A Social View – Berners Tavern ( Take 2 + Made in Dagenham )

A Social View – Berners Tavern ( New Edition ) + “Made in Dagenham”

Firstly an apology. If you didn’t bother to read my last blog I don’t blame you. It was miles too long. I’ve come to the conclusion that the last blog was longer than a giant Anaconda with its head stuck in a Hosepipe. To be frank, ( and I’ve always wanted to be frank, whether it be Stapleton, Turner or Sidebottom ), it was longer, and in places more pointless than Boris Johnson’s hair. So this is the all new, shorter ( in theory ) and brighter more sparkly version of The Social Life. We also have a new name temporarily, at least until I can think of something more apt. By we I mean me.

I am good at only two things unfortunately. Falling down the stairs is the first. Like Uncle Albert fell down manholes in Only Fools and Horses, I seem to have discovered the same talent with stairs. Being that it’s always the same set, our stairs indoors, you’d think after three or four tumbles I would learn from previous mistakes. Sadly this is not the case. Mind elsewhere this morning, book in hand, I completely ignored the slippery step, slippery sole rule of the house, ( the rule is a basic : be careful ), and plummeted down the stairs face first at a rapid pace. Thankfully nothing is broken.

The second thing I’m good at, although not as good as GB, is turning a thirty second story into a thirty minute story. Great if you are making a witty speech with amusing anecdotes, not so great if you are writing an amateur blog that can sometimes test people’s patience. The worst that can happen though is nobody reads it and I live a lonely single blog life. Hey ho. If this removes me from the doldrums of general life and keeps my spirits up then surely it’s worth persevering with.

We have been married 13 years. That’s GB and myself. Not sure how she has suffered it but clearly, now and again the good outweighs the bad. That’s only half the story though ( literally ). In total we have been together for twenty five Christmases ( twenty four years ). I thought it was worth celebrating. The weekend of our wedding anniversary, I planned something for every evening.

Friday : Typing Room – Bethnal Green. Outrageously good food. Excellent front of house. See previous blog. The long one!
Saturday : Made in Dagenham at the Adelphi Theatre and dinner at Berners Tavern.
Sunday : lunch at Tredwells followed by Matt Goss at the Palladium.

Admittedly the Palladium show was a coincidence and just incredible luck on my part as GB loved Bros and still swoons over Mr. Goss. It must be pointed out that she isn’t alone. This will be covered in my next instalment. For now let’s kick on and start as we arrived for our 2 night stay at The London EDITION Hotel. It also housed our restaurant for the evening so no troublesome long winded journey home.

If I am ever fortunate enough to be able to afford a lifestyle of pure unadulterated luxury and an abode the size of Rutland, there is only one combo with whom I would like to design the interior and fluidity. Step forward Ian Schrager and Philippe Starck. Some places you just cannot tire of looking at, or being in. The lobby in London EDITION is one of them. From the luxurious green sofas to the giant mirrored egg hanging from the ceiling as you enter the building, the whole modelling of the hotel comes together beautifully. I love the lobby.

Running slightly behind schedule we checked in. Flew through the quick and easy process and within minutes we were up in our room. I’ve never stayed in a hotel of this calibre before so I’ve nothing really to compare it with. No cancel that. Many moons ago for reasons that have taken a leave of absence for now, we stayed in St.Martins Lane Hotel. Also designed/owned by The dynamic duo Starck/Schrager. A different type of room, it was a garden room, but uber stylish all the same. The EDITION room was E shaped if that makes sense. The central part of the E being the opening. Bathroom with huge shower etc.. On the right, a bed to get lost in on the opposite side. That’s not an exaggeration either. I turned over during the night and still her indoors was nowhere to be found. Comfiest beds in the world go to The Scotsman in Edinburgh. This runs it a close 2nd.

A quick spray of deodorant, a couple of bits hung up and travel bags tucked away, we were off. Like a pair of greyhounds after the hare, we still needed food of some form and a little tipple of something to say hello to London. Walking along Wardour Street we decided on quick eating to heal the hunger. Pret-A-Manger was the order of the day. Toasted sandwiches scoffed and hot chocolates in hand, we were back on the road. As we hit The Strand the Adelphi was to our left. Plenty of time for light refreshment. A glass of Sauvignon Blanc for my fair lady ( boom boom ), and a bottle of Peroni for yours truly. We finished the first and ordered a second to take in with us. I was surprised how far back we were when we took our seats, but it was fine. No problems, you could see everything and it’s not that big a distance back to front.

I’ve never seen the film but I can thoroughly recommend Made in Dagenham the musical. It’s a true story about life in the late 1960’s, at the Fords car (or Dagenham Dustbin to give its alternate name) factory in… Yep you’ve got it, Dagenham, Essex. Focusing on the fight for women’s equality, ( equal pay, equal rights ), the lead character Rita O’Grady is played by Gemma Arterton ( Quantum of Solace, Tamara Drewe ).Gemma plays the part down to a tee. It has all the right ingredients that a musical needs. Catchy tunes, funny, poignant moments and a strong storyline that the majority can relate to. A very well thought out cast makes this a real good family show with laughs a bagful, ( beware strong language ). Special mention goes to a standout role as Beryl played by Sophie Stanton.

Drinks finished, musical finished, we headed back to the EDITION. Time for a freshen up, change, and a quick cocktail before dinner. I’m in the shower first even though we both know it’ll take GB twice as long to get ready. I’m watching the football results, you can tell its a celebratory weekend, everything is going so well….look at the scores:

Chelsea 2 – Bradford 4. Didn’t see that coming.
Man City 0 – Boro 2. A second shock.
Spurs 1 – Leicester City 2.

Happy days. Three rivals out. All to teams they were expected to beat.

GB poured us both a cheeky drink and finally hopped into the shower. I heard a noise. Sounded like a knock but distant. I ignored it. Another room. Then it was there again. It WAS our door. I opened it , ( not my finest moment, tee shirt and towel ), and there is a young chap there with a chocolate mousse courtesy of the hotel and a card congratulating us. What a lovely touch. Thinking quickly, I shut the bathroom door first thankfully, before allowing him in. The mousse looked like it would lay on you for days. It was actually delicate and light. Lovely stuff. A perfect pre – dinner graze. Very welcome and extremely thoughtful.

We polished off our complimentary plate, dressed up, ( the wife looked particularly lovely ), and headed downstairs for swift cocktails in the lobby… Have I mentioned the lobby?… Ah the lobby.

Dill or no Dill.. Not a question, nor the game show hosted by the diminutive bearded Noel Edmonds, no it was The wife’s cocktail. Mead Myself & Aye for lil ‘ol’ me. I won’t bore you with all the full details of what’s in each, remember I’m trying to keep it shorter. DOND is a Tanqueray Gin based drink. My little newt of a liquid was 10yr old Somerset Cider Brandy. I do love a Del Boy umbrella in my drink. I had to make do with the worlds smallest clothes peg. If anyone has a hamster and after washing their shirts you have trouble hanging their clobber up go visit Berners Tavern. A few drinks later you’ll have clothes pegs galore for the tiny rodents romper suits.

We were shown to our table. A nice space on the left. In my original blog about Berners Tavern I mused about the room. I stand by my statement back then. It is in my opinion THE finest dining room in London. It just looks magnificent. I love all the pictures, personal fave a large one on the back wall showing an old blue room. Not sure what makes it special but I’m loving it loving it loving it. A combination of French decor with grand central station chandeliers. High ceilings. If this room were a woman it would be on every catwalk. It allows for a superb natural atmosphere. Have I mentioned the lobby?

Our starters came up relatively quick. Not a bad thing. The wine was already in place. A Chilean red. GB choosing Langoustines from the Orkneys with Mayo, Fennel and Dill. I went for the Crispy Pigs Head, Foie Gras and Black Pudding ( plus bits n bobs ). I’ve never been a fan of seafood but GB dived seafood/dived, oh the comic in me is just too much ), straight into her plate of pink perfectery. My CPH was a real delight. You could taste every flavour and it was a great starter. Thumbs up for the Langoustines. Succulent Quali-TEE!

Sometimes I find there is only so much you can write about a main course. Most of my descriptions of food are your bog standard lovely, amazing, delicious etc.etc.. So let me tell you about the mains at Berners. GB suggested that we choose the Chateaubriand with Mac’N’Cheese. It is a sharing dish. Both a romantic and worthy choice given the celebration. We selected a few extra side dishes and the waiter started looking at us like we had a bison sitting with us at the table. He quite rightly recommended that with a salad we wait until the food arrived before ordering more.

When our food did appear we could see his point. Indulgent indulgent indulgent. Do you see what I’m trying to get at??…the aroma and presentation were magical. I wish I knew the words to explain HOW GOOD this course was. To use the words of sports commentator Martin Tyler, ” We are running out of superlatives for how good that was “. Knock me down with a 10lb sledgehammer and christen me Bob, it was that theasauretically amuse Bouche. The fact that there was enough food on the table to feed a small army just made it more flamboyant.

Please note when I say a small army I don’t mean the armed forces of San Marino, although if the General of this small republic has a family, say, wife, two kids, and in-laws I reckon they’d be enough food to share. So if you are per chance reading this piece Generali, get yourself ( plus fam ) to Berners!

The beef was honestly just cooked to perfection. The MNC was as good as it looked. There was more truffle than you could shake a stick at. I know the restaurant recently won a best in London award from someone. Based on this course it is so deserving of that accolade. As a business model it’s not that intelligent, we had no room for dessert. I don’t see many folk eating that and wanting afters. As food for a celebratory meal, it was knock out.

I also bumped into my favourite restaurant manager Chris Bakowski. We had a brief chat and he came back to sort out a small issue with our bill. If only all restaurants had a chap like CB running the floor, eating out would be so much more fun. Sadly I don’t recall the name of the chap wearing glasses who served us but I take my hat off to him for looking after us. Attentive, polite, knowledgeable and extremely helpful.

As above, there was no room for anything else. I don’t think having a bottle of champagne helped matters. Not a normal thing but 25 Christmases is a huge achievement. Bill paid, doggy-bag in hand ( YES the main course was that big, if only we had a dog ), we left more than happy. A fantastic restaurant, with excellent front of house staff. I can only recommend people get their backsides down to the EDITION for a sleepover and a butchers at the lobby, did I … Oh I think I have. While there get yourselves into Berners. If there’s four of you have the chateaubriand!

Footnote. Gabriela and Maria in reservations were exceptionally helpful. EDITION choose their staff well. It may not be the cheapest hotel in the world but it’s cutting edge luxury and has a grey pool table. That’s good enough for me.

My next blog may be slightly different!.. But don’t get too excited, it’ll still be me writing it. It’s called a day at the Palace! ( actually it’s the one after that ). Hope you enjoy!

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Berners Tavern

“The Social Life Take 2”

The following week. It’s my sisters 50th. She doesn’t look it in fairness. In fact I’d go as far as to say she doesn’t look a day over 38. She wanted to go to a high end restaurant. Somewhere with a buzz. One of these trendy places that you read about in the magazines. My sister , lets call her Sharon ( it is her name after all ), has never really done the fine-dining thing. For quite a few years working in the city, she had always knocked back invites to here there and everywhere with the odd exception, sacrificing Nights out for going home to the kids, which is fair enough. Here she was at 50, now ready to dip her tiny toe into the water… And good for her I say!

Well, you’re only 50 once right!… So as part of my birthday present to her We, that’s the wife and I, agreed to foot the bill for a meal out somewhere. My brother and his wife would also join us for the celebration. The last part of the equation being exactly where to take her. I love my sister dearly but she is the sort of girl that likes her steak well done… And some.

Still, I’m up for a challenge, and this one consisted of finding a restaurant that’s very much on the hot list of places to go, had a varied menu, and most importantly of all, serves great food. Having been to Pollen Street the week before, the Atherton group of restaurants were at the forefront of my mind. I’ve never been to places like The Wolesley, The Delauney, or Hawksmoor, but I’ve read reviews and magazines etc etc. They all sound stonkingly good and after studying the menu were all in the running.

I also needed to find a restaurant with flavours to compliment my sisters own palate.
Well, we have already covered how she likes her steak. Her main beef ( no pun intended ), is the blood. If there is any inkling of blood it will go straight back to the kitchen. I wouldn’t mind seeing my 5ft tall sibling going toe to toe with Rammo over her rare to medium steak. Beware Gordon, she might be small but she has a serious bite on her!

Fish is a definite no-go. I think the closest my sister has got to fish is visiting Sea World. I’m kidding. We just aren’t big fish eaters.. We obviously get our fussy food genes from my mothers side. My aunt ( our mums sister just for the record ), once tore a strip off of a chef just for having the nerve to sprinkle parsley onto a plain omelette!

Anyway, after much deliberation, I went for the selfish option. It’s certainly one of THE places to go , but admittedly it was of my choosing. Checking on Open Table, I was quite shocked that, The Berners Tavern had a reservation available for 3:30pm. Opened to rave reviews in 2013 it was a restaurant I was seriously looking forward to visiting. I just hoped that my sister Sharon would embrace the experience and enjoy it. She deserved the best day possible.

Very quick history lesson here. The Berners Tavern is situated inside the London EDITION Hotel, part of the “hip” subsidiary of the Marriott hotel group. Formerly the Berners Street Hotel in the Fitzrovia area of London, through the vision of Ian Schrager it has been transformed into an unbelievable place to stay, with prices to match I might add. The hotel, once five townhouses has been the living quarters of some seriously wealthy and notable people in the past including Carl Faberge and King Edward VII. It is also famous for the ” Berners Street Hoax ” in 1810. The street that is, not the hotel.

The position of the hotel, just a bit further down from the exclusive Sanderson Hotel ( also designed by Schrager ), will certainly make the road one of the most popular choices for the wealthy tourists of the world. I would suggest it could be interesting to see how each hotel compares with the competition.

Lets continue shall we. We arrived in good time. After a cheeky half, in one of the backstreet pubs, the four of us mooch down to our destination. Opting to enter through the hotel entrance as opposed to the restaurant, it genuinely took my breath away. With luxurious green sofas and a giant egg for a chandelier, it was opulent, but not totally in your face. Understated class. Then again if you pay for the best, in theory you get the best. They say first impressions count. My thinking was bloody awesome choice Mr. Rolls. It has to be said that all four us were extremely smiley as we chose a cocktail from the extensive list available.

Like I said, if it were solely about first impressions the The Berners Tavern would win every award going. What an incredible venue to eat in. The high ceilings, all the paintings, the sheer theatre of it all cannot be underestimated. As we made our way into the restaurant and found ourselves seats at the bar the birthday girl was grinning from ear to ear. So far so good!. After a second cocktail, the Vintage Vesper ( well someone has to try them ), we were shown to our booth almost in the centre of the room. I cannot repeat enough the jaw – dropping scale of this room.

Seated and comfortable, we ordered a nice Chenin Blanc; if memory serves me correctly. Now the difficult bit. Ordering food. I have no idea what the chaps name was who was looking after us. Scrap that, he is a Mr. Chris Bakowski. I will say this though, he was absolutely brilliant. I’ve been to places before when it’s frowned upon if you don’t know your Omelette from your ostrich. I don’t know why but I never expect to be served by someone who sounds just like me, or who looks as ruffled in a suit; coincidentally just like me. Talk about how to make people feel relaxed. What an absolute star he was. To try and explain to all of us what half the ingredients in the dishes were, was a task in itself. He tackled it with confidence and wit. Superb managerial tact.

My sister, went for the safe option as a starter. The Berners Tavern Chopped Salad with Chicken. My newly wed SIL ( sister-in-law ) chose the Pumpkin Risotto, while both my brother and I took a shot at the Potato & Chicken Broth. The salad must have been delicious as it’s very rare for big sis to be quiet for more than five minutes. I’m joking, I’m joking!..She even pushed the boat out tasting the jus. Go Girl! I thoroughly enjoyed my broth as did my sibling Kev. The Risotto went down a treat. Certainly a good start.

The newly weds decided to twin up on their mains both having the Roasted Goosnargh Chicken with Bacon and Mashed Potato. I opted for the Cornish Cod. Wow Wow Wow! Without doubt the finest main course I have had this year. I’m not a huge aficionado when it comes to our sea bearing morsels but this baby would take some beating. Melt in your mouth stuff, just serious chef-er-y ( yes I made that up I think ) at its highest level. The taste matched the look, and believe me it looked pretty scintillating.

Sharon went for the Romney Marsh Lamb and devoured it, along with a side order of chips. In her own words it was ” better than Burger King ” she mocked. You gotta love a back handed compliment. Mr. Bakowski done a secondary check to make sure all was well. Sharon replied with something like ” this is amazing thank you “. Definitely the wine was having an effect. Along with the Pimms and cocktails as we were all feeling a little tipsy.

Talking of which we ordered a 2nd bottle of vino, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Lovely it was too. It was dessert time. Sweeeeet!… Or not. Sadly as a person who writes without the assistance of any John O’Groats ( notes ), having waited 6 weeks to write this I now can’t remember for the life of me what my sister and I ate. I do however recall that my SIL had a coffee. Old school normal coffee. Not a mocha, cappuccino or latte in sight.

There was some confusion over our last course, maybe that’s why I haven’t a scooby over what I had. First off we recieved four plates. Then a waitress took two away. Then the other two. Then brought two back. It was a little comical really. I’ve no idea what the problem was but after a short period of two young ladies discussing the predicament it was all sorted and our final course arrived. Looking back I think one dessert was ready but the other was still in the development area backstage. Confusion reigned supreme …for all of five minutes.

Peaches, Sharon ate peaches of some form and I went down the apple route. Cheers for reminding me of the desserts sis.. I had to ring and ask the other 3 folk present as I simply cannot remember. An apple tarte tatin I think it was although hand on heart I couldn’t say for sure, and I was a very happy little eater. I wish I could remember the names, ingredients etc etc more clearly but cocktails, wine, and beer eventually took their toll. Probably another reason, I’m not a good reviewer! Gets drunk, can’t remember what he ate ( or drank ), … Actually I sound perfect for the job!

Once the meal was over, we grabbed our coats and fluffy bob-tailed it towards Leicester Square, diving back to collect a forgotten umbrella, to meet my good lady who was partaking in a ghostly walk of London.

There you have it. Berners Tavern in one fell swoop. Two down, one to go. For the record, marks out of 10:

Ambience/Atmosphere = 10

Service = 8.5

Food = 9.5 ( main course/starters both deserve 10s though )

See you at Little Social.