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porkpa

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  1. Warning-Very Long After lurking on this list for a few months, I decided that it was time to finally register and post. A friend of mine was taking his daughter and her college room mate to London and then Paris as a graduation gift. He and the girls would sightsee, shop and enjoy the food and theatre. He suggested that I join them for all or part of the trip - all meals on him! Since I had to be in Stockholm, I decided that it would be great to make a detour for part of the London portion of the trip. They were staying at Claridges and the concierge had secured dinner or lunch reservations at Gordon Ramseys(Claridges), le Manoir au Quat'Saisons, Nobu, The Square, The Ivy and J Sheekeys. I had dinner at Ramseys and the Manoir and lunch at Nobu before I had to leave. I would rate the overall experience at Ramseys to be extremely disappointing; that at le Manoir to be excellent, if not extraordinary and Nobu to be excellent - comparable to those of the Nobu's in New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles(Matsuhisa) where I had previously eaten. I will try to compare the details of the Ramsey vs Quat'Saisons dinners. The Ramsey experience started off on a bad note(IMO) when my buddy received a call in his room asking him if he would mind having dessert at 9.30 in the bar area(our dinner reservation was for 7.30). His response was that he did not expect to be finished dinner at that time. He intended to explore the repertory of Mr Ramsey; to enjoy the restaurant's bounty of food and wine. He would most definitely mind! Traffic caused us to be late at the Manoir, when we called the response was "Not to worry, the table is yours for the evening. We'll be ready for you when you get here". We arrived promptly at 7.30 at Ramsey's. We decided to have the tasting menu(virtually the same as that had by Blind Lemon Higgins). My friend asked that in addition to the dishes on the tasting menu, we would like to sample two or three more of the chef's dishes per his choice. The response was to the effect: "This is an extraordinary request, something we have never done before. Its impossible." My friend asked that the request be made to the kitchen. We would abide by their decision. This was the last we heard of it. My guess is that they were still trying to get us out of there by 9.30 and they never even advised the kitchen of his request. At the Manoir the reception was most cordial. Time was never an issue, even though we were almost an hour late for our reservation. We also had the tasting menu. The girls had fois gras the evening before and asked if the kitchen would substitute for it on the menu. The maitre D asked if they had a preference or wished to be surprised. They chose to be surprised. When asked if we could add some specialty dishes to the tasting menu, the response was "Certainly'. Now on to the food. Unfortunately I didn't take notes and my memory is nowhere near as good as it once was. Les Amuses: GR@C-A fois gras pate with mini toasts. Very good, but probably a poor choice since all four of us were having the tasting menu which included a fois gras dish. Shockingly the soiled dishes from the pate were never removed during the course of our dinner. Definitely not a three star experience. Manoir-Dishes containing four amuse were presented to each of us in the beautiful reception area. I can't remember what exactly they were, only that they were delicious. I think two were seafood and the others were vegetables. Once in the dining room, we were given two other amuse, neither of which I remember, but both delicious. First Course: GR@C-Bullion with cepes. Very ordinary and VERY salty as were all the three first dishes we had. Manoir-A fantastic asparagus soup. Remarkable for me since I am not a great fan of vegetables - especially asparagus! The vegetable dishes and vegetable sides were exceptional. The Manoir grows all its own. They were either a feature or part of each dish we had. Second Course: GR@C-Foie gras and carpaccio of goose breast. Very good but quite and unnecessarily salty. After the foie gras pate amuse this was definitely overkill. Manoir-Fois Gras for the men. Very good, but after the evening previous, we had perhaps been fois gras'd out. The girls "surprise" was a mini cheese souffle. Beautiful to look at, even better to eat(we tasted). We wished we had followed them. Third Course: GR@C-Lobster Raviolo. Just allright. Again very salty and the ravioli was quite tough and rubbery. Manoir-A melange of fresh roasted vegetables in an incredible sauce. Absolutely terrific. Remember this comes from somebody who never learned to love his vegetables. Fourth Course: GR@C-A choice between lamb and roasted pork belly. Everybody else had the lamb. I had the pork belly. IMO it was by far the best dish of the evening. Absolutely delicious. It melted in your mouth. The sauce, a madiera reduction suited it perfectly. This dish rescued the evening. One of the better dishes I have ever had. The others said their lamb was very good. Manoir-We had a roast duck dish. I can't describe it other to say that it was excellent. The vegetables which accompanied it were even better. The extra dishes were turbot in an excellent white sauce and a small piece of scottish beef. Both succulent. Cheese Coarse- GR@C-The cheeses were good but the presentation and description were lacking. They were described as "a blue cheese", "a goat cheese", "a stilton", "a French cheese from Normandy", etc. No knowledgable descriptions were given. The portions were quite small, if not tiny. Manoir-A much broader choice of English cheeses than GR@C; less so of French; also some good Spanish and Italian choices. The cheeses were well explained and the portions were large -too large! Desserts- GR@C-As Higgins describes it the almond creme brule was outstanding. The assortment of sorbets was very good. The girls had the pineapple dessert. They loved it! The petit fours and after dinner chocolates were fine. We weren't even asked if we wished an after dinner drink. I guess they were still trying to get us out of there even though it was almost 10.30. Manoir-We had a kaleidoscope(?sp) of mini portions of numerous desserts including a wonderful assortment of chocolate pastries. I settled on the sorbets. Very, very good. Even though we were the last table there, we were offered after dinner drinks courtesy of the house, which we refused, bloat was beginning to set in :-))). Wine- In both restaurants, we left the choice of wines up to the sommeliers. They chose a mid priced white and red at each place. I can't for the life of me remember what we had. Only that all wines were good and suitable for the food we were having. The sommeliers were polite, efficient and did not take advantage of a situation where to some degree they were given carte blanche. Overall- It was a slam dunk for Manoir. They clearly won on service, hospitality, quality of food, graciousness, professionalism and overall proficiency, even though the single best dish was probably GR@C's roast pork belly. Ironically if not noteworthy, GR@C has an English chef with an almost all French staff, while the Manoir is adminstered by a French family and has an almost all English staff. The next day we had lunch at Nobu. What can I say? Nobu is Nobu. The food is excellent. Service is good. Everything else is okay. The best value you can get is ordering the Bento Box for lunch. It goes for around 25 pounds and includes most of the specials that Nobu is famous for. A great bargain and more than any of us could finish. Porkpa.
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