When I found out we had reservations at Marcus Wareing’s eponymous restaurant at The Berkeley, I was rather tickled. My memories of the last time I’d been to the hotel were quite a fun one. A girlfriend and I went to have one of the tasting menus at the restaurant (it was still called Marcus Wareing then) and we ended up staying at the Blue Bar until quite late, making a few new friends as the night turned to dusk.
It was many birthdays ago. A revamp and a name change later, I come back to Marcus with a few fine lines, a few added pounds and an even bigger appetite.
Taste of Autumn
I was quite sold on the ala carte options (£85 for three courses) as I wanted to have a fish dish. However after a bit of convincing, I agreed to go for Marcus’ Taste of Autumn menu (£105 for five courses, £120 for eight). Autumn season is definitely my favourite time for produce, though. I am rather quite biased for the earthiness of this season’s offerings.
Amuse bouche #1: A take on steamed pork baos. Bite-sized hirata buns served with pulled pork. Delightful.
Amuse bouche #2: Rice crackers with cress. Gone in 30 seconds.
Course #1 Shauna’s sourdough, cockle butter
I was rather surprised to find out we were having bread and butter as part of the eight courses. The homemade butter was soft and silky and the lone battered cockle was quite a delight. I was quite impartial to the sourdough, though.
More bread came, homemade and infused with potato and fennel flavours.
Course #2: mackerel with coriander and cucumber jelly, chimichurri and caviar.
I liked the delicateness of this dish and how the mackerel, often a “too fishy” type of fish, was cooked.
The flesh was soft but had a nice firmness and the flavour delivered well. The tanginess of the chimichurri and the fresh flavours of the jelly gave it a refreshing twist and the caviar gave it a decent saltiness which I quite liked.
Course #3: Sharpe’s Express 1900, girolles, Tunworth, truffle
Sharpe’s Express 1900 was a trivia question I answered wrong many years ago, thinking it was a steam train that crossed Siberia. Didn’t realise it boiled down to potatoes. Har.
The humble potato was a rather good element of this dish, but it was the Tunworth that stole the show. Moussed and crisped, the flavour was sharp and distinct. The truffle and the mushrooms added an earthy taste which I liked. This was proper seasonal cooking, and showed promise of what else would come.
Course #4: Octopus, Chestnut, Parsley, Beef Tea
It’ll probably take a while until I get tired of the theatrics of servers pouring sauce on my plate. I’m a huge fan of octopus and had high expectations of this dish. It was good, although I felt that the octopus was 10 seconds overcooked. I loved the parsley puree and the chestnut added nice texture.
Course #5: 72-hour short rib, yogurt, vindaloo spices
When I hear vindaloo, I think of vanilla ice cream because I’ve only had it once and it was ridiculously spicy (and I do have a very high tolerance for spice). Spice-avert foodies, fear not, because this dish was very mild.
The beef itself was tender and cooked perfectly. The spice seasoning was on point and the garnish complemented the beef well. I liked the raita served with a small disc of Indian bread and crisped shallots. I thought it was a good dish.
Course #6, Option A: Herdwick lamb, crispy breast, aubergine, sumac
This dish was rather hearty and it definitely celebrated that distinct umami flavour you get from lamb. The lean protein was soft and cooked well and the crisped crumbed cut was beautiful as well.
It was quite a controversial dish in our table because I liked it enough as a non-lamb fan, however it didn’t fare too well with my companions.
Course #6, Option B – Saddle of venison, beetroot, liquorice, parsnip
The last time I had venison didn’t fare well but as I wanted to give it another shot, I opted for it as my main and I’m glad I did. The meat itself was soft, lean, and tasty. I thought the sweetness of the parsnip married well with the flavours of the protein, and the liquorice root wasn’t as overpowering as I thought it’d be. Hands down, this was the better option of the two choices.
Course #7: Smoked Milk and Mandarin
A refreshing pre-dessert dish, I thought this was the better dish out of Marcus’ offerings for the sweet tooth. The smoked milk had a nice bittersweet taste to it, which was elevated by the tartness of the mandarin. I liked how intriguing the flavours were.
Course #8: Toffee, peanut, milk chocolate nougat
Whilst I’m usually in love with any chocolate dessert, I was rather disappointed by this one. Quality-wise, each element was superb. However, 1 – it was rather hard to eat; 2 – the toffee was more candy-like than dessert-like; and 3 – I couldn’t finish it as it was too sweet.
Our petit fours came in form of some choccy by Paul A. Young. To be honest, they looked like KitKat fingers although they did taste nice.
Verdict of Marcus Taste of Autumn Menu
So here’s the thing. It was my birthday meal and I wanted to love it so much but I didn’t. I mean, I liked the whole experience because it was spent with loved ones and the day went by so smoothly. But I’ve had meals from a lot of fine dining places (Michelin and/or sans-Michelin star/s) and I feel that for a 2-star establishment, they could’ve done better. Here’s why:
- The amuse bouche offering didn’t particularly amuse my bouche. Many places have really tickled my palate with outstanding pre-meal snacks including Helene Darroze at The Connaught, Fera at Claridge’s, Lasarte in Barcelona.
- There wasn’t a fish dish on the tasting menu other than the octopus (which you only get if you opt for the 8-course meal)
- The dessert wasn’t quite inventive.
- I was apparently meant to have a birthday cake… as it was organised to have a mini-cake with candle (you know, the usual plate with the happy birthday scrawls you get from restaurants and pretend to be surprised about). It didn’t arrive, though.
I mean, I couldn’t fault the service much (save for the cake fiasco) because it was pretty decent and The Berkeley has always been a sweet little spot of luxe in the city. The Taste of Autumn Menu was promising but frankly, I’ve had better tasting menus. Nonetheless, it was still a fun dinner and I still think it had been a decent enough birthday dinner.
Marcus at The Berkeley
The Berkeley, Wilton Pl, Knightsbridge, London SW1X
Ave spend pp: £140