Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, London

Thursday 31 March 2011
zoocha-admin

As a foodie , a traveler and one of the editors of blog Cumi & Ciki , I've always felt that Travel is not just about the destination it is about the people. Alongside this, I would like to go one step further to suggest that the complete travel experience is also about food. Every country is unique and would inevitably have great food, it's just whether or not, as a visitor with limited time, you are able to find it.

Being an avid food blogger, travel- dining and experiencing the ultimate in haute cuisine is always a rewarding experience for me. Don't get me wrong, you will see from our blog, that I love street food and am ever willing to go down that path less trodden to sniff out any bizarre, local cuisine. However the foodie in me will also invariably look for that one ultimate high-end culinary experience in every country I visit. From a foodie's perspective, trying new cuisines, having a simple but mind-blowingly inspiring meal, something that just makes me want to yell from the roof-top that that "This is it! life does not get better than this" .. now that is always the ultimate goal for the traveler foodie in me. It is therefore, with great excitement that I share now with you, this gem of a place I found, during my travels to London.

I'd heard so much about London’s finest dining, glitz and glamour. Even though I tried to book the Fat Duck, 8 weeks in advance to my London trip, a voice on the other end of the phone said " We take reservations up to 2 months in advance, but we are fully booked for the next two months, thank you for calling, goodbye!" Oh well, it was worth the try. Disappointed and let down, I called a friend to asked her were else I should try and she being the ultimate foodie, told me "Marcus Wareing". So, here I am at the Berkeley and really glad I took her advice too because the food and service turned out to be outstanding.

If you are walking down from Harrods on Knightsbridge, The Berkeley is the second turning on your right. It stands on the corner of Wilton Place and Knightsbridge, overlooking Hyde Park and just minutes from Harvey Nic's and Harrods. Anyway, the fastest way here is from either the Knightsbridge or Hyde Park Corner tube stations on the Piccadilly line.

This is my experience at this exclusive Knightsbridge restaurant, the first solo venture of star chef Marcus Wareing. Before this restaurant, Marcus Wareing and Gordon Ramsay were partners at Pétrus restaurant, 33 St James’s, which then moved to the Berkeley. Then came the surprising news that the two great Chefs were going separate ways. The Ramsay group kept the Pétrus name, the wine cellar etc, but the staff stayed on with Marcus and the place became Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley. Apparently, the minute the split occurred, the Ramsay group had called everyone with reservations to announce that the restaurant had closed , so much so that the place was deserted in their first week running. (Who said that splits have to be amicable). However, I assume that the teething problems are over because when I got there, the place was packed to the rafters.

We got in for a rather late lunch. The menu starts at £90 for the endless tasting menu, £75 for the à la carte and £30 for the set lunch. Before the lunch even begins, the waiter comes around with a large trolley of champagne to get you in the groove (it became a real habit for me, this guzzling bubble before a meal). After that, I selected the chateau margaux 1995 to go with my mains. The beauty about this place is that they serve excellent wines by the glass - you don't need to drink horrible house wine, if you are in non-drinking company and do not wish to get drunk on a bottle. Not only that, this allows you to sample the whole spectrum of bubbly or wines by the glass. Swell!

Talk about an extensive tasting menu, the amuse bouche of sweet corn and pumpkin with a liquorice foam served in a cute, shot glass.. pan-fried foie gras with glazed black figs, lapsang tea and hazelnuts, vitello tonnato (some form of finely sliced poached veal, air-dried tuna, smoked anchovy, capers, white onion and nutmeg mousse).. main course of salt -marsh lamb (with shallots, fennel, confit tomatoes, saffron and lavender), roast pork belly, lovely briny red mullet or cumbrian rosé veal (with dorset snails, sea purslane, sweet garlic emulsion and alsace bacon) .. oh, the mind boggles.

It is really makes sense that the waiter selects a fish starter for you, if you are having meat for your mains, and vice versa. What's even more grand is that the waiter who emerges from the kitchen with the serving tray, does not serve the table. Another waiter does that. The server's job is to appear with the food, hold the tray, and then disappear once the food has been served. The staff were handsome, knowledgeable and with manners boarding on saintly. This is cuisine as haute as you can get in London!

There are only limited shots of what we ate for obvious reasons. Even though the waiters and staff were really friendly and tolerant, I did not want to out-snap my welcome and get thrown out of the Berkeley. I had to maintain some form of composure and not go crazy over the food served, even though I really wanted to give in to my snap-frenzy. By the way, his new and second cookbook, Nutmeg & Custard, is listed on the menu as an item, for sale. Great for those who like to experiment in the kitchen.

The amuse bouche

Pan-fried foie gras log with truffles

Hake - an Irish salt water fish starter

Pork belly

Red mullet

Egg custard tart and ice-cream (apparently the cold custard is MW's mum's recipe - eggy and delicious)

The food was exquisite. I am no food critic, so all I can say is that we really got value for money (top dollar!) At the conclusion of the meal, we sit around and enjoy the bonbon trolley over a coffee.. lunch that started at around 1.30pm, is finally over at 4pm. We also have some bonbon's to go, because they taste so nice. What a life!

This place deserved every bit of that Two Michelin Star it wears. I would love to dine here again sometime in the near future and have no qualms recommending this place to my friends.

Michelin star guide
One Michelin star: A very good restaurant or pub in its category
The star indicates a good place to stop on your journey. But beware of comparing the star given to an expensive de luxe establishment with that of a simple restaurant where you can appreciate fine cooking at a reasonable price.
Two Michelin star: Excellent cooking, worth a detour
Specialities and wines of first class quality. This will be reflected in the price
Three Michelin star: Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey
One always eats here extremely well, sometimes superbly. Fine wines, faultless service, elegant surroundings. One will pay accordingly..!

For reservations, address and directions, The Berkeley

This post originally appeared on the Cumi & Ciki Food and Travel Blog.

Images via : Cumi & Ciki

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