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Marylebone firmly on the culinary map

Earlier this year chef Luke Ahearne launched Lita in the heart of Marylebone, London, billed as a modern Mediterranean bistro, with open fire cooking.

Conceived by the team behind the Wild Tavern in collaboration with Canadian-born restaurateur, Daniel Koukarskikh, Lita was conceptualised by Luke Ahearne, formerly head chef at Corrigan’s Mayfair.

Luke’s culinary journey started at Neven Maguire’s MacNean’s House Hotel & Restaurant, in Blacklion in County Cavan, Ireland, where he worked as part of the kitchen brigade during a summer internship.

With no formal training, Luke cut his teeth at his father’s café in Clonmel, County Tipperary, which he ran for two years from the age of 18, before landing a job at Garrett Byrne’s French restaurant, Campagne, in Kilkenny.

After almost four years Luke moved to London, where he secured a position at Clove Club – a restaurant which at the time was ranked 26th best restaurant in the world and today holds two Michelin stars.

A year later Luke transferred to its sister restaurant, Luca, where he stayed for four years before being appointed as head chef at Corrigan’s in Mayfair at just 29 years of age.

Today, Luke is at the helm of Lita, which offers a produce-driven, seasonal menu that celebrates the flavours and culture of southern Europe, all cooked on the fire grill in the bustling open kitchen.

Lita, short for “abuelita” – or “grandmother” in English, was designed by London-based B3 Designers to recreate the ambience and warmth of a family setting with an open layout and a vibrant atmosphere.

Commenting earlier this year on the launch Daniel Koukarskikh said: “The aim of Lita was to create the ultimate neighbourhood bistro with a dynamic menu, excellent wine list and relaxed atmosphere.

“We’ve worked to create something unique to the area that offers an exemplary, modern-day dining experience and unites food enthusiasts, wine lovers and locals alike, in a laid-back, inviting setting”.

In just a few months since opening, Lita is earning a reputation as one of London’s hottest new dining destinations, whose centrepiece is a stunning marble bar, where guests can let the mixologists craft original and new cocktails, available alongside an extensive wine list.

Interestingly, the wine menu is dominated by France, which is perhaps the only surprise given the bistro’s close association with Spain.

That said, no one is going to argue with the wine list, which variously includes the fine Picpoul de Pinet, Chateau de la Mirande (£54/bottle), the tantalising Hautes Côtes de Nuits, François Lamarche (£104/bottle) and the refreshing 2022 Domaine de Cala ‘Rosé Classic’ at £72 for 750ml.

If you really want to push the boat out, there is always the 2008 Champagne Taittinger, Comtes de Champagne, Blanc de Blancs, Brut, weighing in at £490, presumably reserved for those very special occasions.

Some of Lita’s special cocktails include the Royal Bellini, made with fresh peaches, apricot, champagne and soda; the Jasmine Highball, featuring Grey Goose, Barsol Italia Pisco, Muyu Jasmine Verte liqueur and aloe and the Crema Catalana Punch – blended with lemon-infused Grey Goose, Licor43, vanilla and milk-washed chocolate.

For those who have managed to book a table, disappointment is not on the agenda, judging by the dishes created by Chef Ahearne, whose opening menu included a selection of small and sophisticated dishes including chopped Hereford beef with Amalfi lemon and shoestring fries; morels with wild garlic and lardo di Colonnata and Norfolk quail with burnt pear and duck hearts.

His larger, sharing mains, included Cornish monkfish, fennel, winter tomatoes and bouillabaisse; Peak District T-bone steak, and a whole Cornish turbot.

Of course, this restaurant offers seasonal dishes so do expect things to change on a fairly regular basis, which can only add to Lita’s popularity – no two visits are likely ever to be the same and this will no doubt further cement Luke Ahearne’s reputation.

He was a head chef at a leading London restaurant before he turned 30, so there’s no telling where he could be before he’s 40.

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