The Cow, Notting Hill, The best gastro pub in London: fact!
I've been coming to this place for years. I can remember our first visit well. It was a May Bank Holiday back in 2003 or 2004 and my lovely wife (still lovely girlfriend back then) went for a walk from Marble Arch (site of the West End's leading man pad Chez Dave) up to Notting Hill. It wasn't a great walk, cold and overcast, also that bit of Paddington/Bayswater is pretty un-prepossessing. Then on Westbourne Park Road we happened upon the tiny Cow pub. The Westbourne over the road is bigger with lots of outside space but on a cold day the Cow looked more inviting. Inside we were greeted by a long thin room. A Small bar to one side, a few seats and tables. A very bijous dining room at the back and next to the bar the smallest open kitchen you will probably find. We stopped for a pint, stayed for several and then upgraded to a spot of lunch. I can remember that first dish. I'd seen other tables tucking into big plates of fish stew with a large slice of rouille spread bread balanced on top. I ordered it and never looked back.
The Cow is in my opinion the best food pub in London. It has a relatively small menu which is cooked in the tiny open kitchen often by a solitary chef who is sometimes assisted by a porter. It specialises in fish so as you enter you are greeted by piles of fresh oysters. You can't book the tables downstairs so the first come first served creates a frisson of trepidation about bagging a table. The have a more formal dining room upstairs which I've eaten in a couple of times. Upstairs is open in the evening and at weekends but for me the best spot in this extraordinary little pub is perched on a stool downstairs in the back room. The smell from the open kitchen is delightful and in winter they stick a wood burner on. What also ads to the ambience is that this is still very much a drinkers pub. The Guinness is predictably excellent, on a par with The Toucan in Soho. This is not a restaurant masquerading as boozer but a great pub that just happens to do the best food of its type in London.
Our most recent meal was with my in-laws who were up in town. We popped in for a spot of lunch we shared some excellent oysters followed by a bountiful dressed crab for them and the excellent fish stew for my lovely wife and I. The base of the stew was rich and spicy and it was packed with fresh fish and shellfish. Utterly delicious. Services was charming and friendly. The waiter bought us glasses of ice water unbidden to go with our excellent post meal coffees. I've never had a bad meal or time here. Obviously with such a small kitchen there can be a wait for food but quite frankly who cares when you are sat in such a nice pub. You have to applaud a place like this that has been consistently excellent for so long. Siting here typing this I am dreaming about my next visit!