Once upon a time Kings Road used to (almost) be my neck of the wood, but since moving to South East London a few years ago, we do not come this way often enough. A chance to do so was an invitation by friend and fellow blogger Mondo Mulia to try out the new menu at recently renovated local pub/restaurant The Imperial. In the words of the owners, it is ‘more than a gastro pub’; it occupies the site of a former boozer in a period building on the end of the Kings Road, towards Fulham. Painted in light grey on the outside, the indoor space is a welcoming pub with a dining area, a bright conservatory and a lively kitchen in full sight.
The tasting menu we got to try was a showcase of flavours and techniques by chef Jason Cole, using sustainably sourced, good quality British ingredients. Overall I certainly enjoyed the meal, although I felt some dishes were more convincing than others in the balance of flavours and textures.
Grilled Mackerel, Pickled Cucumber, Onion Foam and Egg Crumble followed on: the mackerel was treated with respect and was delicious, the pickled cucumber provided the right contrast of flavour to the rich fish; I could not really pick up on the onion in the foam nor the egg crumble but it did not feel like the dish was lacking anything.
My favourite dish of the evening came next, another fish dish: Pan Fried Wild Sea Bream Fillet, Blackened Leeks, Cauliflower Puree, Samphire and Kale Foam. I found this dish superb; the bream was cooked very well, the cauliflower puree was sweet and creamy, the samphire added saltiness and texture, and the charred leeks complemented the whole ensemble.
We moved on to the first meat dish, which sounded worryingly heavy: Braised Pork Shoulder, Black Pudding Puree, Chard Pickled Chicory, Beer & Pearl Barley Jus. I needn’t have worried. The meat was extremely tender and well cooked, and with none of the fat or gristle often found in such a cut; the barley added texture, the puree an intense complement of flavour, the jus brought it all together.
The final savoury dish followed, a dish to share served on wood boards: Schezuan Glazed Whole Roast Duck, Spiced Red Cabbage, Coconut Rice, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Red Pepper Sauce. While this was colourful and a draw to the eye, it was the dish that convinced me the least; I loved some of the individual elements (the cabbage was delicious) but, for me, they did not really come together.
We ended with the dessert: Chocolate Pot, Barley Foam, Barley Crisp, Chocolate Sorbet. I feared the worst, thinking I’d not have been able to even try. Once again, I should not have worried. The chocolate sorbet was divine, I could have eaten a bowl of that alone; the chocolate mousse with barley foam on top was deliciously indulgent without being too sweet or cloying. The barley crisp offered the necessary texture to an otherwise very creamy dish.
Our bloggers’ dinner concluded with a refreshing mint tea served in cute glass teapots. We had an opportunity to meet the chef and hear about his inspiration and how he came up with the barley crisp; during dinner we were able to chat to Carol and Kate, two of the 4 owners, and hear about their vision behind the Imperial and their passion for sustainably sourced, British ingredients. But was the meal good because we were there as food bloggers? I decided to come back a few days later with @bmcboy and our pooch for a Sunday breakfast. Yet again the food proved consistently good, even if a full English does not require the same level of skill as a confit egg! I really liked my Avocado, Lemon, grilled halloumi on sourdough and the quality of the ingredients was great (“good to have real bacon” in @bmcboy’s words).
I would definitely keep the Imperial in mind should we visit our old neighborhood again.
- Disclaimer: I was a guest for dinner; opinions are my own.
- Sustainable: very, they are part of the SRA
- Dog friendly: oh yes!