Mike samples Uli’s eastern flavours in west London and finds he could almost contemplate leaving the sarf with food this good.
If you know Notting Hill you will also know that it’s got plenty of restaurants.
However, not many of them offer a bit of oriental spice – especially in the kind of relaxed, stylish and comfortable surroundings the local denizens have come to insist upon since the area turned all Hugh Grant. Uli is the answer.
Hydrangeas in full bloom greet us as we approach the exterior terrace, inside the space has white tables and a comfy looking blue cushioned banquette along one wall.
In the restaurant proper, muted blues and jades continue with gold accents against the mostly white background, leading to the bar at the rear which has pleasing boxy shelving.
It’s paired back and restrained here; you won’t find any oriental red and definitely no lanterns.
Uli is a great alternative to the many Italian places surrounding it. For a start, my Asian Negroni has Sake added for a delicious kick off to our evening.
We sip our cocktails under the fabric roof. Co-owner and manager Graham tells us it can be fully retracted but the Uk weather being what it is, this evening is not one to have the top down on your sports car or your restaurant.
As we munch on edamame beans and look over the menu, Graham gives us the backstory.
For years there was a Uli on All Saints road not far away and he was a regular. He returned from holiday one year to find it shut.
He was so miffed at missing out of the dishes he’d come to know that he contacted the former owner Michael, finding him semi-retired. But, like Steven Segal in almost all his films, Graham persuaded Michael to come out of retirement for one last mission.
Happily, they are now business partners and Uli is reborn. Michael looks after the food and Graham does everything else.
Succulent pork dim sum, spicy peppercorn prawns, juicy wok-fried Daikon cakes and lobster crackers arrive swiftly, filling our table and resembling a full meal although this lot are just for starters.
It’s all beautifully presented too, with gold edged white bowls and plates. The name Daikon (literally 'big root'), is new to me but I think it’s another name for Mouli, a root from the radish family.
It’s grated, mixed with potato flour and left to set before being cut it into cubes and fried.
It’s really delicious with a great texture much like Gnocchi – one in the eye for the local Italians.
Argentinian Malbec Melodias Trapiche proves to be a nice, soft easy drinking red to accompany our food, helping us wash down everything and move onto mains.
Jayne reports her Thai Seabass fillet is perfectly steamed and it certainly looks pretty, served with vibrant chilli and lemongrass.
My beef in black bean sauce with chilli and garlic is several cuts above what I'm used to and goes well with our Thai baby aubergine side. I also ordered Singapore fried rice as an accompaniment but find it’s packed with juicy king Prawns, a lovely bonus.
By now the place is buzzing and a steady stream of takeouts are ferried to waiting delivery guys out front, word must be getting around.
Some of our main is also packed to go so we can enjoy dessert. My yuzu citrus junos cheesecake is both refreshing and creamy and Jayne says her chocolate coolant is tasty with that perfect ooze from it’s centre.
It’s been a thoroughly pleasant experience and Graham exudes charm to all his clientele.
I can imagine the absence of the roof would make for an even more memorable evening with a balmy breeze and the sun dappling through the trees.
Thes also a temptingly cushioned snug inside for group dining. We may well have to come back – and hailing from Crystal Palace as we do, that is praise indeed.