It was just a question of time really, till I went to Marianne. My daughter and son-in-law had raved about it for months, so intrigued as we were by this teeny weeny 14 seater restaurant on a corner in Notting Hill, which boasts fantastic write ups on all the review sites, an evening there was a foregone conclusion.
Now truth is, I’m a simple salad and grilled fish kind of woman and words like ‘taster menu’, ‘amuse bouche’ and ‘foam’ send a shiver down my spine and a sneer onto my face. Puhleeeese don’t get complicated and fancy on me! Besides, I prefer unadulterated fresh food that takes no more than 30 minutes to prepare. Still, my all encompassing curiosity forces me to experiment with yet unknown adventures, so on a hot and stuffy night, I donned my strappy Manolos to totter down the road, thankfully with the trusty Lovely Husband by my side to hold on to, for an all new culinary experience.
When we’d booked, about a month in advance, the nice people on the other end of the phone had established our food preferences, promisingly implying that I wouldn’t be presented with beef cheeks or pigs’ trotters. Foodie favourites they may be but, as far as I’m concerned, and feel free to call me a philistine, they are beyond the pale. No siree, let the beasties cheeky trot to their hearts content and leave me out of it! Yuk!
Marianne Lumb is one of the few successful women chefs in the UK. She cut her teeth, or should I say sharpened her knives, at the Michelin starred kitchen of stunning Gravetye Manor in East Grinstead, before she became a private chef, made it to the Master Chef ‘The Professionals’ final in 2009, and subsequently opened this attractive postage stamp sized restaurant in 2013. The fact alone that she had worked at Gravetye Manor, one of my all time favourite country house hotels, already made me like her. When then, as we were comfortably seated at our well dressed table with a starched white cloth and napkins, we were served a small bowl of, wait for it, truffle popcorn, I was ready to make this woman my new BFF. Crispy, buttery, truffly and simply completely divine, this little offering melted my heart and made my taste buds rejoice. Before we had even tried one item on the set six course taster menu, I was in seventh heaven.
The calming neutral colours of the place, the paneled walls with a narrow window allowing a peek into the kitchen, the wine library, the gleaming glass and the simple elegant chairs with their oh so comfortable adjustable backs made for an unpretentious but quietly classy ambience. The four tables for two and one for four diners, are attended by just one waiter and one sommelier, both smartly attired, very discreet and highly knowledgable. The clientele, mostly relaxed looking 30 and 40 somethings, confidently unflashy, were sympathetic types, clearly enjoying their food and wine and all looked as though they were very much at home here.
Four canapés of thumb nailed sized morsels of warm polenta with romanesco and minute crispy things of smoked eel with horseradish were placed in front of us, tiny, tasty and heralding more delights to come. By now we were salivating!
Then, predictably, the amuses bouches arrived. Well, blow my mind, despite my reservations, the cherry gazpacho mousse garnished with chopped macadamia nuts and presented in an espresso cup amused my bouche very much indeed, thank you very much!
This was swiftly followed by crystal clear, very fruity and sunny tasting tomato consommé, poured from a glass teapot over an avocado and chilli mixture waiting at the bottom of a soup bowl, a scoop of creamy ricotta on the side, coriander leaves scattered on top with a strip of brandy snap textured melba toast for company, a supremely successful combination of light flavours and textures which left us eager for more.
After a suitable digestive pause, a dish of orange smoked salmon cubelets, pale green strips of cucumber, darker borage leaves and white mildly sweetened yoghurt bloblets, all crowned by a purple nasturtium, appeared. This was as delicious as it was pretty and once again, as light as a summer breeze.
While we were well satisfied, we were by no means too full for pleasures yet to come! And come they did! The next course showcased excellently seasoned roe deer mince in a rotund single ravioli, the pasta just right in its consistency, bobbing in a tasty miso soup on a bed of white aubergine.
The Lovely Husband and I diverged on our main courses, he chose Saddle of Rhug Estate Salt Marsh Lamb, Spelt, Bobby Beans Girolles and Potato Cannelloni and I had Atlantic Turbot and Scottish Langoustine with Girolles a la Crème and Rainbow Chard. Unsurprisingly, both were exquisite. His was, of course, perfectly cooked and had a good savoury, meaty impact, mine was tasty and as light with just a hint of creaminess.
So far, so phenomenal. The cheese course was as impressive as the rest with a brie like cheese and a harder cheese, both ripe and flavoursome, the latter with juicy cherry halves, an unusual and perfect combo.
But the game wasn’t over yet. A small ‘pre dessert’ was served to sweeten our palate in preparation for its bigger, bolder follow-ups. I can’t remember precisely what it was exactly, just that it was vaguely cheesecakey, fruity and crunchy crumby all at once and tasted to die for!
There were two desserts to choose from, so we had one each. Despite the fact that neither of us is a huge fan of chocolate puds, the little pot of chocalety soufflé with raspberries and framboise ganache went down extremely well, I must say, mostly because it was so frothy that the taste wasn’t too rich or too intense, and the ‘honeymoon’ melon sorbet with lavender, honeycombe and French apricots was as pretty as a picture and completely yummy into the bargain.
The final flourish to this spectacular meal came as a plate of Petit Fours of Turkish delight, chocolate truffles and tiny warm madeleines alongside our coffees.
It’s actually quite hard to describe the gastronomic joy of this outstanding meal, every detail was so lovingly and thoughtfully considered, the flavours so subtle, yet memorable, the service excellent, the ambience charming. Okay, so the bill, predictably, was substantial at £246.38 including service and a very nice bottle of wine, but you know what, when food is this good, it’s worth scrimping and saving for. I’ll be quite happy eating poached eggs on toast for the next few weeks and reminiscing about this thoroughly lovely evening. Thank you, Marianne Lumb, chef extraordinaire, you truly know how to spoil your guests! This was fine dining at its very best!
Marianne is open weekdays for dinner and serves lunch and dinner Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. A Vegetarian Tasting Menu is also available.
Marianne, 104 Chepstow Road, London W2 5QS, Tel.: 020 3675 7750 www.mariannerestaurant.com
What I wore
Monochrome for Marianne: White linen pencil skirt by Bébé with black and white long sleeved, scoop neck chiffon top, also by Bébé, black strappy Manolo Blahnik sandals and black Chanel bag.
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