"All day grazing next to Hyde Park"Review Rating: Reviewed by Matthew B
As a Devonian living in London, when we were invited to the newly opened Urban Meadow I was expecting the smell of freshly cut grass, tweeting birds, and cows chewing the cud. On arrival however it was clear this was a gleaming modern joint located right on the busy Bayswater Road along the north side of Hyde Park. Weirdly, it did remind me of Devon in that there was an aroma reminiscent of the fibreglass surfboard factory I used to walk past on my way to school - not unpleasant to my nostrils. But I digress.
This was only Urban Meadow’s second day of opening proper, and there was still a little work being done here and there. It is attached to the Hilton Hotel, but there seems to be a concerted attempt to make it inviting to anyone off the street and not to resemble a ‘hotel restaurant’, something they have been successful at, the large windows and outdoor area giving an open and welcoming feel.
Inside, the look is bright and minimal without being austere - various shades of light wood, a mix of modern and shaker chair designs (without looking annoyingly boho or mismatched), white walls and some giant cut-out metal leaves adorning the ceiling and walls. Upside down plant pots on the walls add quirkiness.
There are plenty of informal signs: a takeaway bakery/coffee counter, the ubiquitous handwritten chalkboard listing coffees and snacks, and stools along the large street-facing window.
There is all-day service, opening early at 7 am for breakfast and running right through to the evening. We visited at lunchtime and there were diners, solo coffee drinkers avec laptop and a couple of business types having an informal meeting. I expect this broad cross section of punters is what Urban Meadow is trying to attract, and it appears well suited to achieve it.
The lunch menu had ‘grazing’ dishes which covers the gamut of starters, tapas-type dishes and sharing plates; mains, salads and sandwiches. I am informed that a lot of effort is put into making sure all products are sourced from as near to London as possible - I guess this is where the ‘urban meadow’ name ties in, given the absence of live cows.
From the grazing menu, potted rabbit was agreeable and the accompanying celeriac coleslaw was a nice touch. A goats curd and roast beetroot salad was good quality and well presented. Grilled sea bass with a pesto-type sauce of capers and anchovies was nicely cooked, although my friend would have preferred slightly crispier skin, but this was a minor quibble. My mutton chop was tasty, the red cabbage was well spiced without verging into mulled wine territory which can sometimes happen. I’d have preferred more presence from the sour mint gravy - it was so subtle I initially thought it might have been omitted. Similarly the rosemary salt fries with malt vinegar mayo seemed more like standard fries with standard mayo.
My dessert of gooseberry and pear crumble would have benefited from a greater gooseberry/pear ratio, this elusive tart fruit (why is it not available in the shops??) being the main draw. Otherwise, it was a fine crumble with a small but powerful vanilla custard to go with it.
We ordered a couple of flat whites which arrived as black coffees with a side jug of milk, a trifle odd. But we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt as flat whites aren't offered on the coffee menu, so could be put down to teething troubles. Service was friendly and they make a point on the menu of saying they ‘do not charge for service’, although in Britain these days most people add it on as a matter of course.
What won us over were the very reasonable prices: mains range from £10-13 and sides are around £3. An espresso is £1.75, and a croissant and jam from the breakfast menu is £1.95.
A stone’s throw from the park and on a stretch of road with not much competition, we can see Urban Meadow doing well. There are plenty of local residents tucked behind the main road, and no end of well-heeled dog walkers passing by its door who would fancy a coffee and a bite to eat.
Matthew B reviewed Urban Meadow on Thu 19 Sep 2013