Fera at Claridge’s is the hotel’s brand spanking new restaurant by Simon Rogan – his first London venture since the very successful “pop-up” Roganic in Marylebone. Having eaten particularly well at L’enclume and The French, we were really excited to be trying his new place.
Fera (which means ‘wild’ in Latin) has replaced the old Gordon Ramsay restaurant and what a transformation it is. The dining room is ever so handsome. It’s a very battleship grey affair with plush carpets, dark leather seating and beautiful sections of stained glass on the ceiling.
It’s not exactly a cheap restaurant but darling, we were in Claridge’s after all. On our lunch visit only three menus were available; 3 courses at £85 or a smaller and a larger tasting menu priced at £95 and £125. We opted for the latter and weren’t disappointed in the slightest.
We started with a barrage of snacks, all beautifully presented, which were continuously brought to the table, some by the chefs. Takes deep breath ‘Pea flour wafers with salt cod mousse’, ‘mackerel with caviar and seawater cream’, ‘stewed rabbit with lovage’, ‘puffed barley with smoked eel and watercress’, ‘chicken skin with thyme and roasted garlic’; each were intricate mouthfuls of deliciousness – textures and flavours galore.
‘Tunworth, potato and duck heart’ was a really comforting bowl of…mashed potato topped with duck hearts. Sounds so simple yet it was so delicious; rich, salty, cheesy, meaty. In stark contrast was the ‘Portland crab with lettuce and seaweed’ which was so light and refreshing. The delicate crab was matched perfectly with the crisp lettuce.
A wedge of malt bread with creamy bone marrow dip was next, and was as moreish as it gets. The accompanying cup of seriously salty mushroom broth should be prescribed on the NHS as a hangover cure, ’cause after a couple of gulps of the stuff, mine miraculously disappeared!
‘Raw beef, smoked broccoli cream, scallop roe and acidic apple juice’ was a really impressive dish. The apple juice, which was so sharp I mistook it for lemon juice, was a really interesting pairing for the meat – strong and garish yet not overpowering. The chunks of beef were so tender too – I’ver never come across raw beef quite like it.
‘Asparagus with savoury onions (eh? Savoury onions?), St George’s and chrysanthemum’ could have been a really boring plate of food if it weren’t for the rich, porky jus that accompanied it. It took the dish to the next level.
One of my favourite dishes was ‘prawns from Gairloch, prime pork fat, borage and chicory’. The prawns were plump, juicy little beggars which had been coated in a layer of pork fat which gave them a real richness.
The grilled salad was served in a beautifully handmade wooden bowl with a giant wooden fork, which made scooping everything up a little difficult but fun at the same time. Underneath the leaves (which had been grilled over embers) was a truffle custard which was very tasty indeed.
Another of my favourite dishes was ‘plaice braised in nettle butter with radishes, shrimps, horseradish and salsify’. Both the quality and cooking of each ingredient was so perfect; the shrimps and plaice particularly were exquisite. The horseradish provided an underlying heat which was just right.
Our final savoury dish was ‘dry-aged Herdwick hogget, pickled tongue, hen of the woods, turnips’ and it was nice to get my chops around a bit of meat finally. The hogget was cooked brilliantly and the sweet and tangy tongue was to die for. Again, like the many dishes before, it was drizzled with the most meaty and delicious of sauces.
‘Baked yoghurt, pear poached in perry, mint and muscovado’ was simply presented in a small glass dish topped with a piece of crisp sugar on the top. ‘Beetroot, buttermilk, liquorice, apple marigold’ was more adventurous however. I love puddings made with savoury ingredients and here the flavours had been balanced masterfully. I usually hate liquorice but it had been made it into little chewy nuggets which tasted lush.
‘Outdoor rhubarb with melilot, linseed and sweet cicely’ had a really nice balance of textures with the crisp and slightly chewy linseed biscuit being a real highlight. The rhubarb wasn’t inedibly tart either which I often find to be the case. Finally, a chamomile milkshake was served in a tall cup which lifted up to reveal a delicate and tiny chocolate cookie – both of which were lovely.
We were kindly offered a tour of the kitchen which was fascinating to see. Thirty or so chefs beavered away at their stations in such a calm and controlled manner; considering it was their first official weekend service the place ran like clockwork. We were then taken to the pastry section where we were given our petit fours, which was a great touch as we could eat them whilst talking to the chefs that actually made them.
We were quite bowled over by our lunch at Fera – they’ve got it all so right. Service too was so very friendly and efficient; men as handsome as the room, dressed in crisp, dark blue suits, made us feel at ease from the moment we walked through the curtained doorway. Match that with a gorgeous room, a menu that is not only inventive but totally delicious and not to mention some rather stunning crockery, and you’ve got yourself a winner of a restaurant. It’s bloody expensive, but my God is it worth it.