There’s a common phenomenon in London wherein you find yourself in a restaurant’s facilities and think, ‘Ah. I’ve peed here before.’
I call it déjà loo. Restaurants here change with such whirlwind frequency that you can quite often visit a hot new tapas bar only to realise, half a bottle of cava down, that you were there only six months before in a doomed brasserie. Restaurants in London – and, indeed, all cities with such sky-high rents that restaurants can only exist locked in an eternal struggle with the bottom line – are the sea turtles of the hospitality world, i.e. many are born, but very few get to swim in the seas of success. Most meet a sad end via the circling vultures of monstrous overheads, Tripadvisor and Giles Coren.
This happened to me most recently at The Cambridge Street Kitchen at the Artist’s Residence in Pimlico. Two years prior, it was 64 Degrees, an offshoot of the wildly popular Brighton restaurant of the same name, but it was too expensive and too hard to get to, and quietly closed after less than a year in business. I vaguely remember going with some blogger friends, but all I can really remember is leaving £100 poorer, steaming drunk, and – unforgivably – still hungry. According to my boyfriend, who I’d only just started dating and apparently considered doing a runner afterwards, I came home and sat in the middle of the kitchen floor sucking down a middling-to-large Tupperware of homemade hummus. (Let this be a lesson, kids, don’t ever change who you are. Especially for a man.)
We must forgive The Cambridge Street Kitchen for its generic name and website filled with the kind of copy I usually go out of my way to avoid. (Put it this way: I would bet cash money that the copywriter is one of those insufferable types who begin all their end-of-week emails with ‘Happy Fri-yay!’). In fact, the place seems in the midst of an identity crisis; the marketing department pitches it as an upmarket Wetherspoons, albeit one designed with Instagram in mind, or a ‘homey cafe with all-day comfort food’ as the Google Knowledge Panel puts it. But in fact it’s a fantastic little restaurant, home to some very assured cooking and a cool-as-hell cocktail bar. (All the drinks are based on movies. I had one based on Titanic made with sea salt and rose – geddit? – with a giant craggy ice cube in it.)
We deliberated over the tasting menu, which seemed very reasonable at £50 for six courses, but the pudding of pineapple with coconut sorbet and cucumber wasn’t tickling my pickle, so we went freestyle and chose dishes to share. I can especially recommend the tuna tataki (£11), spiked with wasabi, mellowed with pineapple and awash with the freshness of lemon juice and coriander. The fish itself was served as four silky slabs, briefly seared and dotted with swirls of avocado puree.
Head Chef Elliot Miller is quite the fan of dotting things with other things, it seems, because the quail (£13.00) came peppered with popcorn (described erroneously on the menu as sweetcorn). I could have done without it, to be honest, especially as I’d just chomped down a whole mug of the stuff in the bar downstairs, but I suppose Instagram doesn’t care how fantastic your quail tastes, it’s the look of the thing that matters.
We split the mains. sage gnocchi with cubes of butternut squash, chanterelles, cavolo nero and truffle pesto, a bit expensive at £20 for very fancy pasta, especially when places like Padella are churning out absolute corkers with plenty of change from a tenner, but then I don’t have to wait an hour for my dinner at the Cambridge Street Kitchen so I’ll allow it. It was actually more of a salad than a pasta dish, with the promised gnocchi hidden in a huge pile of cavolo nero like plump little nuggets of pillowy gold.
We couldn’t resist the sirloin steak with tender stem broccoli, Anya potatoes and the rich umami flavours of malted shittake and anchovy butter (£26.00), which came assembled like some sort of pyre. The portion was bloody enormous and I was relieved I only had to eat half of it – not that the steak wasn’t luscious and tender or that the broccoli wasn’t sweet and buttery, because it was – but simply because I cannot stand waste under any circumstances and would literally rather eat myself sick than see anything go in the bin.
We finished with a chocolate mousse (£7.00) with overly sweet salted caramel ice cream (IMO – sugar fiends would have no complaints), with banana and, interestingly, lime, which made a good go of cutting through the sickliness.
It seems like the Cambridge Street Kitchen is already managing what 64 Degrees could not – the place was packed on a Wednesday night, and there were a couple of people enjoying dinner alone. (When flying solo, ambience makes the difference between a depressing evening out and quality ‘me’ time.) And with Victoria’s recent regeneration putting this once-unloved area of London on the map, I can’t see it going anywhere any time soon.
Cambridge Street Kitchen, 52 Cambridge Street, London, SW1V 4QQ.
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.