Marylebone Restaurant Stories: Orrery

How Orrery helped to reshape Marylebone’s culinary reputation

Flicking through the Journal, it’s hard to imagine that Marylebone was once something of a culinary hinterland. Back in the mid-1990s, there were a few cosy neighbourhood establishments (a few of which—Hardy’s, Paul Rothe & Son, Woodlands, The Golden Hind—continue to prosper), with a touch of fading glamour provided by Odin’s, owned by the colourful, carousing Peter Langan. Jean-Charles and Rose Carrarini’s influential Villandry had made a splash in the late eighties and early nineties, with its deli and restaurant, before moving to Great Portland Street. But on the whole, Marylebone was not a place that drew crowds from far and wide to eat, drink and be merry.

That all began to change in the mid-1990s, when The Howard de Walden Estate kicked off what was then a ground-breaking new strategy. Rather than just passively collecting rents, it would give the slightly moribund high street—and by extension, the entire area— a lift by actively pursuing retailers whose quality and profile could help shift perceptions of Marylebone. A major part of the plan was to anchor the top of the street with a carefully-chosen business that would do much to set the tone for the rest: The Conran Shop.

Terence Conran was persuaded to take over a large 19th century building that had been built as stables for a horse dealer, then later used as a car hire centre and a tyre-fitting workshop. Taking its lead from The Conran Shop’s Chelsea flagship, the top floor of the building would house a high-class restaurant, named Orrery after the intricate cosmological instrument. Chris Galvin, who had earned his spurs in various high-end kitchens in London and New York, was brought in by Conran as head chef.

Instant success
Opening in October 1997, Orrery was an instant success. Bright and elegant, with big windows and attractive views of the parish church, its setting was matched by the sophistication of the food: classically French in influence, but light and imaginative. In 2000, it was awarded a Michelin star—the first restaurant in the Conran group to achieve that accolade. Three years later Chris Galvin moved on. André Garrett, who had joined Chris as sous chef, took over from his mentor, running Orrery to considerable acclaim before leaving in 2006. 

That same year, two Conran Restaurants executives, Des Gunewardena and David Loewi, led a buyout of the group, which was renamed D&D London. In April 2008, after a couple of head chefs had left in quick succession, the group appointed Igor Tymchyshyn, a bright new talent brought in from Mirabelle. The Ukrainian-born chef, who learned his craft under two giants of London fine dining, Jean-Christophe Novelli and Marco Pierre White, has been there ever since, lending consistency and maturity to the Orrery menu, which has remained thoroughly ingredient-led, seasonal and quietly luxurious.

In 2016, Igor was appointed chef-patron and the restaurant’s quality and longevity were recognised at the Tatler Restaurant Awards, winning the Test of Time category. Last year, Orrery’s 20th anniversary was marked with a special menu featuring some of its greatest hits from across the years: confit potato, fromage blanc and Oscietra caviar; roast quail, figs and champagne velouté; lobster and mango salad; tournedos rossini with sauce Périgourdine; lime panna cotta with blackberry sorbet. To mark the start of 2018, it has undergone a major refurbishment, thoroughly refreshing that lovely interior.

Over the two decades since Orrery arrived, Marylebone’s dining scene has been utterly transformed, as the upcoming Marylebone Food Festival will attest. All the while, Orrery has been looking down from on high, watching it all unfold, quietly going about its business.

 
 
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