Review previously published as Back to the Bush at Maison Cupcake
Deepest darkest Shepherds Bush will always have a place in my heart: we lived there for eight happy years. Our returning there from Walthamstow is rare. So an invitation to review Bush Hall Dining Rooms was an ideal opportunity to check out our old neighbourhood.
Opening a few weeks ago, this restaurant partners Uxbridge Road’s Bush Hall concert venue. A former 1920s dance hall, the Bush Hall building had been a scruffy snooker club since the 1980s but is now restored as an elegant music and events venue. Now you can book a pre-gig dinner in the adjacent restaurant.
Acts who have played at Bush Hall since 2001 include Amy Winehouse, Van Morrison and Adele. Could the venue’s new restaurant soar to the height of the vocal talent next door?
With picture windows overlooking the ever cosmopolitan Uxbridge Road, it’s retro and rustic inside. Restored school chairs, a linoleum chequered floor and comfy leather banquette seating fill a compact space lined with exposed wooden panel walls and ceilings. Place settings are styled with chunky glassware and vintage style linen napkins (actually tea towels from IKEA – clever).
The menu is gastropub-y with starters averaging around £8.50 each and main courses from £10 to £19.50. Breakfast dishes on the morning menu are up to £11.
There are many seasonal ingredients featured so dishes may have changed when you visit. Three different menus are offered for breakfast, daytime and evening.
We took Ted on a Friday evening after school. The kids’ menu is excellent value offering two courses with a drink or milkshake for £7.50. Crayons arrive in a vintage third of a pint school milk bottle. The paper menu is backed by “Edwardian Parlour Games” – far more thoughtful than a cartoon to colour.
“Boxes” is perfect entertainment at the table. I used to play it with my mum. Draw your own dotty grid on a napkin to entertain kids anywhere. We shall be employing this again elsewhere.
Nick ordered Duck egg, English asparagus soldiers, celery salt £7.50. Duck eggs are more substantial than chicken eggs so this felt more special than a mere boiled egg. In hindsight my husband wishes he’d asked for a small spoon instead of the fork provided with this dish.
My starter was Tomato, fennel & strawberry gazpacho £5. Surprisingly this was the first time I’d had gazpacho served in a bowl as a course in its own right – although I’d had shots of cold soups served as canapés many times.
It was a joy to eat. Not overpowered by fennel, every spoonful popped with flavour. The giant fried bread croutons were squidgy underneath but were still tasty and crispy on top. Finished with an olive oil spiral and a sprinkling of mixed herbs; honestly I think it was my favourite soup ever. If all chilled soups were this compelling we’d be eating more of them.
Following Ted’s well received complimentary salted pop corn, his main course was Sausages and mash (or chips) with Marmite gravy. Why isn’t Marmite gravy more widespread? It’s such a natural flavouring and I shall definitely be making some at home.
The sausages were big and this was enough to feed a ten year old. Ted ate all of one sausage and most his mash before coming across a very peppery bit in the second sausage. This scared him off finishing the rest but he did eat two big polenta chips (below) too.
Nick had Chargrilled Ribeye with chips and béarnaise sauce £19.50. A pretty much perfect steak. It was tender and came exactly as ordered (pinky medium rare) rather than being overdone. The chef here makes mean béarnaise sauce; it was like béarnaise sauce with the volume turned up high.
I had Seared tuna with puy lentils & wild garlic £15. Tonight was summer solstice and I was feeling I’d picked the peak of summery dishes. The tuna steak was gigantic. Like the Ribeye it was cooked exactly as ordered – “still a bit pink” – and once more set a high bar for future tuna dish in my life to reach.
It was succulent. It was juicy. It broke up with my fork in pleasing throngs of flesh that were charred grey on the edge and pink inside without being too underdone. Yes I am feeling poncey in my description today. But this was one of those rare occasions where you get to your main course and think “both of these courses have been two of the best I’ve had in ages“. This meal was becoming memorable; it had been well worth crossing the other side of town for.
The lentils underneath were herby with chunks of wild garlic. I reeked afterwards but it was well worth it. The herb and lemon sauce on top was similar consistency to Nick’s béarnaise but much milder and less eggy than a Hollandaise.
Out of curiosity I’d also ordered Polenta Chips £3.50. You only get four of them but they’re the size of fish fingers – I couldn’t resist ketchup to dip them in.
Time for dessert. I had Malted chocolate and pistachio tart (all puddings are £6) served with honeycomb ice cream. Again this was flavour heaven – the chocolate filling is rich and glossy and the portion size not off-puttingly large.
Strawberries were off that night so Nick ordered Lemon Posset which arrives with an expected berry topping. Whilst nothing wrong with this, I think they ought to describe it on the menu as having a berry topping so people realise what they’re getting.
Ted had the kids’ Knickerbocker Glory which was jelly topped with double cream and a real cherry. Being a pendant I’d say knickerbocker glory ought to include ice cream and that actually this is a sundae dish. But Ted isn’t a pedant and he was perfectly happy.
We finished with coffee that arrives with cute kilner jars of sugar cubes. We’d been seated near the big windows, perfect for people watching and opposite our former favourite Lebanese supermarket in the area Damas Gate. It’s worth a trip to Shepherds Bush for Damas Gate alone.
Lack of space for buggies will put local mums off. Possibly this will please many other diners but the family market Bush Dining Rooms are courting for weekend breakfasts may struggle to fit into the place if two buggies turn up at once. Bottle warming (promoted on the kids’ menu), changing table (due to be fitted soon) and high chairs are great facilities to show baby friendly credentials but if parents with buggies feel they’re in the way they’ll go elsewhere.
My Prosecco was completely flat and not cold enough. Its replacement was only marginally better. A great pity since a cold flute of fizz would have been the icing on the cake for this otherwise marvellous meal.
Tables are close together. This is fine for relaxed dining but I did worry more than usual that my chirpy child might encroach on our neighbours’ space.
Memorable food in an intimate retro setting. It’s special enough for anniversaries and birthday treats whilst being down to earth enough for a casual meal with friends or family.
The front of the restaurant is much lighter with big windows, the back is cosier.
Expect to pay £65-75 for a three course dinner for two with wine. Kids’ menus are £7.50 and generous enough to fill pre-teens.
If you don’t live locally, Bush Hall Dining Rooms is easily accessible on public transport and well worth the trip.
Would I recommend it?
Wholeheartedly. Make sure you visit the loo to see the posters showing who has played at Bush Hall.
With thanks to Bush Hall Dining Rooms for the complimentary meal.