Elite Traveler spends the evening at Michelin starred chef Jason Atherton’s latest venue and discovers the food is every bit as refined as the beautiful surroundings.
It’s hard not to utter ‘wow’ the moment you walk into the stately dining room of Jason Atherton’s newest restaurant, Berners Tavern. An amazing “185 pieces of artwork curated and designed to tell a story” line the walls, London EDITION’s corporate sales manager Justin Loriquer tells me during a tour before the meal, while a sparkling (and quite frankly, huge) chandelier inspired by the one in Grand Central station in New York hangs from sky-high ceilings.
But this restaurant’s charm doesn’t end with its Parisian-inspired interiors, which reflect Edwardian London’s love of all things French (the hotel was originally the Berners Hotel, which opened in 1908).
From the moment we enter the restaurant, we are made to feel most welcome, with the waiting staff striking the right balance of attentiveness for the duration of our visit, while each course of food and wine – paired by head sommelier Jonathan Fillion – proves to be as good, if not better, than we hoped.
I have the ‘Egg, Ham and Peas’ to start (£8.50): the combination of the yolky, deep-fried Clarence Court duck egg, Cumbrian crispy ham and mushy peas is delicious, and is perfectly complemented by a glass of the 2011 ‘Slatnik’ Radikon, a sweet-flavored orange wine from Friuli, Italy, paired by the knowledgeable sommelier.
Meanwhile my seafood-loving guest is delighted to see Native Rock oysters from his hometown, West Mersea (on the East coast of England) on the menu, which he also washes down with the 2011 ‘Slatnik’ Radikon. He follows the ‘really tasty’ dish with the beautifully presented Orkney Scallop Ceviche, served with avocado, radish, baby gem, jalapeño and lime ice (£12.50). The scallops were ‘delicate and delicious’, he tells me, adding that the unusual and unexpected flavor combinations work well.
For mains, I opt for the 255g Devon Ruby Red rib eye (£32) on recommendation of our waiter who calls it ‘the best steak on the menu’. Served with duck fat chips, salad and peppercorn sauce, it doesn’t disappoint, and another glass of ‘Slatnik’ Radikon – I’m not a red wine drinker – suits it well.
Our attentive sommelier pairs my fellow diner’s £24 pan-braised Atlantic halibut with a glass of a 2010 Andre Perret Marsanne, Vin de Pays des Collines from Rhodaniennes, France. Served with squid ink risotto, garlic squid and broccoli, the fish is cooked ‘extremely well’, my guest tells me.
I’m almost too full for dessert but when I spot chocolate filled donuts (£7) on the menu, I can hardly resist. Served warm with cinnamon sugar coating and almond sorbet, the donut’s intensely delicious chocolate – Atherton’s own blend, I am told – pairs perfectly with a glass of the fruity 2009 Jurançon Domaine ‘Au Capceu’.
Despite not being a dessert man, my companion devours his tasty warm almond brioche served with pear compote and ginger sorbet (£7), while sipping on a glass of the 2011 Rasteau Vin Doux Naturel Domaine de Trapadis, a sweet wine from Rhone in France.
As our evening comes to an end, I think about the team behind our evening of fabulous food and how, despite the grand surroundings and name of the Michelin-starred chef above the door, Atherton has achieved a level of informality at Berners Tavern – which boasts 140 covers – as he aspires to in all of his restaurants.
Then, just like magic, I spot him exiting the kitchen towards a table just a few meters away from our own to, it appears, some acquaintances. Admittedly, my guest and I are both a little star-struck, and seeing the man himself marks the perfect end to our evening.
Just as we’re collecting our coats, we look at each other in agreement that next time we’ll book in at the hotel, too. I can’t wait to go back. www.bernerstavern.com
Images by Nikolas Koenig