Located just to the west of Baker Street, Carousel is quite literally a moving feast – the vast, industrial-style space plays host to an ever-changing hand-picked line-up of exciting chefs
from top restaurants around the world, so you can expect something different (but no less fantastic) with each residency switch.
The exterior of Carousel is nondescript, so keep your eyes peeled as you cross Baker Street, walking along Blandford. Once you’re in, the interior is striking but simple – a relatively blank canvas against which the chefs perform their magic. There are waxed concrete floors (the kind of floors I dream of…), two rows of simple wooden tables (for communal, supper club-style dining) flanked by Ercol dining chairs all painted black (just like in my flat!) and low-hanging homespun tin pendant lights.
I attended the launch of Carousel back in 2014, when Argentinean chef Javier Rodriguez took the helm (a corn custard and a ribeye steak stick firmly in my memory). There have been several chefs since then, though, and the current menu has been created by Tom Ryalls, formerly of much-lauded St John Bread & Wine and Moro restaurants.
The kitchen is fairly open, off to one side, and the bar is well stocked for wine and cocktails.
Ryalls’ residency is titled ‘The Hunger Gap’, and is inspired by ancient methods of food preservation that were used before people had fridges. Back then, the annual bounty of summer produce was pickled, salted, smoked and confit-ed to last through the colder months – and these are the methods that Ryalls has chosen for his three-week stint at Carousel. With a focus on the quality and provenance of his chosen ingredients, and a balance of meat, veg and fish, the six-course set menu is priced at a rather reasonable £35.
There is only one dinner sitting, so we arrived at 7pm, for dinner at half past, and took seats on opposite sides of the long banquet table – right next to Mary Portas, to my delight! A selection of starters soon appeared and set the tone for what was to come: We devoured paper thin slithers of ox tongue pastrami with dill pickles and sesame, and fresh sourdough bread spread with super salty butter; bite-sized sage potato cakes were wrapped in anchovies and deep-fried; grilled Hispi cabbage and Coolea cheese tasted fresh and unusual.
The novel flavour pairings continued, with salt brill, blood orange and Jerusalem artichoke served next. The brill easily flaked off the bone, and I was surprised by how well the fruit/fish combination worked, with artichoke puree adding a further dimension.
We elected for the optional extra course (for an additional £6.50) – it was confit pork belly, how could I say no?! The belly melted in the mouth yet was crispy all at once, and the quince, Kohlrabi mustard and thin strips of crackling had me wishing the portion had been larger, and that we hadn’t decided to share one between two!
Bone marrow is seemingly the ingredient du jour, and for the final savoury course it was incorporated into a bread sauce and served with braised Guinea fowl.
After what seemed like hours (during which Mary Portas demanded to know why the final course was taking so long!), dessert arrived to round off the meal. Trifle ice cream with poached rhubarb, prettily presented with toasted almonds and delicate Lady’s Fingers biscuits. Fruity, sweet (but not overly so) and a wonderful note to finish on.
Carousel is just the ticket for those who want an ever-changing food offering without having to find a new restaurant each time – no need to change venue when the venue periodically changes its chef! And when the standard of chefs is so sky-high, thanks to Carousel’s careful curation, you can be sure of an exceptional culinary experience each time.
Service was inexcusably slow on our visit – when the complication of lengthy menus and varied ordering is removed and all guests are eating exactly the same thing, the food should be flying out the kitchen! But since £35 gets you a stellar meal from a highly rated chef in a stunning Marylebone location, you can be sure I’ll be heading back soon regardless.
Tom Ryalls’ residency is up on 14th February, but you can expect the next spin of the carousel to be just as delightful. Keep an eye on Carousel’s What’s On page for future residencies, each of which may last from just a few days to a few weeks.
Set menu dinner: £35 (not including service, drinks or optional extra courses).
71 Blandford Street, Marylebone, London, W1U 8AB
Booking is essential (payment is taken at the time of booking) – book online