A late lunch just before Christmas last year served up a perfect suckling pig with the most light, air puffed, crisp and tasty crackling we'd ever tasted. But with restaurants such as these, it is the tasting menu that's a must and on Friday and Saturday, the a la carte is not in fact available. Instead, there is a choice of three tasting menus, normal, large and man versus food large. In an AJ Liebling moment, we chose the man versus food challenge and opted for the Gourmand menu. Strap yourself in.
After the amuse bouche, first out the kitchen is lobster, chilled bisque with a glass of Kerner, Abbazia di Novacella. With the lobster cooked sous vide, it's melt in the mouth time in this delightful dish.
Next up, pan fried fois gras, yogurt, rhubarb muffin top, ginger crunch, thyme cress with a Suatuernes (Castelnau de Suduiraut). The fresh taste of the rhubarb with the indulgent frois gras is a perfect combination of acidity and sweetness. And texturally, the full spectrum as the ginger crunch provides bite to the softer fois gras and even softer yogurt. Heaven.
Next they brought out marinated mackeral, brown crab, chargrilled potato bread, apple and hazlenut with a Gruner Veltliner Terrassen.
The 'main' course we opted for smoked venison, parsnip and heritage beetroot with a Chateau Durfort-Vivens 1995. The best venison ever but totally unexpected in taste and texture. The smoking process transformed the venson into a smoked meat unlike anything else we've had. Tender to cut, moist, with the smoking clear to the taste but not heavy or excessively powerful; a new face to venison.
Then some smelly cheeses from the trolley with a 10 year old Tawny Port followed by iced lime mousse, sweet and sour pineapple, soft baked meringue, liquorice with a final glass of sticky. Yum. And as always, the bon-bon trolley comes after but if like us you're too full to eat anything further (not even a waifer thin mint sir?) they'll bag these up for you to take home.
What a delight.
Here we also need to say a word about Marcus Wareing himself. Like we've already said, when you eat at Marcus Wareing, it's not just a name above the door, he's almost always in the kitchen. Second, he seems to care more about the food than about chasing celebrity - pretty rare among chefs these days. Third, he wants to create a great customer experience which means preparing the food the way you want it. We like it as he likes to make it but if you want your fish cooked with no salt, he'll do it for you rather than throw you out on your arse. In short, he has a rare humility for someone who has achieved such success. We've been lucky enough to spend time with Marcus on the occasions we've been to his restaurant and he's generous with both his time and ideas, and passionate about the food that leaves his kitchen.
MW at the Berkeley competes in a crowded field but in our view stands head and shoulder above the competition bar none. Many of these two and three star restaurants you might 'tick off' and 'do' but how many do you want to keep going back to and make home? At Marcus Wareing, we do just want to keep going back, trying all the things we missed first time round but with a constantly changing seasonal menu, Marcus is always one step ahead of you. Food at its very best.
Visit Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley here.