05 January 2018
Marianne has received many accolades recently and so we approached our meal with great expectations and the hope that this would be another restaurant to add to our list of places to return to. Did it measure up? Well, first of all we were quite taken aback by the intimate size of the dining room even though we knew there only 14 covers, and for us that number seemed to be stretching it, and even smaller was the kitchen, which was more like a cubby hole with a couple of ovens and hot plates, requiring the chefs (one of whom had previously worked at the three-star Hertog Jan in Bruges) to move round each other in a well-rehearsed pattern if anything meaningful was to be produced on time for service and is clearly the reason for there being no alternative to the set menu. It also meant that a minimum of front-of-house staff was necessary. Something else that we found unusual was a practice that more restaurants should think about following - if you add the amuse-bouche and the pre-dessert to the menu dishes, the advertised 6-course menu could actually be claimed to be 8 courses, which would actually make the price setting more realistic. A trio of canapés, truffle popcorn, creamy vegetable soup and chickpea paneer preceded a sort of pre-amuse-bouche in the form of what was announced to us as white fish brandade, a dish which would normally be cod but my wife thought that it might be something else. The amuse-bouche proper was a combination of sticky candied pecans and parsnip foam with slightly tart apple and provided a perfect demonstration of the balance of flavour and texture that chef is very keen on and which marked out most of the remaining dishes; it was again demonstrated admirably by a dish of Cerney Ash cheese, tomato gelée, sharpish turnip, a touch of lemon sorrel and lovely French smoked eel. Braised artichoke and artichoke crisps followed in a bagna cauda which could have done with more anchovy but was enhanced by a sprinkling of hazelnuts. Lobster is always a favourite with us, and the olive oil poached native lobster, served cool, with carrot discs and purée went down very well, but the dish of the evening was the tender, tasty Gloucestershire muntjac perched on perfect cavolo nero along with pear purée and sichuan spice. We were less than impressed though with the cheese course, an unconvincing Suffolk “brie” with black truffle, and the pre-dessert, medlar and persimmon mousse with pomegranate seeds did not really cleanse the palate. Happily the chocolate soufflé, quince sorbet and crème de cassis ganache came up trumps, and the petits fours were fine. Areas where things could have been better - even the less expensive wine flight did not represent good value, there was a minimum of interaction with the waiting staff (although this was far from the case when we met the chefs in the kitchen), and the lack of buzz in such an intimate space was surprising. Unfortunately the wow factor was largely lacking, so our hopes were not realised.