I hadn’t planned on writing any restaurant reviews, however, La Sophia is an establishment that I must share with you. Firstly, I’ll tell you a bit about La Sophia. Very inconspicuously situated on a mundane street in Notting Hill, London, it claims to be the only halal French restaurant in London (and I haven’t found any others so it must be true). Combining French cuisine with Palestinian ingredients and influences is Chef Ali, a gentleman who has worked alongside Michelin star chefs. Sounds good so far. As much as I enjoy vegetarian food, I was quite keen to try authentic French food without being restricted to vegetarian options. This seemed the best option that didn’t require a trip across the English Channel.
The restaurant itself is quite small and simply decorated with a rustic, rather homely feel to it. Besides my friends and I, only two other people were dining at the restaurant at the same time. The lack multiple groups and conversations encircling us allowed my friends and I to catch up in a relaxed, unhurried environment; however I do have to admit the restaurant felt a little lonely. A few more diners would have automatically created a warmer ambience and thus, a perfect environment for dining.
The range of ingredients available on the menu is extensive and the dishes sounded very appealing. The one improvement that could be made is the provision of a greater selection of vegetarian dishes. The ones available sound scrumptious, however they don’t allow for regular dining (unless you are happy to alternate between a few dishes).
I went for the three-course set menu, deciding upon the following courses:
starter: grilled marinated lamb tenderloin with pomegranate molasses, pearl barley and pomegranate salad
main: stuffed free range chicken breast with mushroom duxelles, creamy mash potato & truffle veloute
dessert: warm chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream
What impressed me most was the presentation of the dishes. Without doubt, much thought and care had gone into composing the dishes and it was impossible not to take a moment to admire the aesthetic appeal before tucking in. Although I did take a few photos, they do not do justice to the dishes so I’ve included only one in this post. And not to delay this important point any further – the dishes tasted as good as they looked!
I had never tried lamb and pomegranate together, but they complement each other very well. The lamb was beautifully tender and almost melted in the mouth. The main was also yummy, though I did find the portion of mash potato was on the large side. Having said that, it was impressively smooth and I would rather have a little extra than not enough! Finally, what were my thoughts on the dessert? I’m not usually someone who rolls out the red carpet for chocolate-based desserts, but the fondant surpassed my expectations. Not only did this bake smell and look amazing, the hot chocolate combined with the cold ice cream created a wonderfully classic combination of just the right sweetness that left behind an internal buzz of happiness (think cat and cream).
A few final points about our dining experience. There was approximately a twenty-minute wait between courses. This did not bother me for it allowed us more time to catch up. The waiter (yes, there was only one) was very attentive and served and cleared the plates very smoothly. His presence was unobtrusive and at the end of the meal, this was a point that I noted and much-appreciated. Unfortunately I can’t say the same for the draft that came in every time the entrance door was opened. Although it is a relatively small annoyance, it is a shame.
Although the location could be better, for £30, you receive a wonderful service and generous portions of elegantly presented food that leave your taste buds felt triumphant. My friends also loved the food, and so taking everything into consideration, I can’t not recommend this restaurant.
Here’s a link to their website: http://www.lasophia.co.uk/
Feel free to share your experiences if you have dined here or do so in the future.