What did you do for Halloween? Thanks to TB, we spent the evening in the gorgeous surroundings in Babylon at Kensington Roof Gardens. The venue is owned by Richard Branson, who famously bought it the day after he’d been turned away at the door by an over-zealous bouncer.
In a word
Babylon is a venue split over two floors, with the restaurant and a heated terrace on the top (7th) floor. The club and private hire area are one floor down & surrounded by the famed gardens themselves. The event we attended was called the Winter Terrace, a menu that the Babylon launched especially for these colder, darker nights. We arrived & were greeted by Charlotte, our host for the night. First impression of the venue was very positive – it has a quietly expensive decor, with a mixture of tables and banquettes, and floor-to ceiling windows & doors providing access to the wraparound, heated terrace overlooking London.
So onto the food and drinks! The Winter Terrace menu consists of an assortment of fine cheeses and freshly baked breads, garnished with nuts, dried fruits and preserves to complement their flavours. To accompany the food, the menu also includes some specially-selected wines and festive cocktails. So, what were our impressions?
[Ellie] Unlike Laurie, I’m a complete cheese fiend and there are very few that I find too pongy for my palette. However, I’m also a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to a good cheese board, so I was simultaneously very excited and mildly sceptical about the impressive-looking spread laid out by the lovely folks at the Kensington Roof Gardens, which included cheeses with a variety of embellishments baked in.
Within seconds of loading up my plate my scepticism evaporated. The baked cheeses reflected the Winter theme perfectly; the Ogleshield baked with smoked bacon, baby onions, gherkins and new potato was comfort food at its most indulgent, for me evoking fond memories of snowy evenings back when I lived in Switzerland. The baked Vacherin Mont D’or, studded with garlic, rosemary and thyme was as delicious as it sounds, and the extra touches added depth rather than distracting from the quality of the cheese itself as I had feared. The Black Pepper Rosary goat’s cheese, topped with pink grapefruit marmalade, also warrants a special mention as my stand-out cheese of the night.
[LAURIE] Myself and cheese have a complicated relationship. I’m very fussy about it and am not a fan of anything TOO… well…cheesy. But I’m happy to report that I liked almost all of the large selection of cheeses, breads and chutneys. I particularly loved the
Vacherin Mont D’or, a cow’s milk studded with garlic, rosemary and thyme– delish! Later we also tried some sweet canapes – a mini pumpkin pie (which I didn’t try) and a pistachio marshmallow covered in chocolate – to be honest, I found that a little dry, but it’s a pretty minor complaint! Food wise though, the star for me was a blue-cheese risotto from Babylon’s main menu. It was absolutely delicious, rich and creamy, with just the right texture. Risottos are notoriously hard to get right, even in the best restaurants, but this one was as close to perfect as I’ve had.
We also tried a couple of cocktails – one was a fruity little number based on Tanqueray gin (one of my favourites). It was really refreshing and didn’t taste alcoholic at all – dangerous! But I didn’t think it went particularly well with the cheese. The second cocktail was called Black Magic, and it was described as “Christmas in a glass”. That turned out to be a very accurate description for this warm, delicious drink! It was based on calvados, with apple juice and walnut bitters – it’s what mulled wine wants to be when it grows up!
Exploring the gardens
After the event, Charlotte showed us around the Kensington Roof Gardens themselves – having never been there before, I had no idea what to expect, but I was amazed – they’re truly an oasis! The Spanish garden has a lovely veranda overlooking palm trees and stucco walls. The English country garden feels completely different, as you’d expect, with mature trees (yep, real ones), grass and stone walls, and a canal with a wooden bridge. Oh and flamingos. Real-life flamingos, On top of a building in London. Surreal doesn’t even begin to cover it!
Overall, I was impressed by the venue and found the staff very professional and friendly. The cocktails were truly delicious – I’d be tempted back for those alone. In terms of the food, while the selection of cheeses was impressive, I found myself thinking of it as a side dish, rather than being worthy of an entire menu on its own. But the risotto. Oh that was delicious. And I intend to go back for a full portion of that very soon 🙂
- Address: The Roof Gardens, 6th Floor, The Roof Gardens, 99 Kensington High Street, W8 5SA
- Babylon is open for lunch: 12-3.00pm (last seating 2.30pm) Monday – Sunday, and dinner 7-11.00pm Monday – Saturday (last seating 10.30pm)
- Winter Terrace Menu is available Wednesday – Friday from 12:00 – 15:00 and Tuesday – Saturday 19:00 – 23:00 until March 2015
- For more info please contact Babylon on 020 7368 3993 or email Babylon@roofgardens.virgin.com or visit roofgardens.virgin.com