Be Sure To Grace Hunter 486 At The Arch, Marylebone

05 Oct 2016

I long for the romantic days before mobile phones. The bell of my Western Electric 500 would squall. I’d pick up the receiver and in clipped tones answer: "Hello. Hunter 486.” A gallant voice would reply: “Darling? Darling, it’s me.”

I’d don upswept dark glasses and Hermès headscarf – tied at the nape à la Grace Kelly of course – slip off my wedding ring, and hurry to my furtive rendez-vous.

You see, Tinder makes naughtiness less delicious. So when I heard the words Hunter 486 again, I needed to see if the hotel restaurant named after the 1950s Marylebone dialling code could rekindle my old nostalgic flame.

The Arch has turned a grand parade of Georgian Marylebone townhouses into a hushed, 82-room, five-star hotel. From its luxury suites to its well-appointed meeting rooms and gym, this is a sleek affair. The bedrooms cosset the guest with plush furnishings, Montezuma and Malin & Goetz. For your pre-prandial rendez-vous, seek out the Martini Library, where a floor-to-ceiling cocktail cabinet and deep-buttoned leather sofas are sights for city-wearied eyes. In fact, forget the clandestine appointment. With a dry gin martini and shelves of literature to explore, what more does a jaded old romantic need?

Hunter 486 is a world of dark wood, red velvet chairs and half-moon leather booths. Soft lighting gleams from blown-glass chandeliers and chefs busy about the open kitchen beneath suspended copper pans. In a recessed cabinet, an incongruously floral Wedgewood teaset reminds the diner that afternoon tea here is within easy reach of Marylebone and Mayfair’s shops.

The kitchen is inspired by ‘Best of British’. For this, read an à la carte menu of composed starters all under £10 and largely safe-bet mains from £16 to £24.

The chef kept inspiration under wraps with our starters. Cured Beef, Artichokes, Rocket, Sun-blushed Tomatoes and Parmesan were familiar Mediterranean flavours. I couldn’t decide if Soused Mackerel, Pickled Vegetables and Horseradish Cream was a nod to Engish or Nordic cuisine, but it was a moot point really.

From the Stone Oven, a Rack of Lamb with Crushed Potatoes, Baby Vegetables and Herb Broth played safe and simple, while Sea Bass with Orange Butter, Fennel and Rocket Salad played odd one out, its choice of citrus an odd bedfellow for this rich fish.

Desserts? An accomplished Chocolate Fondant with Salted Caramel Ice Cream and Peanut Brittle, and a guileless plate of Orange, Pomegranate, Almond, Rose Water and Mascarpone Sorbet.

What really caught the eye were the wines. Hunter 486 has invested in the latest Coravin system, which cleverly lets you pour wine by the glass without pulling the cork. To celebrate, they’ve launched a new menu of twenty-three wines. I’d have loved a bottle of the J. Moreau et Fils Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2015. But we stayed by the glass, where everything’s under £16.50 and classy bargains can be found, like the English fizz, Camel Valley Brut, 2012. A Ceres Black Rabbit Riesling 2015 from Central Otago was a limey, off-dry and concentrated delight. Even better, a Sanford Chardonnay, Santa Barbara Country, 2011 was all roasted nuts and minerality with a touch of new oak.

Rekindled flames? Who needs them. Call for me tomorrow and you’ll find me alone in the Martini Library, working through that Chablis Premier Cru in Grace Kelly headscarf and shades.


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