The Wallace Marylebone
Hertford House, Manchester Square, London W1U 3BN
When I was still a single digit my Saturday mornings were spent in Marylebone studying as a junior exhibitioner at Trinity College of Music. Apparently I was the youngest they had ever had which was probably more to do with my mother’s need for child care than with any prodigal tendencies on my part. My special treat after being subjected to the rigours of Miss Gladys Puttick’s musicianship class was to pop around the corner to The Wallace Collection. Its 25 galleries displayed French 18th-century painting, furniture and porcelain but my preferred destination was the armoury.
I was entranced by the bejewelled daggers, curved Arab scimitars and knights on horseback which seemed light years away from the Victorian pedagogy of Miss Puttick. As prep school started my extra-curricular classes drew to an end and my dreams of a future steeped in chivalry faded. I never returned to The Wallace Collection. Maybe I was afraid that my juvenile memories would be spoiled in some way…
So it was with some trepidation that I agreed to accompany Fiona to review The Wallace restaurant situated in the covered courtyard of the building. It is managed by Peyton & Byrne whose posh portfolio includes The Keeper’s House at The Royal Academy, outlets in Kew Gardens and The British Library and The ICA Bar. Those of you with long memories will remember Peyton as the proprietor of The Atlantic Bar & Grill, the iconic and louche 90s brasserie which was the location for much pre-millenial misbehaving, now replaced by the prim glamour of Brasserie Zedel.
The great news is that The Wallace Collection is a wonderful and democratic space. The interior feels like a more intimate version of the National Gallery, and the opportunity to see masterpieces such as The Laughing Cavalier, as well as the swords, pikes and maces, free of charge is one of London’s gifts to its citizens and visitors. If you haven’t been, you really should.
The building’s courtyard has been transformed into a light and airy atrium echoing with the tinkling of cutlery and the genteel voices of art tourists and local ladies lunching. A glass each of fizz-Baron Fuenté Brut 2006 (£10.50 for 175 ml)- was our starter for £10.50 and it was an elegant and well-structured wine with notes of dried apricot, almond biscotti and cassis.
My Coquilles St Jacques had a good flavour, were properly seared on the outside and came with a gentle cauliflower emulsion and champagne vinaigrette.
and given some sweetness by the fig jam.
For our mains we moved onto a bottle of Muscadet Domaine de la Pepière 2013 (£28.50), an organic whine with a lemony chalky minerality. A meaty, tasty Dover sole came roasted on the bone served with swede, kale and almonds (£17); the accompanying winter veg worked surprisingly well and fries (£3.75) were crisp.
The selection of 3 French cheeses (£10.50) served with soda bread and crackers was a little uninspiring. My selection of a Lingot, Morbier and Fourme D’Ambert was a little too polite but possibly suited the rest of the clientele-I like my fromages to be a bit less civilised.
And civilised is the word to describe The Wallace and if that is your bag you will enjoy the restaurant especially if you do the art and armour as well. Service was well-managed by a charming grown-up maitre d’ who kept a watchful eye on proceedings and if we are not yet at the point of having Michelin- starred chefs controlling museum restaurant kitchens as happens in certain place on the continent, then this will do fine for now.