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Oxford street bustles day or night, throngs of tourists entranced by window displays and waffle vendors. It is an area I tend to avoid, choosing not to risk a rise in blood pressure as I am jostled for the tenth time. However the odd exceptional restaurant does mean that I need to brave the tourists in the pursuit of delectable eats.
Berners tavern is billed as just one of these restaurants. Jason Atherton’s venture is so popular reservations had to be made over two months in advance. It is no surprise that when the day arrived I could barely contain my excitement.
To avoid the long swerving Uber home we decided to check into Hazlitts, a hotel in fashionable Soho, the namesake of celebrated essayist William Hazlitt. The hotel itself deserves its own review, but I must keep my eye on the food.
19:30 rolled around and it was finally time. Sophie and I had walked the 6 minutes from our hotel to the restaurant, arriving on time to the second. I pushed open the heavy door and we both walked into the seductively lit room. Standing at the desk we faced the bar, bathed by the warm glow from the backlit marble shelves. Bottles stacked from floor to cavernous ceiling left us wondering how they reach the ones at the top.
The hostess guided us swiftly to our table, wafts of delicious food accompanying each step. Our table was a cosy two-seater situated on the outside of the room. The middle of the room is dominated by large round tables half encircled with luxurious leather booths.
Within moments we had menus in our hands and our water glasses filled.
It didn’t take long to decide on our orders, after all we had spent the previous 2 months salivating over the menu online.
Chateaubriand with Truffle Mac and Ox Cheek Cheese was the preferred option, with the Cote te Boeuf narrowly missing out. We decided to accompany this with a bottle of Tintonegro, a delightful Malbec from Mendoza in Argentina.
Conversation flowed as did the wine and before we knew it our food had arrived. The mac and cheese sat in the middle of the table, in a dish the size of a normal dinner plate, my eyes widened. Next the beef arrived to us on a piece of black slate, four beautifully pink fillet steaks. I gulped. Enthusiastically I selected my first piece, placing it on my plate, followed by a gluttoness helping of mac and cheese. A small portion of tenderstem broccoli topped off the meal with something green.
To describe this wonderful red medium rare meat as tender does not begin to justify. The knife glided through it separating easily chewable chunks each time. On the tongue the flavour intensified with each bite, the wonderfully soft meat melting until it was gone with a satisfying gulp.
The Mac and Cheese
Mixed with the beef the mac and cheese completed this truly decadent dish, a winter warmer creating a wonderfully rich sticky accompaniment. Each spoonful contained the delicate taste of truffle before the wallop of the sticky cheese sauce. The salty ox cheek occasionally lifted the flavour providing a welcome change. Delicious for the first few mouthfuls but as with all mac and cheese the richness can become overpowering, and this one is no exception. Its size means after a while it morphs into a challenge just to finish it. The broccoli provided a welcome crunch and respite from the richness of the beef and mac and cheese.
Berners Tavern is a special place. The grandness of the room, decadence of the decor and food, and the wonderful service make sure that you will have a special evening here. This is hearty fine dining, delicious food in large quantities. I came away from Berners Tavern full, satisfied, and having had enough Mac and Cheese to ensure I wouldn’t crave it for weeks. It is not every day that you get to eat Chateaubriand and Berners did not disappoint, a wonderful evening, a lot of food, a full stomach. What more could you ask for?