The Penny Black, London

The perfect end to a meal…

Set Menu:

  • Location: The Penny Black, 212 Fulham Road, Chelsea, London, SW10 9PJ (nearest tube station is Fulham Broadway)
  • Date of Visit: Friday 26th October 2012
  • Time of Table: 7.30pm
  • Deal Bought From: Groupon
  • Deal Price: £39 for Two
  • Dinner Companion: Twin sister, Jess

Getting More for your Money?

This dinner deal includes:

  • Beef Wellington Main Course
  • Dessert
  • Glass of Bubbly
  • For Two people

The star of the evening – Beef Wellington

What we ate…

Katie:

  • Starter: Butternut Squash Soup and Bread (not included)
  • Main: Beef Wellington with Seasonal Vegetables
  • Side: Sautéed Potatoes (not included)
  • Dessert: Chocolate Fondant and Vanilla Ice Cream

Jess:

  • Starter: Butternut Squash Soup and Bread (not included)
  • Main: Beef Wellington with Seasonal Vegetables
  • Side: Sautéed Potatoes (not included)
  • Dessert: Apple Crumble with Custard

Inside The Penny Black

What we drank…

  • Glass of Bubbly
  • Carafe of Pinot Grigio Rosato, Fiordaliso, 2010 (not included)
  • Two Cappuccinos (not included)

What did we think?

Darkly sophisticated and oozing class, yet not looking as if it is trying too hard, The Penny Black sits in swish London’s Chelsea with pride. Framed by black wood and awning, the large glass windows give you a tempting sneak preview into the blood red, black and white minimalist dining beyond, full of embossed napkins, weirdly shaped wine glasses and ice buckets propped on tall silver stands. Despite its high end appearance (or maybe because of it), staff were incredibly welcoming, ushering us in from the bitter cold and taking our coats and scarfs before leading us to our table. The restaurant was a nice size, not so big that it was impersonal, yet not too small that you were cramped in – I felt as if I had enough space between the beautifully laid tables. The interior style was understated, classic and comfortable. Black and white Banksy style prints adorned the walls, and the deep splashes of red gave atmosphere to the otherwise monochrome colour scheme.

Butternut Squash Soup

Although our meal offer didn’t include starters, as we were sipping our delightfully chilled complimentary glass of bubbly, all we could think of was warming up after our admittedly longer walk from the tube station. The soup of the day was butternut squash so we both ordered that instantly, not minding the extra cost. The soup came up a cheerful shade of orange with stylish slashes of chives and black pepper across the top, the texture perfect – it wasn’t a runny liquid or overfilling and chunky, it was lovely. The flavours were soft, subtle and smooth on the palette and were especially tasty with the slices of baguette served with it.

Next were our main courses and our driving reason for wanting to come to the other end of the district line – the beef wellington. When choosing our food, the lovely waitress said that we didn’t have to be restricted to the beef but we could choose any other main dish we wanted, and she proceeded to explain the three other main courses in detail, especially focusing on the fish dish. Her knowledge of the food was amazing and although she gave us a hard sell, you just can’t beat a bit of steak.  In short, the beef wellington was to die for. The puff pastry was a delicate golden colour, with a satisfying crunch as you cut it, yet nice and soft on the inside. We asked for our steaks medium rare, and they came up a gorgeous shade of pink, the meat cutting like butter and offering no resistance. There was no gristle, fat or tough bits, it was divine all the way through and full of meaty flavours that went perfectly with the robust gravy.

Tipple to start the evening

The beef was served with seasonal vegetables, which were carrots and green beans in this case. I love carrots and these were lovely, although in general I prefer my veg a bit more cooked as opposed to al dente. We shared a side order of sautéed potatoes, as recommended by our waitress, who seemed to be on a bit of a mission for us to buy as many extras as possible – and succeeding. I don’t regret it though as the main course was simply stunning and enough of a reason to go back on its own.

Over our meal, we had originally ordered a glass of rose wine each, but again, our eager waitress persuaded us that a carafe would be cheaper. Firstly, we had no idea what a carafe was, so we just went with the flow, trusting our server. Turns out, it’s a triangular like beaker that reminded me of experiments in science classes at school. We got roughly two glasses of wine each out of it though, and she put the carafe in a fancy ice bucket between our glasses to keep it cool. We chose the Pinot Grigio Rosato, which was deliciously light and fruity, yet still stronger than other paler roses which was refreshing.

The oozing insides of my Chocolate Fondant

When desserts came around, I was stumped for choice as there were a few of my favourites on the menu, but in the end I opted for the chocolate fondant and boy was that a good choice! The cake was lovely with a creamy chocolate flavour that wasn’t intensely rich and the goo in the middle was simply heavenly and a chocaholics dream. Paired with a single scoop of vanilla ice cream, it wasn’t a massive portion that was going to make you feel sick after your meal but it hit the sweet spot nicely. Jess decided on the apple crumble and custard. The topping was very chunky for a crumble and the apple was laced with a vague hint of cinnamon or nutmeg, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The apple was nicely cooked and soft to bite into, the custard a nice pale creamy yellow.

Even though we knew we were going outside our deal again, we fancied a coffee to conclude our meal and so we went for fail safe option, the cappuccino. It was fabulously presented in a glass cup with a chocolate powder pattern on top, the sugar cubes stacked neatly next to your glass. I felt deliciously full of divine food yet not overstuffed for my journey home. Perfect.

Boulder-style chunky crumble topping

Making a second reservation? Undecided.  Don’t get me wrong, the food was absolutely fabulous and especially the beef was brilliant. I could have easily tucked into another plateful. I suppose it’s the Chelsea location that makes it pricey, but for the starters, side dish to share, wine carafe and coffees, plus service charge of 12.5%, we paid an addition £46 to our original £39. It was still a saving on a full price menu, but they did work you to get extras with their very nice and attentive staff. There’s not a lot nearby, so I imagine they don’t get a lot of passing trade, especially being about a mile from the nearest tube. The only thing I would say about the menu is that it could be considered a bit restrictive. It had the beef, a pork dish, a fish dish and a vegetarian option, so oddly enough no safe option chicken which usually features. The menu also focuses very much on British classics, so it’s great for those who like traditional food like a decent bread and butter pudding or a good bit of pork belly. I would go again for the food and the fantastic atmosphere, but I’m pretty sure a full price menu would put me off, as well as the long off location to my home in Essex. I’m very glad I went though, just to sample the wonder that is that amazing beef wellington.

Beautifully embroidered napkins – classy

The Dinner Dates Opinion:

“I thoroughly enjoyed my evening at the Penny Black. The atmosphere was really nice, intimate and cosy, and the staff were really lovely, I couldn’t fault them at all. Food wise, the starter was really nice, perfect texture and the flavour was lovely. The beef was one of the most delicious things I have eaten! It was right up my street and it was cooked beautifully. I liked my dessert, but I would have preferred the apple bits to be a bit smaller and the skin to be removed just for ease of getting the right amount on the spoon! The flavours were nice though and it wasn’t over spiced which I liked because too much cinnamon or nutmeg really puts me off, and I really like the chunky topping. Location wise is probably not ideal since it was about a 15-20 min walk from the station, but it is just one road so no complicated directions needed. I would like to go again because the food and staff were so lovely, but I would need another voucher, or have saved up and it be a special occasion because it did turn out to be a lot of money.”

Black, red and white inside

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