‘I’m very sorry Sir, but we can’t turn the music down. It’s preset to this level, or off.’ That statement spoke volumes. ‘222’ (or ‘twotwentytwo’ as the menu advises) is the basement restaurant at London’s Landmark Hotel (222 Marylebone Road). It re-opened a month ago, a victim of a makeover more about vanity than sanity.
As part of the £1m spent, a full-sized horse statue stands watch at the entrance, symbolically casting light onto a time when carriages pulled-up at the grand Victorian pile. Perhaps to reinforce such sentiment, a lampshade sprouts its mane.
With dark panelling and bulky, jester-print armchairs, the dining room resembles ‘Hélène Darroze at The Connaught’, although the menu, which has already changed several times, is timid. Its genre could best be described as ‘room service highlights’.
I was surprised to be here. The unexpectedly slim Richard Harden, who publishes the Restaurant Guide with brother Peter, had kindly invited me to the nearby Swan and Edgar, an intriguing pub with a literary theme, which doesn’t serve beer. Unfortunately it turned out to be shut at lunchtime which explains how we came to be sitting on ergonomically challenging leather seats imbued with that new car smell, enduring strident muzac, whilst perspiring in no doubt similarly unadjustable, suffocating heat.
We started with a sharing platter: Parma ham which was thick and dry, so probably peeled from a packet, wan bresaola, crisp but painfully (as)salted calamari with bought-in dip and a dense but otherwise acceptable pea and mint samosa. Despite side plates, we had to chase bread which it appears, meanly, isn’t normally provided.
To follow, Richard’s damp risotto of shaved asparagus, green beans, broad beans, mint and chervil oil was uninspiring, clearly made without the obligatory tenderness of touch. It smelt of posh washing-up liquid.
The £10 cod and chips and glass of Sauvignon Blanc deal was better. Served on a sheet of mock newspaper carrying headlines about the hotel, the crisp batter sarcophagus insulated moist, flaky fish. This was served with a side of chef’s humour. Again aggressively salted chips were plunged in a pannier – a ridiculous, passé garden detail. Unadvertised mushy peas the colour of wasabi had the texture of porridge.
A shared tiramisu, rather cutely plated in two portions, was suspiciously pert, cutting so sheerly as to resemble the white cliffs of Dover. It was disappointingly almost caffeine free.
As a bastardised version of Take Five pan-piped into proceedings, I wondered what type of clientele twotwentytwo is seeking. It is too noisy for businessmen, too uncomfortable for a tête à tête and despite the presence of ice buckets submerged like outsize inkwells into some tables, too fuddy for fashionistas hunting pretty cocktails and ultra brut bubbles. And foodies won’t flock: the cooking is boring. I recalled the story of a person who visited a fortune teller for fun only be told that their life will be entirely ordinary. They never recovered.
Incidentally, the hotel was originally named the ‘Grand Central’, built at the turn of the nineteenth century as a show-off to French passengers emerging from journeys in an earlier attempt at a channel tunnel, meant to connect at Marylebone.
Going on the evidence of the culinary beige that they are peddling at the grammatically questionable ‘twotwentytwo’ it is just as well that over a century later, the tunnel opens elsewhere.
twotwentytwo at The Landmark Hotel
222 Marylebone Road
Reservations: 020 7631 8230