Marlowe appeared to be just another restaurant similar to Milestones or Canyon Creek with no particularly distinguishing features. Located in a busy, but non-walkable plaza area, the eatery offered a large patio and since the weather was getting warmer we decided to give it a try.
APPEARANCE & NOSE
Patio was the more prominent feature here, but there was nothing else too memorable to speak about when looking at Marlowe. The simple square building did not raise our expectations too high, but then again, this made it easier to leave a positive impression. What we did not like were two different wordmarks - one as a signage on the building and another at the entrance. A Halloween-inspired font used for one was, in our opinion, a particularly bad choice. The other with pointy, twisted serifs also had a haunted feel but was visually incohesive with caps changing and the baseline breaking. Upon entering we were greeted by a large glass wine display - not done with imagination but rather trophy-like and formal.
Our plan was to settle on a patio and have a full course dinner there. Jumping ahead – strong winds made us relocate back indoors after the first course. Maybe April 2016 was not meant to be patio-friendly in Ontario. The interior was dark, with funky circular lights and plenty of booth space. It was a weekday and not too busy so we benefited from a more dedicated attention from our waitress. We kicked it off with Santa Carolina Cab Sauvignon/Merlots, 2014 from Chile and Chloe Sauvignon for white. Both were their house options and could be ordered in 2oz or 5oz which was pretty awesome for tasting or to enjoy if you were planning on driving after. We thought both were decent choices for the price, Marlowe didn't let us down with their house wines - a must for a place praising itself as a wine bar.
Our starter choice was a standard Cesar's Salad - romaine, house made dressing, garlic croutons, a touch of aged Parmigiano-Reggiano and pancetta bacon. It was fresh but nothing special. A more curios starter we endeavored in was an Antioxidant Beet and Micro Greens Salad which came on an elongated square plate, tastefully arranged with a rainbow of different appetizing colors. Even through the dish was tiny; there was some character to it being tangy with zest on the palate. As appetizer, we both enjoyed their House Smoked Brie which came lightly (very lightly) fried for a hint of smokiness. There was also a blackberry and raspberry compote on the side. Our last dish before the mains was Beef Carpaccio crusted with black peppercorn and fresh horseradish aioli and arugula. There was a sprinkle of shaved Parmesan and a bit of olive oil. This light dish of thinly sliced, tender, high-quality beef turned out to be a treat. Overall, the combination of small dishes was perfect to prepare us for the main courses. If anything, we might have had one too many of these, as we started feeling full already. They were all served at a slow, but just right, pace.
The undisputed champion of our dinner was the Australian Lamb Shank. Marinated, slow braised meat with roasted red mashed potatoes, root vegetables in combination with Barista Valley Shiraz Dani and raisin pepper relish were to write a separate post about. The tender meat had only a touch of lamb smell (which Ma Cherie normally detects and resists) there was some unique allspice tones present throughout which took precedence on our palette. It appeared that the meat was properly slow-cooked with tons of effort going into perfecting the falling-off-the-bone outcome. The array of spices and addition to raisins in this dish made us think it was Morocco-inspired.
Our second main dish was not as memorable, especially in comparison to the magnificent lamb. The Wild Forest Mushroom Risotto was dense and heavy with big chunks of mushroom, spring onions in a rich creamy texture. All of that was topped with fresh Parmesan cheese and white truffle oil. We could only finish half the dish, after the appetizers and the lamb – it was just too much for us to handle.
As for deserts, we were quite stuffed to fully appreciate the sweets, but it had to be done. The New York Cheesecake with Raspberry Coulis and Fresh Chantilly was served with a red X behind the white-creamed cake slice. The Crème Brûlée also had some red syrup dots all around the plate. The Brûlée was decent, with a classic caramel crust, but somewhat of a standard fare. The Cheesecake was a bit more original with a smooth, light Chantilly cream giving it an edge. It was especially enjoyable with a few sips of the Cab Merlot accompanying it.
Marlowe is fairly generic from the outside, it does not have the cache of occupying a unique building or being in a cool neighbourhood. We would have normally skipped a spot like that, but very happy we did not on this occasion. There were some great dishes we got to enjoy in a relaxed yet somewhat upscale atmosphere. The sprawling suburbs got things going for them and we need to get out of downtown core more often.