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howardlong

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  1. Hello David et al. Well I'm semi-retired (for now!) so I moved out a little, to Chelsea. GR@RHR is my closest restaurant, but it's shut at the moment for refurb although I noticed the hoardings came off yesterday so I would anticipate it reopening in the next few days. From what little I could see from the outside, it looked like not much more than a lick of paint: some areas, especially the loos, really did need it. But I digress. I'm still dining rather too much than I need to, with retirement hardly helping in that regard, a trend that is sadly increasingly reflected on the old waistline. New tries in the last week have been Brasserie Chavot (Jay Rayner sat two tables away with a glamorous lady diner) and Ametsa, so there's no holding back. BC definitely a tick, my joke that every dish has pork in it remains true, but the jury's out on Ametsa, although I had a very memorable steak main there. Murano has pushed way up to the top of my personal list over the past year, up there with Le Gav and 7 Park Place. Biggest disappointment for me recently was the closure of Nahm. I have since booked two trips to Bangkok to the branch there as a result. Dining is an expensive habit. More down-to-Earth, both Racine and Casa Brindisa continue to delight, although Racine has been rather swamped outside over the past couple of years by the appalling l'Opera next door, which has become an over-crowded meat market, spilling out well onto the street, targeting the visiting Middle-Eastern tourist. Less recently, I couldn't really get on with Nathan Outlaw's place at the Capital after a couple of tries I'm afraid, all a bit bland for my palate, although to be fair those two instances were in the first two days of opening. Anyway, back to Le Gav. Today Michel was there, as was papa Albert, who was dining, and I had a good old chat with them both. I guess the horse is a tongue-in-cheek thing bearing in mind the recent press. I spoke to Michel's wife Giselle a few weeks ago at dinner, and she was saying how little she saw of hubby. Hardly surprising, he's on the telly every other night and has the decency to still cook in his restaurant. I would say I still see Michel 7/10 times in there, I'd say more often at dinner than lunch, and also more likely during the week then weekends, and as ever he always comes round to chat with the diners. Regarding the horse, I had it once before in France just to say I'd done it when I was a teenager. Can't remember a great deal about it, but then I wasn't really a foodie back then, or maybe I was, I just didn't know it. What really grates on me about this current food scandal in Europe is that the source-to-table traceability demanded by recent EU regulation appears to have been little more than a worthless bureaucratic exercise. And of course we knew that inevitably the announcement yesterday that pork DNA has been found in halal chicken in Westminster school dinners was just going to happen. You couldn't make it up! According to David Thompson, Nahm London shut because it was proving impossible to source those rarer Thai ingredients that that he demanded for his food in this traceable form, although I have to say I always thought he and Matthew Albert did a darned good job without them anyway. Cheers, Howard
  2. Folks It's been a long time. I had horse fillet at Le Gavroche this lunchtime, it'll be on the dinner specials from tonight apparently but it was offered to me at lunch today so I was hardly going to push back against such an offer. Only unlike some other outlets, it will not be advertised as anything but horse. And very nice it was too I might say, very much like beef fillet in appearance, a bit more spongy in texture, and a slightly more subtle flavour to the meat itself. It's done with a reduced red wine, pepper and madeira jus, parsnips and tatties. I just hope if they get found out by the food nazis they don't find beef DNA in the horse fillet. Cheers, Howard
  3. Bapi: I doubt that, I just noticed that the "offer" of £45 off the bill has been withdrawn following a Tripadvisor review I made. Sadly, Sat's reply on the same site is rather carefully crafted in an attempt to pervert a true representation of the sequence events. How disappointing. Howard
  4. I remember quite some years ago being tempted but ultimately disappointed by Room Service, which is a bit like Deliverance. That was before I got over myself and discovered that dining alone, far from being a pursuit of the billy no mates, was actually one of the most hedonistic things you can do, not least because you get to become far more chatty and well-known with the crews. The problem with Room Service was that you were limited to their restaurants, and I never really got too excited. Coincidentally the other day I popped round the corner to Foxtrot Oscar for a takeaway, a service they mentioned to me a couple of weeks ago they'd started. Now I'm no GR fan, but surprisingly I've found FO to be quite convenient and it is frequented by the locals as much as the special occasion crowd. I'm about a two or three minute walk away, and by the time I'd opened everything up I was really surprised how good everything turned out, including a perfect poached egg on my caesar salad (however I have made comments about the poached egg on this dish as on one occasion it most definitely wasn't perfect in the restaurant). The missus had a gorgeous bone marrow. We had a cote de boeuf too. All in all not bad at all, I was impressed. I would not be at all surprised if you called up a number of places that they'd do a pretty good takeaway for you even if they don't advertise it. I don't know if you are a cheapskate like me but I do take doggy bags home. Some stuff works out spectacularly: Nahm for example for Thai even can taste better the next day after it's marinaded itself even more! Cheers, Howard
  5. I did have a bit of sticker shock that's for sure: I was happy to keep on the NV Moet to start with, but the OH already had her eyes set on the DP. Booze was £237 each plus the drinks at the bar (my bill shows DPs at £17/glass, the only thing that could be deemed to be quite reasonable). Bill total was £568pp. Luckily I was quite rosy cheeked and numb by the time the bill came. I forgot to see Keller on Saturday Kitchen, I'll have to jump on iPlayer assuming it's on there. He seemed a pretty nice guy, and was more than happy to chew the cud with us in the kitchen: we didn't ask for the kitchen visit, it was offered. The event was held adjacent to the Georgian Restaurant if you know that, on the fourth floor, although I wasn't told that beforehand. Unhelpfully I was told to go to "Door 5". I have lived in and around Knightsbridge now for over 20 years and I had no idea where "Door 5" was. Even worse, when I found it, it turned out to be on exactly the opposite side of the building. Go figure. It appeared that they pretty much had taken over the kitchen for the event. Still, I now have the T shirt, or at least the OH has an apron (£60, ouch). Howard
  6. Some pics from Friday lunchtime. My favourites were: 1. "S'Mores" dessert with 40 yo Taylors Tawny Port 2. "Oysters and Pearls" 3. "Calotte de Boeuf" (although even for me ever so slightly too salty) 4. "Chowder" Not shown are the 2002 Dom Perignon that we had at the bar, or the 2002 Laurent Perrier Millisime that was presented with the first few courses. I would have preferred a greater selection of wines to better match the courses, but the quality of what we had was superb. My favourite wine without a doubt was the M 2006, a monster Cab at 16.9% abv. Service was good, but not up to Le Gavroche standards! As a quick example, cloches were removed in a totally uncoordinated manner, which was strange because there were enough waiting staff present ready at the table to perform such a task. They brought over 22 staff for the pop up, some from other restaurants like Per Se. There were a lot of Kevins. One, a Scouser, was from Per Se, he was really very knowledgeable and quite fun, the other Kevin I think was one of their chief honchos FoH, and was very American, you know, he'd been to the cosmetic dentist rather more than was really necessary. Cheers, Howard
  7. Actually, you will find that the error _was_ yours, as you incorrectly assumed their were two people, an assumption you accepted you had made when we spoke on Saturday morning, that I had never discussed there being two people. In fact, I had not read the cancellation policy until after our discussion on Saturday morning: I had read the email to check that the date was correct, and that you had chosen to book two in for dinner. The cancellation policy was a scroll away down the page which I did not read at the time. Booking two in for dinner was your assumption, and I thought little of it. Although not common, this situation has happend on a couple of occasions to me before where there is an assumption made that it must be for two. Never has it been a problem before, the table is adjusted appropriately and that's it. No charge. No bad feeling. And I return. It was a genuine misunderstanding, I am sure you will agree. That is why I find it rather extraordinary that you chose to treat me like I was trying to rip you off. The main problem, as I have already stated, is that it could have been dealt with a lot better, rather than relying on legalese, resulting in a more than uneasy feeling about the whole situation and one less customer, a customer you might have preferred not to lose in this "difficult environment". In fact, had I gone ALC on the wine list as I suggested in an earlier post, you would have almost certainly have ended up a lot better off! To say I am personally disappointed and depressed about the whole situation would be an understatement. I wanted to like it. And I did. Until I tried to leave. Howard
  8. Your experience was exactly what I was hoping for, and, until the "single tax" appeared when I paid the bill the next morning, I was fairly confident I would return. After all, I was born less than two miles away and spent eighteen years of my life living and working with 15 miles, so I have fairly strong connections with the area. There is no doubt that she stated to me at the time that she would not have accepted a single reservation for the evening in question. I still think about the whole experience several times each day since the event, and consider how strange it was. I should mention that Amanda accepted that she had indeed incorrectly assumed that there would be two diners, and that we had never discussed two people during the telephone call when making the booking. Of course one may argue that I should have read the terms and conditions in the email. I wonder just how many readers expect to read a set of terms and conditions when making a restaurant reservation? Equally pedantic, I could have argued that using email is a non guaranteed delivery mechanism, so I could have, if I was trying it on, chose to say I had never received any email. I did not. I think it was clear to Amanda that I was not trying to pull a fast one, far from it in fact, and that it was a genuine error and misunderstanding. To my mind that's another reason why I find the whole affair and the way it was dealt with so strange. I can only draw my own conclusions. Cheers, Howard
  9. If the GF flakes out on me I'll let you know! Stranger things have happened. Cheers, Howard
  10. I am going on Friday for lunch, organised by Amex. There were three other slots, all at lunch on various days, still available on Thursday when I booked. Cheers, Howard
  11. What was interesting was that when I got into my room before dinner, there was a nice personalised welcome note on the dressing table (that had no chair btw). It had an interesting rule on it that said I was welcome to have a drink at the bar prior to dinner but in no circumstances should I dare come more than 15 minutes before as it gets busy. I thought the nature of the demand was rather amusing, I felt like I was in a Blackpool guest house from the 50's. I should have expected this was the shape of things to come later. Of course when I got to the bar 10 minutes prior to my dinner engagement it was completely empty. The other interesting thing I was told when I protested the charge was that they would never have made the table available if they had known I was a single diner. Even less reason for me to go again, as when I dine alone about 50% of the time. I am not denying it's in the terms and conditions. However, I dine out about twice a week in M* establishments, this is the first time I've ever encountered a charge for lone dining. One further thing, I requested the bill at the table after dinner. The waiter went away, came back 5 minutes later and told me it would be put on the room bill. Circumstantial, but I strongly suspect that they were avoiding a confrontation during service. Also at all other times except when paying the final bill I was dealt with by Amanda. When it came to presenting me with the bill she pushed it to one of her staff. It was the way it was dealt with, hoping I wouldn't notice, more than the charge itself that really annoyed me! Had we discussed this at the start when they knew I was a single diner we could have come to an arrangement, for example I could have easily covered the charge by going alc on wine rather than their flight. Amanda reminded me of Tom Aiken's wife when she ran his FoH some years ago: her customer skills were not compatible with the kind of person you'd immediately consider for the role either. Howard
  12. I had my first meal at Sat Bains last night. I also had a room there for the night. Food and service good, although perhaps a little too much going on on the plate for my liking, and the order of the courses with matching wines seemed a little strange. But it was very pleasant overall. That was until I went to checkout this morning. They added a £90 "cancellation charge" to my bill. When I asked, it was because they had assumed there were going to be two dining. There was never a discussion about there being two when I booked a day or so earlier, although in the email confirmation it did say "I have also booked a table for the two of you in our Restaurant". Not thinking much about that, when I turned up I told them that it would only be me. They did halve the cancellation charge in the end, but needless to say it still left a rather unpleasant taste in my mouth, particularly as we had not discussed this previously, with it almost being cheekily added to the bill in the hope I wouldn't notice. I would now think long and hard before returning. "We have to run a business you know" I was told, well yes, that's as maybe, but I am unlikely to be your customer in future. Howard
  13. Hi JudyB Apart from this one unique exception, it is a safe assumption that there will be a Gratuity option at the card machine, as is so commonplace as to be expected in these circumstances. As I went through tapping "Yes", no gratuity option appeared, and by then it was too late, it was hand back to the waiter. Cheers, Howard I'm not quite clear which is the "unique exception" that you refer to, but no, it is not a safe assumption that there will be a Gratuity option on the card machine. Many places these days, as implied (I think) earlier in this thread, simply enter the amount of the bill and that is it, meaning that you must leave a cash tip if you want to leave anything. Hmm, perhaps if they're only expecting 10 or 20 quid, but surely not £50 or £100? Cheers, Howard
  14. Apart from this one unique exception, it is a safe assumption that there will be a Gratuity option at the card machine, as is so commonplace as to be expected in these circumstances. As I went through tapping "Yes", no gratuity option appeared, and by then it was too late, it was hand back to the waiter. Cheers, Howard
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