The Grazing Goat, Marylebone

Marylebone is one of those residential areas of London, which, beyond the High Street and its lanes, is largely unknown to both tourists and Londoners. An interesting area worth exploring is the Portman Village, part of the Portman Estate which spans all the way from Marble Arch and Orchard Street and Edgware Road in the west to beyond Baker Street in the east, including Portman Square, Manchester Square and the residential squares of Bryanston and Montagu. The estate was orginally acquired by Sir William Portman of Somerset, who was Lord Chief Justice to King Henry VIII in 1532. From the 16th century to the 18th century this area was farmland, used for rearing pigs and for draining away sewage. Now it is home to some of the capital’s most beautiful shops and homes.

The 7th Viscount Portman died in 1948 leaving estate valued at £10 million and death duties of £7.6 million, and much of the land and buildings had to be sold. Today the estate’s managers are landlords to 110 acres in London, comprising of 2 000 000 square feet of residential and commercial properties, including 32 hotels, 8 pubs and 130 shops and restaurants. To see just how important the food and drink sector is within the estate, this is a list of some of their tenants.

In November 2009 Cubitt House, an independent, privately owned property development company established by Stefan Turnbull and Barry Hirst, acquired a long lease from the estate and set to renovating and extending the old Bricklayer’s Arms Pub at 6 Quebec Street, W1H. They called their new venture The Grazing Goat, as the first Lady Portman {Emma Lascelles (1809–1814), who married the 1st Viscount Edward Portman} could not drink cow’s milk, so goats were grazed on the pastures that formed part of the estate.

Their style and vision is imprinted across their other pub properties, The Orange, The Pantechnicon and The Thomas Cubitt. A sense of place is at the centre of the work, evoking the spirit of the old and traditional public inn that would have been here in times past: pale wood floors, olive green walls, hessian lampshades, sepia photographs, deer antlers hung near sconce lights next to potted palms. There are stripey linen curtains and scenes of hunting and botanical prints on the walls. The gentleman’s lodge, “Out of Africa” colonial theme is clean, tidy, uncluttered and peaceful.

On the ground floor there is an informal pub and breakfast area and on the first floor there is a more formal dining room. Do book – they are always full, and word-of-mouth has spread far and wide since they opened. Not only do they serve fresh, homemade cocktails that put bums on seats from early evening onwards, but the well sourced, modern British menu has also galvanised a coterie of repeat corporate and private customers.

The Cubitt House Group is a member of The Sustainable Restaurant Association and has won three star status across its stable for its enviromentally freindly practices. This means that sourcing seasonal and ethically sourced ingredients is a particular focus. On the Menu you will see rock oysters from Carlingford in Ireland, Castle of Mey beef from Caithness in Scotland, salmon from the Shetland Isles, cheese from Lord of the Hundreds in East Sussex, Laverstoke Park in Hampshire and Colston Bassett in Nottinghamshire, vegetables from Secretts Farm of Milford in Surrey and pork from Kilravock Farm in the Scottish Highlands.

The food is served simply and without fuss or embellishment – there is great attention to detail, seasoning and balance. The menu is short and based on traditional rural specialities: corn fed chicken and ham hock pie, English asparagus spears with duck egg and soft cheese, Sunday roasts, warm salads, ploughman’s lunches and broccoli and stilton soup. The prices are very reasonable considering the quality of the ingredients and the skill of cooking.

Manager Moe Alzayan, originally from Lebanon, keeps all spirits high and glasses filled in the busy dining room. It makes a big difference to the overall dining experience that The Grazing Goat is a huge building, 6300 square feet in total, ceilings are tall, windows are large and daylight is plentiful. This pub is a firm rebuttal of the dark and dingy denizens that are the standard by-product of short leases, narrow vision and lack of investment in the pub sector.

Puddings are excellent – do leave room for the Bakewell Tart or the Bakes Spange Pudding. The breakfasts are popular with both residents and locals – there is homemade porridge, fruit granola, sourdough toasts, fresh fruit salads, eggs cooked every way and really excellent coffee made by bartender Emiliano from Pescara in Italy.

Upstairs there are eight bedrooms and again the attention to detail is scrupulous: wooden panelling, upholstered beds, expensive natural linens, Lefroy Brooks taps, Czech and Speak showers, a writing desk laden with tea and coffee making facilities, stationery, plenty of wooden hangers, an ironing board and iron and botanically perfumed toiletries. As you look out the window you will see a certain amount of bustle, but bear in mind that New Quebec Street is quite quiet by day and the pub beneath you is a rumble of conversation at night.

The street was first rated in 1776, after the victory of Major General James Wolfe {1727-1759} in Canada. He sailed up the St. Lawrence River and captured Quebec for the British army, but died shortly after the victory as a result of injury from three musket balls.

Do take advantage of this wonderful location: within a few minutes’ walk you could be on Marylebone High Street and its luxurious specialist food shops and restaurants. Or if you prefer smaller boutiques, take a look at New Quebec Street’s Philglas and Swiggot independent wine merchants, Timothy Mark woodwork designer, Saltwater clothes, La Masseria family delicatessen from Puglia and Les Senteurs perfumery. The Danostia restaurant will be opening soon, featuring Basque cuisine in nearby Seymour Place.

The Portman Village is also interesting for 18th century architecture enthusiasts. Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, in “The Buildings of England. London North West”, published by Penguin in 1991, describes it generously:

“The tight grid of streets bounded by Oxford Street, Edgware Road, Marylebone Road and the East borough boundary is so densely packed with worthwhile buildings that it is difficult to devise a satisfactory perambulation.”

Start with Cavendish Square, Chandos Street, Queen Anne Street and then move along to Harley Street, Wimpole Street and Devonshire Place – very good hunting grounds for runs of beautiful 18th Century houses. If you are blue plaque spotting you will not be disappointed: at 49 Blandford Street lived the physicist Michael Faraday, at 65 Gloucester Place lived the writer Wilkie Collins and at number 30 lived the artist and poet Edward Lear.

One of the great advantages of staying at The Grazing Goat, no doubt, is the feeling of tucked away exclusiveness, whilst proximity to all of central London’s attractions means everything is within easy reach. As lucky as Cubitt House was to find such a beautiful building in a beautiful street, so were the Portman Estate landlords who leased it to them. One deserves the other.

Further Information

The Grazing Goat:

Follow the team on Twitter: @TheGrazingGoat

Portman Estate:

Follow the team on Twitter: @PortmanVillage

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