By Chris Madigan
The background If the name sounds familiar, this used to be called One08 – part of The Marylebone Hotel – but has undergone a major refurbishment and menu revamp under chef Russell Ford, who remains at the helm. It is located at the back of the hotel on the charming Marylebone Lane, with neighbours including a traditional pub and a wool shop.
The space A redesign by Alexander Waterworth Interiors has introduced rich red leather and orange mohair to the furnishings – along with dark oak surfaces, frosted glass and parquet floors – and clearly divides the room into three spaces: the bar, the restaurant and 108 Pantry (a breakfast café).
The ambience The redesign turns a place that had a feel of ‘might as well go there’ for a quick bite, for hotel guests or passers-by, into somewhere that is now inviting and encourages lingering over your meal.
The bar Partitioned from the main dining area, it has its own menu of snacks, such as crispy salt and pepper squid served with chilli and lime, and Cornish crab on Guinness brown toast with apple. Cocktails are mixed by ex-Athenaeum barman Ivo Ferreira da Silva – The 108 Edition is based on Bacardi Gold and spicy Velvet Falernum liqueur; Collins’ Daughter is an interesting cross between a Tom Collins and a Negroni. A respectable wine list includes a selection of award-winning Nyetimber sparkling wines from West Sussex. And, also flying the Cross of St George, there are several Meantime beers.
The cuisine Largely simple British dishes – barring a few European interlopers that all but the staunchest UKIP supporter could tolerate – with an emphasis on ingredients rather than technique.
Start with the sharing dishes. One is a selection of air-dried meats and salamis from Trealy Farm in Monmouthshire, served with pickles and a lovely dollop of mustardy celeriac ‘slaw’. Then there is a large burrata – not as unctuous with oozing cream as some you’ll have had, but is more packed with buffalo mozzarella flavour than many – accompanied by bright, intense tomatoes on the vine. These are better than most choices from the main starter menu, the smoked salmon on Guinness brown bread and octopus carpaccio being exceptions. The crispy pig cheeks are a little bland and the seared tuna too salty.
Go on to the highlights of the meal. As in many restaurants, the Josper grill steals the show. If well selected meat goes in – and whether you choose the Suffolk free-range pork chop, the Cotswold White chicken, or the rib-eye steak, it certainly does – a great dish tends to come out. The Béarnaise and peppercorn sauces are faultless, and accompaniments such as honey-glazed heritage (ie multicoloured) carrots are fresh and vibrant. If you can be lured away from the magic of Josper, the whole roast North Yorkshire grouse served in the winter is a revelation – rich and gamey in comparison to those Glorious Twelfth rush jobs from earlier in the autumn. For those looking for fish, the Josper also cooks up a whole lemon sole to your preference, or there is currently a Cornish skate with the traditional black butter and capers. Vegetarians are offered a spelt risotto to let them know they’re in the wrong place.
Finish with a good autumn-spiced fruit crumble (with a decent amount of bite left in the apple), or go back to the Josper for grilled pineapple with a chilli and lime glaze and coconut sorbet.
The bill £70-£120pp depending on drinks.
In summary The relaunch has got the balance of sophistication and relaxation right, and offers reliably well-presented staples, with few surprises – but that’s not a bad thing. It makes it a reliable place for a lunchtime or evening meeting when there’s only a few details to iron out before everyone can enjoy a well-deserved drink and a good meal.
108 Brasserie, 108 Marylebone Lane, London, W1U 2QE; +44 20 7969 3900; 108brasserie.com
Brummell review policy: Brummell accepts selected invitations to try restaurants. However, no guarantee is given that a review will appear. We only publish reviews of restaurants that, overall, meet the high standards of Brummell readers; then, Brummell recommends specific dishes and drinks that are outstanding