Toasted Marshmallow Wagon, Parlour, Kensal Green

Parlour by day: a nostalgic trip to Kensal Green (NW10)

I dream of having a ‘local’: a place where I can go for breakfast… coffee… lunch… dinner… or just a chat; a place that serves food made with passion and the seasons, and where the music and the fun flow. I’ve found it… Parlour, in Kensal Green. The only snag is that it takes me 20 minutes by bicycle, but it’s worth it.

The first time, I made the mistake of going by tube. Signal failure, a perennial problem in London, meant that I walked most of the way home as I’m far too lazy to fathom bus routes. On my long hike through Queen’s Park, I bumped into a friend from LA, who I hadn’t seen for years. There’s always a reason why things happen, or so I like to believe.

As British as humbugs & The Beatles

Parlour is true British. Not the kind of Britishness of Leicester football fans in Madrid chanting ‘Gibraltar is ours’, and a few obscenities to boot. But true British style:  eccentric, colourful, humorous, quirky, nostalgic… and, above all, fun: a mix of Alice in Wonderland and Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band, with childhood memories conjured up by the menu, the decor, the feel and the welcome.

The rooms are big. It’s not like the cramped restaurants of Soho. That lunchtime – or by the time I left it was mid-afternoon – there were mothers with small children; people working, tucked away in corners or in the garden; friends having a chat; and two smart-looking men talking business. Everyone looked as if they had an interesting tale to tell. But then this is NW10, the new, or not so new, W11 (Portobello Road/Ladbroke Grove), and where you can get more bang for your buck and more bedrooms for your house.

A short hop to Portobello

Parlour is in Regent’s Street, on the other side of the Regent’s Canal from W11 and Portobello Road. The name comes from the Royals who, a couple of centuries ago, would stop off on their way to nearby Kensal Green Cemetery to buy flowers from the flower-sellers who used to line the street.

Theatrical dining at Parlour

Parlour is the invention of Jesse Dunford Wood. I met Jesse last month at a Gastrophysics workshop at the University of Oxford. He was giving a talk on ‘theatrical dining’,  about ‘hacking the mind of the diner by playing with nostalgia and performance at the table’…. more on that in my next blog, Parlour by Night.

Jesse was born in Brazil. I’m convinced where you’re born has a part to play in who you are. I was born in a cottage hospital overlooking the New Forest, in Lyndhurst, which makes me wild. Being born in Brazil, for me, makes you fun. As a chef, Jesse has worked in the UK, Australia, Spain and the US, and with some big names. A cultural blend is always good for cooking.

Perfect for a very British experience

I would recommend Parlour to any visitor to London looking for something authentically British, and with a local, London feel.  It’s also far more chilled than the hipster East End, where everyone is working very hard to appear cool. And from Baker Street it’s only 15 mins by tube to Kensal Green, as long as there’s no signal failure.

Enough words, here are my photos, in the order they were taken …

Table top, beer mats, Parlour, Kensal Green
A play on words: bottoms up, alluding to the bottom of your glass.
Baking tray as decoration, Parlour, Kensal Green
I’d love to know why cakes are baked traditionally in a scallop shape. Google can’t tell me.
Seating area, outside, Parlour, Kensal Green
Parlour has a spacious outside area.
Blue chair, outside, Parlour, Kensal Green
White jug, Parlour, Kensal Green
True blue: my favourite colour and a lot of other people’s favourite colour.
Soda bread, Lancashire butter, Parlour, Kensal Green
Homemade soda bread with Lancashire butter… a nice change from sourdough.
Chestnut hummus, Parlour, Kensal Green
Chestnut Hummus, served with Rosemary Pitta Bread
Water bottle with logo, Parlour, Kensal Green
Filtered Peckham Spring Water… £0
Chicken Kyiv, Parlour, Kensal Green
A favourite from the 70s: Chicken Kyiv.
Shelves with provisions, Parlour, Kensal Green
Like a sweet shop of old: Colman’s Mustard, Tabasco Sauce, Lyle’s Treacle, Hendrick’s Gin … a single brogue. And a Sachertorte  from the Hotel Sacher in Vienna – not British, but the best.
Table, Parlour, Kensal Green
Iron sculpture of woman, Parlour, Kensal Green
The Victorians loved their parlour room. It was where people would gather to talk, or ‘parler‘, as they say in French, and play ‘parlour games’… at Parlour they have a Quirky Pub Quiz every Wednesday night.
Logo on curtain, Parlour, Kensal Green
Arctic Rolls, Parlour, Kensal Green
Parlour’s take on the Arctic Roll: a popular British dessert in the 80s, with ice cream wrapped in a sponge layer to form a roll, with a layer of raspberry sauce between the sponge and the ice cream. It was invented by a Czech emigre.

Exterior, Parlour, Kensal Green
Parlour is housed in a former pub.

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