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Berners Tavern at the Edition Hotel

Rating: 88.
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After a refurbishment of almost 3 years, the old Berners Hotel on 10 Berners Street in London's West End, reopened late September as the London Edition Hotel. Edition is a luxury hotel brand, created by entrepreneur Ian Shrager and the Marriott hotel group. In the 1970s and 1980s Ian Shrager and his business partner Steve Rubbel were widely known as the founders and owners of legendary New York City night clubs Studio 54 and Palladium. There also is an Edition hotel in Istanbul and there are plans to open hotels in Miami Beach, New York City, Abu Dhabi and New Delhi. The restaurant at the hotel is called Berners Tavern, a contemporary brasserie that offers an all-day dining menu. But don't be fooled into thinking that this "tavern" is a rustic and low-key place; on the contrary, its suave and opulent dining room with magnificent 5.5 metre high ceilings and enormous bronze chandeliers is absolutely breathtaking, although some might consider the design ever so slightly over the top.

London has a long tradition with big names in the industry running restaurants at big hotels and in recent years it seems to have become the rule rather than the exception. To name but a few: Marcus Wareing at the St Pancras Hotel, Nathan Outlaw at the Capital Hotel, Juan Mari and Elena Arzak at the Halkin Hotel and Wolfgang Puck at the 45 Park Lane Hotel. At the London Edition Hotel they picked Jason Atherton. Berners Tavern is Jason Atherton's fourth London restaurant, of which three opened this year! Atherton's other London restaurants are: Social Eating House, Little Social and his flagship restaurant Pollen Street Social.

Head chef at Berners Tavern is Phil Carmichael, who used to be Jason Atherton's senior sous-chef at Maze restaurant in Mayfair. Later on he became executive chef at two other Maze branches, first in Prague and then in Cape Town. Carmichael left Gordon Ramsay Holdings in 2010 and after a sabbatical he re-joined Jason Atherton in 2011 as his development chef.

Berners Taverns is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The so-called contemporary British menu offers a large selection of starters, salads, sandwiches and main courses, including a choice of grass-fed British steaks. I had lunch at Berners Tavern on Thursday 11 October 2013 and I ordered a starter, a main and a dessert.

Lunch started with a bowl with deliciously juicy and tender Dorset snails and lots of soft and sweet, roasted garlic onto which was poured a thick and intense potato and parsley soup, made with Caroll's potatoes. With the soup came a moreish Breville toastie with a black pudding and cheese filling, that delivered a nice contrast to the soup. "Breville" refers of course to the famous manufacturer of sandwich makers.

This was followed by charcoal grilled Buccleuch Estate fillet of beef (225g), accompanied by duck fat chips, Béarnaise sauce and a lovely mixed salad of lollo bianco, lollo rosso, cos lettuce and radicchio, dressed with a simple vinaigrette. Superb, evenly cooked steak; tender and dark red on the inside, beautifully caramelised on the outside, and well-seasoned too. Lovely crisp duck fat chips - the duck fat really added extra flavour. The Béarnaise had finely chopped capers and cornichons in it, resulting in a rather thick, remoulade-like, texture and flavour. A lovely sauce, but personally I prefer a classic fluffy Béarnaise.

Dessert was a cinnamon sugar-coated doughnut with a liquid chocolate center. An almond sorbet was served on the side. Loved the flavours of the sorbet but the texture was (perhaps intentionally) a tad grainy.

When I visited Berners Tavern, it had only been open for about a month but everything was already running very smoothly. The food is attractive, the presentation simple and clean. My main course may have been just steak and chips, but this is the kind of steak and chips that keeps me coming back for more. Good cooking, displaying good skills. British produce is dominant and proudly displayed on the menu. In spite of the grand, almost intoxicating, dining room, the atmosphere is very laid-back. The food has a certain nostalgia about it, but all the dishes have unmistakable Jason Atherton flair. Berners Tavern will certainly become one of the jewels in the crown of the Jason Atherton Restaurant group. To loosely quote Juvenal: rarely do we meet in one combined, a beauteous dining room and a virtuous cuisine. London is fortunate to do so here.

Posted 10-11-2013


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