Marylebone’s Mandeville hotel, one of London’s best luxury boutique offerings, has launched Reform Social & Grill under the direction of head chef Jens Folkel and restaurant manger Giovanni Piattoli, who can boast past employment from the likes of Bistro Du Vin and Albermale Restaurant respectively. Nestled in the heart of Marylebone, this is a restaurant that is set for success in its own right, distancing itself from that unwanted moniker of 'merely a hotel venue'.
Red leather booths, wooden flooring, embossed copper walls and marble tables ensure that this restaurant has a high end feel and that diners enjoy a premium setting that matches the hotel. The focal point on the main wall is perhaps not to everyone’s taste, showing a muscular bull in all its sinewy glory, but it is in keeping with the venue’s gentleman’s club feel.
Formal and classy, Reform Social & Grill is sure to be a new playground for the west London well to do, whether they're enjoying a quick bite at lunch time or a full three course dinner in the evenings. It's location also suggests that it will also be popular for business lunches, and with such a manly aesthetic, it's well suited to exactly that. Whilst attempting to emulate a gentleman’s club might risk alienating the female diner somewhat, this is somewhere that should be commended for its commitment to choice of décor.
Ranging between £6 and £13, many of the starters are impressively inventive. The pheasant scotch egg is made with confit of pheasant mixed with sausage meat, and the gamey outside complements the perfectly cooked soft-boiled egg. The asparagus with goat's curd and hazelnuts is a sweet dish with an abundance of textures and flavours; the creamy curd and crunchy hazelnuts and breadcrumbs atop the fresh asparagus work surprisingly well. Other menu options include lobster cocktail (a nice modern twist on an '80s classic), Cornish mackerel served with squid, sea pickle and watercress, and spring chicken broth served with little dumplings.
The catch of the day section of the menu offers native lobster for a hefty £34.50, and a more reasonable fisherman’s pie with scallops and Waterloo cheese for half the cost. The day-boat caught plaice is cooked brilliantly, and incredibly flavoursome; the fish decorated with tiny pink Morecambe Bay shrimps and a caper and parsley butter that add a delicious salty dimension to the dish. The plentiful bones in the fish do make the dish a little difficult to eat though, so some might prefer to ask for it to be deboned.
The charcoal grill boasts classic (bordering on safe) options, such as the Reform burger, a mixed grill, or a rib-eye steak - all reasonably priced. However the speciality on this section has to be the hanger steak (£19) which, served with Hertfordshire snails and cooked in garlic butter, mixes two very different flavours (the steak can also be served alone for £14, though it will need some sides). The meat is tender and cooked perfectly to medium rare, but the garlic is a touch overpowering and its green, almost fluorescent colouring isn’t as appetising as perhaps it should be. The double cut porterhouse steak (just under £60) is sure to be another favourite. It's served on the bone with smoked bone marrow and, coming in at a hefty 850g, is meant for two to share. There are very few vegetarian dishes available on the menu, with only cheese and onion tart or a salt baked beetroot salad offered. But then again anywhere with 'grill' in the name is giving diners plenty of advance warning as to their wares.
The desserts and puddings available are plentiful, catering for a variety of different palates. From Yorkshire rhubarb fool served with brandy snaps and amaretto, to orange tart served with mint, and a decent cheese course, diners are pretty spoilt for choice. A small chocolate pot made with Amadei chocolate is tart, bitter and hugely filling, and is complemented beautifully by salted caramel and a dash of whipped cream. The Bakewell pudding is another Reform success, marrying almond and cherry perfectly and accompanying it with gorgeously creamy vanilla custard, which is served generously.
Reform has a modest number of wines on offer, with its speciality appearing to be the cocktails, all of which are served for under a tenner. A number of them fall under the category named ‘seasonal and twisted drinks’, explained somewhat confusingly as a 'look to the future with drinks that reminds us of the past'. These include Edwin Chadwick’s Cup, which mixes Tanqueray, cucumber, mint, elderflower and champagne for a refreshing tipple, and the Duke Ellington, which comprises of Ketel One vodka, lychee, pineapple juice and coconut cream. A number of cocktails also fall under the ‘cocktail heritage’ section, boasting drinks that have been passed down from bartender to bartender such as the Millionaire, a combination of Johnny Walker, Grand Marnier and homemade pomegranate syrup. A number of aperitifs are served all day, along with a sturdy selection of champagnes for various budgets. For those unsure of which drink to go for the staff are, as always in good restaurants such as this, on hand to recommend the best wine to complement each dish.
The Last Word
Whilst many of the more experimental dishes seem to be saved for the bar snacks (including an intriguing crispy lamb bacon with mint jelly and duck faggot alongside game chips), the restaurant menu still offers diners modern twists on classic traditional dishes. The food and drinks are certainly pretty good, making Reform well worth a visit if you’re a fan of cocktails, meaty mains and masculine dining rooms.