Some restaurants in London have been running successfully for years yet are entirely off the media radar, and seem invisible to food bloggers. One such is Odin’s, sister to the more famous Langan’s Brasserie. Odin’s is a 60-seat restaurant in a fairly quiet Marylebone street, serving traditional food. It is noted for its art collection at least as much as its food. The paintings were collected by the restaurant’s former owner Peter Langan, who purchased Odin’s in 1967 after marrying the previous owner’s daughter. Langan was a colourful character, an alcoholic with a keen eye for art, who commissioned paintings in returned for restaurant hospitality, and amassed a noted collection. In the 1960s he lived in a Marylebone flat in a building housing four young artists including David Hockney and Patrick Procktor, who co-designed the original restaurant menu. Over two hundred of the paintings (including some by Hockney and Procktor) were sold at a Christies auction in December 2012, raising over two million pounds, more than double the anticipated value. Langan himself died at the age of 47 in 1988 after a fire at his home, seemingly started by himself.
Odin’s dining room is tasteful, with ochre walls, properly spaced tables and white linen tablecloths, murky lighting and a wooden floor but no pesky music playing. Paintings and prints pack the walls, and although most of the more famous pieces have been sold off there were still a couple of original David Hockney pieces. The menu was firmly in traditional territory, with dishes such as omelette Arnold Bennet and medallions of beef with peppercorn sauce. The French head chef is Yoann Chevet, who has previously worked at Galvin at Windows (as sous chef) and also at Aubaine and at Helene Darroze at The Connaught.
The winelist was printed on the back of the menu, with 66 wines, mostly French, ranging in price from £21 to £200. Examples included Rene Mure Gewurztraminer Signature 2011 at £37 for a wine that you can find in a shop for around £14, Rioja Reserva Finca Valpiedra 2006 at £65 for a wine that retails at £24, and Antinori Tignanello 2008 at £150 for a wine that will set you back £65 in a shop.
Bread was served warm, a solitary choice of white rolls bought in from Boulangerie de Paris, who make excellent bread (4/10). A starter of crab on toast (£8) had crab mixed in with cheese, a comforting and enjoyable dish but whose toast had become rather soggy (2/10). Farcies au quinois (£6) had little peppers stuffed with tomatoes, aubergine and quinoa, the latter providing a pleasant texture balance; a simple dish, but the peppers were tender and the quinoa grains worked well with the peppers (3/10). Main courses were better: Dover sole meuniere (£28) was carefully cooked, simply presented with its brown butter, the fish having good flavour (4/10). Coquelet au citron (£14.50) had tender baby chicken, the lemon flavour adding some freshness but not being too dominant (4/10). On the side gratin dauphoinoise (£3) had good potatoes, a nice cheesy gratin topping and bold seasoning (4/10), whilst French beans (£3.50) were carefully cooked (14/20).
Desserts were not quite as successful. Tarte tatin had potential to be very good, the apples nicely caramelised, but the pastry was a touch hard and the dish suffered from its rapid re-heating, the dish appearing with remarkable rapidity once ordered (13/20). This was still better than a chocolate pot with good quality chocolate but a slightly grainy texture (11/20).
Service was friendly but not particularly well drilled e.g. waiters didn’t know who had ordered what dish, a simple enough skill that staff at some basic high street chains manage. Getting the attention of waiters was also trickier than it should have been. The bill came to £85 a head, with a £60 bottle of wine and Evian at a chunky £4.50 a bottle. If you ordered a basic wine then you could eat for around £65 a head. Objectively this is quite a lot of money for the level of food delivered, though the place has a certain charm that clearly appeals to its regulars. It is certainly a London restaurant with some interesting history.