Orasay is the new kid on the Kensington Park Road block. With Core by Clare Smyth just three minutes away and Notting Hill favourite Osteria Basilica right beside, diners and neighbourhood residents will be expecting a solid staple. The British seafood (with a little turf action) restaurant is headed by Jackson Boxer, who’s known for two other restaurants on the other end of London: Brunswick House and St Leonards. Both are in neighbourhoods unfamiliar to myself, so this is really a treat – an import from the East if you’d like.
The restaurant is a bright and earth-toned space, as are most of the must-see must-try hot tables I’ve frequented in the last few months. The decor certainly doesn’t distract from the dishes. When each course is worth ‘saving space’ for, you wouldn’t want anything drawing attention away from every morsel. You might also notice that the menu is printed daily, although I’m advised by the staff that the options don’t change drastically. This is simply to take full advantage of the best produce available in the morning.
Granted, the food looks like nothing special. They are plated humbly, which I suppose reflects the seasonality and freshness of the British-sourced ingredients. But the taste – this is a surprise. Minimalism in appearance does not translate to the flavour. Take the scallop (£11), a single mollusc on a pretty shell atop caramelised sugar and finely diced mushroom. It’s that dish that made me think that I had to write this Orasay restaurant review with a side of bread, to mop up every mouthful. The asparagus garnished with razor clams and potted shrimp (£12) is very much a green dish rather than an aquatic option, but nevertheless great for sharing. And are oysters (£10 for three) en vogue now? For my sake, I hope so. Here they pack that lip-smacking salty sweet punch, but the Champagne and elderflower accompaniment are more decorative than they are elemental. This is also true of the drinks – the Rhubarb and Rose Spritz tasted just like a kombucha than a cocktail.
We are told that the lunch menu is slightly more condensed and the dinner sitting features more distinctive fish and meat dishes. A regular guest on another table commented that this is “definitely a lunch kind of place”. And sure enough, by the early afternoon the place was almost full. However, I can’t help but feel that the hefty prices are going to keep away the city’s most avid foodies. Granted, I reviewed this as a guest but I am still cost-conscious.
It’s the 60-day-aged Shorthorn steak (£65 for 2/3 people) that puts this restaurant back in the competition to fill London’s bellies. I can just imagine a couple that live in the area, settling down at Orasay for a beautifully rare beef, with petals of onion filled with gravy. They’re going to save the chunky bone for their miniature Schnauzer at home. There’s something heartwarming about a sharing dish, it makes a place feel more homely. The desserts have a sense of familiarity too. Remember upside down pineapple cakes for school lunches? This version is grilled and laden with vanilla ice cream and a Muscavado treacle (£7). Then there’s the malt, chocolate and coffee creation (£9), a truly adult choice with a hint of bitterness. It tastes like an inside out Malteaser but looks unwittingly like a plate of eggs Benedict.