Review: Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, London

Four days, 10 Michelin stars – Part 3!

Supper at Marcus Wareing has been on my to-do list ever since he left Petrus and set up on his own at The Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge. With an abundance of restaurants from which to choose in London, staying at The Berkeley provided the impetus to visit for dinner on a Monday evening.

Access to the opulent dining room is through the hotel’s caramel room (not ideal). The restaurant is warm and inviting, decorated with deep reds and chrome accents. Tables are well spaced; however, there is a long walk to the hotel toilets. Service was formal but friendly. Most diners are offered the opportunity to visit the kitchen once finished their meal – I urge you to do so, it is a wonderful environment and the sight of the chef’s table made me green with envy!

After a week of fine-dining our waistbands were at breaking point and it was doubtful if we could have given a two star tasting menu the justice it deserves. We opted instead for the seasonal À La Carte, but still managed to sneak in an optional cheese course! The food was delightful. Classic technique and beautiful marriage of flavours.

Portland Crab Salad

Portland Crab Salad with Radish and Cucumber was deliciously light and sweet. Accompanying ‘toast’ provided good texture against the soft crab. The crab was definitely the star of the show, the cucumber surprisingly did not wash away any flavour. The only negative was a little bit of shell which had slipped through the net, an excusable mistake.

Mackerel with Greengage and Onion

Charred Mackerel with Greengages and Onions was an outstanding dish – most definitely the dish of the evening. The mackerel skin was beautifully blackened yet the flesh perfectly cooked. Long forgotten greengages were an inspired addition maintaining a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. The accompanying onions were sweet and moreish, putting me in mind of a summer barbecue. A little cream which was slightly soured rounded off a stunning plate of food. We should all eat more mackerel.

Grouse with Blackberry and Apple

Grouse with Blackberry and Apple was well executed. The grouse was well cooked and the skin on the leg deliciously crisp. The blackberries and apples offset the rich, sweet jus well – the apples maintaining their bite. The accompanying bread sauce with chives was a triumph – a real kick of oniony chive and deliciously smooth, perfect. This dish was very satisfying and I have since recreated at home with Venison.

Lamb was also well executed – the lamb evenly pink. Perhaps the jus was a little strong for the sweet lamb, but this was somewhat curtailed by the accompanying vegetables and cubes of bacon.

Lemon, Meringue and Ice Tea

Lemon, Meringue and Ice Tea – three of my favorite things, all in one dish! Lemon curd was sandwiched between two impossibly thin sheets of pastry. Two large slices of curd was a little rich but was delicious. Crisp meringue was very sweet, which helped dampen the lemon a little. The ice tea granita (sprinkled over table-side) was very good – a delicate floral flavour.

Petit Fours (Round Two!)

The first round of petit fours were amazing – you must try Marcus’ egg custard tart at least once! After visiting the kitchen I was given a little birthday treat! Although I was at bursting point, I had managed to save a little room – the hazelnut ice cream was delicious as were the little cakes!

Marcus Wareing most definitely deserves two stars. The service and surroundings were professional and welcoming and the food was faultless. Beautifully precise cooking and perfect marriage of flavours old and new. Most definitely worth a visit, I only wish I had room for the tasting menu!

Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley

www.marcus-wareing.com

Food (For Four): £345

Dress Code: Smart

Reservations: Essential

Recommend: Yes

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Review: L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Covent Garden, London

Four days, 10 Michelin stars – Part 2!

I first ate at Joel Robuchon around two years ago and vowed to return. The two Michelin starred restaurant is spread over three floors – operating two dining rooms and a bar/lounge.

We dined in ‘La Cuisine’ on our first visit – a beautifully appointed room on the first floor, decked out like the kitchen from your dreams, diners sit at traditional tables and have a clear view of the small finishing kitchen. This visit; however, saw us dining in ‘L’Atelier’ – a red and black japanese inspired wonder with a choice of counter or high table seating which backs on to an open kitchen full of busy craftsmen. We had a fantastic visit first time round so expectations were high.

Firstly, praise must be given to front of house. You are made to feel instantly welcome, as if dining in your local. Service is professional and attentive yet relaxed – the perfect balance. The sommelier is a character and offers some excellent recommendations.

In addition to the usual A La Carte and Tasting menus, we were offered a ‘Potato’ Tasting menu – showcasing the versatile tuber at the height of its season. Three opted for the traditional tasting, one for the potato. The food was, as expected, fantastic. A beautiful mix of classic preparations and modern flavour combinations with an asian influence. I truthfully struggled to find any fault – the food more than lived up to expectations. I could write all day about the beautiful food we ate so memorable dishes follow.

Lobster Salad, Artichokes, Citrus Vinaigrette

Scottish Lobster Salad, Artichokes and Citrus Vinaigrette was delightful. Perfectly cooked and seasoned lobster tail and braised artichokes. The citrus vinaigrette was very tart but did not overpower. Chicory helped offer texture. The lobster was not quite as well cooked as that at Alain Ducasse, but this is nit-picking.

Cherry Gazpacho, Ewes Milk Ice Cream, Pistachio

Cherry Gazpacho with Ewe’s Milk Ice Cream and Pistachio was a substitution course on the Potato Tasting Menu (one of our party has a poultry allergy). Decadently covered in gold leaf, the ewe’s milk ice cream was beautifully smooth and fresh, tempering the prevalent cherry flavour. A well-balanced and refreshing dish.

Sea bass, Lemongrass & Fondue Leeks

Sea bass, Lemongrass and Fondue Leeks was perhaps a little on the salty side for some – but perfect for me. Beautifully cooked fish which held up against the strong sauce.

Gnocchi with a Fricassée of Mushrooms

Another dish from the Potato Tasting Menu, Gnocchi with Fricassée of Mushrooms. Perhaps the lightest and most flavoursome gnocchi we had ever tasted. The fricassée not overpowering with a subtle aroma of wild mushrooms. The accompanying ‘tuile’ was so light it all but dissolved on the tongue.

Quail stuffed with Foie Gras, Truffle Potatoes

Free Range Quail Stuffed with Foie Gras and Truffle Mashed Potatoes was decadent. The quail perfectly cooked, remaining moist from the chunk of pink foie gras nestled in the centre. The truffle mash was strong with truffle. As the dish was so simple, these three flavours (with the help of a little jus) were matched to perfection, not one outshone the other and the quail was rightfully the star of the show.

Confit Veal Cheek, Spiced Thai Jus, Crunchy Vegetables

Saving the best until last – Confit Veal Cheek, Spiced Thai Jus, Crunchy Vegetables. Quite possibly the best plate of food I have ever had the good fortune of eating. The veal cheek was meltingly tender, but still retained its structure – real depth of flavour without overpowering, somewhere between pork shoulder and beef shin. The spiced thai jus was to die for – a big punch of chilli but with subtle undertones of lemongrass and ginger. The crunchy vegetables had been perfectly julienned and gave fantastic contrast against the soft veal. It is not possible to sum up in words how truly delicious this dish was.

Joel Robuchon was an amazing experience and I feel I will extol its virtues forever more! They have hit the nail on the head – perfect service matched with perfect food in wonderfully eclectic surroundings. Words cannot do the quality of food justice. It is refreshing to dine in a restaurant once every so often that raises your expectations of dining out and forces you to question food you have eaten in the past. I cannot recommend enough.

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon

http://www.joelrobuchon.co.uk

Food (For Four): £470

Dress Code: Smart Casual (Jackets not required for gentlemen)

Reservations: Essential

Recommend: Yes

Review: Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, London

Four days, 10 Michelin stars – Part 1!

Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester is the most recent UK restaurant to be initiated into the three star club. Under the direction of the iconic Ducasse, expectations were high.

The restaurant is situated slap bang in the middle of the Dorchester hotel, and with this comes some drawbacks. Accessing the restaurant involves trekking nearly the full length of the grand corridor – whilst being glared at by eagle eyed tourists and their minders. This arduous trip must be made every time nature calls – the toilets are adjacent to the front door.

The dining room is beautifully appointed, with tables very generously spaced. However, it is impossible to shake the ‘hotel effect’. Everything feels rather clinical (service included) and you can’t help but feel on edge.

(Apologies for the poor photos. Light was low and frowns ensued whenever the flash went off!)

Amuse-bouche consisted of pumpkin soup served in what resembled a giant easter egg. Ok, if a little uninspiring.

Amuse-bouche

A ‘signature’ dish of lobster, truffle chicken quenelles and pasta was chosen to begin. The homemade pasta was delicious and cooked perfectly. However, the quenelles contained little flavour of truffle and were hopelessly bland. The accompanying bisque overpowered the delicate lobster and was a tad cloying. It must be noted, however, that this was the most tender and well-cooked lobster we had eaten for some time.

Lobster

Another ‘signature’ starter of raw and cooked vegetables, olives and tomato syrup was distinctly unsatisfying. The vegetables, both raw and cooked, were bland – many tasting terribly acidic. There was barely a whiff of the dubbed tomato in the tomato syrup. The accompanying crisp (which resembled a spiced poppadum), although beautiful, had little taste and was not quite crisp enough. If only this dish had tasted as beautiful as it looked.

Raw and Cooked Vegetables

Tournedos Rossini is definitely in my top 10 dishes – when done perfectly. There was nothing terribly wrong with the version served at Alain Ducasse; however, it failed to truly impress. The beef was cooked well and was tender, but lacked flavour. The slab of accompanying foie gras was too large for the size of steak and thus overpowered – it was also slightly overcooked. Unfortunately the charred lettuce washed away what little flavour there was. Altogether quite an unsatisfying dish.

 

Scallops with citrus and swiss chard was nice. Scallops were cooked and seasoned well, although the portion was too small for a main dish. The citrus element was overpowering and acidic (and I love citrus). The swiss chard was well cooked and retained some crunch. Perhaps ‘nice’ is an adjective which should not feature in cooking of this level.

Scallops, Citrus, Swiss Chard

Rib and belly of Denbighshire pork with black pudding and calvados jus failed to impress. The belly was undercooked and the rib was overcooked, dry and lacked flavour. The homemade black pudding was overly fatty and salty and the calvados jus too heavy. Veal with girolles and fresh almonds was palatable if unexciting.

The cheese course was a pre-chosen selection of french cheeses with accompaniments. The cheese was fine – the same cannot be said for the accompaniments, which at best were bizarre.

Cheese

Raspberry soufflé had risen spectacularly and was perfectly cooked with a strong hit of raspberry, a great success. Unfortunately, this was not the case for composition of apples – the granny smith sorbet tasting too acidic and the apple tart purely of sugar.

Rum baba was a delightful way to finish a meal, if a little heavy. A choice of rum was offered which then drowned the perfectly cooked and satisfyingly sweet baba.

Soufflé

Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester promised so much, yet failed to truly deliver. Front of house were unnervingly efficacious – you felt that they would have been chastised if they so much as cracked a smile. The food was at best uninspiring and appeared to lack effort and finesse – certainly not what is to be expected of a 3 star restaurant. You cannot even begin to compare the restaurant with other 3 star establishments (and many 2 star). For a true 3 star experience visit Royal Hospital Road or The Waterside Inn and give the overhyped hotel food a miss.

Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester

http://www.alainducasse-dorchester.com

Food (For Five): £453

Dress Code: Smart

Reservations: Essential

Recommend: No