Somewhere along the way, I’d lost track of what it means to be a food blogger. I rode the chu-chu express along with the rest of the zeitgeist, squeezed my way to the front of the queue for a place at London’s trending restaurants, and had somehow forgotten about unearthing local gems. Of course, it’s easy to get caught up in the restaurant enthusiasts bubble, it usually starts with a praising write-up from one esteemed critic, then perhaps an early review from DH, followed by the dot com foodie club’s mass feedback in tow. Of course, I’m guilty as charged for contributing to it, but I can’t help it. Being a stakeholder in the general landscape of food, it becomes impossible for me not to visit newly crowned shrines. I suppose, it is a matter of balance. The less prolific deserve equal – if not more – attention I feel; afterall that’s the strength of having thousands of blogs spread across the internet, in theory providing sheer variety.
Democratic eating, shall we say.
Being North London’s latest resident – hence the dwindling Byron visits – it was obviously in my interest to scour this part of town for something locally loved. I was looking for something affordable for a school night, and once again turned to Guy & co, specifically the Time Out cheap eat guide.
The restaurant is right behind Kensal Rise station, rather secluded (at least for me) in a neighbourhood that was still alien to me. Its name is also its address, once occupied by Brilliant Kids café, which I gather, was some kind of indoor playground for children, whilst parents watched over with a cuppa.
Now, 8 Station Terrace is small and beautiful, musky and bohemian, a choice of blueish green for wall paint and coarse wood for tables. Interestingly, music was orchestral and chillout, like something that belongs in an equally bohemian movie, or perhaps maybe something curated for the likes of A Single Man, or something of a similar fashion. A neighbourhood bistro-café through and through. Zero pretension, and just what the doctor ordered really.
The menu is short but sweet, starters (or smalls) for £7, mains for £10 (grilled salmon or pork chop) and you could have two courses for £10 between 12 and 7. They open for brunch and serve food into the night.
Staffing levels were minimal, with 2 waiters and a singly manned kitchen. To my best guesstimation, Carl at front of house and Chef Rogerio are partners of this reticent venture. Of note, you’ll be interested to learn that Rogerio apprenticed under Rowley Leigh, stinting at the Bayswater institution that is Le Cafe Anglais – which is stunning as far as decor is concerned – and so pedigree was at least assured.
Speaking of pedigree, 8 Station Terrace has a resident mut called Riley, a Jack Russell according to his profile photo on the website , who was curiously missing for dinner service. Perhaps he caught wind of me and hid away. Dirty foodblogger.
I’ll be back for you Riley.
We drank two glasses of house red, Italian Sangiovese for a generous £2.60 per glass. Slurp.
Shredded confit duck salad served with frisee, baby spinach with plum & cinnamon chutney, £10.
The duck confit was beautifully seasoned, deeply salt, flaky and fleshy. Being a purist of sorts, I initially thought that the salad would suffocate the bird, but it didn’t. Instead the fruity drizzle enlivened the dish. I went digging around for skin, oh yes, crispy, oily, full of duck fat flavours. It’s a well-made duck confit. Brill.
Crab linguine, served with roasted cherry tomatoes, basil, chilli & garlic, £9.
The better half wanted a slab of grilled pork chops – almost too cheap at £9.50 – that the neighbours were having, and which looked fabulous, but opted for crab linguine instead. Yeah, impressive again. Sweet cherry tomatoes, sweet crab meat, simple, effective and it did what it said on the tin. Comforting.
Braised Lamb Shank, caramalised pearl onions, roasted squash, £15.50.
I always go over my imaginary budget, an occupational hazard I’m sure, but I couldn’t resist the daily special since Carl did mention that it had been marinating all day, and will be lovingly slow-cooked just for me. Just for me, because I was the first dude to order it that night.
Lovely, homely, wholesome and in many ways, it felt like I was being entertained at a brilliant dinner party. Food was heartwarming. Lambshank, been a while since I had that in a restaurant. The roasted squash was super sweet, gently mashed; the onions, fell away peel by peel and the shank was spot-on. Fleshy, well-marinated, minty and juicy. Should say that the pot of gravy it came with was properly old-fashioned, I could taste the roasting.
Banofee pie, £4.
Ohh.. the toffee, sugary and grainy and excellent. Feel the endorphins flooding my brain.
The bill came to £43.70 sans service, so I put an extra £4 down. It’s a great local, and it is great in the sense that it is local, it is affordable, it is tiny, it won’t win big awards, but it feels like family and it feels like home. “Can I see?” said Carl as I was chimping on the back of the camera, “Lovely.” – as if he was completely oblivious to the onslaught of snapper happy bloggero types that had invaded much of Central London. I recall my visit to the oversubscribed Bar Boulud, at the time of opening in May, rammed packed with self-concious diners, all too interested in who their neighbours were, the feeling of a readership riding the trendwaves, the torrid table turning policy and the ‘put yer camera away young man, because it’s taboo’ attitude from staff. Yuck. For once in a very long time, googling for a blogpost about 8ST returned few useable results, and this felt good.
In a sense, it harks back to the days when I started this gig, when hidden restaurants remained hidden and were slow-moving modest eateries that serviced the area, hardworking at whipping out good food for return customers. I was happy to find that this still exists and was ever evident at 8ST. A Northern charm about this restaurant (maybe because Carl sounds like he’s from up North), obviously, it’s not going to challenge the city’s most celebrated, but I doubt it was ever set up to do so. It’s just a great local. If you live conveniently near Kensal Rise, I wholly recommend supporting it.
8 Station Terrace
8 Station Terrace NW10 5RT
Tel: 020 8960 0277
Underground: Kensal Rise