What? Tucked away behind Kensington High Street sits Maggie Jones, a charming British restaurant which has character in bucket loads and if it was personified would be an eccentric old Englishman. Its sister restaurant, however, is La Poule au Pot, Ebury Street’s French restaurant.
New? Certainly not, it’s done what many restaurants have not been able to achieve and has been open for over half a century. It opened back in 1964 as Nan’s Kitchen and was a favourite haunt of Princess Margaret and Lord Snowden, who would book under the alias of Maggie Jones. It then changed its name in the 1970s to recognise its favourite customers.
Where? 6 Old Court Place, Kensington Church Street, Kensington, W8 4PL, www.maggie-jones.co.uk
On the Menu: The kitchen is headed up by Martin Anteria Silva, who has been Executive Chef at Maggie Jones for the past thirty years and the menu is unashamedly comforting. Don’t expect dainty salads or free-from dishes, instead you’ll find hearty stews, classic pies, steaks, game and the likes of bread and butter pudding and burnt cream for pudding.
First Impressions: Maggie Jones is just far enough away from the street that you can walk past it and if you didn’t know it was there you could miss it. It’s also having to deal with building work opposite which rather overshadows it, but look beyond that. Once you’re inside you can’t see the scaffolding and its eclectic charm means you don’t feel like you’re in London anyway. Upstairs, the large communal table was full and the booths were filled with couples talking in hushed tones.
The Look: If you go to Maggie Jones for the food then you also go for the look. Set across three uneven wooden floors, it is one of the most charming London restaurants. It lies somewhere between a rambling country kitchen and an old curiosity shop. Everywhere you look there are different items strung up on the ceiling from tin buckets and baskets of flowers to old rocking horses and farm machinery. A Welsh dresser is filled with enamel and tin pots, pans, and plates and the walls are adorned with scenes from the countryside and old adverts. Downstairs, there are high back wooden booths which are ideal for a date whilst upstairs there are tables hidden away in nooks and corners. In the winter it would make such a snug bolthole to escape the cold evenings.
What We Ate: We began with a coarse, rich venison terrine which we piled onto thin slices of toast, which was slightly cold – hot toast or crisp bread would have been better. If you like strong cheese, then go for the Stilton mousse; heavier than other mousses but with that punchy blue cheese taste.
Smoky fish pie was topped with fluffy piped mash potato and there was good steak casserole, with hunks of meat and a wonderful sweetness from mango chutney. Cauliflower cheese was everything cauliflower cheese should be, a golden, crispy top giving way to a gloriously cheesy sauce and chunks of cauliflower; we could have feasted on this alone. Peas were a little overcooked, but we welcomed the addition of cubes of bacon.
By this point we were needing to loosen our belts, they’re the sort of hearty portion sizes your Grandma would dish out. We of course ordered pudding, but to share. Suddenly sharing our food didn’t seem to be something that filled us with horror, maybe it was how much we had already eaten or maybe it was the undeniably romantic setting either way, we attacked the bread and butter pudding together. Sweet, fluffy, white bread filled with raisins and a piping hot custard.
What We Drank: We stuck with a rose and pink gin cocktail, one of the new floral cocktails that launched in May. Otherwise there is a strong French wine list, with the addition of a few New World wines.
Go With: This has date night written all over it, cosy intimate booths that you can sneak into and while away the hours. Don’t want to take a date? Take your parents or grandparents for Sunday lunch or if you have a friend visiting from overseas and they want something typically English then Maggie Jones is a must.
Final Word: Maggie Jones is more than just a restaurant, it’s a Kensington institution, one that needs to be kept alive and one that you need to visit. It’s full of personality, it’s not slick, it’s not polished but that makes it all the better. The manager and assistant manager have been there 20 and 15 years respectively, they know the locals, they know their regulars and they make everyone feel like Maggie Jones is theirs.
Like This? Try These: Mr Fogg’s, Rules, Gordon’s Wine Bar