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Mr Bean falls over himself to please

Published 11 November 2012
News Review
1,007th article



Geraldine and Michael at Kensington Place (Julian Weiss)

There are places that come and places that go. Then there is Kensington Place, in Notting Hill, which seems to have been there for ever. It has had a number of incarnations. Currently it is bright and airy and, on the whole, quite pleasant.

In October last year it had a full refurbishment and reopened with a new chef, a new menu and pictures of cows on the walls. Odd for a fish restaurant.

I was assured all the fish is sourced from the restaurant’s shop next door, which, through careful choice of supplier, can guarantee the highest quality: it is delivered direct from the Cornish coast by the Bean family, or collected daily by Marcus from Billingsgate Market.

I have no idea who the Bean family are, or who Marcus is, but I’m sure he’s an extremely pleasant human being — and if he isn’t, he’s unpleasant.

Kensington Place has had almost as many lives as me. In one of them I fell out with the management big-time. Today it’s run by a different crowd, and my most recent visit was an altogether happier affair.

In its latest guise it presents a large variety of first-rate fish (it wouldn’t last long if it didn’t). I decided to have the fish soup with rouille, croutons and gruyère and then the Kensington Place fish pie.

Geraldine had an enormous skate wing, which she found almost beyond her. She doesn’t even find me beyond her, so it must have been quite some skate. Fabrice, Geraldine’s son, was eating sole, which was overcooked.

We could have chosen from a set lunch menu of two courses for £17 or three for £20. This offered everything from shell-on Greenland prawns with aïoli as a starter to confit of organic salmon with crushed potatoes and keta caviar as a main course.

There was also a very large seafood platter, which included oysters. Those would have killed me. In Barbados they very nearly did. They gave me a bug that caused a complete breakdown of the system. It’s a miracle I survived. I was flown back by air ambulance to the London Clinic.

It was not the most delightful experience that I have had. If you want to fly a great distance in a medical emergency, there is very little choice other than to take a plane decked out as an ambulance. It may not be the most exotic mode of transport. It may not be the most fascinating. But it gets you from A to B, or in my case C to D, in a rather dramatic fashion.

That brought about one of my many visits to the London Clinic and other medical institutions. The London Clinic is a laugh a minute. It was one of the first places I went into intensive care. Intensive care isn’t a laugh a minute. However, I’m particularly adept at ending up three-quarters dead, to which the doctors say: “We didn’t think you would survive the night.” And the following day they say: “My goodness me; he makes a very good recovery.”

For dessert I tried the apple and blackberry crumble, which was really quite good.

There was also a rather strangely entitled “crème brûlée, almond financier”. Does this mean that someone knocking up the food was in fact a financier? It seems an odd combination. If you’re going to have a financier making the crème brûlée and other desserts, I would describe that as unusual. But then I would describe myself as unusual. It’s one of my few attributes.



  • From Graham Pack, Hertfordshire:

    Hymie is on the park bench chatting to Moishe.

    Moishe says: “I envy you, Hymie. What is the secret of your 50-year marriage to Becky?”

    “Well,” Hymie replies, “it’s really quite simple. In our marriage I make all the big decisions and Becky makes all the small decisions.”

    “So what big decisions have you had to make?” Moishe asks.

    Hymie replies: “I haven’t made any yet.”



    Michael’s missives

    It must be so nice to be taken out to a bar on a Saturday evening by your two grand-daughters. They are so kind to you. Hopefully in my dotage mine will do the same. I’ve printed a copy of your photo to give them as a kindly reminder.
    Iain Chapman, Marciac, France

    I can’t believe that was you in last week’s photo: benign, even mellow-looking, in a new suit and white shirt. It’s amazing how a good photographer can doctor a photo. What happened to the tie? Forgot it, no doubt. Understandable at your age.
    Vincent Keane, Dublin

    Nice to see Geraldine and Dinah keeping up bonfire night traditions. I hope their “penny for the guy” idea brought in some funds to help pay off your debts.
    Dave Landed, Lancashire

    You said last week that you could never understand why people celebrate Christmas at all. Something to do with a chap called Jesus, I believe.
    Mark Crivelli, Worcestershire

    Regarding your recent sweet search, look no further than Farrah’s of Harrogate. And you must try their liquorice and ginger sweets — to die for!
    Sandi Firth, Leeds

    You have admitted being the world’s worst food critic. You certainly have my vote to support that. No self-respecting reviewer would say the food was “washed down with a bottle of” as you did last week. Wine is to be savoured. I suppose your £200 bottle of Mouton or Latour does not touch the sides.
    Leslie Jones, Worcestershire