I don’t visit London very often, it’s loud, full of people bustling, and just as many people dawdling (which never stops being annoying), and it’s awfully expensive, both getting there, and the cost of eating and drinking out down there! However last weekend I found myself in London to attend the Why Not Institute’s Pleasure of Playing workshop, an introductory session to the world of clowning, and my friend, Tricity Vogue’s brilliant drag action musical, Heels of Glory at Chelsea Theatre.
There’s no shortage of lovely places to eat in London, and I knew that there was a great value set lunch offer at Simon Rogan’s London restaurant, Fera at Claridge’s. Basically I figured, carpe diem or YOLO, whichever turn of phrase you wish to use, why not treat yourself every now and then!?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Fera is a very luxurious environment to be in, all art deco design, comfy chairs and the quiet hum of people cooing over amazing plates of food. The service is fantastic, like ninjas the waiting staff have done things before you even realise it’s been done. They see you taking the last mouthful of your drink from the other side of the restaurant and are already on their way over to your table to remove or refill your empty glass. They overhear your conversation wondering what something means on the menu and they explain to you, showing genuine enthusiasm to pass on this information. Dietary requirements are remembered and their inside out knowledge of the menu ensures nobody eats anything they shouldn’t!
One thing I love about restaurants like this is the interesting crockery. The water glasses were some of the finest glass I’ve ever drank out of!
We started off with some seasonal cocktails, at £16 a drink we knew we were in for a special cocktail, and we were not disappointed! Sara’s cocktail came with a foamy head and was made from liquorice root, seaweed, citrus and single malt whisky. It was smoky and slightly salty with sourness from the citrus, really woke your palate up. I had a cocktail made from lovage, anise hyssop sugar and rye whiskey, a truly refreshing blend of cocktail ingredients with a hint of aniseed. This all set us up nicely for the meal to come…
We were first served a complimentary snack of a chick pea wafer, with cheese curd, mustard and edible flowers.
We decided to add the snacks from the A La Carte menu to our set lunch to make the experience even more decadent! We started with Tunworth, Yolk, Salsify, a foamy soup of cheese and salsify, sat on top of a warm egg yolk, and crispy delightfulness sprinkled on top. It was a brilliant, overwhelming experience of umami flavours. Rich duck yolk, delicately salty cheese with the deep vegetable flavour of salsify.
Our second snack was seaweed cracker, scallop, alexanders, a seaweed cracker, topped with a scallop roe mousse and then a delicate leaf of seaweed suggestively draped over the top. A taste of the sea in one bite!
The final snack was stewed rabbit with lovage. The tender shredded rabbit meat was encased in crispy tangles of pastry, with a lovage cream to dip it into. Once the rabbit bites were finished, fingers were dipped into it. I think I said it when I blogged about Northcote, you really can’t take me anywhere.
Rye and Stout bread followed our series of snacks, served warm, with whipped salted butter. I’m by no means a bread snob, the best bread for me will always be Warburtons toastie, but this was lovely. Soft and pillowy bread with a super crunchy crust. I had half of it on it’s own and saved the other half to dunk into the sauce for my starter.
Sara went for the caramelised cabbage, confit duck, rhubarb, turnips and whey. Pieces of tender confit duck interplayed with sweet caramelised cabbage and tart slices of rhubarb which popped and brought the dish to life.
My starter was smoked hake mousse, asparagus, kohlrabi and elderflower. Shaved kohlrabi and asparagus encompassed the light and airy mousse, herbs and edible flowers finished the dish and a light sauce dressed everything. The stout and rye bread was used to mop up any sauce left on the plate. The ninja waiting staff spotted we had finished our bread and brought us some more.
Sara went for a very delicate looking main of steamed cod, tomatoes, broad beans and grelot onion, the cod was steamed to the point where it was only just falling apart and with a touch of translucency. The tomatoes had been partially dried yet were still vibrant, a savoury granola added texture to the dish.
Pork belly and cheek, turnip and marjoram was my choice of main course. A melt in the mouth tender piece of belly pork rested on crushed turnip, and pork cheek that had a gammon like flavour nestled amongst wilted spinach. My favourite part of this was the turnips, they’re a truly underrated vegetable!
For dessert I opted for chamomile custard, frozen buttermilk, raspberries and sweet cicely. A spoon of quivering custard with coulis glazed raspberries, an aniseed hint from the sweet cicely sponge and most exciting of all, frozen buttermilk which was so cold I can only assume was made with liquid nitrogen! This goes straight to the top of the list of one of the best things I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat!
Sara’s dessert choice was strawberries with lemon verbena, sheep’s yoghurt and elderflower, beautiful fresh strawberries were topped with a sheep’s yoghurt foam. A biscuit crumb, sponge cake and a strawberry ice cream made this a perfect, light and summery way to finish a meal.
Not that we stopped there, Sara being coffee’s number one fan meant we would definitely have some coffee. We weren’t sure which coffee to go for, and were questioning the different between “natural” and “washed” process, which fortunately was picked up on by one of the many brilliant members of waiting staff. He explained, passionately, about the differences between the two and this allowed us to make a decision. We had the Finca San Pascual natural processed coffee from the Santa Barbara Estate, a rich and dark roast of coffee, and with flavours I’ve never experienced before in coffee. There was dark chocolate and cherry flavours, making it very easy drinking and almost more like a tea to drink.
Petit fours came with coffee, an aerated chocolate for Sara and an elderflower pastille for myself, topped with citrusy gels and an edible flower petal for decoration.
Now then, down to the nitty gritty… how much did this lot set us back, I know you’re curious (I usually am when I see other peoples blogs of meals like this) to know how much of a dent it will put in your bank account, this all came to £177.19 including water and beer (not pictured) and service charge. It’s a lot of money, there is no denying that at all, however for such a wonderful experience it was worth every single last penny. If you feel you can justify it, and more importantly you just want to, don’t hesitate and book yourself a table at Fera. You will not regret it!