The Wallace Collection is a stunning national museum in an historic London town house situated in the leafy heart of Marylebone. In 25 galleries there are unsurpassed displays of French 18th-century painting, furniture and porcelain with superb Old Master paintings and a world class armoury, and hidden in the centre house, is a glass ceilinged courtyard, flooded with natural light and dotted with trees, where The Wallace Restaurant can be found.
For the illusion of eating outside without suffering the bitter chill of British summer time, this courtyard is utterly splendid. The high walled courtyard is reminiscent of the French Riviera, with elegant trees branching out throughout the room, with a gorgeous dusky pink background from the building walls. It is difficult to imagine how this room might work on an overcast, miserable day, and i’d imagine the patter of rain on the glass roof could cause a gentle rumbling soundtrack to any visit which may be distracting, but during the summer, as the sun tries to sneak its way out from behind the clouds, it is stunning.
A quick glance at the menu should give you an instant sense of what this restaurant is about, as stodgy, fast food is nowhere to be seen. Instead a selection of elegant fish based dishes dominates the mains, and there is a reasonable number of vegetarian options. It is in the most made up of traditional European recipes that are reinterpreted in an innovative style.
The entrees sound delicate and gentle and are mostly, if not all, cold. Afterall, this is currently a summer menu, and the chef has clearly decided to utilise seasonal ingredients. The Asparagus, with sauce gribiche and bottarge (£9) is a beautifully light yet flavour packed dish that is by no means small. The asparagus spears were large, and the chef had been generous with the gribiche (a mayonnaise style cold egg sauce) and together with the asparagus reminded me of elegant picnics in summer time. Additionally the pan fried mackerel with pesto and tomato salsa was a glorious celebration of summery flavours, with a beautiful tang from the pesto which was complemented well by the oily fish that fell apart with a touch of the fork. The presentation was outstanding, mirroring the elegance of the surroundings. It all happened to go beautifully with a glass of the crisp, light Chardonnay recommended by the manager.
The elegant, seasonal offerings continued into the main courses, with my poached turbot with coconut broth and prawn ravioli (£19.50). This contained flavours of South East Asia with the refinement of French cookery. The coconut broth was smooth and creamy and the turbot was soft. The ravioli brought a new dimension of cuisine to the bowl; true fusion cooking. Meanwhile the Lemon Sole lived up to its name by having a sharp kick of citrus, diluted well by the gorgeously large, crispy chips we had ordered on the side.
Although full, my curiosity ignored the cries from my waistline and I ordered the peach soup to end my meal, and it would appear this is the perfect “digestif” dessert. Made with a puree of peaches and joined by scoops of refreshing sorbet and fresh berries, it is the ultimate summer dessert at just £7. Sweet but cleansing, I could have enjoyed several colourful bowls of the stuff.
The Wallace Restaurant allows your meal to comes with a side of culture. Any connoisseur of art will appreciate the way in which the food mimics the delicacy and talent of the pieces showcased throughout the museum. The surroundings are relaxing and beautiful. While service is a little slow, you could happily spend hours enjoying a lunch or dinner, afternoon tea or just a coffee in this beautiful courtyard, and I would certainly recommend you do.