We have just returned from our lunch at Michelin-starred Fera at Claridge’s , whose kitchen has been headed by Australian chef Matt Starling since February 2017. Fera focuses on British cuisine.
We had been having meals at Claridge’s in the past, when it was called “Gordon Ramsey at Claridge’s” and when it was labelled London’s most overpriced, overrated restaurant. However, Ms B, my wife, found out that instead of charging you £300+ for a meal for two with wine, like in the olden days, there was now a surprisingly acceptable lunch deal on offer: three courses and a glass of champagne or gin and tonic for £42 per person. For an additional £10 you can add their signature snacks (we didn’t, because we weren’t that hungry).
There is an undeniable wow effect when you enter the dining room through a curtain-lined entrance which leads to a rotunda, where the room gradually reveals itself. British designer Guy Oliver combined elements of the initial art deco décor with a very modern, elegant, stylish touch. The large windows and the laylights let a lot of light in. There are no table cloths (our fourth recent Michelin-star experience where this is the case, what’s wrong with tablecloth?), a tradition brought in from Cumbria via the previous chef Simon Rogan. More about the design here.
Service truly impressed us: very friendly, professional, attentive, knowledgeable, patient (we asked a fair few questions about the ingredients).
We ordered slow cooked pork jowl, pickled cheek, turnips, as well as cured gurnard with celery and caramelised yoghurt for starters, and day boat pollock, rainbow radishes (different varieties of garden radish, including heritage ones), smoked eel, nettles, as well as white asparagus, bronze fennel and oyster leaf for mains. As desserts we chose beetroot sorbet, whipped verjus, chocolate, and Gariguette strawberries, dill and sorrel.
Our gin and tonics arrived quickly. The lovely gin is distilled in the kitchen of the restaurant. You can buy a bottle of Fera Gin for £30 (250ml) or £60 (700ml).
While we were sipping away, one of the most beautiful amuse-bouches we’ve ever seen arrived: some concoction with cream cheese and plenty of edible flowers.
The starters were next. I loved the pork cheeks which came in two different ways: slow-cooked and pickled. I adore dishes that present one and the same ingredient prepared in different ways (the vegetarian main further below is another example of this approach). The cured gurnard was a bit of a strange experience. Some bits were a bit chewy, even hard to cut with a knife, and without much flavour, others had just the right texture and taste. The fresh celery went very well with it.
The mains showed up shortly after we had finished the starters. The pollock had a great texture, much like cod, but wasn’t very flavoursome. The dark, green sauce, which was made of spinach, nettles, and fish stock made of a smoked eel’s bones, had a pleasant, but hardly noticeable taste.
I was rather fond of most of the vegetarian dish, which is unusual for me. The dish included white asparagus in four different ways: thin slices of the raw vegetable (surprisingly pleasant), braised in liquorice butter (absolute no go in my view; left it on the plate), char-grilled, pre-boiled asparagus (agreeable), and puree (definitely delicious).
The desserts were amazing. I enjoyed the beetroot sorbet and chocolate (the acidity of the verjus worked very well), but my winner was the dill and sorrel ice creams with strawberries. Brilliant looks and tastes.
Just before we asked for the bill, two petit fours arrived, and both were masterpieces: a play on Ferrero Rochers and donuts filled with caramelised milk and brandy.
This lunch was a very good experience and the Barbarians had a great time. However, there weren’t enough flavours or exciting tastes. 3.5 out of 5 in our book, taking into account that everything except for the food was 5 out of 5. You can get state of the art Michelin-starred food for much less money in London, if you shop around a bit. We won’t be back.