The reviews have been mixed, and I can tell why. It’s what I would call not completely buttoned-up and frills-free. The actual service is slightly subpar, but they are flexible when you walk in late and double your party size! It’s a neighborhood place, but certainly not one you trek out of your way to dine in.
This spot had been written about in a vast array of media so much so that I had to go see it myself. The fact that there are three young, media-savvy female owners around my age was particularly interesting to me. And dining here felt like a trip down memory lane. A former New Yorker, I was in this neighborhood for years. So dining at King was like going back home and seeing everything that has changed.
These three Londoners set up King in the West Village to bring simple, seasonal food influenced by southern France and Italy to the neighborhood.
My biggest critique is that they should be pushing their story more: the fact that it’s women-owned-and-operated, and that they are all from London. Two of them are chefs, and one is in the front of the house. Annie, at the front, used to work in finance, but always loved the restaurant world, and decided to make her passion full-time. I had to ask Annie all kinds of questions about her background and the provinces of the food.
At King, while I appreciate the fact that the menu shifts daily, it’s still an OK rating for this place, due to the equally “just OK” food and service. The average cuisine certainly wouldn’t make me go back. I do love the fact that it’s run by three women, but if I had not done my research, I would have never known. Talk it up!
Money Score: Okay
Seemed fair for what it was, but I’d advise playing up the seasonal aspects and sourcing of their menu to justify price point.
Consciousness Score: Okay
Ok. I have to justify granting them an average rating here for no sourcing talks in house. Forewarning: If you want to change or cancel your reservation after 10:30 a.m., they’ll impose a $15 fee per person (not necessarily the most customer-friendly policy). We had a two-year-old with us, but our utensil situation was never fully figured out. In fact, we never got them. Referencing Watergate, I call this Utensil-gate.
I have to give points back to them for taking what we really didn’t like off the tab. In fact, I am impressed when this happens, and wonder if America is the only country on Earth where that happens. At least for me, it never happens when I’m in Europe or Asia. My mom is an immigrant, and thinks this is because Americans are so generous. They don’t think about every nickel and dime like that. They’d rather keep a customer than the money that goes into replacing a steak. They think about the big picture. It’s fantastic.
‘All the Feels’ Score: Okay
I went during lunch, and the place was full. The crowd was mostly young professionals, but there were slightly older folks scattered about. It’s very in tune with the West Village scene, and something I also feel is common among its restaurants: sunny, airy, spacious tables, with a partially visible kitchen. It feels like dining in a cozy, newly renovated home. The ambiance is typical of West Village restaurants, awkward steps and all. The front step had not been renovated, guarding the authenticity in the neighborhood architecture. It’s this step that gives you the idea that the inside of the restaurant is not going to be overstated, and it’s true: it’s just like home, nothing more, nothing less.
I came in and sat down to have a drink at the bar. The bartender was very nice, conversational, and kept me entertained while waiting for my dining mates. The drink he suggested was almost like ordering a dessert: an apple cider, orange zest, and orange concoction. His company was the perfect additional ingredient. The upbeat, cheery vibe of the bartender echoed throughout the room.
There are a bunch of tables at the bar, and once you exit the bar area, you enter the big room where tables that line the wall are angled to where you can see a bit of the kitchen and the staff buzzing about, without disclosing details of the dishes. We sat at one of the corner tables with a sun-filled window behind us.
I have to give them extra points for Aesop products in the bathroom. I recently discovered the brand when I was in London; I went to a restaurant called Portland where they had Aesop soap and lotion. I have since noticed it in other dining rooms I like, so I have to thank the restaurant world for introducing me to that brand.
On the day we dined, the menu highlighted a lot of vegetable-forward dishes made rich with olive oil. Here, they were heavy handed on the oil, which I pleasantly found to be more light and flavorful than buttery in consistency.
We started with flatbread and small crostini: a crinkly, delicious bread, also drizzled in nice olive oil. I was slightly disappointed that none of the starters were finger food. I like when food engages your different senses, but then maybe since it was a business-lunch crowd, they don’t necessarily want sticky hands on their keyboards later.
Everything was good except for the steak: Lambortello, or hanger steak in Italian, chargrilled over rosemary branches with smashed ceci and Swiss chard. It was way too chewy for a medium-cooked chop. Both my mom and brother actually spit it out, and they didn’t charge us for it. I’d advise thinning it down, as it is not as tender as other cuts.
On the positive, they have Duche de Longueville French sparkling cider on the menu, which my husband and I love. We discovered the brand at Grace in Chicago. There are at least 40 different kinds of apples in the bottle. Slightly sparkling, to me, it does not appear strongly sodium-based. It was lovely mixed with cranberry and orange juice (no purees in house). On the downside, King is spending the money on the cider identical to the one served at Grace, a 3-star Michelin, but couldn’t tell me the story behind them. I actually had to tell them. When you are paying $300 per person to dine at Grace, it doesn’t mean the cider story is less compelling when it costs a fraction of the price.
The carta di musica with anchovy, butter, and chili came with the savory anchovies slivered on thin crust, and while I didn’t try them, my party members enjoyed them.
The pane griglia with cima di rape, lentils, and crème fraiche flatbread was flavorful, a fresh mix of earthy greens. It brought bitterness to the starchy lentils. Very Mediterranean.
I understand the mixed reviews of the Harry’s Bar cheese sandwich: too much butter! My mom found the cheeses bland and slightly crunchy, almost hard. It had a gooey center, but other than that, blah.
The tagliatelle with lemon, creme fraiche, and roquette pasta was good, but too thick and could stand a hint of more flavor, so it seemed unbalanced. I’d advise either putting the noodles on a diet or fattening up the flavor of the sauce.
The scallops with soft polenta with cavolo nero and sage were excellent: creamy, and cooked to a T. I have had my fair share of poorly done shellfish, so I always give kudos to restaurants that do scallops well.
The Bicerin con biscotti chocolate dessert was really delicious, but bitter, not sweet. While I loved the unexpected flavor profiles, a little preparation and a little description would have gone a long way.