Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley, London, United Kingdom

This is the first time I returned to this restaurant at the Berkeley Hotel since Marcus Wareing broke away from the Gordon Ramsay empire. Hailed as one of the best restaurants in London, and possibly the UK, I have been eager to re-visit this place in the post-Petrus era, to see what the fuss was about. The previous time when I visited Petrus, the restaurant only had one Michelin star, and in my review I thought the starter was good but then it went downhill from there. Therefore I was curious to see if that much has changed.

A few snacks were brought out to accompany the aperitif: squid fritters, foie gras with orange marmalade, and smoky tomato and olive spread with toasted bread. I’d never have thought of combining foie gras with marmalade but the combination worked well.

The amuse-bouche was a mushroom veloute with a truffle mousse on top. The presentation was very topical – it was the week when the volcanic ash from Iceland caused widespread disruption in Europe. The soup was smooth and rich in flavour – this was a promising start.

We ordered the Menu Prestige, which consisted the following dishes:

(1) Foie gras, rhubarb, muffin top, pink pepper, yogurt, thyme. Everyone seemed to be doing foie gras and rhubarb these days. The ingredients were so beautifully arranged that the whole dish looked like an artwork, and the different contrasts in flavour and richness worked well also.

(2) Dorset crab, mackerel, apple, chargrilled bread, hazelnut. The texture of the apple complemented well with the fish. The crab meat was firm though the portion was a bit on the small side.

(3) Quail, smoked white beans, toast foam. It’s not always easy to cook quail but this one came out tender and moist. The flavour of the quail blended in well with the strong smokey flavour of the white bean.

(4) Scottish scallop, celeriac, sorrel, lemon jam – the scallops were somewhat dry and overcooked, which was a real shame as this could have been an outstanding dish. The lemon jam was very sharp and tangy on its own, but it did give an extra dimension in flavour when mixed with the other ingredients.

(5) Cumbrian lamb, red pepper, artichokes, fennel, saffron, or Lakes District venison, smoke, beetroot, juniper. First the lamb – it was on the slightly dry and tough side, and the flavour was somewhat lacking. It was a bit like daily home-cooking – you’d eat the food but it’s not memorable. The venison was tender but the flavour was once again smokey. For a tasting menu, this was the fourth dish with such flavour – where’s the variety to showcase the chef’s ability? Or was Mr Wareing too enthusiastic about his food smoker?

(6) Pre dessert – this was a passion fruit mousse and a chocolate opera. This was beautifully presented – the contrast in colours and shapes was impressive, and they both tasted good too!

(7) Espresso arctic roll, bitter chocolate, blackberry – Maybe because the pre-dessert was so good, this was a let-down.

On the whole, the meal was not as good as I had hoped. Several dishes had the smokey flavour, which would have been fine if the menu was a “smokey menu” rather than a “tasting menu”, which I would expect a chef to showcase the different flavours he/she was capable of. The menu lacked some of the excitements and innovative ideas, and with the price it’s commanding, it felt more like it’s catering for the rich bankers’ expenses accounts. Just like the previous Petrus, the meal started off very promising and it gradually went downhill without recovery.

Address: The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7RL, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44(0)20 7235 6000

Opening Hours: 
Monday to Friday: Lunch    12.00 – 14.30 ; Dinner 18.00 – 23.00
Saturday: Dinner 18.00 – 23.00

Food: 7/10
Ambience: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 15/20 [Based on visit in April 2010]

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