Avid watchers of the British TV series Masterchef: The Professionals, Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband determined that, on their next London visit, they’d get a table at Marcus.

This is the eponymous restaurant in the Berkeley Hotel for Marcus Wareing, a chef noted for putting the fear of God into the TV show’s rather less experienced contenders. We’d enjoyed his straight shooting and uncompromising style in front of the cameras and couldn’t wait to taste his food.

Delighted to be able to secure a table for two on a Monday night, fate then threw us a curve ball. After booking (and giving a credit card guarantee) we both succumbed to heavy colds. It was too late to cancel, without penalty, and we didn’t have any slots left to be able to reschedule if we’d asked the restaurant to accommodate us and our lurgies. We pressed on, navigating to Knightsbridge for our reservation.

And so, for the first time in a fine dining establishment in our memory, we didn’t even consider the tasting menu or, indeed, ordering a bottle of champagne. Were we feeling unwell? Absolutely.

Greedy Girl needed to ‘fess up about this in the interests of full disclosure. With a runny nose and a gravelly throat, she wonders if she got the most out of the food. Having said that, there was nothing amiss with her olfactory sense – the aromas were pretty good; they just didn’t result in the usual salivation and anticipation.

The dining room at Marcus is large, spacious and sumptuously appointed. There are deep sofas in some corners which can be set up for two people to sit, side-by-side. Greedy Girl had a fleeting moment of disappointment that she and gluttonous husband were shown to a standard table but figured that cuddling up on a sofa could result in both of us snoring loudly. All good. Ordering a glass of Moet and a gin and tonic, we contemplated our food choices.

If you don’t take the degustation, you can take three (£85) or four courses (£105) a la carte. We chose three courses. Greedy Girl took a starter, main and dessert, while gluttonous husband chose a starter, middle and main. Sorted. Greedy Girl had read the online wine list and spied a half bottle of one of her favourite reds, Chateauneuf du Pape. Sadly, it wasn’t on the restaurant’s extensive printed list. No matter. We could do without the histamines anyway.

First up was a little treat – the amuse bouche. These were shrimp crackers and polenta cakes with tomato. Greedy Girl was delighted by the polenta and gluttonous husband by the shrimp. Both did their job of priming our tastebuds. Very enjoyable.

Best restaurants London: Marcus

Amuse bouche

Greedy Girl didn’t find anything under the main course options that particularly thrilled her, so asked if one of the middle courses could be served as a main. When that was readily agreed to, she opted for a pork starter.

Best restaurants London: Marcus

Crispy pork, girolles, Parmesan, truffle

This was pork with a crispy, salty coating, a parmesan cream, girolle mushrooms and flecks of black truffle. The aroma was intoxicating, the combination of flavours and textures delightful and an unqualified yum. Greedy Girl was impressed she could taste each element.

Gluttonous husband took the veal sweetbread with artichoke and pea. It was absolutely the biggest sweetbread either of us had ever seen and the dish was an enormous size to be called a starter. The meat was cooked perfectly; it had a lovely crust but still very tender and moist inside. The accompaniments however, were a bit of a disappointment. While the artichoke was fine, the pea cream (poured at the table) just overwhelmed the rest of the dish.

Best restaurants London: Marcus

Veal sweetbread

Next up was the ‘middle’ course for gluttonous husband – duck egg with smoked eel, thyme and sorrel. This was a very pretty presentation; the egg yolk had the consistency of a gel, gluttonous husband thought it had been cooked sous vide. It was quite a heavy dish; both the eel and egg were quite rich, while there was no discernible flavour of thyme. We tried to find out what the slightly pickled vegetable (the pink element in the picture, below) because it helped cut through the richness but found it impossible to understand our very bubbly waitress (who we later learned was from Chartres, in France). Greedy Girl should have tried out her schoolgirl French).

Best restaurants London: Marcus

Duck egg with eel

Greedy Girl ordered another glass of Moet as we approached our ‘mains’. Hers was the dish pictured at the top of this post, lobster with tomato, squid and orzo. Two very decent-sized pieces of lobster sat on top of orzo (sort of like rice-shaped pasta) and pieces of squid. There was a disc of tomato on the plate and a tomato broth was poured over the top at the table. It was perfectly edible but there was no real wow factor in the dish.

Gluttonous husband took the milk fed lamb, spring onion, olive and curd. A very generous serving, gluttonous husband was pleased with the way the curd and lamb went together but none of the other elements really came to the fore.

Best restaurants London: Marcus

Milk fed lamb

It was time for dessert – Greedy Girl’s choice. She took the warm chocolate pudding with cacao and salted caramel. This was a very good, comforting dessert. A crunchy thin biscuit on the top was very satisfying and the coating of the pudding cracked open to reveal a delightfully gooey centre. Even the salted caramel ice-cream worked well – any chef who can get Greedy Girl to eat ice-cream performs a small miracle.

Best restaurants London: Marcus

An elegant chocolate dessert

The wait staff had already laid two sets of cutlery before the dessert was served; Greedy Girl was always going to share … but she didn’t have to. A complimentary dessert was put before gluttonous husband – one of those featured on the tasting menu, a little lemon meringue slice with iced tea sorbet on top. Attractive, tangy, interesting. Gluttonous husband was well pleased. It helped overcome his disappointment in asking for an Amaro or a Fernet as a digestive, to be told they had Amaretto. Hmmm. Not exactly a replacement …

Best restaurants London: Marcus

Lemon meringue iced tea

Done. We were sent on our way with our petits fours in a little box, plus some cookies for the next day. We left full but not with the usual spark we get at the end of an extraordinary meal. This was good cooking and beautiful presentation, but it hit very few high notes; enjoyable but not startling. Were we affected by our colds? Probably. Did we expect more? Definitely.


Berkeley Hotel, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London SW1


Marcus - The Berkeley Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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