Marlon Abela, founder of the MARC restaurant group, is not afraid of fine dining. His plans for the Square in London's Mayfair include a refined Japanese-influenced menu that will showcase, in his words, "epicurean excellence", and reinvent fine dining for the future
We're in the Square in Mayfair, a couple of weeks before the restaurant's opening, following a complete makeover and the appointment of a new chef. In case you missed it, the Marlon Abela Restaurant Corporation (MARC) acquired the iconic restaurant in March last year from two-Michelin-starred chef Phil Howard and restaurateur Nigel Platts-Martin. And yes, he decided to keep the name (more of which later).
It has had a bit of a false start. Abela had installed chef Yu Sugimoto in the kitchen soon after moving in, but there was a family crisis and he had to return to his native Japan. So the Square closed its doors on 11 August for a major refurbishment. "He was a wonderful chef - we were very sad to lose him," shrugs Abela.
The whole episode has prompted some navel-gazing - namely, the re-evaluation of fine dining, looking at what customers want, and what the next decade of fine dining will bring.
Not for Abela the current trend for a more casual approach to haute cuisine, precipitated in part by rumblings from some quarters that fine dining is dead (Abela blames the press on this matter). In fact, Abela, owner of two-Michelin-starred restaurants the Greenhouse and Umu, also in Mayfair, is going in the
opposite direction, ushering in "a new era of epicurean excellence", as he puts it.