I think it takes an incredibly brave person to open an underground restaurant. I mean, of course it is illegal but apart from that – cooking for 20 odd strangers in your very own home every week might be a bit well, stressful/tiring/anxiety provoking/all of the above? Not a bit of it on Saturday night however, when three friends and I dined at the house of the formidable Ms Marmite Lover – not the faintest flicker of worry on her face.
While Ms ML had been calmly preparing (a fabulous tweet revealed her to be up at 12am the previous night making “fu**ing tarte au citron”), we had been sweating it out on smelly buses. As I’m sure all you Londoners will appreciate, the transport system is never what can be described as fully operational at weekends – TFL somehow always manage to shut the bits that you personally need to use. For this reason then, we made a therapeutic pit stop at the nearby pub for pre-dinner pints before moving on in high spirits towards the restaurant.
Greeted at the door with a welcoming smile and a glass of Kir Semi-Royale, we were instantly absorbed into the warm glow within Ms ML’s home. There was a chance for some pre-dinner mingling with the other diners, which perhaps could better be described as a bit of time for them to ‘get used to us’ and our generally excitable ways.
The house by this point was filled with the delicious smell of our first course – raviolo stuffed with portobello, oyster and button mushrooms with an onion cappuccino (cooked by Charlie Nelson). I’m pretty sure everyone agreed this was really good, particularly that sauce. I mean, onions and cream – need I say more?
Our main was salmon en papillote, served with dill, creme fraiche and aga roasted potatoes. The salmon was very fresh and spring-like and those aga roasted potatoes pleased me no end with their little wrinkly jackets. A rocket and pine nut salad added a hit of greenery and was dressed with a fine vinaigrette – robust, thick and unapologetic – just how I like it.
To finish there was that ‘fu**ing’ lemon tart – well worth Ms ML’s efforts, with a good tart whack of citrus, wonderful smooth texture and a bonus surprise addition of meringues which were really nice and chewy, I suspect due to an ultra-slow cooking in the aga.
Ms ML most definitely scores top marks as a hostess (as does her daughter as waitress), the whole evening was incredibly relaxed and the atmosphere in the room by the end of dinner was, ahem ‘lively’ to say the least. All 18 diners chatting and laughing – our table loudest of all if I remember rightly. We even managed to persuade Chris to give us a little impromptu tinkle on Ms ML’s ivories (not as rude as it sounds), to which I know there was out of tune singing and punching of fists in the air because I have video evidence on my camera.
There was coffee to follow but three hours after arrival we Southerners had to flee lest we miss the last train and be stranded on the wrong side of the river. Terrible things can happen to a Londoner when stranded on the wrong side of the water after midnight you know. Don’t worry though, because sleeping on Ms ML’s camp bed isn’t one of them – yep, she has even been known to accomodate the odd tipsy diner for the night*. Now that’s what I call hospitality.
You can buy tickets for the underground restaurant and cooking classes here.
*please do not take this for granted. I’m saying it happened, not that she runs a hotel too….