Successfully ignoring the morning-after-the-night-before chaos in and around my flat on Sunday I took Neil up on his offer of whisking me off to Notting Hill for a spot of restorative lunch. In truth, this was a thinly veiled excuse for him to give his Boxster a rare spin (he's a people carrier man now, you know). Clearly being thrown around in the passenger seat as he let off a little steam was exactly what my fragile frame needed. It was touch and go there for a while, I don't mind telling you.
We arrived in one piece, though, and a short medicinal wander through the drizzle took us to the estimable Cow, where a restorative bloody Mary did its spicy stuff. I am generally suspicious of places that use premixed tomato juice in their BMs, but when they mix it as well as this it's hard to argue.
With Jaq and baby Isabelle safely in tow it was a short stroll to Bumpkin, a place I'd been meaning to visit for a while. Bumpkin opened a year or so ago promising a "country" menu of seasonal fare in not-so-country W11. I seem to remember a few snide comments in early reviews about it's trumped up "country" status but most seemed to think the food was pretty good. On the limited evidence of Sunday I'm inclined to agree.
We ate in the downstairs informal dining room. On the website (though mercifully not in the flesh) this is known, presumably ironically, as the oxymoronic "Country Brasserie". It's a pleasant enough space, small enough to generate a bit of buzz, open enough (just about) to encourage yummy mummies and their wheels. The walls are decked out in "country" paper but other than that it had the feel of a gastropub that focuses more on the gastro than the pub. Let's face it, most of them do.
Another BM was ordered (less spicy but with a definite lick of sherry to ease me back into the day) and we settled down to look at the menu. Sunday lunch menu only and a slightly strong £22.50 for two courses... What no starters? We checked and double-checked but could find none. Just as we were getting used to the idea, though, we were presented with a plank bearing good bread, a big dollop of stewed apple and a mound of pork rillettes. This was more like it. It was a bit odd that this wasn't advertised (or indeed mentioned when we asked about starters) and a bit hard on non-pork eaters who didn't seem to be offered an alternative, but a joyous treat of sticky shredded belly nonetheless.
The mains were perfectly prepared trad roasts of good quality organic and free range meat. A choice of pork, lamb, beef or chicken, with fish and veggie options I'm afraid don't recall. The meat was clearly sliced from properly roasted joints, complete with varying degrees of doneness. Alas there was no rare beef so, like Jaq, I went for the chicken. This was very good, a welcome surprise as roast chicken is one of the those dishes that is almost always more successful at home. Jaq said she could have done with another slice of breast but I thought it was about right. I was, on the other hand, mainlining cauliflower cheese at the time. This latter, incidentally, was from a very generous sharing bowl of veg that included some stellar roast potatoes and pressed all the right buttons. Neil's Herdwick lamb was polished off before I could snaffle a taste.
Desserts were standard English fare, the steamed ginger pudding with lemon cream working particularly well. To wash them down we followed up a decent Chablis with a pleasant surprise: an English dessert wine from Chapel Down. A first for all of us, but probably not a last.
It's difficult to judge a restaurant when you're only sampling a subset of what the kitchen can do but Bumpkin is clearly a popular haunt with the locals and while its full "country" credentials may be a little woolly it certainly merits another look, if only to see what wallpaper they went for in the more formal dining room upstairs.
Bumpkin, 209 Westbourne Park Road, W11 1EA 020 7243 9818