Marylebone High Street is one of those areas of London that feels a world away from the usual capital city hustle and bustle. With its chi-chi shops and village-y atmosphere, it’s a lovely place to while away a couple of hours on a sunny weekend. And so it needs its fair share of lovely lunch venues to tempt the well-heeled wanderers. Today’s destination was Orrery, a smart, French establishment that forms part of D&D’s London empire and offers a set lunch menu that’s keenly priced compared to its à la carte dinner fare. Settled at our table by a friendly receptionist, my dining partner and I took in our surroundings. Orrery is an upstairs restaurant; its large semi-circular windows and ceiling skylights flood the long dining room with light, while the white walls and pale wood furnishings give the place a delightfully airy feel. There is no background music, so the soundtrack to our meal was the quiet clink of cutlery on china plates, and the murmur of our own and other diners’ conversations.
To whet our appetites, we were offered an amuse bouche to begin – a smooth celeriac puree sprinkled with dainty choux pastry balls, dusted with tiny flakes of salty pancetta and dressed with a sprig of peppery watercress. This was a nice touch, though for my vegetarian dining partner the omission of the pancetta meant that it lacked depth of flavour. We also enjoyed Orrery’s freshly baked breads – focaccia for my dining partner, and sundried tomato bread for me – served with a silver dish of wonderfully light whipped butter.
To start, I went for the Buffalo Mozzarella, Poached Pear and Truffle Honey, which was a plateful of pure delight. The mozzarella was soft, creamy, ever so slightly salty, the precise cubes of poached pear a perfect complement. The truffle honey added sweetness but with satisfyingly rich, nutty, overtones, and the addition of a generous turn of freshly ground black pepper brought just a hint of heat to the dish. The accompanying melba toasts were golden and crisp, and a brilliant textural contrast. My dining partner began with the Gazpacho. Served slightly showily, the bold red soup poured over the garnish at the table by our waiter, this was a beautiful bowl, simply bursting with colour and flavour. Slightly more tomato-y than your typical gazpacho, it was smooth textured and light, and very well-received.
Moving on to main course, my dining partner chose the only vegetarian option on the set lunch menu – Potato Ravioli, Butter Emulsion, Summer Truffle. I must admit, I had doubted the wisdom of serving potato inside pasta, but on tasting a forkful I was converted. Sumptuously smooth, subtly seasoned potato enveloped in a perilously thin pasta casing and bathed in luxuriant buttery sauce, topped with earthy slivers of shaved truffle, this was a deliciously decadent dish. My own main course of Poached Salmon, Polenta, Pancetta, Pea Velouté, was equally delightful. When I placed my order, our waiter informed me that the salmon was served “slightly pink”, which seemed somewhat incongruous, given salmon’s usual colour. Of course, what he meant was that it was served slightly rare, which might concern some diners but for me was a positive boon. The supremely succulent salmon was accompanied by an excellent polenta – pan fried to hold its shape but with a marvellously creamy texture, a handful of garden peas simply bursting with sweetness, two vibrant asparagus spears, and a slice of smoky pancetta, all perched on a perfect pool of velvety pea velouté.
The one slight disappointment of the meal was dessert. Both of us opted for Gariguette Strawberries, Meringue, Strawberry Sorbet. The dish looked beautiful, and tasted very pleasant – the strawberries were perfectly ripe, the miniature meringues well-executed, the sorbet intensely flavourful – but it just didn’t wow us the way the other courses had. Orrery quickly redeemed itself, however, with the generous plate of petit fours we received, despite not having ordered coffee or tea. A wafer thin curled biscuit liberally topped with black and white sesame seeds was light and crisp, the sesame flavour a pleasure for me but not so much to my dining partner’s taste. A dark chocolate square was filled with a thick, sticky something we couldn’t quite identify – tasting slightly like bitter nougat, but delicious nonetheless. A nut-dusted sphere of milk chocolate contained another unidentifiable but excellent caramel-y substance. But the best of the bunch was a brilliant white chocolate sphere, filled with a lemon curd that was perfectly pitched between sweetness and tartness, and enrobed in delicate desiccated coconut.
Orrery’s wine list is long, varied and slightly intimidating, but the relatively narrow selection of wines by the glass or carafe makes it easy to choose if you’re not after a full bottle. My dining partner and I shared a carafe (slightly oddly sized at 365ml) of 2013 Minervois rosé from Domaine de Babio. Priced at a wince-inducing £18.50 (i.e. £9.25 per medium sized glass), it was a wonderfully light, fruity rosé with a clean finish, and it went down very well with the refined, French food. Service throughout our meal was smooth and attentive without being overbearing, and still retained a personal touch. So often in this sort of restaurant, professionalism is ensured by sacrificing personality, but the waiters here weren’t afraid to inject a little humour – on clearing away our starter plates, our waiter asked if we had enjoyed the dishes, then quipped that he knew the answer already, since we had left nothing behind. My initial reaction on seeing the bill, which came in at just over £44 per head including service, was a sharp intake of breath: that’s quite a price to pay for a lunch. On reflection though, it doesn’t seem bad value for what was a thoroughly enjoyable meal which left me satisfied but not over-stuffed, and was served by friendly staff in a relaxing setting. Overall, Orrery scores an accomplished four Forks-Up.Orrery
55 Marylebone High Street
T: 020 7616 8000