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104 Chepstow Road
MARIANNE CLOSED PERMANENTLY IN SEPTEMBER 2018.
A “small yet beautiful” restaurant serving exquisitely polite dinner-party food may be of minority interest these days, but Marianne Lumb (MasterChef finalist and erstwhile private chef) has carved a definite niche in Notting Hill. Her cool eau de nil and pink dining room is “like being in someone’s house – cosy and welcoming”, while the cooking is ambitious and skilful, with the bonus of a well-priced set lunch. Lumb’s talents shine brightest in her seasonal tasting menus, which are backed by thoughtful wine pairings: try white asparagus with sorrel and ransoms, linguine with spring truffles, slices of scallop poached in Thai-spiced broth, or Wagyu fillet paired with silky pomme purée and morels. Other beautifully presented dishes include Atlantic turbot with rainbow chard and girolles, while desserts range from a splendid chocolate soufflé with raspberries to ice cream made with Brillat-Savarin cheese and butterscotch sauce. “Worth every penny…we’ll be returning”, concluded one couple.
The best London restaurants for anniversaries
London's most romantic restaurants
London's Hot 100 Restaurants
SquareMeal 3 Stars
Best in Notting Hill
104 Chepstow Road
Westbourne Park Tube Station 396m
Royal Oak Tube Station 463m
Westbourne Gardens 430m
Portobello Road 715m
Tues-Sun 6-11.30pm (Fri-Sun 12N-3pm)
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 5
A Tenth Wedding Anniversary is a significant event and so choosing a restaurant in which to celebrate is no trivial matter (especially for an amateur food critic). Nonetheless, after little consideration, my comrade and I elected Marianne. This was the third time we have visited it – and we have never been disappointed yet. Arguably, it is the best place to go for an intimate fine dining experience in London. The only (good) problem is that the restaurant seats only 14. Dare I sing its praises too much, and it may become increasingly hard to get a table here in the future! Small is beautiful at Marianne. There is a sense of intimacy and personal touch here that it is a struggle to find in other restaurants. The eponymous Marianne (a former MasterChef winner) serves only a tasting menu, drawing on classic European influences and utilising predominantly seasonal ingredients. Both my vegetarian comrade and I were highly satisfied with our menus and accompanying wines, which were superbly paired. The amuse bouche – a tiny espresso cup of deeply flavoursome pumpkin soup with fresh cubes of said vegetable – set the tone for the rest of the evening. The highlight for me was my pheasant main (served wonderfully pink), accompanied by cavolo nero, pear and Sichuan spices. The pairing of this with a Montsant red was inspired. Throughout, presentation was excellent. The stand-out piece worthy of mention here was the cured trout, pickled kohlrabi and citrus dish which preceded the pheasant. Vibrantly hued orange and white slices of the two principal ingredients were displayed artistically on a glass dish suspended over a plate – culinary art at its best. Cheese and dessert too were superlative and the petit fours accompanied with anniversary greetings traced in chocolate were a lovely touch on which to conclude. Full marks!
Food + drink: 3
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.
Westbourne Park (or, if you’re generous, the borders of Notting Hill) is perhaps not the most obvious location for many Londoners ever to consider visiting. But for those in search of fine dining experiences, make no doubt, there are some very exciting things happening here. Beyond the ever-sublime Ledbury, just five streets away lies Marianne, a small yet beautiful restaurant. And by small, I mean really small. There are just 14 covers here and this makes for an exceptionally intimate experience. In some ways, being at Marianne is akin to being in someone’s house, cosy and welcoming. Indeed, with cooking this good, one would never even need to leave home. Our senses were assailed on the moment of entering by a lovely sensation of truffles and this ingredient proved pervasive throughout our meal. On being seated, we were given some truffled popcorn – simple yet effective and remarkably flavoursome – with our pre-dinner glass of champagne. My comrade and I opted for the tasting menu and it was a delight to see not only a broad range of culinary options deployed, but also that vegetarians were in no sense treated here as second-class citizens (good news for my comrade). Indeed, a quick survey of the restaurant’s website shows the vegetarian menu listed here before the omnivorous one. We both began our meals with home-made linguine with (more) truffles. The melt-in-your-mouth taste sensation was close to perfection and set the bar high for the rest of the meal. Fortunately, it was comfortably met and the eponymous Marianne (who also made the welcome effort to come out and chat with all the diners) showed her clear dexterity with fish, game, vegetables and desserts. We noted too that the dishes were just about the right size: enough to enjoy experience, but not so much that the subsequent ones could also not be enjoyed. Being continually sated and also excited about what next was to come is a rare but welcome combination. To finish with the plaudits, it is worth adding that the paired wines were also interesting, with good geographic diversity, and presented with genuine enthusiasm. We left incredibly pleased (notwithstanding the somewhat lighter wallet – but it was worth every penny) and will be returning.
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