A review of Canvas by Michael Riemenschneider
Michael Riemenschneider is nothing but persistent. This Swiss-born chef first contacted me over a year ago whilst looking for a restaurant site and since then his enthusiastic use of Facebook as a communication tool kept us in touch. With the opening of his first eponoymous restaurant – Canvas by Michael Riemenschneider – he now has the opportunity to share his vision with the wider world.
Riemenschneider is a chef whom many of you won’t yet know but at his recently opened premises in Marylebone Lane, you will find his name everywhere. Plainly he craves recognition as it’s on the walls, the windows and even on the waiters’ attire. His image, equally, features throughout the venue and you certainly won’t leave forgetting him or his unusual take on the tasting concept.
On a cold January night, I was accompanied to Canvas by my art curator friend Christian Huhnt. The 20-seat restaurant was not full but because of its size and the fact that there was a plethora of staff on hand, it did not lack atmosphere. What, however, was most curious was that the sound system was permanently jammed on two tracks. Michael Nyman type piano music reverberated throughout the evening and frankly, a bit of variety wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Tasting menus normally give diners little choice but Riemenschneider is a man who plainly likes to break the mould. Instead of the usual set offering, there are five options of starters, mains and desserts and customers are given a choice of between three and ten courses in total. Each course comes accompanied by what are termed “classic” (the “outsiders”; more unusual but excitingly positioned) and “iconic wines” (well known names, more expensive) and though prices for such will put off those on a budget, some of the selections are superb. A particular highlight was a most unusual Chinese ice wine – Vidal Changyu Golden Diamond – that we’d travel huge distances to delight in again. Although a sweet wine and served with the dessert, it left an unusual but smoky aftertaste on the palate.
Riemenschneider has spent considerable time in the kitchens of Pierre Gagnaire, Michael Bras, Heston Blumenthal and Gordon Ramsay and their influence is clear. An amuse-bouche of shredded duck confit, lobster, smoked eel and broccoli purée was a pure delight whilst such combinations as a scallop, cauliflower and juniper were excellent. Less appealing was the pig nose to tail, but “M’s Grandma’s brioche bread and butter pudding” was a spectacular creation. Experimental cooking is Riemenschneider’s guiding force and his clear passion for the kitchen is as plain as his love of social networking.
Canvas is a restaurant that some might criticise for focusing on fussiness at a time when fine dining is in decline. With such places as Tom Aikens having closed in recent days and Blumenthal’s Dinner criticised for infecting customers with the norovirus, Riemenschneider’s cuisine is not something diners will necessarily seek out on a daily basis in an era when many crave simplicity.
The talent of this chef, though, is to put together unusual combinations that do actually – in the main – work. This, accompanied by such an array of distinctive wines that were selected by a very experienced sommelier made our visit an absolute delight. The dining room here may be small and the pricing is certainly expensive, but if you want an experience to treasure you won’t be disappointed in Canvas by Michael Riemenschneider.
Pricing: 3 courses with “classic” wines: £95 per head. 10 courses with “iconic” wines: £275 per head.
Canvas by Michael Riemenschneider, 69 Marylebone Lane, London, W1U 2PH. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7935 0858.
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