Miso masterclasses; art exhibitions; life drawing workshops; live music and world-renowned kitchen maestros. Carousel is a three-storey creative polymath in the heart of Marylebone, famed for its hands-on programme of events and fortnightly chef residencies.
The operation is run by four enterprising cousins, Ollie, Will, Ed and Anna Templeton, who previously made a name for themselves as early pioneers of the immersive dining movement in London under the moniker Shuttlecock Inc.
Carousel opened in 2014 and is so-called due to its merry-go-round menu concept that welcomes chefs from around the world for two-week residencies. It has previously played host to Angie Mar of New York’s Beatrice Inn; Arnout van der Kolk of Amsterdam's Carousel C and Barak Aharoni of Tel Aviv's acclaimed Alena. It helped launch the career of Jikoni chef Ravinder Bhogal and Selin Kiazim, who now owns and runs Oklava in Shoreditch.
Guests sit at rustic, communal tables each night for a pre-paid set menu, prepared at an open kitchen. Concrete flooring and low-hanging pendant lamps add an industrial edge to the decor, while still retaining a blank canvas for its rotating line-up of chefs and activities.
“The biggest challenge initially was getting people to buy into what we were doing,” explains Ed. “'What do you mean you change the chef every week? What do you mean I have to pay for my dinner in advance? What do you mean you don't have a corner table at 9pm?'. It took a bit of time for people to get their heads around the model. But once they got it, they really got it."
On the night I visit, Céline Pham is manning the stove, on loan from Paris and serving a contemporary French-Vietnamese menu that spans tender scallops and tamarind-spiced sweetbreads. Maybe it's those long shared tables or the pre-dinner introduction by Anna, but there is a lively air of camaraderie at Carousel, bolstered by a sense of culinary adventure.
“Every chef who cooks here knows 17 other brilliant chefs around the world who'd love to come, so our community is constantly expanding. We're only ever one or two degrees of separation away from some of the best kitchens in Mexico City, Portland, Singapore.”
This season’s eclectic hob-hopping line-up includes authentic Japanese cuisine from Nancy Singleton Hachisu and fiery Thai street food from DC native Alex McCoy. Residencies aside, co-founder Ollie Templeton runs the daily lunch menu. He previously cut his teeth at Moro on Exmouth market and specialises in seasonal, wholesome dishes using strictly organic food from local producers. This is matched by an impressive number of organic wines on the drinks menu, which also boasts an enticing cocktail list. Upstairs, there are calligraphy classes and terrarium workshops.
There’s also a dedicated wine bar on the cards for 2019: “Somewhere people can try our own food and experience our personality and approach to hospitality, day and night, along with all the interesting and unusual wines and homemade syrups, cordials, vermouths and liqueurs that keep people coming back for more.”
Carousel – keep those good ideas coming round.
Carousel, 71 Blandford Street, Marylebone, London W1U 8AB, carousel-london.com