The Imperial – a Chelsea Fine Dining Pub:
Along the Fulham end of the Kings Road used to be something of a no-mans-land. When I first moved to West London, some fifteen years ago, you certainly wouldn’t go there for a night out, or even shop. But, it’s an area which has become increasingly up-market and The Imperial itself sits in a row of designer furniture and lighting shops and rather posh delicatessens and coffee shops.
I went along a week or so ago for dinner with a friend with very little idea of what to expect other than the promise of a hidden garden, which given the current lack of any sign of summer didn’t sound likely! In fact, the interior at the Imperial is informal, relaxed contemporary styling, the sort of design that wouldn’t look out of place in one of those lovely open plan kitchen diners.
We did peek at the conservatory and garden but it really was far too cold for us, so we found a table inside, opposite the semi open kitchen.
The menu at the Imperial offers the sort of dishes any modern foodie aspires to. The Spring lamb rump comes with black tomato consomme, white California artichokes and micro red chard and there’s a salmon tataki with cucumber, mouli, radish, coriander cress, lime soy and shiso dressing. Even the Chicken Caesar comes with duck egg and dukkah. No one eating here is going to complain about not going into town.
I picked the sliced peppered seared fillet of British Beef to start, which came with wild rocket, British hard cheese, pickled garlic and scurvy grass. Very good it was too, though I’d probably have described it as a carpaccio, simply because of the thickness of the slices of meat. And, I’m still not sure about scurvy grass – it just doesn’t sound good. Otherwise known as Cochlearia, it’s herb with something of the taste of watercress – a kind of peppery sweetness. The name apparently comes from the fact it is very rich in vitamin C – so effective at preventing scurvy in sailors.
The dry rubbed Pork Belly with strawberry and mint oil, borage flowers, heritage radishes, kombu and white cabbage was a little less successful. I suspect there are dishes that benefit very little by being poshed-up – and I suspect this is one of them. My companion thought it was too dry and not ‘melting’ enough. It did look good though and was a sensible portion size for a starter.
The market fish of the day was cod, cooked with butter and lemon,served with mussels, orange, onions, rocket and shaved chicory. The same basic dish is used as the base for whatever fish is fresh in market on a daily basis – it could have been hake, sea bass or monkfish for example. Perfectly cooked, the cod paired really well with the remainder of the dish. I do wonder what other fish might or might not work. With plaice for instance, it would have been a totally different result and I suspect one that didn’t quite work.
My companion ordered the John Dory fillets served in a bacon fat broth with wild garlic, black caraway seeds, pickled mushrooms and braised samphire. For her taste the fish was a little overwhelmed by the bacon fat broth, which she found a bit greasy. But, I suspect that is very much a matter of personal opinion rather than cooking skill.
We both adored the truffle polenta cubes with shaved parmesan.
My dessert of crumble (plum and apple) was good and homely, just as is should be, while my companion had a delicious looking chocolate mousse which vanished in a minute.
The Imperial is the sort of place I’d love to have on my doorstep. While some of the dishes seemed to be trying just a bit too hard, for the most part the food was beautifully presented and very carefully prepared and cooked. Pricing at around £7-£10 for a starter and £12.50- £22.50 for a main course was reasonable for the area.
577 King’s Road,
Chelsea, London SW6 2EH