Wandering up the King’s Road on my way to meet my date for dinner, I’m tempted to veer off course on more than one occasion. Every second venue looks like somewhere I’d like to be – a well-thought out haven full of beautiful, well-dressed people supping on cocktails and partaking of appetite-sharpening food.
But on reaching The World’s End Market, I’m immediately sure of our choice for the evening. I receive the jolliest greeting by name on the door (surely a lucky guess from our booking, as it’s anything but empty inside, but a fantastically welcoming touch nonetheless) and, once through the small entrance, I find myself in a spacious yet intimate setting, where an industrial vibe is perfectly blended with homely touches to create a space which is as cool as it is cosy – think copper lighting, exposed shelving stocked with mason jars, black and white tiled floors, huge windows and wooden and leather accents.
Although our table is ready and waiting for us, we’re warmly assured that there’s no rush if we’d like to have a cocktail at the bar first – and watching the barman create a row of four berry-embellished masterpieces (“they’re not on the menu; I’m just making them up as I go along – they’re non-alcoholic so I like them to look extra special!”) we decide that our growling appetites, already whipped into a frenzy by the smells coming from the kitchen and other tables, will have to wait a while longer.
It’s a good move – the cocktails we order are dreamy – and, wanting to linger over them a while longer, we take them with us to the table to enjoy while we peruse the menu. Being a gluten free diner, I’m reassured and encouraged by our (devilishly handsome) waiter’s pin-sharp knowledge of what’s available to me; my date has no such concerns and is only troubled by how to choose from the selection of market-fresh fish and meat on offer.
When my turbot arrives, I’m momentarily surprised by how basic its presentation is, especially compared to the extravagance of the cocktails. Never the most attractive of fish, it’s basically a piscatorial slab on a white plate, and the sides aren’t robust enough, in appearance at least, to ‘lift’ the look of our table.
But, as we soon realise, that’s irrelevant. In the same way that the restaurant doesn’t bedeck itself in unnecessary frills and furbelows to make its (actually very stylish) point, the food is perfectly cooked to enhance its natural flavours, and strong enough to stand – quite literally – on its own. Having said that. however, the side of fries with truffle and parmesan is insanely good, and I’m glad a) that I heeded the recommendation of a friend who’s enjoyed the Burger Menu (times vary) here and b) that we ordered two portions – no sharing please! They are seriously to die for and I’m not ashamed (okay, I’m a little bit ashamed – what would my mum say!?) to admit that I am licking my fingers and greedily smearing them on the salty paper when every last crust-end is gone.
Although the meat display, which I spot on my way to the bathroom, pierces me with a brief moment of diner’s regret and is as succulently bloody as any flesh eater could desire, vegetarians aren’t neglected, with two offerings on the night we visit: one, which includes quinoa, wild rice and charred broccoli rabe, contains more than a smattering of #eatclean, while the the other is a more reliably basic handmade gnocchi with lemon & garlic cream sauce, pesto, cherry tomatoes and green beans.
The dessert selection is similarly, reassuringly, familiar, but with sharp and exotic elements – if you’re so inclined- on enough of the choices to cater for comfort seekers and the ‘gimme a twist’ diners alike. Apple crumble, for example, comes with vanilla ice cream – and is pronounced excellent by my date – while the vanilla pannacotta gets an oriental upgrade with mango and Yuzu jelly. I can never go past a chocolate and raspberry combo, so it’s dark chocolate mousse with vanilla custard and raspberries all the way for me – again, there’s nothing exceptional about its appearance, when it arrives, but every last mouthful leaves me wishing it was the first. This is a great place to come with someone – or a group of people – with whom you’re comfortable and at ease – not only because the decor and vibe lends itself so perfectly to that ‘at a friend’s house’ feeling – but because this kind of solid portion size and no-frills presentation should be wolfed down with a complete lack of ‘in polite company’ reserve.
459 Kings Road, London, SW10 0LR, 020 7352 2150