The second café from the Chucs restaurant group, the South Kensington outpost opened earlier this year. The group’s fifth London establishment, Chucs Café on Brompton Road has a slightly less formal approach, compared to the Mayfair, Westbourne Grove and Belgravia restaurants.
Specifically designed to evoke the “effortless glamour of 1950’s Italy and the Côte d’Azur,” the restaurant is cosy and stylishly decorated with its marble table-tops and bar, plush blue and gold seating; and wood-panelled walls festooned with mirrors, gold wall lights and Mediterranean coastal photographs alongside modern art prints. An impressive, large wrap-around terrace is also on hand. In keeping with the café’s concept, service here is also casual: unfussy yet professional. As for the food, a full-service café menu is served all-day, every-day with the kitchen headed up by Executive Chef Simon Henbry, having previously worked in the kitchens of restaurants such as Fifteen London, Barbecoa and the Ace Hotel Shoreditch.
As for the menu, dishes typically look towards the Mediterranean for influence – particularly Italy. From the cicchetti menu, we order a round of truffle arancini – bitesize, rampant with cheese, gloriously insalubrious – while reading through the safe collection of European comfort food staples. 24 month prosciutto di Parma is presented in a very simple dish, yet evokes the backbone of seasonally-appropriate Italian cuisine, championing a small number of key ingredients and showcasing their provenance without unnecessary wankifery. Beef carpaccio, on the other hand, is well executed with paper-thin slivers of fillet steak, capped with a handful of capers and drizzled with a house sauce comprising mayonnaise, anchovies, lemon, oil and pecorino cheese. Seared tuna features well-prepared fish, looking to Japan with its sharp, citric ponzu dressing, finished with a suggestion of sesame.
Joining safe mains such as the Chucs burger, club sandwich, ribeye steak, and Cobb salad, the melanzane alla parmigiana (aubergine parmigiana) is one of the menu’s highlights. An Italian comfort food dish particularly popular in the rosticcerias of Campania, and in the United States, Chucs version is fairly refined, comprising a tower of fried aubergine slices and a generous fistfuls of mozzarella and parmesan, finished under the grill. Another Italian classic, chicken Milanese is butterflied to cover almost an entire plate, cloaked with fine breadcrumbs, amplified with some parmesan and deep fried until crisp but still succulent within.
From the menu’s ‘Pizza, Pasta, Rice’ heading, pappardelle is a little on the thick side, but can be forgiven given the depth of the ragù, favouring slow-cooked Cotswold lamb with softness to contrast the al dente pasta, again showered with a blizzard of parmesan. A must-try side, zucchini fritti are sliced thin and coated with a relatively greaseless batter: an exemplary example of the comfort food dish – Chucs’ clear forte.
Chucs Café South Kensington can be found at 97 Old Brompton Road, London, SW7 3LD.