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Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley


MrsCC
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We’re big fans of Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley which makes it somewhat distressing to say that our recent dinner there was severely lacking. Indeed, had that been our first occasion to eat at MW, we really would be wondering what fans of MW see in the place. Reflecting on the year, we were in fact surprised ourselves to discover that we had eaten there on no less than six occasions previously but what that does mean is that we have a very good idea of what to expect from MW on a Saturday night; sadly, it missed almost all the targets.

In one of our earlier blog posts on MW, we said that ‘the restaurant is run with unassuming efficiency, precision and grace’. On this occasion though, it was less clear that the restaurant was being run with senior oversight at all and it certainly possessed none of those aforementioned characteristics. Marcus himself was not in the kitchen that night as he was travelling to Brazil, surprisingly though, nor was Head Chef Alyn Williams. Out front meanwhile, longstanding Restaurant Manager Giancarlo Princigalli has now stepped down while Head Sommelier Michael Deschamps was also not present. In other words, what for us has been the core of MW over the past year was absent and sadly, it showed.

It was in the area of service that they were caught out most. For the most part, staff serving our table lacked smiles, warmth and charisma. What we have loved about MW in the past and what has brought as back again and again is the personal attention that front of house give to their guests. From our first visit there, it has always felt like a personal relationship, and that continued to grow in time. They have of course a CRM system and normally, they use it intelligently to engage us in all aspects of the dining experience. This time around, despite it being Mrs CC’s birthday (and them knowing that fact), the new Maitre d’ (who we mistook for a regular waiter as he acted in all ways just like a regular waiter) didn’t even wish her a happy birthday. We mentioned this toward the end of the night when he finally enquired how we had enjoyed our evening and taken aback, he said that they were going to bring a candle out with dessert (as they had for eight other diners during the evening) and so didn't see a problem here; could they be less personal? It was sort of laughable.

For the food, it’s tasting menus only on a Saturday night and we chose the Gourmand menu with paired wines. We have few photographs as we were never intending to blog this visit but the first three courses were in fact excellent. Scottish lobster with lobster bisque was just perfect, Foie gras, prunes and walnuts gave a unusual take on foie gras as it came as stacked cylindrical layers with walnut topping looking more like a dessert than a foie gras dish; we enjoyed it. Dorset crab with potato bread and pears was delicious but little changed over the past year where we've eaten something similar on a number of occassions, but we really hit the bumpers on the quail dish where despite it being perfectly cooked, it was so salted that neither of us wanted to eat it. They offered to send us through another but with the tasting menu, we elected to move on. The Cornish seabass that came next was perfectly cooked and totally beautiful.

On to the mains, Cornish lamb for Mrs CC and beef fillet for me. While there was nothing wrong with the main courses, there was no wow factor to them either. Two stars aspiring to three should have a wow factor on a main course. The lamb was underwhelming and while the beef was tasty, there were few discernable clues from the dish that you were eating in one of the country’s best restaurants.

Cheeses were nice enough but hardly difficult for them, the pre-dessert was okay but little changed since our July visit and the actual dessert, the basil parfait was also identical to that being served on the gourmand menu back in July, and possibly earlier. This time around however, the jelly atop the sherbet was so acidic that Mrs CC felt it burning her throat. The waitress clearing the dish said ‘yes, it can be a little strong’. No, this was not about flavour, strength or otherwise, this was unbalanced acidity. It was a poor comment on her part but somehow didn’t seem surprising that night.

MW has been our go to destination over the past year but on the strength of this performance, is unlikely to be so in 2011. We’ve spent a lot of money there on previous visits and never minded the fact because it’s always been so good, but coming away from this evening, for the first time, we did begrudge the money we had spent that night. What’s more, by the time dessert had come, we just wanted to leave the restaurant and get home for an after dinner drink in more comfortable surroundings; usually you have to prise us out the door.

Every restaurant encounters change but they need to ensure that the change does not adversely impact the customer experience, certainly not to the extent it did here. They need too to ensure brand consistency. And maybe it was circumstances beyond their control but having so many senior staffers absent at the same time meant they were certainly not on their A-game.

The top end restaurant scene has become ever more competitive with the likes of The Ledbury getting a second star, Apsleys shooting for their (surely deserved) second star and coming soon, Heston’s Dinner just over the road at The Mandarin Oriental. We love Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley and indeed Marcus himself who has been so generous sharing his time and ideas with us over the past year so we dearly hope that this experience was a one off. However, the conclusion must necessarily be that if Marcus does want to spend more time outside the restaurant promoting the brand, he needs at least to spend some more time thinking about who will be in the restaurant in his absence ensuring that he’s not missed, because right now, his absence is noticeable and we do miss him sorely.

The Critical Couple

http://www.thecriticalcouple.com/

Twitter @CriticalCouple

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  • 2 months later...
  • 4 months later...

Well, I have to say in July last year, there wasn't a thing I could fault. Though, I was dining alone, and in my experience, dining alone gets you a lot more 'special treatment' than you do if dining with others. I got a few freebies and got the langoustine upgraded to lobster on one of the dishes.

Having Marcus there in the kitchen, and having him take the time to insist in having a ten minute talk with you and signing a free copy of Nutmeg and Custard was a great little bonus that has etched it into my memory as the best meal I've had thus far. My first booking next time I'm in London will be here.

James.

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Well, I have to say in July last year, there wasn't a thing I could fault. Though, I was dining alone, and in my experience, dining alone gets you a lot more 'special treatment' than you do if dining with others.

That's not fair !!! I dined alone there in January last year and did not get any extras or freebies !!! Just luck of the draw I suppose...

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Well, I have to say in July last year, there wasn't a thing I could fault. Though, I was dining alone, and in my experience, dining alone gets you a lot more 'special treatment' than you do if dining with others.

That's not fair !!! I dined alone there in January last year and did not get any extras or freebies !!! Just luck of the draw I suppose...

I don't know hey, it must be. I usually get extras, in terms of big ticket places I mean. Ramsay's in Chelsea and Melbourne and also Quay are the only ones in recent memory where I got just what was ordered. Not that I hold that against them at all. I must just look hungry most of the time.

James.

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  • 5 months later...

Well another cracking meal at the Berkeley last week.This time it was an Autumnal tasting menu with whatever the market had on offer at that time.As you can see , it was a mini feast with pushing on 15 assorted wines.The food was up there with the best...as you can see. The wine was entertainment and an education in itself.The service is the best i have ever received...Anywhere...ever.The team have cracked the art of service and honed it off to a fine art.....i was treated like royalty as was everyone else in there. Full story on my blog but in the meantime...feast your eyes on my meal.

Pig , egg , Caviar.

Quail hearts

Oyster , red wine and shallot jelly.

Beetroot , ricotta , Liquorice.

Foie gras , Date , sorbe , Milk , Walnut bread.

Tunworth cheese , Ceps , Girolles , Mushroom consommé , chestnuts.

Dorset Crab , Pear , Chestnut

Salmon , Cockles , Sea purslane.

Lobster Broccoli five ways.

Quail , Squash , Girolles.

White Chocolate ice , Redcurrant.

Opera Gateau , Hazelnut.

Apple arctic roll , Cinnamon

Handmade Chocolates.

Anjou Pigeon , Celeriac , Hazelnut , Radicchio.

La Fromagerie.

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CumbriafoodieCumbriafoodie
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