Editor's note: Fera's final service was on New Year's Eve 2018.
Fera was one of the highest profile London restaurant openings of 2014, with Simon Rogan taking over the Claridges space vacated by Gordon Ramsay. Fera (“wild”) opened its doors in May, and with a major PR campaign behind it instantly became one of the trickier reservations to get in the capital. The room has been refurbished and retains some of the art-deco features, but adds a petrified tree in the middle of the room. The room seats 98 diners at one time, plus another dozen in the private dining room. At a typical service there are 25 chefs in the kitchen catering to these customers. The head chef is Dan Cox, a former Roux Scholar and at one time head chef of Roux at Parliament Square, though Simon Rogan of l’Enclume was in the kitchen himself today.
There was an a la carte menu at £85 for three courses plus numerous nibbles, a full tasting menu at £105, and a three-course lunch at £45. An extended tasting menu is available on request. The wine list featured wines such as Vignaioli Contra Soarda Gaggion Marzemino Nero 2010 at £43 for a wine that you can find in the high street for around £14, Ngeringa Syrah 2010 at £73 compared to a shop price of £33, and Josmeyer Brand Riesling 2009 at £135 for a wine that retails at £43. At the posh end of the list, Lynch Bages 2005 was an excessive £440 for a wine that you can find in a shop for £140, and Leoville Las Cases 2000 was a hefty £950 for a wine that retails at around £285. Mineral water was £4.50 a bottle.
A series of nibbles began the meal. Puffed barley crisp had smoked eel, an ox-eye daisy spread, mustard emulsion, baby onions and a garnish of watercress. This was a very enjoyable mouthful of food, the eel flavor coming through strongly and the mustard emulsion lifting the dish (16/20). This was followed by stewed rabbit coated in tapioca and onion crumbs and then deep-fried, served with a lovage emulsion. This was also good, a warm, comforting dish (16/20).
Squid ink crisp came with ling roe emulsion, pickled Alexanders (horse parsley), and diced squid. This was pleasant though the roe caused the overall effect to be quite salty, even to my taste (just about 15/20). Scallops were marinated in buttermilk and served raw, with fresh peas and pea purée, This was a pretty and enjoyable dish, the peas having quite good flavor, though the scallop was not the sweetest that I have tasted (15/20).
Next was a potato with Winslade cheese as a sort of fondue containing duck hearts. This was another pleasing dish, the strong flavor of the duck hearts usefully balanced by the cheese (16/20). White crab meat was served with rhubarb compote, lemon verbena curd, pork lardo and oxalis (wood sorrel). The crab tasted fresh and the dish had pleasant flavour balance (15/20). Bread was malted barley, rye dough brushed with pale ale before baking, served with unpasteurized cow milk butter and a little cup of onion broth. The bread was pleasant if a little heavy in texture, but I would have hoped for better if I am to be honest (14/20).
Raw rib eye of Dexter beef was from Lindale in Cumbria, aged for 36 days. This was garnished with scallop roe and served with smoked broccoli cream and acidic apple juice. The beef had nice flavour, though for me the seasoning could have been a little bolder (15/20).
Lobster with golden pickled beetroot came with apple dittander (a peppery herb) emulsion, lobster gel and beach herbs including sea purslane and a garnish of lobster crisp. The shellfish was nicely tender and the beetroot was fine, though my first bite of the dish had a surprisingly astringent note, perhaps from the pickling juices (14/20).
Turbot with razor clams came with broad beans, turnips, semi-dried tomatoes, girolles and a turnip emulsion infused with anise hyssop. The vegetables were fine but the piece of turbot was slightly overcooked and did not have much flavour; it did not flake when cut and if it wasn’t served at such a prestigious place I would have guessed it was frozen (12/20).
The meal got back on track with guinea hen from Goosnargh, with both breast and leg served with Red Baron onions, pea purée, baby king oyster mushrooms and a sauce made of guinea hen juice with elderflower vinegar, along with fresh elderflowers and Jersey Royals. This was lovely, the meat having good flavor and being accurately cooked, the vegetables of good quality. Perhaps the bird’s skin could have been crisper but that is a quibble (16/20).
A pre-dessert of "Pineapple weed" (foraged wild chamomile) came with butterscotch mousse, compressed celery, celery cress, a chocolate crisp and camomile powder. This was not unpleasant but I have never taken to shrubbery in my desserts (13/20). Much more enjoyable was a dish of raspberries from Hereford macerated in their own juices, with buttermilk custard, anise and hyssop oil, with a raspberry shard garnish and frozen yoghurt powder with lemon verbena. The raspberries themselves had excellent flavour, the other elements managing to stay in the background and allowing the fruit flavor to be the star (16/20).
Coffee was from a Bristol company called Extract Coffee and was very pleasant, avoiding bitterness, and came with a few petit fours: carrot meringue with sea buckthorn cream, sweet cicely sponge cake with sweet cream cheese, hazelnut gum with sea salt, and a "banana mint" (a herb) drop coated with chocolate and sweetener with meringue powder.
Service was genuinely good, with very attentive, friendly waiters. I had opted for the set lunch menu plus some extra dishes; I had just water to drink, and my bill came to £71 per person. If you went a la carte and shared a modest bottle of wine then a realistic typical bill would be around £130 a head. This is not cheap even by the standards of Mayfair, and indeed the elevated price levels may be an issue in filling this large dining room once the initial launch hype has died down. In summary, the best dishes were very good but there was inconsistency, and overall Fera felt like something of a work in progress, despite this now being several weeks after the initial opening.