Notting Hill is one of the best parts about living in London in the summer.
It’s worth a sweaty tube ride or a clash with a stranger over the last empty table in an over-occupied beer garden, because, at golden hour, it’s really one of the most beautiful spots in the city.
It’s summer, we are Brits, and the dream is al fresco dining. Although it seems that London has roughly six and a half billion restaurants (with outdoor space), at times it is just impossible to make a decision, but let me tell you that ULI London is always a good idea.
A quick stumble from Notting Hill Gate is where you will find ULI, on Ladbroke Road. The Instagrammer buried inside you will want to leap out from within your human form when you see the flower clad garden terrace – they’ve really gone to town. Inside, it’s light and airy with fresh tones of light blue throughout.
Our empty table outside (the dream) was quickly filled with Dim Sum and a few choices from the ‘Small Bites’ bit of the menu – sesame prawns and soft shell crab. The prawn and chive dumplings were so good they were gone before we even had chance to shoot a Boomerang video taking the lid off the steaming basket they arrived in. Seldom do you get chippy scraps in London so you have to make do where possible, and picking at the batter on the soft shell crab had me beaming.
There’s clearly a focus on really good quality sourced fish, and the star of the show (pan fried teriyaki black cod served with asparagus) will set you back £35, but it feels like you know it would be worth it. Sea bass fillet, steamed with ginger and garlic is a more modest £19 and exudes flavour.
The crispy shredded chilli beef (£15) is well deserved of some sort of award for being moreish, like Pringles or Jaffa Cakes et al, only with more class. There are plenty of side things to choose from. The curiosity around ‘Stir fried morning glory’ got the better of me but turned out to be a very delicious plate of water spinach. Would also recommend Singapore fried rice (full of very hunky chunks of meat and prawns) and tasty Chinese mixed veg to balance the shreds of flavour.
The drinks menu is mostly a selection of the best classic cocktails, but awash with oriental ingredients and sudden unexpected Asian twists. Martinis are mixed with lychee, Bloody Marys infused with lemongrass, and Negronis are flourished with a shot of sake for good measure. They’re all delicious, but we’re thankful not to find siracha in the Espresso Martini.
The Yuzu citrus junos cheesecake even sounds like it belongs in a midsummer Mandarin dream, and tastes like it does too – with sharp flavours yet creamy texture. Toffee banana fritters are absolutely scandalously good, but feel like they should be eaten in the privacy of ones own home like their naughty little cousin, the Deep Fried Mars Bar.
Although in a location that teeters on the borders of snobby West London territory, ULI is null of all ego and pretence, and what you’re left with is the reason why we go out for dinner in the first place – just great, honest food.
ULI London. 5 Ladbroke Road, W11 3PA. 020 3141 5878. ulilondon.com
Words by our man in the smoke Sam Johnson