Fera as in wild - like feral. It’s Latin and it’s also the latest dining installation at Claridges hotel from Simon Rogan who hails from, most notably, L’Enclume up in Cumbria; a two Michelin star establishment with a heavy focus on foraging and locality. I’ve never been, but I know people who have and they say it’s better than The Fat Duck.
Wild is perhaps not an attribute you would necessarily align with Claridges hotel; one of London’s chicest hospitality destinations - all elegant sophistication and not in the least bit untamed. I might have felt a little vulnerable and prey-like having flung myself through the revolving doors into Claridges vast urban safari of Art Deco luxe and encountered a distinct lack of enthusiasm to show me to the dining room but, once you’ve located the red velvet curtains of Fera, it’s hospitality central. The staff are so charming and pitch-perfect in their reception it’s almost comical. It also helps that they all look, well, just so damned good! I particularly loved the girl’s uniforms of colourblock navy and black long sleeved shift dresses; a look that The Blonde summed up as ‘futuristic air hostess’.
The dining room really is pretty damned beathtaking - designed by Guy Oliver (who, we were informed, was eating at the next door table to us on our opening lunch visit). It’s an oasis of smoke green, lush leather textures, opulent carpets, stained glass ceiling panels and an ornate hand painted wall.
Said wall also features a vast illuminated entrance kitchen pass (more voyeuristic diners can even enter for a kitchen tour) adding a bit of spotlit glamour for the stars of our show; the chefs.
In the centre of the room you’ve got an imposing tree with spindly branches stretching up to the sun-like stained glass above.
We started with one of the nameless cocktails (they’re listed by their ingredients and there’s pretty much something for every palette ranging from the bellini to the negroni to the sour) which we were told was most martini-like. The bar has employed the services of The Moonshine Kid (he of Talented Mr Fox) who has worked closely with the kitchen to come up with one of the most original lists I’ve seen in a while. In signature Moonshine style, you can expect all kinds of clever distillation tricks. No Monster Munch martini here, instead tipples reference the fresh produce that Fera, most of which is shipped down from L’Enclume’s sustainable farm once a week.
It was The Blonde’s birthday and we were in the celebrating mood so managed to massively up-sell ourselves into selecting the second most expensive menu available (the subtly incremental price point differences between each of the five lunch menus really speaks to your credit card like no other). I was handed the priceless menu on arrival which was an interesting move… so who know how much damage I inflicted on my wallet by volunteering to pick up the bill; ah, the perils of looking like a kept woman.
Anyway, here’s the lowdown on our ten courses, and then some…
First up, pea wafer, fennel and flowers - flavours as bright and refreshing as the colour palette. The pea wafer being Michelin’s answer to the kale crisp.
Stewed rabbit with lovage sounded like we were in for a casserole-esque dish but what arrived was a crunchy fritter with a sort of pork scratching-like exterior and creamy gamey centre; like the first course, a great play on alternate textures.
The sommelier was very keen to have us on the orange wine - a wine made from the entire grape (like how they make rouge but with white grapes instead of red) and fermented in a clay jug for up to half a year. However, with prices starting at £60 we went for a more affordable Morellino di Scansano instead. Excellent hand-crafted stemware here, courtesy of Mark Thomas.
Mackerel, caviar and seawater cream - a mooreish rich ceviche.
This next course was not listed on the menu so came with a bit of fanfare - apparently Rogan considers bread and butter to be a course in its own right so here we have a mushroom broth (just out of shot), a warm hunk of soda-ish bread and bone marrow butter. The broth was loaded with umami (think mushroom ketchup) and The Blonde lapped it up, despite his fear of the funghi.
This next course… oh, my: Winslade, potato and duck heart. The creamiest of mashed potato, infused with Winslade cheese (a Camembert-esque Tunworth; a product of the Neal’s Yard and Hamlshire Cheeses collaboration) and duck hearts. Carby, comforting and bowl-scrapingly epic - in truth, the sound these dishes make when they are scraped is not a good one so you’ve really got to be dedicated to the cause to do so. If chicken soup is Jewish penicillin, this dish could heal the world.
Raw beef, smoked broccoli cream, scallop roe, acidic apple juice - best tartare I’ve ever eaten, hands down.
Prawns from Gairloch, prime pork fat, borage and chicory. They cure the lardo themselves at Fera and it is heaven in melting piggy form.
Brill cooked in whey, flavoured with hogweed, Jerseys, blewit ‘shrooms and beach herbs. Earthy flavours and brill so succulent it can only have been cooked sous vide and then given a final glaze in the frying pan.
Middle white pork, caramelised leek, broad bean and mead reduction.
The gravy was administered by a chef they call Goose - pork served by Goose. Now that probably wouldn’t happen in the wild!
We had been tipped off that the pork was THE dish - Rogan’s pairing of belly and loin obviously set my world alight but the prawn and lardo combo was the ultimate in my eyes.
Savoury courses now over, time for some sweetness. Baked yoghurt, pear poached in perry, mint and Muscovado - a perfect palate cleanser and the best brandy snap money can buy
Iced beech leaf, nitro sweet cheese, apple sorel - the specifics of this dish slightly evade me because, at this point, the joyous people of Fera brought us each a complimentary birthday cocktail; there is nothing, I repeat nothing, in this world I enjoy more than free delicious booze. This was such an unexpected and thoughtful gesture - I’d mentioned in the online booking that the meal was a birthday celebration but the fact that it was remembered and recognised in this way underlines the attention to detail going on at Fera. Plus, let’s face it, a piped birthday message or token sparkler isn’t going to add anything to these already too-beautiful dishes.
Then arrived what appeared to be a tankard of chamomile milkshake. The prospect of downing the shake after however-many courses was only slightly intimidating to this well-seasoned Yorkshire stomach. However, upon presentation at the table, the vessel was deftly lifted and shifted to reveal our diddy chocolate malt beneath and the fact tankard was just an elaborately crafted shot glass on legs (two thirds of the glass is hollow)
The staff kindly move the menu down its holder as you plough your way through each course so you can see just where you’re at in the tasting game- so, by now, you an see that we had completed Fera.
Not quite… petit fours including macarons with a smokey ganache filling, presented in a smoke filled box - whose wafts I failed to catch on camera, such was the delight and excitement at their arrival.
In typical fashion, we were the last at our table and, in the interests of affording the staff a little privacy during their briefing we headed to the bar to hang out with the movers and shakers and money makers
As per every other element of Fera, the small but perfectly formed adjoining bar is delightfully done; don’t expect endless shelves housing every alcohol under the sun - in view are just a few gins and vodkas with artfully displayed homemade bitters on the bar top. All booze is London-local and small batch- we’re talking Sipsmiths, Dods, Jensen’s and, obviously, that old Moonshine Kid.
A seriously class operation on all levels - unlike these two.
Fera, I’m wild about you.
Fera at Claridges, Brook Street, London W1K 4HR