Marylebone Village isn’t short of smart restaurants, where the vibe tends to be not so much fine dining but relaxed bistros, and 108 Brasserie, belonging to the Edwardian town-house Marylebone Hotel, therefore slots nicely into the scene here, although it’s a clear step up from the branded example at the end of the street, where you’ve probably been so many times that you don’t even bother to read the menu.
Tucked away on Marylebone Lane, 108 is a crisp, modern take on a traditional brasserie thanks to Alexander Waterworth’s chic design featuring bright white walls, marble topped tables, red leather banquette seating, antique mirrors and statement black and white photographs, and ensures the space is versatile enough to go from a light and airy meeting place for business breakfasts or ladies who lunch, before transforming into a sultry date spot come the evening. It also happens to be one of the few venues in this burgeoning microcosm of boutiques and coffee shops which boasts a spacious and ultra slick bar, making it an ideal after-work destination.
The dining room was sedate rather than buzzing when we arrived, with some media-types more interested in working on their laptops, yet the ambiance soon changed after 9 o’clock, and the front of house were adaptable enough to accommodate either diners looking for full-on attention or peace in order to work. I also appreciated retaining the same waiter the entire evening, and ours was charmingly attentive, besides being happy to make suggestions regarding both the cocktail and food menus – persuading us to kick off the evening with the house cocktail, ‘The Marylebone’, a heady blend of Stolichnaya, Champagne, elderflower and black raspberry liqueur.
Meanwhile, the décor very much reflects the food on offer; simple and unfussy yet boasting the finest ingredients that can be foraged, farmed and fished from these isles, and one scan of Russell Ford’s menu told me I’d have a hard time deciding what to order thanks to a crowd-pleasing choice of British and European classics, alongside hearty daily house specials. Yes, 108 satisfies even the most particular diner, as you’re not likely to find Balmoral Estate venison, oysters or a whole turbot to share at your average high street brasserie, let alone a Josper Grill.
My starter of Balmoral venison carpaccio with creamed horseradish and pickled walnuts, didn’t show a huge amount of imagination I grant you, but it did illustrate a confident kitchen who have the utmost respect for such a sublime and surprisingly delicate ingredient – it needed nothing more and nothing less. The same went for my old man’s Dorset crab on toast, which boasted a generous amount of white meat and was thankfully undiluted with either too much mayonnaise or the watercress and apple garnish.
Mains proved equally consistent and enjoyable, from my whole lemon sole meunière, which it is possible to order off the bone, to my husband’s Thursday special of Balmoral venison haunch shepherd’s pie served with glazed carrots. Alas, sadly the warm chocolate fondant failed to have the ooze appeal (it can happen to the best of us), however, my brown bread ice cream with caramelised walnuts and honeycomb saved the day – after all you don’t go to 108 for poncey Michelin star food, you go there to get away from it.
108 Brasserie, Marylebone Lane, London W1U 2QE. For more information and reservations visit the website.