Monotone May = Culinary indulgence: The Orrery and The Delaunay
The good weather may have reached our shores at last this week in fair-weather Angleterre, but last weekend it was an altogether different picture. One gloomy weekend followed another, as almost 7 weeks after a hose-pipe ban was enforced, we in England were subjected to day upon day of grey rainy autumnal weather. So what can one do to keep happy in such weather? Why, self-indulge, naturally!
As a result of my very rare recourse to hedonism, I visited two superb restaurants in London, both of which deserve the Daily Norm review treatment.
Stop one was Orrery, 55 Marylebone High Street, London, a classy first floor venue situated above the uber-chic Conran Store in Marylebone. I always think that a restaurant with an upstairs location possesses a certain superior exclusivity in the way in which it can go unnoticed so easily, and only those “in the know” get to sample it’s elevated delights. I did already know about the existence of this place, purely because on my frequent visits to Conran (I am interior design obsessed, not that I can afford many of the overblown prices in the place) I could never work out how from the front the shop appeared to have big first floor windows and yet when inside, there were no windows to look through. The secret to this great conundrum lay in a very slim line restaurant, set at the front of the building in a long gallery-like setting, but whose narrow floor-space barely registers owing to the excellent use of mirrors to reflect the large rounded windows which run along one side of the space. Having worked out where the restaurant was, I never in fact went along, that was until I saw it featured on the glitsy docu-soap Made in Chelsea last week. Anything they can do, I can do better, thought I, without anything remotely comparable to the stars of the show padding my wallet. And so it was, that having escaped quickly from Tate Modern on saturday in order to resist the temptations of dining in Tate’s expensive but view-spectacular restaurant, we ended up somewhere even pricer. Whoops.
From the moment we walked into Orrery, we were treated like royalty. The service was exquisite – attentive and brisk, but we did not feel rushed, only well looked after. The menu we went for was the Menu du Jour, which at £25 for three courses didn’t seem bad, especially when the food then came out in a spectacular show-stopping fashion. But let me not rush this. Let us first concentrate on the unctuous fig-imbued bread with creamy home-churned butter, and a delicate amuse bouche of gazpacho – perfectly accompanied by the Catalan wine I had chosen from the wine list with all the bias of my Spain-conditioned heart.
Up the next was the starter. We both went for the seafood raviolo (i.e. just one) surrounded by a frothy seafood bisque and served with a sweet, nutty pile of salad leaves and micro herbs. It was moist, well flavoured, delicate and perfectly seasoned, and the froth reminded of the incoming silky bubbles of a warm mediterranean seashore.
For mains I had the Feuilleté of wild mushroom, poached egg, sauce Hollandaise – it was the vegetarian option which I rarely go for but my goodness I’m glad I did. The puff pastry was golden and caramelised, the mushrooms rich and creamy, and the poached egg broke open to reveal a runny goey egg yolk which was a rich and perfect orange spilling sweetly to provide a silky sauce for the dish. My partner had salmon which, he says, was utterly moist and completely delicious. For dessert we were both unable to resist a chocolate mousse with champagne jelly and hazelnuts. Served in frosted little bowls reminiscent of 60s retro furniture, it was cool as well as classy. Finally before dragging ourselves away, we were given complimentary chocolate truffles which broke open in our mouth to reveal a super sweet but seductively sharp passion fruit syrup. Amazing.
Best of all, I discovered that the astronomers globe instrument I bought in Salamanca is actually called an “Orrery” named after the Earl of Orrery. You see, you learn a new thing every day.
The next day, a long-standing and much anticipated late-luncheon engagement with my delectable chic bride-to-be companion in all things gastronomique, Celia, was on the agenda. We were off to The Delaunay, on the Aldwych, London, a restaurant which describes itself as a Café restaurant in the Grand European Tradition. Grandeur was in fact expected – the restaurant is part of the Wolseley group, known for its old-style grandeur renowned of Paris and Vienna, more than London. And as far as grandeur goes, the Delaunay did not disappoint. As I entered, the place was heaving, veritably full with those who lunch, and those who wish that we could all live in the age when every restaurant was clad in brass and marble with giant wall clocks, wood panelling and snobby waiters just like this one (don’t we all, well, perhaps without the snobs). Luckily my exquisitely turned out lunch companion was a lady in red, guiding my eye across the crowded tables so that we could swiftly commence the important business of choosing wine. Slightly intimidated by the prices, we went for house white, which must have been fine, because we were onto prosecco in no time. The food menu at this time of the day was fairly brunchy, but had sufficient choice for us to be able to indulge in a three course feast which proved highly satisfying, in the Grand European traditional way, naturally.
I started with a young beetroot salad with goat’s curd cheese. The flavour balance was perfect – a creamy cheese, not as heavy as it’s older, firmer counterpart, perfectly partnered by a series of different coloured and textured beetroots. Celia had something deliciously fishy. I can’t exactly remember what it was, but I’ll let her tell you on her superb food blog, Lady Aga. Next up I indulged in a golden crunched chicken schnitzel, which was incontrovertibly bad for my summer beach body attempts, but comforting on a grey May day (that rhymes so well, it must be why May turned out to be such a dire month). Celia won on this course though – her poussin with salsa verde was so moist and delicious and meaty I could have stolen the lot. For dessert I went for a white and dark chocolate mousse (I know, I know, second day running, but a boy knows what he likes) and Celia, undoubtedly feeling the pressure of my “hinted” suggestions whispered under my breath, went for a Sevillan orange sorbet which was like a walk along the sun-dappled paths of the Alcazar all over again.
The Delaunay does well in promoting the traditional grand café, particularly since it only opened recently. You could easily imagine Coco Chanel dropping in on a brief visit to London. And taking tradition seriously, I noted with bemusement that the maître d’ clicked his fingers when he wanted the attention of his waiters. Ouch. Mind you, the attention of the numerous waiters was often found wanting at our table too, which is surely one tradition Coco would not have approved of.
- Conran – Marylebone High St – London (internationalvisual.wordpress.com)