Call it the Will Young effect, but reality show runners-up always seem more memorable than the actual winners (just look at One Direction, still clobbering poor old Matt Cardle in the charts). So when Marianne Lumb failed to take the crown of the 2009 series of ‘MasterChef: The Professionals’, it didn’t matter – her genial personality and beautiful cooking had already imprinted itself on viewers’ minds.
Fast-forward four years and she’s got a place of her own, in a quiet spot off Westbourne Grove. Given its diminutive size (only 14 covers), and her background in private cheffing, it’s easy to imagine it as a posh supper club.
But really, it’s a micro-restaurant, complete with a maître d’/sommelier, a limited but thoughtful wine collection and one extremely nice loo. As for the kitchen, Lumb and a single sous chef can be spied through a long, horizontal slot that lets you watch their nimble hands, but rarely their faces. Despite having her name above the door, on our visit Marianne resisted the urge to come out and gladhand the room into declaring her cooking wonderful. Which is a pity, because it was. Wonderful.
Classical, fine-dining fare with a light feminine touch: from burrata and saffron tortellini in a delicate, restrained vegetable consommé (poured at the table), to intense (but not gamey) roasted grouse offset by tiny, perfectly cooked puy lentils and a plummy jus. A tarte tatin, its pastry chewy and caramelised to just the right side of burnt, was one of the best we’ve had in London. The menu plays it very safe, but as anyone who has ever been to special-occasion neighbourhood stalwarts such as Chez Bruce or La Trompette will tell you, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.