Māter pop-up at Carousel in Marylebone: “Gonzalo Luzarraga’s unique menu is a global outlook with Italian gusto”
Carousel, Marylebone’s award-winning pop-up venue, has played host to endless exciting combinations of international guest chefs over the past five years. The latest to take a ride on this ever-spinning culinary merry-go-round is Gonzalo Luzarraga, whose cross-cultural approach is almost a collaboration in itself. His bold and borderless new menu celebrates seasonal ingredients – with a touch of drama.
Luzarraga’s career has been forged across the world, shaped by a childhood spent between Chile, the foothills of Piedmont in Northern Italy, the Ligurian coast and Spain’s gastronomic epicentre, San Sebastian. Carrying with him the Basque traditions of his family, he built a reputation under the tutelage of Alain Ducasse at Louis XV in Monaco and Walter Eynard at Flipot in Torre Pellice, before earning a Michelin star after just ten months at the Kuchlmasterei in Vienna. The chef opened Rigo in Parson’s Green back in 2017 to critical acclaim, and is now working on a new venture, Māter, in central London. In the meantime, from 10th until 21st August he’s treating diners to a series of elegantly inventive dishes.
First up are two fruity mouthfuls that prepare the palate for summer (the body needs a little bit of a reminder after the recent weather). Watermelon, Bottarga, Almond is a muted opener, but the cherry laced with lardo and kombu powder is a more assertive sweet and savoury blend, the stone replaced with an almond for added texture. Tripe, Salmon Roe, Sofrito Gel is very far removed from what can be a rather rubbery affair: here the stomach lining is fried up lto a crispy crackling, which is undoubtedly a more appetising iteration to those scarred by the offal of their childhood.
The “Omaggio a Bottura” pays tribute to the King of Italian cooking by riffing on one of his dishes, Memory of a Mortadella Sandwich. Though sadly I can’t claim to have tried the original, it would be hard to find fault with the combination of soft, pork-rich focaccia and indulgent mortadella foam. The pair of crisp sesame-laden grissini that follow are equally moreish, and go down fast alongside salty anchovy butter – the only regret is that you can’t scrape it all off the plate without sacrificing table manners.
The first five finger dishes are nicely complimented by a glass of Lambrusco di Sorbara Cantina della Volta 2015, made with the traditional method, just like Champagne. It’s hard to believe you are drinking Lambrusco: this is a refined glass, characterised with notes of green fruit and yet velvety on the tongue. The work on the acidity of sorbara grapes is what makes this wine special, as well as an attractive label designed by Modenese artist Giuliano della Casa.
Luzarraga explains that the smaller amuse bouches are intended to provide a gentle build-up of flavour, and the menu begins to ascend to a natural peak with Burnt Orange, Stone Bass, Fermented Green Chilli, Daikon, Kohlrabi. Here the smokiness of the fruit is carried obligingly by the fish, balancing elegance with daring flavours. Though subtle, the petals of daikon which top the hollowed-out peel are intended to pair with our second drink of the evening, the Umetsu no Kimoto 80 Sake from Tottori. This dry and mushroomy bottle also perfectly complements the next dish, which follows the Japanese theme in two parts. First, a bowl of almost meaty roasted chestnut dashi dresses the mouth before it crunches down on the second offering, a clam-topped seaweed cracker.
In this evolving tasting journey it’s the larger plates which stand out most clearly. The first of these is my favourite of the night, a coil of tangy, slick spaghettone with an underlying umami hum from natural yeast and anchovy garum. After this comes succulent slices of Pluma Ibérica de Bellota, cooked on coal and paired with oyster, parsnip purée, bottarga and sprouting broccoli. Alongside the shellfish, the pork dives to impressive depths, the barbecue taste heightened with a flame-torch finish.
The dessert brings the meal to a delicate close courtesy of a serving of fragrant white peach and caramel topped with a cooling sorrel sorbet and a diamond of chartreuse meringue. This is a nice pairing for the Caravaglio Occhio di Terra Malvasia, a natural skin-contact white with a muted acidity and a gorgeous fruity bouquet. It’s a refreshing conclusion that sends us happily out onto the Marylebone streets.
Both the best and worst thing about Carousel is its fleeting nature: Luzarraga is not here for long, but because of that this is an exclusive experience that only few will share. For one unique night, it’s worth checking out this memorable menu, which combines a global outlook with true Italian gusto.
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
To book a table at Gonzalo Luzarraga at Carousel, 71 Blandford Street London W1U 8AB, call 020 7487 5564 or visit their website here.