Où est L'orrery?
7th Oct 2011
Thewineremedy's founder James was invited last month to check out the Orrery - a top notch French Restaurant in London.
L'Orrery est très élégant!
And that's the extent of my French. Thankfully, dining at this ostensibly French restaurant, unlike my recent trip to the Loire, doesn't require a good command of French; if it did, I would be, as the French say, dans le merde.
I say ostensibly French because the menu, while obviously Gallic inspired, sparkles with Mediterranean creativity and the wine list is nothing short of superb, showcasing a wide range of wines from all corners of the globe. Even in Paris, you are hard-pressed to find a wine list without a massive local basis. Maybe one or two bottles of Italian red, for charitable purposes!
Top notch, formal but definitely unstuffy, the Orrery offers a daily-changing (and good value) lunch menu or a two/three-course a la carte selection. Talented Chef, Igor Tymchyshyn focuses on precise, imaginative cooking, without the tricksy, over clinical approach of some of his peers. Arriving on Wednesday lunchtime, we were warmly welcomed and seated in the bright, airy dining room.
So, first thing’s first – the décor. Well the elegant, narrow dining room is simply and perhaps sparsely decorated, the main attraction is the large windows and full-length skylight offering great views of, well, Marylebone High Street. Ok, so it's not the Hanging Gardens of Babylon but the Orrery makes up for the slightly clinical nature of its surroundings with an enticing outdoor terrace that has proven a real hit with visitors in the summer; one of the nicer and quieter places to eat al fresco in London.
Unsurprisingly, we said yes when offered a glass of Laurent-Perrier rose to start. There can't be many people on the planet who would say no! Pondering our menu choices, I ordered the pumpkin velouté from the A La Carte section to begin, while my friend Lucy fancied the lunch menu and opted for the Foie Gras parfait Autumn Chutney. Only one choice remained – the wine.
I advise allowing sommelier Shana Dilworth to make the selection; trust me you'll be in safe hands. Undoubtedly, the restaurant's greatest asset, Shana is one of the most approachable and knowledgable professionals I have ever come across. Navigating the lengthy and varied wine list, she suggested two glasses of the Kooyong Pinot Gris from Oz to start.
I have never been convinced by oaked Pinot Gris but this did work, typically Australian in its fruit forward style with very ripe concentration, the oak was nevertheless well integrated and not omnipresent. Impressive length too!
A great match for our delicious starters, Lucy's Foie Gras was in particular a work of art - almost a shame to eat, it really. She confirmed that the rich foie gras was nicely offset by the tangy, slight piquant chutney.
There wasn't, to be honest, one main course that I really wanted. On the contrary, I could have sampled everything, from the line caught Sea bass to the Shoulder of Lamb. ‘Enough messing about,’ Lucy exclaimed and quite rightly so! I finally chose the Braised shoulder of Lamb la Bordelaise, embellished with some pommes puree. Lucy had already decided upon the black truffle risotto.
If the starters were good, then the mains were even better. I cheekily asked to try some of her Risotto, which would have made any Italian chef proud. As my many failed attempts had proven, it is so easy to ruin Risotto but this was perfectly executed – wonderfully creamy and smooth without being at all soupy or heavy. The shaved black truffle was the icing on the cake.
My lamb shoulder gave the kitchen further opportunity to shine; a delicious, rich concoction of flavoursome and texturally divine lamb. I was so enraptured that the sides of pommes puree and vegetables were almost superfluous.
What do you match with a silky Risotto and a rich Lamb Shoulder? 2003 Clos de Nell Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley according to Shana. An initial sniff revealed a whiff of Farmyard, on the palate a strong mineral note undercut the chocolate, plum, blackcurrant and oaky palate. One of the most explosive Cabernet Francs I have ever tried form the Loire.
By this Point Lucy was too full to even contemplate dessert but I greedily devoured the rice-pudding. Yes, rice pudding. Sounds a bit of a ridiculous choice, I know, but it hit the spot. There was no room for the Chocolate Fondant.
The food was pretty faultless, created with plenty of technical skill but never overwrought. If I have to find fault then the atmosphere was a trifle lacking, but then the dining room was hardly full. The Orrery has an air of restrained elegance rather than a buzz typical of say Cecconis in Burlington Arcade. Perhaps this is why it has been somewhat overlooked by ladies for lunch crowd, the day we visited it was mainly suited execs quietly discussing office politics.
Still, when the food is as good as this, who cares? The Orrery is for lovers of brilliantly executed French cuisine, attentive service and extensive wine lists. Shana's prowess and charm adds the magical touch - the perfect place for a long, relaxed lunch. The ethos is good food, not food on the edge of a nervous breakdown!
55 Marlybone High Street
020 7616 8000