By Jack Peat, TLE Editor
“One last question about the menu”, I said to Jesse Dunford Wood, the Brazilian-born English chef and owner of Parlour of Regent St Kensal who had made his way over to our table at the end of the meal. “I’ve never heard of Back Door Salmon”, I asked. The starter, an assortment of chunky salmon with home baked soda bread ranked among the best entrees I have had the pleasure to eat and I was curious to see where they had sourced such a flavoursome fish. “Ah, that’s easy. We smoke our salmon outside the back door,” he replied, “hence Back Door”.
In a sentence, he had just summarised our evening. From the sour dough bun that lay next to the home-smoked salmon starter to the cracker assortment with the cheese selection for dessert, the entire ensemble of food items that evening had a sense of meticulous care and attention that you seldom see elsewhere.
Parlour is almost like a food factory in which its patrons are treated to a conveyor belt of innovative, artisanal foods. The ‘all-day serving parlour’, hence the name, opens for brunch at 10am and continues through lunch and dinner, closing at midnight in the week and 1am at weekends.
They call it a gastro pub, and while to an extent I would agree I also think that has become a worn term. You may find British classics on the menu and beer served in pimpled glasses at the bar, but pigeon holing a place like this to fit with the wealth of generic gastro joints popping up across the capital is a disservice.
The entrée is testament to that. Chunky slices of salmon fillet smoked in-house with a small loaf of sour dough bread is the stuff Michelin Stars are made of. In hindsight it would probably have worked well as a sharing starter and many of the dishes on the menu seemed to be designed with sharing in mind – Blue Cheese ‘Custard’ with bits to dip was similarly enticing – but that is actually a dangerous concept. One slice of sour dough lathered with creamy butter and thick smoked salmon and you become rather guarded over your plate.
The main course was somewhat of a signature dish. Cow Pie, served with or without cabbage, is a large dish of overflowing pastry with bone marrow in the centre acting as a sort of chimney for the piping hot chunks of succulent steak that lay under the deck. My girlfriend chose the equally appealing Chicken Kyiv, a spherical conception that sits on top of a hashbrown that evokes nostalgic memories of hearty British breakfasts and good country grub.
Sat nursing full stomachs we reluctantly (in the loosest sense of the word) accepted a cheeseboard to finish the meal off. I’m glad we did. Nutty cheddar, rich and tangy Stilton, delicate goat cheese and, notably, the most delightful assortment of crackers and pastries I have ever feasted my eyes on. Washed down with a top up of our Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, it was a perfect end to a near perfect meal.