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howardlong

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Everything posted by howardlong

  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
  15. Hmm, well I well and truly caught out at Trianon in Versailles a couple of years ago. Meal was about EUR500, and service most definitely wasn't included, and nowhere to add gratuity either on the bill or when the machine turned up. Now, I had EUR100 on me but that was for my cab back into town. So, almost uniquely, I left nothing, and received an awful mean eye on my exit, so perhaps they deserved nothing after all. Maybe I could have spared EUR10 or EUR20, but my view was that that have been perceived just as badly, if not worse, than none at all. I don't think these days that people should have any need to carry around large sums of cash. Howard
  16. A couple more comments on this. I went back last week about Wednesday or so for dinner for a second punt, but it was about 21:45 before I got there while I waited for my habuitually late dining companion. There were only three other tables occupied (one, for the zeleb lovers, was home to Andrew Lloyd Webber who appeared a lot more normal than he's portrayed on screen). Again, I found the decor rather sterile despite the recent publicity about a collection of historical mirrors, which must be upstairs in the bar, as we couldn't see any in the dining room. And there was still a bit of that fresh paint smell lingering. But the big change was the service. What a transformation! Today, everyone was working as a team, and the left hand knew exactly what the right hand was doing. We both had the same dishes on this occasion, ordering asparagus and gull's egg to start, followed by halibut. It wasn't exactly the same presentation for the asparagus dish that I'd had the first time, but the ingedients were the same - almost. Shortly after ordering, I was informed that there were no gulls' eggs to be had and would a pheasant's egg do instead? Of course I replied positively, but would I ever have known the difference? Still, at least I know that I am unlikely to be fobbed off. In juxtaposition to the wine recommendation I'd received the first time to go with the asparagus, this time it was a Roux labelled Leon Beyer Alsatian Pinot Blanc. The problem with the wine list for me is that I would normally hunt for a semillon/sauvignon Bordeaux for asparagus, but there's nothing on the fairly extensive list to fit this bill. For the halibut I chose the 2003 Petaluma Tiers chardonnay. An awesome drop, this, if you like big buttery chardonnays. More modern vintages are now marketed as Tapanappa Tiers, still under the watchful eye of South Australian winemaker Brian Croser. This was probably a bit overpowering for the halibut, but as it's one of my favourite wines I couldn't resist. I reckon this 2003 could go on for quite a bit longer, certainly I have some earlier vintages back to 1999 that are still drinking well. But equally I had a 2007 at home last week, currently fairly widely available, and it already drinks very well right now. I had cheese to finish, and a sadly rather lame cheese trolley came out with perhaps a dozen different items on it. They were in good condition, all were tasty, but it's a far cry from the trolley at Le Gavroche. My dining companion had the passion fruit soufflé, which was a mighty big one by anyone's standards. We were comp'd a couple of glasses of dessert wine too which was a nice touch, a vin de Constance and a Muscat de Rivesaltes. By the way the other half is still banging on about how good the the Tomato starter dish is that she had the first time we went. Described as "Marinated English hothouse tomatoes, Ragstone, black olive toast", her inquisitiveness about the dish was responded to by divulging that apparently it uses "tomato essence" as one of its ingredients. Crikey. Cheers, Howard
  17. Good question. Indirectly, yes. As I was alluding to earlier, I'm afraid that once the heavy initial PR wears off, restaurant goers, fickle as the zeleb followers are, will forget about the place especially when the next heavy PR spending restaurant opens. I go to a restaurant for the food and service, not for who I might see in there. Actually, I don't mind Jack Black, I just don't get on with middle aged men with their butts hanging out of their trousers. Grow old gracefully I say! Or maybe, at 45, I'm just jealous that I haven't the bottle to do it myself ;-) Cheers, Howard
  18. Don't be surprised, it's common practice at new openings with a nice big PR budget to have the PR companies place zelebs and organise for papps. Nice work if you can get it. Mind you, not surprised Jack Black was only in there 20 minutes if he wants to maintain that new physique of his. Still, a 40 year old man with jeans hanging half off his arse, c'mon. Cheers, Howard
  19. Hmm, well despite pledging never to set foot in the Mandarin Oriental again after their connection with the Candy & Candy roadworks at Scotch Corner and its associated permanent feature of traffic jams, I was offered a freebie at Bar Boulud a week or so ago in the evening. It's the exact antithesis of what I usually like, ie, buzzy, an full of Quintessentially aspirational and wannabe types. And Jack Black, who walked in, sat down for twenty minutes, and walked out again, having clearly been paid by PR to make an appearance. So, I would put it on a level with a French Hakkassan. Not only that, but having been to Boulud's place in New York, it wasn't top of my list to go anyway. But a freebie is a freebie. It's a no table cloths type of place, and tables are close together. Every thing pork is their speciality. We had a large charcuterie plate, which included a number of sliced meats and six great terrine/hocks/ballotines. For my main I had lamb chops on cous cous with an obligatory sausage on the side. All good, but not really wow stuff. We sat next to a prosepctive couple in their early 30s, the bloke clearly stuck in 80's yuppidom with chat up lines to match. The man Daniel himself came over, Grecian 2000'd up, and as we were pretty much the last there, we chatted for a good twenty minutes. Nice fella. Very French. Said he needed another six on the floor, although I have to say we were never particularly hanging around. In fact despite the right-on buzzy-ness of the crew, I really quite enjoyed it for what it was. So, if you can lower yourself to dine in the presence of such faux clientelle, it's probably worth a punt. Just don't drive there. Cheers, Howard
  20. David, after a conflab with my three dining companions, food was declared unanimously good. We went ALC on this occasion, although normally for a first time I'd do the tasting menu. What I like is that it's all well accomplished cooking with excellent quality ingredients. Nothing's over egged (pardon the pun) with too much going on, everything was well balanced. I had asparagus with a poached seagull egg for a starter and the lamb for my main. The other diners tried pan fried foie gras, langoustines, and tomato based soupy thing starters. For mains, it was veal and an assiette of pork. Depite the two top fellas running the kitchen that night having some Fat Duck experience, food was down to earth, classically based stuff. So nothing surprising, but equally it was well thought out, balanced and executed. If you're looking for liquid nitrogen or a hundred indistinguishable ingredients on each plate, go elsewhere. Perhaps most importantly I felt like I was getting good value even without the 30% off the grub. So the kitchen's sorted from day one, they just need to work on those deliveries, service and sprucing up the decor. Cheers, Howard
  21. Quick comments about my Monday evening. I turns out it was their first service, and it showed I'm afraid. Although the food side was really good, certainly based on the quality of the ingredients and the obvious accomplishment of the kitchen, front of house was altogether another thing. Food is pretty good French certainly teetering on the M*. Apparently there are some different techniques used in the kitchen which went completely over my head about emulsifying things using seaweed or something. Chef Dan Cox came out during service for a nice chat with everyone. Decor was rather bare, and you could smell the paint drying, which I suppose was different to watching it dry, while we waited for an hour in a bar area upstairs to be called to the table. Regarding service, it was a big case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing. Part of this is due to a minority of the junior FOH staff just being completely out of their depth, and part of it I am sure was simply that no one had never worked in that team before, although I knew three from previous places such as The Capital, Le Gav and Aubergine. The wine list has a fairly decent selection, and it's astonishingly reasonable with plenty around the £20 to £30 mark. Thank God there seems to be a correction finally in this department, I've been getting sick of wine list piss taking over the past few years, although I am sure Ramsay will continue to lead the way in the worst value wine lists. Sadly many bins were missing, again an indication of early teething troubles. In addition the cheese trolley hasn't made it yet, although the assiettes of cheese that we had were of excellent quality. A la carte was £55 for three courses, and the tasting menu £65. We were automatically given a 30% discount on the food menu although we hadn't complained. Wine wise we had a bottle of posh Sancerre Daniel Chotard (£40), a bottle of Cos d'Estornel 1999 (£109) and a down to earth bottle of Beaulieu Vineyard Chardonnay (£27). After the G&Ts to start with and a cheeky Sauternes with the foie gras, total was £496 for four. After the 30% food discount, it was £415 including service. Hmm, I just looked at the bill. We had four G&Ts on arriving. Two were £5, one was £6 and one was £8. Go figure! Still, we all enjoyed it, and we had a really good chat in the kitchen afterwards, they were all really friendly in there. I would anticipate it being a busy lunch venue, what with all those hungry MPs looking for ways to spend their expenses. In short, I'd give it a couple of weeks. Funny, I think I've said that before about somewhere else I turned up at on opening night. Must make a mental note. Cheers, Howard
  22. Folks, They open to the likes of you and me on Monday, although I think they've had some sort of soft opening this week. I have yet to see a telephone number online elsewhere, so here it is: 020 7334 3737. I booked earlier this week for Monday evening, no problem. I called up to increase the number of covers this morning, again no problem. When I spoke to Michel a couple of weeks ago about it, I asked how it would compare to Roux Brasserie Roux on Pall Mall. He said that unlike BR, it'll definitely be "fine dining" but "not Le Gavroche". I look forward to reporting back next week. [PS: just found this: Website that is not coming up in Google yet] Cheers, Howard
  23. Re: Ducasse at the Dorchester. No, not in my opinion. It is worth one star, that's it. Well accomplished food, very good front of house, but no wow factor for me. Other than the bill. There is an important facet that I feel is consistently missing from M* evaluations: value for money. If M*'s were about value for money, I doubt D@D would appear in the guide at all. However there is no doubt as far as I am concerned that the only guide to good meal that I can consistently trust is M*. Cheers, Howard
  24. The only two regular delivery takeaways I use are: o Gourmet Oriental http://www.gourmetoriental.com Branches in Chelsea, Maida Vale, City, Richmond) Crispy chilli beef to die for. Lightning fast delivery. They may tell you forty minutes, but don't be tempted to pop out to the offy while you wait. --- and --- o Feng Sushi http://www.fengsushi.co.uk Branches in Kensington, Fulham Road, Borough Market, Notting Hill Gate, Southbank, Chalk Farm Bastardised sushi, but still freshly made. My favourite, the deep fried tuna maki is yummy, but hardly the healthy meal one might expect sushi to be. Howard
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