Be My Guest Book Launch at Marani, Curzon Street, Mayfair:
My invitation to the Be My Guest event at the as yet ‘not open for business’ Marani on Curzon Street was intriguing. Of course I’ve heard about Georgian wines and indeed sampled rather a lot at various Raw Wine events. But, I knew nothing of the food. Would you ignore an invitation like this though?
So, apprehensive and rather excited, I turned up to Marani and was ushered in to an elegant and distinctive dining room. Painted, panelled walls in a subtle blue, candle-light and chandeliers create a glamorous setting. The pastel hand painted murals of Georgian ladies are set in a room that is reminiscent of the salons of 19th Century Paris. On the table, piles of the coffee table book which I managed to flick through briefly before the room filled up. Co-author Anna Saldadze told me that they wanted to create something unique, combining beautiful photography with recipes and stories. What they have created is a lifestyle book to pique the senses and provide an insight into the essence of Georgian hospitality; recognition that a memorable dining experience is far more than just a plate of food.
The restaurant is owned by Vato Machavariani and is apparently something of a family enterprise. We learnt from his mother that Vato wanted to create a restaurant in London to showcase the food he’d enjoyed in the home of his grandparents. Something he couldn’t find in London, despite the thriving restaurant scene. And, having eaten there, I believe I understand a little more of what he was missing. We sat down to enjoy a veritable feast of sharing dishes or ‘Supra’, celebrating Georgian cuisine.
Our menu was based on dishes and recipes from ‘Be My Guest’. We started with a range of appetisers including Gebjalia Salad, a traditional home made soft cheese served with cherry tomatoes and baby greens
Perhaps my favourite dish of the evening was Mtskeri Makvalshi – quail marinated in sumac and white wine, served with a wild berry sauce – a perfectly seasoned plate of tiny portions of the bird with a nicely rounded berry sauce to balance the tender meat
We went on to enjoy some fabulous but not very photogenic mixed mushrooms with tarragon and a dish called Chkmeruli – a grilled baby chicken served with garlic and cream sauce. I’m blaming the quality of my photos on the subdued lighting, although the liberal quantities of Georgian wine being served might also have contributed…
And, a whole range of charcoal grilled marinated meats (mtsvadi).
Then on to a thankfully light but delicious dessert of a thick creamy yogurt topped with walnut preserve
Now, bear in mind this is a restaurant that hasn’t yet opened its doors to the public. And, the food we were served, prepared under the guidance of Tekuna Gachechiladze, may not all feature on the restaurant menu. Although, it is likely that there will be similar dishes since Tekuna herself is spearheading the food, championing a light, contemporary style of Georgian food which is a far cry from my own perception of Eastern European food. I will be back, to try the slow cooked lamb with plums and tarragon, the rainbow trout and to enjoy the wine and infused Chacha. And, I feel very privileged to have enjoyed this little preview of something that promises to create real waves in the London restaurant scene. This is a cuisine that claims to mix Indian spices, Middle Eastern ingredients and cooking influences from France. The result is a well flavoured, unpretentious and palatable range of dishes that takes the best of all the influences to create something unique.
You can order Be My Guest through Amazon
Marani will open in March – and I will be at the front of the queue!
54 Curzon Street
London W1J 8PG