“ Wilton Place / London / United Kingdom / SW1X 7RL / www.theberkeleyhotello / 44 20 7235 1200. „
As you may know from some of my other reviews, eating is a big part of my life and for the last eleven years whilst I have been living (mainly) and working in London I have made the most of the fantastic restaurant scene on offer. I have been fortunate to have friends who equally take great pleasure in trying out some of Londons finest, in particular Robert, who accompanied me to Petrus two weeks ago.
Gordon Ramsey opened Petrus in 1999 in St Jamess Street although it is now based in The Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge. Marcus Wareing has been Head Chef since the opening and has one Michelin star for this restaurant and I believe he also has Michelin stars for his other restaurants (e.g. Savoy Grill).
Booking and first impressions
It was Robert that chose the venue for dinner this time but I made the booking. I booked via the trusty www.toptable.co.uk about a month in advance, I wanted a table for 8pm on a Wednesday night but could only get 7.30pm which was fine. The restaurant called me a couple of days later to confirm the booking and then the day before they called me again to reconfirm and also to remind me that it was a non-smoking restaurant and dress should be smart..
I arranged to meet Robert inside and I arrived before him. The hotel staff on duty were extremely attentive and about three of them rushed to greet me, find out my business (i.e. hotel or restaurant guest) and take my coat. Off reception to the left there was a bar that looked quite young and funky but I didnt actually go in so didnt get a good look, to the right there is a more traditional hotel style bar and as Petrus is accessed through this bar I went in here to wait.
My experience in this bar was less than satisfactory, I was shown to a table and offered a drinks menu, however I did not take it I just asked for a glass of dry white wine. Still waiting ten minutes later and people who walked in after me had reviewed the menu and ordered and received their drinks, I managed to catch somebodys attention and was finally brought my glass of wine. My waiter was so profusely apologetic that I decided to forgive on this occasion, these things happen after all. Shortly afterwards Robert arrived and we decided to go through to the restaurant, I had expected that my wine would be transferred to our dining bill but this bar is not associated with Petrus and they cannot cross charge so I was handed my bill and it was for a whopping £13.50! Now I am very well used to London prices and am even known for having certain extravagances but I thought this was simply ridiculous. I handed over £15 and although they were very slow giving me my change on a silver plate I was determined to wait for it and not make it a £15 glass of wine. It was not even a big glass.
It should be noted that this is not Petruss price for a glass of wine, but I am mentioning because this bar is right outside the restaurant and particularly if you are waiting for someone it is a logical place to have a pre-dinner drink. My advice is dont. Or at least look at the menu and make an informed decision. Once inside Petrus there is a small seating area and you can have a pre-dinner drink here but I didnt know that until it was too late.
Petrus is a beautiful restaurant, it feels elegant and expensive, the colours are deep plum with dark wood but offset by crisp white table linen. The tables are well spaced out as you would expect in a restaurant such as this and the chairs were big, padded and comfortable. The whole of one wall is taken up with rows upon rows of bottles of wines and it is very aesthetic. I was very pleased with my surroundings.
Menu, Food and Service
Throughout the meal the service was extremely good, there were plenty of staff around and they all had specific jobs so we were served by different people not the same person throughout the meal. The waiter taking our orders was very knowledgeable about the food being served, how it is prepared and as neither Robert nor I am embarrassed to ask if we dont understand something on the menu, I can confirm that he was able to answer our questions easily.
The serving of the courses is almost ceremonial, the waiter will come out of the kitchen with the plates and then he will wait in a small archway for another waiter to join him and then they make their way to the table together. With each dish we were served, including pre-appetizers we were given a very thorough explanation as to what was on the plate including what the sauces, garnishes or dressings comprised.
The menu was quite unusual in that you can either opt for the 8 course taster menu for £80 or you chose a 3 course meal for £60, by this I mean a minimum of £60 as some dishes have surcharges but none have deductions, also it is £60 whether or not you want a dessert. We were unanimous that three courses would be quite enough, which is just as well as the eight course is only available if the whole table wants it, which makes perfect sense or co-ordination would be difficult.
I was extremely happy with the menu, there were about eight starters and main courses to choose from, unfortunately I cannot remember what they all were but I remember that it was a difficult decision as they all sounded delicious. I also remember that there was a good selection of red meat, white meat and fish but I think just one vegetarian option in each.
As Robert prefers not to drink, the only wine we ordered with the meal was a single glass for me. There are about half a dozen each of reds and whites available by the glass, most are under £10 although one or two are up to £15 and one was £89 which at least made me feel better about the £13.50 from earlier. The wine list is extensive and I did have a flick through anyway, the cheapest bottle of wine was £20 but this was pretty much by itself at this end of the scale, it would have been easy to find a nice bottle for about £30 or £40, which is the range I would probably have gone for, but there really were bottles at all prices and the list is too big for me to give an average. The most expensive one I saw on the list was £12,000, which is a lot cheaper than the most expensive I have seen ever which was £37,000 at the Mirabelle! On this occasion I settled for a £6.50 glass of white.
For starters I chose the foie gras and Robert selected roast quail, for the main I went for halibut with quail eggs and Robert had the seabass. Before the starters arrived we had two small complimentary pre-appetizers, always a nice touch. After these we were onto the real starters, I got a very generous portion of foie gras however it was completely by itself and as there was so much of it I was getting a bit bored by the end. I also thought it was particularly sloppy and as I always chose to have my meat well cooked and with no signs of redness shall I say, I was not particularly enthused to see it here either. I thought Roberts quail looked gorgeous, he didn't really comment on it but we both cleared our plates with no trouble.
After another complementary course we were brought our main courses. We asked for halibut and seabass and this was served pretty much all by its lonesome on a big plate. I would have liked a side order of vegetables but this is not an option. I enjoyed my fish as did Robert but to be honest neither of us though there was anything particularly special about it and we both would have liked a bit of something else on the plate.
Next we were offered the cheese board but we declined and got our dessert menus instead. Only upon seeing the dessert menu did we realise that had we had the cheese it would not have been covered by our £60 but would have meant another £7.50 surcharge. The desserts were a fairly typical selection of chocolate moussey and ice-creamy things very nicely presented and not too big or too rich.
The finale of the evening was the bon bon tray which came round after dessert, a selection of delicious chocolates and we were given about six each which we had with our coffee. I was also given a small box of the bon bons to take home but poor Robert had to do without as this is a treat for ladies only.
And so to the bill, our three course meal for two with a bottle of sparkling water, no alcohol other than the single £6.50 glass of wine, coffee for two and 12.5% service included was £190.
The venue, ambience, service, staff and the extra touches were excellent. I enjoyed my food indeed thought it was very good but I expected superb from a restaurant of this calibre and with this reputation and for this price.
I did not like the way that we had no choice but to spend £60 on a three course meal as often I do not want a dessert so I would have preferred it if the courses were individually priced. Consequently my rating has been driven down by the cost, I am not adverse to paying this much for a dinner and I have done so many times but this is the only time when I have come away somehow resenting it. I think if the bill had been in the region of £120 - £150 I would have been very happy and would have been definitely a four or possibly a 5 rating.
Petrus is an award winning restaurant and has a fabulous reputation and I have struggled with whether I should recommend it or not. It is certainly worth experiencing and I am sure will be a memorable evening for most people. But on balance I have decided to say no, because virtually off the top of my head I can think of about ten London restaurants of the same ilk, same price and if a friend of mine said they were thinking of going to Petrus I would probably dissuade them in favour of one of these instead.
Full Bar. Cuisine: French.