Dorothy & Marshall, Bromley: ‘A menu so short, it’s hard to regard the place as much more than a cafe’ – restaurant review | Grace Dent on restaurants

Bromley, to the south-east of London, hasn’t made cultural waves since 1976, when the Sex Pistols, Siouxsie Sioux and the “Bromley Contingent” called Bill Grundy a “dirty fucker” live on ITV. Bromley, I learned at an early age, was where the punks came from. It later transpired that Siouxsie actually came from Chislehurst and others in the Bromley Contingent were from the likes of Orpington, Burnt Oak and Highgate, although it was Bromley that, in the nation’s eyes, carried the can as a hotbed of cultural dissent, potty mouths and septic piercings.

I’d have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the town hall at the time: the scandal and rumpus must have been terrific. More recently, however, this grade II-listed building has been subjected to an extremely tasteful renovation, preserving all the ostentatiousness of a 1906 local government building, with its fluted concrete columns, stained-glass windows and vaulted doors, while reviving the walls and panelling with litres of soothing, pseudo-Soho House shades of sage-green, pale biscuit, shimmering gold and ombré. It is gorgeous and reeks of every penny of its £20m re-fit. Dorothy & Marshall, a “traditional British restaurant”, takes up a sizeable chunk of the new space, with the rest available as meeting spaces, podcast studios and a forthcoming boutique hotel.

Dorothy and Marshall’s homemade Trenchmore beef burger on a toasted brioche bun with smoked bacon, melted cheddar and truffled fries.
Dorothy & Marshall’s Trenchmore beef burger comes with smoked bacon, melted cheddar and truffled fries.

The restaurant has about it the feel of a masonic lodge or Quaker meeting house, but I’ll take quirky over drab any day; I like my burger with a side of history. The real issue right now is that, for a restaurant so capacious and boldly styled, the menu is so short, it’s hard to regard the place as much more than a cafe. On opening in late 2022, they released a brief, 10-item list featuring a fancy burger, fish and chips, roast cauliflower steak with sauce vierge and a puff pastry baby artichoke tart. The starters were a beetroot salad, a ham hock terrine and battered cod cheeks.

So, the menu was short and to the point, but, in fairness, the place was only just getting started. By March 2023, however, it is still short and sweet, except on Saturdays, when it becomes an even shorter brunch menu on which the cauliflower, cod cheeks, fish and chips and artichoke tart are replaced by eggs and avocado on sourdough, eggs benedict and french toast; the £17.60 “homemade Trenchmore beef burger” is still there, though.

On the Saturday lunchtime when we visited, Dorothy & Marshall was almost completely deserted, possibly because someone spent so very much on the fixtures and fittings that there’s no budget left to offer a menu worth leaving home for. Service is delightful, incidentally. It’s prompt and friendly, they made me a great spicy Virgin Mary, and the slice of brioche french toast with pools of candied mint was gorgeous. It’s hardly their fault that £7.60 for a single slice of eggy bread with one sliced strawberry seems to be the going rate these days. Similarly, a small warm potato pancake came topped with good-quality Severn & Wye smoked salmon, a caperberry and a smattering of creme fraiche, and all for £11.30.

‘And all for £11.30’:Severn and Wye oak smoked salmon with warm potato pancake, caperberries and soft herbs creme fraiche, at Dorothy & Marshall, Bromley.
‘And all for £11.30’: Dorothy & Marshall’s potato pancake with Severn & Wye smoked salmon, caperberries and soft herb creme fraiche.

By this point in proceedings, I had eaten two breakfasts and was still as hungry as I’d been when I’d arrived. Nowadays, I often feel like an actor in a restaurant scene who is paid to do pretend eating while chuntering “rhubarb, rhubarb” at other extras. I go through the motions – the seating, the napkin, the smiling at staff, the chewing, the paying of the bill – then I’m out on the street again, saying: “Blimey, that was peculiar. What’s for lunch?”

The pudding list offered three choices at £8.30 a throw: chocolate cheesecake, sticky toffee pudding and “old boys orange and lemon jam roly poly with custard”. Having spent much of my childhood peering impatiently at a hissing Heinz spotted dick or golden honey sponge pudding, I am generally weakened by any mention of suet pud, but my other half, being French, cannot stand any of these damp, dense, fatty desserts that come with creme anglaise. Why do we make our puddings so dry, he wails, that they need a jug of bland moistness to make them remotely edible?

‘Thrilling’: Dorothy and Marshall’s Old Boys’ orange and lemon jam roly poly with custard.
‘Thrilling’: Dorothy & Marshall’s orange and lemon jam roly-poly.

Clearly this is nonsense, because roly-poly is brilliant and, surprisingly, Dorothy & Marshall’s take on it is especially good; it may not be enormous, but it packs a hearty punch of soft, warm sponge and thrilling, citrus-laden jam. The custard came in a small jug that I put to my lips, and it was magical.

I fear that this is a restaurant that, like so many of its contemporaries, can stay open only by making small things stretch a very long way, and serving them to a curious audience bearing a lot of goodwill. I am one of those well-wishers. As a proper working restaurant, Dorothy & Marshall could be remarkable.

  • Dorothy & Marshall Old Town Hall, 4 Court Street, Bromley, 020-3989 9092. Open lunch Tues-Sat, noon-3pm, dinner 6-10pm (10.30pm Fri & Sat), Sun noon-7pm. From about £40 a head à la carte, plus drinks and service

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