In my new novel, The Dish, restaurant critic Laura Parker visits LuxEris – a Eurotrashy, mega-big restaurant in the Square Mile – and emerges, three hours later, filled with venom, bile and the start of food poisoning, thanks to a dodgy plate of Eels Flottante. LuxEris represents the worst of London’s restaurant scene – staff who think they’re doing you a favour by letting you through the door, a giant room where you can barely hear yourself think, and worst of all a menu filled with trend-led concoctions you wouldn’t feed to a goat: Heritage Apple and Veal Crumble, anyone?
LuxEris is a work of fiction but there are several restaurants in London that could, unfortunately, give it a run for its money. On the other end of the spectrum entirely is the fantastic, award-winning and entirely not made up Marianne’s, in Notting Hill. London’s smallest fine-dining restaurant has only 14 covers, making it feel like you’re almost at home – if your home was an ultra-elegant yet relaxing and understated cocoon of great taste. The service is perfect – warm, friendly and attentive. – And it serves some of the most beautiful, modern, delicious food you’ve ever eaten. In fact the only fault with it is that it’s pretty damn popular so you’ll need to book in advance.
You might recognise its head chef and owner Marianne Lumb, from Masterchef: The Professionals, a few years back. A sunny, six foot blond who’s a master at knives (her first book, Kitchen Knife Skills, was an international best seller) – she works in the rather petite kitchen six days a week, turning out the sort of seasonal, high-quality perfect plates you dream of: potato gnocchi with Parmesan foam, Agen prune with Madagascan vanilla souffle and home-made Armagnac ice cream…mmm! I ate there last year, and you can see the pics and read about it here:
Once upon a time, Marianne and I used to work together – and so she kindly agreed to answer a few little questions for me:
Your ideal Valentine’s meal:
The perfect steak, probably rib-eye – we have some highland wagyu at the restaurant this year – with some truffles, smoothest pomme puree and some purple sprouting broccoli
The very best thing about being a chef: