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Berners Tavern The London Edition Hotel, 10 Berners Street, London W1T 3LF


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f you’ve read any reviews of Berners Tavern you’ll already know that the interior is


gorgeous. And it really is. No kidding, no hype. The scale of the one big room is immense. The barrage of art on the walls flings colour at you even as your eyes soar up to the impossibly high ceiling.


It has a buzz even mid-afternoon. Waiters


are traditionally dressed and move fluidly and with purpose, darting and diving like mayflies. The establishment now has a new addition to the menu, an afternoon tea type thing. While brunch is not quite breakfast and not quite lunch, no one has a name for this concept yet – linner perhaps? While you can, of course, have afternoon tea


anywhere in London hotel land, Berners Tavern offers a more beguiling menu, one that is short but with sweets. We first shared savouries of Truffled Ogleshield cheese and onion toastie with Branston pickles and fries, and a lobster and prawn brioche roll, also with fries. The roll was on trend, brioche rolls still


enjoying their fifteen minutes in the sun, and was packed with juicy shellfish. The toastie had clear truffling and the chips were very good. Top stuff. Next we had to have our cake and eat it, and


we went a bit overboard. Our small table soon began to overflow, but all were gorgeous. Lemon meringue pies had every little peak regular in size. Shipwreck tart was a slice of boozy brandy heaven and a splodge of clotted cream was the icing on the cake.


Also delicious was a caramel kiss of a brown


sugar tart. We dunked mini, jamless, doughnuts in molten chocolate and trailed it across the table. Lemon posset served in a jar was refreshingly citrus sharp. Strawberry trifle was a joy. Throughout we drank elegant tea served from silver teapots of decent size. It would be hard to dislike any of the food when sitting in this glamorous room, but with Jason Atherton directing it was never going to be anything but great. Enjoy your linner, we certainly did. www.bernerstavern.com


Chakra 157-159 Notting Hill Gate, London W11 3LF


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hakra as befits this smart location is no ‘curry house’. The interior is plush while the


tables are covered in dark leatherette. The menu by chef Andy Varma is Punjabi via Lucknow and blessedly short; no endless choices that you know are just variations on a giant pot of basic curry sauce bubbling out back. Yam Chaat starter is tart with tamarind


chutney, unctuous with chunks of sweet potato flavoured with earthy cumin, and pokily sharp with lemon. The combination is bright and lively and the dish prettily presented. Ajwaini Machli we dub ‘posh fish fingers’. The Tilapia fish pieces have been rubbed with salt, lemon juice, ginger and chilli paste, coated in besan batter (chickpea) sprinkled with Ajwaini seeds, deep fried and served with mint and coriander chutney. They are quite superb. Mains of Patiala Chaap is another great dish; lamb chops marinated in garam masala and lemon yoghurt, with a breath of cardamom, are cooked just right; a bit of char on the outside and a blush of pink in the centre. We gnaw them down to the bones like Henry VIII at a BBQ, unwilling to let the tiniest scrap escape. Then we lamb out some more with Dahi


Gohst Masala; the lamb is excellent quality and subtly flavoured with onion and ginger, bulked out with bottle gourd (Ghia dudi), the whole cooked in a bright yoghurt sauce and the texture of the lamb as soft as the gourd. Heat level is of the kind that only becomes noticeable toward the end, which is pretty much how I like it. Plain white rice along with a bowl of creamily black daal are simple but effective accompaniments, Chakra keeps the standard up with desserts: a nutmeg and cinnamon flavoured apple sponge cake, served with elderflower mousse, is familiar and fine, but the star is poppy seed cake with vanilla custard. Visually arresting, light and pointillist with seeds, it is dry but clearly designed to be so. The real custard solves that problem. Prices are, as to be expected, higher than


average but so is the cooking and the folks who live on the Hill can afford it. If I lived up there, I’d definitely be back to try some more of what’s on the menu. www.chakralondon.com


Les Deux Salons 40-42 William IV Street, London WC2N 4DD


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es Deux Salons is tucked neatly behind the Strand and ideally placed for theatreland.


Originally a very pure reincarnation of a Parisian brasserie, it’s now pared down its menu to make itself a sensible choice for a reliable meal. Foxed mirrors, banquettes and round wall


lights combine to give some intimacy and the illusion of antiquity, but the presence of designer hot dogs on the menu suggest belated modern trend chasing, but as the 'dog' is merguez, it is at least un vrai chien francais. It’s good to see that the bacon and snail pie is


still on the menu: you don’t dump a winner. It’s still good; a golden puff lid breaks to release aromatic steam and the contrast in textures of snail versus bacon works for M who has never had this dish before. You may not like snails in the shell, but this dish could well convince you about the ultimate slow food’s worth. I went a bit American with Mac N Cheese but


really it was simply a bowl of pasta with a cheese sauce, and very nice too: the tangy sauce clinging like a drowning sailor to each tube with no wateriness and no burnt bits. Just the sort of dish I like very much indeed. It being the season, M went for the decidedly un-Gallic grouse. It came with all the usual traditional trimmings, including the big bunch of watercress that she traditionally pushed to one side. The meat was the usual pink, a colour that often makes people think it’s undercooked, it is a meat that will toughen coarsely if overcooked. This was well done (not ‘well done’), the meat tender and bathed in a fine jus. The game crisps, another traditional touch, were I think not made by Mr Walker and the bread covered in the drippings from the bird very flavourful. I had calf’s liver and bacon, a classic dish although again not all that French. The liver was correctly cooked; seared on the outside with the centre melting in a foie gras kind of way. The high-sided dish held the jus nicely to allow easy dunking of excellent creamy mash as well as some engagingly bitter seasonal greens. And to finish, a correct crème brûlée for moi


and a well-sticky pud for M. Les Deux Salons may be moving away from pure French, but it’s still a reliable spot in an area of dodgy rip-off restaurants. www.lesdeuxsalons.co.uk


www.essence-magazine.co.uk 47


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