Fat of the Land and other experiences in Marylebone
Just spent a couple of days in Marylebone, and while the point wasn't food tourism, I wanted to give a shout out to Fat of the Land, a very appealing tapas place on New Cavendish Street with bright, fresh tastes plus an interesting drinks list. The food is straightforward, made with a respect for its roots. I especially enjoyed the fat razor clams, simply prepared with oil, garlic and a hint of lemon, and baby squids in their ink with beans. I appreciated that their nibbles plate of nuts and seeds was raw, not salted, and full of variety. It's not at all a "scene" like Providores, but charming for it and the staff/owners are down to earth.
Fishworks also did the trick for us one night with nicely grilled sardines and a very fairly priced and tasty lobster, plus starters of mussels and scallops. This is simply a pleasant place to dine on fresh fish and converse (our server was excellent) and one wonders more restaurants in the world's capitals can't deliver this, so while Fishworks might not be destination dining, it manages to admirably stand out nonetheless.
A mild disappointment was Woodlands, where my dosa arrived rather on the cold side, but just in general nothing made me want to return to a restaurant I was looking forward to, because I like south Indian food and can't get it where I presently live.
After one too many noisy, wildly expensive breakfasts at my hotel (the Mandeville) I had the bright idea to escape to the peace of the atrium at the Wallace for their wildly expensive breakfast. The only thing I wanted to eat was unavailable. I settled for a "seasonal fruit plate", which arrived without one single fruit actually in season on the plate! The smoothie I also ordered simply never arrived, wait staff was all smiles and promises and no follow through. I drank the most wonderful pot of green tea I have had in my life in an absolutely stunning setting, but it was a headscratcher.
On a free night alone, rather than dine in my hotel, whose theme-park like bar and restaurant, The Reform Social & Grill, I thought annoyingly fake through and through (without anything appealing to me on the menu), I took a flyer on Samarqand, which serves Russian and Georgian dishes in a exotically decorated basement space that seems popular with huge parties (two were going in separate private rooms). The food is an adventure (they will offer you a picture menu) and I haven't the faintest idea how closely resembles the real deal back home, but I liked my floppy pumpkin dumplings, and my piles of pickled veg, and I was mesmerized by the truly wall sized TV showing Russian (Georgian?) news.
Sorry I can't contribute more but, as I said, the visit wasn't really about food. I did want to add that on the train between Gatwick and Victoria, looking out my window into the backyards of so many modest houses, I remembered how one of my very first and most vivid impressions of London, arriving for the first time, was seeing those backyards filled with brussels sprouts and cabbages (it was January). Coming from America, where backyards are strictly for play, I was immensely impressed. Maybe I am wrong, but it looked to me that more and more of those vegetable gardens have turned into tiny lawns and extra parking space. I hope people are still eating cabbage soup, which was perhaps my most memorable first taste (and smell) of London.
PS: What's up with all the slippery food trash underfoot and what appeared to be vomit on the streets in some areas of Marylebone? Walking in the mornings was a hazard, and it does nothing to enhance the neighborhood's reputation as a foodie destination.
Thanks for your mention of Fat of the Land. I'm often in that neighbourhood and always looking for a new spot to eat.
I can understand your take on the Mandeville's bar and restaurant. :-) My niece stayed there while flat-hunting when she moved to London, and it does seem an odd room, but their afternoon tea was quite nice.
I'm not sure all backyards in America are for play alone. My dad once grew lots of veggies, and some of my neighbours years later did the same. But it's a big country and it's tough to generalize.