Clarette in Marylebone
A restaurant’s location will so often tell you as much as its menu. Some are obvious, like the achingly cool Clove Club sitting slap bang in the heart of Shoreditch. Others challenge your expectations – Black Axe Mangal bringing its unapologetic heartiness to the sleepy streets of Islington, for example. Some place themselves expressly to lure in as many passers-by as possible, whilst others like Hedone explicitly make you take something of a deliberate trip, a food-lovers pilgrimage.
For Clarette, that location is one of impeccably dressed women clutch Mulberry, Hermes and Fendi as they walk flower-lined streets. The soundtrack is the clack of well-heeled men’s shoes and the gentle buzz of a sophisticated area at play. An elegant wine bar opened by Alexandra Petit, a member of the prestigious Chateau Margaux family, the venue is emblematic of its location and of its clientele in almost every respect.
The food is simple but delicious. Crab Cakes are perfectly cooked, moist and flavourful it’s only the thin crumb that stops them from falling apart. A strawberry and tomato salad with parmesan highlights the tomatoes’ natural sweetness beautifully, though it could do without a smattering of onions. The intention is understandable, but it pulls the tomato too harshly between sweet and savoury, a balance that is better achieved with the shavings of umami rich cheese.
Mains are equally appealing. Petit Burgers are two precise little pucks of beautiful beef, topped with cheese and sandwiched in a brioche bun. It’s certainly not pushing the envelope but it’s still delicious in its simplicity. As is Pan Seared Cod, with Peas, Spinach and Romanesco. Again cooked to perfection, the cod flakes beautifully and its light, clean taste is complemented by a generous portion of rich Romanesco.
We finish with desserts that are wickedly indulgent. A Caramelo is subtly sweet and creamy, a fusion of caramel and milk. It’s the Chocolate Mousse l’Ancienne that takes our breath away though. A thick tangle of whipped chocolatey goodness, it’s been made “according to the old ways”, which here apparently means that the modern interpretation of a light fluffy thing has been thrown out of the window.
The wine is, as you would expect, superb. A glass of 2014 Sancerre Les Monts Damnés is beautifully fruity, heavy with citrus fruit and just a hint of minerality. There’s the lightest touch of apricot dancing across too, utterly playful and elusive. We also have the pleasure to try the bordeaux 2012 vintage Margaux du Château Margaux from the owner’s own renowned house – a great match for the burgers, full bodied, robust and full of red fruit.
Like its surroundings, whether or not this is all going to appeal to you is a matter of personal taste. For some, it’s too safe, too dependable: the risks it takes are outrageous only in its own little world. Still, there’s something remarkably appealing about the restaurant’s unashamed bourgeois stylings. When light comes streaming in through beautiful stained glass windows, there’s an infectious sense of elegance. A beautiful place for beautiful people, but one that doesn’t have that worrying air of snobbery that too often haunts such ventures. The idea of spending a long weekday evening at Clarette, with a good vintage and a few small plates, comes so easily here that it’s hard not to see ourselves coming back again and again.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Matthew Pull (except featured)
To book a table at Clarette, 44 Blandford St Marylebone London W1U 7HS Blandford Street London W1U 7HS, call 020 3019 7750 or visit here.