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Sunday, 28 September 2014

Dear Simon Rogan...

It's not very often that I shell out my hard earned shrapnel for fine dining, so when I do, it's done in the hope that it will be worth every sturdy penny. I always judge the experience and food by equal measure, anywhere I go, but when you fall into the best of the best restaurant category, when you open a restaurant in one of London's most established and aristocratic 5* luxury hotels, and when you have such a prestigious chef at the helm, the judging criteria becomes wholly more than just a price tag or menu. Simon Rogan, welcome to your London base: Fera at Claridges.

With two Michelin stars at L'Enclume in the Lake District and originally from Southampton (incidentally also my home town, which achieves nothing else but to make me feel a little bit more fuzzy about the organic food loving forager!), Rogan has already earned Fera its first Michelin star in the same year it opened and will proudly appear on the 2015 Michelin Guide, so I'm super pleased to have gotten through the doors before pandemonium hits over his latest attempt to sensationalise local, organic, natural and/or wild produce.

If you can't bear to miss out on a privileged dining experiences like this, but if like me, you're not an investment banker, hedge fund manager, luxury property developer, overachieving consultant, adored celebrity, the Prime Minister himself or royalty (not forgetting those pesky independently wealthy types!), lunch is often the most cost effective way to enjoy fine dining. Set menus will almost certainly give you a delightful sample of an otherwise knock-you-socks-off al a carte selection, and Fera at Claridges is no different. 3-courses will cost you a mere £35 all seven days of the week, so I urge you to lace up your shoes and leave intimidation at the door...the staff are welcoming, polite, extremely proficient and impeccably invisible in the manner often only seen in places of exquisite service.

Given a complimentary glass of Champagne upon seating, everything was delivered with timely precision! The water was immediate, the bread was warm, with notes of sweet but bitter black treacle; the butter was rich and the unexpected amuse bouche was inventive, fresh, clean and light. The starter of Buttervilla tomatoes would have been lifted by some more texture for my palette, but their delicious sweetness was complimented sublimely by both lightly pickled cucumber and salty marrow, and the garlic custard really brought everything together while the marigold made the plate look like culinary art. The main course of Goosnargh duck was rich, tender and prepared superbly, with a vibrant sweetcorn puree and sweet caramelised cabbage. Dessert is not really my thing I would traditionally be happier with a cheese board, but this again looked stunning and tasted balanced, fresh and inspired.

At just over £80 between two people, I am over the moon about the affordability of this venture, the food was delicious, service flawless and open kitchen delightfully calm to watch. The ambience was refined and calm, though not hushed or staged. The d├ęcor was elegant and simple enough to reflect the organics of the natural life I think Rogan wishes to breathe into Claridges' new addition. Fera means 'wild' in Latin and while not outwardly so to the eye, both the food and design are reflected by earthy tones and captivating wilderness, most definitely allowing it to stand out from the traditional art deco opulence of the remainder of the hotel.

If only I was one of those aforementioned independently wealthy types, then maybe I could justify an evening tasting menu, complete with complimenting wines. I can't just yet, but if you can, book a table and let me know how it went!

Squaremeal Blogger of the Week - Restaurant Guide Square Meal
Fera At Claridge's on Urbanspoon
Amuse Bouche
Starter: Buttervilla tomatoes, marigold, bone marrow and garlic custard
Main Course: Goosnargh duck, caramelised cabbage, sweetcorn, yellow beans and hyssop

Dessert: Marinated raspberries, buttermilk, verbena and frozen yoghurt
Lunch menu £35 per person

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