Berners Tavern launches plant-based, vegan menuCultureFood & DrinksRestaurant & bar reviews
Talk to pretty much anyone and they’ll agree: the past year has been somewhat surreal. The “post-truth” era has begun in earnest and now we don’t even know what to trust anymore. Once fabulous restaurants turnout average food, someone has managed to finally make a gun that has too much citrus and most curiously of all, vegetarian food has actually become pretty damn good.
In years gone by, the idea of a plant-based menu, created in honour of the Chelsea Flower Show, would have had us running for cover. Yet somehow it manages to be utterly delicious. In all fairness, if it’s coming out of the kitchen of Berners Tavern, as this is, that is always likely to be the case but still. Roasted Fennel and Courgette Salad, with avocado tartare, is somehow both subtle and potent, bringing far more flavour out of the courgette than we would have expected. The lightest char lends it almost meaty depth of flavour, whilst the fennel is curiously restrained, almost elegant.
Secretts Farm Asparagus, with English peas, broad beans and morels, poached jersey royal potatoes and olive oil emulsion, is a joy. It’s hard to know where to start. Beautifully cooked morels, bursting with umami flavour and delightfully moreish. Perfectly tender asparagus, peas that could make a believer of even the staunchest carnivore, intense little broadbeans… The real star though, is a puck of mashed potato so laden with olive oil that it’s practically golden. Silky smooth and endlessly indulgent, it makes the butter and cream laden versions of the dish seem so crude and unrefined. It revels in its own simplicity, a perfect pairing of ingredients, much like the dish itself.
A lime and mint granita is tart and tangy without being too sharp, though we would have liked more mint. As it is, it’s there for a brief mouthful then gone forever, more a garnish than a real part of the dish. It’s a shame too, because that combination is a palette cleansing winner.
Of all the desserts, Ginger and Plum Soup, with blackcurrant and jasmine sorbet, is the one that really catches our eye. Partly we must admit, because it just seems so odd. Is it going to be warm with a blob of sorbet dropped in and melted? Thick and pulpy, or thin like consomme? Our questions are answered as it comes to the table, looking nothing like we imagine. A little boat of soup is emptied into our dish, over a thin ginger biscuit. Break the latter, and there’s a slick of intensely maroon sorbet.
For a dish that reads like a Molton Brown handwash, it’s surprisingly delicious. The biscuit is all gentle ginger, the soup surprisingly gentle. It might all be a little to safe, were it not for the most intense sorbet we’ve had in a long time. Velvety, vivid and presented in just a small enough quantity to both satisfy and tantalise, it steals the show with such vigour that we barely notice it’s sitting on a block of chocolate and puffed rice unmentioned in the menu. That block doesn’t quite fit with the other components, but is nonetheless delicious, even if it is essentially just an incredibly posh toffee crisp.
There’s something oddly triumphant about the whole meal – Berners Taverns’ first vegan menu. It’s beautiful, and takes a sort of odd pleasure in smashing your preconceptions so thoroughly, grinning to itself as you collapse into a fruit and veg induced euphoria.★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Daniel Masters
The limited-edition plant-based menu at Berners Tavern, 10 Berners St London W1T 3NP, is avaialble until 30th June 2017. To book a table at call 020 7908 7979 or visit here.