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Everything posted by IanT

  1. An excellent first meal at Kitchen Table last night. Highlights were the chicken skin with rosemary mascarpone and bacon jam, venison with collard greens and wild garlic, and a run of very accomplished fruit desserts highlighting some impressive technique. Service was spot on, atmosphere was great, the room is very attractive in a gleaming chef's toy kind of way. The success of Bubbledogs and the press coverage of the hot dogs and champagne concept has probably led to a lower profile for the Kitchen Table. It's certainly one of the best restaurants to open in London in recent years and, in my view, a step ahead of its near-neighboour and press-darling Dabbous.
  2. Excellent dinner here the Saturday before Christmas. I managed to taste most of the menu and was very impressed. Lots of vibrant flavours happily knocking up against one another. Not hiding the Ottolenghi influences but adding its own individuality and showcasing some top class Irish ingredients (we may not have a cuisine worth speaking of but we can certainly produce the, eh, produce). The highlights for me were the roasted beetroot with pickled red cabbage, hung sour cream and tarragon, and the slow-roasted spiced shoulder of Roscommon lamb, yoghurt soup with sweet potato and spinach. Another mention in The Irish Times this morning getting the nod for "salad of the year". It seems you can win friends with salad. Highly recommended.
  3. Dustbuddy - interesting to see another mentin for Gilles Goujon. Not a place that usually gets much attention on-line but well worth its 3* status and strikes a nice balance between the old and new. My UK only list would be: 1. The Ledbury 2. Nathan Outlaw 3. Hand and Flowers 4. Le Champignon Sauvage 5. Sushi Tetsu 6. Dabbous 7. Castle Terrace 8. Sushi of Shiori 9. Yorke Arms 10. Paul Ainsworth @ No.6
  4. 1. Gilles Goujon (Auberge du Vieux Puits) 2. The Ledbury (July meal particularly memorable from 4 visits) 3. Le Chateaubriand 4. Le Cinq 5. Nathan Outlaw 6. Hand and Flowers 7. Le Champignon Sauvage 8. Sushi Tetsu 9. Medlar 10.Dabbous (tempted not to include it but the good dishes were very good) Other favourite meals: Hawksmoor (multiple times), Bandol (Berlin), Sushi of Shiori, Pitt Cue, Roka, Trullo, Zucca, Porcao (Rio), Tayyabs, Moro, Nobu, Paul Ainsworth (though patchy), Gero (Rio). Notable disappointments: Olympe (Rio), Vau (Berlin), The Seafood Restaurant (Padstow), Zuka (Rio). "London 2012 - Year of the Hamburger" Award: Hawksmoor. Ahead of Goodman, Burger & Lobster and honourable mention for Byron which is impressively good for a chain. MeatLiquor gets a "could try harder" for letting quality slip. "London 2012 - Also Year of Ramen" Award: Tonkotsu. Ahead of Shoryu and Bone Daddies.
  5. Anyone been? It got a great review in last week's Irish Times: http://bit.ly/Xa7wJ2 The chef, Richard Gleeson, has a great CV for this kind of thing - Ottolenghi and Petersham Nurseries. I've booked in for a trip to Dublin later this month, will report back.
  6. Very surprised on the basis of a meal there last summer, I thought it was overrated at 2*. At the time I said: "Not all that original (I had seen many of the ideas/techniques before), a few good courses but generally gimmicky, I disliked the room and service (sommelier apart) wasn't good (partly due to the awkward room)."
  7. That's not quite right Gary. The criteria for a 1* restaurant is "Very Good Cooking in its Category" but the "in its Category" qualifier is dropped from the 2* and 3* criteria ("Excellent cooking, worth a detour" and "Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey" respectively). My understanding has always been that 1* hopefuls are judged against other establishments of their category (whether that is pub, dim sum or posh French) but that the 2* and 3* categories are judged against some objective level of quality regardless of category. This limits the ability of pubs to climb beyond 1*. Hand and Flowers does seem a bit of an anomaly on that rationale (much and all as I liked it, The Sportsman would seem more deserving) but no more egregious than lots of other anomalies we could point to (the UK&I 3* list is in particulalry dire need of pruning - Ducasse/Ramsay/Waterside Inn...)
  8. Superb dinner at The Ledbury on Monday night, maybe the best we've had in c.20 visits since it opened. I've been saying it's the best restaurant in London since 2007 and, at this stage, I don't think there's another restauarant in the city that even enters the conversation. I didn't take notes but our menu included: Squid crackers with turbot roe and apple, foie gras with gingerbread Heirloom tomoato salad with dried oilves and goats cheese caneloni A sensational salad of white peach, almonds and shaved foie gras Lobster with Elderflower Quail with apricots Pigeon with cherries, beetroot and foie gras Short rib of beef with English wasabi Cheese Pre-dessert Wild strawberries with ewes milk cured and herbs Vanilla tart with blackcurrants Mango and vanilla mille feuille with kaffir lime ice cream A long menu without a misstep. Both the quality of the ingredients (particulalry the tomatoes, the lobster and the pigeon) and the precision of the cooking (the lobster, the pigeon, the short rib, every piece of protein to be honest) really stood out. And they've absolutely nailed the mille feuille.
  9. Sushi Tetsu opened on Monday night in the very tiny premises formerly occupied by Passage Cafe on Jerusalem Passage in Clerkenwell (next door to the Dove Belgian bar). It's owned and run by Toru Takahashi and his wife. Toru was sushi chef at Nobu for five years before leaving to open his own place. I don't want to burden them with massively inflated expectations, but this was the closest thing to the Yasuda experience I've found in London. Toru served up piece after piece of top class sushi whilst keeping up a patter on Belgian beer, bossa nova (Astrud v. Bebel Gilberto), blues (Does Johnny Winter hate Japanese people? Why Bobby Bland isn't really blues) and the relative merits/demerits of various sushi restaurants in London and further afield (in fact he namechecked Yasuda as an influence). It's a more classical sushi bar than Sushi of Shiori (which I also very much like). No hot food, no miso. Just sashimi, nigiri and maki. It's a true sushi omakase experience, one piece of nigiri at a time, the meal developing its own flow, its own momentum. It is quite traditional, occasional use is made of a blowtorch but not to the extent it is used at Yashin. The torch giving an effect not unlike the grill used by Masa in Tokyo. In the end, of course, this is London. Billingsgate is not Tsukiji. The fish is not quite at the level of Yasuda or Kuruma (who can import directly from Tokyo) not to mention the Tokyo heavyweights. But it's very, very good and it's prepared with immense skill and passion. This was a hugely encouraging first meal (all the better for it being 400 yards from my front door). I suspect the London sushi scene has a new contender.
  10. This is rather the problem with internet forums and blogs - regularly eating out does not establish "dining credentials" sufficient to pass declarative judgments on restaurants at this level. This is not a food specific issue, no doubt the same thing manifests itself on boards debating wine, classical music, art etc. Of course everyone is entitled to an opinion (opinions are like...) and its fun to discuss and debate them. Indeed, that's what internet forums are for. My issue is with posters of (with respect) relatively little knowledge holding themselves out as experts and offering definitive views slating something they barely understand. Even more so when there's something such as a perceived slight, a preference for a style of food/ingredient or some other prejudice influencing the view. I suspect the "dining credentials" comment was aimed at me so, just to clarify, I've eaten at the 4 UK 3* restaurants, 11 of the 2* restaurants and approx. 40 of the 1* restaurants. Perhaps more importantly at this level, I've also eaten at most of the best 3* restaurants across Europe and indeed many other 3* restaurants around the world. I'm still far from an expert and would never hold myself out as one.
  11. We were there again in April, it's a consistently cracking restaurant, solid 2* level and one of the top five places to eat in the country.
  12. Trangallan I've been meaning to post somewhere about this restaurant for months. Top class, modern Spanish food that seems to have flown under the critics' radar (perhaps becuase its in not-so-fashionable Newington Green?) Our first visit in January came a week after a meal at Pizarro (which we really like) and, hands down, the meal at Trangallan was better. Some whimsical dishes ("Tortilla 2012", the latest in a an annual series of the chef's interpretations of tortilla) but what really stood out was the top-class fish dishes particulalry the most perfectly cooked hake. Cracking sherry list and very friendly service. This goes beyond being a neighbourhood gem and could be the best Spanish restaurant in London... Yipin China The chef from Golden Day has moved to set up his own Hunanese/Sichuan joint in Islington. We were alerted to it by Jay Rayner's review in the Observer a couple of months ago and visited last night for a pre-cinema dinner. We had man & wife offal, crispy pigs intestine, fish poached in chilli oil and Chairman Mao's pork. Far too much food but everything was top class, just as good as Bar Shu where we usually get our Sichuan fix. Highly recommended.
  13. IanT

    Le Chateaubriand

    We're planning to visit Le Chateaubriand (with Le Daupin as a fall-back if the line is too long) this Saturday night. Any recommendations for places to have a few ncie cocktails nearby beforehand? Cheers, Ian
  14. I am stunned at the extent to which he has "paid homage" to Noma. So many elements - the tables and chairs, the bread in the hop sack, the presentaiton of the tuilles, the herring mayonnaisse... But the tartare with sorrell and juniper really takes the Danish butter cookie.
  15. I'm a fan. The robata dishes are pretty much all excellent. Most of the best dishes are off the robata grill - the lamb chops, aubergine, chicken wings, sea bream, duck, quail are all outstanding. Also the king crab hot pot (to share). Its not a place to go and eat sushi though. If you are keen to try some really good sushi then I'd suggest Sushi of Shiori (similar level to Umu though a lot less expensive).
  16. To add to the praise above, we had an excellent lunch a couple of weeks ago. I really like the drinks list. A good range of sherries and importanly covering txacoli and paxaran. It turned into a 5 hour lunch as the food was followed by many cortados and paxarans. We were in a group of 7 so ordered the entire menu. We enjoyed pretty much everything but the stand-out was the ham. £20 may seem a lot for a plate of ham but this is the very best Iberico. Massive flavours, very long - turkish delight, tar, tobacco - beautiful. A similar raciones of the best Iberico will cost you €18+ in San Sebastian so its not that punitive a mark-up. Great room also, feels like its been there for a long time already. I'll go back there before any of the Brindisas/Barrafina/Moro (all of which I like).
  17. Yes, its "La Cantinella" in Barolo. Not to be confused with La Cantinetta which is close by. The ranking probably needs to be contextualised somewhat. Its quite a casual place but did the simple things incredibly well - Piemontese classics like porcini flan, carne crudo with truffles, tajarin salsicca etc - we were on honeymoonn, we walked there from an amazing morning tasting wine with Chiara Boschis at E.Pira etc. Piazza Duomo - We found it gimmicky and unoriginal. I had seen many of the techniques before (Adria's instant sponges turned up in both sweet and savoury form) and the application of technique didn't add to the taste of the ingredients. They had a multi-vegetable course (as many high end restaurants now do, along the the lines of the Bras gargouillou) but it was to be eaten with tweezers rather than letting the ingredients interplay... I also disliked the room and service (sommelier apart) wasn't good.
  18. It has become a bit of a tradition for me to put together a list of the 10 best meals I eat each year. This seems as good a place as any to post my list for 2011: 1. Per Se 2. Le Calandre 3. Da Vittorio 4. The Ledbury 5. Nathan Outlaw 6. In de Wulf 7. Il Cantinella 8. Minetta Tavern 9. Grouse at St John 10.The Greenhouse Not convinced: Dinner by HB (good food but disliked the room and service), Hedone (execution not quite there on my one visit). Michelin Starred Mishaps: Piazza Duomo, La Truffe Noire, L'Ecrivain, Zafferano. Not as strong as my 2010 list and well behind 2009. I will have to make a bigger effort next year...
  19. I'm surprised to see so many votes for Goodman. Hawksmoor wins by a distance for me. I've been to Hawksmoor 20+ times and Goodman 5 or 6 times and would allow that it's pretty close between them on grass fed steaks. Goodman's USDA beef has been very disappointing on the two times I've had it. Everything else, however, is clearly in Hawksmoor's favour for me. Sides are much better, cocktail programme is superb, wine list is better and I much prefer the feel and atmosphere of the whole operation. I've been going to both from Day 1, Hawksmoor feels like a labour of love (albeit one that is slowly becoming a chain), Goodman felt like the first branch of a chain the day it openend. PS Matthew, Hedone is a good restaurant but its steak (although obviously a beautfiul piece of meat) was not at this level.
  20. Wow, looks amazing. From looking at the pictures/reading the menu I would never have guessed it was a meal @MW. Incredibly impressed at the extent to which James has been allowed to develop the menu since being appointed head chef - this food clearly bears his influence and it looks all the better for it.
  21. That's interesting Jon. We tasted pretty much every banh mi in London last year (plus some of the best in Sydney, Melbourne and New York - my fiancee is Vietnamese and we wanted to do our own stand at Borough with Ginger Pig pork, home made pickles etc, shame the Trustees turned us down...) and thought the Broadway Market stand the best in London. I tried their new shop in Islington two weeks ago and it is also very good. Much better than my one visit to Banh Mi Bay, I live around the corner so will give it another chance. Hope you are well by the way! Ian
  22. I've been talking about a gastro-trip to Belgium for ages. There's a readily identifiable movement which focuses on showcasing top quality Belgian ingredients in a modern, stripped down manner. Noma-esque I suppose you could call it. Modern Belgian restaurants, led by Oud Sluis, L'Air du Temps and In de Wulf, have become some of the most talked about restaurants in Europe. My lovely fiancee picked up on the hints and booked a surprise birthday weekend. In de Wulf is in the middle of nowhere, nothing but farms (ex-WWI battlefields) and church spires as far as the eye can see. The old converted farmhouse is a very relaxing place and we enjoyed our stay (and breakfast the next morning) but dinner was a little disappointing. The highlight was an off-menu bonus of local pigeon which had been aged for a week with giblets in, then aged for a further week after its giblets had been removed and it had been stuffed with burnt hay, then lightly smoked and aged for another fortnight. This resulted in a funky tasting, incrdibly tender bird. Too many misses though and I had an issue with the amount of vinegar used - almost every dish had a pickled element. Other restaurants like Troisgros and Noma also lean heavily on vinegars and acidity but here it just seemed that the balance was off. Maybe just an off-night, a remarkably poor waitress didn't help matters. Myai had no luck getting a table at Ous Sluis (even though she called 3 months in advance!) so she booked a table at L'Air du Temps and arranged to meet a school friend of mine and his wife who live in Brussels. Unfortunately, the friends vetoed LAdT for being too far from Brussels (they have a toddler) and recommended a 1* called La Truffe Noire instead. I was delighted when my friends turned up out of the blue of course but, on being told the name of the restaurant, didn't hold out too much hope for the quality of the meal. And it turned out pretty much as the name would suggest. Very old school, not all that accomplished and, even before the truffle upsell, completely overpriced. Service was charming though and we had a great night with old friends. Another trip will be required for Oud Sluis and L'AdT!
  23. 1 Sushiso Masa 2 Michel Bras 3 Momofoku Ko 4= The Ledbury 4= Nathan Outlaw 6 Ryugin 7 Tetsuyas 8 Peter Luger 9 The Sportsman 10 Ukai-tei Notable for their absence: El Bulli, Etxebarri. Worthy of a mention: Kuruma Zushi, Maialino, Chez L'Ami Jean, River Café, Locatelli, Harwood Arms, Hawksmoor, Momofoku Noodle Bar, San Sebastian generally, De la Mare (Rio). Meh: La Bristol, Eleven Madison Park, London "fine dining". You're having a giraffe: Koju, Marcus Wareing.
  24. Restaurant Nathan Outlaw opened in the Spring, its in the same hotel as the Grill. The room is a bit uninspiring but the food was excellent. He could teach a lot of UK chefs about how fish can work as part/the focus of a tasting menu.
  25. Sorry Basil - should have been clearer. On the weekend we visited, Padstow felt a bit like the Costa del Sol - thronged with tatooed and sunburnt hordes drinking beer, eating chips, pasties and bad ice cream. We much preferred the other side of the estuary. That said, I have heard universally excellent things about Margots and would certainly recommend it to anyone visiting the area - if a table was ever to become available!
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