The place: The triumphant arrival of Simon Rogan at the prestigious space left vacant by Gordon Ramsay sees the highly seasonal, ‘new natural’ style of cooking embraced by the smart set. Plush, expensive and elegantly run, Fera serves a weekday lunch menu, an à la carte menu and a tasting menu. Dishes include dry-aged Herdwick hogget with sweetbreads, cucumber, yoghurt and blackberry, and hake in caramelised cabbage with new potatoes, chicken skin and nasturtium. London W1, feraatclaridges.co.uk
The reviewer: Tom Parker-Bowles is a TV presenter and food writer. His cookbook, Let’s Eat: Recipes from my Kitchen Notebook (Pavilion), is on sale now.
The service: Fera has legions of staff ready to replace a fork, spoon or hairpiece in the blink of an eye. Service is impeccable and charming, if extremely ‘fayn dayning’. Conversation tends to be somewhat staccato when constantly interrupted for yet another long-winded introduction to a new dish. This problem is not unique to Fera. But please, let us pour our own wine.
The food: ‘Dear God, spare me from another tasting menu’, I was thinking. ‘What’s wrong with choosing three courses rather than wasting four hours of one’s life being lectured about the ingredients, provenance and technique?’ On this occasion, however, Simon Rogan restored my faith. He’s an astonishingly talented cook, more concerned with flavour than just making the plate (or slate) look like some form of edible still life (although he does that, too).
A starter of slow-cooked rabbit clad in a crisp onion batter was magnificent. A small mouthful, sure, but a wonderful one. Then a British aligot: soft cheese whipped into buttery mashed potato and topped with small chunks of slow-cooked duck’s heart. Everything is soft and seductive, the very essence of edible aplomb. The brill was beautifully cooked and came surrounded by blewit mushrooms, tiny potatoes and stuff picked on the beach: a taste of late spring that dances around the mouth. This is real food, the kind you never forget – like the prawns so fresh I swear I saw them winking, draped in rich lardo. Exquisite ingredients, exquisitely cooked.
The bottom line: Rogan’s one hell of a cook, and Fera’s one hell of a restaurant. But prices are teeth-clenchingly high. With a cheap bottle of wine and the tasting menu, I didn’t get much change from £350 for two. At lunch. So would I go back? Of course – if someone else were paying. feraatclaridges.co.uk
Sustainable Restaurant Association rating (thesra.org): 8/10
There aren’t many London restaurants that are able to source a large proportion of produce from their own farm. Fera’s Cumbrian farm provides much of the meat and it is all free range. With a sustainable seafood policy in place, you can be confident that the Portland crab and Scottish prawns are good options.