Don’t be fooled by the pub-like exterior: The Abingdon is more of a bar-restaurant than a pub.
Occupying a corner building, it’s easy to mistake The Abingdon for a pub, albeit a very classy one that's in keeping with its surroundings in super-posh Kensington. Yet, once you have stepped inside, it becomes clear this venue is a refined bar and restaurant. The bar area reminds you of a hotel lounge with its flowery upholstery, and it is the least interesting part of the venue although it is far from unpleasant. The restaurant is set over different areas: past a set of period glass doors, there are wall benches with elegant stripy upholstery; further on, the real forte is a rectangular room fitted as a vintage train carriage, complete with arched wooden ceiling, skylights, typical train restaurant benches, a reading light on each table and mirrors in lieu of windows.
The crowd is predictably composed of well-heeled Kensington residents. Most customers come in small groups and are aged in their 40s or above, but there are also young things playing grown-up. The venue has a relaxed buzz about it and the loungy music adds to this feeling.
The menu is as concise as any upmarket gastropub, yet more refined and, consequently, also more expensive. Starters (£5.50-£12.50) include a carrot, coriander and coconut soup, which is deliciously smooth and fiercely spiced. Alternatively, the seared scallops with a generous portion of braised fennel is likewise excellent and is served with a nicely meaty lemongrass crab bisque.
The mains (£15.60-£26) are rich in rare ingredients like haunch of venison or the dark-truffle potatoes that come served with a very well-cooked slow-roasted aged beef fillet. The grilled red snapper, instead, is slightly bland, although that is mostly due to the flavour – or lack of – the fish. It is, however, cooked to perfection and comes served with an outstanding black bean, pumpkin, spinach and feta cheese cannelloni. Perfectly al dente and clearly homemade, this is definitely the highlight of the dish. The sides (£3.50-£5.50) include a slightly uninspiring baby gem, orange and avocado salad, roasted broccoli and more, but ordering from this section is not necessary.
From the dessert menu (£5.50-£6.50), the sticky toffee pudding is sinfully divine, with a mysterious burned edge which adds to the flavour and solid clotted cream. The elderflower sorbet, in contrast, is very sweet, with a really refreshing hit from the elderflower.
The Abingdon is not particularly focused on beers and is more the sort of place to order cocktails (£8.50-£9.50), or wine (£15.75-£145 for a bottle, £16.50-£37.50 for carafes, £4.50-£6.50 per glass). The selection is particularly extensive, comprising of over sixty bottles, and it is clearly appreciated by the regulars. Given this is one of the most expensive places to live in London, you will also see a profusion of ice buckets. Four champagnes are available (£43-£85 per bottle).
The Last Word
With its fine food, interesting décor, warm atmosphere and comprehensive drinks, it comes as little surprise that The Abingdon is a success story in this upscale neighbourhood.