Excellent service in idyllic surrounds – at Babylon, it's all about the experience.
Completed in 1938, The Roof Gardens are this year celebrating their 75th birthday. A not-so-secret haven in the centre of Kensington, the Grade II listed gardens stretch over an impressive 1.5 acres and boast a stream with fish, ducks, flamingos and more. Up on the 7th floor, Babylon restaurant merges urban with rural, serving up contemporary British cuisine with bird's eye garden views and sweeping vistas across London's rooftops. On the rare occasion when the British sun actually shines, the outdoor terrace is perfect for an al fresco cocktail or two. The latest addition, a fresh seafood stand, also offers an assortment of chilled fish to accompany your tipple of choice, including clams, smoked salmon, Cornish crab and oysters.
Tranquil and surprisingly exotic, given its central London location, it's impossible not to feel relaxed when you're sitting on the terrace sipping an ice cold beverage. Not to mention, feeling utterly pampered by the super attentive staff. When the sun is out, it's almost a shame to head indoors, but nonetheless, Babylon's atmosphere doesn't disappoint. With its floor-to-ceiling windows offering welcome views out to the gardens, Babylon is chic and stylish, without being pretentious. Its design mirrors the restaurant's natural surroundings, with floral prints and greens complementing white linen and natural woods. There's a noticeable buzz about the place too – the mutual appreciation for good food and fine wine, perhaps.
Here, it's all in the build up, with impeccable service adding to the experience. Pre-starter drinks are delivered with an elaborate Heston Blumenthal-style smoking popcorn, that releases a cloud of vapour and a charcoal punch. Next, a baker's delight of a bread basket, followed by an entrée – compliments of the chef, of course. This comes in the form of a rich, espresso-sized mushroom soup – a miniature explosion of earthy goodness.
To start, the roasted whole quail with coriander seeds, carrot purée, pickled carrot, carrot shoots and coriander cress (£12.50) is a tasty morsel. Sautéed king scallops, marinated kohlrabi, radicchio and apple salad with hazelnuts and orange oil (£12.50) promise to excite the taste buds. Disappointingly, they're more exotic in description than taste, with the delicate scallops perfectly cooked but lost a little amongst the rest.
Mains present succulent lamb rump (£28.50), roasted and served on crushed Jersey Royal potatoes with black olives, courgette crisps, cherry tomato vinaigrette, basil and garlic oil, with toasted pine nuts. Juicy and tender, the dish is hearty, seasonal and fresh, and could well have come from the gardens below – lamb excepted.
Roasted stone bass fillet (£27) on a bed of Spanish king prawn rice, saffron and smoked paprika with red pepper purée and wilted English watercress offers a Meditteranean twist. Cooked in shellfish stock, the rice is mouthwateringly flavoursome, although slightly soft king prawns add a strange mush to the bite of the risotto-style grains.
Save a space for dessert. Wimbledon enthusiasts will adore the milk chocolate parfait (£9) with strawberry ice cream, mint oil, fresh strawberries, whipped cream and meringue - an indulgent summer treat.
Cocktails are one thing you won't go short on at Babylon. Champagne cocktails, short, long and straight up cocktails, there's even hot cocktails – perfect for the non-existent English summer – and a special range of temperance cocktails from £5. To mark their 75th anniversary, Babylon has also created seven celebratory cocktails, one for each decade. Sangria fans should try the Rooftop Cobbler (£10.50) - freshly juiced orange, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, mixed with fortified Shiraz, Grand Marnier and spiced syrup served over crushed ice.
The Last Word
As a special occasion venue, Babylon certainly makes an impact. However, great atmosphere, beautiful surroundings and top notch service naturally come at a price – and, with so many delicious cocktails to choose from, the bill has the potential to add up. While the food isn't without its imperfections, these are minor and you'd have to really be looking for them. Overall the experience surpasses expectation and for that, Babylon gets a big thumbs up.