This is a tale of a game with two very different halves; it’s the story of going out to support your team, the favourites of the championship and watching them limp unconvincingly through the first half leaving you with an uneasy sense of disappointment only to allay your fears and sweep to victory in the second half. And such were my meals at Simon Rogan’s Fera at Claridges, taking over from what was then Gordon Ramsay at Claridges.
The first outing was a lunch visit to take advantage of their lunchtime special, 3 courses for £30 for a little weekend birthday treat. Staff were exemplary, I arrived to find a lovely birthday card and yet, I was more taken with their incredibly classy uniforms than the meal as a whole. Seriously, they’re fantastic. I’m planning to to raid their staff wardrobe if I ever get a chance. We launched with breads served with a cooked butter which was sweet and spectacular but from there items were pleasantly forgettable. We had smoked bantam yolk with salt-baked kohirabi to start which was essentially a yolk in a creamy sort of sauce. My skate was well cooked but rather bland. Admittedly husband did win the ordering lottery in that instance with his Goosnargh guinea hen, but he’s not the one writing this. Dessert was marinated raspberries served with some confusing iced buttermilk with husband opting for the far richer chocolate cream with some shortbread. Ok, but hardly a meal to remember.
Which is why I was not best pleased on hearing that the venue for a Christmas lunch was none other than Fera. I was pleasantly surprised to be recognised by the staff on my arrival (which did lead me to question what on earth I’d done the first time round to be recognised the second time, 6 weeks later!) but determined to not let previous experiences mar the group, settled in for a relaxing afternoon. It was a tasting menu sort of afternoon, which I was hoping would offer up the chance to see some of the menu that perhaps would change my previous experiences. And oh boy, did it just.
We started off with the bread, everyone was just as enamoured as we were – I ever so knowledgeably informed the group about the cooked butter, only serving to further impress our charming waitress who had the measure of us pretty quickly and patiently answered even the most ludicrous of question. A series of snacks came winging their way out to us, each more divine than the last.
The rosemary cracker was liberally spread with a blue cheese mousse, both light and rich in one mouthful. The rabbit and lovage bites were warm and moist, the cod mousse lighter than air, but it was the swede dumplings that stole the show. There was one moment where I thought 7 people around the table were simultaneously going to attempt to lick their bowls but sense prevailed in good time before we were escorted from the premises. I regret showing such restraint, that creamy Isle of Mull cheese with a light truffle presence was calling out to be licked clean.
The carrots with ox tongue was merely ok, salted ox tongue sounding a great deal scarier than it actually is. The grilled brussel sprouts prompting stories of unflattering comparisons with Christmas lunches of yore. The sea bass was spot on, delicately cooked and covered in the most fantastic foam and the duck breast could be sliced through just as easily as butter.
Taking a little bit of a break before dessert, the answer to the question of a cheese board should always be greeted with the affirmative and even those who declined soon found themselves drawn in just to slice off a little hunk. I’m not sure how we found the room as not one, but two dessert courses were to follow, not to mention the obligatory petit fours. Chocolate malt nitro was like a frozen chocolate hazelnut ice cream and the pineapple dessert was reminiscent of hot summers in NZ where pineapple was a common feature on the BBQ. The gingerbread and sheep’s yoghurt were a little superfluous to requirement though.
The interiors are a tad more stylish than in their previous life with a glittering bar featuring celebrity Warhol-esque pictures lining the interior and a slightly more sedate main restaurant inside.
I admit to feeling a little disappointed that my lunchtime special didn’t quite live up to the quality I would have expected from Fera, but the tasting menu more than made up for this!