The Windsor Castle – London
‘Why’, I asked Ben, ‘is it called The Windsor Castle?’
‘It’ aka The Windsor Castle is a very friendly and welcoming neighbourhood pub in Kensington, not far from Notting Hill tube station – Campden Hill Road to be more precise. Bar Manager Ben explained that way back in 1835 when the pub was built you could, allegedly, from the top floor windows, see its more regal namesake.
Curiosity satisfied for a bit, I settled down to look more closely at my surroundings whilst waiting for an old work colleague to arrive to join me for lunch. (He lives not that far away and pops into from time to time for an evening drink.)
I had left the hot, sunny streets a few minutes earlier to find myself in the cool, dark interior of the pub, the bar straight in front of me with various small rooms to either side.
As it was early and the pub empty Ben offered to show me around. It is charming. Lots of nooks and crannies, cosy alcoves, gleaming polished wood, fresh paintwork, old prints on the walls, a smoke-stained old fire place, knick-knacks on shelves. According to friends I am vertically-challenged, but even I had to bend low to get through some of the tiny doorways. Behind the bar, in what used to be the kitchen, is a dining room, sunshine streaming into it and onto the polished wood. And beyond the dining room a delightful garden with attractive plantings and big tables under even larger umbrellas. Ben told me that there are gas heaters and blankets too for folk wanting to sit outside on cooler evenings.
By now friend had arrived and we adjourned to the dining room for a simply splendid meal. There are two menus, the Pub and Dining Room. Many dishes appear on both. I was intrigued to see that the menus come not with wine (though the Windsor Castle does indeed have a good wine cellar) but beer recommendations. Ben is something of a beer connoisseur and likes matching brews to dishes. There are 18 speciality beers and real ales on offer at the moment. The Windsor Castle actually hosted its first Ale Festival in June, and other similar events are planned.
Under Ben’s guidance I opted for a Smoked Ocean trout, violet potatoes & beetroot with crème fraiche and a grating of horseradish (£9.50), followed by Sea bream, green beans, brown shrimps in a brown butter sauce (£22). Both absolutely delicious. Friend on the other hand opted for one of the house specialities Scotch Egg (£5) and Braised duck leg, mashed sweet potato and spinach (£18.50). I was allowed to try a little of the Scotch Egg and it was fabulous – a delicious sausagemeat/haggis exterior encasing a perfectly soft to runny yolk. Prices actually start from £5 for starters and £11.50 for mains. The Bakewell Tart with Cinnamon Crumble ice cream was tempting, but next time maybe. Chef Pierre Kolabukoff is a genius.
Oh to have a pub like the Windsor Castle for a local. I am green with envy. A.M.H.
The Windsor Castle, 114 Campden Hill Road, London W8 7AR