommendations, but she couldn’t give me any, it had to come from Ffiona (plus I’m not really sure she knew what I said). Ffiona however was sitting and chatting with a huge family group who were celebrating the birthdays of their one year old great-niece and great-grandmother. Starting to understand why Ffiona herself was so pivotal to the restaurant reviews, I perused my menu which wasn’t particularly inspiring (it was long and exactly as it was online) and drank my champers, it was the specials I wanted to hear about. When she did come over that’s when I got excited. Although she recommended things off the menu, she bought them to life making them sound irresistible and indulgent. We ordered straight from her me going for King prawns, shell off in chilli, garlic and ginger followed by pork stuffed with sage, onions, mushrooms and apple, and Mike going for Halloumi with pine nuts, roquette, sweet tomato salad and then the veal chop with sage, garlic and rosemary.
The food arrived extremely quickly, even a bit too quickly. We hadn’t even made a dent on our bubbles and so weren’t inclined to buy a glass of crisp white that would have gone perfectly with either of these dishes. The prawns were absolutely delicious, they were meaty, fresh, salty and sweet and the portion was very generous. The sauce was thicker than I had anticipated, it was a light black bean which the prawns, being so king could take, but it was an odd pairing for the creamy caesar style dressing that came on the salad of both starters. The dressing did work really well with the light crispy halloumi and the sweet tomatoes, but the portion could have done with being a bit bigger, 4 pieces of halloumi for £7 isn’t enough.
Our starters were whisked away and our mains arrived in minutes. These were not nothing out of the ordinary but exactly what I thought they would be, hearty, homely and meaty with simple and complimenting comforting flavours. The veal chop filled the entire plate and left no room at all for the crispy saute potatoes (which were really just posh chips), let alone any of the wintry, plain greens we’d ordered with it. Mike described it as ‘cave man meat’, huge, filling, tender and juicy. My pork was similar in size. There was a huge chunk of fat that wasn’t crispy enough to chew on and a hunk of tender juicy meat, stuffed and made sweet by the apple and mushroom filling, those being the predominant flavours. The mash (colcannon) was incredible, I could have eaten a whole plate-full of it if I wasn’t aware that it was laced with cream and wine. I was glad for the veg in the meaty potato fest as they were fresh and untampered with and felt ridiculously healthy in context.
It was 8.45pm and we were done. The whole dinner had whizzed by in a flurry of very quick service, and not wanting pudding, we felt like we probably should pack up. It was then that Ffiona came to sit with us and chat about what I was up to and how her restaurant was going, and I presented her with some homemade truffles I’d made earlier in the week. I’d been so excited about my visit and grateful for her personal interest in my blog and wanted to say thank-you and the medium of chocolate seemed the best way. She wast touched and jumped straight into trying them, and on our exit, she presented us with a half bottle of beautiful red wine to take home. We were both touched and spent the whole walk home talking about what a lovely night we just had, not for the mind-blowing food (because really it was good home cooking), but for the experience and friendly atmosphere created by this one individual and her lovely restaurant.
There are a lot of similarities between Ffionas and a Welsh restaurant that has a very special place in my heart; a place called Keeston Kitchens that me and my family would travel half way across the UK to visit once a year. There we would enjoy home cooked food served to us in a welcome and friendly environment, listening to the quirky warm owner sing ‘you’ve got a friend’, whilst encouraging the whole restaurant to offer dramatic harmonies and play drums with your spoons. Never have I felt so connected to a weirder and more wonderful restaurant, and I will sorely miss it now that it is sadly closed. I know he would have appreciated my truffles, just like Ffiona did. Whilst we enjoyed Ffiona’s as a couple (and the bill that came to £30 a head for the food), I would recommend a trip as a big group where you can really soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the eccentricity.