Fiend in Notting Hill: “Risks that pay off”
Chris Denney’s background is nothing short of impressive. Fiend’s head chef and founder started his career working at the Square, Viajante and Italian three-Michelin-star restaurant Piazza Duomo prior to opening this Notting Hill spot; but Denney had already experienced running a kitchen in the area with 108 Garage, which unfortunately closed its doors prematurely. This provided him with the space to experiment, and that certainly shows in Fiend’s menu. The venue probably won’t catch the eye of anyone looking for a familiar or comforting food, but it will attract people craving adventurous dishes that dare to take risks (that pay off).
The restaurant is located at the end of Portobello Road in Notting Hill. Four tables welcome patrons at the entrance, where the terrace is, while a much larger area indoors hosts a bar, an open kitchen and two floors for dining. The space is elegantly decorated with bold art and neoclassical sculptures, The lower floor is characterised by a moodier vibe, with velvet sofas and a more private setup, where visitors can enjoy a cocktail or a nice glass of wine from Fiend’s well-crafted drinks menu. Considering how unique and experimental Denney’s creations are, an interior that matched that mood might have been better suited to the dining experience – perhaps a smaller space in which people could see behind the scenes with a clearer view of the open kitchen; instead, the tables are spaced out along the dining room, fairly isolated from where the magic happens.
Speaking of the menu, Fiend’s cuisine is presented two ways: à la carte and as a tasting. The former is implicitly divided into starters, mains and sides, although it is intentionally ambiguous, not only about classifying the dishes into groups but even about naming them. Opting for a six-course menu might be the best choice for any first-timer, since it offers a more comprehensive idea of the restaurant’s style. As we wanted to try as many courses as possible, guided by the chef’s recommendations, we chose the latter – and we loved it. The ratio of portions to number of dishes was ideal.
An Olive-fed Duck Leg, flawlessly glazed, was cooked to perfection and cleverly topped with pistachio granola, alongside celeriac covered in thin mushroom slices. The Wagyu Short Rib with diced tomato and shaved belper knolle was probably the best meat we’ve tasted in the past six months – a must-have. We also particularly enjoyed the care put into the simple things, like the plating (as well as the flavours, of course): Brioche with Chicken Liver Parfait was presented on a bed of buckwheat, and the Burnt Leek, served on a sliced of tree trunk, was simply beautiful.
The second biggest surprise of the afternoon was probably the dessert menu, which paid homage to classics like Crme Caramel but accompanied by contradicting flavours like rhubarb and marjoram in the form of a sorbet. We also loved the Panna Cotta with carrot sorbet and the delicious Cucumber Sorbet with dill-infused oil and mascarpone.
The cocktail menu is configured to highlight common aperitifs in a classy and technically competent manner. Fiend is big on martinis and expects diners to prioritise them over the rest of their drinks, so they’re not to be missed. Their wine list is extensive but well selected to complement their menu, including a fair amount of French, Austrian and Spanish wines.
We can confidently say that Chris Denney’s cuisine is inspiring and very intriguing – a refreshing way of elevating what would otherwise be a predictable menu, with risky ingredient combinations and an unpretentious and authentic style.
Maria Dolores Barrios
Photos: Diogo Cruz
To book a table at Fiend, 301 Portobello Road London W10 5TD, call 020 3971 8404 or visit their website here.