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The Terrace: a gem of a restaurant in W8 by Casilda Grigg

Posted in FOOD + DRINK By Maggie O' Sullivan

Much as I love Kensington, nobody could say it excels at delicious restaurants. But there is one place that’s exceptional – and here’s what’s surprising for an area overrun with tycoons and oligarchs – really rather cosy. It’s called The Terrace on Holland Street. It used to be overpriced and mediocre, but it had a major revamp a couple of years ago under a talented new owner, Sara Adams, an alumna of Leith’s. The location alone is rather special, on a peaceful backstreet off Kensington Church Street. If you manage to bag one of The Terrace’s outdoor tables on a warm summer’s evening, you’ll find yourself in a spot so quiet you might think you were on a dozy little road in a charming provincial town – no buses, virtually no cars and a lovely feeling that all is well with the world.Inside, the restaurant feels a bit like dining in someone’s (modishly beige) front parlour – it’s a tiny place with just 22 covers and tables are tightly packed. The young staff sometimes struggle to keep up with orders, but are generally eager to please, lowering the music if you ask them to and dispensing blankets if you’re sitting outside and a cold wind suddenly whips up. But the real star of the place is the kitchen’s Irish chef, James Kelly, who cooks with flair and artistry, offers the odd Irish touch (wonderfully moreish soda bread) and is particularly skilled when it comes to fish. Line-caught hake fillet with sauce vierge and courgette flower tempura (£22) was cooked to perfection and beautiful to behold, as was the sea trout fillet with broad beans and citrus dressing (£22). Kelly’s sublime peach and pistachio tart with flaky pastry, vanilla ice cream and salted caramel sauce (£9.50) must be among the best desserts in London. A raspberry sorbet (£3 per scoop) was also pure bliss.Unusually, Kelly’s talents really shine with the main courses, rather than the starters – rump of lamb with Jersey royals, fennel and salsa verde (£22) is another star dish. Prices are high but for food as superb and impeccably sourced as this it feels worthwhile, especially if you skip the starters and settle for a main and a pudding. Wine lovers with deep pockets might find the wine list modest (and not French enough) but the quality is reliable and there’s plenty of choice at around £30.

Avoid the table near the bar at the back, if you can (you’ll be disturbed by the music speakers and the jingle-jangle of cutlery being washed up) and make sure you book (the restaurant is closed on Sundays). On a weekday evening when The Terrace is buzzing with the denizens of W8, many of them chic Americans or well-heeled Europeans, this gem of a restaurant is about as close to heaven as you can find.

The Terrace on Holland Street, 33c Holland Street, London W8 4LX, 020 7937 9252

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