Maggie Jones’s first opened in 1964 as Nan’s Kitchen, and was reportedly Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon’s favourite restaurant at the time. Restaurant owners say that they would slip in at around 9.30pm, sit in a discreet booth at the back on the ground floor and order their favourite dish – the chicken pie. In the early seventies the restaurant changed its name in honour of its most famous client, who used to book under the alias ‘Maggie Jones’. Over the years, it has actually welcomed most of the Royal family.
Sister of French restaurant La Poule Au Pot, Maggie Jones’s has been a time-honoured haunt among Kensington locals for over 40 years. Rustic, informal and romantic, the family-owned restaurant is tucked away in a little cul-de-sac between Kensington High Street and Kensington Church Street. And in honour of The Chelsea Flower Show (22-26 May 2018), Maggie Jones’s is giving its menu a floral makeover by adding edible flowers to each of its dishes for the duration of the week 21-27 May.
Maggie’s is traditional, with a menu full of classic British dishes, including a selection of pies (such as their famous creamed fish pie) alongside soups, casseroles, roasts and of course there’s good old bangers and mash! The décor is just how I imagine restaurants used to be before the introduction of the modern-day floor-to-ceiling glass windows and shiny polished floors – classically old-fashioned with the beautiful crockery and dark wood interior giving it a truly charming feel.
From the moment we stepped inside Christine, the restaurant manager, welcomed us in as if we were dining in her own house. We went in the evening, and despite it being a bright, sunny evening the pretty dark wood tables and classic décor gave it a cosy feel – tucked away in the corner upstairs it almost felt strange looking out to see the bright, blue sky. We were lucky enough to see the restaurant in all its glory as it was still quite early when we first sat down. Huge plant pots, beautiful flowers and candles brighten up the tables, and there are pots, pans and a million and one trinkets lining the ceiling and walls.
The menu is extensive, and even though they’re all about classics they have something to suit everyone, whether you’re after good, hearty comfort food favourites or lighter options – obviously we opted for the former! To add to the classic British feel there’s plenty of game on the menu and I was eager to try it given that I’ve only really tried venison and that’s always been in burger form! I had my heart set on a pie though (and truthfully I was a little apprehensive about ordering game for my main as I’ve heard it can be very strong!) but luckily my friend was on hand and happy to share (aka go halves if I liked it and not if I didn’t – she’s too lovely!). While we decided we were presented with the most glorious bread basket, piled high with freshly baked bread, as well as some vegetable crudites with a surprisingly delicious vinaigrette (I’m not usually one for dressings but this one was amazing!) and the most heavenly butter. I’m not sure what they put in that butter but it can’t have been purely salt – it was ridiculously good! After much deliberation (which conveniently meant many rounds of bread and butter!) I went for the chicken and artichoke pie with spiced red cabbage and chunky chips on the side and my friend chose the venison with mash and spiced red cabbage.
We opted for the globe artichoke and crab and avocado for starters, both of which were beautifully presented, with nasturtiums daintily placed on top in honour of the Chelsea flower show. Then it was onto our mains and we were brought an absolute feast! Thick slabs of venison were plated up alongside a mountain of creamy, buttery mash and perfectly spiced red cabbage.
My pie came with a wonderfully golden brown lid – a colour and shine that every good pie should have! Admittedly as a true Yorkshire girl at heart, myself and my inlaws have sampled many a pie and we have agreed on many occasions that a truly perfect pie has to have pastry all the way around, not just on top, but aside from that it was pretty hard to find fault with it! Underneath the lid were chunks of chicken, leek, artichoke and bacon sitting in a creamy, rich sauce and somehow the pastry lid stayed crusty and firm despite the filling being packed to the brim. The chips were perfect – so crisp and crunchy on the outside yet soft and fluffy on the inside – everything you could want from a chip!
The dessert menu is similarly classic, with apple crumble and bread and butter pudding featuring alongside a silky-smooth chocolate mousse and a perfectly caramelised crème brulee. I have terrible memories of bread and butter pudding from my childhood days – in my head it ruins my all-time favourite food – somehow the bread is simultaneously soggy and stale with too many raisins and a bland custard. I couldn’t come to somewhere like Maggie Jones’s and not order a truly time honoured classic though. Plus there was always apple crumble as a back up, and unlimited jugs of custard! I’m seriously glad I gave it a second chance because this was a far cry from the school dinner days. It was already off to a great start before I even starting eating – it was an absolute slab! The bread was crisp on top with a beautiful layer of caramelised sugar and it was soaked in a wonderfully sweet vanilla custard, with an abundance of plump and juicy raisins. For me it’s still never going to beat a sticky toffee pudding or a treacle sponge given the option but it was a seriously good dessert and I reckon you’d struggle to find a better take on the classic anywhere else! True crumble fans might be slightly disappointed with the crumble – it was a bit more of an oat topping than a true crumble, with the lack of large crumble chunks leaving me a little let down. All was salvaged by jug after jug of wonderfully thick custard though and it’s safe to say that we left feeling very satisfied and very, very well fed.
I’ve never eaten anywhere quite like Maggie Jones –it almost feels as though you travel back in time for a dinner party at someone’s beautifully romantic cottage. For any tourists wanting a true taste of British food, I couldn’t recommend this place enough – it’s good, hearty, no frills comfort food – something that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else in London!
Link to their website: http://www.maggie-jones.co.uk