Test Driving Julie's - a much-loved restaurant gets the reboot it deserves

julie's holland park restaurant reviewThe sunny terrace at Julie's is the place to be on a good day

So, what's the story with Julie's?

This is the third act for the once very well-known restaurant in Holland Park. Having originally opened back in the late sixties, it was known for years as being the kind of place celebrities could let their hair down. Tina Turner famously danced on the tables (her high heels marks are still there) and a booth in the downstairs room became known as the G-spot table.

But time marches on and by 2015, a shadow of its former self, Julie's had closed. A reboot was attempted - with former Goring chef Shay Cooper in the kitchen - and failed. Now, after a year of being shuttered, life has flooded into the old restaurant once more with a new owner and new chef ringing the changes. Tara MacBain is the woman in charge - she's also a Holland Park resident so she has more reason than most to want this to be a success.

Where is it?

If you haven't been before you'll find the restaurant tucked away on Clarendon Cross, about a five-minute walk from Holland Park station.

Where should we meet for a drink first?

There are a few seats up at the bar inside if you fancy a drink here while you're waiting for friends. Otherwise, you could start with a glass at Franklin's Wine on Westbourne Grove.

Where should we sit?

If the sun's shining then the gorgeous terrace is going to be the place to try and score a seat. Inside, we'd say the cute booth tables are probably the most fun place to enjoy a meal.

julie's holland park restaurant reviewThe booths inside Julie's

Who's in the kitchen now?

The new chef is Owen Kenworthy who arrives here via The Pelican and Brawn. He's supported by top GM Emma Underwood, previously seen at The Pem and Darby's. So, good things were expected. Kenworthy has moved the menu on from modern British to a French brasserie style and it reads very well. Your only problem will be deciding what to choose and to help you make that decision, here's what we had for our lunch there:

julie's holland park restaurant reviewCrispy ‘nduja quail’s egg, with tarragon mayo (£5) - one of two dishes we ordered from the snacks section of the menu, you'll want one of these each.

julie's holland park restaurant reviewPea panisse with Cornish gouda shaved all over it (£6)

julie's holland park restaurant reviewDuck liver schnitzel, shallot marmalade and quails' egg (£19) - such a great mixture of textures, that schnitzel coating giving way to the delicate, melting liver.

julie's holland park restaurant reviewLobster souffle, leeks & Gruyère (£39) for two to share - this was billed as a shareable starter or a main for one, but we definitely couldn't have managed this incredibly rich dish solo.

Useful to know

Some might think the portion sizes are a little small for the prices. We spotted the spider crab toast coming out and that was really more of a canape than a snack. That said, we're in favour of anything that allows us to browse more of the menu on a single visit.

Room for dessert?

julie's holland park restaurant reviewCreme caramel (£8) - always a delight when made as well as this.

julie's holland park restaurant reviewChocolate pave (£10) - a genuinely fabulous dessert with unbilled salted caramel centre.

What about the drinks list?

We kicked off with a glass of house Champagne, but we'd be making a beeline for that green tomato martini (£13) on a return trip. There's also a martini trolley making the rounds, but we didn't spot that on our visit at Saturday brunch.

The wine list has a smattering of suprisingly affordable entry-level wines including a Vinho Verde at just £29 which is cheaper than anything at the nearby gastropub The Ladbroke Arms. But we imagine the clientele here will be more tempted by some of the punchier offerings on an essentially classic wine list (really going all-in? Then there's a 2000 Petrus for £6k).

Overall thoughts:

Never having been to Julie's before, we came with fresh eyes and found this an absolute delight. Just days after opening there was a palpable sense that this was a 'scene'. If you're after one detail that shows what level of attention has been spent on getting this right then keep an eye out for the pianist Clifford Slafford tinkling the ivories inside - he used to be the piano man of choice of David Bowie.

It feels like this third act of a much-loved restaurant is going to be the one that runs and runs.


More about Julie's

Where is it? 135 Portland Rd, Holland Park, London W11 4LW

Find out more: Visit their website or follow them on Instagram @juliesw11.

Hot Dinners dined as guests of Julie's. Prices correct at time of publication. 


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