Berners Tavern is one of three West End restaurants Jason Atherton opened in 2013; the other two, Little Social and Social Eating House, were very well received for their playful and appealing dishes. This new venture is more of the same, but in a much grander setting.
It’s housed in the new Edition hotel in Fitzrovia, which looks like the older, more sophisticated sister of the Sanderson hotel just down the road. Both places were given makeovers by hotelier Ian Schrager, but Edition is an exercise in slick metropolitan taste, with opulent chandeliers, framed art-by-the-yard covering entire walls, and improbably elegant staff. The huge lobby bar looks fabulous; but the vast dining room, with its ornate plasterwork ceiling, very low lighting and lively bar area, looks even better. The menu’s prices are alarmingly high – but most of the dishes we tried were very good.
Head chef Phil Carmichael turns out tender pork belly with a sauce of sharp capers, golden raisins and apple coleslaw to cut through the fat. The flavours of this and a pan-braised halibut (perfectly cooked) with a little saucepan of savoury squid ink risotto were sublime. A starter of ‘egg, ham and peas’ updates a signature Atherton recipe; a breadcrumbed duck egg is held upright by a purée of fresh peas, the crisp Cumbrian ham almost a garnish. The only culinary disappointment was a chocolate éclair dessert, as the pastry – which should be very slightly stale – was overly so.
Any caveats? Sometimes dizzy service; too-frequent upselling of extras; lighting so low we could barely read the menu. But Berners Tavern is an utterly glamorous experience. Wear your heels or best threads – and book ahead for a cocktail in the Punch Room bar first, to steel yourself for that punishing bill later.