Jump to content


participating member
  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by bainesy

  1. The Vineyard made a post-stay request for feedback, and I gave them, effectively word-for-word, the post I made earlier in this thread. Their manager replied, very promptly, in exemplary, and reassuring, terms. I can do no better than quote his words here (for which I sought, and he gave, approval): "Thank you for taking the time to send your comments following your recent stay. Whilst I am happy that you “had a lovely evening”, it saddens me that you on more than one occasion thought that there were two teams – normal and wine fair guests. This I can assure you was not what should have been portrayed and for this I can only offer my personal apologies. I have passed your comments to both the Chef and Restaurant Manager, who have asked that I send their apologies too. With 24 covers in the restaurant, I would have expected the service to be impeccable, as our service teams had been split equally to accommodate both sets of diners. Indeed it was a very busy and successful service in the wine fair dinner, however, the kitchen brigade too had been split to ensure that our restaurant guests were looked after more, after all the restaurant is what we all have become so proud of. I can assure you your points have been put to task and certainly will help in moving forward if we are to achieve greatness again. Far too often feedback is not given and without which how is a property to learn from their failings, lest we fall prey to resting on our laurels. I do hope to be able to welcome you back in the future and as a gesture would like to invite you back as my guests to dine (lunch or dinner) in order to showcase what I know the team are very good at and are consistent at achieving – clearly we missed something on your visit. I would ask that you contact me directly so as to afford my personal attentions." One could ask no more, and I pay tribute to fantastic customer service.
  2. When we made our room and dinner reservations for Friday night at the Vineyard, we didn't realise they were hosting their first annual Wine Fair the same weekend. However, when I noticed this on their website I was quite pleased, because I thought the place would be on top form. However, we left the following day with the impression that, on the restaurant front, either they had overstretched themselves or - worse if true - had neglected their non-wine-fair-guests. Firstly, I must point out that we were most impressed by our room, which was an unmentioned upgrade to a lovely suite (and which for the price we paid was fantastic). Pre-dinner drinks were fine. Most of, if not all, the staff are French, and charming (although it was extraordinary to hear a chap near us ask for a Pernod, and for the young woman serving - who certainly sounded French - ask him to spell it, and then return to announce that "Yes, they do serve it" (good lord, so does my local boozer)). When we made our reservation about ten days earlier we were told that there were very few tables left. However, the place was almost empty, which leads me to think we were either misled, or, perhaps more likely, they heavily reduced the numbers of covers in the main restaurant in order to allow for the wine-dinner in the nearby function room. Starters were foie gras with bitter chocolate (me) and pumpkin veloute for H. They were both good, although they arrived a couple of minutes before the sommelier poured my wine (I'd asked for by-the-glass recommendations for the two courses)- Riesling Spätlese, Graacher Himmelreich, J J Prüm. Mains were Veal for H (which she polished off with little comment), and "Steamed fillet of John Dory, honey and chilli glaze, fennel, broad beans" for me. The latter is described inthis article as Galmiche's signature dish (don't let it be said I don't do my research). Now a signature dish should be an opportunity for a kitchen to show off their ideas, execution, consistency and ingredients, and not an excuse to take their eye off the ball. I can only conclude the latter had happened: the fish was overcooked, not quite warm enough and the sauce had a slight skin on it, which suggested it had spent too long on the pass. Meanwhile I had had to point out that I had not received my wine, and it again took a couple of minutes to find the sommelier (who was also charming, by the way) to pour my (lovely) 2006 Bourgogne Blanc, Domaine Leflaive. We passed on dessert, and had poor coffee and nice petit-fours in the lounge. From there, we could hear, from the function room, what seemed like the hubbub and gaiety of a buzzing restaurant (where the wine-fair dinner was taking place). When the kitchen staff paraded out of the function room, followed by applause, and marched back to the kitchen (ignoring the "normal" diners in the main restaurant) it only confirmed our feeling of not being invited to the main party of the evening. Given that we venture out rarely, and that the meal cost £220 for two courses and five glasses of wine between us, this was not ideal. I wasn't going to make more of it, because we still had a lovely evening (we were there for an occasion, not a review) but this ain't the way to win stars back.
  3. I guess the answer's "no" then We've a reservation (and room) this Friday. I'll try to post some notes afterwards.
  4. Anyone been since Daniel Galmiche replaced John Campbell? They apparently lost their two stars "because of timing" (i.e. the inspectors didn't have the chance to assess it between Campbell's departure and Galmiche's start).
  5. And the same Delia whose "seafood risotto" using fish soup instead of stock, frozen seafood and garnished with gruyere and rouille, is, unsurprisingly at one and the same time revolting but also clearing Waitrose shelves nationwide of jars of fish soup.
  6. A simplified sugo all'amatriciana: instead of guanciale (I have never found that in the UK), fry pancetta or bacon strips in a reasonable amount of olive oil until coloured, add v finely sliced or chopped onion and some chilli flakes, cook down then add tinned tomatoes. Season and cook down again until sauce consistency achieved. Serve with spaghetti/linguine/fettucine and plenty of parmigiano.
  7. Just re-vivifying this thread - has anyone ever used/eaten garlic mustard (a.k.a jack-by-the-hedge) in proper quantities? I always chew on the leaves, and think it would be a nice culinary plant, but I've never got round to trying it. (Mabey says (in Flora Britannica "Garlic Mustard or Jack-by-the-hedge, Alliara petiolata, is an abundant herb of hedge-banks and woods, smelling mildly of garlic. It has long been used as a flavouring: in sauces for fish and lamb in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and as an ingredient for spring salads today. In 1993 it was being sold for a pound a bunch in a smart Italian delicatessen in London's Covent Garden. Jack-by-the-hedge is a biennial, and the soft nettle-shaped leaves can be picked from September, when they first begin to show, until late spring, when the brilliant white flowers appear".)
  8. Now - is that true? Seriously, I had no idea - one opened near me about a year ago, and I had a quick (and vain) look for some interesting bargain euro-type tinned food/charcuterie, but didn't even think to look at the fresh produce. I walk past it very day with barely a glance. And now I feel stupid.
  9. Yes, it depends what you mean by "around" Bracknell, and also what you're looking for in terms of "great eating". You're not far from Bray (two out the UK's three three-star restaurants), and Marlow, slightly lower-end with The Hand and Flowers and the Vanilla Pod. West a bit near Newbury, is the Vineyard at Stockcross.
  10. What about The Sir Charles Napier near Chinnor, which sent Matthew Norman rather wild last year? Review
  11. It's a long while since I ate at either, but in terms of setting, would you prefer a beautiful (if twee) Cotswold village (LOTM), or the dull outskirts of Newbury?
  12. Slow reactions. Actually, we stayed there last Friday. The place itself is largely as others have described, although they omitted that it looks like a Travel Lodge as you pull in off the main road. Once you get through the doors, however, it's good opulent stuff. We'd booked a last minute lastminute deal, at £120 room only, but we were told a) they'd given us a comp upgrade to a luxury room (in the new Atrium wing) and b) had reserved a table for dinner. Re: b) we had decided in advance that we couldn't afford the eye-bleedingly (for us) dinner prices (£58 for two courses, £68 for three), but, sure enough, we fell for it. At aperitif, the elegantly subtle question mark in my "dry sherry?" fell on deaf ears, and resulted in a dry sherry. It was probably Tio Pepe, which of course is fine, but at a Peter Michael place, I was hoping for a bit more of a discussion. H had a Kir Royale framboise. The menu is as on their website (as of today's date, obv.). All of it was up my street, but not much up H's, so to speak. I went for Squab with Rhubard and Custard, then Turbot, she for Roast Chicken and dessert. Amuse was truffle panna cotta, with cep foam. This looked like a huge grey fried egg, but was forceful and (nicely) salty. H could only manage a small bit of what was a generous portion. Good bread with good butter. The squab itself was outstanding (four breasts, or pieces thereof) but, perhaps predictably, I couldn't see the point of the rhubard and custard (overly sweet). Nice pieces of thinly sliced cep worked well though. Turbot was also lovely, as were the pork belly and the langoustine. I didn't really taste the lemongrass, but didn't miss it. H said the chicken was superb, but I was enjoying the turbot so much I didn't really look up. The sommelier had seemed quickly to lose interest when he discovered that I was the only one drinking, and that I only wanted a glass. Just to spite him, I cleverly didn't really listen when he explained his recommendation. Whatever it was, it was a scoop of nectar. H then had Hazelnut Sponge, Chocolate Parfait, Muscovado Foam. I think I stole some. Service was pretty much impeccable, if a bit rushed. The staff did have to contend, however, with an ineffably cool old French couple next to us, who, in the most charming way, made themselves the most awkward bastards possible (before declaring their scallop starters to be "tres bon", at which the waiter expired from delight). Coffee was crap, as it always is, everywhere.
  13. Nah - those Versalab people talk rubbish I think. There certainly isn't a handful of old grinds in my grinder, because I sweep it out after use (the dosing chamber and the chute). That's not to say that a very small quantity of old grounds might persist, but II'm relaxed about that. Freezing beans is a whole area of academic study. Errr...if you me, you don't (have only recently got mine, and not had much chance to experiment. However, if you were one of the members at Home Barista, you'd understand it's due to a number of variables, including grind, pressure, temperature, dose size and, perhaps preeminent - packing and tamping.
  14. You can't go better than the Mazzers really. I think the Rocky is a bit overrated, but that doesn't mean it's not good, and perfectly up to the job, it's just that there are alternatives. At the cheaper end there's the Iberital MC2 (at Happydonkey again - tell Scott at this rate he'll owe me commission) for a bargain £99, and the Gaggia MDF (lots of places, for about £150). Up a bit to the Macaps (which are an excellent Mazzer rival) e.g. the MC4 (dunno why both Iberital and Macap use the MC tag - I'm pretty sure there's no relation) for £229 at BellaBarista. After that (and I'm missing out lots) you're in the Mazzer territory, along with La Cimbali, Compak, and many others. This IS a geeky obsession, and one I'm trying to downgrade from. I've just sold my one-group commercial machine, because that was plain crazy for pulling a couple of shots a day, but one thing I won't be getting rid of is my Compak K6 grinder, which I got for a pittance off ebay. And there's your other option - top-end grinders devalue quickly, but keep running (in general) for ever. The only thing they really need is regular minor cleaing, and every few years, a new set of burrs (Happydonkey again). For example, at the moment I can see on ebay four Mazzer Super Jollys (at varying amounts, and in fact these WILL probably reach decent closing prices), a Brugnetti, a brand new Compak, a brand new Bregant. And that's a slow week. Then again, these commercial grinders do take up a lot of space - my grinder is twice the size of my little Gaggia Classic. Maybe I should have just stopped at recommending the Iberital. Or there's the audiophile espresso equivalent - the Versalab. Shocking website.
  15. Meh. The strictures against backflushing are really to guard against idiots who would leave the pump running MUCH too long. For the few seconds required there's no difference between backflushing and pulling a shot (if you think about it, for the first few seconds of a shot the pump is effectively working against a solid blockage). Randy Glass's Pages Tim, I hadn't realised you were trying to work with (excellent) preground beans. Get the grinder (a Mazzer would be perfect, but there are other less obv choices) - it's the single most important part of the whole shebang.
  16. <...deep breath...> There's a blood-strewn thread brewing somewhere in my mind about the fact that the VERY highest end restaurants fail with coffee. When there are outstanding artisan roasters in Britain, three-star joints still serve Illy, which may not be bad in Trieste, but is not going to be fresh (vacuum-sealed tins notwithstanding) months after roasting. It's not difficult to train your staff to be baristas, and there is a whole world of difference between a good shot pulled from a decent manual machine with good beans, and what is only ever likely to be an average shot pulled from a Nespresso-type auto, with stale beans. In fact, they don't even need an espresso machine: outstanding coffee using good beans and a good grinder with a cafetiere requires almost zero training/effort/outlay. Anyway - thanks Tim for an entertaining pid installation. Do you know you can buy bottomless portafilters from the excellent Happydonkey for only c. £20? I warn you that since I got mine I've been progressively more dismayed by the poor extraction I achieve.
  17. Is the UK that much more under the H&S cosh than the US? In addition to Auberins the other place offering the off-the-shelf kits I know of is pidkits. Randy Glass plugs this place, and he also has more than any normal person could ever wish to know about the Silvia at Espresso My Espresso. Do keep us informed of progress if possible Tim.
  18. Interesting. I've noticed a few people are ordering cross-Atlantic, taking advantage of the weak dollar, e.g. from this place clickage but I imagine if Jez Watson decided to market specific "kits" (as opposed to the bare components) he could make quite a few sales. I've always been mildly interested in "pidding" my old Gaggia, but not enough so to suffer international delivery and customs charges etc. Wonder if he is interested in offering that sort of thing?
  19. Ah - my apologies then. I've currently got no internet connection at home (grrrr...) and at work we're not allowed to access ebay, so I can't look at your links, but they sound interesting.
  20. Atomics were made by Brevetti, not La Pavoni, and although they fetch high prices, are not a piston lever machine. They're no different really to any other Moka pot (aka, erroneously, as a "Stovetop Espresso"). There's also a suggestion that fake vintage ones are now being sold. La Pavoni do make the Europiccola (among others) which is generally thought of as the entry-level lever machine. Other well-known lever machines are made by Elektra and Gaggia (but there are countless others, including the peerless Olympia). If you're really interested, and for more info than you are ever likely to need, check out the Lever Machines forum at Home Barista.
  21. Yes, your bloody earlier report nearly made me cancel our booking. I'm glad we gave them a whirl though, and I thought the service was pretty spot on (a couple of very nervous youngsters at breakfast, but you can forgive that) although tripadvisor has a recent review which suggests it might not always be so peachy (although with that site you can't rule out vindictiveness). Impoverished oik that I am, I'm not really in a position to say how well they're performing Michelin-wise although the meal was considerably better than one last year at Lucknam Park, just before they got their star (not that that was bad). Thanks for replying. The topic was looking a bit lonely on the forum board.
  22. And if you grew up where I did in England, they (or their bastard offspring from the local Chinese Takeaway) are know as Crispy Pancake Rolls...
  23. To celebrate an important date we set off lateish on Friday evening to avoid the Oxford traffic, stopping off on the way for junk food (no dinner reservation for that night). Lords of the Manor is set in the tiny village of Upper Slaughter in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds, not far from Adlestrop (Yes, I remember Adlestrop). LOTM is the former rectory and manor house and lies in glorious surroundings which make it seem miles, and years, away from reality. Staff were friendly and efficient, but the rooms and decor are a little bit tired. Dinner on Saturday night was taken from a choice of tasting menu and ALC - we had the latter (mostly because we'd rather filled up on afternoon tea at another Manor, in Lower Slaughter). While ordering, had a fino with smashing little cheese straws striped with anchovy. I went for sea bream followed by gloucester old spot tenderloin (for some reason I thought it was belly on the menu, but I'm more likely to be wrong on this than they are), while H went for pumpkin velouté followed by red mullet. She wasn't drinking so I had a half-bottle of Cotes du Rhone (Chapoutier Belleruche). The dining room, which had looked a little cold and stiff at breakfast, was nicer in the softer light of evening. We were each brought a little complimentary taster dish: mine, a poached quail egg in bacon foam, H, some sort of smoked salmon thingy (er...I wasn't really paying attention). Both were good. My bream was on couscous dotted with chorizo, with parsnip matchstick chips and a few leaves, and was probably the standout dish for me. H's velouté came in a sort of glass preserving jar as a bowl, which was amusing, but not ideal for access. It came with submerged ?poached egg, and she loved it. I thought it was perfectly nice and executed, but lacked a little oomph. My pork was fantastic as well, pink and tasty, with vanilla mash and broccoli and carrots - nothing fancy but pretty much faultless. I didn't get to see much of H's mullet, and she's not a big one for details, but I did have a mouthful of fish, and half a scallop, and among the mouthful was that intense squiddy-cuttlefishy-in-its-own-inky type of taste (we couldn't remember what the menu description had been, and forgot to ask the waiter). Her dish also came with a foam, which H was getting a bit tired of (as her amuse and her starter also came with one). H had caramel souffle with white coffee bean chocolate ice cream (?) for pudding, which came and went without me noticing, so it can't have been bad. I went for the perverse choice of ordering the pudding I liked the sound of least - spiced pear with gingerbread and foie gras ice cream, which, though I acknowledge the boldness of the idea, was pretty disgusting, but I blame myself to an extent - what did I expect? Coffee was crap. *RANT MODE ON* Coffee is always crap in restaurants. I love coffee, and I manage to order quality beans and grind them just before use, so why the hell can't quality restaurants? All they would need to knock people off their feet is a good supplier (I could give them half-a-dozen names, and none of them are the Italian big names) and a good grinder. They don't really need espresso machines, which require maintenance and proper training to operate (as well as a large initial outlay). *RANT MODE OFF* Breakfast was OK, but not in the same league as dinner (lovely black pudding, nice sausage, so-so bacon, undercooked fried eggs). Well worth a weekend visit. EDITED TO ADD. Chef is Les Rennie, former Michelin one-star at Ynyshir Hall.
  24. Apologies if other people have pointed this out, but the BBC is airing a series (starting tomorrow, 31 October) with Heston Blumenthal In Search of Perfection. It's quite possible the BBC might put it up as a streaming broadcast after each programme has aired.
  25. You'll notice a HUGE difference grinding your own coffee, and although it requires a bit of commitment and outlay, you can make good espresso at home. For example, I have an almost brand new commercial one-group Iberital machine, which I swapped for a two-group I won on ebay - I kept the commercial grinder, external flojet pump and steel knockout drawer which came in the ebay lot, which cost £350 in total (what's that - about $650?). Admittedly, I took a gamble, and got lucky, but, at the very least, check out some of the many ex-commercial grinders going on ebay.co.uk - in general, these machines (Mazzers, Compaks, Rossis etc) are pretty much indestructible, and the most you'd need to do is get replacement burrs, for about £50. Hasbean took a lead from Charlie Massey at HillandValley, and for many, Charlie is still the premier micro-roaster. (If you want to provoke him, send Charlie an email asking why he doesn't stock Fairtrade beans...). There's a newish player on the UK machine market - bellabarista, who are importing some of the more exciting new HX machines. For a while, in the UK, you'd struggle to find much more than Isomacs, but now the Brewtus, Andreja Premium and Izzo machines are available (I have NO connection with this company, and cannot vouch for them - simply passing on info). Finally, If you're in the UK, you really should join the toomuchcoffee forums, which although they're often a hasbean lovefest (Steve was one of the founder members of the site) are indispensable for European coffeeheads.
  • Create New...