Exquisite flavours in a lavish setting – Jason Atherton’s Berners Tavern at The London Edition hotel is designed to dazzle. Does it?
Kemey and I dined last night at newly opened Berners Tavern. Hardly a week old, the place buzzed with an energy emitting from the diners who all seemed incredibly stoked just to be there. The latest talk of the town among London’s foodiest of connoisseurs, I couldn’t glance across the tavern’s dining room without spying another food writer, a chef on his night off or some other such industry insider.
And what a dining room it was to glance across! The space (a former ballroom) was ginormous (we reckoned we could fit ten times our loft conversion one-bedroom flat inside that room). There must have been nearly five metres between the tops of our heads and the restaurant’s two massive custom bronze chandeliers and the gorgeously detailed reliefs along the tops of the walls – walls laden with a series of ornately framed photographic portraits, landscapes and still life paintings.
It should be pointed out that the Tavern is dimly lit (I had to squint to read the menu – and my vision is 20/20) and loud in a Manhattan-vibe-restaurant sort of way with rock ‘n’ roll and funk (during my visit anyway) all but blaring in the background.
“Over-the-top” does not begin to describe the venue, but maybe “overwhelming” (at least at that first moment you enter) gets a little closer to what it was like just to be there. It certainly felt like we were somewhere special, and I’d wager anybody in the house last night would have said the same.
As confident as the customers were that they were in the right place, the staff seemed less certain. Our sommelier came up with little more than “Did you see our by-the-glass options on the menu?” when we requested advice on wine selection (the by-the-glass options were without doubt a fantastic read but still). Our starters came to the table while I had excused myself to got to the toilet. Then, the mains were presented when Kemey was away freshening up. That was annoying and rather amateurish. Perhaps the servers were as overwhelmed as the guests? I must say though, everyone we encountered was especially warm and cordial.
Anyway, the food all but made up for any service imperfections. My Carroll’s potato and parsley soup with Dorset snails, Stornaway black pudding and a Breville brioche toastie was an earthy delight (and exceptionally good value at £7.50) while Kemey’s cracking choice of Orkney scallop ceviche with avocado, radish, baby gem served with (awesome) jalapeño and lime ice cream (£12.50) impressed and intrigued. For our mains, we both went with fish. I found the pan braised Atlantic halibut with squid ink risotto, garlic squid and broccoli (£24) to be the highlight of the evening, but I didn’t mind snatching a bite or two of the roasted Cornish sea bass with brown shrimp on a bed of seaweed and kale with wholegrain mustard (£26.50) from across the table. Kudos to Head Chef Phil Carmichael for phenomenal seafood offerings! Don’t worry though. If you want a huge slab o’ beef you can get it here – along with plenty of pork dishes, duck and lamb.
Another night might have seen me indulging in cocktails at this grand tavern. With offerings such as the Cereal Killer (made Coco Pops milk), Dill or No Dill and Corn on the Cobbler, the drinks menu was an amusing peruse at the very least. Nonetheless, a well rounded glass of Limoux Chardonnay proved enough to please my palate throughout my meal. Kemey loved her Reisling.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t as taken by my dessert. Chocolate filled donuts with cinnamon sugar coating and almond sorbet (£7) just didn’t do it for me. But the chocolate eclair with Devon vanilla cream and chocolate sorbet (£7.50) seemed to work magic on my dining companion. Kemey described it as “thoughtful” during our dinner … and even mentioned it again this morning.
Of course, the big big news isn’t just that another fabulous eatery has opened with celebrated chef and restauranteur Atherton behind it – this is Atherton’s tenth in total (I think) and fourth in London – but that boutique maestro Ian Schrager and big brand Marriott have launched another Edition hotel, this one in tony Fitzrovia just a stroll up from Oxford Street, with an Atherton resto as part of the draw.
After our dinner, restaurant manager Lauren graciously offered to show us around the hotel. I fell in love with the invitation-only Punch Room. Intimate, wood-panelled and cosy with a smartly curated stock and a competent bartender – if you get a chance to drink there, do! And consider having the hotel’s signature Edition Punch (gin, jasmine tea and oak moss) while you’re there – it’s a quenching winner of a cocktail.