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|Address:||The Berkeley, Wilton Place, London SW1X 7RL|
|Tel:||020 3544 6065|
|Price: £122.00||Wine: £35.00||Champagne: £65.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sat 12N-2.30pm 6-11pm|
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I'm not sure why we hadn't been to MW@TB since the refit – it was fully booked for the reopening and I can only assume it just dropped off our radar. However the Hubby was bored of all of our favourites, and looking for inspiration. Well, inspiration he found: he described this as the best meal he'd had in years. It was all utterly delicious, but I do have some reservations. Did any of you eat at Tom Aitken's when it first opened? Well…
We booked a table at very short notice, and actually there was definitely capacity. The room is dark and moody, and full of wanna-be beautiful people. People were pottering about, and being shown the kitchen – the sort of food tourism I usually find irritating – but I was drawn in – what was happening behind that wall of wine?
I'm reticent to bow down before an effigy of Marcus because I'm uneasy about the endless exertions of the kitchen: this isn't food to scoff, this is food you're supposed to worship. The lovely Marcus has fallen foul of the Michelin Prostration Rule: the more desperately you want your Michelin stars, the more you have to prostrate yourself at the feet of fiddly little bits of twiddle and twaddle – all absolutely delicious in their own way, but there is something of the wafer thin mint by the time your reach the end of your meal. Marcus may have two stars right now, but if it went on effort, he'd probably be in a league of his own. Without doubt he has an excellent palate – but we all know that less is more.
Before I write-up a restaurant I sometimes check other reviews – not so that they can modify my opinion – but because the Giles' and AA's of this world are much better at documenting the little twiddly bits than me. Given how complicated the food is at MW@TB, I definitely checked them. I did note that despite saying that they thought Marcus was one of the best cooks in the UK, they both felt he was trying too hard.
The amuse consisted of a little mock cauliflower cheese: a cauliflower shot, cheese foam a parmesan breadstick. There was another amuse, but in the long line-up of food, it now passes me by…
I ordered the fois gras, which was beautifully presented. The terrine was very finely sliced, which gave you an opportunity to take it either as a tiny mouthful, or piled with the apple and parsnip milk powder*, a whole variety of combinations – or you could eat a number of slices together – in which case the terrine was very rich and perhaps cloying.
The Hubby had the lobster, which he loved, and which looked utterly beautiful. I did note, however, that the mushrooms listed in the menu were not those on his plate. The waiter detailed those in the dish, but you wonder if Marcus had chosen the poetic ‘hen of the woods’ because of how it reads on the menu, rather than his ability to source it. I did steal one of the alexanders as I'd never had one before and it was rather nice.
As a main course I had the venison: OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG.
It really was delicious. Best venison dish I've ever had, the previous being Koffman's Venison with chocolate sauce back in the days of La Tante Claire. The venison was perfectly cooked, rare, thinly sliced, melting. The liquorice counterbalanced the earthiness of the farro, and I vaguely remember posturing on the counterpoint of the lychee, though that taste now eludes my memory palate. The monk's beard was delicious – an iron strong cross between spinach and samphire.
The Hubby had the lamb, which he loved, but which I didn't try at all. Apart from the pink peppercorn yoghurt. I like pink peppercorns very much, and this tasted lovely, but apparently was not necessary for the dish stated the Hubby.
We were offered the cheese board, which was mind-blowingly pretty, I could smell it from across the room. However by this stage we both agreed there was going to be little room left if we intended to squish a dessert into a far corner of our appetites, and regretfully we didn't have any. Such a shame.
We were given some kind of little jelly pre-dessert, which was delicious. It may have been a take on a Mojito. It may have been an Old Fashioned. Again my memory palate fails me, but we immediately declared it was the only way to eat jelly.
For my actual elected dessert I had the peanut parfait with salted caramel and Valrhona – seemed rude not to. Gosh it was yummy. I'll have to ask the Hubby what he had, I don't think I even looked at this plate while I practically licked mine clean!
We were offered even more food after this – I have absolutely no idea how people also manage to navigate the petit four trolley which was laden, absolutely laden with goodies. Well, I say I don't know how, but in reality we did take a choccie each – out of politeness you understand. More salted caramel – crisp, melting, delicious.
I mentioned Tom Aiken at the beginning of this piece because MW@TB reminds me of Tom's early days… We ate there three or four times, but with increasing trepidation. There is a genuine limit to how much food one person can eat without being ill. Both chefs seem to be trying to fill us up with their talent and love, but there's only so much of a good thing one diner can take. As a result we stopped going to Tom Aiken, though I understand he's now limited his free culinary outpourings somewhat. Chaps, if you fill us up on all those little twiddly things, we can't try the cheese trolley, which would have earned you more money. We can't come as often, because our bodies literally can't take the assault. I'd like to eat here all the time, but I really think my palate would drown in all those little extras, and that clouds one's ability to focus on what really are brilliantly executed dishes – dishes we asked for – dishes we're paying for.
So – as a rare treat – fill your boots (and your pockets, handbags, and anything else you can find…)
*Thanks Giles – knew you'd ask what it was!