James Lawrence may have discovered the finest French cuisine outside of France at London’s, Orrery
Orrery is simultaneously one of London’s leading French restaurants and a venue that forcefully cuts its ties with our neighbours across the channel. Yes, quite a few of the staff are French, but 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 unstuffy, the Orrery offers a ever-changing (and good value) lunch/dinner set menu or a two/three-course à la carte selection in the evening. Talented Chef Igor Tymchyshyn, has been there for years, maintaining his focus on precise, imaginative cooking, without the tricks-y, over clinical approach of some of his peers. Arriving on a Sunday evening (there’s a separate menu for Sundays too) we were warmly welcomed and seated in the bright, airy dining room, after which menus appeared on cue in conjunction with that most pleasing of questions – what would you like to drink?
But first thing’s first – the décor. 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. Yet 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.
A glass of superlative Blanc de Blancs Champagne begins the proceedings on a high note, all brioche, hazelnuts and citrus. Our starters soon arrive – salmon ceviche and truffle and wild mushroom risotto. The art of producing a great risotto continues to allude me, but clearly chef Igor is a master of his craft. It was textbook – silky smooth and wonderfully creamy without being at all soupy or heavy.
Meanwhile, my companion’s ceviche was almost work of art; “a shame to eat it really,” he comments, paired with a coconut, radish and lime dressing. I snatch a morsel before he devoured it – tangy, piquant and the perfect foil for my glass of Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc.
Kentish rump of lamb and Dorset sea bass followed, embellished with some pommes puree and green vegetables. And if the starters were good, then the mains were even better. The contrast between the white flesh of the sea bass fillet and the herb crust coating its surface was exquisite; crunchy, firm, textured and yet delicate in one moreish mouthful. Truly, this was flawless cooking.
My companion’s lamb rump gave the kitchen further opportunity to shine; a delicious, rich concoction of flavoursome and texturally divine lamb. He appeared to be so enraptured that the sides of pommes puree and vegetables were almost superfluous.
We skipped dessert, instead preferring to sample the extensive cheese trolley. “What an unexpected find,” he muttered, finishing his Camembert and I could not agree more – Marylebone High Street was not my first choice to go looking for high-end French cooking, imbued with a Mediterranean panache. Yet our meal was practically faultless, created with plenty of technical skill but never overwrought. If pushed to find a fault I would say 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.
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. The ethos is great food, not food on the edge of a nervous breakdown.
55 Marlybone High Street
020 7616 8000