There are few experiences to compare to heading to the glorious Mediterranean sunshine in the Easter break. There are also few experiences, alas not in the same way, to compare to being stuck in an unseasonable and cold Britain over the same period, where one shivers through rain and wind and wonders whether TS Eliot was right not so much about April being the cruellest month as the country beginning to resemble a waste land of sorts. So it comes as a pleasure to head to Marylebone’s new Bellazul restaurant and, for the space of a couple of hours’ lunch, be transported away from the miseries and cares of everyday life into something far closer to a foreign holiday.

First impressions are entirely favourable – bar the music, which has been cranked up to volumes that seem more appropriate to a nightclub than a sedate Sunday lunch on Blandford Street. But the corner seats are appropriately comfortable, the aquamarine shades of blue on the wall deeply soothing and the cocktails that we are offered were excellent; I very much enjoyed a punchy Coco Elixir, a grown-up take on a Pina Colada, which I was just about able to drink without sighing at the thought of sun loungers and blazing sun, and my friend’s Ghost of Mary, a deconstructed Bloody Mary, packed all the taste of the most potent of breakfast-table numbers without any of the throat-gasping strength.

So far, so good. And although we were nominally visiting during the brunch period, the menu seemed to be more or less the same then as it was for the a la carte. We started with a selection of tapas, as recommended by the excellent manager, and all were standouts; I particularly enjoyed the courgette flowers (a new addition to the menu, apparently) and the yellowfin tuna tartare, which came with tangy avocado and lime.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be a selection of tapas without some chorizo, and this variety, cooked in red wine and honey, was an especially pleasing one. We asked for a recommendation of some white wine, and the bottle that appeared, a Catalunyan kind, tasted delicious, as well as being notable friendly on the wallet at a mere £35.

Main courses all looked very fine, but the sharing ones stood out, in the form of an enormous paella that looked as if it could have fed the five thousand. A riot of paprika and rice and the freshest, finest seafood that one could rustle up in central London, it was delicious and defeated us thoroughly, although not before we’d marvelled at the wonderful prawns and mussels, which again brought all the joys of a foreign holiday to mind. Without the expense (or, alas, the sun.) And obviously we had to end with tiramisu, because it’s one of the finest desserts known to man, and this was an absolutely top-notch, intensely flavoured and suitably espresso-laden variety.

We left replete, and as we did, the sun, which had been hovering reluctantly in the air all morning, finally came out in all its resplendent glory. Bellazul might not be the same as a holiday on the Cote d’Azur. But it’s nearer, cheaper and offers just the same pleasures, in concentrated form. Sometimes, everything you need is just on your (Marylebone) doorstep.

Bellazul, 43 Blandford St, London W1U 7HF. For more information, and for bookings, please visit

Photos by John Carey