A quick search for “gastro pub” on Wikipedia reveals “a bar and restaurant that serves high-end beer and food.”
The term was apparently coined in 1991 when David Eyre and Mike Belben took over The Eagle in Clerkenwell in London. I remember this place from my student days as the posh local with cotton napkins, silver cutlery, flowers on each table and drinks with descriptions. In other words, a date venue.
Now, the gastro pub is a standard feature across the UK, with some bespoke establishments as renowned for their food as top restaurants.
One of my favourites is The Abingdon in Kensington. It’s a gastro publissimo. Excellent venue, location, ambience, choice and quality of food and drink, superb service, spotless facilities and reasonable prices. Who could want more?
Set just off High Street Kensington in the white stuccoed elegance of W8, The Abingdon has the tranquil stylishness of a Victorian salon, with the modern focus of an underlit bar, and a cosy restaurant annex lined with booths for intimate but relaxed dining.
Google says the restaurant offers “imaginative combinations and an extensive wine list.” Though, ironically, the best part about this menu that caters for all tastes is its intrinsic simplicity, which in turn offers great flexibility.
As a food combiner, menus are often limiting because of the tendency to mix proteins and carbohydrates. But the Abingdon menu veers towards the Mediterranean concept of allowing a meat, fish or vegetable dish and its garnish to form the main meal, leaving the side options to the choice of the diner. Bliss.
Consequently, I have eaten more often here in the last three months than any other restaurant in London. Add to this the already noted fine location, ambience, service and cost, and you do have a combination – and it’s a winner.
Favourite starters from a weekly rotating menu include home smoked salmon with pickled beets, wasabi mousse and fennel salad, as well as seaweed salad with avocado and sesame dressing.
Of the white meat mains, the supreme of chicken with silverskin onions, oyster mushrooms and crispy kale is delicious, even without the suggested wholegrain mustard mash.
For the piscivores, I recommend the fabulous cured North Sea cod with tomato compote, shaved fennel and red pepper sauce, or cod with rocket pesto, radish, tenderstem broccoli, salsify, blood orange and tempura capers.
Of the varied side dishes, roasted broccoli, purple kale and cavolo nero are lightly prepared and fantastic for your folics!
And, for those with a sweet tooth, the desserts are also divine, including the relatively light options of crème brûlée and ice cream. While some excellent cocktails and a creative selection of wines add the final touch to fine meals.
The local hostelry has evolved from a tavern into a gastro pub. The Eagle had landed a brilliant idea. The Abingdon has refined it.
54 Abingdon Road
London W8 6AP
Tel: 020 7937 3339