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"Terence doesn't really care, it's not that important to him," shrugs chef Chris Galvin. He's talking about the Michelin star that Orrery restaurant, opened in 1997, received in February. Sir Terence Conran's first star and tenth restaurant, Orrery seats just 80 ("The only Conran where you can actually have a conversation," a Londoner confided in me) in a long, narrow room with large, arched windows. The polished hardwood floors, stylish light-blue chairs, and lavender banquettes against the wall make for an attractive yet understated decor, allowing the real star to take center stage—Chris Galvin's classic French cuisine. Galvin has worked in more than ten restaurants all over France (he cites the Oustaù de Baumanière as one of his favorites, and we couldn't agree more) and draws his inspiration from the different kitchens he encountered along the way. Most ingredients are imported directly from France, so in the course of a meal you can have chicken from Bresse, mushrooms from the local market outside Calais, and sea bass from Montpellier, prepared with olive oil from Maussane-les-Alpilles and salt from the Camargue. Galvin and Conran work closely to determine what's on the menu ("Terence sends me cookbooks and asks me to try certain dishes," explains Galvin), but mostly it depends on the suppliers. "If the ingredients are not excellent, I prefer not to work with them," he adds. It shows. The wild mushroom consommé, a delicious blend of chanterelles, pieds de mouton, pieds de bleu, and trompettes de morte, was light without losing its deep taste; the corn-fed chicken on a bed of spinach was accompanied by an artfully constructed, homemade ravioli of boudin blanc, duxelles, and foie gras velouté; the terrine of foie gras was framed by a sweet Sauternes jelly—not a miss among them. Save some room for the formidable cheese cart laden with 25 kinds of goat, sheep, and cow cheeses. The Banon goat cheese from Provence was so fresh that it oozed onto the plate, the Epoisse was spicy and strong, and the Fourme d'Ambert from Auvergne was an excellent, creamy blue cheese. They arrive once a week from Paris' Jacques Vernier, who, says Galvin, "a year ago would not even sell to an Englishman." Dinner for two: $120-$140. 55 Marylebone High Street;
44-20-7616-8000; fax 44-20-7616-8080. www.conran.co.uk