Canvassing opinion in Marylebone

Saturday, February 08th , 2014

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Canvas (pictured) is the first London venture by Michael Riemenschneider, a chef who gained a Michelin star at the Abbey in Cornwall in 2007 and has since moved around quite a bit. The Marylebone 20 seater has a “make your own tasting menu” format where you choose how many dishes you want from an array of options. The cooking is quite complex, with many elements on the plate, but in general the flavour combinations worked and the cooking was technically fine. The quite high price point, with an unusually structured wine list that starts at £44 and moves quickly upwards, will be the main challenge that the restaurant will face, though it was already full on a mid-week lunch when I visited.

Sixty One was an unexpected surprise, a hotel dining experience (at the Montcalm Hotel) at a quite modest price and with surprisingly capable cooking in such a setting. A vegetarian main course and a precisely cooked lemon and meringue pie were highlights of an enjoyable meal. So many hotel dining rooms seem to be afterthoughts, cooking for a captive audience, but my meal here was very good indeed.

The Brackenbury, between Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush, was a regular haunt of mine before it closed a few years ago and became a Filipino restaurant. Now it has been re-launched as a neighbourhood restaurant cooking a mix of Italian and British dishes. It has a brighter room but over two meals here the cooking was erratic, with some rather unusual flavour combinations in some dishes that didn’t work for me. The owner is very charming but I feel that this has quite a lot of work to do before it achieves the level of cooking of the old Brackenbury.

The Royal China in Queensway is a favourite of mine, and despite its considerable size is very consistent in its cooking. This week I tried a dish of scallops stuffed with minced prawns and then fried, which was very enjoyable. Gai lan with garlic was as delicately cooked as ever, and the old stalwart dish of prawns with cashew nuts was very good. People do not come here for cuddly service, but the food here is excellent value.

On the subject of canvasses, for London foodies who are also interested in art, there is a show called "Food 4 Art" on the 28th Feb to 2nd March at Olympia. it will include cooking from, on successive days, Florence Knight (Polpetto), Rainer Becker (Zuma), Jason Atherton (Pollen St Social) and Richard Corrigan (Corrigan's). To book see the site.

In other news, chef Nuno Mendes finally confirmed a rumour that has been flying around for months, that he is to leave Viajante, which seemingly may close. Mr Mendes is to head up the kitchen at Chiltern Firehouse, a new venture in Marylebone opening shortly.