Peter Morrell was impressed with the inventive food, the beautiful presentation and the stylish décor of this restaurant
The Imperial is housed in an attractive, symmetrical Victorian building on the Kings Road in the Chelsea Design Quarter. Inside it’s been sympathetically decorated to make best use of the large space. The tables are well spaced, the colours are cool, there’s exposed mellow bricks, interesting artwork on the walls and stylish light fittings.
My wife and I sipped a beer as we perused the menu which turned out to be an eye-opener. There were a whole range of cleverly conceived dishes featuring a cornucopia of ingredients from all parts of the world. The menu has been devised by new head chef Reece Moore who boasts stints at Dabbous and Barnyard on his culinary CV.
Choosing the starters was difficult for both of us. With dishes like sliced peppered seared fillet of British beef and hard cheese, wild rocket, pickled garlic and scurvy grass and for vegetarians ras el hanout spiced aubergine, cashew nut cheese puree, arabian salsa, fresh red chilli, spring onions, hazelnut dukkah and marjoram, topped with spring cress on offer it was easy to see why.
Our eventual choices were cured salmon and belly pork both cooked very inventively. My pork was presented so beautifully it seemed a shame to eat it. It had been dry rubbed before cooking and served with strawberry and mint oil, heritage radishes, a kombu and white cabbage purée, and decorated with borage flowers. The meat was tender with lots of flavour and the mix of interesting ingredients added a whole new dimension.
My wife’s salmon was equally as creative, it had been cured with wild garlic and served with pickled Turkish morel mushroom’s and pink salmon pate and garnished with lemon thyme. Again there were a lots of interesting taste and texture combinations.
The main were equally difficult to choose, a tempting example being spring lamb rump with black tomato consomme, white California artichokes and micro red chard. After a lot of deliberation we both chose fish, I had John Dory while my wife had sea bass, the fish of the day.
Again the presentation was excellent, my wife’s delicately perfumed fish had been cooked in butter and lemon and was served with mussels, orange, onions, rocket, shaved chicory, spring leaves and cress. This introduction of fresh herbs and salad also featured in my main. The fillets of John Dory were flavoured with wild garlic and black caraway seeds with pickled mushrooms, braised samphire and a fresh courgette flower. All of this was atop rice noodles in an intensely flavoured bacon fat broth and scattered with fresh herbs like mint and coriander with gave it an uplifting Vietnamese style. As frequent restaurant goers we really appreciated the different and unique character of the food, our only nod to normality was a shared bowl of very crispy skinny chips.
The extensive drinks list offered a good range of both old and new world wines with prices from the low twenties up to over fifty a bottle. Our pairing for the evening was a the Domaine de la Baume Sauvignon Côtes de Thau Piquepoul Cuvée from the Languedoc in the south of France. This matched well all the dishes, it had strong nettle notes in the bouquet which developed into tropical flavours on the palate shot through with citrus and it left a fresh, floral finish.
Desserts were almost beyond us as the portions had been quite large so we missed the decadent chocolate, the apple crumble and the savoury selection of cheeses. We finished with a scoop each of vanilla and strawberry ice cream and two spoons, it was a satisfying end to the meal. The finale was my insomniac wife’s delight when she found that decaf coffee was available.
Before leaving we took a look around, upstairs thirty young people were enjoying an 18th birthday party dinner in a private room. At the back of the restaurant on the ground floor was a charming patio for summer al fresco dining which had recently doubled as Caorunn Gin’s edible Highland Garden during the Chelsea Flower Show.
This had been an excellent dining experience, the food was refreshingly different, the atmosphere was relaxed and the staff were all friendly and efficient. You can either have dinner at The Imperial, pop in to the bar for a drink and a snack at lunchtime or have a breakfast. For dining a la carte expect to pay around £55 a head including drinks.
577 King’s Road
London SW6 2EH
0207 736 6081. 0207 736 6081