Venue says: “Briciole Italian restaurant, a short walk from Marylebone station have lunch before going to football at Wembley, open bank holiday Monday”
This Marylebone offshoot of the fancier West End restaurant Latium is as close to a proper Italian trattoria as you’re likely to find in London. Effusive waiting staff greeted us like long-lost relatives as they ushered us past the deli and café-bar area to the airy, informal dining area of this former pub. A wide-ranging selection of small plates, first-class salumi, cheeses, pastas, grills and other mains drawn from all over Italy made ordering fiendishly difficult. This is rustic Italian cuisine at its most honest and inviting – the real deal in a crowded, often disappointing market.
A lovely 1889 Grade II-listed Victorian-gothic fire brigade building has been rebuilt from the inside out, and now boasts a discreetly gated garden as the entrance. The staff’s aura of professionalism and sincerity hits you immediately: they’re uniformly well drilled and rarely go off-script. Nuno Mendes – formerly of Viajante – is in residence, creating a menu that reflects current trends in top international restaurants.
This wildly popular Lebanese canteen, takeaway and deli is an almost frenetically bustling and bright enterprise, filled with glitzy, colourful designs by Beirut designer Rana Salam. The combination of casual atmosphere, punchy looks and an above-average menu works well, and the place is usually full – although not unbearably so. The best things we tried were the hot dishes: splendid warm, cinnamon-spiked pumpkin kibbeh with yoghurt to dip them in; and excellent chicken with pomegranate syrup, both tart and sweet.
Once one of Marylebone’s best-kept secrets, Dinings now has a reputation larger than its compact, converted-townhouse setting. Whatever your thoughts on the venue itself, the food is indisputably excellent (make sure you’re packing plastic, as costs do mount up). Conceived by Nobu alumni Masaki Sugisaki and Keiji Fuku, it displays plenty of Latin flair along with other innovative flourishes. Nobu-esque curved potato ‘tar-tar’ chips filled with minced fatty tuna, avocado and wasabi/jalapeño sauce offered an inviting taster of the style. With polite, efficient chefs and waiters too, Dinings is a top performer.
The first of the Galvin brothers’ restaurant empire, this polished, much-loved Marylebone bistro is classically French (veloutés, soufflés, purées) with the occasional nod to Italy (risottos, lasagnes, panna cottas). The dining room is an inviting place, with its dark chocolate wood panelling, globe lighting and big bunches of scarlet gladioli. Lunch, ordered from the à la carte and £19.50 prix-fixe menus, was high on comfort and mostly tip-top.
In 2014, the Golden Hind will celebrate 100 years of providing solid fish suppers to the residents of Marylebone – almost as long as the dish has been in existence. It’s therefore no surprise that the kitchen team have their craft well honed. Our haddock was exceptional, with a light, wonderfully grease-free batter. Chips were chunky, less well done than the norm, but crisp and fresh-tasting (if not quite melt-in-the-mouth on the inside). Perfectly seasoned mushy peas were a treat, and provided more than just a splash of colour on the plate.
Another proficient operation from the Cubitt House group – the people who brought us elegant spots such as the Thomas Cubitt and Pantechnicon Rooms in Belgravia, and the Orange Public House in Pimlico. Marble Arch may seem a bit north for them, but this is Portman Village, where their contemporary country house look goes down as smoothly as a glass of champers. Food is mostly British, with plenty of French and Mediterranean influences, though, refreshingly, this is a chorizo-free zone.
There are cheeseboards and then there are La Fromagerie cheeseboards. We’d like to live in a world in which we were only ever served the latter – carefully sourced, themed by nation (with suggested wines to match) and prettily arranged on a wooden slab at the back of a shop filled with wonderful chutneys and handmade French tableware. Our Italian and British selections – best eaten from goat to blue, our waiter helpfully clarified – had not a dud between them.
What it lacks in elbow room and statement design, L’Autre Pied makes up for with precision fine dining – the kind that makes you stop mid-conversation to murmur appreciative ahs and mmms. Andy McFadden’s menu at this bijou version of sister restaurant Pied à Terre conjures up dainty yet intense dishes, at more accessible prices than its grown-up sibling (especially good value are the set menus). A riot of ingredients is packed into every mouthful, so a starter of beetroot risotto brought goat’s cheese, tapioca, ras el hanout and a micro hit of balsamic into the fray.
One of London’s most highly regarded Italian chefs, Giorgio Locatelli was recently seen on BBC2’s Italy Unpacked communicating a deep connection to his country’s food and drink with engaging brio. It shows in the menu here, which ranges voraciously through styles, regions and ingredients (some little known). There’s technique aplenty, but it’s food made to be relished as well as admired. Among the many pasta dishes we’ve enjoyed: lasagnetti with salt cod, anchovies and capers, tagliatelle richly sauced with goat kid and chilli, and gnocchetti with mushroom and generous quantities of black truffle.
Just getting into this cult destination can feel like cause for celebration. Not only is the queue epic, but Meat Liquor employs ‘good cop, bad cop’ strategies to manage it. Inside, it’s dark and violently loud: more hell-raising nightclub than restaurant. The Deep South cooking is gutsy stuff, with the likes of crunchy-coated ‘bingo wings’ served not only with a terrific Louisiana-style hot sauce but an authentic blue cheese dip. There are cheese steaks and dogs, though the real show-stoppers are the burgers, with their firm, bouncy buns and juicy, pink-middled patties.
This serene, elegant Marylebone dining room with bucolic views through arched windows produced a meal that astonished us in every way. The Ukrainian chef Igor Tymchyshyn has achieved the seemingly impossible – a £26 menu du jour of exceptional beauty, glamour and flavour. A starter of lobster bisque with seafood raviolo was pure luxury; chicken liver pâté was served on a raft of toasted Poilâne, heaped with tangy apple chutney and scattered with pea shoots. A main course of salmon was offered – and came – slightly pink, its quotidian flavours transformed by caramelised fennel and butternut squash; beef à la bordelaise was tender and fabulous.
Despite seating just 30 diners at a time, Patty & Bun has – in less than a year – carved out a reputation for serving some of London’s finest burgers. All-day queues are testament to the fact that its amiable bunch of staff have the format spot-on. They don’t mess around with ingredients (British wherever possible), the menu is witty yet not contrived, and they’ve even had the nous to offer takeaways. The signature ‘ari gold’ burger is a generous patty slathered in a winning combination of ketchup and smoky mayo, before being sandwiched in a glazed brioche bun.
The rule of thumb in Chinese restaurants is to look around for diners of Sinaean extraction and be sceptical when you don’t see them. That said, Phoenix Palace’s dinnertime abundance of well-fed, tie-wearing western and south Asian men in late middle-age is an endorsement; they’re the international businessmen used to the Cantonese food served in the upmarket Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong spots that this large restaurant most resembles.
Peter Gordon is on a roll. His funky, relaxed fusion café and restaurant Kopapa has been going great guns, and summer 2013 saw him taking the famous Sugar Club kitchen back to his native New Zealand for a starry hotel launch. None of this has taken the shine off The Providores & Tapa Room, his flagship Marylebone project. On the ground floor is the Tapa Room, a casual, buzzy space heaving with well-dressed locals knocking back top-quality coffees, New Zealand wines and an all-day menu of small plates. Upstairs in the more formal but still intimate Providores restaurant, everything is ratcheted up a notch.
Within a naan’s hurl of Oxford Street, Roti Chai deserved more custom on a midweek lunchtime. Not that the lucky office workers (some Indian, most not) who had discovered it down this little mews street were complaining. The ground-floor ‘street kitchen’, with its utilitarian furniture and canteen vibe, is ideal for a swift midday feed – and the alert young multinational staff keep things pacy.
The ‘club’ in the name makes RCC sound like a members-only section of the Royal China Group, which isn’t far from the truth. This, the premier link in the chain, has an air of quiet elegance found in five-star hotels, right down to the faint tinkling of a piano. The kitchen turns out consummate Cantonese cooking, using prized ingredients (abalone, lobster, veal) at every opportunity. At lunchtime, dim sum includes the signature cheung fun, which here comes filled with velvety dover sole and smooth pieces of scallop – all sitting in a puddle of sweet, smoky sauce.
This sophisticated Modern European restaurant is fronted by Icelander Aggi Sverrisson, former head chef at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir. It’s popular with smart corporate groups on elastic expense accounts. The dining area, sited in a spacious Georgian room, is furnished in neutral colours, enlivened by pastel-green leather upholstery, modern art and striking floral arrangements. A light-filled bar sets the scene with an exhaustive champagne selection. Clean-cut flavours characterise the menu.
This contemporary-looking eaterie is smart and quietly conservative, its dining room barely distinguishable from those of its Marylebone neighbours save for the retro Air India prints on the walls. The Mumbai original is known for its focus on seafood, but here equal prominence is given to meat and vegetarian dishes. An Indian twist on a British classic, Trishna fish and chips was let down by under-seasoned fish, but a main-course sized starter of a typical Indian snack, aloo chat (a sweet and sour blend of potato, chickpeas, tamarind, yoghurt, shallots and chilli), was the best dish by far.
This is deconstructed, small-plates Argentinian cooking, and it works – with flavours as good as these, you want as many different mouthfuls as you can get. A miniature steak (softened up with the sous vide treatment then blasted on the grill) was flawless, the flavour like undiluted beef cordial. But the full choirs came out for the sous vide-cooked octopus (with ‘tuna mayo’, no less) and again for some sweetbreads, which were so delicate it seemed cruel to bite into them. But we did, and how sweetly they submitted.
Tay Do Restaurant
The guys behind this Kingsland Road Vietnamese restaurant must be doing something right - they've got another venue (Tay Do Café) just down the road. As with most of the Pho Mile spots the focus is firmly on the food - we're miles away from fine dining frippery. There's certainly plenty of choice here. Dishes range from summer rolls, char-grilled lamb cutlets in chilli and lemongrass to green papaya salads, sour soup with mekong catfish, spicy frog's legs, pho noodle soups and deep fried sea bream with salt, lemongrass and chilli. It's unlicensed but diners are welcome to bring their own bottles, with a corkage charge of £1 per person. Soft options include fresh juices, homemade lemonade, green tea and Vietnamese coffee.