Westbourne Park may be an unlikely spot for one of London’s most up-and-coming live music haunts, but The Tabernacle is helping to put it on the map. An impressive line-up of events is bolstered by a friendly bar and surprisingly good food menu. Worth the lengthy trek for anyone who doesn’t hail from West London.
The Tabernacle is certainly tucked out of the way, languishing at the far end of the Hammersmith and City line. A short walk from Westbourne Park, you need to wind your way along leafy residential streets before stumbling across the large outdoor front patio that leads up to this attractive red Grade II listed building.
Stepping inwards, you may be surprised by the simple furnishings of the space, given the grandeur of the building in which is resides. A reception greets you, nestled beside a large open bar area. A simple grey stone floor allows the bright red of the leather booth-like seating to shine, and roughshod wooden chairs and tables fill the room. A large central bar takes centre stage with a wooden top and brass under panelling. It’s a simple space that doesn’t quite fit the elegance of its home but it does have a certain charm.
To the right of the space, past an open kitchen, is a small restaurant area. Tucked out of the way, it’s a long, narrow space with more of the same roughshod tables of the bar pushed against a long grey sofa. A stained grey carpet does little to lift this rather dull space and the pea green wall doesn’t help. However, a large glass ceiling does manage to make this a pleasant space to sit, especially on a warm summer’s day when light streams through the panes. Otherwise, office-like lamps hanging from the walls with 100 watt bulbs make you feel a little in the spotlight.
Several other areas make up Tabernacle, including a maze of corridors leading to small rooms where bands can practice. There are also conference and arts spaces including a dance studio and a large area upstairs for live performances.
The atmosphere at The Tabernacle depends on when you go. They host a huge range of events here so the crowd you get on event evenings will reflect what’s on. It’s played host to everything from Jamie Cullum’s album launch and Notting Hill Carnival parties to book readings, art shows, club nights, festivals and comedy nights.
However, The Tabernacle is also a bar and restaurant in its own right and the clientele are a laid back mix of nationalities and ages, reflective of the residents from the surrounding area. It’s definitely a low key, chilled out space with no dress code and a distinct lack of pretension. The staff are particularly welcoming and full of smiles, although service in the restaurant can be a little confused with orders being delayed or not arriving at all. Still, it’s hard to hold a grudge when the ambience of the place is so relaxed.
The food here is actually a pleasant surprise, especially given the no-frills decor of the dining area. Restaurant quality dishes are immaculately presented and deliver complex, interesting flavours. As well as main meals, sandwiches (from £4.50) are served until 6pm and snacks, nibbles and platters are also available, as is breakfast.
Starters from the main menu include a green herb gazpacho (£5.95). The stunningly presented vibrant green chilled soup arrives with a generous dollop of freshly made tzatziki in the centre, surrounded by toasted almonds and plump, pink crayfish. The creamy gazpacho has a pleasantly thick consistency and a fresh underlying flavour that cleanses the palatte whilst satisfying the tastebuds. It’s perfectly complemented by the delicate crunch of the slightly sweet almonds. The tzatziki is an excellent accompaniment with a slightly stringly texture thanks to the shredded cucumber, which adds an interesting dimension to the dish. The crayfish are fresh and perfectly cooked.
Alternatively, a roasted shallot tart (£5.95) offers a delicate, light pastry with a generous, slightly sweet filling of soft roasted shallots, perfectly complemented by a crisp salad. The only criticism would be the small helping of blue cheese - just a few small pieces - which is a shame as it works well to bring out the flavour of the shallots.
Mains fare equally well. The 8oz rib eye steak with bearnaise sauce, goose fat chips, tomatoes and a Portobello mushroom is the most expensive thing on the menu at £16.95 but is extremely well put together, delivering maximum flavour. The tender steak is cooked perfectly to specification and is well accompanied by fat hand cut chips with a crisp exterior revealing fluffy white potato beneath. The bearnaise is rich and creamy and works well with the meaty flavours of the steak. The tomato is soft and juicy and a large, plump mushroom adds a pleasant earthy undertone.
Particularly recommended, however, is the tagine of aubergine with peppers, okra, butternut squash, herb couscous, bread and a coriander and yogurt sauce (£9.50). If vegetarians are bored of bland dishes then this is certainly the answer. Beautifully presented, a black clay pot is filled with the vibrant tagine comprising perfectly cooked, well spiced soft vegetables that literally melt in the mouth. The couscous has a pleasant aftertaste courtesy of the herbs and is light and fluffy, accompanying the tagine perfectly. The sauce is light and fresh, counteracting the spices in the dish well, and the warm slices of bread are the ideal way of mopping up every last morsel. Delicious.
For dessert, a white chocolate cheesecake (£6) is on the expensive side but does deliver on flavour, with a pleasant consistency and creamy undertone of white chocolate. A blueberry compote provides a tartness that cuts through the creaminess of the cheesecake well. Alternatively, the cheese board (£9.50) is generously portioned with regularly changing cheeses covering goat, blue, soft and hard varieties. Grapes, a large helping of bread and crackers, and slivers of sweet quince mean two people could happily share it as an end to a meal.
In the restaurant, tap water is well presented in glass bottles and the choice of wine is impressive, with around a dozen reds and whites. The War Horse Chenin Blanc 2008 from South Africa (£18) is a strong choice for its price point for a dry, crisp and zesty wine with pleasant apple notes.
Cocktails also dominate the drink offerings with a large choice priced at £6.50-£8.50. The Blueberry and Pomegranate Fizz (dark berries, fresh lemon, Russian Standart Vodka, orange cognac and fresh pomegranate juice; £6.50) is a light, zesty cocktail strong on berry flavours although it hasn’t got much of a kick. It’s also unfortunate that, as a live music venue, you end up drinking out of plastic glasses, which takes away from the presentation somewhat. The G and Tea Martini (gin, Loveage cordial, lime and camomile tea; £7) is surprisingly sweet with the gin coming through, complemented well by a slight undertone of camomile tea, although it’s a shame it’s not a stronger flavour.
The Last Word
The Tabernacle is a nice find that works well both as a local restaurant and bar for residents of the surrounding area and a destination venue for the many events they host here.