Marcus Wareing is cooking under his own name as he is no longer part of the Gordon Ramsay group as of October 2008. The Petrus name remains with Gordon Ramsay, and a new restaurant has opened under this name, which is reviewed here.
See the review of Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley here.
What follows are meals at the old Petrus under Marcus.
The following is from a meal in July 2008.
The décor has not changed since my last visit a couple of years ago: still the same deep plum colour as the theme. The large windows gave a reasonable amount of natural light at this lunchtime, but in the winter the room might seem rather dark. Nibbles were a sliver of foie gras terrine crisp with quince jelly (smooth foie gras) and a classy silky smooth hummus with croutons. This was followed by a glass of cucumber gazpacho with a parmesan biscuit, which had good flavour (overall, round 7/10 for the nibbles).
Bread is a choice of sourdough, potato and honey bread and country breads; these are bought in from The Flour Station, a capable supplier, and were pleasant but ordinary (5/10). I am still of a view that if my local gastropub can be bothered to make its own bread, I am bemused as to why a two star Michelin restaurant cannot.
I began with a delicate starter of Cornish crab and marinated tuna, with a little celery, apple and avocado. The combination of crab with avocado is a good one in principle, especially with something to give a little bite as here, yet somehow this dish lacked interest for me (5/10). It was fine, but did not seem to me a dish that much work had gone into, which again was an issue of context. I’d have been very happy to get this at a local bistro, but I’m not sure what it is doing on the menu here. Foie gras and sauternes mousse with a sticky duck bun was much better, offered with blood orange and toasted cashews. The foie gras terrine was smooth and had good livery taste, the duck bun adding a complementary dimension from another style of duck taste, while the blood orange gave needed acidity and the toasted cashews a nice texture contrast. This was a well constructed and well executed dish (8/10).
Slow cooked crispy pork belly was well cooked, the crispy top working well with the soft slab of meat, a salad of watercress, lemon and almonds again carefully thought our (the lemon providing acidity). 7/10. I preferred this to poached sea bass with “barigoule vegetables” (i.e. artichokes in a white wine broth), girolles and a little sauce of sea urchin and vermouth. The fish was cooked correctly, the girolles a sensible accompaniment to the fish, but the vermouth dominated the sea urchin in the sauce (6/10).
A pre-dessert of a custard tart was excellent, the pastry perhaps cooked a fraction longer than ideal but the custard filling itself lovely (this element of the dish featured on The Great British Menu in 2004), served with a little strawberry and strawberry ice cream which worked well (8/10). I also enjoyed tarte tatin of apricot. So often tarte tatin is overcooked, but here it was just caramelised but no more, with thin, delicate pastry (8/10). Coffee (from Drury in Covent Garden) was very good, and there is a display of bonbons to eat with it.
The lunch here is certainly a bargain. You can still order a la carte, but the meal we had was from the lunch menu and this was £35 for three courses (coffee is £5, with no problem getting my espresso topped up). Service was excellent. Indeed our waiter was of the vintage when Petrus was in St James Street, and it is good to see staff staying on at a restaurant for years.
Overall I still feel this is underperforming at the 2 Michelin star level. I continue to remember fondly the days when I was a regular at the St James Street incarnation, when I have the impression that Marcus Wareing was trying a bit harder. There were no bonbon displays and less luxury ingredients in those days, but I still wonder whether the new Petrus, smart as it is, is really quite as enjoyable as the old one.
Below are notes from a meal in May 2006, by way of comparison.
The dining room is smart but quite dark, the walls a deep plum colour. The design has a masculine feel, much like the original premises. The service is very attentive. Compared to the old St James Street incarnation, there are additional amuse gueles and a pre-dessert. The menu seems to feature more elaborate taste combinations. Bread was either: country bread, not very sour sourdough, a crisp baguette or tomato bread (7/10). Amuse-bouche consisted of cauliflower puree on a crouton (8/10), a rich chicken liver pate (8/10), and a surprisingly ordinary dish of assorted vegetables (5/10). This was followed by glass of gazpacho soup, which had a (for me) unnecessary addition of vanilla and pineapple (5/10, though I would score this higher without the extraneous tastes).
Five fine scallops were each topped with a drop of carrot puree, served with tender baby artichokes a central tower of cold Charlotte potato and leek salad, the ring of scallops having a perimeter of a smear of truffle cream (8/10). Lobster “Arnold Bennet” is a haddock omelette served with Scottish lobster and a little lobster bisque poured on at the table. While the lobster was very tender, the bisque intense and the omelette excellent, the haddock taste seemed slightly too strong for the lobster.
Grilled John Dory was excellent, served with roasted pumpkin, a caper and golden raisin puree, braised leeks, all in a beurre noisette sauce (8/10). I had pithivier of game (grouse, duck, venison) served with root vegetables (parsnip, carrot, baby ceps) in a red wine jus (8/10). Cheese was in good condition, entirely French (7/10) e.g. Camembert, Beaufort, Epoisses. As a pre-dessert were a pair each of stunning beignets, served with a little lemon curd (9/10). For dessert, chocolate fondant was technically excellent, with a rich liquid centre (easily 7/10). Parfait of cherry and yogurt worked well (7/10).
Overall the meal was excellent, though at times I feel Marcus is trying too hard e.g. not being content with a fine gazpacho, he feels he has to add pineapple and vanilla to somehow denote this as “serious” cooking. Now that he has his second Michelin star perhaps he can relax a little. The beignets were divine, and indeed there is little to fault throughout the meal, though at £55 for three courses and wines that are seriously expensive (over £10 for a glass of champagne and £3.50 for a half litre of water i.e. £7 a litre) this is no bargain.