When Muriel's Kitchen opened near the South Kensington tube station in 2011, it was in the first wave of newer, informal cafés that lifted what had been an overpriced, poor quality desert for tourist diners into a comfortable, everyday destination. It's still going strong and now it has a few siblings.
Muriel's Kitchen, opened in 2011, is a friendly, casual place serving delicious, more-ish, comfort food near South Kensington Tube Station. It opened as an independent but the signs that it had been conceived as a multiple were everywhere - in the decor and in the short but imaginative menu.
Back then, recommending Muriel's for breakfast, lunch, a light dinner or snacks, we hoped that if it expanded, it would keep its small scale charm and generous style. And now, with outposts in Soho and Richmond as well as a takeaway place in Putney, we're happy to report it has. And the South Kensington branch has become one of our favorite locals for breakfast.
A Different Look to South Kensington
If you haven't visited the neighborhood around South Kensington Station since before the London Olympics, you are in for a surprise.
The area is a tourist gateway to "museumopolis", the museum district developed by Prince Albert in Victorian London. The Victoria & Albert, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum are all a short walk away. It's also at the heart of a big French community centered around the Lyçée Français and a major commuter hub for the tony areas of Chelsea, Kensington and South Kensington.
The station itself is a Grade 1 and Grade II listed landmark.The platforms of the District and Circle lines, dating from the mid-19th century, make it one of the oldest Underground stations in the world. It was also one of the first stations in the world to include an arcade of shops. These are still in use today and many of their fittings are original.
But until around 2010, restaurants around the station catered to the lowest common denominator fast food needs of transient visitors. The ambiance around the station had been relatively grotty - tourist pizza shops, cookie stalls, shoe repair shops, key cutters and the like.
That has gradually changed, with the introduction of pedestrianized or traffic calmed streets, a weekly outdoor market, and a better class of upmarket but casual restaurants. Gail's, Carluccio's, and Le Comptoir Libanaise have all come on the scene and Muriel's Kitchen is a very pleasant and reasonably priced addition to these.
Next: What to Eat at Muriel's Kitchen
What to Eat at Muriel's Kitchen
This restaurant excels at breakfasts and cakes and cupcakes throughout the day. Everything from a full English breakfast with all the trimmings, through classy classics like Eggs Benedict or Eggs Florentine, to a raft of Muriel's originals - fat breakfast sandwiches, sausage or bacon sarnies and the Champion Breakfast pictured here. Everything comes from named suppliers so there's a real farm to table ethic - and enormous pale blue Cotswolds eggs.
For Lunch or Light Suppers
The restaurant's short menu includes five or six main dishes, that change often, an assortment of original side dishes and one or two very good soups. On a typical day in December, the mains included lasagne, baked ham with cranberry Sauce, Thai green curry, pork and sage stuffing with chestnuts and figs, neat little steak and ale pies and char-grilled salmon with sweet chilli and sesame sauce.
Side dishes are the real stand outs of this place. Beetroot, carrot and cabbage slaw with apple and cranberry, maple and sherry dressing was one of the choices on the day I visited. I tried and then took home for later, generous portions of two different salads. A terrific roasted pumpkin squash salad with sour cream, chilli and peas was delicately warmed with slices of chilli, tossed with red spinach leaves and lightly dressed. The roasted carrot and parsnip salad I sampled included roasted red onions and basil as well as spicy mixed nuts, little surprises of crunchy flavor. Both were unusual combinations, the vegetables colorful and fresh tasting, the dressings warm and spicy.
Don't Miss the Soups
If Muriel's homemade chicken soup is on the menu when you visit, it is an absolute must. More a meal in a bowl than a soup, it is chock full of vegetables, chunks of chicken and potatoes - really memorable. Different soups rotate through the menu and I've heard good things about the ham and vegetable minestrone and the spinach and ricotta soup.
It's all prepared with a homey appeal - as if your mother and your grandmother were in the kitchen and just happened to be absolutely fabulous cooks. As it happens, the restaurant has been inspired by the owner's grandmother, and is named after her. There are also rich cakes, pastries and pretty cupcakes - that have the look and appeal of a Women's Institute bake sale table rather than the touch of a fancy patisserie. I sampled the coffee walnut cake which was scrummy with a cup of tea.
All the ingredients are sourced from named British suppliers and the emphasis is on fresh, organic produce. That extends to quite a few old fashioned soft drinks and fruit juices as well as a wine list of modest length. Wines are, I thought, a bit on the pricey side, compared to the rest of the very reasonably priced menu. But all wines are available by the 175ml and 250ml glass.
Next: Setting the Scene
Setting the Scene
Publicity for Muriel's Kitchen's suggests the menu is slightly Mediterranean. Other than the boxes with dried lavender along the windows, I can't say that I've seen that on my visits; it all seems a homey variant on modern British to me. And the decor, with its painted wood paneled walls and pale ash furniture definitely has a more northern feeling - a bit like Scandinavia crossed with New England. Tables are supplemented by a small counter area with high stools.
The deli counter, where you can buy the dishes being served to take home, and the open-to-view bakers' ovens are part of the decor, as are the changing window displays of cakes and goodies.
If I have any quibbles at all it's that there's a lot going on in a relatively small space. Tables are crammed close together, creating the occasional, good natured log jam between customers and servers.
Muriel's Kitchen Essentials
- Address: 1-3 Pelham Street, London SW7 2ND with branches 30 Hill Street in Richmond and 36-38 Old Compton Street in Soho.
- Telephone:+44 (0)207 589 3511
- Open: in South Kensington Monday - Saturday 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday 9a.m. to 10 p.m. Hours in Richmond and Soho vary so check the website.
- Prices: Moderate. Breakfast with coffee from about £7 to £12, Set menus for lunch and dinner, two courses for £12.95, three courses for £14.95
- Visit their website
- Follow them on facebook.