The Berkeley Hotel,
Wilton Place, Knightsbridge
London, SW1X 7RL
Tel. 020 7235 1200
Food type: Modern French
Nearest tube: Hyde Park Corner
The last time I wrote about Marcus Wareing’s flagship restaurant it was just after he had split from Gordon Ramsay Holdings and the restaurant was renamed from Petrus to Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley. Other than the name change, everything pretty much remained the same – the dining room keeping the exact same decor all the way to the bon-bon trolley at the end of the meal. While I have had a fair few meals here in the past, I have always felt that the cooking here too complicated for my liking.
In 2014, the restaurant closed temporarily so that the dining room could be completely revamped. Gone is the dark, burgundy theme running throughout which is now replaced by Tiffany blue highlights. The waiting area has also been shrunk down so that a few more tables could be squeezed into the dining room. All in all, the room now has an airier more casual feel. To go with the dining room, Marcus was keen to make fine dining more approachable and casual. To that end, gone are the amuse bouches and pre-desserts making way for a simple a la carte (pick from 2,3 or 4 courses) or tasting menu (which will be your only choice during weekend dinners). This would be my second time dining in the newly revamped room.
I really like the new, more relaxed style of cooking here which is a lot more minimalist. Take for example a dish of lobster with carrots and black garlic. With a £5 supplement and with only half the lobster on the plate, you expect perfection for whatever was served to you and perfection was what was delivered. The lobster tail perfectly tender and carrots, a natural pairing with lobster, providing texture to the dish. For me, the magical bit was the sauce made from the lobster shells which was intense and pulled a huge punch.
Another classical combination is beef and snails. Marcus is a big fan of dining at Medlar and I wonder if he had been inspired by the version of steak and snails served there. He goes one better with the fillet of Galloway beef crusted with snails which gives the beef a huge umami kick. The snails on the side were cooked in such a way that they were crisp on the outside yet yielded easily when eating. While the menu hints at a baked potato element what you get is an espuma which tasted exactly like baked potato. This was an ingenious way of introducing carbs to the plate without making the dish heavy.
Marcus is probably still more famous for his custard tart which was the winning dessert during the first season of Great British Menu than being the judge of Masterchef Professional. While the custard tart itself features from time to time on the lunch menu, I am sure he must be keen to move forward from that dish. A dessert of meadowsweet, custard and peaches does exactly that with the key element of the dish being a custard infused with meadowsweet paired with seasonal peaches. The custard, full of floral notes from the meadowsweet, had a beautiful, luscious texture and melted in the mouth.
Having now dined here twice since the refurbishment, I must say I am a big fan of Marcus’ new style of cooking. On the surface, the dishes are less busy yet still retains a level of complexity you would expect at a high-end restaurant. My only gripe, and one of the reasons I haven’t returned more often than the cooking here deserves is the wine list. While the restaurant does offer plenty of interesting choices (for example, they have a nice selection of Clos Rougeard reds including the hard to fine “Le Bourg”) the mark-ups here are eye-watering in line with 5* hotels in London. I doubt this is the fault of the restaurant but rather they are tied down by the hotels policies. However, if you ordered sensibly or stuck to drinking water, then you are down for a treat as the cooking here is certainly very enjoyable.