Alexandrie restaurant is a new, fine-dining, super elegant restaurant and bar in Kensington featuring contemporary Egyptian European food. Its deceptively small upon entry featuring a chic dining room clad in white with beautiful, ornate gold and crystal chandeliers and huge, colourful artworks lining the walls. A perfect dinner date destination or space for a celebratory meal – it oozes intimacy and class. Downstairs, there is another larger room of a similar décor with a lively bar where guests can enjoy views of the cocktails being made.
The night we attended was a Saturday and the music, a combination of French and Spanish lounge music, coupled with the low-key diners in the space, created a very relaxed vibe for a Saturday – a welcome escape from the bustling streets of High Street Kensington.
Our lovely waiter and waitress took excellent care of us, and took us through the menu – which is extensive and caters to both typical Egyptian and more European tastes – before we decided on the tasting menu. Priced at £45 per person for 7 courses, with the wine pairing at £25 for 5 glasses – we found it surprisingly good value for the calibre of restaurant.
We began the meal with a sharing platter of hummus, babaghanoush, and aubergine and poivron salad with toasted strips of wholemeal flatbread. The deceptively simple appearance of this course gave way to surprisingly different takes on your average ‘hummus’ or aubergine dip though – the hummus was smokey and nutty, thick and creamy with an almost solid consistency that rendered it both filling and satisfying. The babaghanoush was exceptional with strong notes of garlic and spices, unlike any other version I have tried before. Given both I and my guest have lived for multiple years in the Middle East, including in Egypt, this was a delightful surprise. I would return for this starter course alone.
We enjoyed this with a glass of Chateau Rio Tor, a lovely fruity, berry-heavy rose from the Cotes de Provence, 2015 vintage. This was light and refreshing – a good start to the meal – and the delicate berry flavours paired well with the heavy nuttiness of the hummus. This dry rosé is from vineyards in the heart of the Massif des Maures mountains in Provence. It is a Grenache-based wine with some Cinsault fermented at cool temperatures and aged without any oak.
The second course featured a lovely red lentil veloute soup with za’atar croutons, which again, took us by surprise. This was creamy yet fresh, with more interesting spices that I hadn’t experienced before. Portions were substantial but not overbearing and we were eager to see what we would try next. The rose wine stood up extremely well to this dish.
The third course was another pleasure, of large, succulent tiger king prawns fried in a light crispy batter and served with a tangy, rich bois boudran sauce, gem lettuce and fennel. This was almost like a tempura batter but lighter and more nutty again – which the sauce cut through wonderfully. Here, our hosts brought out a glass of chardonnay, the Macon Uchiy by Gerald et Philibert Talmard 2015 vintage also. This was arguably my favourite – a fantastic zesty, fresh yet flavoursome white wine that cut through the rich prawns excellently, yet stood up to the rich sauce. Domaine Gerald and Philibert talmard is a family Domaine in the small town of Uchizy in the Maconnais. The style of wine Philibert produces here is clean and refreshing, achieved by early picking of ripe grapes whilst they still have good levels of acidity in them and fermenting the wine with only stainless steel.
Our fourth course was my personal favourite – two decent bowls of traditional, oven-baked okra (bamia) served with garlic and coriander and topped off with a side of pitta bread. I love okra, but usually find it a dull offering in restaurants with the standard tomato based sauce. This was much more interesting and filling, with more mysterious spices that seemed to secrete the tempting tastes of Egypt, and the pitta bread was substantial enough to ensure we were already full by this course.
After a brief lull in our meal to rest between courses, the star of the show – the fifth course – made its appearance. This was a slow-roasted shank of lamb infused with more mild Egyptian spices, and served with an unbelievable smooth, nutty mashed potato. Personally I was raving all over the mashed potato which was unlike any other I had tried (you note, at this point, a theme throughout this restaurant: all of the courses took me by surprise with some sort of mysterious spices and nutty flavours). The lamb however, was similarly divine and melted off the bone into a sumptuous sauce. The portions were decent (one lamb shank between two) but not overwhelming to the point of discomfort. Just delicious – really.
The wine here was the Cotes du Rhone Vignobles Gonnert, 2014. This Côtes du Rhone is exceptional for its elegance and structure, and paired brilliantly with the lamb, bringing violet, dried herb and spicy dark fruit. A Grenache blend, it is medium-bodied and dry – and well worth sampling.
As a palate cleanser, the sixth course showcased ice cream and sorbet. We had a lovely hazelnut ice cream with a lemon sorbet that was crisp and refreshing. We enjoyed this with a Tokaji wine, the Holdovgy Exaltation from Hungary, 2012. This was a beautiful golden yellow sweet wine, redolent of the typical Tokaji elegance and richness with strong notes of figs, pineapple, peaches and citrus fruit.
The final course, the main dessert, was another delight that I was not expecting – and am hoping to obtain the recipe of. This was Om Ali – a crisp filo pastry baked in a rich cream with a touch of vanilla and topped off with crisp, baked almond flakes. This was utterly fantastic – like an exotic, lighter bread and butter pudding with filo pastry. Our final wine was a muscat, the Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, by Domaine de Coyeux, Vaucluse, of France, 2007. This is a light and sweet nectar – significantly sweeter than the Tokaij – with a rose petal aroma that is topped off with tropical fruit and the taste of candied oranges. Just lovely.
Overall, our experience at Alexandrie was one of consistent surprises and delight. Though the interior and menu look deceptively simple – minimalist, Egyptian European dining – the combination of flavours, spices, and quirky additions to the recipe – render the food at Alexandrie unlike any other restaurant in London I have come across. It is very much well worth experiencing, and, I will be most certainly returning – confident that the food will prove a positive talking point and bring smiles to my guests faces. And, to have more of that delicious babaghanoush.
38C Kensington Church Street