Edera Holland Park – An Old Favourite from the Pantheon of the Best Restaurants in London
Spectacular Italian simplicity with a dash of panache inside one of the most desired restaurants Notting Hill boasts.
Took my nephew Luke to see Eminem. “Are you sure?” cautioned my child-burdened friends. “It’s pretty unpleasant. Urban nihilism. Drugs. Violence. It could get very ugly.” Yes, I’m aware of all that — but I think he’s old enough to make up his own mind about Milton Keynes. Anyway, I’ll be there to remind him to just say “No …tting Hill Gate”. Eminem, by contrast, is a poppety socks.
Now I’m about to do one of those things that annoyed the loons and grandpa vest off me when I was an ankle biter. I’m going to patronise young people’s culture. I once had an old in-law who would smile with a manic serenity and say: “You know, I’m not shocked. You think you’re all so clever and on your face.” But it’s gay-porn Nazis, I’d say, doing it with cripples in the middle of a christening. “No, no, I saw far worse than that during the blackout.”
Anyway, Luke and I stood in the bowl of Milton Keynes, shouting “Fug chew, muddyfugger!” as instructed. It was a bonding moment. I know other aunts take their nephews to chalk streams and tie small bits of handmade bellybutton fluff to hooks, but, for my boy and me, the familial bond is woven by singing “Two trailer-park girls go round the outside”. I love the pantomime audience-participation stuff. Instead of shouting “Behind you!” and “Oh, no, he didn’t!” we go “Yo! Fugger pig!” But what I like best about Eminem — and I’m not sure a lot of the audience quite understood this — is that he is, in fact, the second coming of Gilbert and Sullivan.
“What has this to do with food?” I hear you say. Or, more likely, “Yo! Muddyfugger, wheredy fugdy food, bitch?” Well, I was planning on doing an archly amusing little review of the luncheon bazaar that circles the bowl of Milton Keynes. But they’re not paying me enough to put this stuff in my mouth ahead of a four-hour traffic jam. And, anyway, it’s the one cuisine that you all know intimately: the caravans of burgers and sausages, pizza and lardy ice cream, and a stand with a sign that was as unequivocal as it was untrue: “Chinese Food”.
This week’s restaurant is in Holland Park, on a site that was once a Mauritian restaurant. Now it’s yet another Italian; yet another one owned by Giuliano Lotto’s A-Z chain, which has an impressive portfolio of, for the most part, good restaurants. This, he points out, is his 13th — a lucky number, he says. Apparently, he is, uniquely, a non-superstitious Italian. This place is called Edera. Edera translates as “ivy”. Oooh, get her! But The Ivy has been very unlucky for Mr Lotto. It’s no secret that he salivated over the Covent Garden version for many years and, recently, it eluded him once again. This name is more than a little catering joke.
The Philosopher and I took Diane von Furstenberg, Nona Summers and my friend Emeric, who lives locally and complains that there’s nowhere decent to eat. Which is extraordinary — this must be the richest half-mile in Britain. Not just cash rich, but culturally avaricious and socially kleptomaniac. And there’s barely a decent trattoria until the houses dip below three mill.
Edera has a very ambitious menu for a local with 60-odd covers. Chicken carpaccio incited a sharp intake of breath. Really? Raw chicken? Apparently, it’s just marinated in citrus and wine. Seeing as we’re told that one in four chickens boasts salmonella, and that an auto-da-fé is the only way of getting rid of it, that’s pretty brave. It also turned out to be very good — Holland Park’s answer to Japanese fugu fish — as was the lobster bruschetta with melon jelly and the pig’s head terrine with tiger prawns.
My roasted gnocchi with veal sweetbreads and artichoke was less good — a bit like greasy mud. Roasting gnocchi doesn’t improve it. But that was the exception. Everyone else’s main courses elicited paeans of praise. They were simple dishes, nicely made, although with nothing like the flair of the starters. Prices are exceptionally reasonable (£16.50 for two courses, rising to £22.50 for four). Not that the locals are likely to notice.
The maîre d’, a charming man, had a nightmare evening. It was bad when he recognised me, and it just got worse. Everything he could drop or knock over, he did. I shan’t make his embarrassment any worse by mentioning it.
I was just trying to remember what it was my dad took me to see when I was 10. It was Coppelia, with Robert Helpman, who resembled Eminem in not a single atom. As I recall, it’s the story of a dirty old man who falls in love with a mechanical underage sex doll. And you really imagine that’s more suitable than Eminem singing about cleaning out his closet?
Edera may be found at 148 Holland Park Avenue, London, W11 4UE
Edera restaurant is open daily 12pm-3pm, 6-11pm