Berners Tavern: Jason Atherton does it again (September 2015)

Jason Atherton (probably along with Alan Yau) seems to be the chef-du-jour on the London scene at present and almost everything he touches appears to turn to gold. Berners Tavern is no exception. One can’t help but fall in love with the venue, perhaps best described as a work of art. Although situated within the London Edition hotel, Berners has its own entrance and feels about as far removed from a hotel dining room as possible. Formerly a private residence, the original high ceiling and ornate cornicing has been preserved, while the walls are bedecked with gilt-framed artworks, both contemporary and traditional. However much one might marvel at the room, it is far from a ruse to distract diners from the food. Atherton’s team deploys a formula similar to that which garnered Pollen Street Social so many plaudits, namely a relatively short and simple menu of modern English/French dishes prepared with high-quality ingredients. Presentation throughout was also superb. I savoured every mouthful of my beetroot-cured salmon starter. The addition of macadamia nuts to the dish was also a stroke of genius and added a novel texture. My comrade also praised highly his choice of prawn cocktail, noting the subtle addition of lobster jelly to this quite traditional dish. Onto the mains, any my roasted rabbit loin proved excellent, with the meat enhanced by rabbit Bolognese, available to add from a little gravy boat on the side – a nice touch. The risotto chosen by my comrade also worked and again here, the ‘base’ of the meal (i.e. the vegetables) was presented on the plate with the rice added from a separate dish to the side. The wines also pleased and were reasonably priced, although we both lamented the absence of carafes from the menu, guests therefore being forced either to choose just a glass or a bottle. Many good restaurants miss a trick in this respect, especially when considering the lunchtime trade. If there were one quibble, then it might be service. Being such a large (and busy) venue, it was hard to attract servers’ attention and waiting time may be an issue for the more impatient. This can be rectified though. Berners Tavern is not quite excellent, but it is certainly very good.