Table for ten

Please note that since writing this blog post, Marius has closed down

I am such a geek. I get really, genuinely, tell-my-mum-about-it excited when I find a new five-star restaurant. I put it on my Facebook status, I tweet about it, I add it to my recommendations… And I don’t think I’ve had a five-starrer since last year. My trip to Marius was long overdue.

Its occasion was a table for ten, organised each month by two recent friends of mine, who invite a diverse set of people who don’t know each other. Well, I say diverse; in reality, only bankers and food geeks can really afford to spend €80 on dinner. But then again, as AA Gill wrote at some point, when you think about it: the gap between cheap and expensive in food terms is a couple of hundred euros – at absolute most. Whereas the gap between, say, Primark and haute couture in the fashion world is several thousand. But anyway. Tangent. After a glass of prosecco and some nibbly salami and olives, we had a look at the ‘Market Menu’. Though a slightly illegible scrawl, its contents got me all sweaty-palmed and train spotter-y. Marius’ offering consists of four set courses, with a few alternatives if you’re feeling fussy. Everything has been bought from the markets or shops by the chef that day, so the menu changes daily depending on what’s freshest.

The first of our two starters was a salad of raw tuna, fennel, blood orange, avocado and carrot. It was deceptively simple, but the dressing would have resulted in some serious arm waving on my part, had I not been with a group of perfect strangers.

Tuna, fennel, blood orange, avocado and carrot
Tuna, fennel, blood orange, avocado and carrot

Next came a warm second starter of griddled squid and gamba on mushy peas with spinach and fresh peas. Again, the sauce stole the show, to the extent that bets were made as to the mystery spice. I could taste the mint and basil, but had to admit total ignorance of the je-ne-sais-quoi presence of cumin.

Squid and gamba with peas and spinach
Squid and gamba with peas and spinach

The Market Menu’s main course comprised four different cuts of veal (rib steak, cheek, liver and kidney) with wet polenta, bitter radicchio, sweet roasted cherry tomatoes and the veal jus. Some of the non-offal lovers went for quail instead, but apparently all this entailed was that the chef brought out the extra cuts of veal for our table. We weren’t exactly starving by this point, but hey – result!

Veal with polenta
Veal with polenta

After three courses, I thought dessert was going to be a struggle. But frankly lemon tart is rarely a struggle, and I even managed to fit in a little cheese after that.

Lemon tart
Lemon tart

The menu itself cost €45 a head, but of course we drank significant quantities of wine on top. That said (and returning to my tangent), Marius walks a fine line between reassuringly expensive and refreshingly unpretentious. I have no idea who Marius is, but the chef (who’s called Kees, and who I wish I’d quizzed about his salad dressing) knows how to tailor a designer menu without falling victim to food fashions.

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Marius (European)


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