Whoever Gail is, she makes damn fine bread. The first restaurant from Gail’s Artisan Bakery builds on the loyal following gained by this group of London-based cafes that, until now, have focused on all things pastry. Gail has branched out with restaurant grub but still maintains that hearty, homemade focus that has made this brand such a success.
Gail's Kitchen may be born from bakeries but the new restaurant is far from homely; well, unless you happen to have a home like those featured in Made in Chelsea. For a start, it’s located in the trendy Myhotel in Bloomsbury, positioned where the bar used to be. Walking through a hotel lobby to reach a dining room is never going to be wholly conducive to a laid back vibe.
The restaurant itself, though, is incredibly funky and well thought out. Orange leather sofas line the outer walls, adding a splash of colour to the simple off-white floors and surfaces. Simple wooden tables are given some edge thanks to white wicker-style chairs underneath a colourful circular mosaic. Large feature lamps hang low overhead and a bar/open kitchen area is surrounded by orange leather high stools for those that like to feel a part of the action, and who don’t mind perching while they eat. This is the kind of place you could well imagine stumbling across in the pages of a fancy interior design magazine.
Despite the location and décor, Gail's Kitchen is far from pompous. The service is incredibly laid back and almost Spanish in attitude – food (made up of tapas style plates) arrives at your table as it’s ready with little regard as to who ordered what, when. It turns up, you eat it. As Gails Kitchen has been picked up by most restaurant reviewers – including some of the big hitters – foodies have started to flock here, and lunchtimes/post 5.30pm, in particular, can be busy. This is when the service gets a little frantic and the wait times start to creep up. Chill out and go with the flow or you may start to get mildly annoyed.
Luckily, the food at Gail’s Kitchen is worth the wait. The menu is nicely proportioned with a focus on small plates, though the prices are on the high side given their size (£7.50-£10). Taking into account the Gail’s Artisan Bakery link, bread does make a big appearance on the menu in a nice nod to their roots.
This is a menu where bold flavours aren’t shied away from, perfectly illustrated by the spinach rotolo with ricotta and wild mushrooms (£7.50). It arrives as two pieces of generously filled homemade pasta with a silky consistency and rich flavour that dried pasta can never even hope to replicate. The ricotta adds an almost sweet creaminess to the dish which is tempered by the strong earthiness of the wild mushrooms. Although it’s not the biggest of portions, it is incredibly rich and surprisingly filling. However, if you really want to push the boat out, the pizza bianca (£8.50) with violet artichokes, Parma ham and burrata is divine. Served piping hot, it arrives as puffy pizza dough, the likes of which you regularly see in Italy. The artichokes add a vinegary, hearty undertone while the Parma ham livens things up with a salty hit. Finally the burrata brings it all together – creamy, rich, and gooey, it's so much better than normal mozzarella. The only real downside is a sprinkling of croutons on top. Although they add texture, is bread on bread really the way to go? This is not one for the carb conscious, that’s for sure.
If you have room afterwards be sinful and opt for the cookies. Three melting, just-out-of-the-oven, hot cookies arrive with a little bottle of milk. It’s a real homage to childhood desserts and is comforting, delicious and totally bad for you. Just as all good desserts should be.
Gail's Kitchen does great things with their drinks menu. There are a handful of classic cocktails on offer, well priced at just £6-£8.50, bolstered by an excellent selection of beer. As well as the usual offenders – Pilsner Urquel, Meantime London – they also have more unusual brews. Oro di Milano Puru Malto, Bellerose pale ale, Meantime Chocolate and Fordham’s Wisteria Wheat are all rarities in the capital and it’s nice to see them cropping up here. Even the wines show imagination – go for the Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling from the USA(£34, £8.50 a glass) if only for the cool name.
The Last Word
Gail's Kitchen was a bit of a risk for a bakery group that has done so well out of its dedication to all things baked. However, the risk has paid off and this is sure to be a restaurant that will only go from strength to strength.