Lovely food at LoveFood? Restaurant review

[Ed:LoveFood is now an upstairs café and the restaurant has closed]

If you love food in the sense that you enjoy it in large quantities, then LoveFood’s restaurant will not disappoint. If you love food in the sense of enjoying quality ingredients cooked exquisitely, then modify your expectations slightly, but don’t throw them out of the window.

Seven of us descended into the basement below the delicatessen/crêperie/café on West End Lane in West Hampstead a little unsure what to expect. Would we be the only diners? No. Would it be one of those soulless basement restaurants with the ambience of a doctors’ waiting room? No. Would there be a dish involving prawns and chilli? Yes.

For those who remember when downstairs was an extension of the shop, the attempt to imbue it with atmosphere is impressive. Dark wood tables, and some Farrow & Ballesque paintwork make it an appealing venue, although one wouldn’t want to be the only couple there I suspect.

The menu is oddly imbalanced, with just six starters and five desserts but 13 main courses, which are largely chargrilled meat dishes (which meats? All.). Almost all come with the same vegetables – in our case sautéed new potatoes and a selection of (very nice as it turned out) seasonal veg. There are vegetarian options, such as the ultimate ironic dish of “spelt spagueti”.

To kick off, four of us dived into the borscht, which met with universal approval. It was not the beetroot purée that some were used to, but a thinner soup laden with pieces of beetroot at the bottom. Everyone was impressed. My own wild boar paté was good, with the right proportion of pate to toast.

Brad‘s houmous/pita/olives combo was similarly well balanced – a rare occurrence in my experience. Sue opted for the sweet chilli prawns, avocado and garlic bread. Having just returned from Australia she probably expected something light – Asian fusion perhaps. Prawns and salad and some garlic bread drizzled with some chilli sauce didn’t quite cut it. Spot the mistake? Yes, she did too. We asked our gangly slighty awkward waiter about the avocado and he disappeared. “Perhaps he’ll just bring you a whole one,” I said. Perhaps he heard me, as a few minutes later when the plate was nearly clean, a small dish with six slices of avocado appeared. Classy.

For main course, meat was the order of the day. James had sirloin steak (very thick and cooked correctly to order), Sue had lamb (from the world’s largest lamb clearly), Brad had chicken stuffed with Brie (for an extra £2 you can specify organic chicken), Jane and I both had the duck, which was nice, but mine at least cooked a little longer than I’d asked for. Sarah had calves liver, or possibly several calves’ livers, on a bed of mashed potato, and Tom had baked haddock (and the cleanest plate at the end of the day).

The food was generally well flavoured and, with almost all dishes under £10, definitely good value. In fact, there was really too much for almost all of us and perhaps separate shared dishes of the potatoes in particular would have made for less overwhelming plates of food.

There was a long pause and some waving at the security cameras before we got offered dessert – we chose to share three between us – a cheesecake, a honey & carrot cake, and a chocolate cake. All were excellent. Dessert wine seemed to come in larger measures than is customary (no-one complained) and by the end of the meal everyone could safely say that midnight snacking would not be required.

The bill was just £30 a head, including service and three bottles of wine – a very serviceable house red and two bottles of an acceptable if not outstanding Rioja. Service definitely let the place down – our waiter was well meaning but along with the avocado incident, we had to ask for things a couple of times and it wasn’t up to the standard of the food. But quibbles aside, for some decent food served in generous portions, this is well worth having in your back pocket next time your friends venture up to West Hampstead.

Food 7.0
Service 5.1
Value 8.7
Overall 8.0
Good for: hungry people
Bad for: people in a hurry
202 West End Lane
West Hampstead
London, NW6 1SG
T: 0207 433 3733