Deputy editor Miranda McMinn tries out a romantic new venue in London's Marylebone.
I wandered to meet my husband for date night at The Cavendish bar and restaurant through the romantic streets of Marylebone. All street lamps reflecting off rain-stained pavements, it’s one of my favourite parts of London – these days it’s the home to A-list film stars and musicians and it’s glamorous and super posh but in a pleasingly understated way.
This is reflected in The Cavendish itself. It was a Friday night and the fairy lights threaded through bunched twigs outside twinkled flatteringly on the upscale after-work crowd spilling out onto the pavements. Inside in the downstairs bar a lively but stylish clientele shouted over the DJ’s cool offerings in the intimate space, lined with the elegant zinc bar on one side and exposed brickwork on the other.
Upstairs in the small restaurant a couple of low leather booths sit between the tables and huge orchids nod overhead. The design is billed as smart 1940’s gentleman’s style (coming from the designers of Tom’s Kitchen, The Botanist, and Copita) and it’s pleasantly masculine without the theme being overdone. The music from downstairs is pretty noisy but part of the informal atmosphere and I didn’t find it intrusive (the DJ is there Wednesday to Saturday).
The arrival of the food, however, signals there is something more at work than a room above a pub – however smart. The chef, Alfonso Lillo Fas, was trained at the world famous El Bulli and this is fine dining. The menu has a “Raw Bar” section featuring oysters, ceviche, tartare and caviare. Overall it’s modern European with a mainly Italian feel and a nod to Spain.
I had the Mix of Ceviche, including delicately flavoured langoustines, sea bass and scallops. My husband went for the Scallops with Cauliflour Puree and remarked not just on the hint of vanilla but how pleased he was that there was more than one (it has been known) so that as well as being a gastronomic experience it was also real food.
We moved on to the Secreto (Iberian Pork Shoulder) – it is the chef’s signature dish and renders the cliche “melt in the mouth” a reality. Ben had the Vongole Linguine alla Bottarga, which was prepared in front of us with the clams being theatrically flambéed by the head waiter on a trolley. (Tableside cooking is a feature, with other items on the menu including homemade steak tartare, crepes Suzette, and hand carved Spanish meats.)
The drama upped a notch at this point with a live singer wandering between the tables singing Nina Simone numbers which was a first for me but added to the experience. As we downed our desserts – a fragrant pineapple ravioli and a perfect Crema Catalana we concluded that this place works as a destination experience. It was more than just dinner – it was a date.