The Underground Restaurant


I think it takes an incredibly brave person to open an underground restaurant. I mean, of course it is illegal but apart from that – cooking for 20 odd strangers in your very own home every week might be a bit well, stressful/tiring/anxiety provoking/all of the previous? Not a bit of it on Saturday night however, when three friends and I dined at the house of the formidable Ms Marmite Lover – not the faintest flicker of worry on her face.

While Ms ML had been calmly preparing (a fabulous tweet revealed her to be up at 12am the previous night making “fu**ing tarte au citron”), we had been sweating it out on smelly buses. As I’m sure all you Londoners will appreciate, the transport system is never what can be described as fully operational at weekends. For this reason then, we made a therapeutic pit stop at the nearby pub for pre-dinner pints before moving on in high spirits towards the restaurant.

Greeted at the door with a welcoming smile and a glass of Kir Semi-Royale, we were instantly absorbed into the warm glow within Ms ML’s home. There was a chance for some pre-dinner mingling with the other diners, which perhaps could better be described as a bit of time for them to ‘get used to us’ and our generally excitable ways.

 The house by this point was filled with the delicious smell of our first course – raviolo stuffed with portobello, oyster and button mushrooms with an onion cappuccino (cooked by Charlie Nelson). I’m pretty sure everyone agreed this was really good, particularly that sauce. I mean: onions and cream.

Our main was salmon en papillote, served with dill, creme fraiche and aga roasted potatoes. The salmon was very fresh and spring-like and those aga roasted potatoes pleased me no end with their little wrinkly jackets. A rocket and pine nut salad added a hit of greenery and was dressed with a fine vinaigrette – robust, thick and unapologetic – just how I like it.

 To finish there was that ‘fu**ing’ lemon tart – well worth Ms ML’s efforts, with a good tart whack of citrus, wonderful smooth texture and a bonus surprise addition of meringues which were really nice and chewy, I suspect due to an ultra-slow cooking in the aga.

Ms ML most definitely scores top marks as a hostess (as does her daughter as waitress), the whole evening was incredibly relaxed and the atmosphere in the room by the end of dinner was, ahem ‘lively’ to say the least. All 18 diners chatting and laughing – our table loudest of all if I remember rightly. We even managed to persuade Chris to give us a little impromptu tinkle on Ms ML’s ivories, to which I know there was out of tune singing and punching of fists in the air because I have video evidence on my camera.

 There was coffee to follow but three hours after arrival we Southerners had to flee lest we miss the last train and be stranded on the wrong side of the river. Terrible things can happen to a Londoner when stranded on the wrong side of the water after midnight you know. Don’t worry though, because sleeping on Ms ML’s camp bed isn’t one of them – yep, she has even been known to accomodate the odd tipsy diner for the night*. Now that’s what I call hospitality.

 You can buy tickets for the underground restaurant and cooking classes here.

*please do not take this for granted. I’m saying it happened, not that she runs a hotel too….

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  • Avatar
    Reply Chris March 25, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Who’s that handsome chap on the last photo? He should be given his own blog.

    Chriss last blog post..The Alba, St. Ives

  • Avatar
    Reply Niamh March 25, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Nice post! Such a fun night. I’m thinking of doing a cooking class over the next few months.

    Niamhs last blog post..St Patrick’s Day – Chilli Roast Salmon and Potato Salad

  • Avatar
    Reply Dan March 25, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Looks really good and sounds like you had a fantastic time (which is what its all about really) I’m intrigued by the Onion cappuccino sauce with the Raviolo, what did that consist of?

    Dans last blog post..Breakfast on the Seafront – Sands Bistro.

  • Avatar
    Reply Helen March 25, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Dan – I have no idea. You will have to ask Charlie Brooker on that one!

  • Avatar
    Reply Helen March 25, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Sorry – Charlie Nelson. Who the hell is Charlie Brooker?

  • Avatar
    Reply Jeanne March 25, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    Fabulous! Sounds like a fun evening – and clearly Chris is a man of many talents…!

    Jeannes last blog post..My perfect gift…

  • Avatar
    Reply Mark March 25, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    I’ve heard about MsML, it sounds so kooky and fun, I love it! And the food looks good too!

    Marks last blog post..Buying Beer 2: Beer Ventures

  • Avatar
    Reply Lizzie March 25, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    Oh dear – were we really raucous? I spose that’s what happens when we sink 3 pints before dinner..

  • Avatar
    Reply james March 25, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    I like that bit in the Guardian article – ‘Probably the best way to find out about underground restaurants in other towns is to be cool, and know cool people.’ That’s you then…..

    If only I could fit more than 2 people in my little cottage……

    jamess last blog post..Rack of lamb with aubergine and potato gratin and roast courgettes

  • Avatar
    Reply Daniel March 26, 2009 at 12:30 am

    Sounds like an absolute blast. But my question is, what do you all do when the police come banging down the door? 🙂

    Casual Kitchen

    Daniels last blog post..Recommended Reading for A Good Wine Education

  • Avatar
    Reply msmarmitelover March 26, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    We will all sing happy birthday!
    Thanks Helen for such a lovely report. You were all great! My only regret is that I personally had to stay vaguely compos mentis and couldn’t join you in your rowdy ways…
    Niamh…if you have a cooking class please let me know (as long as it isn’t meat)
    The rose-water meringues were cooked for hours in the ‘simmering’ oven.
    I like Charlie Brooker, but I don’t know what his sauces are like…

    msmarmitelovers last blog post..Rosehip Syrup

  • Avatar
    Reply Ching Hermosa March 27, 2009 at 6:55 am

    Hmm I have to try this one before really agreeing with your review. But then great inputs by the way.

    Ching Hermosas last blog post..Alcoholic Shakes

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    Reply Christie @ Fig & Cherry March 27, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Oh how fun! I can’t wait to get back to London to find these little treasures (9 weeks to go, yay!).

  • Avatar
    Reply Sophie March 27, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    This sounds fabulous. Ms Marmite Lover, you are ever so brave (and possibly a little bit crazy?) having all of these people round to your house for tea 🙂 Especially if you can’t always get rid of them afterwards.

    I wonder if there are underground restaurants around Oxford.

    Sophies last blog post..Italian lentil and chestnut stew

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    Reply The Shy Chef March 29, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Well, we must be crazy too, because we’re running a secret restaurant from our home in Berlin! If you are ever over, you are all warmly welcome 😉

    The Shy Chefs last blog post..Booking and cooking

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    Reply Helen Yuet Ling Pang March 29, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    What a fun evening! Next time I return to the Underground Restaurant, it will be as a guest, although I loved my stint as a volunteer in the kitchen!

    Helen Yuet Ling Pangs last blog post..New Tayyabs (Pakistani) – London, England (7.5/10)

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    Reply Jonathan March 30, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Another super write up. I’m now gagging to go back for an evening of dining al fresco.

    Wish I had seen you guys in action and Chris on the piano. Top stuff.

    Jonathans last blog post..Battered Creme Egg in Bruton

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    Reply sandraraven15 September 9, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  • Avatar
    Reply Kai Collins May 9, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Flicker is really great when sharing photos over friends and families. I love the resize feature of Flickr.:”‘

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