You are here: Home  »  News  » 

News » 

Restaurant check: Berners Tavern

Published: 07/10/2014 - Filed under: Home » News »

  • Print
  • Send

Perhaps the only self-evident element of a tavern sojourn is an understanding the food will be basic, comforting yet pedestrian, and the drinks equally of the same measure.  Historically, when describing tavern food, rarely have the words “revelatory,” “inventive,” “unique,” “riveting” or any other host of adjectives been used. 

Yet, when pondering the food and drinks at Berners Tavern, housed within the sumptuous EDITION Hotel in London, the stereotypical tavern expectations immediately fall to the side.

To say Berners Tavern is merely a “tavern,” in the historical sense, is to restrain your taste buds from exploring some of the most creative presentations of food the other side of our pond has to offer.  Truly, Berners Tavern is meant for those who seek an imaginative twist on the predictable, with the singular service luxury hotels are known for, and should be top-of-the-list on any first trip to London.

This luminous restaurant captures your attention upon entering.  Your eyes alight to the feel of sumptuous elegance, a sensation more in-line with the Shangri-La than a Marriott, the hotel-chain owners of the EDITION Hotel.  Cavernous coffered ceilings; gorgeous light fixtures; warm toned booths; and walls aligned from top-to-bottom with paints and art makes you feel transported to a scene from Pride & Prejudice with Colin Firth rather than walking into a Friday night in 2014.

Of course, what does it matter what a restaurants looks like – though I was impressed and grateful with the décor as well as the absence of stale pungent beer odor – if the food is sub-par.  Travelers don’t pay for decorations.  They pay for service and flavor, and both are superb at Berners Tavern.

The food is decadence personified and Chef Jason Atherton’s successfully left no morsel unseasoned, untouched or unwanted.  Instead each flavorful dish embraced a whimsical twist on old-fashioned favorites, especially in the singular unique starter of“Egg, Ham and Peas.” (12.5)

New season pea and broad bean risotto were tender in its own separate presentation within a copper sauce pan.  Accompanying it in a gorgeous plating of smoked ham hock with a flash fried crispy quail egg cut in the middle, the ham was warmly juicy and alive with a salty flavor while the quail egg’s fried exterior carried the salt with the more gently seasoned pea and risotto.  If Julia Childs met Dr. Seuss, then this is their collaborative dish and I loved it!

However, for me, the penultimate dish of the evening was the other starter of Crispy pigs head, foie gras and black pudding, watercress and pickled onion salad, sauce gribiche (12).    Rich, flavorful and crunchy, all of these food elements individually reflected elements of the British palate. 

The dish’s beautifully pungent flavors were almost velvety in its taste. It was almost like trying butter for the first time.  You think you know what to expect, almost scared in the idea, but then the flavors come gently into your taste buds.  That’s how this dish was for me:  very gentle yet flavorful.

The same “rich, flavorful and crunchy” tastes were also associated with the brilliantRoasted monkfish tail, squid ink risotto, crispy squid and bok’choi (32).  When I saw the ingredients in this dish, I instinctively knew I should order it and am ever-so-glad I did.  The dish combined a rainbow of flavors: a saltiness throughout; the buttery feel of the squid ink risotto; a slightly tangy sensation with the bok’choi; and the crunchy feel of the roasted monkfish tail.  As much as food can inspire lust, this dish felt sexually decadent and it felt tortuously good to finish it. 

For those who love wine, the sommelier’s excellent recommendation to course this with a lovely Burgundy wine was spot-on.  The Bourgogne Alignote, Jean-Philippe Fichet 2011 should be a mandatory companion to help lighten the strength of this entree.  At 42 pounds a bottle, it was a deal.

My major food disappointment lay in the French fries.  (I always order fries wherever I go just so I can compare a basic food item globally.)  While thoroughly cooked, it remained unseasoned without any dipping sauce, a real tragedy.  With all the creativity in the menu and presentation, it would be preferable for Chef Atherton to put his imprint on a tavern favorite such as French fries, a la “chips” in British parlance. 

Yet I quickly got over my disappointment with the dessert course -- though I did find it unusual the Pastry Chef had zero chocolate desserts.  Most restaurants have, despite whatever season it may be, a basic chocolate dish to please the palate of diners.  Good thing the best dessert, the most imaginative dessert, was the Strawberry trifle with green basil sorbet and berry milk crumb (9).  Wholly without chocolate, the strawberry trifle was fresh while just sweet enough to bridge the different between the start of dinner to the finish of dinner. 

Of course, linger to finish the evening with some apertifs.  The Rasteau, V.D.N., Domaine du Trapadis, France 2011 (10.5) exemplified the right balance between sweet and cavity-inducing sweet, but if your taste-buds prefer to drink pure sugar, try the Yves Cuilleron, France 2012 (10.5).  As much as I lead a diabetes inducing lifestyle, this later aperitif was too sweet even for me.   Perhaps just stick with another cocktail such as the smoothly fresh Room With A View (13.5).  Belvedere vodka, quince, citrus syrup apple juice, lemon and Prosecco combined to create a cocktail with an approachable charm.  This is definitely the kind of cocktail to linger over.

Actually, the entire restaurant experience is one to linger over and I am thankful for the joys in the unfamiliar and unpredictable charm of Berners Tavern, one of the great crown jewels in the British food scene.

Berners Tavern
10 Berners Street
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)20 7908 7979

Read more about...

Bookmark with:


Login details

To add a comment, please enter your email address and password.

Keep me signed in until I sign out

New users

If you are not already registered with us, please enter your email address and chosen password above, and also complete the details below. Your screen name will be displayed on our website.

Your message


Best of All

Best of All

Business Traveler readers celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Best in Business Travel Awards
Read more »

World Wise

World Wise

Cultural awareness and effective communications for doing business around the world »
Read more »

Presents of mind

Presents of mind

Spotting just the right gift can be a daunting task, so we’ve put a little thought into it for you
Read more »