Story by Angie Foong
I rang the door bell of the nondescript secret location – password at the ready.
To the uninitiated, paying to have a meal in someone’s front room may seem nonsensical, but like many foodies, I’d been curious about the Underground restaurant movement for some time. Was it just a fad? Is the food decent? What do you mean I need to pay for my meal in advance?
My underground experience today is at the home of Ms Marmite lover, whose name returns an impressive 86,700 Google results. Many of the results are from food blogs, so it seemed like a good bet. We were led into the living room where tables covered with white linen and shabby chic candleholders were laid for lunch. Kir Royales were handed out and guests wandered out to the garden to make the most of the April sunshine.
So what about the food? The starter of Rigatoni Puttanesca (on the menu because Ms Marmite thinks “Sunday lunch should start with pasta”) was simple and hearty. Whole sea bass stuffed with morels followed. Beautifully cooked (especially considering there were 30 of us and I don’t even know how to turn on an Aga!) and accompanied by a rich full flavoured sauce which dripped lazily over slivers of potato. The fish was accompanied by a Blood Orange, Fennel and Pomegranate salad, not too dissimilar to ones you’d find in southern Italy: fresh, crunchy and citrusy. For the third course, we enjoyed six cheeses from across the UK, ranging from a pungent Snowdonian cheddar to a soft goats cheese from Childwicksbury. But the crowning glory for me was the fourth course, a Rhubarb fool, which was a tangy compote blanketed in soft sweetened cream, Rhubarb syrup and candied thyme. I’m a sucker for presentation, and I did like how they were served in a small army of mismatched vintage parfait glasses.
But what makes Ms Marmite’s establishment special? Why pay Â£30 for the privilege of eating in someone else’s house? I think the secret ingredient is Ms Marmite herself. Her passion for quality produce commands respect: cheeses were from Neals Yard, bread from Poilane, morels from Borough market – you get the idea. I love her impromptu efforts to make guests feel special – the rugs laid out in the sunshine to lounge on after lunch, her invitation to have a nosy in the kitchen and the fact that the menu varies every meal – because in her words, “if it was the same it would just be like having a job”. Would I recommend an underground meal at Ms Marmites? Let me put it this way, less than 24 hours earlier I was at Le Caprice – also lovely food and beautiful surroundings. Which one would I choose to go back to first? Ms Marmites place. No question.
About the author: Angie Foong is a passionate foodie and Jamie Oliver fan
For more information on Ms Marmite.