Fera at Claridges: A Wild Wintery Lunch
Gone are the days of the stuffy restaurants, so quiet you can hear a pin drop, with stiff linen tablecloths and even starchier front of house crew. A new wave of fine dining brings big smiley warm welcomes, unfussy functional decor and a buzz so infectious, you feel you're part of the show itself. It is a breath of fresh air.
Fera is a part of this new wave. It's still as glossy as you would expect from anything associated with Claridges, the knockout dining room for one, but with Simon Rogan of Enclume behind it, there is genuine personality behind it, like you're learning about the story with every sip and mouthful. Fera means 'wild' in Latin, and there is a sense of rawness from the website right through to rocks on the tables and 'snacks' served on bark. Making something approachable which wouldn't ordinarily be so is a rare thing, and with Fera, you just want more.
It's a Baltic Saturday in late December, and the idea of a long, long lunch is highly appealing. Whilst this sounds like it has 'tasting menu' written all over it, we're pining after various dishes from the a la carte menu. 'Snacks', like rabbit arancini type things with lovage, pour out of the kitchen and whipped butter piques my interest; it's the most velvety sort of deliciousness I've had in ages, which says a lot because there's been lashings of whipped butter across many of London's restaurants lately.
Flaky white crab with fluffy frozen yogurt is as light as swede dumplings with generous black truffle shavings are comforting, the latter being a godsend for the day that's in it. I'm not backing down on the crab, though; I couldn't think of a better start to this lunch. The accompanying glass of Champagne, complementing the crab perfectly, might have something to do with it.
Hake is poached in brown butter and served with Jerusalem artichoke, creating an interesting nutty almost earthy flavour; samphire or sea aster would've done the trick, but I prefer this flavour pairing. Don't be fooled by the pretty-as-a-picture presentation of the belted Galloway beef, with bone marrow fat beets and shallots, it packs a heady punch.
You've got to love Fera for the little surprises along the way, like the fancy nitro palate cleanser with chocolate malt and unexpected dates. Like whipped butter, this whole nitrogen ice-cream malarkey is everywhere at the moment, and you know what? It's fun. Don't change a good thing.
Dessert. If not smashing a tasting menu, I tend to steer clear. However, I am a nosy parker, and like the artichoke ice-cream at The Manor had me doing somersaults with curiosity, so does the caramelised apple with celeriac and chestnut; how wintery and wonderful. Deal me in. Darty stays on piste with chocolate cream and apple marigold. The minute it arrives, I can't help but think of a one of my favourite old school ice lollies; Loop the Loop. To the Irish readers, if it reminds you of rainy summers spent on some beach eating sandy sausages, my job here is done.
Five Very Kerri things about Fera at Claridges
- The little surprises
- A dining room of grandeur
- A well-behaved sort of 'wild'
- The Tasting Menu (to come back for)
- Loop the Loop nostalgia