In the ‘Chefs’ Last Supper’ in the National Portrait Gallery, Marcus Wareing is throwing a brie at Gordon Ramsay, who plays Jesus. They both have restaurants in the celebrity-chef triangle in Knightsbridge near Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner, which led Ramsay to fantasise about chefs’ fisticuffs at 4 a.m. in the street, as he does; but what was Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley, which sounds very like a restaurant with in-built directions for the confused, has been rebranded to be less ‘formal’ and more ‘relaxed’. It is now just ‘Marcus at the Berkeley’. It’s gone the way of gay icons with a solitary name in lights: Judy. Barbra. Liza. Marcus.
The Berkeley is an insane hotel with blank windows; it has the eyes of a sociopath. It has a crazed florist, who has built a cherry tree in the lobby in banks of daffodils; this, of course, is the monetisation of Easter, which began in Harvey Nichols (where else?) but has spread across the road to the Berkeley. This is the way of things in plutocratic London: do not go outside. It is dangerous out there; there are looters staring at the giant pack of Gillette Fusion ProGlide Power replacement cartridges masquerading as the Candy & Candy development One Hyde Park and dreaming of stealing your possessions. Instead, establish outside inside at vast expense. One day I expect to see the whole of the Cotswolds inside the Berkeley, complete with birds and a random pony.
To enter Marcus (sorry, I am giggling) one has to navigate the fashion hags in the tearoom, who are eating the Berkeley’s signature ‘fashion tea’, with cakes in the shape of their beloved accessories, although, as P points out, no one has sex with you because you have a nice handbag. Indeed not; and that is why you need a nice handbag; who said fashion had anything to do with sex? They suck on stilettos and munch on hats; they have paid for the accessories, and now they are ingesting them. They glower, because that is their signature expression. The doors swing open and I am inside Marcus. I am aware that this sounds like I am performing a colonoscopy, which in a sense I am. But it still makes me laugh.
Marcus is soothing, if not particularly ‘relaxed’; but a double-Michelin-starred chef’s idea of relaxed is probably not the same as mine. Perhaps Marcus is deflating from his other joint, the berserk Gilbert Scott in King’s Cross, which is Miss Havisham wrought in dumplings and mustard paint, with feedback from the ghost of George V. Marcus has dark wood and bouncy chocolate-coloured booths; pale green and blue leather chairs; a pop-art painting of Jackie Onassis in which part of her face is replaced by a chicken and another part by a dog, which makes it a brightly coloured portrait of a dead Frankencelebrity, which means it should be in the tearoom, which would appreciate it more.
Marcus feels like the inside of a restful pond, made for blowing idle bubbles, but this might be explained by the total absence of fashion hags; or maybe it is simply spring in London and even this columnist is happy.
The food is finely wrought and subtle. Calcot onion with creamed potato and truffle is an advertisement for what vegetables can do if only you will let them; Rhug Estate pork belly is perfectly cooked, with a pleasing crust; haute couture Mr Porky pork scratchings, if you will. I am not sure about chicken liver parfait with bacon jam, which tastes like Mr Porky pork scratchings mated with yoghurt and imprisoned in a blender, or whether pricing a Mojito mocktail at £13.50 is entirely fair; but the tiramisu — doughnut-shaped, full of booze and espresso — is a mind-bending wonder. I like Marcus and this is just as well; I am inside him.
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Marcus at the Berkeley, Wilton Place, London SW1X 7RL. Tel: 020 7235 1200.
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