Tasting menus. Love them or hate them?
Although we’d put ourselves in the love camp, we’ve definitely had our fair share of disappointing ones in the past. They can often end up being an old-fashioned experience in a deathly quiet dining room with a bunch of people nearer your grandparents age. Well Notting Hill’s 108 Garage is the opposite of all that. As we walk through the door on a Tuesday night, The Streets are playing (not in person, now that would be impressive) and there isn’t an empty table in the house.
They’ve recently got a new chef in the kitchen, Greg Clarke, who’s worked under Tom Aikens in the past, as well as doing stints at Le Gavroche and The Ledbury amongst others. The kitchen is open and that energy permeates the room. Décor is all exposed brick walls, and concrete floors – you get the gist. We quite liked the look of the countertop seating for a pre-dinner cocktail but don’t think we could have managed all night up there.
So, back to the tasting menu. It’s priced at £60 for 6 courses (with a few little surprises thrown in for good measure), which we felt was good value. There’s the option of a wine pairing as well which features the likes of gavi di gavi, and a delicious pecorino but that will set you back an additional £65 so maybe best saved for special occasions.
We started with a couple of pre-dinner courses – food before food is a sure-fire way to win us over – including a little open tartlet with the freshest green peas and a charcoal black wafer thin cracker hiding a delicious smudge of taramasalata underneath. Our first proper course featured more of said peas, this time with a grating of frozen cashel blue cheese punctuated with pickled walnuts. A parcel arrived next for us to unwrap like a present on Christmas day – full of steaming new season asparagus spears to dip into our bowl of anchovy dip and lovage oil, alongside artichoke crisps to scoop up any remains.
Perhaps our favourite dish came next – so simple in its use of baby jersey royal potatoes, slightly BBQ’d and served with creamy truffled curd with a little puddle of sorrel oil, pickled red onion and crunchy lamb dripping crumbs.
There’s a choice of two mains – on the night we visited lemon sole in a light mussel korma sauce with borage or XO glazed pork jowl with hipsi cabbage and brown shrimp – we tried both and each preferred our own. Light or decadent – both bases were covered.
A palette cleansing seasonal cherry blossom fromage frais arrived next, hiding ripe blueberries before our next choice of the evening – dessert. The pineapple, rosemary and rum cheesecake was the stuff of dreams but the classic combo of raspberry and dark chocolate will hit the spot for the most ardent chocoholic.
Notting Hill is very lucky to have this neighbourhood gem on their doorstep, but for the rest of us, 108 Garage is well worth making the visit across town. With their emphasis on seasonal ingredients, there’s plenty of reason to return.