The Berkeley Hotel
London SW1X 7RL
Prix-fixe seasonal menu @ £28 for 3 courses + a 375ml carafe of new or old world wine
Well, this weekend started off nicely. We went to dinner at Boxwood Cafe and had the prix-fixe meal, which was very good value at £28/person for 3 courses plus a 375ml carafe of wine (with a choice between 3 reds & 3 whites).
Although we got off to a bit of a shaky start, as we were seated next to a loud group of Japanese business men and stuck next to a one of the speakers (the music was fairly loud), we ended up having a really nice time. I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the portions, which were definitely not stingy for a fixed-price deal.
I had a ham hock terrine to start with, which was very tasty. The ham flavor, which was not overpowering or too salty (which I often find to be the case), was interlaced with green peas and a few other seasonal greens that offset the ham nicely. There were two large toasted slices of bread for the terrine, which had been dowsed in a bit of olive oil and sprinkled with salt, and the dish worked very well. My wife had the hummus with marinated tomatoes and parsley salad, which was fresh and tasty, although it was something that you could make at home just as well without too much effort.
My main course of hanger steak served with a red wine reduction, chermula sauce (great shallot taste and a lovely amount of heat) and sauteed potatoes was excellent. It was cooked as I had asked for it – medium rare – and the flavor of the meat had just the right amount of ‘beefy-ness’ for me. The potatoes were surprisingly tasty and had been sauteed to perfection.
My wife’s main course of trout with a refreshing green salad on top was less successful, however. She had to send back the trout the first time around as it was a bit too raw in the middle, and they brought her a new one in about 5 minutes, which was cooked much better. The trout was fairly bland, though, and while the accompanying salad was good – nice citrus and pickled flavors – the two didn’t combine particularly well and we both felt it was a pretty average dish.
My desert of lime tart with dark chocolate sorbet was very good indeed. The tart was very limey, but not all that sharp (I actually like lime tarts to have a little more sharpness). The pastry shell was cooked well (not undercooked as you often find), but it was the chocolate sorbet which stole the show – it was excellent, a really yummy, deep, dark chocolate ball of delight! Unfortunately, my wife’s desert – fresh seasonal fruit in a yogurt crumble – was much less interesting. It was quite tasty, but is really the kind of thing you could make for breakfast at home, so it was a little bit of a let-down for a fairly expensive restaurant in London.
We had a Chilean chardonnay and a Spanish Tempranillo/Cabernet blend to accompany the meal. Neither were particuarly interesting, but both were pleasant enough: the chardonnay’s high alcohol was not balanced very well by any of other components in the wine, and the Spanish wine was certainly quaffable but not memorable. That said, they did have Porcupine Ridge Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc as part of the prix-fixe menu – both of which are excellent – but we decided not to have them, as we have had both quite recently (and actually visited Boekenhoutskloof, the winery that makes them, in South Africa earlier in the year).
The service throughout the meal was very pleasant, although we were served by a number of different waiters and waitresses (partly by virtue of us moving tables, which they accommodated straight away without a fuss).
Overall, I think that the deal we had was good value, especially since you essentially get a whole bottle of decent wine between the two of you included in the price. The food was good, but not outstanding, and I therefore wouldn’t recommend eating a la carte for dinner at Boxwood as there are a number of other restaurants in London at which you can find really fine cuisine for circa £100/couple (about what I estimate Boxwood would cost you without the prix-fixe menu).