You’ll find innovative, exciting food cooked on an open fire at Caia, a new restaurant on Notting Hill’s Golborne Road.
Words by Pendle Harte
Caia defies classification. It’s not linked to a specific nationality, and nor is it just a restaurant – it’s also a cocktail bar, with a basement full of records. This isn’t to say that the food isn’t important, because it’s clearly the product of someone who has a serious vision. The menu offers minimal detail, so it’s not until the food actually arrives that we realise quite what a clever culinary feast we’re in for.
It’s the standard sharing plates scenario, and we’re advised to choose six or seven between two of us. First up is crispy chicken skin, preserved lemon and nori emulsion: three tiny slivers of crispy and golden skin infused with intense salty and citrussy intrigue. Dips of whipped feta, olive harissa and charred courgette with tahini come with grilled flatbreads – the courgette is unusual and delicious, a relation of baba ganoush with its burnt undertone but with a tahini smoothness and an entirely new flavour.
Then there are smoked jersey royals with borlotti beans, fava bean miso and parmesan, and it’s another unusual combination, all earthiness and woodsmoke. A dish simply named monkfish and sweetcorn might not sound especially exciting on paper, but is probably the standout for us, its crushed blackened sweetcorn contrasts with silky smooth monkfish creating a perfect mix of textured and taste. Rolled lamb belly with aubergine puree and grilled runner beans is as good as it sounds, while octopus with burnt pepper and nduja crumb is intense with umami.
The arrival of every dish brings new innovation, and we spend a lot of time identifying flavours and enthusing. For pudding, peach, lemon granita and verbena tea is a light and refreshing palette cleanser and another clever flavour mix. At Caia, there’s always a flavour that you’re almost able to identify but remains just out of reach, and that’s where the mystery lies, and what makes this chef such a genius.