A friends’ birthday lunch was the occasion that bought me back together with five old friends that I had not seen for way too long. It shows how times have changed for the group that first met at Godskitchen circa 2001 that the chosen location for the reunion was Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley.
I was pleased with the chosen restaurant as it has been on my list of places to visit for the last couple of years, yet for one reason or another, I had not. So a friends birthday seemed like the perfect excuse.
Upon arrival there was a small hiccup with our table as it had been laid for four, rather than the six it had been booked for. This was dealt with swiftly by the excellent front of house team and we were seated in no time.
We were set to dine off the lunch menu which is priced at £50 for three courses including homemade chocolates and two wines chosen by the sommelier.
The meal began with several amuse bouche. An aubergine dip, a bite sized chicken skewer, and the highlight of this section of the meal, a clever take on fish and chips with a fantastic fish soup served alongside the pea and potato component.
The decision on the first course was unanimous. Everybody at the table went for the Cornish mackerel.
Cornish mackerel, burrata, gooseberry, lettuce, garlic
’Clos Poggiale’’, Domaine Skalli, Corsica, France 2009
This dish was met with mixed reviews from the table for two main reasons. Firstly the majority of us agreed that the decision to not crisp the mackerel skin was a strange one. The texture of the skin was slightly unpleasant in my opinion, but others at the table disagreed with me so I guess this point is just down to personal preference. The second point was the burrata, which whilst delicious, I’m still unsure if it worked with the fish. I only have myself to blame for this though as it was the inclusion of the burrata that provoked me to choose this dish as I was intrigued by how they would work together. Again this is all down to personal preference, but for me I probably won’t be pairing these two together again.
The next course divided the table. Half of us went for the lemon sole whilst the other half chose duck. I personally went for the sole.
Corn fed duck, rainbow chard, new potatoes, girolles, cherry
Rioja “Ganko”, Olivier Riviere, Spain, 2008
Lemon sole, brown shrimp, pea, lemon
La Crema, Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California, 2007
The Lemon Sole was the real highlight of the meal for me. Beautifully cooked fish, served on a fantastic pea risotto and a lemon puree that really lifted the dish. Excellent cooking. This course also bought about another highlight; the wine pairing on this course was brilliant. At this price point this is a wine well worth checking out.
A pre-dessert was served following the main course. Pineapple sorbet, white rum jelly, coconut shavings and coconut ash which acted as an excellent cleanser before the desert orders were taken.
The majority of us chose the Great British Menu winning custard tart for dessert with one exception that ordered the strawberries. We ordered dessert wine to accompany, but I’m afraid I neglected to get the details of these wines. They were an excellent pairing as was the case throughout our meal.
Custard tart, raspberry, tarragon, meringue
Strawberries, sweet cicely, hay, malt
The tart itself was superb, by far the best custard tart I have ever had and one of the best desserts I have eaten for a long time. The one component that I didn’t eat was the tarragon sorbet, which N and I found to be overpoweringly strong.
Next followed coffees and the rather impressive chocolate trolley. The fennel and liquorice was my personal favourite. Our waiter was over five minutes later offering another round of chocolates and once these were dispatched offered some chocolates to take home, this was an offer that none of us were going to turn down.
There was one more little unexpected treat in store before it was time to leave which was an invite to a tour around the kitchen and an opportunity to meet some of the brigade. We jumped at the chance to see backstage and we were invited to ask any questions that we wanted. This was a really nice touch of which we were all very grateful.
In summary I enjoyed the experience of Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley. Not all of the dishes were to my personal taste and overly formal spaces always make me feel a little queasy, but as I said previously, this is just personal preference. The front of house team really are excellent and the sommelier did a fantastic job of pairing wines at a low price point and was more than happy to write down the names of wines for me to buy online at a later date. The pace of the meal was perfect, I was surprised that there was no effort made to turn the table given a relatively low spend, the meal lasted around three hours in total.
The total spend was approx £75 per head including service, which I think for the overall experience qualifies as good value for money.
London. SW1X 7RL
T: +44 (0)20 7235 6000