The Imperial Chelsea by Michael R. Goss

 A bright summer evening was the perfect time to sample the new menu at the Imperial, Chelsea. I had enjoyed the convivialities on the opening night a year or so ago and it was deeply encouraging to see, on this return visit, that The Imperial has matured into a rather fine restaurant.

I began in the delightful garden area with a rich Belgian beer Affligem; at 6.8% it’s definitely a sipper not a gulper. My dining companion ordered a strawberry mojito which was fabulously fruity and heavy on the white rum. A great start then. The garden itself was filling up with early evening revellers, the table beside us was already humming with the plummy chatter of Chelsea girls stopping for their post work Chardonnay. 

The garden was still under construction with the chef developing a small kitchen garden with tomatoes, chives and other herbs giving the shortest possible distance between field and fork. Like all the best restaurants freshness is key to all their ingredients and whole animals and fish are butchered and prepared on the premises. It began to get chilly and despite blankets and outdoor heaters we returned inside to eat. 

The wine list was interesting and imaginative with a list dominated by Italian and French, along with new world and other European wines. We opted for the house White, a new world Soave which I found to be a little tart and not really up to the standard of the food. Thankfully it’s no longer on the menu and there are some superb wines to choose from including White Rioja, Albariño, Sancerrre Rose and Italian Barolo.

Starters ranged between £6- £9 and mains £15 and up. Certainly easily affordable for the locals of Chelsea. The kitchen was partially open so we could see the chef’s intense concentration and attention to detail as he put the finishing touches to superbly presented plates of appetising food.

My companion ordered the steamed Cornish mussels with garlic, fennel, English cider and cream. This was served with homemade, lightly toasted sour dough bread. I chose the confit duck yolk with hay infused egg white, pickled wild mushroom and chive purée. I love duck eggs and adore the flavour and texture of the rich dark yellow yolk. The mussels were plump and perfectly cooked, the sauce was absolutely divine. I pinched what was left and soaked up the rest with some extra sour dough bread. Stunning!

For the main I opted for the chicken supreme with Jerusalem artichoke purée, sprouting broccoli and haricot bean salsa. The chicken was moist and perfectly paired with the bean salsa. Every mouthful was a delight.

My fellow diner had pan fried wild sea bream fillet with blackened leeks, cauliflower purée and a samphire and kale foam. Another excellent creation!. The fish was crunchy outside, deliciously succulent inside. The leeks were particularly excellent and an imaginative addition to a most satisfying dish. The side of purple sprouting broccoli complimented the dish perfectly.

It was a real pleasure to see a restaurant come of age like this and developing a traditional yet really innovative menu. Keep an eye on their website for special offers, fixed price lunches and guest chefs. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner serving great food and wine throughout the day. A private dining room is also available on the first floor. In a bizarre coincidence I ran into the chef in my local pub in Harlesden, turns out he’s a local resident. I was effusively gushing about his food; I just hope I wasn’t drooling as well.

Imperial Chelsea
577 Kings Road

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