Tom reexamines Small & Beautiful

Wandering along Kilburn High Road on another olive-hunting mission recently, I noted that Small & Beautiful, had undergone a bit of a facelift and refurb. Peering, in I noted the bar now faces the street, and the general scheme of things looked a little tidier and, perhaps, a touch more serious? I’d had a couple of disappointments on recent visits, so this seemed a good time to try again…

Glancing at the board, the special of asparagus ravioli with cream & mushroom sauce sounded nice (and in hindsight I perhaps should have given this a go), but in the end I went for cod fish cakes with coriander and spring onions, served with salad and sweet chilli sauce. These arrived via a slightly confused process when ordering chips. “French fries?” asked the waitress a couple of times… “No – chips – like what those two are eating” I explained, pointing impatiently at a middle-aged couple who looked like they should be in church, not a Kilburn restaurant.

There were also a few nervous moments when ordering repeated glasses of Pinotage; with it being the priciest wine by the glass, I wanted a warm glow of confidence that this was what would arrive…but I tempered my anxiety by reminding myself that whilst I can barely order a baguette in France, here’s this keen, friendly young lady, about 18, who’s ventured over from Eastern Europe, and grabbed a job in a town which might seem a little intimidating until one knows better… A case of “it is what it is” to some degree, though staff training is of course key in any eatery.

So, decent fish cakes; nice texture and neat presentation. A bit of a harsh background note, possibly the coriander clashing with something, but along with the decent chips and tomato ketchup I was happy enough. Broccoli a touch over, green beans fine, though I do wish a slab of butter or dash of oil would be standard when ordering veg, anywhere on the planet.

Chocolate fudge cake for dessert (wow, I’m so adventurous!) – and full marks to the waitress here for grasping the seriousness of the situation when I said, very firmly, “NOT TO BE HEATED UP!” – now that does wind me up, that does. It’s a cake – it’s already been cooked – once is enough!

Back in business then? Well, yes, though some might feel it’s lost a little of its ramshackle charm in its refit – but it’s not vastly different. I note it’s owned by the Nona group now, and their pizza joints have received some good feedback recently, too. All in all, it’s an evolution, but let’s hope there’s no revolution. Small & Beautiful is in its own little world, and long may that continue.