Considering the vast choice on offer in London’s dining scene hotel restaurants might not be everyone’s first port of call. But as this British brasserie proves it’s often well worth looking beyond the lobby.
Hunter 486 at boutique-chic The Arch Hotel in London’s swanky Marble Arch is a case in point. Named after the 1950s dialling code for Marylebone and a stone’s throw from Mayfair, Dustin Hoffman has been spotted walking his dog past the hotel’s doors, while Madonna is rumoured to own a house on the same street. Whether they have ever stopped in for a bite to eat is another matter. (The night manager tells me it is his personal policy to keep schtum on any high-profile guests that might have stayed there). However its privileged position does afford it a certain air of exclusivity, and expectations are high.
Arriving on a Tuesday evening my attention is first drawn to the striking works of art on display as we are whisked into the Hunter 486 dining room, which adjoins the hotel’s lobby. Decked out with brown leather booths, chandeliers, an open kitchen with flames emanating from a stone oven and gleaming copper pots suspended from the ceiling, it has a rustic-meets-modern feel about it. The dining area is small but intimate with a bar area set off to one side flanked by a sweeping art-deco style bar. It’s as if 1920’s America has collided with a rustic Italian kitchen and had a very glamorous British baby. Indeed the restaurant’s new “Best of British” menu that has prompted our visit here this evening. Developed by head chef Gary Durrant with Henrietta Green, food writer and hospitality consultant, the menu is inspired by British recipes, ingredients and produce prepared “honestly and simply”.
Perusing the menu, its 28-strong selection of wines ranges from a reasonable £23 to a wallet-splurging £495 for a bottle of Chateau Haut Brion 1981. Settling in I spy a bottle of Viña Pomal Rioja Reserva (£36) – a sumptuous wine bursting with black fruits, tobacco and vanilla. Its by the-glass selection is small but will satisfy most tastes. And while we didn’t sample any on this visit, a selection of cocktails priced from £12 are on offer, including the intriguing Joie de vivre which comprises flamed Drambuie liqueur, freshly sliced strawberries and berries served with “heated” apple juice.
With my wine choice in mind, I pick potted duck with fruit chutney and still-warm sourdough toast to start (£9.50) – evidence of the restaurant’s decision to introduce “plates, pots, boards and bowls” to its menu. Staff are friendly and attentive and service is swift. Presented in a jam jar on a wooden board I was suitably impressed; the slight saltiness of the mousse-like potted duck married beautifully with the sweetness of the chutney. My only criticism was that while the bread was delicious, freshly baked from the oven, the accompanying butter was too hard to spread – irritating yet so easy to remedy. My partner meanwhile went for the generously sized steak tartare (£8.50) with sourdough toast, delicately peppered with a citrus kick.
For the main event, I chose the peppered loin of venison with beetroot puree, turnip and potato gratin (£24). Beautifully presented, if a little unnervingly well peppered, its potential kick was tempered by the earthy sweetness of the beetroot. The meat was reassuringly medium rare, tinged a pleasing pink hue. The accompanying potato finger was satisfyingly crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. My partner plumped for the rib eye steak with peppercorn sauce (£26), which while oozing with flavour was served on a slightly too small wooden board. We shared a portion of roasted root vegetables (£4).
Rounding off our evening, we found room to sample the restaurant’s blood oranges, pomegranate and toasted almonds with mascarpone sorbet (£8.50), a beautifully light and fresh way to end an otherwise deliciously rich selection of dishes. Our selection worked out at around £60 a head, fairly reasonable for Marble Arch, however for those on a budget the restaurant offers an even more reasonable express menu. From Monday to Saturday from 12pm to 3pm and from 6pm to 7pm you can get two courses for £19 and three course for £21.
With an air of nostalgic London glamour, contemporary touches and hearty dishes, Hunter 486 is a good value brasserie nestled in an area of central London where your money is unlikely to stretch very far. Give it a try next time you’re in the mood for a down to earth yet decadent dining experience.
Hunter 486, The Arch London, 50 Great Cumberland Place, Marble Arch, London W1H 7FD