Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley

Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7RL - 0207 235 1200 

Nothing beats being lavished upon by knowing staff and fed by people who make it their mission to over deliver on food. Such meals need not be kept for celebratory occasions. There is nothing more indulgent than celebrating a Tuesday off and treating yourself to a damn good lunch. Especially when humbly priced at £38, for three courses.

A couple of turns round from Hyde Park's most classiest corner, through the gilded revolving doors of the Berkeley and passed the pinky raised afternoon tea drinkers, we were then led to a burgundy room of unassuming decadence. In the centre orchids towered over the diners and speared glass baubles form a decorative abacus wall separating us from the culinary craftsmen. The waiters and sommelier bridge the divide. And do so in an exemplary fashion; silent upon their approach and depositing plates and glasses with a peppering of descriptive knowledge. To accompany the pondering of the menu we were presented with gougères topped with tomato dust. Airy morsels that vanished in a whisper leaving only a momentary tang of tomato freshness.

From the bread basket I opted for the potato and honey which  had a satisfying bounce and well rounded sweetness. Notably the caramelised butter was flawlessly quenelled, anything other than a stroke with the butter knife would be bad form. It tasted as if it had fallen out of dairy heaven,  creamy and nutty. As disclosed by the waiter the perfect balance of creaminess was achieved by adding creme fraiche to the butter, he continued to swoon over the elderly couple beside us, lavishing them with a few more kitchen secrets. 

I have always thought the word sweetbreads to be a fanciful word, conjuring up a food embodying something delicate and otherworldly. From humble offal beginnings this incarnation encased in delicate pasta and reverberating with lemon verbena was every bit how I whimsically imagined it should be. The meat jus heightened the savouriness of the ravioli filling, as did the topping of sea purslane which I like to think of nature's savoury popping candy. Whilst the shards of toasted hazelnuts were a great crunchy contrast to the silken cauliflower cream and sweet cauliflower slithers. The classic combination of smoked fish and soft poached egg is always a pleasure, here the char from the caramelised leeks balanced out the purity of watercress sauce.

Belly pork is my downfall, fork shattering skin, semi molten fat fused loosely to tender meat, I just cannot resist. The two pork squares were flawless and the rest of the dish was hearty yet elegant. The cassouleted beans were rich, the potato foam had every essence of the earthy skin but was free from stodginess, pickled onions added welcome sharpness and a mild creaminess came from the turnip. Where my dish was bold the salmon dish was unassuming until the third mouthful where you then notice perfection in each component. The fish was confited to a blushed coral and skin bubbled to a crisp, quinoa sappy from the beurre blanc and texturally rooted with crunch from the broccoli. Minus the bells and whistles it delivered beyond in taste leaving you with a pleasing bergamot aura.

For me the desert was outstanding. I am not a white chocolate fan but took a pun on this being as far removed from anything I had before. And yes it was, supremely creamy tinged with vanilla. Served whipped to a fluff sitting on a wisp of sponge, ideal for soaking up the melting granita which was so bright and so refreshing you wouldn't want to miss a drop. The orange purée was concentrated and full of zing. Whilst you could have overlooked the two tarragon leaves angled proudly upright as just a nice touch of green. They breathed a faint aniseed flavour that transformed white chocolate and cleansed the palette.

We looked on as other tables continued to extend their meals with cheese boards and another round of drinks, we were ready to ask for the bill and regretfully end our meal of restrained indulgence and then came the petit fours. A double act of house made chocolates, one was 67% Dominican cocoa with a ganache of the chocolate and spring water, the other was milk chocolate with insanely great salt caramel. Right till the last mouthful each plate delivered defiantly and crafted flawlessly. Each table served with nothing short of excellence. I suspected this would be the case since two Michelin stars are not given out willy nilly, it is wonderful to know that a leisurely set lunch is treated with equal importance as a la carte diners.
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Feast at Tobacco Dock

All of London's current taste sensations are here, burgers by Patty & Bun, hot soothing ramen from Bone Daddies, rocking fried chicken from Rita's and temporary extensions from the trustworthy house of Hix, Fish dog's as well as spice from Dishoom and a chance to sample cooking from new gun Beagle, set to open in Shoreditch in April. Next to the city suit and the suede shoe and Barbour father son duo, New Balance and bomber politely queue for something tasty inbetween a bun, because as Brits we politely queue. We all seem to be hitting up the latest eating trend and embracing it with British spirit. Through the drizzle we search out a spare nook, because all the casual benches strewn with wild flowers and candles are taken, and tuck in with meat glazed faces and wooden cutlery. Until Sunday you can sample a broad selection of London's food and street food offer all under one roof or half a roof. Our interpretation is a far cry from a hawker stall or a NYC corner burrito joint, born out of necessity to eat in a hurry but theres no point picking at holes when food tastes this good.

Anna-Mae's Mac and Cheese
Excellent fried chicken sandwich with sweet potaro spread from Rita's
Burger du jour from Patty and Bun
Sweet treats from Meringue Girls