Another day, another west London restaurant – specifically, Notting Hill et environs – aimed at women who dream of being Elle Macpherson when they grow up, monitor their every mouthful, worship the Hemsley sisters and talk about food being “good” or “bad”. Belonging to a very different, martinis-and-animal-fats-fuelled tribe, I do not expect to like Pomona’s. I expect to file it under “restaurants for credulous cretins”, like its neighbour Farmacy. (Side note: my long-standing fandom of Jarvis Cocker took a fatal dent when I saw him eating in the latter; for this, if not its burst-boil pizzas, I will never forgive it.)
Pomona’s is, we’re told, bringing “a piece of south California to London”. And everything is as bright as a Venice Beach morning: trailing plant life (of course), palm prints, a colour scheme as sweet and creamy as a gambol with Jelly Babies and fondant fancies on a bed of high thread-count linen in a Palm Springs boutique motel. No, seriously, you should see it: it makes my fillings jangle. A former pub, unrecognisable from its days as The Commander, the place sprawls over main room, lobby-conservatory, the promise of a garden. One corner, nearer the open kitchen, is colonised by a flotilla of designer buggies.
The design semiotics promise one thing, but the menu isn’t quite sure which side of the “dirty”/“clean” divide it’s sitting on. Probably not unintentionally, it reminds me of LA’s smash-hit Sqirl, where the normally carb-phobic denizens of Silver Lake queue daily to eat inches-thick slabs of eggy brioche toast slathered with further inches of ricotta and sugary jam. Same deal here: persuading the yoga bunny natives to swallow burgers or lardo toast, crispy Ginger Pig pork belly with mojo de ajo or happy hour cocktails by bookending them with kamut, kimchi, labneh and tuna poké is quite the achievement.
We kick off with the more apparently worthy stuff: smoothies “boosted” with the likes of acai and chia seeds – surprisingly pleasurable in a way that makes you think fondly about chucking in a few slugs of vodka. Pastrami-cured salmon is also nice enough, with little evidence of spicing and rather a lot of evidence of salt. But real kicks come from an unexpected source, the vegetarian “small plates”: fresh kernels of sweetcorn toasted into nuttiness with clouds of cool Mexican queso fresco and coriander leaves (annoyingly translated into SoCal “cilantro”). And who knew I could be thrilled by raw brussels sprouts, shaved into angel’s hair shards and dressed with a spritz of citrus, hazelnuts and pungent wafers of Spenwood ewe’s milk cheese? God help my lard-loving heart, I love this.
One of us (not me) has to have the cheeseburger. It’s pretty good – fine meat, melty cheese, pillowy bun – but these are frozen chips, not “home fries”, and the “daikon slaw” is a stringy, sour punishment. My shell-on prawns, wood-grilled, I think, zhooshed with pineapple (also grilled: very 2017) and the heat of jalapeño are far more West Coast US. There are more of the smoky beasts than I can finish, for £16.
Desserts? I’m guessing people don’t really head here with pudding in mind, because they’re simply bizarre: a thick tranche of oddly salty croissant’n’butter pudding with custard and a soaked prune balanced on top. (“Caramelised croissant and prune pie,” allegedly.) And when our server tells us that “apple pie tacos” are “a bit like a McDonald’s pie”, I can see where he’s coming from, but he’s still dramatically overselling these odd, chewy, custard-splattered little fried dough packages.
Pomona’s is pretty much a distillation of everything that sets my teeth on edge: west London, Cameron-esque entitlement, yummy mummies in nappy valley ghetto squads, specious nods at “healthy” food. The barman – knocking up not just those smoothies but also actual, alcoholic cocktails, and rather good ones, too – is the only man in the place during our visit. And yet the pal and I thoroughly enjoy it. As our Californian pals might say: go figure. Would it lure me back? On a warm summer’s day with the garden open and the option to pretend that raw brussels sprouts will save my liver, hell, yeah. Is it going to facilitate my wearing of leather leggings and tossing my glossy mane on the school run? Almost certainly not.
Pomona’s 47 Hereford Road, London W2, 020-7229 1503. Open all week, 10am (9am Sat & Sun)-10pm (10.30pm Fri & Sat, 9pm Sun). About £30 a head, plus drinks and service.
Value for money 7/10