When a smart, new, non-chain restaurant opens, it’s a major happening in any city, ‘rich’ as we are in those familiar brand names which proliferate our high streets.
Marco opened its doors a few weeks ago at the top of one of Chichester’s main street. Strategically placed at Northgate roundabout for all to witness, it’s also within eye-shot of the Chichester Festival Theatre and main shopping area.
The minimal look inside is broken by glitzy chandeliers and a square bar with flowers completing the look. Music intrudes.
Sensibly open for a two-course set meal, light bites to attract theatregoers plus an a la carte, the menu does not wholly represent Marco’s Italy, rather his adopted country’s one of replicating familiar dishes with a twist. There is a smattering from his native land, including a very welcome veal escalope.
Terrine of ham and chicken with piccalilli; pistachio-crusted goat’s cheese and beetroot salad; and mussels with chorizo and tomatoes are a few starters on the mercifully short menu.
Mains include Gressingham duck with a grain mustard and honey jus; venison with roasted figs and mead-scented jus; and grilled ribeye with chunky chips. Prices range from £5.90 to £22.80 for the venison, most mains around £16.
My choices, gravadlax with dill and rocket and Funtington pork with sage mash and a jus, were on the £13.50 set menu. The salmon was a fine light starter to the local pork, artfully draped over a mound of mash hiding some baby carrots and beans.
Two exquisite long strips of crackling added a delightful crunch to the otherwise rather bland meat, the jus not strong enough to lift it and the dull mash not the right choice of potato.
Move onto white chocolate and lavender crème brûlée or home-made ice creams. A scoop of coffee ice cream was slightly marred by crystals.
Will Marco be a star stalwart? More intense cooking could lift this newcomer to long-running heights. The service was a thing of beauty in this day of bland service.
But, Marco, don’t put bottles of still water on the tables without any information. If you drink it, you’ll be charged a hefty £3.50.
My bill came to £25.45 including a good glass of Sangiovese.
Marco, Number One Northgate, Chichester, PO19 1AR, 01243 774204
Open: from 10.30am for coffee, meals from noon, last order 10pm all week.
Food: Four (out of five)
Disabled access: Fine for wheelchair use but toilets are downstairs.
How to get there: A27 to Chichester, follow the signs to the Chichester Festival Theatre on Northgate, the restaurant on the south side.