Restaurants; Starry, starry night...

Vivienne Heller experiences mid-summer magic in Marylebone

My stars must have been seriously well aligned last week. I had the chance to dine out in my favourite shop: what more could a girl wish for? Possibly a more consumer-friendly companion. The prospect of a Conran caper had Vince straining at the leash like a reluctant hound as I dragged him into Orrery (named after a model of the solar system: portent of a stellar dining experience?).

This Marylebone haunt opened a private terrace last month. A sliver of al fresco alongside the second floor of The Conran Shop, it is not, at first glance, too prepossessing. A few tables are squeezed in amongst terracotta pots and other garden accoutrements, each bearing a price tag. But it is blatant and fun, and a world apart from the sleek restaurant on the first floor.

The sun was setting when we arrived, casting a bewitching hue on the terrace. We chose from the short but titillating bar menu, and considered the wine list. Five hundred bottles is a daunting range - one cabernet sauvignon was judged among the top 12 wines of the century by the Wine Spectator - but our sancerre was judged "a good choice, sir" by the charming sommelier.

Then came the food - a carousel of flavours and textures and colours; traditional fare with an exotic twist. My smoked salmon and caviar came with a featherlight blini, while Vince's modestly named soupe du jour was a revelation: cucumber, poured at the table over raw oysters. This terrific combination prepped his palate for the main course - pigeon. A pleasing contrast to his recent Syrian experience of pigeon - beak and all, with road-accident presentation - this was an elegant bird swathed in ravioli, in a rich madeira sauce. Intense and tender, it was almost too flavoursome for a main: it tipped Vince's tastebuds into overload, raring for another course.

Having skipped my way virtuously through the green finery of an artichoke and asparagus salad, I joined him in the dessert menu. Chef Chris Galvin's signature mille feuille of raspberries was sublime, every fruit a tart, fresh specimen. Vince smiled up shyly from his "superb, very French" creme brulee, and I knew he'd been won over.

At this moment, a power-cut interjected with perfect timing. The canopy drew back to reveal a starry sky, and diners' gentle laughter floated up from the restaurant below as unflustered staff plundered the shop for candles. Leaves rustled, a distant bell chimed, pigeons cooed: we listened in rapt awe to the night sounds from our shadowy treehouse.

Vince celebrated with a cigar, chosen from one of two humidors with the expert help of our wonderful waiter. His sensitive, attuned service was a triumph; the best I've ever encountered. Between him and the chef, some fine magic had been wrought: my rebellious companion had been transformed into a fat-cat Conran junkie. I sighed happily: "Now, about this furniture, darling..."

Orrery, 55-57 Marylebone High St, W1 (0171-616 8000). From around pounds 40 a head

AL FRESCO FARE

Belair House Gallery Rd, SE21 (0181-299 9788). Modern Brit fare on two terraces

The Red Pepper 8 Formosa St, W9 (0171-266 2708). Al fresco pizzas from wood-burning oven

MT Bar

307 Lillie Rd, SW6 (0171-385 1130) Substantial bar eats in honeysuckled garden with heaters

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen