Back in April I was sat in my stepson’s cocktail bar, The Cufflink Club in Singapore, and I got chatting to a jovial chap who turned out to be a chef. He was telling me how, when he got back to the UK, he would be working on an exciting “new project” - I promised that I would swing by when his new place opened.
The chap’s name was Phil Carmichael. He was in Asia to represent his employer, Jason Atherton, at the Savour event and visit the Atherton group’s Keong Saik Snacks and Esquina restaurants.
Another Ramsay old boy, Phil has been working with Jason since they decided to quit the Maze operations and take on the world.
With a couple of Michelin stars to his name, Jason now operates: Pollen, Esquina and ‘Snacks’ in Singapore; 22 Ships in HK; The Commune Social and Table No.1 in Shanghai and, in London, Pollen St Social, Little Social, Social Eating House and their latest, Phil’s baby, Berners Tavern.
Berners Tavern is a grand high ceilinged room with ornate plasterwork and imposing chandeliers. If this isn’t enough grandeur, the walls are wreathed with traditional and quirky artworks of all shapes and sizes in gilt frames – a stunning space. I went for a breakfast and retuned for a late dinner.
Both times offered a completely different, yet similarly, Gatsbyesque vibe. At breakfast, Machito & His Afro-Cubans provided a chilled big band jazz sound. Berners provided a paper but I just sat, relaxed and enjoyed the room until my food arrived.
Brioche French toast, smoked streaky bacon, maple syrup
Grapefruit juice & a cappuccino
At dinner, the lights are turned down low and the music’s BPM and volume are cranked up. If only the candles strewn between the central booths could be replaced by flapper girls.
My wife and I shared our starters and opted for a ‘To share’ main.
Oysters (2 x Native Rock, West Mersea, Fine de Claire)
with pickled shallot & a Vietnamese dressing
Iceberg lettuce, avocado, Shropshire blue, garlic and yoghurt – a delicious combination that we have since replicated at home.
Whole slow cooked Irish ox, tongue ‘n’ cheek, whole roast carrots and onions, bone marrow & horseradish mash
– a delicious dish… luckily my ‘share’ was larger than my wife’s!
Verdict (Would I return?): I’ll definitely swing by for breakfast again and would be keen to go back in the evening with friends to enjoy more of the jazz age atmosphere.