Orrery, Marylebone, Review

55 Marylebone High Street, London W1U 5RB www.orrery-restaurant.co.uk

OrreryIn the first floor of a converted stable block is an airy French restaurant, Orrery, which overlooks Marylebone Church Gardens. The perfect blend of décor and view takes you somewhere that’s very far from the heart of Marylebone village.

Orrery: A mechanical model of the solar system. Named after Charles Boyle, Fourth Earl of Orrery (1676 – 1731), for whom one was made.

That’s the first thing you will see on the menu but the restaurant isn’t really mechanical at all. Well, except when the windows are open and you can see the orrery though normally the windows on the ceiling and all along the main wall are closed. They do allow plenty of natural light to flow in, providing a sense of the outdoors without any of the bother from insects and the weather. Perfect for lovers of al fresco dining.

The elegant venue is effectively split into two sections, the booths and the tables. The tables reside by the window with lush carpeting underfoot and views to match. The booths offer more privacy with panels intersecting sections of the restaurant. Both are equally well filled at dinner times but I want to say that the booths are more plush and comfortable.

I chose the restaurant because I had read good reviews and it seemed like a suitable venue to discuss psychoanalysis and other private matters. Early diners may find the restaurant a bit library-like. The staff exchange in whispers and with few people around, the guests also find themselves talking in hushed tones.

After 8pm however, things really start to pick up and we stop being conscious of the other guests. Groups of well-heeled guests arrive together, presumably straight from work, and there’s immediately a sense that we media types were a little under-dressed without our suits.

The food was ferried out of the kitchen and down the aisles at top speed but despite the efficiency of the service, we found ourselves waiting on the mains. Having started eating around 7pm with a cheesy amuse-bouche and a luke-warm starter of wild garlic velouté with garlic croutons, I was deep in conversation discussing a certain article I had read in The Times. But around 8.40pm I realised with a sudden pang of hunger that there was still no main in front of me.

Having recommended that we dine at this very well reviewed restaurant, I felt that I had let my friend down with this very extended wait.

“Where are our mains?”, we demanded.

It was hard not to, we were two very hungry people. They offered some gazpacho in the interlude and I felt slightly appeased. After another delay I was yet again agitated. This was not ok and I was beginning to wonder if I am destined to have below-par meals whenever I’m not on a review.

The mains eventually arrived – a hearty roast rump of beef with shallot tart and red wine jus for me and a creamy soft herb risotto with shaved Parmesan for my friend. Both over-salted, both disappointing given the wait. I was once again pained by my recommendation. They offered another interlude and once again I was a little appeased. The conversation moved on to even juicier things that I stopped holding on to this matter of the wait.

The meal ended with an orange panna cotta with blood orange sorbet although the potent smells from the extensive selection of cheeses on the trolley was also filling the room. No coffee was accepted for fear that we would have to wait until the middle of next week.

When the bill finally arrived they were at least kind enough to deduct a portion of the menu for their tardy service. That said, the service charge was still very much there. We debated whether or not to challenge this but decided that actually, the staff were ok. Just the service was bad.

The psychology chat made up for the slightly disappointing dinner. I think. But despite the numerous courses, I was still hungry for both food and intelligent conversation.

Qin Xie

Qin Xie is a London based food, wine and travel journalist and trained chef.

When not infiltrating Michelin restaurants as a kitchen tourist, she writes about food, drink and travel. Her work has appeared on Yahoo, FT, The Times and CNN.

Her first cookbook, co-authored with YS Peng at Hunan Restaurant, is out March 2014.

According to friends, her watch is always set to UTC -- ready for the next big adventure. In reality, she is happiest at the dinner table or by the sea.

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