Berner’s tavern is all about the room. It’s the first impression and really the only impression that counts. High vaulted ceilings and a room absolutely covered with gilt-framed paintings, photographs, mirrors, all twinkling under the light of the chandeliers, this is a place to see and a place to be seen. The effect is glamorous, decadent, lavish and buzzy. I’m positively fizzing with glee.
And they have round tables so once you’ve stopped looking around with an air of childlike wonder, you’re actually able to talk to each other. So far, pretty good.
Any place that isn’t ashamed of having Prawn cocktail on the menu almost immediately wins favours with me – so what if it’s reminiscent of a 70’s dinner party, this is a decade that I think I would have quite enjoyed, being a fan of Prawn Cocktail, Black Forest Gateau and the like. And while I’m caught in a daydream about Black Forest cake, I decide to just take the plunge and go retro. This is retro with a twist though as my Prawn cocktail comes with a chunk of lobster and a genius twist of crispy shallots.
Since I’m going for the unashamedly retro power lunch, I’ve opted for steak. Grass-fed Cumbrian steak, standing on a wooden platter for me to spoon onto my plate with an accompaniment of chips, it’s no wonder all these happy buzzy people are eating here today. No, its not the best steak I’ve ever had, that accolade I still reserve for Hawksmoor, but I wasn’t expecting it to be, it was very good, cooked exactly as I’d asked and flavoursome and tender.
It’s hardly challenging to talk me into having dessert, but this time I’m more keen that most. Chef Jason Atherton is the dessert king – this is really because his Pollen Street Social is the only restaurant I know with a dedicated dessert bar and as far as I’m concerned, that is all the reason I need.
We order up a selection of macaroons and a warm cinnamon doughnut with chocolate ganache and almond sorbet. The doughnut is rich and gooey and perfectly complemented by the almond sorbet which is light and cuts through the richness of the doughnut, conveying this feeling of a light and airy dessert. A tricky combination to pull off for a doughnut.
Now here’s something that’s never happened to me before. Lunch at Berners Tavern and I don’t eat anything until breakfast the next day. Usually if I’m been on a decadent lunch such as this, I claim that I can never eat again, but I’m confident that others also end up sneaking in some toast just before bed, but not this time. Such is the power of a Berners Tavern lunch.