*Warning - This review may come across as overly gushy, but I promise you I speak only the truth. In Bumpkin, I have found a true friend. *
Before I had even walked through the doors of Bumpkin, I knew I was going to like the place. Why? Well for starters they have a really great name! (sorry, couldn't resist) Also everyone I spoke to from the team prior to my visit was super friendly, extremely helpful and seemed genuinely glad that I had shown an interest in trying their grub. (If the staff believe in their work, you know it's something special) But as well as that I loved the fact that they stand for all things British. They offer a seasonal British menu with all of their ingredients sourced from local farms, ensuring they are ethically produced, sustainable and the best of the best. (Something even some of the top restaurants in London can't boast)
Last week for my birthday dinner, myself and GB headed out of our comfort zone and got on the tube in the opposite direction from our usual haunts, to visit the brands first and longest running establishment in Notting Hill. Opened in 2006, Bumpkin's Notting Hill branch sits neatly on the corner of Westbourne Park Road and Ledbury Road, meaning it's near enough to the fun of Portobello Market to make a day of it, but also far enough that it offers a bit of relaxation away from the hustle and bustle. On a sunny afternoon I could imagine sitting outside and enjoying a glass of (their individually picked and entirely sustainable) wine would be utterly divine but seeing as Narnia's arctic winds were afoot on the night we visited, we were more than happy to stay indoors within the cosy townhouse that is home to the four floor restaurant. Yes I did say four floors! Didn't expect that from a traditional British family restaurant? No me neither, but it turns out Bumpkin isn't anywhere near your average restaurant.
Two separate dining rooms on the first and second floor mean the restaurant can seat up to 90 people for dinner at any one time, then on top of that there is a private dining space on the third floor, named The Queens Room due to it's regal interiors and tribute to HRH herself via a giant framed painting. Our lovely waitress Renata told us they even had a surprise visit from Wills and Kate over Christmas in this room (Well if it has the Royal seal of approval...). The top floor is where things get interesting... Bumpkin has a stylish Attic room, complete with it's own bar, DJ booth and room for up to 30 seated and 60 standing, making it the perfect setting to hire out for an event or party. The Attic plays host to regular (wait for it) cabaret nights, live music performances and art exhibitions! I told you, not your average restaurant.
As soon as you walk into Bumpkin, you feel immediately at home. The restaurant has a lovely relaxed atmosphere, warm and unpretencious yet full of character. An open plan kitchen and bar area keep things interesting, comfy seats and low lighting keep things cosy and the country manor style decor and greenery everywhere keep things suitably British. They even had a talented pianist, Massimo playing the likes of Elton John's Your song (my favourite) live on the piano during our meal.
What We Ate...
For me the enjoyment of eating out, isn't necessarily all about the food. A relaxed setting, good company, friendly service and that feeling of leaving your worries behind for a few hours are all things that if done right can make a good restaurant into a great one. If I was marking Bumpkin on those things alone, it would already have top marks. But the fact that their food was also incredible firmly turned this new find from a great restaurant into a amazing one for me!
We started off sampling some of Bumpkin's specially selected English sparkling wine before being brought a bottle of one of their sustainable whites. They take great pride in choosing wines which have been produced using sustainable, organic or bio-dynamic practices. Our white had been produced free of weed killers and pesticides, conserving as much water as possible and using as little fuel and electricity as possible. Pretty impressive compared to our usual Chardonnays! To read more about their different types of wine see here.
For starter we shared a carmelised red onion tartlet with gruyere cheese and topped with pieces of deep fried sage. The tartlet was a crumbly shortcrust pastry and the mix of flavours was amazing, GB was especially intrigued by the deep frying of sage which made it crisp and flavoursome (no batter involved).
For mains it was a difficult choice as the menu offered so many great British options. At Bumpkin, the menu is seasonal so depending on when you go you can expect different ingredients to coincide with what our British farms are producing. Our menu included everything from classics such as fish and chips, pork belly and steaks to specials such as duck and ox cheek. Eventually I settled for a pork chop, which came with an apple and parsnip cider glazed tartlet which was delicious. Different from the starter, the tartlet was light and flaky and the topping was the perfect sweet against the strong flavours of the thick cut of pork. GB went for the confit of Duck which was on special, served with red cabbage and celeriac puree.
My favourite part of the menu though had to be the sides. I may never have mentioned it on the blog before but ever since I was a little girl I have had a serious love affair with macaroni cheese. My mum makes the meanest cheese sauce and if I was on death row, there would be no contest for what my last supper would be. Generally you never see mac and cheese on a posh restaurant menu, I guess it's a little too 'safe' an option for most, and the restaurants who do offer it are generally more of the pub grub variety and more often than not don't do it very well. But it is a classic British dish, and when I saw it on Bumpkin's menu as a side, I couldn't think of anything more perfect. Amongst all of the amazing cuts of meat and fish dishes on the menu, you probably wouldn't ever choose it as a main but as a side you can still sample some of that cheesy goodness without feeling that you have missed out. After I had told our waitress Renata about my mac and cheese obsession, how despite the fact that I should really have vegetables with my pork but I simply couldn't leave without trying it (and she had managed to remain ever the professional and not even laugh at me), she kindly offered to bring us mac and cheese and roasted veg just to make sure I got my green intake, plus some creamy mash for GB.
Now I have sampled many a variety of mac and cheese over the years, I make it myself pretty much on a weekly basis and have experimented with many different versions but still to this day nothing beats my Mum's. So if ever you were to come up against a picky mac and cheese customer, it would be me.
But last Tuesday evening, at around 20.00 hours, my Mum's mac and cheese met it's match as Bumpkin brought me a little pan of the most amazing cheesy goodness I have ever tasted (sorry Mum) and for my last supper I'm requesting they order it in all the way from Notting Hill. Expect to see me back every Sunday lunchtime from now on just to order a giant plate of this.
After this my tummy was extremely happy and I couldn't think of any way Bumpkin could get any better, that was until they brought out a dark chocolate, cherry and salted caramel mousse for dessert, complete with birthday candle and a restaurant full rendition of Happy Birthday!
It would be very easy, considering the care and detail that goes into creating the dishes, for Bumpkin to be over priced, pretencious and not offer anything further than they needed to. But instead the restaurant stands up proud in what it offers and goes the extra mile at every opportunity to ensure they are always creating and doing something new and different. Great food, not unfriendly prices, and never comprimising on quality are just a few of the things that make Bumpkin really stand out against the rest.
For the whole of March, you can dine at Bumpkin Notting Hill with 50% off Monday to Thursday so to try that mac and cheese out for yourself get yourself down there. You can see a full list of the events and offers on the website.
Big thank you to Bumpkin for a great birthday night out and special thanks to Kelly Sue for being so helpful and to Renata for being the most friendly and well informed waitress we could have asked for.
Bumpkin, Notting Hill
209 Westbourne Park Road, London, W11 1EA
Closest Tube: Notting Hill Gate or Westbourne Park
0207 243 9818
For reservations contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
*Please note, I was treated to a meal at Bumpkin in order to write this review, however the opinions expressed are most definitely my own.*