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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|
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
In the rarefied atmosphere of michelin starred restaurants, it is the little things that make the difference between two and three stars. Marcus Wareing has garnered two stars and is clearly on the lookout for a third. The food is excellent, the service attentive without going overboard and the atmosphere the sort of subdued buzz that grand hotel dining rooms were built for. Well, actually, on the latter part the main room is like this; there is also a small anteroom with five tables. I am sure that on most nights this is fine, but when we went, there was a table of five (although is seemed like fifty) braying ingrates, doing their best collective impression of a walrus coloney. Only with more swearing. We asked to be moved to the main room, a service that was executed with the minimum of fuss and no drama, and the atmosphere there was the sort of buzz etc. and so forth.
But still, with all the individual elements in place, somehow it is missing that spark that makes a very good restaurant a truly amazing one.
At the weekends there are three set menus, with the second and third building on the standard “menu du jour”. In France, a menu du jour is of the €12 three courses and a carafe of wine type. Here it is the £80 entry level. No wines (unless you pay another £60 for the sommelier's matching selections). We decided to go with the wine list. List doesn't do justice to this tome, a homage to French wine, with smatterings of Italian and the odd Spainish inteloper. It is, as you would suspect, good at the higher price wines, including the 1961 Petrus at a mere £30k. Fortunatley, there are some lower priced wines, although quite how a Nyetimber is £85 here, when you can get the same wine in Canteen at £39 does seem strange. I understand that the hotel has a huge carrying cost as it has to have a wide selection, but how and why prices differ so markedly is always beyond me. Instead, we settled on a lovely Pommard. Not cheap, but as keenly priced as anything the half an hour trawl through the wine tome could come up with.
As for the food, it was, as you'd expect, almost to a point flawlesly executed. Although the menus are set, there are also a couple of specials on offer, and you can mix and match between the various set menus. So in reality, the choice is pretty broad.
Whilst perusing the menus, with a glass of Billecart Salmon rose from the champagne trolley, some nibbles appeared, the highlight of which was a foie gras mousse sandwich. They like trolleys here: as well as the standard cheese chariot, there was the champagne trolley, the digestif trolley and the chocolate trolley. There may have been more lurking too, but we missed them.
The amuse bouche was a creamy soup with the first of the nights foams, a rich nutmeg. For the first of our “real” courses, I went off-piste with a gorgeous tranche of foie gras and my wife had the marinated mackeral with a huge chunk of white crab meat and a smear of brown. The foie gras came with a rhubarb brioche and cranberry compote. I am not usually one to mix fruit with meat, but the cranberries cut the sweetness of the round of foie gras to perfection.
The second of the evenings foams arrived with the quail. Toast foam is a new one on me. A modernest twist on bread sauce, and a clever accompaniment to the lovely little quail breasts and white beans. I am not sure I'd necessarily have called it a foam, it was more of a cream, but foam (and smear) are very trendy these days. So foam it was. With a tasting menu like this, where all of the courses are pretty much the same size, it is not necessarily the case that the next course was the “main”, but the meat course was lamb, pink on the inside, accompanied by fennel, red pepper and an unadvertised sorrel leaf.
A shared plate of cheese was good, the pre-deserts an unncessary addition that, like the pre-amuse bouche (or even the actual amuse bouche), seems to have become de rigeur at restaurants with pretentions of three stars, and the pear tarte tartine that finsihed off the set elements of the meal absolutely gorgeous.
All in all, a wonderful restaurant, striving to be the very best. I hope Marcus gets his third star. Maybe I have become jaundiced by recent trips to Michel Trama, Olivier Roellinger and Michel Bras, but, at the moment, I am not sure that he has that certain je ne sais quoi that takes it to the ultimate level.