With an Australian sounding name, Russian owner, Brazilian chef, French manager and paintings by a Syrian artist, Ozz has a somewhat confused identity. Its location at 41-43 Lisson Grove, an undistinguished commercial street north of the Marylebone Road and round the corner from the station, puts it at a disadvantage compared with the trendy eateries of Marylebone village. However, the restaurant setting and design are not targeted primarily to attract at a bright, young demographic.
The understated, net curtained frontage gives little idea of the eclectic décor within. The two interconnected dining areas feature chequerboard tiles with under floor heating, grey floral wallpaper, Tiffany pendant lights and Middle Eastern style paintings. Tables are simply dressed in white cloths, and leather backed chairs are plain but comfortable. An open hatch allows diners a glimpse of activity in the kitchen.
The menu structure comprises a carte of seven starters, six mains and eight desserts supplemented by a good value set lunch, £15.95 for two courses, £18.95 for three. The wine list offers a selection at reasonable prices, although aperitifs, digestives and specialty coffees are expensive in comparison.
Head chef Emerson Amélio D’Oliveira has extensive restaurant experience, more recently with the Galvin brothers. He offers, according to the website, a “unique style of cuisine, created with passion in a truly contemporary style.” Ingredients are well sourced, the cooking is competent and the portions are generous. Dishes which are rooted in the French classics, such as seared foie gras, or duck breast with pomme Dauphine feature Individual components which are well rendered, and artistically presented. However, it is the combination of ingredients, along with differing temperatures and textures, which occasionally raise questions of compatibility: consider vanilla Jerusalem artichoke with monkfish, citrus saffron vodka dressing on the same dish, or Culantro sauce and papaya with braised oxtail
Fine Dining Guide visited on a mid-week evening in the first month of Ozz’s opening.
We nibbled on good home baked bread, freshly prepared each day, with our starters.
The distinctly strong taste of grilled asparagus, cooked al dente and benefitting from a gentle smokiness, was balanced in taste and texture by the soft sweetness of confit heritage tomatoes and a carrot mousse of velvety smoothness. A dressing of port and balsamic dressing finished this well conceived vegetarian starter.
Rye Bay hand caught scallops were plump, utterly fresh and beautifully sweet. Searing gave them a caramelised crust, with soft, melting flesh. For my taste, the timing was perfect, but others might prefer a little more cooking. Perched on a creamy leek and Shiso fondue– the latter hardly detectable – this seafood starter needed a little more acidity and a contrasting crisp texture to be wholly satisfying.
As one of the main courses, I tried a signature “surf and turf” dish. Two generous, reformed portions of boneless oxtail bore all the successful hallmarks of marination in red wine and long, slow cooking. The result was a rich, unctuous and highly flavoured meat wrapped in parma ham. On its own, with its sauce and a root and green vegetable, this would be fine. But to marry it with cold seafood, fruit and vegetables, sliced raw octopus, papaya and Cherokee tomato (in typical Brazilian style I’m told) made for an imbalanced dish of clashing tastes and temperatures. The dish may also have benefitted from a crisp texture to balance the softness of the other components.
A fish main course was simpler in conception but more successful because of it. A thick tranche of fresh Scottish halibut was moist yet firmly textured. It was dressed with a butter and caper sauce, which added the rich sharpness the fish needed. The accompanying squid ink linguine added colour contrast and extra flavour.
For dessert, strawberry cheese cake was attractively presented like a classic Frasier. The Breton, sable like base was an improvement on crushed biscuits, whilst the dessert was well conceived.
Lime and raspberry sorbets were intensely flavoured and of the right consistency.
Service was pleasant enough with Gael acting as a charming host.
The aforementioned confused identity occasionally shows itself in the food. Primarily French in menu construct, one feels that to succeed fully Ozz may benefit from one of two food strategies – “Internationalize” dishes to the full and execute well or retain a classical French restraint. The medium displayed at present is not quite a happy one, although overall, this was a satisfying meal.