Just around the corner from Notting Hill tube, on a summer Saturday night, ULI’s terrace is filling up. Not that there’s anything wrong with the stylish interior, all Mediterranean colours of white and blue, but we’re making the most of the rare evening sunshine. This feels like a neighbourhood restaurant with regulars getting a welcome embrace and service efficient, yet unobtrusive, from the young Asian staff. There’s a good vibe here and I can see why it’s popular.
In fact, it was originally in All Saints Road, not far away, but closed three years ago, and I suspect many of its faithful customers followed it to this location. They’re archetypal Notting Hillbillies, slightly moneyed and semi-famous and there’s certainly a touch of glam in the air tonight.
The food is described as modern Asian and the menu is packed with all the usual suspects – Pad Thai, Pho, green curry, crispy duck with pancakes and dim sum dumplings. As is obvious, it ranges across the whole region and a bowl of Edamame beans (£4.50) is a good accompaniment for a glass of cold prosecco. My partner is fashionably late so when the appetisers arrive we’re both very hungry.
Three spicy scallops (£14) come in a green curry sauce topped with slices of red chilli and spring onions, and they’re succulent, perfectly cooked. Crispy lightly battered prawns (£12) also have with chilli and salt. We cheat by dipping them in the rest of the scallop green sauce and it works rather well. Flavours are light and fresh with a punch from the hot peppers
Next up is a Thai sea bass fillet, steamed with chilli and lemongrass (£19), a riot of green and red, peppered with Asian herbs and good with the steamed jasmine rice (£3.90). Keeping the Thai theme we’ve also ordered stir-fried morning glory, or water spinach, with garlic (£11), just the right side of al-dente, and plenty of it. It’s rare to find this on Western Thai menus so we make the most of it.
We hop across to China for the spicy stir-fried beef with peppers (£15) and although the meat is meltingly tender, the dish feels slightly bland after the fish. Still, the vegetables are good and crispy and we use the sauce to soak up the remaining rice.
Desserts are Japanese miniatures, small but perfectly formed, all topped with fresh strawberry slices. The Yuzu citrus Junos cheesecake (£7.50) has a palate cleansing tang and the chocolate coolant (£6) does exactly what it says. We can’t resist ordering the Mochi ice cream (£3) just to taste. It turns out to be a shell of pounded sticky rice cake wrapping the cold coconut centre – a fitting way to go out into the night.
We were initially sceptical about ULI’s catch-all Asian menu, thinking that it was trying to cover too many bases, and couldn’t possibly deliver. In fact, everything we taste is remarkably authentic and doesn’t disappoint. Prices are on the high side for this type of restaurant but given the location and the type of clientele, not unbearably so. There’s something of a buzz here, everyone is welcome, and it’s easy to dream that you’ve increased your glitterati factor and are now one of the locals.
Tell Me More About ULI Restaurant
ULI 5 Ladbroke Road
London W11 3PA
T 0044 (0) 20 3141 5878