Entering KARA, you are welcomed by friendly staff, tasteful décor, soft music and a relaxing ambience. It’s a fairly intimate venue on the first floor with well spaced tables. You can tell considerable effort has been put in.
Shortly after ordering, we were given 3 slices of garlic baguette bread each. Although there were no complaints about the flavour, the bread itself was chewy, as though it had been sat on a hot plate to keep warm rather than being freshly made, which was a little disappointing. To accompany the meal, we chose a delightful bottle of White Cliff Merlot 2016, it was a shame to see it was from New Zealand and not France itself, but there we go.
For starters, we had the Grilled Chicken House Salad (a KARA favourite) and the Sautéed Tiger Prawns & Scallop Salad with Avocado. On its arrival, I thought the portion looked a little large for a starter, but I was mistaken as the salads were nice and light. Both salads were fresh and crisp, with crunchy peppers, baby tomatoes and the perfect amount of dressing. The grilled chicken was beautifully tender and the tiger prawns and scallops were delicious. It was evident they are using high quality ingredients and the chef was well versed in the dishes. The only marginal downfall was the avocado. It had clearly been kept in the fridge and not allowed to ripen sufficiently, leaving it very hard but other than that, excellent starters.
We chose the Lamb Rack with Provençal Herbs served with Ratatouille & Potato Gratin and another KARA favourite the Beef Tenderloin with Béarnaise Sauce served with Greens & Russet Potatoes for our mains. Again, it was evident that high quality ingredients are being used.
The lamb was a little fatty and could’ve been crispier by using a pan at a higher heat, but overall was good quality meat and flavoursome. The potato gratin and ratatouille was well cooked and accompanied the lamb well.
The beef was exquisitely succulent and accompanied with a delicious Béarnaise sauce. The russet potatoes were served in a little ramekin, in the form of a creamy mash topped with melted cheese. It was quite possibly the best mash I’ve had outside of the UK. However, the “greens” consisted of a small amount of boiled carrots, asparagus, broccoli and cauliflower, all of which were, unfortunately, cold and rather bland. That said, I can still see why this is a KARA favourite and would definitely order it again.
Dessert was certainly KARA’s weak point, however this could be because the rest of the meal was outstanding. After ordering the Crème Brulee (another KARA favourite) and the Pancakes with Apple & Orange Sauce, one of the waiters explained that the pancakes weren’t quite ready yet, but the crème brulee was, so asked if we wanted to have them individually or wait and have them together. This wasn’t a massive issue for us, so we chose to have them individually, so out came the crème brulee. Covered in a laced sugar dome and accompanied with an under ripe strawberry, the crème brulee was good.
Perhaps it was my error, but I wasn’t expecting to have to wait 15 minutes for the pancakes to arrive. The pancakes (they were crêpes) were disappointing, especially given the wait. I received two folded crêpes filled with pureed apple and sultanas and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, which was absolutely swimming in orange sauce. The ice-cream had crystalized as though it had been defrosted and refrozen and the orange sauce was sharp, slightly acidic and made the crêpes very soggy. A simple drizzle of the sauce or a ramekin of it, would have significantly improved the dish. Aesthetically, it wasn’t pleasant either.
Overall, we had a lovely meal. The starters and mains were delicious, but unfortunately there were a couple of things that could be improved. It is a good restaurant it’s just not quite yet at the level of 5. For these reasons, I would give it a 4/5. With a little work on the desserts, KARA has the potential to really excel and could easily up itself to 5/5. Despite my criticisms (I am here to give an honest review after all), I would recommend a visit to KARA (as I am very difficult to please). Ultimately, the food and service is good quality, I’m just keen for KARA to pull out those extra stops to really reach its 5 potential. This is something I’m sure they will achieve progressing through 2019, especially if they keep using such high quality ingredients and a sharp eye for detail.