A Visit to the Marc Group's Three London Restaurants
The Marc Group (Marlon Abela Restaurant Corporation) possesses three restaurants in the aristocratic quarter of Mayfair in London, just a few steps away from Hyde Park. Time to investigate.
The Greenhouse - with a wine cellar of more than 3000 bottles
This very contemporary French restaurant is hidden behind a pretty little Zen garden with a lush lawn and spectacular water fountains. The French personnel come from the best establishments on the continent and nothing is left to chance. Let's begin with the table. Several sorts of bread are offered - one delectable made with chestnuts, and another of cheese - which are cooked in Morton's kitchen, a club belonging to the same group. The butter is unique in London, just as the cheeses, all of which come from Bernard Anthony, who's only client is Greenhouse. Whether it be pumpkin soup with ginger, tuna, chicken, snails, rice, veal or mushrooms, each dish is conceived with ultimate care, subtlety in the cooking and an undeniable presentation on the plate. It seems that chef Antonin Bonnet is a perfectionist. The upper echelons of London society also come here for the choice of 3,000 wines, selected by Benoit Allanzen, the sommelier. This wine cellar is very special. In it you'll find a bottle of 1954 Salon champagne (at the price of over $4,000) or a Dom Pérignon 1975. There is the renowned Balfour rosé, a sparkling wine from Kent - for sure it is a little too sugary, but it dances pleasantly across the taste buds none the less. And hats off to the chocolate desserts and the caramel sorbet with butter by Rodolfe Tronc.
Morton's: the epitome of British clubs
What would London be without its clubs? This prime gentleman's club looks out onto Berkeley Square, and costs £800 annually. It is an elegant meeting place for its members, whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or just for good company. The welcome is cordial. The large armchairs on the ground floor are inviting, as is the champagne in the bar, and the reception room on the first floor with its smiling and knowledgeable staff. The sole meuniere, the Limousin filet of beef, the Landes duck, the steak and fries and the Aubrac veal are testament to the kind of quality that the British adore. The appetizing fare keeps the habitués of the club coming back, to this elegant, distinguished and comfortable setting. Arnaud leads his team with discretion, and it is not exaggerating to say that the personnel is a numerous as the number of dishes served.... Absolutely do not leave without trying a pina colada with frozen pineapple - pure heaven!
Umu: the best of "Kaiseki" cuisine
It was in this restaurant with its one Michelin star that we experienced a true moment of happiness, amid its warmly coloured décor and soft lighting. Each dish was stunning in its elegance. Chef Ichiro Kubuto has worked alongside some of the great French chefs, and is a genius of Kaiseki cuisine in his own right. This princely, refined style of cooking, originally from Kyoto, uses nothing but the finest produce from the ground and the sea. At Umu, every fish is brought directly from the Pacific, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean; the vegetables, from aubergines to herbs, as well as specific products such as tofu, wasabi, nori (dried seaweed), daikon (white radish), or miso (pasty made from soy beans) for instance, are shipped from Japan. There is a choice of several menus, with between seven to twelve courses, which succeed one another as if to feed an appetite which is never satisfied. An example of perfect harmony: royal monkfish served with mushrooms and turnips on a black and red lacquered wooden platter. Or, Unagi Seiro, sea eel simmered on a grill, accompanied by miso soup served on the side. Upon opening the lid, one is enveloped in a thick white steam. To be eaten with a glass of sake or a bowl of Houjicha tea. Just close your eyes and the mystery will work its magic. Frédéric Sérol, the young manger is a true professional, who referees the dining room without ostentation, but rather with ...Japanese....discretion.
By Gilles BROCHARD