We had read a lot of good things about Berners Tavern in London. This is located just off the famous Oxford Street but on the less fashionable side of Oxford Street. By this I mean the side that leads onto Soho, past, way past, the big shops, Selfridges, Marks & Spencer, John Lewis and so on.
We had a table for 7.30 and our occasional London dining partner, good friend the Doctor Businesswoman joined us. Berners Tavern is `under the direction’ – whatever that may mean – of Jason Atherton. Atherton himself is an alumnus of the great Gordon Ramsay. The food served is described as simple and elegant with the best produce that the British Isles offers. So you have British, French and European dishes. The restaurant is in a Hotel and is open from breakfast thru to dinner and then finally for a late supper from 10.30 pm till midnight. This is a large dining room with a lot of tables and runs for 17 hours, which is a long time.
When you walk in you cannot but say `wow’. This is a room that is simply gorgeous. This is far from being a Tavern, but is one of the most visually stunning rooms I have seen in a long time. To say it is attractive will be a gross understatement. The room is chocker block full of paintings and ornate plaster in the ceiling. The height of the room is probably 20 feet or thereabouts, and, without any pillars. So, the overall effect is truly gob smacking, to use an English phrase.
The place was full when we got in and fairly buzzing. Service was a bit haphazard in as much you had to attract the attention of the waiters. Our table had been set without any napkins. Despite this, I must say that when beckoned, or on attention being drawn, the staff was faultless and did not then forget what they were called for. Also I must say right up front, that we were given a 2 hour table. We were having such a good time that the two hours passed without our realising this. The waiter then very sweetly, smoothly and without rippling the water asked us to move to the bar where we could continue our evening. Very well done.
The menu is a short one pager about the size of a table mat. Both HRH the Queen of Kutch and I had a Gin and Tonic, which is fast becoming our favourite drink to start an evening on. Doctor Businesswoman asked for a glass of Champagne. We also ordered a bottle of Argentinean Malbec [I know it is normally Argentinean but they had a Chilean on offer too]. We the set about ordering our meal and once that was done conversations started.
HRH the Queen of Kutch ordered Pumpkin Risotto Crunchy Quail Egg and smoked Ham Hock and Kale Chips for a starter. She said it was excellent. I had a spoon full of the Risotto and thought it was outstanding. The flavour of Pumpkin was strong. I have no idea how he managed that as Pumpkin is really quite bland and flavourless. The cooking of the Risotto was brilliant. Really a good dish.
|Pumpkin Risotto Crunchy Quail Egg and smoked Ham Hock and Kale Chips|
Doctor Businesswoman ordered a Lobster and Prawn Cocktail with Avocado and Crisp Shallots. You know Prawn Cocktail is such a clichéd dish and so badly made in India – if you can find a restaurant serving French food and not being Jain, Either there is too much Mayonnaise and more often than not, the Prawns are hopelessly overcooked and taste like bits of rubber. This was really good. None of these faults and the Crisp Shallots – Birista to us Indians – added so much taste.
|Lobster and Prawn Cocktail with Avocado and Crisp Shallots|
I had a Crisp Pigs Head with Foie Gras and Black Pudding with some Sauce Girbiche. The Pigs Head came as a sort of what we Indians call a `cutlet’ meaning that the Pigs Head, Foie Gras and Black Pudding were all finely chopped flattened into a disc and deep fried. Nice but not as good as the other two starters.
|Crisp Pigs Head with Foie Gras and Black Pudding with some Sauce Girbiche|
Well begun is half done is the saying. So we waited for the main courses.
By this time we were having such a lovely evening, we ordered a second bottle of wine.
HRH the Queen of Kutch ordered Macaroni and Cheese with Braised Ox Cheek, Brioche and Bone Marrow Crumble. Quite simply, the best Macaroni and Cheese we have ever eaten in our lives. No exceptions, no qualifications and certainly no hesitation is saying so. The sauce was cheesy without being rich, the Ox Cheek was delicious and there was nothing not to like in the dish. It was a large helping. What HRH the Queen of Kutch did not finish was lapped up by both Doctor Businesswoman and me. The dish was wiped clean.
|Macaroni and Cheese with Braised Ox Cheek, Brioche and Bone Marrow Crumble|
Doctor Businesswoman ordered the Roast Lamb with white Bean Ragout, Smoked Ham Hock and Mint Pesto. The dish looked great and tasted fantastic. I am always amazed at the way these Chefs combine ingredients that go together. Lamb and Beans are a classic. Lamb and Mint is a classic. Put all together. Lovely. She finished very last morsel.
|Roast Lamb with white Bean Ragout, Smoked Ham Hock and Mint Pesto|
I had a char grilled Pork Chop with Chicory and Apple Salad, Apple and Mustard Puree. Once again a combination of classic flavours. Pork, apple, mustard. Top class dish, well presented.
|Pork Chop with Chicory and Apple Salad, Apple and Mustard Puree|
|Sides of Carrot and New Potato sauted in Duck Fat|
We were then shifted to the Bar. We continued our conversation. Also we had no desire for dessert. We grabbed our coats and in the cool London evening walked back.
All in all, an excellent restaurant food wise and staggeringly beautiful looks wise. Great place to have a meal. Not too expensive. A must visit.