It`s not many years ago that Roy Keane was decrying the prawn sandwich brigade who, he professed, preferred the hospitality of the corporate boxes to the pies and banter of the stands. How football has changed. This is no better evidence of this than at Stamford Bridge, where Abramovich`s millions are paid to celebrity footballers and Marco Pierre White` s restaurant attracts diners not to be found in the terraces gesturing at the opposition.
There is a nod to the footballer`s wives element of Chelsea in the Studio 54 feel of the place, created largely by an imposing gold glittered pillar reflected in the numerous mirrors. We were seated on a dark leather banquette in a cosy hub made more intimate by subdued lighting, allowing us to forget our proximity to the programme stands and enormous banners of Terry and Cole on display outside for the match day faithful.
The menu is so brief it suggests utter confidence in each dish, and does not fail to deliver. My choice of starter- asparagus with prosciutto and herbs, was light, refreshing and accompanied by a complimentary Prosecco which set it off beautifully. My partner opted for the fresh Cornish crab and this too was excellent – rich, light and with a lovely accompanying herb mayonnaise. But vegetarians beware – the choice is limited to one starter and main, a somewhat lazy offering of tomato soup and vegetable lattice.
My main of lemon sole with brown shrimps and butter was, quite simply, faultless. The most beautifully cooked piece of fish I have tasted, with a light texture and yet a depth of flavour that was astonishing. It was complemented by a side order of creamed potatoes and salade verte, and as portions are, refreshingly, on the generous side you can share to keep costs down. My partner`s choice of slow braised Oriental pork belly with pak choi, chilli and ginger was succulent with a pleasing combination of spicy flavours for a cold night in London. The service was impeccable, and I witnessed the upmarket equivalent of a landlord`s response to an irate wife when the wine waiter, constantly replenishing my partner`s oversized wine glass , insisted that he had not had more than half a bottle.
Considering the generosity of portion sizes I rather overegged my own pudding and could not manage the ambitious choice of Eton mess, liberally dosed with double cream. Be careful what you wish for, as this was a little too dense for my palate. My partner`s choice of soufflé with white peaches was better, and the twenty minute preparation time allowed for more wine.
The menu is uncomplicated but considered; a combination of finest French and British cuisine that tells you what you are getting and then delivers it. The service is absolutely faultless and, judging by the number of diners on the evening we visited, Marco is finding its place beneath the stands of Stamford Bridge , allowing the prawn sandwich brigade to move on to a more discerning choice of cuisine.
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