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Everything posted by naebody

  1. Was in El Poblet * in Spain last weekend, where Quique Dacosta, another self-taught boundry-pushing molecular gastronomist, does his thing (albeit with an absurdly mean one Michelin star, as opposed to Heson's perhaps slightly generous three). The a la carte menu includes a date of creation next to each dish, running back about a decade. Thought this seemed the ultimate in pretention when I first saw it, but given Jon's observations about the balance between the need to innovate and maintain consistency, it seems a pretty good idea. Those who want the classics know where to look, and those who want the latest tricks and experiments know where to find them. (* Brilliant, by the way. Anyone who's interested in such things will be better off, both fiscally and gastronomically, by skipping Bray, getting on an Easyjet and going here instead.)
  2. Well that's him told. Noticed a letter in -- of all places -- the mailbag bit of Winner's Dinners in the Sunday Times (link). Says the Fat Duck hasn't changed its menu in three years, and is at risk of becoming "no more than a theme park". Interesting observation, I thought.
  3. A heroically misinformed article about sous-vide arrived from London news agency Specialist News Services last night, and has been picked up more or less verbatim in the Metro and Daily Record today. (Record story here and Metro here.) Prepare to be annoyed ... Edit update: just noticed the reference to Ramsay "shunning" the technique ... really? Seem to remember he actually recommended it to one hapless cook on that Kitchen Nightmares thing, and I'd imagine that Maze makes liberal use of it.
  4. Their tag line ... "Slow food, cooked fast" ... isn't that also used by an Italian cafe near St John? Anyway, this really does sound like a Dragons Den pitch. It's certainly the first restauant I've seen to thank both the bank and its investors on the website. Perhaps the concept has come from consumer research. After all, pretty much every mid-market eatery in London has a risotto on the menu, which suggests there is a demand. And, as the website concedes, there is a general dissatisfaction with the product itself, which to an investor usually indicates a gap in the market. What the backers probably didn't consider is that risotto in Britain is almost always the vegetarian choice. It's being ordered by people who didn't really want it in the first place, and who are only in the venue because the person they are with wants to eat something else entirely. Basing your business on an already stigmatised product that's ordered by necessity rather than choice, by people who tend not to be all that enthusiastic and adventurous about food in general seems ... brave. While we're here: can anyone guess what their secret, ultra-quick cooking method may be? Is it wildly different from the catering standard mentioned in Bourdain's first book? (Ie. make a huge pot and cook it to within a minute of being ready, then keep it chilled for the duration of service so you can finish off each individual order by adding blocks of cheese and butter.) I was under the impression that this shortcut method was the cause of the claggy, over-rich, three-spoons-and-you're-bored problem they're aiming to avoid.
  5. As a graduate of Dundee College of Further Education, may I be first to say that I couldn't give a monkeys? (We had a chip van. And we could only really use that at the start of the week, because Big Mario took his bath on a Sunday.)
  6. Thanks to all who replied. I'll offer a full write-up later. In the meantime, I can report that El Poblet was a highlight -- equal or better to my experiences of similary ambitious places in France, London and New York. I simply cannot imagine how the meal could have been improved. Monastrell was closed every time we attempted to visit, which was a big disappointment, although the more relaxed bodega next door averted hunger with tapas using superior ingredients (I'd guess Monastrell owns it too, right?). Nou Manolin seemed a bit of a tourist trap, to be honest. Spaniards were nowhere to be seen and food not noticably better than the local average. In fact, I'd say I ate just as well at Capri, an honest little tapas place that spills out onto the street a few doors away. It's perhaps worth stopping by Nou to look at the pickled wine collection above the bar, but on my evidence the food not worth a major detour. El Raset seems a good and safe option in Denia, although with the raw ingredients on offer in the area it doesn't take culunary genius -- just cook it simply and stick it on a plate. They were well capable of that. There were a few other places around Alicante, which I'm sure I'll remember once the flight haze wears off, as well as a few great meals in Valencia (which I'll write up in another thread). Thanks again for all the help.
  7. Not sure it's great branding, to be honest, when the only existing competition supplies 70s-style novelty gifts for pacifying irritating children, as a sideline to its main business of feeding paranoid New World Order types. The key phrase is, of course, "Mr Ducasse's company". I'm reminded of today's story that "Mr Ramsay's company" is buying the Warrington Hotel in Maida Vale to turn it into a gastropub. Needless to say, there's as much chance of Mr Ducasse getting his hands dirty with the nitro-packer as there is finding Gogs Walnuts peeling spuds in kitchen of the Warrington, so I'm not entirely sure why we should give a toss. Beyond the celeb name to generate column interest, it may as well be Compass, Brake Brothers or Gondola doing the business.
  8. I'm reviving this old thread to ask if there is anything new to report in and around Alicante? I'm visiting later this month, not least because of Robuchon's recommendation. I've already done my homework via the search function, which reveals that Nou Manolin, La Sort, Girasol and Mas Pau are the obvious choices. Are they still on form? Would I be missing any gems? I'm particularly looking for recommendations in central Alicante itself, rather than the outskirts. Thanks in advance.
  9. A subject discussed at length here. Don't know if she's "the best" or not, but all I can tell you is that if there's no Metros left on a Wednesday, I cry. Cry like a baby that's been hit by a spanner.
  10. I'd suggest we've descended from friendly advice into the world of pedancy. If you keep listening, you'll end up calling them cod pieces. The menu redraft looks excellent, by the way, and has convinced me to visit either tonight or tomorrow. Be sure to throw another log on the circulator.
  11. think that there may be a "legitimate" missing from that paragraph somewhere. ← I certainly hope you're not suggesting that the business interests of a Leeds-born Anglo-Italian restaurateur with connections to the horse racing industry may not adhere to the most rigorous standards of practice. I'm sure such a thing would never happen in the catering industry.
  12. "The man who supposedly made Ramsey (sic) cry" ... Judging by Walnuts' presenting stint on Have I Got News for You over the weekend, that doesn't actually look all that difficult. Just ask him to read a punchline out loud. Seems a logical move, given it would give another puff of oxygen to MPW's deflated reputation ("the first ever" ... etc. etc.) which has been his only source of income for the best part of two decades. And he has clearly been struggling to achieve his ambition of becoming an Oliver Peyton or a Nick Jones, so probably could use the cash. I just wonder if the production company will realise there's a difference between Gordon's TV-friendy pantomime villain/evangelical preacher act, and MPW's legendary volatility. Could be worth watching, if only to see if he makes it to episode 2.
  13. Just a quick note to say that, despite plaudits and popularity, this place has remained terrific. Dropped in Saturday night (10 minute wait for a seat, although note it's a lot worse on weekdays) to find one-woman miracle Carol Craddock still flies solo, somehow keeping calm while dealing with 40 or so covers over her two-burner setup at the corner of the bar. Menu won't be repeated so there's no point in going into much detail, but to give a general idea: spicy, beany, yoghurty garlicy soup that tasted fresh and full of individual flavours; a nicely judged warm salad involving a poached egg, spinach and the like; squid (slightly rubbery once it cooled, but that's squid for you) on black linguine in garlic butter; and deep fried quail with rice and chile jam (tangy and, thanks to the finger bowl provided, pleasantly caveman-ish to eat). Wine choice remains interesting and fairly priced, and the staff were all jolly friendly and efficient. Don't go expecting anything to match the Larousse-does-tapas you get at Gascon round the corner, or the minimalist gorefest in St John across the road. But, for things you actually want to eat, cooked well and priced with moderation, then sold without artifice in a place that does not require a three-month booking, this is perhaps one of the best options in town.
  14. Went to Sam's a few weeks ago, on the back of the Time Out recommendation. Overcooked fish, mean portions, gunky salad, grasping prices, plastic bread and little tubs of hydrogenated margarine that the waitress swore point-blank was butter. I can only assume they were having an extremely bad day, as its obvious failings had not put off the crowds of Felicitys and Ruperts, all with their mewling little Emilys and Jacks. La Trompette, also in Chiswick, does a Saturday three-course for £25 that is so much better it's almost comical.
  15. ... although make sure you keep "lemongrass bubblebath". That's not flowery, that's poetry.
  16. just beat me to it ← Yup - I'd third this recommendation, albeit from the perspective of a punter rather than a critic. In fact, I'd be tempted to edit down the menu descriptions a bit and allow the serving staff to do some of the explaining of ingredients and methods. Your average punter should already know they're not doing to get Cesar salad and curly fries, so there's no harm in providing a few surprises. For example: Looks v. good though. I'll certainly be visiting before you get reviewed and jack the prices up.
  17. Here's hoping that's the full extent of your problems. The very best of luck. Waterside in Bray is indeed the ideal choice, although someone less diplomatic than myself could probably make an argument for The Afghan Kitchen in Islington, or perhaps the Hare Krishna vegetarian buffet at Govinda's in Soho.
  18. Curiouser and curiouser. There's an article in today's Metro about foam sauces being the latest craze (yes, honestly) that's illustrated by a big picture of the "head chef of La Noisette". But the bloke with the Profi-Whip is clearly not Bjorn van der Horst. That led me to check Ramsay's web site, where Bjorn is listed as "chef patron". Was this always the plan? And does it mean Bjorn will be in the kitchen about as much as Ramsay himself visits Hospital Road?
  19. Anyone else a bit confused by this? I've had more melon, olive and feta salads than I can remember, and a quick Google of the ingredients turns up about a squillion recipies including examples by Nigella L and Nigel S. Fair enough if he doesn't like it, but is it really that outlandish an idea?
  20. And there we have the essential, unspoken problem about Time Outs the world over: the presumption that progress equals improvement, and the new is automatically superior to the old. I think it was Voltaire who said, "better is the enemy of good". (Sadly, he has also been passed over by the Booker judges so far. But he was certainly an invalid.)
  21. I'd suggest that Time Out reviews are always heavily slanted towards new places because that's what the readers want to know about. It's a local listings magazine after all. As a marketing tactic, the awards are a means of showing the world that TO is making discoveries and uncovering gems that you could know about first for a mere £3 cover charge. After all, if the design, kid-friendly, local and wine bar gongs were won by Hakkasan, Locanda Locatelli, Chez Bruce and Cork & Bottle respectively every year (as they probably should), who'd bother buying the magazine? Similarly, if the Booker gave the prize to Wuthering Heights every year (as it probably should) it would only serve to bore the readers and irritate the booksellers. Perhaps it's best to consider TO as London's New and/or Most Improved awards, albeit with a tilt towards ethnic and prejudice against stars and tablecloths. (Again, I guess that comes down to the readership demographic.)
  22. Yes. Fair observation. Was just doing a shortcut rant, brought on by the ubiquitous chip that lurks to varying degrees on the shoulders of all Sweaties. Apologies. Again, that's good advice. But my intention was not to be jingoistic (it was Scotland's self-regarding parochialism that drove me to leave the nation six years ago, and I haven't looked back). Was just irritated by the tendancy for any discussion of Scottish food to always come down to a joke about its worst excesses. Back to the subject, and yes, Scottish menus do give off a natural conservatism: there's a smaller number of people eating out, and they need to please more of the people more of the time. The flip-side to that particular coin is that things are usually done to a decent and consistent standard, because restaurateurs require repeat business. There are some good deli-type places around the Byres Road. Search out Arbroath smokies from RR Spink & Sons, either around here or at Cafe Gandolfi in Merchant City.
  23. Can't believe people still think it's okay to be snippy about Scottish food. Particularly when they come from a country where you can smoke in dining rooms *. I'm not resident in Glasgow, but go when football demands. From those visits I'd recommend trying Stravaigin, Gamba, Ubiquitous Chip, The Sisters and No. 16. Plenty more suggestions here, here and here. Also, just noticed that Brian Maule, former head chef at Le Garvoche, has a place that seems not to have been mentioned on EG before. Anyone been? (London readers may wish to note: lunch £14.50 for two courses, £17.50 for three. Six course taster in the evening for £38.) You can go back to your jokes about haggis pizza and deep fried confectionery now ... * edit disclaimer: not that any English had been snippy yet. But I've been down this road before, and felt it sensible to head it off at the pass.
  24. Only one of those I've tried is the Inn at Kew, which was as ordinary as a Brake Brothers catering pack. Not sure if the 90s model gastropub still exists, to be honest. They seem to have replaced greasy spoons as the nation's provider of low-quality food. And the few that do raise the standard a bit, such as the Havelock Tavern and The Cow, end up charging tablecloth prices and attracting a surprising number of boorish idiots (both clientelle and staff). The places I tend to recommend these days -- such as The Thomas Cubitt, or The Princess in Shoreditch -- are basically restaurants that can do beer.
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