Chefs injecting fun into fine dining25th June, 2014 by Lucy Shaw
The winds of change are howling through London’s fine dining scene. While the casual dining trend continues to gather pace, its influence has seeped into some of the top hotel restaurants in the capital, which, keen not to appear out of touch or risk losing business by failing to give customers what they want, are adapting their approach to fine dining.
An interesting shift is taking place in the London dining scene, and while burger vans and fried chicken shacks still have their place, after years of penny pinching, a fondness for fine dining has returned, with Londoners craving attentive customer service and a sense of occasion.
As we emerge from the grips of the recession, with the capital’s property prices booming like never before, there has been a change in mindsets, with a desire to feel well looked after while eating out taking precedence over forfeiting good service for the sake of dining somewhere trendy.
Being made to feel not only welcome but special has become a non-negotiable for many Londoners when they dine out, though rather than stuffy service, starched tablecloths and whispering waiters, a new breed of fine dining establishment has emerged in recent months that prides itself on offering, according to Gordon Ramsay protégé Marcus Wareing, a “dinner party atmosphere.”
Having just signed a new 10-year contract with The Berkeley hotel in Knightsbridge, Wareing is so keen to adapt to the times that his eponymous, two Michelin-starred restaurant has just undergone a £1.4m makeover due to it being, in Wareing’s words, “dated”.
Closing the restaurant for two months, Wareing brought in the Robert Angell Design Studio, which recently put its hand to Hartnett, Holder & Co at Lime Wood in Hampshire and Kaspar’s at The Savoy, to look after the interiors.
Dropping the “Wareing” from the name, as part of the pricy revamp, starched linen was banished to the bonfire and burgundy interiors were replaced with soft greens, chestnut browns and marble to give the space a lighter, more modern feel, while tasting menus will be less heavily relied upon.
In order to make the place less intimidating, service is American in its approach, with warmth and friendliness triumphing over formality.
“My number one priority is ending the stuffiness. People want to come and relax and not sit there while the waiter talks you through the 10 different ingredients in the dish,” 43-year-old Wareing told the London Evening Standard newspaper at the time of the relaunch, adding, “If someone comes in and wants three courses and a glass of Chardonnay, we’re not going to stick our noses in the air.
I want people to have that feeling you get when you’ve been to a really good dinner party. That’s what I want to reproduce.” In a bid to give the dining room a more relaxed feel, a 10-seater chef’s table has been added, giving diners the opportunity of a front row seat to the action.
The lunch menu also includes on-trend tasting plates, such as goat’s curd on sourdough and chicken liver parfait with bacon jam at an affordable £6 a pop.