22 Courses in the Berkeley hotel , Knightsbridge , London
I`ve eaten quite a few meals over the years in a number of high key restaurants scattered all around the UK.Some bad meals , lots of good ones and a “couple” of top of the ladder ones. I say “couple” because only that amount stand out to me as food memories which will last a lifetime.Nico Ladenis at Ninety park lane started me off back in the Nineties ( 1993 i think ) and his “tasting menu” consisting of several Nico classics had me knocked off my feet at the time. The menu now hangs framed on my wall as an everlasting reminder of Nico , a culinary legend in a restaurant that was very short lived and now stands firmly in the history books of legendary master chefs.Seventeen years have since passed by and many more enjoyable restaurant treats came my way,but unfortunately nothing as memorable as Nico…. until summer 2010 when my next super meal was experienced. I sat down and ate 30 courses cooked for me by Simon Rogan at Lenclume in Cartmel ,Cumbria. 30 courses of fresh , wild , foraged and home grown ingredients , new tastes , textures and flavours which i had never experienced before and although a totally different style of cuisine , it gave me the very same buzz as the Nico meal. ( click HERE to see the lenclume meal ) .This Rogan experience was followed only weeks later by a fantastic lunch cooked for me by Aiden Byrne at the Hillbark hotel near Liverpool , a luxury trip through some of Europes finest produce expertly cooked by Aiden and his team.( Click HERE to see the meal ) Unfortunately Aiden left Hillbark shortly after my visit so i now count myself as one of the fortunate few to have ever experienced Aidens personalised touch in such a grand location as Hillbark…Ill never forget those delights.
So , only three meals of such a high calibre in 35 years of dining out…until time came around for my birthday treat , August 19th 2011 and dinner at Marcus wareing at the Berkeley hotel in London…..Now , problem is , where and how do i possibly begin to start to describe this heavenly experience ? , i`m in dreamy mode even now looking at the menu from my wonderful evening and wondering where the hell to start. – Ok , so i`ll start with the star of the show , chef Mr James Knappett.
James Knappett was going to be cooking my dinner , Marcus Wareing was elsewhere so James was leading the kitchen brigade as the head chef .James has an amazing pedigree and when i read the impressive list of restaurants that he`d worked in i was really excited at the thought of what he would be cooking for us.Thomas Kellers “Per Se” in New york , Gordon Ramsay , Rick Stein and 2 years in the kitchens of the `worlds Number one` restaurant – Noma in Copenhagen…WOW , i was wondering what James was capable of whilst in charge of the Berkeley kitchen team. I had already been studying the Menus for a couple of weeks prior to my dinner there. I could see influences of Noma straight away on the various menus that Marcus and James had created together.Marcus specialising very much in classic cuisine ( ex Gordon Ramsay ) married up with James`s wild and modern twist of flowers , hedgrow , seashore , wild and foraged produce.Part and parcel of chefs daily chores whilst working at Noma was their daily forage in the countryside and then creating a menu around what was available that day . So what an amazing combination they had at the Berkeley kitchen, both of classic mixed with modern, exactly what i love so much in cuisine.When i dine out , i want to be eating Lobster , foie gras , truffles , reduced sauces etc etc .Im very much old school in my tastebuds but i also get off on the modern twists of food “from nature to plate” , Simon Rogan and Lenclume for instance.So my meal with James would be very much of a cross between the two….or so i hoped.
We arrived at the Berkeley hotel in Knightsbridge at 7.30 , perfect timing for fantastic cocktails in the hotels “Blue bar” , a well known celebrity destination hang out.It was to be a long night of eating , 5 hours to be precise so time to relax , enjoy the friendly faces and prepare for the feast that lay ahead. Shortly after we were greeted and ushered through to the Restaurant , it was stunning , all with a Burgundy / Aubergine theme….and very…..very…..very dark.Ohhh dear , my immediate thought straight away was ” My photos “.The restaurant really was so badly lit that i doubted that even my trusty little well researched Panasonic Lumix LX5 wouldnt be able to save the day. I had flashbacks to my night taking photos in `The Witchery` in Edinburgh , the fantastic Gothic restaurant lit only by candlelight…which was so dark i had to read the menu with my phone light. I had horrific thoughts , the Berkeley restaurant lighting wasn`t quite as bad but it was still going to be a nightmare to use a camera – with no flash. I asked one of the staff if they could turn up the lighting over my table but i was politely informed that it wasn`t possible as all the restaurant lighting would increase…Ahh well , onwards and upwards and ill try and make the very best of a bad job and then let photoshop save the day on my computer….as it did with the Witchery photos ( click HERE to view ) ….Its a lifesaving computer programme sent from the heavens .
And so the food started to arrive , as you can see from the photos below , photoshop actually worked its magic and managed to turn dark and grainy photos into something not far from acceptable.Next time i go to the Berkeley then ill do Lunch , sit beside a window and get some decent light on the plates , wait and see the difference.Little appetiser treats from the chef arrived one by one – Aubergine tart , / Grilled Quails hearts , / Pickled egg , caviar and Pigs skin , / Pineapple weed , Scottish Scallop in pickled Cucumber , grape , Lime mayonnaise. / Dorset Crab , Avocado puree , tomato , pickled vegetables , pickled Chilli , coriander
Pickled egg , caviar and Pigs skin
Pineapple weed , Scottish Scallop in pickled Cucumber , grape , Lime mayonnaise.
Butter poached Scottish Lobster,Quails egg ,Nori Seaweed powder,buttered cabbageVinegar.
Now was the start of the fish experience.The waiter came over to my table with a big smile on his face….” and now James is going to give you a little tour through the Cornish fishing industrys catch of the day” , starting with Cornish Mackerel , Smoked Paprika , Paprika oil , Sweetcorn puree , Grated Zests , Parmesan , coriander , Lime puree.
Beef , Smoked Bone marrow , Hogweed seeds , Grilled courgette , cucumber , Raspberries and Nasturtiums. The best main course of my life, no two ways about it.The beef melted , it was so tender.The smokiness of the bone marrow paired up with the tartness of the raspberries , the reduced sauce ….Ohhhh it was a gift from heaven.I actually eat most of this course with my eyes closed , never ever experiencing flavours like this before.I finished the plate of food badly wanting more I noticed that my partner had one last piece left on her plate…”darling …please..cmon it`s my bithday” , and so followed one last fork full of ecstasy….who need drugs ?
And some yummy chocs to take away back to the hotel
So….to summarise my 22 course dinner by James Knappett @ Marcus Wareing @ The Berkeley…..Spoken from the heart as an `impartial diner` – First of all the negative points….or should i just say `point` ?….The restaurant lighting.The lighting was horrendous for anyone who enjoys taking pics of their meal , flash photography isnt allowed in the restaurant in respect for other diners.So bloggers and lovers of food , and those wanting to show off their wonderful meal on their phones or cameras have to rely on the restaurants available light. Far more importantly the food is so amazing and pleasing to the eye that i personally feel that it needs to be proudly presented in all of its glory.Take for example the `summer vegetable patch` , it was visually beautiful , a work of art on the plate but sadly couldnt be seen to its full potential and beauty because of the poor lighting , same for the rest of the food. So c`mon Berkeley and tweak the lighting levels up “just a wee bit”.
As for the good points….Ohhhhhh i`m gonna struggle here ha ha….Well for a start, no two ways about it I ate 3 star Michelin food, ….I ate James Knappetts 3 star Michelin food.This guy is so talented he blew me away with his innovative , perfectly cooked and faultless food….Words fail me right now but theres no doubting that this guy is going places, he`s cooking up there with the best 3 star chefs in Europe and its only a matter of time before his name is up in lights.There you go…Summed up in a couple of lines.I`m a happy diner , im a happy blogger and hopefully my photos and words will portray what an amazing dining experience we had at the the Berkeley. Marcus…You`re leaving your kitchen in very good hands.
I cant end this piece without thanking the front of house team.It makes a world of difference to see people smiling and it seems that everyone at the restaurant was doing just that.It`s evident that everyone is happy at the Berkeley and that came over during service. A quick look inside the kitchen ( By then it was 01:15am ) and a big thank you to Chef James and the team and we had to make our excuses to leave and let the lads all get back to their beds……Seeing as though they were all back up again at 07:00…..Ohhhhh No….Life as a young chef.Thanks also to our Sommelier , a lovely guy with some beautiful wines…and yet again , a mini education for myself in pairing wine with food….Cheers.
TO VIEW ALL OF THE PHOTOS FROM THE JAMES KNAPPETT 22 COURSE DINNER PLEASE CLICK HERE