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La Grande Marque, Middle Temple, EC4

Clifford Mould was both Judge and Jury

For the benefit of our many overseas readers may I first explain the location? Middle Temple is one of the Inns of Court, where barristers and judges have their chambers. The Inns are arranged much like an Oxbridge college - you enter Middle Temple from the hurly-burly of Fleet Street, past a porter's lodge into a calm enclave. La Grand Marque occupies a former library building and it is comfortably furnished - the bar with armchairs and sofas and the dining room is hung with antique paintings of historic legal personages.

There's a fine breakfast menu and in the bar there are all day snacks as well as more substantial dishes ranging from tapas plates to Boeuf Bourguignon and British favourites like bangers and mash. But it was the restaurant menu that we were interested in.  Chef Del Barrett's table d'hote menu is normally priced at £19.50 for two courses or £25.00 for three, although at present there's a special Christmas menu at £32.50.

The wild mushroom soup brought back recent memories of a late autumn where fungal trophies were in abundance -  this soup exuded a delightfully earthy, forest aroma. A carpaccio of smoked halibut was generous and fresh flavoured. I then tucked into a tender roast partridge which came with all the trimmings, especially appreciated were the pears cooked down in red wine. A tranch of salmon was rescued from the ordinary by a piquant coating of chilli crumb crust and some nicely presented garnishes of spinach and mash with a lively sauce flavoured with fennel and saffron.

My guest was American and had never yet experienced a full blown English Christmas Pudding which she really seemed to like. My chocolate tart had a very good rich filling but the pastry was impossible to get one's fork into. I hoped that this was only a temporary setback.

There's a good wine list with some twenty wines priced under twenty pounds as well as some superstars such as a 1998 Aloxe Corton for £45.00! Service was exemplary by Polish waiting staff - where would we be without them? 

At the moment the building is swathed in scaffolding, but when this is removed in the New Year, La Grande Marque could be all set to become a charming little destination.

Clifford Mould December 2006

 La Grande Marque, Middle Temple Lane - off Fleet Street - London EC4 9BT

T: 020 7583 5946

Open Monday - Friday 8.30am - 11.00 pm

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