More than Just a Custard Tart

Novo Estoril Gives Acton a Portuguese Flavour

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Black Rock Grill

Black Rock Grill

Novo Estoril

Restaurant / Café & Delicatessen
2-4 Horn Lane

London W3 6QT
Tel : 020 8752 1255


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Novo Estoril sits on Horn Lane almost opposite Market Square. Since the Portuguese deli opened a few doors down, this parade of shops has been transformed from its somewhat grimy previous incarnation. After some rave reports of coffee, authentic Portuguese atmosphere and custard tarts, four of us decided to see what else was on offer at the Novo Estoril in Horn Lane.

Portuguese bread and olives were placed on the table quickly after we were settled at our table. The drinkers asked for traditional Portuguese Green wine and the rest of us drank Portuguese fizzy water.

For starters, three of us boringly ordered salad, and our adventurous companion ordered 'Chorico assado' (Grilled Portuguese sausage) which would have been enough for two or even three. The non-vegetarian salad-eaters got a taste and it was nicely spicy with a pronounced cured flavour. There was enough to take home a good helping. Our salads were very traditional but crisp, freshly made and undressed (oil and vinegar provided).

We were there to try out the main event - the Black Rock Grill. This is an exciting way to eat your food as it cooks on a searingly hot square of stone which acts as your plate. Possibly not one for children under 12 or clumsy teenagers. My fellow black-rocker chose chicken. There is something a little disconcerting about being served raw chicken, but once she had grappled with hygiene and cutlery issues, she enjoyed her sizzling chicken which was accompanied by chips and a smaller salad. Both my steak and her chicken were cooked on our own private hot stones seasoned with rock salt. Your meat arrives in one piece and you are instructed to cut slices off in order to cook them quickly. It was definitely a novel and interactive way (not to say healthy - absolutely no fat involved) to eat straight off the cooking surface, and we could be sure that each piece was cooked exactly as we wished. The chips were good and we also had mustard and tarragon-tasting bearnaise sauce. The food was plain but good.

The black rock grills were definitely the focus of attention. We were chatting about Charles Saatchi and the amazing amount of weight he had lost eating what sounds like a scary number of eggs and nothing else. We couldn't help wondering whether his monotonous diet could have been livened up by being cooked on a Black Rock Grill, but decided that this might prove a rather difficult, sticky and messy experience.

The Vegetarian ate a dish which looked like a croque monsieur baked in tomato sauce. It was called Vegetable Francezinha and consisted of cheese, black beans, bread, grilled peppers & grilled tomatoes, served in 'traditional Portuguese sauce'. She said it was very good. Our other companion's Portuguese fish pie was made with salt cod, and the mouthful I was allowed struck me as a perfect, soothing lunch dish.

We had been shown to a table at the back of the café. This meant that those of us facing the road had plenty of look at - the café (looking very continental), the bar and the delights of Horn Lane and those who perambulate along it. Those facing in were not so lucky as their view consisted of a somewhat uninspiring indoor trellis screen and a large TV screen which was tuned to Portuguese news. The décor could perhaps do with a little bit of sprucing up.

We can't forgot those excellent custard tarts. We rounded off our lunch with three of these between four. The pastry is crisp and buttery and the custard filling is a wonderfully eggy creation with a hint of vanilla. All this came to a not unreasonable £60 for four.

This café is trying hard and if you want to sample some good Portuguese cooking with a friendly and authentically Portuguese atmosphere, then you should grab Christiano Ronaldo and head down to Horn Lane.

Clare Gittins

October 20, 2008