Carousel: The chefs they are a-changin’
Turn off your phone and enjoy the ride at Marylebone restaurant with a revolving roster of guest chefs, all cooking for just a few days
05 April, 2018 — By Tom Moggach
Carousel’s Cornish mussels with samphire and rhubarb
FIDDLING with smartphones turns us all into goldfish – unable to focus for more than a few seconds. Step forward Carousel: the ideal restaurant concept for diners with dwindling attention spans.
Located in Marylebone, this hybrid space has a revolving roster of guest chefs from around the world, all cooking for just a few days.
You might, for example, find a fêted chef from Mumbai with a suitcase of Himalayan produce and “wilderness to table” philosophy.
Or a cook from Norway with a penchant for snow crab, sand clams and fermented red cabbage.
What’s more, the space itself – a large three-storey building and adjacent gallery in Blandford Street – is also used for all manner of events, from calligraphy workshops to exhibitions of photography.
Unsurprisingly, there’s a tight crew coordinating all this activity: four cousins from the Templeton family, whose two fathers are identical twins.
If all this transient creativity sounds rather exhausting, there’s a more straightforward route to getting fed at Carousel – by sampling their lunch menu, which is cooked by their own chefs.
I pitched up on a weekday, when the two long wooden tables were slowly filling up.
At Carousel, you may sit next to strangers – especially during the busier evening slots with the guest chefs, when everyone eats at the same time.
The lunch menu is modern and inventive, with an array of small dishes (and a few larger plates) ranging from pastas to vegetarian options, meat and fish.
Cornish mussels – the plumpest I’ve ever eaten – were jumbled with strands of samphire and slivers of forced rhubarb to add flashes of neon-pink and a racy acidity.
A dish of swede, a much underrated vegetable, was another smash hit. Tender chunks of the root were paired with a smooth pumpkin seed puree, with fronds of red kale and toasted buckwheat.
I’d started the meal with their offbeat nibbles. “Mushroom crisps” resembled a grey poppadom. Presumably made with a mushroom powder, they expressed their colour but little of the taste.
I wasn’t crazy about a pasta dish: strands of rather heavy bucatini in a rich messy sauce of ‘nduja and stracciatella cheese.
Wines are a thing here, with many intriguing vintages sold by the glass and on-trend options such as white port or Kentish mead.
My glass of Riesling was the best wine I’ve drunk in ages. (Back home, I spent a happy hour online trying to find a supplier.)
When the weather warms up, you’ll be able to eat in their cute garden out back.
Carousel opens for lunch from Tuesday to Saturday and you could eat relatively cheaply. Small plates cost around £6-£9 and their excellent bread and butter is free.
Tickets for the guest chef feasts in the evening cost £39.50. Until April 7, it’s two brothers who usually cook in a walled garden near the Mendip Hills.
You’ll never get bored at Carousel. So turn off your phone and enjoy the ride.
71 Blandford Street, W1U
0207 487 5564