104 Chepstow Road, London, W2 5QS, United Kingdom

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Editor's note. Shortly after this meal Marianne Lumb announced that she was leaving to work in Asia. Her deputy chef, Miles Strotton, took over from end August 2018 but the restaurant closed soon after. As of June 2019 it is a new restaurant "104", with Richard Wilkins as head chef.

Marianne is a tiny, 14-cover restaurant in Notting Hill, opened in 2013 by chef/owner Marianne Lumb.  Prior to this Marianne was a private chef and also worked at Gravetye Manor. I first ate her food in 2009 when I was a guest critic on the TV series “Masterchef: The Professionals”.  The little dining room has four tables, the service operation led today by sommelier Roberto Della Pietra, a Decanter Awards judge who was cast as the sommelier in “Burnt” with Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller. There is a fixed tasting menu at £75, though they will accommodate reasonable dietary preferences. 

The wine list started at £40 and had labels such as Journey’s End Destination Chardonnay 2016 at £58 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £22, Norman Hardie Unfiltered Chardonnay 2013 at £72 compared to its retail price of £30, and Tezza Amarone Valpantena 2011 at £90 for a wine that will set you back £37 in the high street. For those with deeper pockets, Chateau Pontet-Canet 2010 was £450 compared to its shop price of £235, and Chateau Lafite 2005 was a hefty £1,900 for a bottle whose current market value was £1,055. 

The meal started with some nibbles. “Panisses” are chickpea flour chips served in the south of France, here with Berkswell cheese sauce and topped with Romesco sauce. This was simple and pleasant (13/20). This was followed by a sort of deconstructed bruschetta, with bread and tomato focaccia toasted in the oven with beurre noisette and garlic. This was fine but hard to get excited about (12/20). Bread was made from scratch in the kitchen, rolls of black olive and also onion and had good texture (14/20).

Asparagus from the Wye valley came with terrine of white asparagus from Loire with lovage oil, the asparagus seasoning with a touch of salt. This was good, the asparagus precisely cooked and the terrine having good texture (15/20). Cold ravioli of beetroot was smoked in apple wood with sashimi of Hebridean scallops and parsley. The scallops had good natural sweetness and the ravioli had good texture, the earthiness of the beetroot a good contrast to the sweetness of the scallop (15/20). 

This was followed by confit potatoes in charcoal with pickled onion petals and Windrush Valley goat curd with oscietra caviar from Aquitaine. This worked well, the pickling juices nicely cutting through the charcoal (15/20). The final savoury course was beef fillet from Highland Wagyu in Perthshire, a supplier used by some serious restaurants. The beef came with morels and braised Jacobs Ladder short rib with Jersey Royal potatoes and broad beans. The fillet was good but the short rib was better still, having deeper flavour, and the potatoes and beans were carefully cooked. The morels were quite good and the mash was fine, though I wondered whether the Jersey Royals would be better just boiled in order to show off their flavour (15/20).

For cheese we had Suffolk Brie that was cut and then stuffed with marscapone, topped with shaved truffles from Manjimup near Perth. A pre dessert was a bowl of black cherries with peanut butter ice cream, which was simple but pleasant (13/20). The main dessert was a soufflé of wild strawberries with pink praline topped with little gariguette strawberries. The soufflé was unusual, having a base of rice pudding instead of creme patissiere. This resulted into an unusually wet texture to the soufflé that worked well, the fruit having very good flavour (16/20). Coffee was from Difference, so featured quite serious coffee such as Blue Mountain and Wild Kopi Luwak, albeit at a price.

Service was charming and attentive. I was being taken here by a friend so did not see the bill, but the dinner menu here is £75 (lunch is £48), so realistically with a modest wine a typical cost per head in the evening with coffee and service would be about £105.  This is not cheap, but the cooking has certainly developed since my first visit here, and this was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Further reviews: 14th Sep 2013

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