Last Friday I went along to a dinner at the Marriott hotel. I have always been a little intrigued with this hotel, a yellow cement building protected by a sheild of glass, since my flat is a mere five minute walk. It is located on the farthest reaches of Kensington, along Cromwell Road, which the waiter claims is the second busiest road in Europe.
Through to the front door, and I was a little taken with the lobby. As we are approaching Spring, the glass front had bathed us in the warm glow of the setting sun. On hand to receive us were a handful of the hotel’s management who directed me to the hotel bar – Nabuco. I asked for a Mojito to kick start my evening.
The manager was a little enthusiastic as he introduced me to his restaurant, and stressed that his main objective was to achieve a ‘rustic’ ambiance and that meant taking away the table cloths and wine glasses. It does seem like most major hotels brands (including the Hyatt) are appearing to restyle their business with an insistence on laid back elegance. Anyway, we were seated by the glass wall – to my amazement, well insulated against the noise pollution of the ‘second busiest street in Europe’. The Fratelli menu reads like a collection of European classics. Generic, non-offensive dishes with nothing particular outstanding, nor skewed to regional cuisines. One will find French Onion soup quite comfortably sitting in the same section as a Buffalo Mozzarella salad.
The restaurant is spread across most of the expansive atrium area. I noted a lack of non hotel guests dining at the restaurant. Service was a little slow, if attentive, I’m not sure if these pre-starters are protocol though I would recommend the chef to add this to his menu. A single pawn tempura, well seasoned and juicily chunky with a shot of able gazpachos that fizzled with a peppery end. A selection of seeded, white and brown bread was served warm on a wooden board with whipped butter – a nice touch, a good start.
On to the starters then, pan-fried crispy squid with chorizo salad £6
Stranded of crunchy squid worked well with stranded of equally crunchy green beans, chorizo adding colour to the salad. I found this delightfully simple dish quite enjoyable.
On the contrary, the French Onion soup was a failure. A horribly running and overly soggy crouton with a cheesy top that was so stringently unbreakable that I nearly choked on the strands of cheese, I failed to finish it.
As expected, the mains are a flurry of grilled meats. Choices include pan-fried sea bass, pork chops and steaks. Aside from the grilled menu, there is braised veal cheeks; duck confit and corn fed chicken supreme. However, there was really only one item that caught my eye – The 20 oz fore rib to share which could be had for a rather agreeable price of £39.
The executive chef himself decided to grace our table with his presence. As he was carving his pièce de résistance, he had told us that all steaks which come into the restaurant are rubbed with olive oil, garlic and rosemary. He stressed the importance of produce. Naturally, being the beef lover that I am, I quizzed him about the whereabouts of his stock, to which he blurted Essex at first, but returned later to correct himself and he told me that beef were Scotch Angus, dry-aged by the farmer before arriving in his kitchens.
Smokey grilled flavours were toned down, however I did quite enjoy the faint whiff of garlic on my palate – a soft if sizzling punch on the tongue. Beef was cooked to a perfect medium rare, bloody, juicy and characteristically tender for a Scotch rib-eye. The chips were excellent, crispy and nutty, served in its own metal basket for effect. Of course, I also order the mandatory bearnaise sauce – Eggy and buttery with a squidge of citrus – it could with abit more whipping but then I would just be nitpicking. The chef had initially wanted to take away the bone after serving us the meat – to my utter shock really – and I am glad I stopped him. The meat on the bone are the most flavoursome after all. I ended my meal looking like a desperately ravenous man digging into the mere scraps on the bone. For £39, fore rib for two represents great value. The price is inclusive of chips and salad as well, and I checked that other steak choices hover the £19 per head mark, which I think represents competitive value for money. Do inquire about the fried prawn and gazpacho starter if you decide to try Fratelli.
For more information on the London Marriot Kensington visit lastminute.com where you can also check for availability and special offers.
About the blogger : Kang writes two restaurant reviews on his blog every week.