23 Orchard St, W1H Tel: 020 7299 2522
This is the second outpost of Hotel Chantelle (neither are actually hotels – they’re named after a French World War II safe house), the first being a speak-easy style outfit in New York’s Lower East Side, which is said to be popular with the city’s bright young things. But just because you have a successful bar/restaurant in New York doesn’t mean you can start putting ropes around doorways in Marylebone.
This version features a large bar along one side, banquettes on the other and tables in-between, which I’d really hate to be seated at given how much traffic passes through. Perhaps due to the dress code, the clientele was made up entirely of 30-something guys wearing shirts tucked into jeans and 30-something women wearing black dresses.
The menu is very much designed with the Instagram generation in mind. Deviled eggs with caviar comes in a glazed ceramic egg box strewn with flowers. The “Tuna Tartare Cigar” features a tube of wonton pastry wrapped around “sushi grade tuna” (there isn’t actually any such thing as “sushi grade tuna” – you could open a can of John West and call it “sushi grade” if you so desired), which rests on an ashtray filled with wasabi. The end of the “cigar” is dipped in black sesame seeds that look a bit like ash, and smoke curls up from a metal tray underneath. It’s certainly true to its vision, but you have to question a vision that involves eating out of an ashtray. Aesthetics aside, the pastry was too thick and the tuna too spicy.
A third starter of surf and turf – wagyu carpaccio with scallop tartare and caviar vinaigrette, topped with more flowers – was much better (as it should be at £19), the rich, oily meat working well with the thickly chopped scallops. At the next table, people were eating slices of Iberico ham strung up from a tiny washing line. “Cats would love that,” mused El Pye.