Tucked away on the corner of Ealing Common is Charlotte’s Place—quite literally, the building where Charlotte originally lived. The 30-year old restaurant still stands in its Victorian shop front premises with a little row of chocolate-box cottages next door. With the main door hidden round the side (and a doorbell to request access), a bar no bigger than a broom cupboard, and a narrow staircase up to the dining room on the first floor, everything about this place feels like home—with delicious, hand-crafted food to boot.
The staff are attentive and friendly, knowledgeable about the food and brimming with recommendations. The restaurant, with newly refurbished upstairs dining room, gives the feeling of being at a supper party in someone’s house, with superb views stretching right across the common. I mentally planned out my future living room based around the exposed walls and floorboards, origami light fittings, and oak tables and doors of the prettiest dining room.
With quiet jazz and piano music, we were made to feel at home, and like we had all the time in the world to enjoy the meal and the view.
Business men and middle-aged couples enjoying a peaceful mid-week meal—and absolutely no kids (BLISS).
Choices choices choices. Every dish on the menu is a mouthwatering delight, full of exciting things done with ingredients as simple as ordinary vegetables (think pot braised carrots, balsamic cabbage, purple potatoes—if the menu says ‘broad beans’, don’t expect a small pile of plain beans on the side). There’s even a tasting menu for anyone who simply can’t decide.
Manager Matt was on hand to make aperitif and menu recommendations and impart knowledge and enthusiasm. His recommended beetroot and sesame seed starter came on a pillow of goat’s cheese yoghurt for a savoury saltiness, making an exceedingly tasty and light salad. I devoured my cured mackerel and cod cheeks, which were chilled, fresh and juicy as a tartare, served on a delicious buttery vichyssoise with purple potato cubes.
Moving onto the mains, we were not left disappointed. My partner opted for Matt’s recommendation of Middle White Pork with a potato and brawn terrine and blood pudding. Rich, indulgent and full of flavour and texture. My whiting fillets were tender and soft, balanced with a salty kick of seaweed velouté and anchovy butter on tenderstem broccoli.
When stuck over multiple dessert options and wondering what a ‘sablé’ was, Matt whisked the menus away, and soon we were served up a taster of panna cotta, chocolate fondant, and lemon sablé. I’ve never actually had a panna cotta before—everything about the idea of one makes me queasy. But with a plate of it in front of me, there was no polite way out other than try some. I was pleasantly surprised; the texture was as I’d always expected—a milky jelly—but it was soft and delicate, with a hint of vanilla. The rhubarb compote that accompanied made every bite tart and creamy, and arguably was my favourite out of the three puds.
You just can’t go wrong with chocolate. And the chocolate fondant at Charlotte’s is as good as you’ll ever get—a melt-before-your-mouth dish of chocolatey goo with crème fraiche. It was like a brownie with a molten centre of Nutella. Finally—with bellies stuffed—we rolled onto the final dish; the mysterious sablé, which turned out to be a French shortbread, with a layer of lemon meringue in between the two sablé discs, and topped with meringue flakes. The sablé is like a coarse sponge cake, not dry or crumbly like the traditional shortbread. It was refreshing, summery, and a cleansing way to end our meal.
We opted for the wine pairing with the meal—helpfully, underneath each menu item is the paired wine. The Riesling, paired with beetroot starter, was not too acidic with notes of lime blossom. Beetroot can be quite earthy, so a clean, crisp and not overly tart taste worked well. My Pinot Bianco paired with the mackerel produced complex and fruity flavours, and cut through the oiliness of the cured fish.
My fish main was served with an Albarino ‘Turonia’, from Spain—much drier and subtler, and Pinot Noir from Burgundy provided plenty of tannins to balance out the flavours of the pork. The Chablis I started with as an aperitif was the highlight—gloriously crisp and refreshing, while my partner thoroughly enjoyed his Sipsmith G&T.
In a nutshell
The food is refined and absolutely delicious; often my family nominate a winner of the ‘menu lottery’—the diner who has selected the best dishes—but this time we were left feeling that it was a draw between us, with both meals total knock-outs.
There’s a tasting menu available for those stuck for choice, which we’ll definitely return for, and wine pairing available with your chosen dishes. The wine pairing was spot on and allowed us to try grapes and labels we might never have chosen (and so much wine we left with glowing faces!).
Charlotte’s Place, 16 St Matthew’s Road, Ealing Common, W5; www.place.charlottes.co.uk; 020 8567 7541