Lanes of London, restaurant review: Street food in a Mayfair hotel - way to refine the concept, guys

 

And here it is. An early candidate for Most Wrongheaded Restaurant Concept of 2014. It's street food – but in a posh Mayfair hotel. It's all that funky, snacky, global gear that food obsessives have been slavering over in far-flung corners of the capital. Only it's in Park Lane, where any hotdog vendor who dared to stop would be tasered by private security operatives.

Street food for people who don't want to risk the street, or queue, or eat with their hands, or talk to anyone they don't know: it's brilliant. Just for good measure, they've thrown in some trad Brit dishes – steaks, Sunday roasts and sexy diner-ish food. Way to refine the concept, guys.

Lanes of London (even the name is silly – it's not a bowling alley) is part of the Marriott Hotel, although everyone involved is trying to pretend it isn't. The restaurant has its own entrance, and the staff are dressed like illustrations from The Chap; men in narrow jackets and dark jeans, gals in Forties-style drop-waisted tea dresses. Nothing stuffy here! it all screams. We're doing vintage chic AND street food – we're cutting-edge!

Everyone is friendly though, and from the moment we arrive in the almost-but-not-quite casual bar, they put up a convincing show of pretending we're in some lost outpost of Soho House, rather than an international hotel near Marble Arch.

The small, dark dining room has been de-blinged so effectively I thought it was a corridor, and almost walked on into the kitchen. If we were in a street-market, this would be where the barrows are stored overnight. But once your eyes adjust, it's clubbishly attractive, with fine window seats looking up Park Lane.

Head chef Anshu Anghotra, a Marriott incumbent, has been set a formidable task. The enormous menu – I won't describe it as 'his', because it's clearly the work of Siobhan Sharpe from Twenty Twelve – is divided into four famous food streets: Brick Lane (Indian), Kingsland Road (Vietnamese), Edgware Road (Middle Eastern) and Portobello Road (pimped-up diner food). Then alongside the globally-inclined snackage there's all the Mod-Brit stuff, a short vegetarian menu, and anything else you can think of.

Which presents the problem: how can everything on it be done well? The answer, we found, over a dinner which ricocheted from pho to fattoush, samosas to sliders, is – it can't. But most of the 10 or so dishes we sampled were done well enough, and some were actively good.

Our random selection of small dishes from the street food menu arrived curated into something approaching a coherent meal. First, the Vietnamese soup pho, based on an authentically sour-sharp beef stock, and poured from a teapot into bowls bristling with mint, coriander, beansprouts and a shimmer of noodles. The plum-ish chilli sauce to be stirred through to taste left the lips buzzing, the proper Park Lane trout-pout.

A couple of salad-ish dishes duked it out next. In the Lebanese corner, something described as fattoush, though the greasy shards of fried bread perched on under-prepared cos, peppers and tomatoes wouldn't have made the grade on Edgware Road. But the samosa chaat, representing India, was the real deal, the crisp samosa, swoony with spiced potato, broken over a rich chickpea masala and dressed with yogurt and pomegranate seeds. This was better than Brick Lane – this was Drummond Street.

Careening from the snacky to the heart-attacky, it was Portobello Road next, for beef brisket sliders, those trendy one-bite burger derivatives. These were pretty good, particularly when anointed with an oozy nugget of bone marrow and slathered with horseradish cream. The next pan-global face-off, pairing green papaya salad with lamb kofta, wasn't a happy match, the over-salted kebab and tahini-bound baba ganoush barging aside the floral Vietnamese salad.

Our jukebox selection climaxed with a rather polite version of butter chicken, served with a heavenly paratha. Very good with the Meantime pale ale we were glad to find on the menu. This is what's been missing from Park Lane hotel dining, we agreed; beer and a curry.

Desserts tend towards the Olde English; including Poor Knights of Windsor, a scrumptious pain perdu-style bread pudding. With drinks and service, they brought our bill to £100, though with most small plates in the £5-£9 range, we could have paid much less.

The dining room may feel bland, but compared to the chill of the Marriott's lobby, it's the Colony Rooms. Most of the travellers who haunt the hotel's marbled halls will probably never make their way out to Dalston or Brixton or the fantastic Hawker House in Hackney. So it's cheering to think that at Lanes, they'll at least get a glimpse of how London eats, the vitality and range. We came to mock, and stayed for a decent meal. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

Food ***
Ambience ***
Service ****

London Marriott Hotel, 140 Park Lane, London W1 (020-7647 5664). Around £30-50 a head with wine and service

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager

    £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager required for ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator

    £25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator A...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent