Berners Tavern

Jason Atherton definitely came away from his divorce with Gordon Ramsay with the house and the kids. He hasn’t looked back since that separation, and his restaurants are fast becoming the top go-to places on the London food scene. Berners Tavern is his fourth London restaurant, and it follows more in the vein of the recent Social Eating House, with its hipper and more pocket-friendly menu than that of his flagship Pollen Street Social. Judging by how increasingly trendy his restaurants are getting, he is almost like a slightly less hip version of Mark Hix, except without Tracy Emin and Lily Allen tagging along.

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As part of the ultra-cool new London Edition Hotel, I was expecting it to be trendy, but nothing prepared me for the dining room I ventured into. It is without a doubt the most impressive room I have ever dined in. Were I not in a relationship this is the first place I’d take a date if I was looking to end the night on a high. We spent most of the evening gawking at all of the paintings that line ever inch of the walls. Even if the food that followed was rubbish (which it certainly wasn’t) I had already made up my mind that I loved the place and would be telling everybody about it.

Things got off to a slightly shaky start when it seemed that nobody was too keen on serving us. When we finally flagged a waiter to order, our starters literally turned up 2 minutes later. We still hadn’t even got our bottle of wine or bread! This was strange, as surely it couldn’t have been made in that time? Maybe this explains why the starters were verging on being lukewarm.

The menu had some familiar Jason Atherton pairings, almost like his greatest hits. There was the “Egg, Ham and Peas” Deep fried Clarence Court duck egg, mushy peas and crispy Cumbrian ham (£8.50), which was a less fun version of the Smoked duck ham, egg and chips at Social Eating House. It was still a great tasting dish though.

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I had a flawlessly cooked piece of salmon with a horseradish cream and beetroot, again a pairing I’d had in Little Social. There was a little too much of the horseradish, which drowned out the flavour of the salmon, and with the beetroot made it a little on the sickly side.

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The Middle White pork  and pistachio pate, spiced pear puree and toasted sourdough (£8.50) was a lovely combination.

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The best starter was definitely the Crispy Romney Marsh lamb breast, butternut and pecorino fregola, and lamb marrow crumble (£8).  The lamb marrow crumble was so rich, and I could have happily eaten this on its own.

The mains continued to impress. My mum had the Cod with puy lentils, bacon lardons and charred lettuce and had no complaints as she wolfed the lot down and forgot to offer any of the rest of us a taste. My dad equally gave me the two fingers wit his Creedy Carver duck, braised leg, caramel apples, pickled plum puree and turnips (£24).

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I had the Rack of Romney Marsh lamb, braised neck, spiced aubergine, apricot cous cous and hispi cabbage (£24.50). What really let down this dish was that the plate was cold, which meant that everything except the lamb was lukewarm. It was a shame because other than this it was a stunning plate of food.

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My partner had the Halibut with squid ink risotto and scampi (£24), and a couple of sides of the duck fat chips (£4) and claims it was one of the best dishes she’d eaten that year.

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For desserts the Caramel apple and Calvados Éclair, Devon cream salted caramel ice cream (£7.50) was about as glamorous as you could ever wish to make an Éclair. Although I did miss the fun of stuffing it into my mouth.

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The Chocolate filled donut, cinnamon sugar coating, almond sorbet(£7) was less appealing on the eye, and I wasn’t too sure on how to eat it. It sure as hell tasted great though.

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The Chocolate rice pudding (£7) was the weakest of the three, only because it tasted more like the leftover milk at the bottom of a bowl of Coco Pops, rather than having an intense chocolatey flavour of its own.

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This dining room alone is worth the trip, and it makes Berners Tavern feel like a real special occasion place. But the beauty of it is that for these prices you don’t need to save it for just that. Apart from a few minor complaints with the warmth of the plates and a little bit of service problems, this was a flawless dining experience.

Food: 9/10

Service: 7.5/10

Atmosphere: 10/10

Value: 8.5/10

Overall: 9/10

The London Edition Hotel, 10 Berners St, W1T 3LF

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Tramshed

The Damien Hirst centre-piece really sums up this restaurant. A cock and bull preserved in formaldehyde is raised above the diners in the heart of the room. Quite the statement. Just like the menu, which offers nothing more than steak or chicken. How you feel about Damien Hirst will likely reflect how you feel about Tramshed. Either you’ll think he’s a genius who is at the forefront of modern thinking. Or you’ll think he’s a pretentious tosser who’s head is so far up his own arse that was he to own a restaurant he’d likely only serve a cock or a bull. I’m leaning towards the latter.

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The starters came a couple of minutes after ordering them, a nice little hint that we weren’t expected to sit around for too long here. The Yorkshire pudding with whipped chicken livers (£3.95) is really good. The  smooth chicken liver has an added crunch from a sprinkle of nuts on top, and the big stodgy Yorkshire is ideal for mopping it up.

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The same can’t be said of the Moons Green beer stix (£4.00) which are basically a cross between a bread stick and a Peperami, and not as good as either. They just aren’t a starter, and I wouldn’t even be happy with them as a bar snack either. And to top it off they smelt like dog food.

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The Cock ‘n’ Bull croquettes with chervil mayonnaise (£5.25) annoyingly only had 3 (there were 4 of us), and they didn’t really taste of cock or bull too much. These were passable, something that you’d nibble at a bar, but nothing more.

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Three of us shared the Barn-reared Indian Rock with wild garlic sauce and chips (£25). The verdict on the chicken- well it was a roast chicken. Yes it was probably from a good farm and tasted better than the bone-dry shite they serve you at Nando’s. And for £25 with chips, which can  feed 2-3 (not 3 men) it isn’t bad value. But it still is just a roast chicken. And the stuffing inside was unbelievably salty, as was the skin. The whole shock factor of serving it on a dish with a spike up its arse and feet intact was lost on our table. The waitress thought we were joking when we were fighting over who was going to get the feet. Apparently that’s not the done thing here. The feet are there to be outlandish, not to be munched on. 

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My friend had the Sirlon steak (£22.50 for 250g) which  wasn’t a steak you’d remember. It was slightly overcooked and tough and the Béarnaise sauce needed more of a hit of tarragon. There’s certainly better ones in London for around the £15 mark.IMG_1831

The sides are over-priced as well. £6.95 for a large side of fries to share should be a salad bowl sized portion, but instead it could easily have been for one. The same applies to the scrumpy fried onions, which were just crispy onion rings, nothing more.

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The bill was £35 a head which isn’t too bad for half a bottle of wine each. But given we had the house wine, and passed on dessert, and 3 of us shared a chicken, this could easily head towards the £50 a head mark if you splashed out a little more. The drinks list doesn’t match the reasonable prices on the menu, as most cocktails are around £10.50, and the cheapest beer is £5.50. If I was being especially critical it felt like eating in an art gallery, as the atmosphere was lost in the height of the ceilings. I was waiting for the volume to be amped up a notch, but it never happened. Without the Damien Hirst installation, or the fact that Mark Hix’s name is attached, it is quite simply an average restaurant in an impressive space. It just feels like a restaurant that is trying too hard to make a statement.If you’re being this paired back, then that roast chicken needs to be the best I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t rush back.

Food: 5.5/10

Service: 6.5/10

Atmosphere: 6.5/10

Value: 7/10

Overall: 6/10

32 Rivington St, Shoreditch, London EC2A 3LX

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