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Little Bites: Marianne

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Nestled between a relatively unassuming road and a secluded residential cul-de-sac, hidden behind a discreet curtained storefront, is perhaps one of London’s best kept culinary secrets. Just 14 covers spread across 4 tables occupy the diminutive 25 sq ft of Notting Hill’s Marianne restaurant. Small (extremely) yet perfectly formed, what Marianne lacks in size it makes up for unequivocally with an intimate, personal and genuine dining experience, unmatched by any regular-size restaurant.

It’s micro capacity is no doubt a big part of the appeal, but also part of the problem for anyone serious about booking their place. With a 2 month waiting list, our visit to Marianne has been in the pipeline for quite some time. As a product of Marianne Lumb, finalist in 2009’s Masterchef and experienced private chef prior to the restaurant’s opening, it would be easy to imagine this venture as some sort of exclusive dinner club. Our experience couldn’t have been further from this preconception.

Marianne Lumb herself takes the time to personally welcome as well as bid adieu to all diners venturing beyond the curtained exterior. It was a lovely, genuine gesture which we appreciated, and it set the tone for the rest of the evening. It’s clear to see that the concept of the restaurant is to create a warm, quieter more personal atmosphere, far removed from the noise and impersonality of most other dining experiences. Marianne feels like an extension of Lumb’s home.

With a limited capacity served by a small team of 3 – Lumb, the maître d’ and the kitchen assistant – the focus is firmly placed on the craft and refinement of all aspects of the experience. We experienced exceptional service, delivered attentively yet unintrusively, with gorgeous seasonal food.

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Perhaps the only facet of Marianne that isn’t petite is the menu. Our extensive 6 course dinner balanced a large variety of succulent flavours, colours and textures, perfectly cooked and masterfully presented. Lumb’s admirable commitment to quality seasonal ingredients results in a frequently changing menu, but guarantees exquisite cuisine.

If you do plan on visiting, be prepared that you may feel less like a customer and more like a guest at an upmarket family home. Thus we could imagine that your enjoyment and quality of experience is somewhat reliant on the quality of your fellow stranger. If you prefer the relaxing anonymity of larger establishments, we recommend you look elsewhere.

Despite this we had a wonderful evening. Marianne is a unique culinary experience that manages to mix high quality food and service, with a warm and supremely personal ambience. It takes a little perseverance to decide to sign up to the 2 month waiting list, but we feel our evening at Marianne was special enough to be more that worth the wait.

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