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|Address:||10 Berners Street, London W1T 3NP|
|Tel:||020 7908 7979|
|Price: £52.00||Wine: £16.00||Champagne: £42.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sun 7-10.30am 12N-2.30pm 6-10.30pm|
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Berners Tavern is Jason Atherton’s 4th venture and tavern is possibly one of the least appropriate names ever since it’s simply the grandest dining room in London, rather than some humble local venue.
Venture into the new London Edition Hotel (through a very quirky glass cube entrance, past a lobby bar that people seem prepared to queue to get in – despite the freezing November temperatures) and you're instantly staggered by the scale of the room. It really is like something from a film set, where everyone has been reduced to about a quarter of their normal size with huge chandeliers, high ceilings, pictures everywhere and tiny, tiny tables packed oh so close. It’s far grander than the Wolseley or Scotts and if it had a view the sheer theatre would ensure it topped the Gherkin.
Get past the scale of it though and the next thing you notice is the noise – it’s a bit like waiting on the platform of a busy station only rather than announcements about the 7.38 from Portsmouth being delayed you get a selection of rather horrific faux trendy rock/pop music from semi annoying hipsters blasted at you at high volume, which only partly drowns out the volume of 200 different conversations. It is one of those places where you shout at your own table even though they are sat really close, on account of the miniature and closely spaced tables.
The staff are really good; I don’t know how Atherton keeps finding them, but I’ve never yet had a bad experience in any of his restaurants, having been to all of them at least once. Hence service is fine and I couldn’t find anything to quibble about, and they deserve respect for managing to weave through tiny gaps with your dinner.
The food is good, but having set such high standards in his other restaurants I couldn’t help but feel this was less strong than the others in the group. I started with pork and pistachio pate, spiced pear puree and toasted sourdough – the pate was more of a terrine, dense and full of flavour but not remotely like pate and the pear puree was an incongruously sweet addition to the overall mix. I followed this with cod, olive oil potato mash, clams, fennel and cider – great firm fish and the mash was lovely, portions on the small side and the clams are a bit gritty, but again why the cider – more out of place sweetness. Dessert was chocolate filled donut, cinnamon sugar coating, almond sorbet – strangely this was served in what appeared to be a soup bowl lined with greaseproof paper, which made getting hold of it to eat tricky, but it was rather lovely, the almond sorbet just amazing; but I can’t help thinking replacing the chocolate with dark fruit (like blackcurrants or cherries) filling would have made it even better.
Value seemed decent enough – starters are between £8 and £10, mains £15 to £25 (unless you go for the steaks) and desserts about £7-£9. Wine is very expensive though and you’ll struggle to find decent choices at a price you’d like to pay – it can be done, but requires some effort. We paid around £60 per head for 3 times 3 courses, wine, water, service and a couple of other drinks.
Overall it’s a brilliant destination, hard to book but oh so glamorous; I’m glad I’ve been and I’d go again. They do need to sort a few things – for example don’t try and get quite so many covers in and turn the music down, but it’s good, not great, but good.