There are restaurants and then there are restaurants. Berners Tavern definitely falls into the latter category. Few restaurants epitomise the London dining scene like Berners Tavern. Housed in the London Edition in Fitzrovia, this grand Edwardian dining room with its opulent chandeliers, framed artwork covering the entirety of every wall and the ornate plasterwork ceiling ooze elegance and glamour without going OTT. It’s a fine balance in getting this right but hotelier Ian Schrager pulls this off brilliantly. It’s as much a ‘tavern’ as my two bed London flat is a ‘mansion’ – either way, it’s definitely the best tavern I have ever been to.
Under the direction of restaurateur Jason Atherton and chef Phil Carmichael, Berners Tavern serves up a contemporary British menu which is simple and seasonal but still sophisticated enough to match its grand setting. Again it’s extremely hard to to get this right but they pull it off elegantly as you would expect from a team of such high caliber. It does make me wonder how Jason Atherton finds the time to get the balance right over and over again. He has been a busy man the last couple of years. Berners Tavern is one of three new restaurants he has opened in the West End last year alone. One of these new ventures, Social Eating House in Soho has already got him his second Michelin star. Add to that his ventures in Singapore, Hong Kong and his flagship Pollen Street Social in Mayfair and you get an idea of the restaurant empire that Jason oversees.
The Native Rock Oysters were an absolute delight – wonderfully fresh and served with enough condiments to keep a condiments man like me engaged (and happy). The real winner on the platter however, was the Dressed Colchester Crab served with Brown Crab Mayo, Apple and Coriander. Seasoned to perfection without overpowering the delicate crab meat, it was absolutely brilliant. At £20 for this crustacean delight, it’s not the cheapest option on the menu but boy was it good!
We also tried the more traditional winter favourite Ironbark Pumpkin Risotto served with Crispy Quail Eggs, Smoked Ham Hock and Kale Crisps. Again a simple dish with classic British ingredients that you just cannot go wrong with. The pumpkin risotto was perfectly seasoned, the quail egg was crispy and the kale crisps were spot on. What more could you want for winter comfort food? I wish my kale crisps came out that perfect without looking like I just charred them with a blow torch! But then again, there is a reason why I don’t run a restaurant empire like Atherton does.
The highlight of the evening for me was the Aged Beef Tartare starter served with Salsa Verde, Chopped Duck Egg and Croutons. It genuinely was the best steak tartare I have ever had. There I said it! The complexity of flavours was mind blowing and I gobbled it down before Seb could say “I want to try some too”. I love Atherton’s unique twist on the traditional steak tartare with the chopped duck eggs and the finely sliced croutons. Highly recommended.
The roasted rump of Romney Marsh lamb, served with smoked ham hock, white bean ragout and pesto with a crispy breast topping was a breath of fresh air. The meat was tender and cooked perfectly just the way I like it. What really surprised me however was the freshness the pesto introduced to this dish – it was just great. The crispy breast topping was a nice touch too.
If you really want to indulge, I cannot recommend the Berners Tavern version of Mac’n’Cheese enough. The Macaroni and Cheese here comes with braised ox-cheek, brioche and bone marrow crumble. It’s decadence personified! The braised ox-cheek and bone marrow crumble added oodles of complex flavours and textures that really made this dish pop. It was so big that Seb couldn’t finish more than half of his mac’n’cheese as much as he wanted too. Easily one of my favourite dishes at Berners Tavern.
We shared the Apple Caramel Eclair that came with Calvados Cream and Salted Caramel Ice Cream before we called it quits. The apple caramel eclair dish complete with gold leaf was decadence on a plate! Served in a setting less opulent than the dining room at the London Edition Hotel, you would question if this dish was slightly over the top but not in here. I didn’t bat an eyelid on seeing the gold leaf covered eclair. It’s what you would expect when dining at Berners Tavern. And guess what? It tasted great too!
As you can probably tell, I am a big fan of Berners Tavern. There is something really special about sipping a cocktail (or three in my case) under the Grand Central Station inspired chandeliers of this opulent dining room. It’s decadence personified and reminds me of why I love London so much. I am not sure what I enjoy more about Berners Tavern; the top notch food or the grandeur of the setting. Either way, it’s bloody brilliant and I cannot wait to come back here. If you are looking for a place to impress, you now know just the place.