Most of us are familiar with Pachamama’s restaurants; their legendary Peruvian-inspired cuisine has drawn a steady crowd of regulars since they first opened in Marylebone in 2014. They quickly followed on from this success with Chelsea brunch favourite Chicama, and city slicker hotspot Pachamama East.
In their latest venture, under the capable stewardship of Greek-South American executive chef John Skotidas, Zēphyr showcases the finest Greek flavours, in the heart of Notting Hill.
The Handbook contributor Katie Renouf gives her verdict.
I’ll be honest – this is an opening I’ve been excited about for quite some time. They’ve been teasing us with Instagram shots of sumptuous interiors, beautiful plates of food and gleaming new dinnerware. So now that the day has finally come for me to sample Zēphyr, I have a slight spring in my step as I head to Portobello Road in the evening sun.
We are greeted with the warmest of welcomes, the staff clearly thrilled to be a part of such a new and buzzing place.
I pause to take in the space; I am a big believer in first impressions. The music is cool without being overpowering. The open-plan kitchen looks immaculate and unruffled.
I could also quite happily burn my entire word count talking about the stunning interior; the fifties-esque lime greens, parquet and woven cane elements are cleverly complemented by modern touches. There are cute little bistro tables in the opened-up frontage and some larger banquettes at the rear. White bouclé chairs add brightness, as do the white cloud lanterns that swing gently in the evening breeze.
We decide to start our evening with a cocktail; their list of house-devised aperitifs all sounding different and delicious. My clarified “Cocoaiquiri” is sweet, nutty and refreshing. I make quick work of it before moving onto the “Smoky Tommy’s” – a pineapple twist on a Tommy’s margarita. This is deliciously strong and punchy – I sense I’ll get through a few more of these before the evening is out.
Our server recommends that we start with some breads and spreads which I readily agree to; I have been eyeing the tzatziki on the table next to us to the extent that the girl put her arm around it protectively.
The tzatziki is simple perfection at its’ finest – cool and crisp with a slight sour tang. We also order the tarama which is beautifully flavoured with cod roe, the richness cut with herb oil. The breads are varied, their freshness displayed by a telling snap and lightness.
The dishes are designed for sharing, with the menu broken down into raw bar items, vegetarian dishes, seafood and meat.
We order our dishes in a couple of clusters and begin with the yellowtail carpaccio, the tomato salad and the courgette flowers. The carpaccio is delicate, zingy and fresh, melting on the tongue. It is perfectly complemented by the delicious tang and colours of the tomatoes. I will never turn down a stuffed courgette flower and this one is delicious yet different, the rice stuffing bringing rustic textures.
Next we try the mussels, beautifully steamed in a dill and kaffir lime broth. I grew up by the ocean and have an incredibly high standard when it comes to mussels (or “moules”, if you’re feeling cosmopolitan). These, however, are absolutely incredible – beautifully scrubbed up and presented, with every shell full of a delicious plump offering. The cooking liquor is aromatic and deeply flavoured and I polish it all off with a spoon.
Our final savoury dishes are the lamb cutlets and the quintessential Greek salad.
The lamb arrives beautifully cooked; pink in the centre with that all-important grill char on the outside. It is specially imported from Greece and the chefs have paid it due respect, served with little more than charred lemon and a pinch of salt. It melts in the mouth, sweet and delicious.
The Greek salad arrives topped with broad chunks of feta which we happily bash into the delicious salad mix below. It works incredibly well with the lamb; echoing the salty notes but the tomato also adding balance to the richness of the meat.
Our evening could not be complete without sampling their dessert plates. The orange pie is glistening and unctuous with kumquat syrup and custard, and it is an absolute delight to the last bite.
Deep fried pastry puffs, akin to little doughnuts, served with a generous pool of dulce de leche sauce - ridiculously good.
We also order the loukoumades without knowing what to expect; they turn out to be deep fried pastry puffs, akin to little doughnuts, served with a generous pool of dulce de leche sauce. My word, they are ridiculously good – crispy on the outside with a fluffy centre.
At the time of our visit, Zēphyr was in the soft opening phase, generously offering a 50% discount to those willing to help them iron out any small faults. At no point was our experience anything short of perfect and I would have happily paid full price.
Top notch food in exquisite surroundings; highly recommended as a standout location for any occasion.