Eat Here: Berners Tavern, FitzroviaBy Andy Williams
Looking for a great restaurant in central London? Read our Berners Tavern review to find out why it’s about time you visited this Fitzrovia hotspot…
“Portrait mode uses the dual cameras of your iPhone to create a depth-of-field effect – letting you compose a photo that keeps your subject sharp with a blurred background.” Well, now I know. The fact that I only discovered this on my recent trip to Jason Atherton’s swanky Berners Tavern, to the incredulity of my guest, is no coincidence. The “breathtaking setting” we are promised online materialises; the high craftmanship of our food matches the lofty dining room ceilings.
Photo Credit: Nikolas-Koenig
That’s the first thing to say about this restaurant, to be found just off Oxford Street in the bowels of the London EDITION hotel. So much about it is striking. The bar glistens. A glass orb on wheels glides towards us bearing Nyetimber, perhaps England’s finest sparkling wine. Even the walls appear to be on portrait mode, adorned as they are with paintings of the duke of somewhere and the duchess of wherever. It isn’t beautiful, but it’s certainly imposing.
Photo Credit: Nikolas Koenig
Each of our starters arrive on boards, Instagram ready. The first is a toasted focaccia piled high with peas, broad beans, black olives and sundried tomatoes. It could be mistaken for a prize-worthy garden bed at the Chelsea Flower Show; the balance of textures and flavours renders it a winner. At £16, the price point is generous, but so is the portion.
The traditional British pork pie is something else. Built to the size of a small house and baked for hours thereafter, it takes fully two days to bring this together. The pastry is fine and flaky as it should be. The meat is rich and needs offsetting. Fortunately, there are eight condiments to choose from, including a grape-flavoured mustard that I never knew I needed in my life. We’re only on starters and I am already full.
Photo Credit: Claire Menary
Heroically, we press on. A main course of gnocchi is a little sparse, but lovingly sprinkled with lemon zest. Each dumpling is roasted at both ends so as to resemble a scallop, and is almost cake-like in texture at the centre. Pair this with broccoli (featuring a cheddar and almond crust) if you’re willing to pay £6 for the privilege of Tenderstem.
Roasted Cornish cod is everything you would expect from a restaurant of this calibre: nothing more, nothing less. The simplicity of cooking a straightforward fillet of white fish to perfection, and ladling over lobster bisque, is not to be sniffed at. It’s unfussy cooking, and I couldn’t be happier with it.
Photo Credit: Claire Menary
The only question left to answer is: who is this for? The bill easily tops £150 for two courses each plus a bottle of wine which is, on the one hand, just London these days. On the other, that’s going to price a lot of people out, though we suspect some hefty wallets and even heftier expense accounts in attendance. For most of us mere mortals, this is a special occasion that will not disappoint. And alongside the Flat Irons and the Franco Mancas – those staple choices that get us through second dates and group occasions – there is room for Berners Tavern, too.