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Dazzling experience on a bargain menu

With suave sommeliers and meals of exquisite quality, Berners Tavern is one of London’s most glamorous destinations

27 April, 2018 — By Tom Moggach

Colchester crab on toast, brown crab butter, lemon gel, pickled cucumber and celery. Photo: Claire Menary

YOU may recall Berni Inn, the restaurant chain famous for its prawn cocktails and After Eight mints.

Berners Tavern, a place in Fitzrovia, sounds like it could be related – but is in fact a world apart. This is one of London’s most glamorous destinations. The lofty dining room, hung with more than two hundred gilt-framed paintings, is a jaw-dropping stunner.

A suave sommelier – charming to a fault – even trundles around with a special trolley offering six choices of chilled champagne.

The prices? Well, you can imagine. But the set lunch and pre-theatre menu, served 12-5.30pm on weekdays, is actually something of a bargain.

For less than £25 you can treat yourself to a meal of exquisite quality, served by a blur of waiting staff at the top of their game.

I took a friend, who’s been texting me ever since. (“Still smiling at the memory of the asparagus” reads one.)

The restaurant is within The London Edition Hotel in Berners Street.

The dining room soars 18ft to a ceiling writhing in ornate plasterwork, where two bronze chandeliers take pride of place.

We slid onto our retro banquettes, heads spinning from the majestic opulence around us.

The food is best described as modern British – with plenty of creative twists and cheffy tricks.

That asparagus dish is knock-out: three plump spears, subtly charred, decorated with chervil fronds and the translucent white buds of young wild garlic flowers. A jumble of hazelnuts, mixed in a light vinaigrette, added crunch; a herb-spiked crème fraiche soothed the gentle heat.

Our tuna tartare was more exotic, with a tiny dice of compressed cucumber, an intense soy dressing and dots of pineapple purée.

Expect lots of ritual around the sauces. A waiter stylishly poured our light, savoury consommé over flakes of confit cod, chorizo and spring vegetables.

Same again with a wild garlic velouté, swirled around a chunk of sea bass and roasted artichoke.

This fish dish showcased one of the clever chef tricks – Swiss chard transformed by a micro-thin slice of lemon on top, sprinkled with shavings of crisp-fried garlic.

A few fragments of pickled onion were a surprising addition to that consommé – but this depth charge of acidity brought the dish to life.

This same cunning was displayed with tiny tomatoes, marinated in a spiced liquor, then roasted and tucked into a blanket of crushed peas and mustard seeds on a ribeye of pork.

Desserts on our visit included a jet black chocolate and black sesame tart, with passion fruit jam and ice cream.

This was a dazzling meal in dazzling surroundings – highly recommended for the price. Service, too, was friendly but highly polished.

The mood at Berners Tavern changes later in the evening, when the menu shifts to à la carte.

But that’s way out of my league – I’m sticking with the set lunch.

This bargain menu changes every month – so expect new dishes next week. Two courses will cost £24.50; three for £29.50.

Berners Tavern
10 Berners St, W1T
020 7908 7979
www.bernerstavern.com

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