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ermintrude

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  1. On Thursday the 11th Jan 2007 I visited Bacchus, the occasion being my best friends birthday, she’s the head chef at popular local restaurant in Battersea so I booked for me and my partner. When I booked I asked if it would be possible to have “Aventura” 9 course tasting menu and booked for 7pm as the later slots were booked.

    SHORT REVIEW:-,

    We had a great time and loved our experience there and we are recommending Bacchus to our friends. The food was original and impressive, but occasionally out of balance, this was generally solved by avoiding a component of the dish. The staff were friendly, attentive (and good looking –, my partner took a shine to the wine waiter!) but they cared. Any problem with service only occurred when the restaurant was very busy. Just by watching the kitchen and serving station we could see the intensity of the chef, he radiated passion (and inspired that in those around him). I’ve seen reviews of Bacchus that have been polarised to either 1 or 5 stars – however if your up for new food experiences in the value for money stakes it has to be 5. Go now while you can.

    LONG REVIEW:-

    Well here goes, I’m going to be hyper critical here as from what I’ve seen posted I believe Bacchus would like to know BUT please do not let this detract from the fact that we had a great time at Bacchus and I mean all of the following in a positive way and I’m measuring things in comparison to my fictitious “Perfect” dining experience,

    US:-

    To give some background to the three of us:-

    Chef:- Belgian; Lived in London for over 15 years; Runs a popular local restaurant with a Scottish theme (mostly food source - but haggis is always on the menu and a big selection of Scotch behind the bar), will risk eating my food experiments – Sodium Alginate fun etc.

    Partner:- Very conservative tastes BUT will try anything – 15 years with me means he has put up with a lot. Had no problems with the 2 meals and Breakfast at the El Bulli Hotel – NoBu was more of a problem as no matter how many times he tries he finds raw fish a challenge and has a pathological hate of fish bones.

    Me:- I work in IT but a bit of a foodie. As a sideline I also support a well know classic French/modern British restaurant’s IT systems and eat their regulary. I love to cook and experiment with food. E.g. Alginate./Agar/65 degree eggs however my partner keeps thinking I will poison him!

    REVIEW:-

    We did not get a final menu, so the menu items listed are from memory of the descriptions given when we ate and memories of what we ate.

    We arrived following Transport For London directions. This was a giggle for me, as I had my partner and the chef going “Where the f&£k are you taking us” as the Transport For London directions take you via a high rise council estate, then when you hit Hoxton Street, the pub opposite is boarded up, the shops have bars on the window and the corner shop sells nothing but “Mr Muscle” however after Bacchus stands out, plain, simple, clean and well lit. So in we go……..

    Entering at 7pm we were the first there – there was a huddle of staff around the serving station and I got the impression that information was being transferred about the current menu and service.

    As always, being the first in the restaurant the atmosphere was a bit odd but we were seated and given the drink menu to pick an aperitif (or wine). After ordering and the drinks delivered the menu arrived, and before Chef and Partner got a look in I asked, as on my reservation, if it was possible to have the “Aventura” menu and the wine paring – and the menu’s were then taken away. (This was a good thing for me as I wanted the Chef to not know what was coming)

    So on to the food:-

    Amuse:

    Cold Water, olive oil, Foam with chilli flecks and ???

    This was unusual, I can’t remember exactly what the waiter said but I do distinctly remember “Cold Water, olive oil, Foam with chilli flecks” this was interesting, we all tasted a sea food tinge to the water (was it a broth or the foam dissolving into the water) however the combination with the olive oil was intriguing and it set the scene that this was not your standard restaurant. A criticism of this dish is that the bowl it was served in combined with the cutlery does not let you eat all of the dish – you have to drink the last bits out of the bowl. But an interesting start to the meal.

    The “Aventura” Menu – 11/01/07

    Sardine sashimi, Foie gras, beetroot puree with sake & rosemary spray:

    Just before this course was served we were talking with partner about food and he said the only thing he didn’t like was raw fish, but would always try things. So raw sardine and Foie Gras arrived - well chef and me loved this improbable combination, partner loved it as well until he hit a sardine with slightly thicker pin bones than normal and then he would not touch anymore.. My criticisms of this dish would be, that when cutting the sardine the knives were not sharp enough to cut through the sardine skin – steak knives may be better – and if going for 100% perfect (Impractical as I know how much work this would it would be to do unless the cost goes through the roof ) complete removal of all bones.

    Artichoke soup, Ceps, Pine Nut ravioli & sour cream mouse.

    Everybody thought this was great and the pine nut ravioli exceptional. All the tastes combined and worked and my partner does not like artichoke!.

    Baby squid, potatoes, garlic, chervil, black paella paint

    This caused a bit of an argument. There is a streak of “black paella paint” and a blob of “black paella paint” with truffle overtones, both taste difference – are they the different, or the same but the streak more concentrated by being more dehydrated (Chef and Me liked the difference – partner thought to much of the same taste). But we ate it all – Yumm .

    Pork jowl, langoustine, leek, black radish

    The pork was obviously cooked Sous Vide, and was melt in the mouth tender. However my partner had a section of jowl that was more than 50% fat, it put him off. To put things in context I do not generally like fat but the portion of jowl I had was semi fatty but gorgeous, but if I had had a ¾ inch of fat like my partner I would have also have not eaten it. But the combination of everything, prawn, jowl, crunch of radish was heaven. (But why the flowers ?)

    At this point we talked about the restaurant; and we all thought that this place was amazing and I was grilled how I’d found it (Thanks eGullet); also the opinion from us all was that very soon to get into Baccus you will either have a long wait or the prices will have doubled/tripled.

    Rabbit mousse, potato leaves, cherries This was where it fell flat. No one could criticise the dish in and of itself but compared to what had gone before it was “bland” – in my own view you can’t have fireworks all the time as it detracts from them so this was a perhaps a grounding “back to normal dish”.

    Free range egg cooked at sixty five degrees, dashi, chicken skin

    Chef and me loved this. The only problem was the partner – to eggy!

    He does not like 65 degree eggs – did them at home a year ago after reading McGee and didn’t work then. Chef and I loved this – Partner thought “To Eggy” – but he never liked 65 degree eggs so not unexpected.

    Salmon belly, black olives, date and hazelnut puree, pate de brique

    Ok at this point the restaurant was getting busy, we are now experiencing delays in food and wine arriving. However everything was still in sync.

    This dish didn’t work for us, while I ate all of it Chef and Partner left most of it. While the Salmon was (cooked sous vide?) and had a great texture the combination with date and hazelnut puree, pate de brique was way to rich .

    Lamb loin, vanilla parsnips, figs Brulée, cocoa oil.

    Service was starting to drift,, food arrived but no matching wine, to be fair the wine arrived quickly once the food was on the table, but not from our wine waiter. This was an odd course as the sous vide lamb was as tender as it could be, but lacked a real taste of meat. I thought it should have been caramelised to get the Mallard reaction going and so get that more meaty taste. The “Brule Fig” I guess tried to compensate, but didn’t fully work for me. –I must say the meat was so tender it did work well with the fig BUT the parsnip vanilla cream did not work, parsnip with a hint of vanilla maybe but the vanilla was so way to strong. All 3 off us left the parsnip/vanilla streak – together with the the perceived richness of the previous course had chef was changing her opinion. (Note:- while eating our wine water arrives, apologises and gives us the info about our wine

    Black olive financier, roasted pear ice cream, pine nuts

    We liked this but we thought it was a bit rich/heavy to end a 9 course meal, Also chef observed (I’ll use computer terms) that the staff were thrashing at this point– I.e. A lot of stuff was happening but little real work was occurring - this seemed to be a combination of customer load, kitchen delivery, bar service ( And I have to say some bar staff seemed to be doing nothing while the rest were running around) and I think the stress of wanting to be perfect (And I have to say some bar staff were doing nothing while the rest were trying to give 100%). But I put this down to being a new restaurant and still working to find out the best way to work.

    And unexpectedly:-

    Apple panacotta, ginger bread grounds, lemongrass bubble bath, Thai basil oil

    Thank you Bacchus. I’d not asked for this, but a birthday desert with a token candle arrived for the birthday firl (Chef) and BANG this was the ending to the meal. If I had one suggestion to make it would be do this as your end of your 9 course tasting menu as the Black olive financier etc

    End of meal

    3xCoffee, 2xBrandy + Baileys

    Summary

    We had a great evening but I wonder where Bacchus will go. As far as the food goes then out of 11 courses including amuse and birthday treat) the summary would be: 4 Brilliant, 3 great, 2 OK, 2 Unbalanced. (Nothing bad). With exemplary, attentive, informative but non intrusive service that unfortunately lost focus and started to “thrash” it when it got busy.

    I love the idea of “Fine dining in trainers” but can Bacchus stay true to it’s origins? (For many £343 for 3 is what your average punter would call expensive – but for London this is exceptional value). If as I expect, the word gets around Bacchus will it either have to go upscale or need to manage customer expectations but either way I expect it will be difficult to get a table.

    All I can say is that I’m glad I visited there and plan to go back.

  2. Have a look at the AEG KB8920E built in oven can do.

    Conventional

    Fan

    Bottom heat only (pizza)

    Rotitherm - Fan then combination

    Drying (from 30C up)

    Low Temp (Starts out high then drops the temp)

    Temperature probe - stops when the tempiture probe (inserted into meat) reaches the set temperature.

    Steam

    Interval Steam

    Grill

    Got one and it's great to use. Only issue I have is it's a single oven, so when I do need an extra oven I have to use the combi,microwave. It's not cheap and don't know if it's available outside of Europe.

  3. I read somewhere that all truffle oil is bogus and made by chemists..

    Generally only the cheap ones. In the UK look at the ingredients if it includes "truffle flavoring" then it's generally bogus.

    That said I like white truffle oil on baked beans, and using a cheap one works well here.

  4. A collegue of mine asked for Lunch on a day they weren't open and received an offer for the evening on a day they weren't open.

    I asked for a specific date (14th August - my birthday) and got a we'll try to fit you in message.

    Someone else I know has eaten there 4 time

    All seems quit random a mix of regulars, new people etc. They probably have their own logic but if we worked it out then they would have to change it as they would get to many people meeting it.

    For all those who made it, enjoy!

  5. Just got back from the ElBulli Hotel and ate at the restaurant once Al carte and the second time the tasting menu, I also sampled the tasting breakfast.

    It was out of season so not all the bars/restaurants were open or had reduced opening times. However the hotel and restaurant staff were excellent and did their best to accommodate any request and make our stay pleasant.

    1. A La Carte

    Although you order 3 courses there is a vast array of extra snacks, nibbles and drinks that come with it. My partner ordered everything I wanted so rather than order the same I went for a second choice. Highlights were the "Olive", Crazy Salad, Tandoori Chicken wings with oyster cream and Alphabet Soup. The one failure was scallop with milk skin and truffle - For me the milk skin did not work and I could not taste the truffle - scallops were cooked to perfection.

    We let the sommelier chose the wine, I can’t recall what it was but it was red, quite oaked but not that much tannin – it worked well with the variety of dishes we ate. Bold enough to stand up to some of the flavours but light enough to not swamp some of the others.

    The only criticism of the meal was it seemed rushed, we sat down ordered and things came at us Bang, Bang, Bang so you were eating one thing while they were describing another. I did mention this before we departed and they said they would try to slow things down for the next night but there would be even more courses and so to get there at 8:30 prompt so they could take things as slow as possible. This point makes me think that the restaurant should open an hour earlier so the food could be fully appreciated although this would of course put the cost up €230 with wine for 2.

    2. Breakfast

    While a 15 course breakfast may sound like a bit of a marathon first thing in the morning, but on holiday it was a very pleasant experience although I couldn’t face it everyday. It included (I may not be able to remember everything):-

    - A selection freshly baked pastry's .

    - Coffee or Tea or Chocolate

    - Juices - Pineapple juice with coconut, Peach with Cinnamon, Apple and ?????

    - Toast with cheese butter, toffee butter, mango marmalade and ????? marmalade

    - Bread

    - Mango in mango juice,

    - Strawberry with mint and basil.

    - Small portion of Tiramasu in a glass

    - A selection of salty things we went for omelette's with Iberian ham & "Boiled Egg with truffle" this was a deconstruction and tasted wonderful

    3. Tasting Menu €100 per person + wine.

    We did this with two friends who we were going to stay with for the rest of the week.

    The menu was (repeats from the previous night have a * next to them):-

    Rose Tea with peach foam and honey pearls 2005

    THE SNACKS

    Spherical Olive 2005 *

    Fried baby fish with lemon 2005 *

    Almonds in tempura with coconut and curry 2006 *

    Peanuts praline and honey bread 2003

    Parmesan cheese cornet 2001

    3D ras el Hanout 2003

    Sweet corn powder with lime pearls 2003

    Iberian ham brioche 2006 *

    Pickles from Seville 2006

    Pork rind with menthol 2005

    Quail egg with bread 2000

    Strawbery & Campari & Sansho Pepper 2000

    Parmesan cheese bread. 2003

    Warm potato foam with truffle oil 1998

    THE TAPAS

    Baby shrimps omelette with it’s consommé 2006

    White asparagus with “mollet” egg and ham 2003

    Sardines covered in bread with deconstructed “picada” 2000

    Quail thigh in soya sauce 1987

    THE DISHES

    Crab “chatka” with tartar sauce 2005

    Hake fish with cassis and eucalyptus 1988

    Tandoori chicken wings with oyster cream 2005 * (but I picked this as a main the previous night)

    ADVANCE DESERT

    2 metres of parmesan cheese spaghetti 2003

    THE DESERTS

    Lemon skin sorbet with berries pure 2005

    Chocolate Stair 1995 * (My partner picked this for desert the previous night)

    Home made nougats and chocolates.

    Overall everything was liked but there were some dishes that stood out in good and bad ways:-

    The only dish that was universally not liked was “White asparagus with “mollet” egg and ham” this was white asparagus covered in ham fat in a slightly sweet sauce – the texture was unpleasant and the taste bland however it came with a cup of “asparagus water” which was divine.

    The oddest dish was “Pork rind with menthol 2005” or as I called it pork scratchings with Benylin but it strangely worked.

    “Tandoori chicken wings with oyster cream 2005” this was the dish that intrigued me the most. It was small rectangles (1.5cm by 1cm) of chicken with skin on top. The best way to describe it was – well you know all the small muscles in a chicken wing, that are tender but have great taste well these had been taken off (cooked) chicken wings and then bound together (transaminase or methyl cellulose) and then chicken skin placed and bound on top (transaminase) and then cooked on a hot pan (or stone to make it Tandoori” . The chicken flavour was intense and melt in the mouth.

    The other outstanding dish was “Quail egg with bread 2000” this was a liquid quail yolk surrounded by a crust of toasted bread. We all raved about this even the person who does not like eggs.

    Again I felt that the food was rushed, to be fair not to extent of the night before and the meal was better paced but this meant that we’d had 5 or 6 snacks before the wine arrived. This is no criticism of the staff who were exemplary but confirmed my belief that the restaurant should open earlier.

    Some of the customers seemed to not be interested , we (and many others) were there for the food. And some dishes had us laughing, not liking, going “Wow” but enjoying the experience. However (and I feel this about many Michelin stared restaurants) some were there not for the food/experience but because it was Michelin stared. And so were "Po Faced" and just going through the motions. That said, you can't dictate who is in a restaurant and perhaps while to me/us they looked bored perhaps they will rave about it - who am I to dictate how anyone should react to a meal.

    4. Other food.

    The other restaurant at the hotel had reduced opening hours, however from the menu mainly simple tapas – cheese, ham chorizo (all A1 quality) and although some more substantial dishes were on offer (Fried fish, Steak etc) it was not somewhere I would go for an evening meal.

    Brilliant for a late lunch/snack after the breakfast before a meal at the main restaurant. And if works if you stay at the hotel for a couple of nights, however as much as I loved the main restaurant if I stayed there for a week I could not eat there every night. This could be an issue if you can’t drive or are there for a long conference. However I guess that this is because it was November and more options are available at the hotel and village when in season.

    Overall rating – Excellent.

    The place is beautiful, great food, friendly staff and a taste of “El Bulli” and a definite option to consider if you’ve been rejected from the 2007 reservations.

    We went off season as it was for my partners birthday, to see friends who had moved just outside Seville so the hotel wasn’t in full operating mode (E.g. Pool/Restaurants not open) but it had a better rate. I’m hoping to spend some time there again, when the sun is shining my guess is that my rating will go from “Excellent” to “Perfect”.

  6. Also, when the dry ice was at -200 he was slopping it about with bare hands and no eye protection. Back in the studio it was apparently at -80 but he was suddenly wearing all the kit.

    If you spill liquid nitrogen on your hand the heat from your hand makes it evaporate quickly and as it's liquid it spreads over a wide surface area - a bit like spitting on the base of a hot iron. The evaporating nitrogen protects your skin, the result is you don't get burned if it splashes on you. In a reverse way if you have wet hands you can, quickly, dip your hand into molten iron - the water vapor stops your hand from burning.

    With dry ice if this lands on your skin, it can freeze and stick because it's weight as a solid lump means the pressure of resulting evaporation can't make a barrier, as a result is a lump of dry ice lands on you this can result in nasty burns.

    Heston was taking sensible precautions.

    However dry ice can be obtained for home and can be stored for a while (so can liquid nitrogen but the storage tanks will cost you - so it's not practical for home use) I assume that's why Heston took the dry ice route.

  7. Anyone tried this......

    Was thinking about reverse where you freeze in moulds what you want to turn into spheres then dip into chilled CaCl solution, re freeze then drop into an alginate solution.

    I've not tried this but my guess would be that the calcium would impregnate the surface of the frozen spheres, then when dropped into the alginate would allow the gel to be formed around the outside. But when the frozen solution melted the CaCl would diffuse into the liquid and as only a small amount not change the taste.

    If no one has tried this then I'll give it a go when I get a chance and report back.

  8. I made cranberry caviar using off the shelf cranberry juice and the same amout of alginate as used for melon caviar in the Texturas recipe.

    It worked but the flavor was very weak and it didn't work that well - I guess the amount of sugar in the bought cranberry juice.

  9. What's the difference between tapioca maltodextrin and other maltodextrin.

    I.e I've seen maoltodextrin for £4 a killo but can't find a source (in small <= 1Kg) quantities of tapioca maltodextrin in the UK.

  10. Just got my reply for August 14th (my birthday)

    Apreciados Señores,

    We have received your first e-mail. The demand has been extraordinary and it will be impossible to find a solution for all the requests.

    "We will give you an answer as soon as possible but we will need time to read and organize everything.

    Thank you for all your interest.

    Apreciados Señores,

    We have received your first e-mail. The demand has been extraordinary and it will be impossible to find a solution for all the requests.

    We will give you an answer as soon as possible but we will need time to read and organize everything.

    Thank you for all your interest."

    We'll it's not a no, just in case I don't get it I'm off to the the El Bulli hotel on 1st November for a few days so I can at least get a taste of the food.

    Got the english cook books, Texturas still waiting to sample the real thing.

  11. The easiest way is to part cook the (flowery) potatoes.

    Meanwhile heat up the oven with the roasting pan containing the fat as hot as the fat will allow.

    Drain the potatoes when part cooked and the put the lid on the saucepan and shake them to roughen up the surface.

    Put the potatoes into the hot fat and roll around so they are coated.

    Put back into the oven and roast.

    Get's them crisp everytime.

  12. Well in the UK the only thing that can be called Parmesan is Parmigiano Reggiano however it comes in many forms the worst being pre grated stuff that's only characteristic is to smell of old socks.

    However I normally buy a chunk and use as needed.

    Then I spent a year in the USA and went to a supermarket and bought "Parmesan" and thought the price was cheap. Thats when I discovered that the USA does not have the controls on food/drink that we have in Europe.

    It wasn't that the cheese was bad but it was not Parmigiano Reggiano. In a similar way the things I was often served when I asked for a glass of Champagne ranging from vile sweet, carbonated muck to a really good Californian sparkling wine. At least in Europe if you ask for Champagne, Parmesan and you get a base quality and know what your getting.

    From (my experience) buying good food in the USA is harder than in Europe, not that it isn't available but you have to get past more marketing, avoid fakes etc. Once I'd learn't that I was able to buy good food. Also in my time in Minneapolis I never saw an independent shop (fish monger/butcher/veg) however I did find a farmers market.

    Now the parmesan I bought wasn't bad cheese but it was no way Parmigiano Reggiano and the resulting Risotto was distinctly below par.

    One final thing, the one thing I wanted to taste from the USA was the Oregon white truffle but never managed it as I didn't know when I arrived and left just as the next season started.

  13. One of my favourite memories was arriving in the USA and in (the always slow non USA resident queue) saw an officer walking around with a beagle. It went past me (sigh of relief as I always feel guilty – did I miss some rule) and then sat down next to a hippy type character – I’m going to watch a USA style drugs bust I thought but it was cheese! Which was confiscated. I want to know where the warehouse is where they store the Epoise, you couldn’t hide it.

  14. I always chop by hand with a food processor the texture is just wrong. Same with burgers, they tend to be rubbery.

    Also a fraction to much processing and it's messed up.

  15. Well a thread on a HiFi forum I frequent Naim Scrambled eggs has been having a discussion. Anyone out there agree that different textures of scrambled eggs work best with different dishes.

    (Sorry but all the name references refer to the Naim forum)

    I've decided it all depends on what sort of scrambled eggs you want, I've found the type varies depending on what your eating.

    Type 1 - Small/Medium nodules as wet or dry as you like)

    This for me is best on toast.

    Steve2701 or garyi, David Legge (but you have to get the power/heat and technique right for the last two)

    Type 2 - Wide Ribbons?

    This is what you want with truffles, but also on toast, with smoked salmon etc.

    (That said Type 1/3 can be better)

    Use David Legge technique but have a flat edged wooden spoon. And just at the right point scrape and then fold over the egg, repeat as necessary. Perfection for me is fluffy (not that wide say around 3 cm) sheets of egg with a, just about to set jell holding it together. This is very difficult to get right, first to get the ribbons and to have it just on the point of not wet, but not totally set when it hits the table.

    I've done it, but it took oh so many attempts (I ate the mistakes) - the best I've seen eggs done like this was at Bibendum.

    Why, well when you pick up the scrambled egg, the truffles slices don't fall off, fluffy but firmness to the centre of the ribbon but melting at the borders - perfection.

    If cooking (and not in a hurry) I always try to make this. For me when it works YUM but, as a non professional cook, if I was serving truffles I would do a risotto instead as it’s easier (for me) to get right.

    Type 3 - a cross between 1 & 2

    Perfect with smoked salmon.

    Use David Legge method but (two ways different effect) use a wooden spoon with a straight edge (The point is where the straight edge joins the wooden spoon)

    3a) Stir with pointed edge at the start and switch to scrape with the straight.

    3b) Scrape with the straight edge to make ribbons and stir with the pointed edge now and again.

    But of all the scrambled egg rules the biggest one, to me, is DO NOT OVERCOOK.

    But if you like it what I would say was “gritty and overcooked” ignore me, enjoy your food – that’s the most important.

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