Anyone associated with Kensington or Notting Hill surely knows about The Windsor Castle. Tucked away on one of the smaller through-roads between the two areas, this little gem something of a local secret – and many would like it kept that way. But judging by the crowds enjoying both the pub’s huge beer garden and its little indoor nooks and crannies yesterday evening, it seems that many are in on the secret!
I’ve been to The Windsor Castle many a time, mostly in winter. Now, we’re obviously in anything but winter, but I’d also highly recommend the pub for when that season inevitably rolls around – the cosy, wood-panelled interior is a really great place to settle in for a few hours on a weekend afternoon.
Yesterday evening, however, was the first time that I’d dined in the pub (specifically, in their special little dining room at the back), and also the first time that I’d visited since their refurbishment. The exterior is certainly looking very smart, almost like an inviting country cottage amongst this largely residential street. The dining room is also looking very respectable, and I personally lovely the leather armchairs that we had at our table for two!
We were seated right by the large open window overlooking the pub garden. Now, if you’re really suffering in the heat, you must immediately make a reservation for this particular spot – surely one of the coolest natural (non air-con induced) ones in W8! (I don’t know the physics of airflow – all I know is IT WORKS REALLY WELL HERE.) Overlooking the pub garden, we had a really fab spot to people watch, with the garden filled to the brim with locals and those who work in nearby offices, enjoying some cool drinks on a hot Thursday evening.
One of the quirks of The Windor Castle’s dinner menu is their “beer matching”. For each dish in each course – and yes, even dessert! – their menu recommends a beer that complements the food. Another thing you’ll notice from their menu is that it’s not just ordinary pub food; there’s plenty of unusual yet carefully thought out dishes, and even standard pub dishes – burgers, or sausage and mash – are so much more that what you might find elsewhere.
Being on a bit of a seafood kick of late, I selected the devon crab for my starter with my dining companion picking the prawn and avocado salad. I matched my starter with an ale as recommended by our exceedingly friendly waitress (not quite what was offered on the menu as they were out, but a more than adequate replacement), whilst my companion had the Veltins lager. The crab was exquisite, with small tower of delicate meat piled onto an avocado base, and accompanied with apple coleslaw. So light and refreshing, and so more-ish! (Thank goodness it was only a small portion!) The other starter – the prawns and avocado on baby gem lettuce – was a simpler affair, but certainly no less tasty, what a generous serving of large, juicy prawns.
On to the mains. This is where we were a little confused on the beer matching front. Having wolfed down our starters, we still had plenty of beer left – but would have liked to matched our main courses with the beer options as well. I’d suggest either picking your main course beer instead of the starter one…or just drinking quickly! When I’m not presenting myself as a seafood fan, I’m also very much into gnocchi – so couldn’t pass up the opportunity for the exotic-sounding gnocchi with spinach, quinoa, mushrooms and truffled cream. Out came a dish with wonderfully large, most definitely handmade gnocchi, with tender spinach leaves and chopped mushrooms dotted around, and the cream as a neat circle on top of the middle. The light amount of quinoa was also mixed in throughout – all in all, a very tasty but unusual dish (certainly so with the combination of ingredients), and not like something I’ve ever come across before in any pub.
My companion opted for the pan fried chicken breast, chorizo stuffing, green beans and pan gravy, which also came with (but not mentioned on the menu) carrots and mash. His comments were that the chicken was delicious, and the vegetables were divine – the only criticism being that he wasn’t sure the chorizo element added much to the dish.
After two rather filling courses, I definitely required something lighter for dessert for the two of us to share. Although there was some last minute pressure from my companion to order the hazlenut chocolate brownie with peanut butter ice cream (I understand – sounds hard to resist!), I chose the English berries with yoghurt sorbet. And what absolutely amazing presentation for this dish! Displayed on a large slate plate, the berries – strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries – were intricately placed around a scoop of the yoghurt sorbet. This was also far more than I had anticipated it might be, and certainly highly delectable – the light sprinkling of orange peel also gave the dish an extra little kick.
During our meal, I noticed a sign in the garden proclaiming the existence of a “Cider House” so asked our friendly waitress about it. She explained that the cute little bar in one corner of the garden (its housed in something not too dissimilar from a shed – but a very well stocked one at that!) is now serving up a large selection of different ciders, surely the most perfect tipple for the hot evenings. (Well, and days too if that’s how you spend your time!) She also explained that The Windsor Castle had also run similar drinks events in the recent past, including the hosting of an ale festival.
I’d highly recommend The Windsor Castle for an evening meal especially if, like me, it’s not a place you’ve previously considered dining out in. (That’s if we can tear all you locals away from the beer garden!)