Freelance writer and journalist based in west London.
Published May 7th 2013
The 'place' to eat in Ealing
Think of the times when you go to your friends houses for food or drinks. You ring the doorbell, the person who opens the door is happy to see you, you go in, hang your coat, have a first glass of something and settle in to enjoy yourself. That's what it's like when you go to Charlotte's Place. The restaurant is in a 150 year old house, right on the corner of a small, beautiful, residential cul-de-sac, overlooking Ealing Common. What would have been the front door of the house is the entrance and you really do have to ring the bell to get inside. Once over the threshold, you really do hang your coat on a peg in the hallway before the experience has to get slightly more restauranty and you're shown to your table. But it sets the scene for the essence of Charlotte's; homely, cosy, and intimate.
Charlotte's Place opened in 1984 with, as you would expect, a woman named Charlotte at the helm. It's been a staple for the locals ever since. Nearly three decades on, it's still independent and is also garnering awards, having been named the London regional winner in The Good Food Guide Readers' Restaurant of the Year Awards 2013. So is the food good? It's more than that. It's amazing and there are a number of ways to enjoy it.
The restaurant's fifty-four seats are arranged over two floors. Upstairs, the dining area is bright with double aspect windows that give a view of the common. Downstairs in the basement, it's warm and inviting. Each guest will have their own preference but the service remains the same wherever you sit; attentive and helpful. Staff like to answer questions about what's on the menu, as the restaurant only uses local suppliers to make their seasonal dishes. As a result they change every month. You can have lunch and dinner seven days a week and have two or three courses for a set price. A roast with enormous Yorkshire Puddings is available on Sundays.
Charlotte's Place likes to make your dining experience an event. You'll always be offered an aperitif before ordering food; perhaps a prosecco, bellini or kir royale? Water and a board with two different types of bread are included as part of your meal. A new menu had begun on the day we dined. Our starters of smoked salmon scotch egg, watercress and lemon dressing and potted Cornish mackerel, horseradish and pickled cucumber were delicious; the scotch egg plentiful with a gorgeous runny centre and the mackerel fresh and cleansing.
As for the mains, the pork belly with hispi cabbage, black pudding and caramelised apple went down a treat. The chicken ballotine with leek puree, turnip tops and potato and cheddar pie was incredible. The chicken was tender and juicy and the pie decadent and comforting in one.
As it's rude not to have a dessert sometimes, we opted for the cheese selection with quince jam and oatcakes, which was beautifully presented and had wonderfully contrasting flavours. The dark chocolate marquise with caramel ice cream and honeycomb has catapulted itself onto our top ten great puddings list. It won't suit everyone as it's quite rich but it's gorgeous and that's just a taster of what's on offer. Pick whatever wine suits your meal from the comprehensive list and enjoy two or three courses of amazing food.
Some people criticise Charlotte's Place for trying too hard, for forgetting its neighbourhood restaurant roots and being too pricey. I say those who live nearby are lucky to have such high quality cooking in such close proximity. Prices are fair for what you get and there's a care and attention to detail that is palpable when the dishes are placed in front of you, let alone before you start eating them. When you can consume no more, you're helped with your coat and seen to the door just as a friend would do if you were leaving their house. And you know you'll be back soon.