The restaurant was rebranded simply as “Marcus” in 2014 along with a minor refurbishment. The aim was apparently for a slightly less formal ambience than previously, though the wood panelling and impeccably ironed white tablecloths do not obviously conjure up an entirely relaxed image. It was actually a little hard to tell anyhow because of the remarkably subdued lighting, which required the useful iPhone Maglight app just to provide enough light to read the menu. I am not sure if this is the darkest dining room in London, but it must be a candidate. The interior designer doubtless thinks the result is romantic, but when you need the eyesight of a bird of a prey to read the wine list then things have gone too far. Of more interest to me was a revamped menu. Three courses were priced at £85, four courses at £95, a potato side dish at a heady £10.
On the wine front, the lovely J.J. Prum Kabinett 2011 was £50 for a label that you can find in the high street for £17, Domaine Josmeyer Brand Riesling 2009 was £120 for a bottle that retails at about £48, and William Downie Gippsland Pinot Noir 2010 was £130 for a wine that will set you back £48 in a shop. There were some pricing traps for the unwary in the list, such as the Haut Brion 2005 at a surreal £2,450 for a bottle that you can find easily enough for £506 retail, but most of the mark-ups were tolerable enough given the Knightsbridge location. I even saw a wine at a mere £35, a Roussette de Savoie Domaine Lupin “Frangy” 2011 that costs £14 at a local off licence.
Little rolls of cheese and tapioca bread were presented at the start of the meal, and very good they were too: served warm, soft and with lots of comforting cheese flavor (17/20). A little prawn cracker came with a delicate hint of spice, and both this and a hot cracker with goat curd and shallot were impressively delicate nibbles (easily 17/20). Bread tonight was fennel and potato bread, which had good crust and excellent texture (17/20).
A final amuse-bouche was agnolotti pasta, pumpkin, pumpkin velouté and artichoke crisps with white truffle. This was superb, the pasta excellent and the sweetness of the pumpkin nicely balanced by the earthy flavor of the artichokes, the white truffle lifting the dish (easily 18/20).
Langoustine and salmon with buttermilk and lime was a cold starter that had excellent shellfish, the citrus dressing bringing a pleasant freshness to the dish (17/20).
A risotto of widgeon with black truffles was lovely, the chicken stock used for the rice being of high quality, the duck cooked pink and having very good flavour, the truffles adding an element of luxury (18/20).
Fillet of turbot came with Dorset snails, shallot and gnocchi. The fish was excellent, the gnocchi delicate and the snails were an interesting dish element that worked well (17/20).
Scallops with cauliflower purée and pickled cucumber was fine, but not quite in the league of the previous dishes. The scallops were fine but I have tasted higher quality ones elsewhere, though the purée worked well and the vinegar of the pickled cucumber gave a nice balance to the dish (16/20).
Venison with chestnuts and black pudding had very good deer that was cooked pink. This was a potentially heavy dish that fortunately had some Muscat grapes to cut through the richness of the rest of the dish (17/20).
A dessert of tropical fruit featured pineapple and coconut paired with pain perdu. This was a refreshing dish, the French toast an interesting pairing with the acidity of the fruit (17/20). Lemon meringue with iced tea had a tuile layer on top, the quantity of lemon nicely judged and the tea flavour mercifully subtle (17/20). Coffee was excellent.
Service was superb, with topping up unobtrusive, the staff friendly and attentive. The bill, with a simple but enjoyable German Riesling, came to £144 a head. If you went for three courses and shared a modest bottle of wine that a realistic bill would be about £130 a head. The revamped Marcus menu has less complexity than I recall from previous visits, and this is a good thing. Dishes with too many elements are tricky for the kitchen and can easily result in confused flavours. The simpler style of the new menu is a positive as far as I was concerned, with dishes such as the agnolotti pasta nibble particularly impressive. Overall this was a very assured meal from a kitchen that is operating at a high level.
Further reviews: 12th Sep 2011