Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley

About two months ago I got an e-mail from my father that began: “I’ve been looking through the top 100 restaurants in the world: and have chosen a couple for our stay in London.” Now, this is the kind of e-mail I live to receive. And my father, as both a foodie and as someone experiencing the liberation that being in the process of celebrating his 60th birthday gives one when it comes to justifying visits to elaborate restaurants, was true to his word. Coming in number 58 in the world a few days ago we had lunch at Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley Hotel.

The hotel itself looks very pleasant – you pass through the lounge on the way to the hotel, staffed with rather beautiful waitresses in very flattering, deep blue, knee-length dresses, eventually passing through a set of glass doors which allow you into the mauve tinted interior of the restaurant which looks a little like it could belong in a refurbished London club. As would be expected, the service was wonderful – when you arrive, waiters with little grape-vine broaches (so you could identify them as the sommeliers) offer you a range of champagnes to have before your meal…

We were then given some wonderful bread (the surprise best of the large range on offer was a kind of honey bread that, while it smelled of honey, tasted wonderfully light and salty), and to start they presented pork balls with pineapple (and something else – I don’t eat pork, so I couldn’t try them) and a really delicious dip which I would guess is made of red peppers which have had their skins blackened over a flame, as it had a sweet, smokey flavour…

While we were deciding what to order, we were presented with our first amuse-bouche – a warm white onion soup with a cinnamon foam. It was very good, though the foam was a little thick and a little sweet which meant that when you took a sip you had to have a couple of mouthfuls of foam before you got to the soup, preventing their flavours from really being able to fully compliment one another. The soup was, however, particularly good – rather like a delicate but rich leek and potato soup…

For entrée my father had heirloom tomatoes with a caramelized olive sauce, (probably) goat’s cheese, and then some crispy things that he couldn’t identify. It was very good…

However, (and I am ashamed to admit it) it was my entrée that was the great triumph. I wouldn’t normally eat chicken, but once or twice a year if I am at a very good restaurant on a special occasion, I make a special exception, and this was one of those times – Crispy fried chicken, peas, asparagus, ranch dressing. It was just so good – the chicken was moist and flavourful, the light fresh flavour of the vegetables and the sauce (which I think had a little mint in it) balanced it out perfectly.

My father’s main was duck with beetroot and duck sauce. (It was, by all accounts, delicious)

I had trout with squid, radishes, and squid ink. The fish was perfectly cooked – it was moist, falling away in beautiful little sections each time you cut a slice. As a garnish the head of a radish (see at the front) looked rather impressive, but was nothing much to eat so I put it to one side. The squid itself was also very slightly chewy, but these were very minor complaints, and the meal as a whole was just amazing. Most impressive, perhaps, were the dots of squid ink (you can see them on the side of the plate) which provided quite a unique strong flavour, which, when combined with the fish, far from overwhelming it, made a dish both rich and delicate…

When we had finished the main meal we were presented with this fantastic cheese platter…

Shamefully I am not such a fan of cheese, so, while my father chose a selection of five washed-rind cheeses, they offered me blackberry sorbet on a crumbed biscuit which had a hint of dark chocolate and pistachio nuts.

The final amuse-bouche was a lime panna cotta with what tasted like a cucumber jelly and sugared lime. It was an interesting combination, quite powerful in flavour, that cleared your palette and left you with a nice, clean, fresh taste aftertaste, ready for desert…

When we saw that they had custard tart on the menu, both of us knew instantly what it was we wanted for desert (as it happens we had just been discussing custard tarts on our way to the restaurant). It came with apricots and vanilla crème fraiche and was light, simple, and exquisite.

I really couldn’t find fault with the place: the food was wonderfully delicious – complicated, surprising and with great attention to detail, the very things you would expect of a top level restaurant. They even brought around a tray of chocolate truffles for us to chose from to have with our coffee. (I went with the rather typical almond praline, and salted caramel – the latter being particularly good – but there were a series of more adventurous flavours on offer).

The way to do these things (more) affordably, is to go at lunch time, and choose from the lunch menu as opposed to à la carte. It is a perfect way to celebrate a special occasion (or just to enjoy a great meal).


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