I’m sat at my desk in Jackal Towers, and predictably, it’s miserably grey outside. Whoever came up with the term ‘global warming’ must have been the most appalling optimist.
Of course, when it’s so persistently dingy, we crave comfort, warmth and a sense of summer. If only there was such a place to curl up in and lift your spirits of a dismal evening, with vibrant food and a cocktail menu to match.
Luckily, Notting Hill favourite Pomona’s has made it its mission to bring a sense of Californian cool to the capital. It’s the brainchild of Wolfe Conyngham, son of Henry Mount Charles, 8th Marquess Conyngham (also known as the Rock ’n’ Roll peer) who’s evidently inherited his father’s hip-cat credentials.
Walk in and you’ll find yourself in a warm, airy space, filled with light wood surfaces, teal and orange banquettes and poppy art lining the walls. The spring menu is brand new, inspired by the best of California’s cuisine, and makes for curious reading. Soft shell crab and guacamole sits alongside Vietnamese rolls with dipping sauces, and Madagascan prawns beside dry aged beef sirloin. But, somehow it all works together – comfortably so.
Get your head in the Cali mindset, kick-back and dip into two or three dishes at a time. The aforementioned crab is a treat and Conyngham makes a mean guacamole. There’s also grilled halloumi with burnt salsa and smoky, tender grilled octopus, too. For mains, there’s spatchcock poussin with baby carrots and wild garlic, excellent Iberico pork pluma served with crunchy braised fennel and salsa verde (that’s a must-try), and the Welsh lamb rump is scrumptious – sweet, juicy, pink and served with a delicate pairing of garden pea puree and fresh goat’s curd. Dessert sticks to Conyngham’s plan to offer light, fresh dishes that won’t weigh your belly down. The lemon tart with a clever raspberry powder was a favourite here.
A word on the cocktail list, too. Like the menu, it’s similarly wide-ranging, but the drinks are mixed with a deft touch. The Seasonal Margarita’s a clever thing; sharp but sweet (and strong), finished with a moorish mix of salt and sugar round the glass’s brim, while the Blackberry Cosmopolitan benefits from a generous hit of orange curaçao and fresh berries.
One of the nicest things about Pomona’s is the way that everything is easy; the space is welcoming, the service is breezy, the menu’s uncomplicated and the food is delicious. Moreover, Conyngham’s pulled off a clever trick. The current trend for simple, shareable dishes made from a few carefully sourced ingredients isn’t an easy thing to do well – when you pair something back, there’s nowhere to hide.
So, when Pomona’s says it’s a Californian-inspired restaurant, it’s really saying that it offers a relaxed, comforting experience. And while spring refuses to show its face, dinner there might at least trick your palette into thinking it’s just around the corner, even if only for a few hours.