France and Britain unite for a worthy culinary cause at this sophisticated neighbourhood restaurant
When it was launched by Sir Terence Conran exactly 20 years ago, this Marylebone stalwart shot to prominence as the media industry’s darling. Now it has assumed a more dignified role as an elegant neighbourhood spot for discerning locals and in-the-know business types from the surrounding area.
Old timers will be delighted to hear that the charming decor has changed very little. Housed in the original Burtons Stable Building, the long, slim dining room has lovely views over St Marylebone Parish Church Gardens through arched windows. Green leather seating and white tablecloths keep the atmosphere smart and stylish, while the large roof terrace is one of W1’s best-kept secrets. Our visit falls on a fairly warm autumn’s evening, so we begin with a glass of crisp Laurent-Perrier champagne under the butter-yellow awnings.
When it first opened Orrery dealt almost exclusively in French classics, but Ukranian chef patron Igor Tymchyshyn has breathed a new lease of life into the menus since his arrival in 2008. Now the focus is on modern French techniques with British ingredients, while the presentation has all the flair of modernist paintings. Dorset sea bass luxuriates in a herb crust the colour of cut grass alongside vivid circles of star anise sauce studded with micro herbs, while salmon ceviche arrives scattered with cubes of coconut and radish, which contribute a pleasing crunch. When it comes to desserts, chef Tymchyshyn is astute enough to keep things fairly traditional. As a spoonful of smooth vanilla crème brûlée dissolves on our tongue we find ourselves thinking ‘If it ain’t broke...’
When the restaurant opened in 1997, its French cheeses were legendary, and we were curious to see whether it had bowed to the fashions of today and introduced some British varietals. However, when the trolley arrives it is heaving with French farmhouse offerings. ‘Never fewer than 25,’ its keeper assures us, before asking for our favourite flavours and recommending a selection. It’s a wonderful bit of theatre that feels both nostalgic and timely; proof if that if you keep doing something well for long enough it will inevitably become fashionable again. IL. 020 7616 8000, orrery-restaurant.co.uk