Italian bistro-meets-Marylebone boozer – Claudio Pulze’s latest addition to London’s dining scene (his 50th!) is an odd and hard-to-characterise venture, offering good food at good prices, and friendly service too.
laudio Pulze has variously insisted that his latest venture, in Marylebone is (à la Gordon) "not a gastropub, just a pub that does food” or, alternatively, his “50th restaurant venture”. We think the second version is closer to the truth. After 49 previous openings, it’s surely quite difficult for a restaurateur – who brought us the likes of Aubergine and Zafferano – convincingly to change his spots?
The result of Signor Pulze’s make-over of a Victorian pub in Marylebone – on the ‘wrong’ (west) side of Baker Street – is rather odd. It feels like neither a pub, nor a restaurant, nor even a bar/bistro (which is probably the term closest to the reality). It may have an English pub interior, but the make-over has imposed a slight stageiness – with champagne bottles dotted about, and curious long, high banquettes – which somehow evokes a classic continental restaurant more than anything else. The friendly staff are apparently pretty much all Italian too, further ensuring that the feel of the place is very much not your classic boozer.
There’s also table service, and a long(ish) wine list, specialising in lesser-known estates. The food includes some snack items, such as really excellent spicey prawns, and some thoroughly ‘restaurant’ dishes such as châteaubriand with huge hand-cut chips. We didn’t sample the latter, but the next table did, and they did not stint in their appreciation for a dish which looked great (if you’re not proposing to do any work that afternoon). Our main course selection – a sort of chicken roll ’n’ (thin-cut) chips – looked as if it might have been a poor one, relatively speaking, but the result was certainly more than acceptable. A chocolate brownie with ice cream was very good, and the espresso likewise. (Well, what do you expect with an all-Italian staff?)
The bill for this more than satisfying lunch for one, including a glass of the recommended sauvignon blanc, was £25 plus optional tip. We couldn’t help noting that that’s little more than half what we’ve found ourselves paying for lunch in fancier part of town in recent weeks, and for meals which – overall – have often been much less satisfying.