What: A new incarnation of Carousel, the chef residency restaurant that originally opened on Blandford Street in Marylebone back in 2014. Having taken over the former Wahaca site on Charlotte Street - a sprawling space made up of three converted Georgian townhouses - Carousel's move to Fitzrovia sees it evolve into a multi-faceted culinary hub. While the new location stays true to Carousel’s roots with an ever-changing line-up of guest chefs running the main restaurant kitchen, the new venue also features a dedicated wine bar that's open throughout the day; a 10-seat incubator space for new concepts and longer-term residencies (see 'and another thing' below); and separate areas available upstairs to hire for private dining, workshops and events.
Who: Carousel is the creation of brothers Ollie and Ed Templeton. The pair launched the original Blandford Street site in partnership with their cousins Anna and Will Templeton and came up with the idea of operating as a residency restaurant having collaborated with chefs in the past. Carousel Marylebone saw residencies from some of the world's most high-profile chefs, many of whom have since launched restaurants in the capital. They include Niklas Ekstedt, Angie Mar, Santiago Lastra, Ravinder Bhogal and Jeremy Chan. The new Fitzrovia space continues to give established and up-and-coming talent from around the globe a platform to showcase their skills to Londoners hungry for unique dining experiences, but it's also giving them an opportunity to flex their own creative muscles, with Ollie overseeing the menu wine bar menu.
The food: As before, the menu at the main restaurant changes weekly depending on which chef has taken up residency in the kitchen, but in the wine bar the food offer is more consistent. Taking the reins in the wine bar's kitchen, Ollie’s all-day menu reflects the myriad influences of Carousel’s ever-changing line-up of talented chefs from around the world, encompassing flavours and techniques from 'pretty much everywhere'. There's plenty of range here, with Asian, Mediterranean, South American and European influences all discernible. Dishes will change with the seasons, but highlights from the launch menu include beef tartare toast with red pepper relish and radish; fried chicken with habanero and honey; Ibérico tomato with black garlic and thyme; and bavette served with hazelnut, watercress, smoked tomato and Jerusalem artichoke. Prices are on par with other small plate restaurants in the area, starting at around £5 for snacks and topping out at £16 to £18 for the larger, meatier plates.
The drink: In both the bar and main restaurant there is a strong emphasis on characterful wines from independent winemakers (often low-intervention), from Australian pétnats (Astro Bunny, Zibbibo/Vermentino, Adelaide Hills, 2018) and Spanish orange wines (Escabeces, Cartoixa Vermell, Tarragona, 2015), to more classic French whites (Miss Terre, Melon de Bourgogne, Loire 2016) and Italian reds (Le Coste, Rosso di Gaetano, Sangiovese, Lazio 2018). These are accompanied by a cocktail menu of Carousel classics and some new creations like the Electric Martini featuring The Botanist gin, Electrico fino sherry, creme de figue, Angostura Bitters; and Pedro’s Pickled Paloma with Quiquiriqui mezcal, pickled grapefruit, salted lime and soda.
The vibe: The wine bar is a vibrant, buzzy space that features a bright terrazzo floor, wooden tables with Formica tops and a polished concrete bar spanning the width of the room. Both table and bar seating are available, with some terrace space for outdoor dining - even in the January cold, all tables inside and out were full when we visited. Past the bar can be found the more intimate main dining room that features a kitchen island where the visiting chef of the day will take centre stage, and an impressive skylight flooding the room with natural light. There are no counters or bars here, which is intended to give the experience the same kind of warm and open dinner party feel that was a synonymous with the Marylebone original. Upstairs, meanwhile, can be found a 30-cover private dining room that’s separated by a sliding Crittall door from the larger event space that can hold up to 150 guests.
And another thing: Tucked next door to the wine bar and with its own entrance is No. 23, a fast-paced diner style spot, which will serve as a launch pad for new concepts and longer-term residencies from Carousel’s friends from around the world. First up will be Goila Butter Chicken from popular Mumbai-based chef Saransh Goila, who will be serving his world famous butter chicken, with all the accompaniments, to hungry lunch-goers and late night passers-by on Charlotte Street.
19-23 Charlotte St., London W1T 1RL