15 July 2012

Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, London

My wife and I visited the esteemed Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley on Thursday. The Berkeley Hotel reception is surprisingly small, and you have to walk through the lounge area to get to the restaurant itself, thankfully a beautiful spacious and opulent area. At 1215, we were the first in, but it got busier by 1230. We were in the centre of the room and didn't take photo's as we felt a bit conspicuous.

There was a good selection of menus were available. Lunch, a la carte, Chef's and tasting menus were available for me, and vegetarian a la carte and tasting menus for my wife. We started with a very fine rose champagne from the trolley.

First up a canapé, a perfect mouthful of fish croquette and lime mayonnaise for me, and a delicious cheese brioche for my wife.

Breads were exceptional, a choice of sourdough, farmhouse, potato and onion. I had the onion bread, which had a excellent crisp and flavour. Best of all though, were the butters, one a creamy butter from Gloucester, and the other, a brown butter, a whipped butter made using caramelised creme fraiche. This was a revelation, I've not had anything similar, and made this the best bread and butter combination I've ever had.

The amuse bouche was a roasted cauliflower soup, with a parmesan foam and parmesan crunches. The soup, intense with a rich cauliflower flavour, went well with the parmesan.

My starter of quail was an unexpected delight. Presented in a bowl, the quail, with a crisp crumb laid upon hispi cabbage and micro herbs. A consomme was then poured in the bowl. I didn't expect an Asian influenced dish at all, and loved the suprise of Asian aromas from the consomme and quail. The quail was perfectly cooked, moist and packed with flavour, with a sweet aromatic skin, with the crisp crumb providing the flavours and crunch of a roasted skin. The consomme, rich with flavour yet perfectly clear was beautifully done, and the hispi cabbage was sweet and tender and the micro coriander providing the hit of coriander without being overpowering. An absolutely stunning start to the meal.

However, my wife did not miss out. Her starter, an elegant plate of burrata, onion, apple and cobnuts was delicious, with cobnuts and the top rate apple adding a wonderfully summery, light and refreshing touch to the excellent burrata.

My main was turbot, leek, sea purslane and madeira. The perfectly cooked turbot was on a bed of a very fine pea puree. Accompanying this was a tempura courgette flower, some  quality leeks, a sublime soft, buttery onion and sea purslane. A madeira sauce was then poured round. Dark, unctuous and velvety, the sauce was a fantastic addition to the dish and as good as a sauce can be.  All combined to make this a fish dish to remember, the only downside being some sauce left, and a niggling feeling that if i was in the private room I could have licked the plate.

My wife had the herb pappardelle. The herbs were pressed into the pappardelle, which was very attractive. A large quartered king oyster mushroom (my thanks to the waiter for finding out what it was) was included along with morels, some herbs and a generous shaving of truffle over the dish. I've not had king oyster mushrooms before, and tried some along with the pappardelle. It had a meaty, nutty flesh which was very juicy, and went very well with the dish. The pasta was done to perfection.

I never usually have cheese with lunch, but the portion on the previous dishes were just enough to leave us room to sample a selection. We shared a board of goats cheese from Devon, a Waterloo, Livarot, Lincolnshire Poacher, a wonderful sloppy pile of Munster and a Scottish goats cheese, which had blue veining but resembled a brie. Accompanying this was a fantastic chutney, and an impressive silver cracker barrel with water biscuits, oat biscuits and home made cheese and chive biscuits.  As  I was more or less sampling 5 of them for the first time, I thought the Livarot and Munster were my favourites, although all were delicious.

Pre-dessert was a lovely little glass of strawberry crema, topped with butter biscuit, strawberries in Prosecco and a tiny quenelle of strawberry sorbet. This was a great little taster, and the strawberries stood out as being particularly flavourful.

For dessert my wife had Horlicks, honey, whisky. A parfait based around horlicks stood on a base of whisky cream, with honey whisky jellies dotted around the side. The parfait had the subtle taste of horlicks, which accompanied the cream perfectly. The jellies were aromatic bursts of honey and whisky, and were particulary good.

My dessert was Apple, crispy cinnamon pastry, apple jelly. A mille feuille of impossibly thin, crisp, cinnamon pastry was layered with apple and a subtle cinnamon and cream. Poking out of the centre was a cone of apple jam. Accompanying this was discs of a beautiful crisp apple, with a flavourful smooth sorbet of apple on top. Jellies of apple and apple sauce decorated the plate with a sprinkle of cinnamon. This dish was a triumph, the mille fuille was of exquisite quality and technical perfection, the apple and sorbet cleaning the mouth ready for the next spoon of pastry and cream. The apple jellies were packed with flavour. Without a doubt this was one of the best desserts I've ever had, each mouthful accompanied with a chuckle of joy and a comment to my good wife on how wonderful it was.

We finished with a first rate coffee, and the choose the banana and salt caramel truffle, and the 70% square of dark chocolate and ganache from the impressive liquer and chocolate trolley. Both were excellent. The bill was presented with a bag of truffles for my wife, one of which was an awesome lemon meringue truffle, a thin shell of white chocolate surrounding a soft portion of meringue and a liquid lemon sauce.

Having seen a lot of Marcus and his cooking on the television and read alot of about his restaurant, I was also keen to try a high end London restaurant that wasn't purely French food, and every aspect of what I wanted was catered for. The start to end perfection of the meal, surroundings and service made this one of my most memorable meals.

The bill was about £280 and included 2 glasses of wine for my wife and water.

Marcus Wareing At The Berkeley

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