Eating in The Ark

THE SHED IS aptly named. It is a restaurant in a long lean-to shed amongst the more solidly built edifices on Palace Gardens Terrace in Notting Hill Gate. This ramshackle-looking wooden structure has been home to a restaurant for many decades. For most of that time, it was called ‘The Ark’. It served lovely French-influenced food including my favourite on its menu, rack of lamb. The Ark was a popular local eatery, which attracted some celebrities including Prince Charles and Ingrid Bergman in the 1960s.

On one occasion a friend, let us call him ‘X’, who had eaten at our home many times,offered to treat us at The Ark. We accepted willingly. As soon as we sat down, X ordered the restaurant’s most expensive bottle of red wine. When, during our meal, it came to an end, he ordered another of the same. When the bill arrived at the end of our dinner, X fumbled in his pockets, blushed, and then, stammering, said:

“Oh, I have left my wallet at home.”

His home was a long way from Notting Hill Gate. He continued:

“This is all I have got”,

and placed a £10 note on the table. £10 barely covered half the cost of one of the bottles of wine he had ordered. Naturally, we paid the bill, and he said he would refund us the money, which he must have forgotten to do.

The Ark closed and then re-opened as a branch of the restaurants run by the chef Jean-Christophe Novelli. It served what I considered to be rather over-priced pretentious food. On one occasion, the Novelli restaurant took part in a scheme run by the Evening Standard newspaper. For £15, restaurants in the scheme offered a full meal without drinks – a bargain. My wife rang Novelli at the old Ark and asked whether we could book a table that day and use the voucher in the newspaper for the discounted meal. She was told that the restaurant was fully booked. So, I rang about two minutes later and asked to book a table, but without mentioning the newspaper offer. The lady, who answered the ‘phone at the restaurant, told me:

“Certainly, we have plenty of tables. Come when you like.”

Novelli’s closed, and the old Ark building remained empty for a while.

In 2012, the Gladwin brothers opened The Shed restaurant in the shed that once was home to The Ark. Time Out magazine (www.timeout.com/london/restaurants/the-shed) described it well:

“Tucked away behind a curtain of tousled ivy, The Shed serves up small, resourceful dishes built with foraged and locally-grown ingredients from the countryside. Led by the Gladwin Brother trio, who have their own farm and vineyard in Nutbourne, West Sussex, as well as two additional London restaurants, their flagship Shed was quick to become a local neighbourhood favourite when it first opened in 2012.

Though the menu changes seasonally, the original plates are still the best bet. (Note: everything is served tapas-style and 2-3 dishes per person is the recommendation.)”

I have been there a couple of times and found it to be both pleasant and original from the culinary vantage point. The serving staff, which briefly included our daughter, are obliging and well-trained. When ordering, the waiter or waitress discusses the dish and its ingredients knowledgeably. Pleasant as it is, it is not as enjoyable as The Ark was in its time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s