LDNReview

photo credit: Core By Clare Smyth

The dining room at Core By Clare Smyth
8.7

Core By Clare Smyth

British

Notting Hill

$$$$Perfect For:Fine DiningImpressing Out of TownersSpecial OccasionsDinner with the ParentsUnique Dining Experience
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A lot of fine dining places leave you feeling like the foam you’ve just been served—very fancy, but rapidly deflating, and, eventually, completely flat. But not Core. The cooking at Clare Smyth’s British Notting Hill restaurant is flawless, the presentation of dishes will make you feel like you’ve stepped on to the set of a live-action fairy tale, and the service is slick but never stuffy. It’s £215 for the most popular tasting menu, Core Classics, and at each exciting, perfectly executed turn, the experience justifies the spend. 

The Isle Of Harris Scallop Tartare dish at Core By Clare Smyth

photo credit: Core By Clare Smyth

Core is inside the kind of Notting Hill townhouse that your imaginary rich aunt would own; the wisteria curling around the windows as tightly as her grip on her third husband. But despite the swanky postcode, it’s not stiff at all. There’s a big, bright open kitchen where Smyth smiles and waves as you’re whisked to a soft, grey velvet armchair that’s comfier than the Emma mattress we were all ad-bombed into buying. It’s at this point a waiter delivers a menu and ominously declares that “this is the beginning.

The dining table at Core By Clare Smyth

photo credit: Core By Clare Smyth

The interiors at Core By Clare Smyth

photo credit: Core By Clare Smyth

You should know that the easiest booking to nab is at the off-putting time of 9:45pm. But the late night only adds to the feeling that you're at an exclusive, midnight feast for adults. Instead of children sneaking to the fridge for chocolate cake, grown-ups with rattling Rolexes pluck homemade wine gums off mossy logs. Thimble-sized snacks, like a faultless, buttery lobster roll and mini caviar sandwiches, make a table of three-piece suits burst into cheshire cat grins. Scallops sit on a green wreath that looks like it’s been pulled through a Disney sea bed, picking up pearls, sea herbs, and flowers on the way. By the time a Snow White-looking apple dessert arrives, you fully expect pumpkin carriages to have been laid on for the journey home. 

Core By Clare Smyth image

photo credit: Core By Clare Smyth

Our only issue with Core is how much of a struggle it is to get a booking. For dinner, we’ve only ever seen the 9:45pm sitting available. Which means when your helpful waiter tells you about the fish that came off the boat that morning, it’s nearly the next morning. But it’s still busy at this time for a reason, and it’s definitely worth confusing your circadian rhythm to eat at one of London’s most special fine dining restaurants.

Food Rundown

'The Beginning' of the Core Classics menu.

photo credit: Sinéad Cranna

The Beginning

In The Beginning, Clare made mini lobster rolls, and the sweet, buttery rolls were good. This pre-course feels like it’s there to say “relax, it won’t all be foam”. Chicken in a taco-like, thin shell tastes like the perfect roast chicken crisp. Black truffle gougères are in the same comforting family of gooey cheese as mozzarella sticks. And the mini caviar sandwiches are the sort of tiny treat that makes you feel like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole.
The Isle Of Harris Scallop Tartare dish at Core By Clare Smyth

photo credit: Sinéad Cranna

Isle Of Harris Scallop Tartare

These sweet, fresh scallops are diced to the perfect size to appreciate the softness of each bite. The sea vegetable consommé underneath is delicate, a little salty, and is best mopped up with hunks of buttered bread. This is how we imagine Ariel eats her meals—off of a pristine shell plate surrounded by sea flowers.
The Potato And Roe dish at Core By Clare Smyth

photo credit: Food Story Media Ltd

‘Potato And Roe’

Keep your turkey dinosaur dinners, this is the only plate of beige we’re interested in. The velvety, salty pops of herring and trout roe season the fluffy-on-the-inside potato. And we could’ve eaten the buttery, dulse beurre blanc sauce like soup.

Roasted Cod

This dish makes a great case for all fish to be basted with nutty, sweet brown butter, and also to be topped with more fish—in this case, sweet little bursts from the shrimp. We’re particularly into the slight crispy texture on the outside of the fish, which was perfectly cooked.
The lamb carrot dish at Core By Clare Smyth

photo credit: Core By Clare Smyth

'Lamb Carrot'

Soft, fall-apart meat hides beneath a carrot that’s topped with thin, circular slices of alternating orange and yellow carrot. Its sweetness is balanced by a tangy sheep’s yoghurt. Our favourite part, though, is the bread roll that you tear open and discover more lamb inside. Our kind of present.

Chicken, Cockles, Clams And Caviar

We appreciate the Kardashian-levels of commitment to alliteration here, but these ingredients don’t just sound good together, they taste great too. The Sutton Hoo chicken is juicier than a debrief with your best friend and comes with a herbaceous, creamy mousse. And chicken-flavoured crackers topped with caviar add some much needed texture.
Core By Clare Smyth image

photo credit: Sinéad Cranna

‘Core Apple’

Like the apple that tempted Eve or the poisoned one in Snow White, there is no resisting this dessert. Unlike those apples, the repercussions are more likely to be jean-loosening. This is the signature dish for a reason—it’s got a dewy gloss, a thin, crispy outer shell that you crack to get to the centre and has a slightly sour taste that’s balanced by the toffee.
The Pear And Verbena dessert at Core By Clare Smyth

photo credit: Sinéad Cranna

Pear And Verbena

This dessert changes seasonally, but when we had it, it was pear and verbena. It’s cold, shockingly so to begin with, and looks like an ice sculpture with perfect, powdered-snow pieces of meringue decorating the edges. The flavours of lemony verbena and sweet, refreshing pear are some of our favourite on the menu. Dare we say it, this just edges the Core Apple for us.

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FOOD RUNDOWN

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