List Dad Guest Post – I have been musing recently about my current favourite UK restaurants. Every Tom, Dick and Harry seems to be making lists, so why not Jim? In an approximate order, I came up with Sat Bains, Dabbous, Drake’s, Kitchen Table, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, St John, The Hand & Flowers, Club Gascon, Honey & Co, Polpetto, Barnyard and Hereford Road. All lists of this sort are of course a reflection of the personal tastes of the compiler, and of where he or she has been lucky enough to get a table, but they are a talking point if nothing else.
To this list, and right near the top, I can now add Fera at Claridge’s where Chris and I dined on Tuesday 13 May. Chris is getting a little deaf in his old age and thought that the delightful Melissa who served us was a Millwall supporter – I had to stop him accusing her of various acts of hooliganism since I had clearly heard her say that her allegiance was to Liverpool. This leads me to interject that Simon Rogan and his staff were all charming, and I don’t think we were ever told to enjoy - which must be a ‘first’. A special mention for the barman who served me two delicious mocktails (one with rhubarb and berries, and the other featuring pear). The cocktails are very much in line with the food, including pea shoots with apple, marigold and vermouth and a gin fizz with pear and honey shrub and sweet cicely.
The Art Deco dining room, previously run by Gordon Ramsay, retains its stained glass ceiling panels but has been transformed by Guy Oliver to open up the space to take in what were previously private rooms and to give a view through to the kitchen where we could watch Simon Rogan and Dan Cox at work.
Simon Rogan is of course best known for his Michelin two-starred restaurant L’Enclume at Cartmel where he has a twelve acre farm. Fera is close to L’Enclume in philosophy and menu though none of the dishes on offer in London is an exact copy of those in Cumbria.
Like Fay Maschler, we went for the cheaper of the two tasting menu plus, in our case, a sample of the offerings from the excellent cheeseboard. Unlike Fay, who had a few reservations about the fare, Chris (who has eaten ‘everywhere’) and I felt that pretty well every course was outstanding. As with all good tasting menus, the offerings were initially fairly small, building up in size towards the main meat and fish courses.
The ‘starters’ were a trendy pea wafer with fennel and flowers, stewed rabbit with lovage, mackerel with caviar and seawater cream, and Winslade cheese with new potatoes and duck heart (the latter particularly tasty).
|Pea wafer, fennel and flowers|
|Stewed rabbit with lovage|
|Winslade cheese with duck hearts|
These were followed by an ‘extra’. Delicious smoked bone marrow butter to spread on bread, plus a beaker of perhaps a bit too strongly flavoured mushroom reduction.
Next up was raw beef, smoked broccoli cream, scallop roe and apple juice – and on to the main courses.
|Raw beef, smoked broccoli cream, scallop roe and apple juioe|
First came prawns with lardo, borage and chicory, followed by brill cooked in whey flavoured with hogweed, Jersey potatoes, blewit mushrooms and beach herbs. The latter were particularly unfamiliar and our enquiries resulted in (I think) Dan Cox arriving at the table with extra bits of what he called seashore grass.
Lastly, middle white pork with caramelised leek, broad beans and a mead reduction (served by Simon who said that mead was a favourite flavour of his).
Next, the puddings. By far the best was the baked yoghurt, pear poached in perry, mint and muscovado sugar. Then, iced beech leaf, nitro sweet cheese, apple and sorrel (which might perhaps have been placed after the pork as a palate cleanser). Another extra – a couple of small pink meringues. To finish, a chamomile milkshake with a chocolate malt biscuit.
As we said to Simon Rogan when he invited us to see the kitchen, this was one of the best meals we have had in the UK. We will be back!