LWSY Fera > Simon Rogan arrives at Claridges Hotel, London
As I swoosh through the doors at Claridge’s, Roman the Head Doormen welcomes me back as if I’d just popped out for a coffee. With a hotel so full of history, the story began in the 1800’s with William and Marianne Claridge running a small hotel from 51 Brook Street. Years on, more houses are acquired along the street and in 1956 Claridge’s Hotel was born. Towards the end of the Century, and already the hotel of choice in London by so many Royals and dignitaries alike, was purchased by the owner of the Savoy Hotel and closed for a significant re-design by CW Stephens which was to define the hotel forever.
During the 20’s and 30’s Claridge’s was the place to party. The Lalique door panels which are still present today and the Deco lobby were installed during this time. Kings and Queens took refuge, and Hollywood’s elite would be seen gliding through the revolving doors.
During the 90’s Parisian designer Thierry Despont was passed the baton to lead the next phase of restoration. Designing the former Gordon Ramsay restaurant where Fera now resides, The Reading Room, and the Fumoir. The late David Collins brought Claridge’s up to speed during the millennium. During the early 2000’s the great Diane Von Furstenburg returned to re-open the 20 rooms she first transformed in the 70’s followed by David Linley who in 2012 opened 25 Linley Suites. India Mahdavi has sprinkled her colourful magic in the most delicate fashion with mustard yellow accents throughout a handful of the rooms, and the DVF suites are amongst the most beautifully designed and colourful hotel suites I have ever seen.
So as 2014 arrives and Gordon Ramsay departs Claridge’s, Interior Designer Guy Oliver was appointed to create the home where Fera stands today. A beautiful space in dark green, taupe and grey. With careful attention paid to the history of the room, you are no doubt dining in an Art Deco dream world. Opening just a couple of months ago I was recently invited to experience the restaurant. With a separate entrance on Brook Street, you arrive through ‘Wild Meadow’ a beautiful installation by acclaimed landscape gardener Tom Stuart-Smith.
Fera has been inspired by the rhythms of nature, the name translates to ‘wild’ in Latin. Reflecting both the primal influence of nature and the seasonal ingredients selected, British chef Simon Rogan’s natural style of cooking could have been considered an unusual pairing for such a classic hotel. Yet as you arrive into such a timeless restaurant space, an element of modernity to his menu, I think has been drawing a new crowd to the hotel.
I must start from the beginning though if I’m going to share my experience. I had added a short post to LWSY on the impending launch of Fera a few months ago so have been looking forward to the opening for some time. This was obviously going to be quite the experience. Personally there’s nothing more indulgent than a weekday lunchtime spent in a hotel such as Claridge’s, what a way to start my weekend. I arrived a little earlier than our reservation time so I can take in all the magic. Now my date was late, really late, so I sat at the bar, made a friend, and the unexpected cocktail menu sampling began.
Did I work for Imbibe I was asked?! Alas no (secretly happy that I must have looked professional?!), so good job I had my notebook out. I knew I was in for a treat, the complexity of ingredients that make up these seasonal cocktails are quite astounding. Have you ever tasted a parsnip liqueur? Or honey shrub? Thought not. Can I also just point out that I read Jay Rayners review of Fera recently who was unnecessarily dramatic in his view of this cocktail list. Silly man. Don’t listen to a word he said. You’ll be blown away.
Pea Wine, Bee Pollen & Shiso Radish, cocktail ingredients all made in the kitchens at Fera.
As you will know David Downton is the hotels Artist in Residence. His beautiful illustrations of friends of the hotel are framed around the bar. Spot the Portobello Road Gin proudly taking centre stage.
As my date arrives we take our seats and begin our culinary adventure. Farm owner and forager, this is Simon Rogan’s second restaurant venture in London. His commitment to seasonal, local and fresh produce combined with his creative initiative are what sets Fera apart from any other restaurant in London, that and you’re sat in Claridge’s for goodness sake. Chefs are often deployed to offer occasional courses, and the sommelier was a dream in pairing my courses to different glasses. You’re invited to visit the kitchens too so don’t be shy. You can see that central to the experience here is this kitchen, which is framed by a magnificent mural hand drawn with a sharpie pen by Artist Linn Meyers. Go and look at this close up, it’s terribly impressive. The hours it must have taken!
One of the first things which goes slightly unnoticed I’m sure by some, is the removal of table cloths. A detail also noticed by Interior Designer Rose Uniake who recently joined critic AA Gill at Fera. That’s ok by me. Personally, I think the room would be completely different swathed in white linen. The beautiful bare walnut tables fit beautifully with the Clapham made tableware. Think slate, bark and stone, all beautiful colourings. Reminiscent of restaurants in Cornwall over fine dining in Claridge’s the tableware suited the menu perfectly. Weighty cutlery by David Mellor was duly noted by my inquisitive design eye.
To the menu >> (Sadly I picked up the wrong menu when I left so can’t tell you exactly what I had)
For a snippet however…
Puffed barley, smoked eel, watercress (image 3)
Soda bread and brown butter (2)
Winslade, potato and duck heart (6)
Images 7 & 8 were Fera’s Strawberries and a wonderful chocolate and meringue pudding.
(I promise to re-visit this with full details!!)
For lunch you may choose three courses at £45 or the tasting menu at £85 or £105. My guest was short on time so we opted for the 3 courses which felt equally as indulgent as the tasting menus that passed our tables. No matter which menu you select, I challenge you to be disappointed.
As Spencer Tracy declared, I too would rather go to Claridge’s than to heaven when I die.
With thanks to Christina & Paula for a wonderful afternoon. Images cc. LWSY & Claridge’s
Claridge’s Hotel, Brook Street, Mayfair, W1K 4HR