47 Hereford Road, London W2 5AH, pomonas.co.uk
Gabriella banishes the January blues with a quirky slice of California sun.
Behind an elegant facade, the decor – inspired in part by David Hockney’s 1970s Malibu period – is an eclectic mix of cacti, colour and animal print.
The bright and vibrant interior is at odds with the cold and rainy late January evening outside. The weather, coupled the fact that Pomona’s in a new-ish addition to Notting Hill’s crowded dining scene, mean it’s a little quiet when we arrive. Despite this, well-chosen music, friendly, informal and knowledgeable staff and the colourful surroundings suggest the potential for an effervescent atmosphere – especially on long summer nights.
We sample the small but well-formed cocktail list, with the signature Pomona’s Punch and the surprisingly savoury White Chocolate Daiquiri proving a welcome twist from the norm.
Pomona’s – which offers both brunch and evening menus – is the latest offering from Executive Chef Gareth Sanderson, formerly at Hampshire’s The Thomas Lord, Druskos Namai Salt House and latterly at Le Butcher Group. The restaurant bills itself as inspired by Sanderson’s travels along America’s West Coast. In reality there are a multitude of influences at play Ã¢â‚¬â€œ from the West Coast to the Far East via traditional British and French dishes.
As a result, the menu is intriguing, with dishes ranging from simple fish tacos and cheeseburgers to the slightly more exotic Charred Squid and King Prawns with Pineapple and JalapeÃƒÂ±o jostling for your attention. For those on a strict New Year’s regime there are an array of salads, smoothies and mocktails on offer.
Putting our January diets on hold, we opt for Bone Marrow with a Bacon Vodka shot and Whole Soft Shell Crab to start.
In-keeping with Pomona’s ethos, the food is an unexpected jumble of cuisines and flavours. Unlike the decor (which shouldn’t work, but does), the deliberately different mix of ingredients in our starters doesn’t quite gel. Bacon vodka to accompany bone marrow and horseradish is a neat idea but the flavours need to harmonise a little more. The batter on my Soft Shell Crab Ã¢â‚¬â€œ which comes served with fra diavalo, confit smoked garlic and tarragon butter Ã¢â‚¬â€œ isn’t quite as crisp as it could be.
Things certainly improve with our main course. My generous portion of pork belly with smoked polenta and a winter leaf salad is a touch fatty for my taste, although the crackling is absolutely delicious. My dining partner thoroughly enjoys his Japanese-inspired seared tuna with toasted sesame and burnt scallion – all washed down with a crisp, fizzy Prosecco.
Pomona’s really comes up trumps when it comes to dessert. We opt for Valrhona Chocolate Cremeux, and the signature desert – Caramelized Croissant and Prune Pie.
The Chocolate Cremeux is a decadent delight, with olive oil and truffle salt creating just the right savoury bite to complement the sweet, velvety chocolate mousse.
The Caramelized croissant is the evening’s real triumph – encapsulating everything that’s right about Pomona’s: unusual, unexpected and an eclectic blend of flavours that creates something hugely enjoyable. Think light and creamy bread and butter pudding smothered in crÃƒÂ¨me anglaise. Yum.
Pomona’s still has a few teething problems but should be applauded for its bold approach which helps it stand out. There’s a lot to like here, and enough that does work to forgive the few things that don’t. Its idiosyncrasies might not be right for everyone but they worked for me – when it really hits its stride there’s plenty of potential to provide a delicious deviation from the beaten track.