If you associate ‘rustic’ with ‘old-fashioned’ then Maggie Jones probably isn’t for you. This restaurant has been around for over four decades and it really does look that old. This is certainly a place that is all about the character – and whether that’s your thing or not will determine whether you enjoy eating dinner here.
Maggie Jones is a pokey, quaint, cluttered restaurant that could easily be your grandma’s house. Walking in is like poking yourself in the eye – you’ll get an immediate headache and it will take a little while for you to get over the initial shock. When you do, you’ll barely notice the knic-knacks that cover every wall, ceiling and available surface. The colours are ugly, with greens and blues and shades of wood randomly thrown together, and the hardwood booths and rickety chairs aren’t the most comfortable. If you are seated down the incredibly rickety stairs then you can expect to be sat elbow-to-elbow with your fellow diners. But you know what? This place is utterly charming. It’s like something out of a scene from The Hobbit. You will, though, either love it or hate it.
Maggie Jones is a Kensington institution and it looks utterly eccentric in its Englishness. You can, therefore, expect to be seated alongside well-to-do locals and lots of excited tourists taking photos of everything, seemingly unaware that this place probably isn’t an accurate representation of Albion. That said, the staff are typically stiff upper lipped, albeit friendly enough, and the tourists seem to be having a whale of a time.
The menu at Maggie Jones is typically British - with a slight French skew - and the emphasis is on hearty, homemade cooking. However, you will pay for the privilege with main courses on the dinner menu costing in the region of £15-£27. This is Kensington after all, dahling.
If you’re looking to save a few bob then you’re better off leaving expensive starters such as the £8.75 prawn cocktail or £9 potted shrimp and going straight for a main course - especially given that they are actually very well portioned. You'll no doubt recognise all of the classic dishes on the menu, which include grilled calf's liver, roast chicken, racks of lamb and steak. However, it’s the pies that really stand out. Large enough for two if you’re not too hungry, they are served in the dish and are big on bold flavours.
The steak and kidney pie (£17.50) is delicious and actually offers pretty good value for money (really!). The pastry top is golden and crisp without being too doughy or soggy in the middle. Crack through the top to get a face full of steam and the mouthwatering smell of beef gravy. The steak chunks are generous and large but are soft enough to eat without chewing until your jaw goes numb. The kidney and beef work together with the incredibly well-seasoned gravy to produce a dish that is rich and meaty. It’s filling and really takes ‘rustic’ to heart. Order with seasonal vegetables and you’ll be more than done. Just be warned that there is a £1 cover charge per person and an optional 12.5% service charge is added to the bill so it can soon crank up the cost.
Seeing as Maggie Jones is a rustic restaurant it only makes sense for the wine menu to follow suit. And so there’s a good choice of heavy, mainly old world, bottles with a focus on Burgundy and Bordeaux. The selection has clearly been put together to complement the strong flavours of the food and it’s good to see how much thought has been put into it. Prices again aren’t cheap though with bottles priced at £23-£275, although a small selection are also available by the half bottle.
The Last Word
Maggie Jones is unashamedly old fashioned and quaint. If you like modern then steer well clear but for everyone else it’s at least worth looking into. Just remember to bring your credit card.