Marianne: Small yet beautiful (January 2016)

Westbourne Park (or, if you’re generous, the borders of Notting Hill) is perhaps not the most obvious location for many Londoners ever to consider visiting. But for those in search of fine dining experiences, make no doubt, there are some very exciting things happening here. Beyond the ever-sublime Ledbury, just five streets away lies Marianne, a small yet beautiful restaurant. And by small, I mean really small. There are just 14 covers here and this makes for an exceptionally intimate experience. In some ways, being at Marianne is akin to being in someone’s house, cosy and welcoming. Indeed, with cooking this good, one would never even need to leave home. Our senses were assailed on the moment of entering by a lovely sensation of truffles and this ingredient proved pervasive throughout our meal. On being seated, we were given some truffled popcorn – simple yet effective and remarkably flavoursome – with our pre-dinner glass of champagne. My comrade and I opted for the tasting menu and it was a delight to see not only a broad range of culinary options deployed, but also that vegetarians were in no sense treated here as second-class citizens (good news for my comrade). Indeed, a quick survey of the restaurant’s website shows the vegetarian menu listed here before the omnivorous one. We both began our meals with home-made linguine with (more) truffles. The melt-in-your-mouth taste sensation was close to perfection and set the bar high for the rest of the meal. Fortunately, it was comfortably met and the eponymous Marianne (who also made the welcome effort to come out and chat with all the diners) showed her clear dexterity with fish, game, vegetables and desserts. We noted too that the dishes were just about the right size: enough to enjoy experience, but not so much that the subsequent ones could also not be enjoyed. Being continually sated and also excited about what next was to come is a rare but welcome combination. To finish with the plaudits, it is worth adding that the paired wines were also interesting, with good geographic diversity, and presented with genuine enthusiasm. We left incredibly pleased (notwithstanding the somewhat lighter wallet – but it was worth every penny) and will be returning.