EAT - DRINK - BE MERRY
Marcus Wareing at the Berkley Hotel
15th Jan 2010
For my 40th birthday She decided to treat me to lunch at the 2 Michelin Star Marcus Wareing at the Berkley Hotel. This is one of those places that weíve been meaning to come to for a very long time, itís a proper, serious, grown up restaurant and now Iím 40 Iím a proper, serious grown up.
The recent history of the place is jaded with bitter acrimony between the two behemoths of the effing-cheffing world, Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing. The restaurant was called Petrus until 2008 having been opened and run by Wareing for Gordon Ramsay Holdings (GRH). In 2008 the Berkley Hotel decided that rather than deal with Ramsay they would work direct with Wareing and dump GRH. Naturally enough Ramsay was a little peeved but he owned the rights to the name Petrus so he made them change the name and now intends to open a new Petrus early this year in Belgravia. Wareing still retains his 2 Michelin Stars and clearly they are still not best pals.
So the restaurant itself was compact but not cramped, elegantly decorated in deep claret with a deco circle motif, it is very comfortable. The staff are warm and efficient giving us champagne and nibbles in the waiting area. Nibbles doesnít really do justice to what we were served, one part was a carrot, pepper and coriander concoction served with sesame bread, light and springlike. The second was a deep intense cube of foie gras, in pastry with a dusting of dark chocolate, so rich and powerful that the flavours worked.
Prior to lunch we were given an amuse bouche, and very amusing it was too. Presented in a tall thin glass was a fish bisque with a chip foam. Fish and chips to drink, it was a nice idea but it didnít really work for me, the bisque being slightly grainy and the foam not intense enough.
We went for the set three course lunch £38 and for the first time in living history both selected the same starter and main. We had foie gras sat on Dorset crab, with lime salt, apple and tapioca followed by neck of hay baked lamb with a swede and yellow pea broth. The alternatives were warm smoked salmon with beetroot and horseradish and pan fried fillets of lemon sole.
The starter was good enough, Iím not sure if chefs over use foie gras, but so rich and intense was it that the crab was overpowered, the lime salt was a touch of genius however and the tapioca provided texture. The lamb was a big disappointment, under seasoned and sinuous in places, the broth was lacking intensity, and you donít like to ask for salt in these places do you?
What I did find amazing was a really good bottle of Beaune 2005, I forget the producer, it was ageing well, a real treat complex and elegant (but at £85 a bottle it should be). We also had a really nice glass of Anjou chenin blanc with the starters which held its own against the foie gras.
For pudding She had espresso and chocolate arctic roll with a bitter chocolate jelly and a raspberry sorbet. Very Her, dark and bitter. I had a good old baked egg custard tart which came with apple crumble ice cream, a real treat, beautifully done. With these She had a glass of sweet red from the Alto Adige and I had a sweet pinot gris from Alsace. Exceptional. They also gave me my own little birthday cake on a stand with a candle, a very small gateaux made with pedro ximinez, again really beautiful.
Then came coffee and chocolates, also very Her, Turkish delight and all that. And lastly and rather stupidly we got suckered into a spirit, me an Armagnac and She a rum. Both lovely and stupidly expensive.
So it was a lovely and memorable meal, however at £315 all in, on the very steep side particularly as I felt some of the food not up to standard. All in all Iím rather glad She was paying.