Bern’s Steak House in Tampa is nationally reknowned for its prime steaks. In fact, it has become a site for a foodie pilgrimage over the years, almost a reason in itself for a trip to Tampa. And yes, the steaks are top notch and it’s an experience. But, what is less known is Bern’s Steak House Dessert Room which warrants Fabulous Friday status. We’re talking a 45 page dessert menu for starters. That’s just the beginning of the story.
The Harry Waugh Dessert Room was named for the British wine authority who introduced Bern and Gert Laxer, founders of Bern’s, to the custom of giving the dessert course its own time and place. When these colleagues in the wine industry got together at Waughs home in London, after dinner they adjourned to the drawing room for dessert, Stilton cheese, aged Cognac, coffee, cigars and “the warmest, most relaxed conversation possible”, Gert said.
Waugh challenged Bern to do the same in Tampa and the challenge became a reality seven years later. The room was built and rebuilt seven times before it was to their satisfaction. The finished design centered on 48 elliptical booths made of old redwood wine casks that were rich and polished. Dozens of antique iron and tile heaters line the corridors of this honeycomb. In each private booth, closed circuit sound systems allow each party to choose its own soundtrack, from jazz to classical, to live music from the onsite piano player.
And oh that menu – first the cakes ,pastries and ice creams. I had the apple pie tart with cinnamon ice cream. The pastry was so buttery it melted in my mouth, and apples were cooked to perfection. Mr. W had the brownie with their deservedly famed macadamia nut ice cream. We topped everything off with a glass of port. Next up to try for next time –banana bread pudding with banana caramel ice cream, lemon curd eclairs and the decadence cake with framboise raspberry sauce. Don’t like sweets? There’s a separate cheese, fruit and nut menu.
Then there are the wines, liquors and liqueurs from Berns’ wine cellar, the largest private wine collection in the world. We’re talking 20 pages of dessert spirits and 21 of dessert wine. Find a huge library of the word’s sweet wines – Muscats, Sauternes, Barsacs including 20 vintages of Chatequ d’Yquem. Madeira and vintage Ports go back a century.
Executive Pastry Chef Amber Menendez who works with manager Felix Malinowski , an expert on old ports, rare whiskies, exotic brandies and dessert wines. They’re part of a team of 20 pastry chefs, bartenders and waiters just for the Dessert Room.
Diners at Bern’s can just walk upstairs to enjoy the Dessert Room and reservations are also accepted for the Room alone. But you have to go early, around 6 p.m. to avoid a wait since restaurant diners have priority. Whichever guest you are, though, you can stay as long as you want and savor the special experience. How sweet it is.