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db Eats: 108 Marylebone Lane

Ever since Iceland started punching above its weight and grounding aeroplanes, locally sourced food has became more of a restaurant practicality than a trend.

For Londoners, the idea of eating products from the immediate vicinity conjures up unappetising images of pigeon pie or fox tail soup.

A few restaurants in recent years, such as Konstam at the Prince Albert, have made a concerted effort to hunt down quality suppliers within the bounds of the M25.

Another, perhaps more workable and equally worthy alternative is to adapt this local mantra to the secondary tier of the supply chain. After all, supporting your neighbourhood butcher, baker and fishmonger against the onslaught of the supermarkets offers a more immediately tangible benefit than knowing the name of the cow you’re about to enjoy.

When your neighbourhood is the villagey environs of Marylebone, home to top notch suppliers such as The Ginger Pig, La Fromagerie, Biggle Sausages and Rococo Chocolates, the local approach is not so much a question of ethics as plain common sense.

Since Norman Farquharson took over as executive chef at 108 Marylebone Lane a few months ago, he has given the menu a thorough spring clean to take advantage of the ingredients on his doorstep.

Located within The Marylebone Hotel, this brasserie manages to take you a world away from the perils of Oxford Street, despite being just five minutes walk from the nation’s high street.

Dining in a hotel always has a slightly different feel, not usually in a good way either. Our expectations dropped a step lower when all the waiter could tell us about the wines was that we could have something red, white or pink, possibly originating from Argentina or Chile and maybe a Chardonnay.

The bottle of Errazuriz which subsequently appeared was as unexpected and welcome as Paul Collingwood turning up as a last minute sub for a village cricket match.

More important than the shortcomings front of house, the kitchen was clearly on the ball and aiming high. Our starters included a light but flavourful carrot and ginger soup, with plenty of palate-lifting emphasis on the ginger, and a salad of roast pumpkin all but buried under a towering mound of parmesan, balsamic and rocket.

Next up came a piece of bream on a generous bed of risotto, more roast squash and mushrooms. Both risotto and bream stopped just nicely short of the over-done mark, while maximum flavour had been coaxed out of the mushrooms and squash.

I tried to reach over and steal a bite of the guinea fowl and red cabbage from the plate across the table, but was too late, which can only be a good sign.

By this point, we were certainly no longer hungry, but there was still some wine to polish off so it made sense to test drive the pudding list.

Perhaps opting for the plum, apple and hazlenut crumble with ice cream was rather an excessive choice in the circumstances, but delicious nonetheless. My rather more sensible friend managed to polish off a slightly lighter option of pear in spiced red wine with roasted figs and an indulgent dollop of cinnamon marscapone.

By the time we rolled gently towards the door just after 10pm, the restaurant had filled up and was buzzing nicely. Don’t panic about the wine list – I managed to track down a copy and it’s a safe but satisfying collection dominated by some of the more respectable brands on the market.

Think Louis Jadot, Kleine Zalze, and offerings from the top end of the Nobilo and Ravenswood portfolios. If you find yourself in this part of town, 108 Marylebone Lane is a reliable bet for an informal, thoroughly satisfying meal, backed up by conscience-warming, volcano-proof ingredients.

108 Marylebone Lane,
Tel: +44 (0)207 969 3900


Gabriel Savage, 27.04.2010

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