I love London. My sister has lived there for the past two and a half years so I visit often and for as long as possible each time. I have never actually lived there but I have spent months sight-seeing, eating and partying there. My view of London is through rose tinted beer goggles.
On my last five-week visit in July I made it my mission to get to one of the top three restaurants (as voted by http://www.finedininglovers.com/blog/news-trends/best-restaurants-london/).
I don’t know who you have to bang to get a table at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck but if you do find out please let me know. I am still dying to get there. Anyway that is besides the point. Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley was the only place with a free table (many in fact) available on my holiday.
It may have been a choice out of my hands but I’m incredibly glad at the opportunity to dine there. I love Molecular Gastronomy and the techniques have fascinated me since 2006 when I first learnt Spherification. Unfortunately, apart from Sous-Vide cooking my skills haven’t progressed any further for various reasons. As my cooking progresses and food trends change however, I’m almost glad that I’ve stayed clear of it. How much do we know about these Texturas and do we really need to use any more chemicals in our food when we go out of our way to use whole foods? I’m not so sure anymore.
Chef Wareing uses Sous-Vide often in the creation of his sauces but that’s as far as he goes with the chemical manipulations as far as I know. His technique is flawlessly French with every dish containing a surprise element to keep the palate engaged. We opted for the Chef’s Tasting Menu with matching wines, not so much a request by myself but a command to my more than willing little sister. I think she was a bit uncomfortable at first at the some-what stuffy setting. It was her first Michellin Star Restaurant and we went straight to the top with a two-star one! Nonetheless, as the wine flowed and the dishes started rolling out she made herself quite at home.
The first dish was a hand-made Burrata served with a beetroot salad and balsamic and beetroot gastrique. It was a little boring to be honest but was very pretty to look at. The second was a crab salad with a spicy gazpacho and toasted almonds. It was definitely more interesting texturally as well as being interactive (which I am a HUGE fan of) as it was poured table-side. My sister didn’t like this one and was grossed out by the zucchini flowers and the bitter spice after-taste of the gazpacho.
Perfectly cooked Quail breast with roasted peaches and a fennel salad was to follow and to impress. We also thoroughly enjoyed the Seabass with cauliflower puree, coppa and pear. The star of the day for us both though was the Sous-Vide braised lamb with polenta, toasted almonds and a medium-rare fillet. Soft and silky, savoury and salty it was just utterly flawless and left you wanting more.
I can’t remember exactly what the cheese course was to follow which makes me think it wasn’t that exciting. I did like the presentation and the green strawberries. Next up was a vanilla yoghurt panna cotta with a watermelon granita and a peppercorn tuille. Delicious. So simple, so elegant, so perfect as a palate cleanser after the stinky what-ever-it-was-called cheese.
And for the finale, Marcus’ take on the classic Lemon Meringue Pie. Cutesy meringues and a lemon fruit leather made the dish somewhat interesting but I don’t think the dish needed the ‘tea granita’ that was spooned over it table-side. It is better off without it in my opinion. To follow all of those fab dishes were some petit-fours that we were too stuffed to eat. They sent us home with a baggy of peanut brittle which was a nice touch. All in all, amazing service, pretentious Sommelier and brilliant dishes. I would definitely go back next time I’m in my second home, London.