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Everything posted by magnolia

  1. As in the past, UK wine lovers are doing their part for the Red Nose Day appeals, via Wine Relief. You can actually help raise money for worthy causes by drinking wine - and it's even more fun if you participate in a live wine tasting event online with a bunch of friends. A votre santé !
  2. Did they go to Southern Italy - Sicily or Naples perhaps? Sounds like something that would have been introduced by Arabs, like most things with citrus...
  3. Can't believe I've missed this one ! Have to head over there. Bizarre but somehow endearing website, they have...
  4. Unfortunately Silverbrow is correct: SJW, like Hampstead and W. Hampstead, are - somewhat incongruously - culinary deserts. The nearest decent places are the ones suggested above, unless you count Royal China (just up the road from SJW underground). You could try Bradley's, at Swiss Cottage; Lansdowne or The Engineer, the gastro-pubs on Gloucester Avenue in Chalk Farm (haven't been to these in years though so can't advise on whether they are still good); or could head to Marylebone which has Michael Moore and Galvin.
  5. Yes, like a headline such as 'Bird Flu! Don't Panic!' Ate a birthday meal at Thornton's three years ago, and although pleasant, the presentation was far better than the food itself. However given comments here, I would like to go back to see if/how things have changed.
  6. You lucky Islingtonites, Paul Young - a proper chocolatier, teacher (for himself, for Rococo, etc.) - opens his patisserie/chocolate shop on Monday. It's at 33 Camden Passage. I think he'll be offering freebies. I don't think I'll make it but would love to hear peoples' opinions: paul.a.young fine chocolates 33 Camden Passage Islington London N1 8EA
  7. Actually Naebody's onto something. This is exactly what a restaurateur who's been in Richmond for about 15 years said when I asked how it was possible that his place, a very welcoming, bijou bistro-like place with a wine list to die for, was empty on a Friday night. He said that the demographics had changed since he opened, such that those who worked in central London were more inclined to eat out in Central London, and go straight home where babysitters were looking after the kids. The other reason - and this is a less empirical but personal observation - food is just not important to the vast majority of people, they see it as sustenance rather than as a source of entertainment, catalyst to conversation and fulfilment etc. People who live in Holland Park, Muswell Hill, Hampstead etc. etc. are no different.
  8. Yes - Czech social club is there, but it has a new name (in tiny print on the menu) - have always been curious. And I stand corrected about Louis in Hampstead, apparently there is still a Louis and he is (still) Hungarian. But the atmosphere and the pastries are still desultory/stodgy (respectively). If Gail's is indeed part of the B&S group then it's head & shoulders above anything else on the street, and a welcome addition !
  9. Haven't looked at the wine list at Square (when I was last there, I was with someone of the very old school who doesn't think ladies should bother their little heads about that kind of thing, and I didn't have the energy to argue). I can tell you that there are lots of bargains on the list at Le Gavroche, but what makes them a bargain is that not that they are inexpensive, just that the same wine on another high end wine list or in the open market (if you can even get it) will likely be much more. In fact, in a place like Le Gavroche, you will find much better value among the high end wines than you will at the lower end. At the lower end, upmarket restaurants tend to rip peoples' faces off - i.e. putting a far more obscene mark-up on their less expensive wines, because they know these will turn over faster than the more costly ones. There are no such arbitrages on the wine list at Sketch. I vote for Le Gav, it's a real birthday kind of place. But I really cannot believe what they told you at RHR...book at Le Gav as Plan A, and then if you want to test the theory, try to book as well at RHR, be really nice, if it's a guy who answers the phone, put on a more American accent, say it's a special birthday, say you know how popular the restaurant is but perhaps someone has cancelled...
  10. I've been living in W. Hampstead (just over the NW3 border, in NW6) for five years and I fear I take a very dim view - from a food point of view - of Belsize Park, W. Hampstead, Hampstead and Primrose Hill. For a place with so much potential (and money), it is indeed a sad and lonely place to eat. Finchley Road is mostly an abomination of downmarket chains; West End Lane is pretty crummy too; and Hampstead High Street and Haverstock Hill are most depressing of all, totally mediocre Flintstonian background copies of every other 'better' neighbourhood high street - i.e. cookie cutter 'upmarket' and 'family-friendly' chains with laminated identikit menus. The old-timey Hungarian pastry shop (formerly Louis of Hampstead) probably is no more Hungarian than I am, and has pretty sad fare - though I haven't been to the other one in Hampstead, which is still Louis I think, maybe that one is good. I agree Bagel Street (Belsize Park & off Hampstead HIgh Street) have the only decent bagels in London other than Brick Lane - and I'm not just saying this because the chain is owned by a friend of mine. But you wouldn't want to eat them for every meal. On West End Lane, the ony bright spots are Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Lupa pizza (if you're desperate for takeaway pizza), Wet Fish for brunch, and Walnut Tree or Walnut something used to be good but the last time I ate there it was deafeningly loud, had terrible service and the food was way too salty. There are a couple of OK Japanese places on Finchley Road: Wakaba and Haro (I think? It's up a couple of blocks from the 02 centre) but I'm not a connoisseur, and I'm not rushing back...There's even a Benihana, but I don't know how it stays in business. The exceptions for more special meals, as a couple of people have noted, are Artigiano, very decent Italian in Belsize Park Village, and Bradley's, with dependable French-ish food. Sadly Eriki (uprmarket Indian on Fincley Road) used to be good but has slid down, and I notice they now either sell pizza, or advertise it on behalf of another restaurant - there's a big sign in the window - a sure sign of desperation. I note with interest that Green Cottage - decent Chinese that had been there forever, but closed - has reopened after many months - and looks exactly the same as before. Maybe they changed their minds. Anyway, I can't think of more than five restaurants that *may* be owner-operated, much less have anything closely resembling a Chef. As an aside - though I don't think of Camden/Chalk Farm as near enough to include local haunts - I have to disagree about Marine Ices, I find the flavours are bland and the ice cream has a chalky texture, as if it has been thawed and refrozen. If you're going to go that far for ice cream, may as well go to Odonno in Selfridges or South Ken, which I think may have the only decent ice cream in all of London at the moment but happy to be proven wrong. Gastrochick - all that said - I live in hope, and am always open to suggestion. I would LOVE to venture a bit farther afield, for Polish food, Japanese, for good Italian - haven't heard of Sardo Canale - and make some new discoveries, so do PM me if you're looking for a dining partner.
  11. I agree with most of the above, Curley is right now the best retail patissier in London. Some additional thoughts: - Baker and Spice and la Fromagerie do excellent breakfast-type pastries, 'artisanal breads' &tc; not sure if La Fromagerie do their own, but I believe B&S do. B&S also do great strudels, scones and the like, possibly the best I've had in London. Definitely the best rugelach I've bought here. - If there isn't a B&S near you, Maison Blanc do almost-proper croissants and the like, as does Pain Quotidien. All are probably on a par with Paul, one step up from PV; - Richoux used to do decent ones but I haven't been there in a long while. - PV's croissants are on a par with those of the pre-frozen "fresh" ones sold at Waitrose, S'bury's et all (i.e. all soggy dough and dripping with low quality butter, no flake) - and in general, all of their pastries tend to taste exactly the same, except different shapes. But PV does good apple cakes and tarts (the rest of their cakes taste like sawdust, their chocolate cakes have no chocolate flavour at all. - At PV & Maison Blanc, the fruit fillings (for patisserie, breakfast pastraies, cakes) taste industrial, their lemon tart fillings for example, taste like cleaning fluid. - The eclairs, mille feuille etc. at Maison Blanc are decent - None of the above does a decent baguette. - Minamoto Kitchoan (also in New York) is the Japanese place on Piccadilly, shocklngly, I've never actually bought anything from either place. - If Wolseley did takeaway, that would be a good bet for breakfast pastries (though I admit I haven't been there since before their pastry chef decamped)
  12. magnolia


    The College Hotel (that Lucy mentions) is indeed great fun, it's a converted school and that's it's 'theme'. The rooms are bright white with gym lockers for your clothes, and text books. The breakfast room has school desks. Comfy, fun and not expensive. Another good one - a bit 'grander' and smack in the middle of it all is the Hotel Globe et Sicile. But these are both regular hotels, so no kitchens. You've got nothing to lose, though, by asking at the College Hotel whether they might let you use their kitchen, they seem like quite funky/flexible types. You might also check whether there are any serviced flat-type hotels, like Citadines, in Lyons. They're not deluxe but they have kitchens.
  13. I'm making a recipe that calls for Meyer lemons, I'm in the UK and sadly I wouldn't know a Meyer lemon if it was squeezed over my head. What would be the best substitute, are they on the sweet side of sour? the sour side of sour? juicy? rind-y? Please advise...
  14. Oh, mercy, please, my friend, do me a favor: not here. It was painful enough on the "Myth" thread, but it was on a non-French section of the forum, so that was sort of okay. I'd be broken-hearted to see that kind of thing here, where the regulars are more informed. Just use the link provided by John, you'll find everything. No need to repeat that here. ← I haven't heard of a myth thread, but I'm not basing my thoughts on anything I've read there or here. I'm very pleased to learn I'm completely off base, that a lot of what I've read (on and offline, plus trade sources); and what I've heard from locals like yourself as well as the market traders themselves; and what I've observed, in terms of the unevenness of quality at the few markets with which I'm pretty familiar, having visited them regularly for 10 years or so, is just wrong. It actually was John himself to whom I was responding, when he said (rhetorically) 'say it isn't so', and to which I responded that even in France, of all places, it may be so. But I'm pleased the matter is completely settled, and that all products at markets across France are just hours from being pulled from the ground or running around the yard.
  15. If it is true, it certainly makes sense - in London, unless it says 'farmers market', it's not. How many Savoiard cheesemakers are going to drive overnight to Paris once a week? In general I am guessing that the stall holders are professional market traders who get their food mostly from Rungis, I imagine - it's the ones who get there earlier and have better relationships with the suppliers at Rungis (which I am guessing probably gets its stuff from a variety of suppliers too) who have the more delectable tomatoes etc. etc. Anyway I might be totally wrong - I hope I am. BUt I wouldn't be shocked.. I still prefer those markets to UK ones (super and otherwise).
  16. It's financially prohibitive for most chocolate makers to source the 'base' chocolate (couverture) directly, so nearly every quality chocolate maker-retailer you find will use either Valrhona or Caillbaut (I'm sure I'm spelling the latter wrong) which are the main suppliers of high quality coverture.* Rococo, l'Artisan and (perhaps, it's under debate) Marcolini source some of their couverture directly; La Maison du Chocolat may also. Wiliiam Curley, whom I think does the best chocolate based pastries in London, uses Valrhona. He and l'Artisan do the best chocolates, and Rococo does great 'novelty' chocolates (dfferent shapes/colours and flavoured bars) *This is in no way meant to denigrate anyone - merely to explain that nearly everyone starts with the same raw materials and it's what they do with them - what they add in terms of flavourings, and how fresh these fillings/flavourings are - that distinguishes them from each other. Rule of thumb in buying a bar is that there should be very few ingredients on the label - the fewer the better in fact; cocoa solids; milk; bit of sugar (very little bit) and that's about it. No vegetable oil, stabilisers, etc.etc. I don't remember where Michel Cluizel gets his chocolate but it is good too. Less expensive but still decent brands including G&B (owned by Cadbury's so I would be surprised if it's made in Italy, but it's possible - I will find out) will use cheaper source material, possibly even bought from a middle party. I've sampled chocolate from MELT in Notting Hill, a new place that uses Valrhona, and it's very promising.
  17. I walked by on my way to Odeon and also asked the carpenter, he said it would be be open next week...but I agree, optimistic (unless they're working 24/7).
  18. Just had dinner there last night, it was packed and service was very overwhelmed. I was with a large party and there was nearly a 45 minute wait between each course. The starters/mains/desserts were completely up to snuff: - salad of skate, chicory, anchovies and capers in a light mayonnaisey dressing was extremely very moreish - hare pie with shallots was awesome, really game and caramelly; side of swede was a bit thin and not very flavourful, the only disappointment of the meal; side of greens - the waiter said they were 'sprout tops', I didn't know sprouts had tops, and these reminded me of 'spring greens' - thick shiny green leaves lightly saute'd and salted - eccles cake and Lancashire cheese, I *really* wanted to eat two but could only manage one.
  19. Tea & desserts = The Wolseley (Piccadilly) or Tea Palace in Notting Hill F&C - not my thing but Nautilus (27-29 Fortune Green Rd, London, UK - England NW6 · 20-7435 2532 ...) has been mentioned on this board. In fact there are numerous debates about F&C herewith (as well as tea) if you scroll through past threads...
  20. A bit off topic - but that's the same thing that happened to me the first time I went to L'Ambroisie in 1987. I had a phone number and address for them, from a Gault-Millau, and when my mother came over to visit (she with the purse strings, I a starving student) we decided to splash out. I called and reserved, and we showed up at the appointed place - but it wasn't L'Ambroisie. I then went to the payphone across the street and called, and the phone had a message with the new number on it, for the 'real' 'L'Ambroisie'. It was now about 13h45 or so, and I called and explained my situation - even though it would be nearly the end of lunchtime by the time we arrived, they graciously agreed to serve us whenever we got there. We ended up having a three hour lunch, eating at the same time as the staff. The food was fabulous, we got smashed, and it couldn't have been better. It's one of the best meals I recall, even though I have no recollection of what we ate. I have been back since then, and my experience was totally different, and not in a good way. But I'm hoping to give it another chance this year....
  21. Re: scallops, very interesting because I've never noted that they remove the coral when serving scallops in France - I find it odd that they would. I'll have to pay more attention. They definitely are served with the coral in England.
  22. My beau is one of those La Mamma types, never likes anyone's Italian cooking except his mother's (and his own) but he does like: Locatelli Il Giardinetto (expensive) - and true, portions have decreased and prices have increased since their move; Il Camerino (less expensive) Rosmarino The latter two have interesting and decently priced wine lists. The former two have good wine lists but no bargains and nothing out of the ordinary (though Giardinetto had Occhio di Pernice either by the glass, or by the bottle nearly at cost if I recall correctly - there was something particularly surprising about their dessert wines, anyway) He hasn't been, but I like Assaggi (expensive); Passione; and Tentazione too but not as much as the above. I'd be very curious to know what the ICE people think of Carluccio's, because I - as a non-Italian -don't even think of these restaurants as Italian; to me they're a step up from a deli or sandwich shop, pleasant go-to's for decent coffee, soup and bread or something but not much else, sadly. The problem with pricing at Italian restaurants in London - and almost everywhere outside Italy, for that matter - is that most non-Italians consider pasta a main course. That's why Americans and Brits, at least, tend to get all hot and bothered when they go to a restaurant in Italy and find that they're expected to order a starter, a pasta, a main and so on, they just think they're being ripped off by the restaurant but in fact that is how Italians eat. Likewise, because pasta is about the cheapest thing on earth, restaurants outside Italy jack the price up knowing that most people will order it as their main. Fresh pasta is also much better than dried, but quite labour intensive and the irony is that outside Italy, only the really high-end places will make their own.
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