The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine
William Sitwell visits Delamina in Marylebone
THERE is something rather fabulous about Marylebone Lane. For it wiggles its way through that district of London from Marylebone High Street up to Oxford Street, pausing only as it dissects a few minor roads and the busier Wigmore Street. Viewed from a map it is a triumph of survival. Every other road is straight, all right angles and order. But snaking through this urban precision is wiggly Marylebone Lane, which for some extraordinary reason has been mostly left alone by city planners, builders and officials.
In the mid-18th century, Marylebone Lane was on the edge of the city. But neatly ordered streets with newly built townhouses began to develop here and there on either side. It was once an even longer lane stretching to what is now Regent’s Park, but part of it was lopped off during the early 19th century.
And so I headed up what is left of our meandering hero in search of a new establishment on this ancient path called Delamina. Wander up the lane and try to conjure the hedges and fields of the past. Imagine ponds and trees, ducks and birdsong, and then see the reality of car parks and hear the thunderous truth of urban traffic. While car parks must, I suppose, signal progress, obviously I prefer the kind that Delamina represents.
This new place is a sister to Delamina East, an Israeli restaurant that turned into bricks and mortar after starting as a Shoreditch pop-up. The latter is the sort of thing that people chat about in Lon
don. Trendy people, people with beards who may or may not tuck their shirts in (I can’t keep up). They talk about things like this. ‘Yeah, it started as a Shoreditch pop-up…’ Now, you might quite reasonably think it refers to a haircut or an east London motorcycle. But, in fact, it was a temporary food offering called Strut & Cluck that operated at the private members’ club Shoreditch House.
It was so successful that a proper restaurant ensued, and then headed west to the aforementioned wiggly lane.
The owners – husband-and-wife team Limor and Amir Chen – describe their food as Eastern Mediterranean, doubtless avoiding unnecessary rows about their Israeli dishes being stolen from Palestine. And as a peace-loving foodie, all I wanted was tasty nourishment having wandered up that lane.
The restaurant is light and airy, caféstyle. There are wooden tables, bare brick, splashes of grass-green, floaty linen curtains and Camargue chairs (I know you’re impressed by my acute knowledge of the chairs, but I just bought a shedload in an Oka warehouse sale so I’m stuffed to the gills with that kind of bumptious knowledge).
The menu is divided into vegetables, meat, fish and seafood, and we started by sharing a pita balagan, ‘grilled and topped with today’s larder’. This was basically a chunky, rustic-looking pita bread covered with things like soft cheese, mushrooms and tomato paste. It was not pretty; it looked like the dissected insides of a goblin’s brain (one might imagine). But God, it tasted good: magnificently rich and moreish with scatterings of crispy kale on the board on which it came.
I then had lamb chops with a chimichurri sauce. This was no oil painting either, misshapen and heavy chunks of meat served atop charred hispi cabbage. I could have done without the cabbage. It’s a sort of east London affectation that doesn’t travel west well. As Retsina should stay in Greece and beards in Hackney, so hispi cabbage should be refused entry to west London. But the lamb may travel freely because it was wonderfully tender, charred at the edges and succulent.
We shared a hilariously described ‘grilled courgette two ways’. I could see one way it had been chopped and cooked – and I loved how it nestled messily among crispy fried onions and was drizzled with labneh (a soft Middle Eastern cheese, like Greek yogurt) – but what the second way was, was beyond me. Not that it mattered, for it was a lovely splodge of veg.
My pal Jon was guzzling strips of tuna in quinoa with hazelnuts and a yellow drizzle of tamarind-scented cream.
Then we shared a bird’s nest of a pudding. ‘Kadayif nest of cheesecake cream’ was swirls of finely cut dough, hay-like and crunchy and covered in cream with caramelised pecans, making it a triumph that had you yearning for coffee.
There were birdsong and fields in 1740, but no reward on Marylebone Lane like the tasty, scruffy food of Delamina. That’s what I call progress.
Pita balagan came covered in cheese, mushrooms and tomato paste. It was not pretty. But God, it tasted good