Pulling up onto the nondescript Golborne road, my expectations plummeted and I wished we’d asked the taxi driver to stop five minutes earlier – in Notting Hill. As it was, we hadn’t; we had carried on North-West and we were in Westbourne Park. A few could-be-anywhere shops were peppered around us and the droning sound of engines from the nearby Westway A40 were still audible. We should have gone to the Gilgamesh after all.
“What’s this place called again?” I asked my elder sister as my younger sister walked off in, what turned out to be, completely the wrong direction.
“La Sophia,” she replied.
“Ah there it is!” I said and pointed across the road.
With its black and gold tipped exterior combined with a February evening’s natural light, La Sophia didn’t jump out at us. This isn’t a restaurant that you would wander into from the street, rather like the Harry Potter Room of Requirement, you have to be seeking it out to find it.
When taking this photo, I still wasn’t convinced, but on entering my spirits lifted. The interior of La Sophia, with its antique mirrors, smooth dark beams and mood lighting, provided the perfect dining aesthetic.
A warm, friendly and slightly nervous (it was only his third week) waiter approached and handed us the menus.
“Oh my god,” my elder sister gasped, her face contorted with angst.
“What? What?” I asked.
“They only serve non-alcoholic wine.”
This news really was concerning. But looking left towards the kitchen there was shelf upon shelf of spirits; why would they display it and then not serve it? What type of sick joke was this? I took the menu from my sister, who was sinking further and further into the midst of an anxiety episode, and leafed through as she called the waiter back over and started quizzing him on where the nearest off-license was.
“You were on the non-alcoholic page. There’s loads of wine.”
Awash with relief, but nervous that this news wasn’t going to last, she quickly ordered a bottle of Argentinian Malbec and slowly regained a normal breathing pattern. The wine arrived and was fantastically rich, full and spicy. With it safely on the table, we allowed ourselves to look at the food options – after I had taken this artistic shot.
The only French restaurant in London to have a completely Halal menu, we were torn between having starters and mains, or mains and puddings. We were heading onward to SupperClub to watch our brother box and after a few minutes of deliberation we decided that for this we really needed to line our stomachs – so we went for all three. And each of these three courses were absolutely – I had completely and utterly the wrong first impression about this place – fantastic.
Starter: (Laura, Bex and Claudia)
Oven-roasted aubergine with fried halloumi, chilli, lemon garlic & mixed baby leaf salad(£6.95)
Fried calamari with lemon & chilli tartar sauce (£6.95)
Main: (Laura, Bex and Claudia)
Flame-grilled ribeye steak with Cafe de Paris butter & hand cut chips (£21.95)
Apple tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream (£7)
Pudding: (Claudia and I)
Warm chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream (£5.50)
And one more snap that would make fondant maker extraordinaire Raymond Blanc proud:
Absolutely out of this world good
Undoubtedly the best meal I have had so far this year, La Sophia may be slightly off the beaten track, but it is a track that is well worth getting to. In London affordable fine-dining is a rare commodity, so get down to La Sophia while it lasts, because once the crowds hear about this, prices will rocket.
Food: ***** Service **** Wine **** Price ££
46 Golborne Road, London W10 5PR (off Portobello Rd)
Telephone 020 8968 2200