Jump to content


legacy participant
  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by cheeekymunkey

  1. I agree. For about a sixth of the price, you can go to Cafe Zia on Wandsworth Rd, which I think provides a similar quality uplift over a standard curry house. That's probably not the point though... I prefer Chutney Mary to the other high end Indian places.
  2. Five us were at Mr Underhill’s this weekend. It was the first time we have been to Ludlow and, needless to say to those who have been before, the town is breathtaking and the small gardens outside Mr Underhill’s were looking especially beautiful – a perfect place next to the river to enjoy our aperitifs. The menu is of the no choice 7-course tasting variety. On the night, we had: Cone of marinated salmon Pleasant as an amuse bouche, with a good delicate tuile. I’m always slightly disappointed when restaurants list amuse bouches on the menu because it smacks of an attempt to beef up the menu and make it look more impressive. Game Consomme with Herb Gnocchi Talking of beef, the consommé was rather more beefy than it was gamey. For my taste, carrot and celery were also too prominent in the final flavour. Good gnocchi. Duck liver mousse, quince, five spice jelly There is so much foie gras on menus these days, that it was nice to have a different presentation than the ubiquitous pan-fried stuff. Almost a great dish but the seasoning between layers was somewhat inconsistent, so a delicate five spice jelly was bombarded by an oversalty mousse. Asparagus with Lemon Risotto This dish was bizarrely sweet and really, without the chicken stock, the risotto would have made a passable lemon rice pudding. The risotto was overcooked. The asparagus was local and a tasty, mitigating factor in an otherwise misjudged dish. Roast rack of lamb, braised shoulder, mustard celeriac etc. Another OK, but far from special dish, for me. The rack was just short of overcooked and could have done with a couple of minutes less. The real disappointment was the shoulder, which was dry and underwhelming. I thought it was over-trimmed so there was no fat to keep things moist and it looked and tasted like it had spent a long time being reheated in its presentation shape. Cheese (+£6) All very good condition. Almond ice cream and ‘sponge’ The highlight of the menu by miles, though only a pre-dessert. Smooth, well-flavoured ice cream and a really clever ‘sponge’ – a frozen, aerated sorbet type thing. No idea how they did it, but it was fantastic. Dessert menu At this point, you get a choice of desserts. It seems a bit strange after a set menu to be given a choice of puds, but we all opted for the chocolate ‘fondant’. I imagine the thought process that led to the creation of the dish was something along the lines of… ‘Hmmm… people like chocolate fondants. And they especially like the gooey centre. Sod the rest of it. Let’s just make a pud out of the gooey centre’. So that’s what it was. Essentially an undercooked chocolate soufflé kept in shape by rice paper. Porno food, but delicious. So, from a food perspective, a bit disappointing overall perhaps. Just the one dish – the pre-dessert – that seemed innovative and impressive. The others were a mix of acceptable and below par, though far be it from me to determine where par is. A note on service: the waiting staff were exceptional. That is, those that brought and cleared our dishes. They were well coordinated and polite. However, the restaurant manager, who I think is the chef’s wife, is just a tiny bit abrasive. To keep this constructive, we all felt a bit like we were intruding in her house, rather than being welcomed. If she could just chill out a bit, the whole experience would have been rather more enjoyable.
  3. I would second The Petersham Hotel. Alex Bentley is chef there. Probably not cooking at the standard that he was in the Monsieur Max days but some stonking dishes to be had. The view is fairly breathtaking too.
  4. I went in early March. Good solid cooking. Lot's of cheaper cuts of meat and cheaper ingredients, which keeps the prices low. With its good execution, it feels like seriously good value. It's in a slightly strange bit of town - at the less-nice end of Queenstown Road - but it's cheap enough to be enticing, even if it's a pain to get to. The decor is a bit nasty, but I suppose that also helps with the lower prices.
  5. Congrats to Naebody for a mention in the Metro this morning in all but name... No linky yet!
  6. Oh dear! In my Durham student days, Vennels Cafe was the place to be seen. Their banoffee pie was absolutely to die for. I understand the whole city has got a bit fancypants since then.
  7. Hmm... is that popcorn? Am I the only one that thinks popcorn and more or less any meat is the combination of Satan?
  8. I had a really great meal at Aubergine last night. Menu gourmand was £140 with wine. It was a perfect example of how a restaurant doesn't have to be hugely innovative or break out of a well-established trend to be good. Classic combinations cooked in a technically excellent manner with solid, well-matched wines. Sometimes it's more clever not to try to be smart.
  9. Sorry, do you mean that the prices were quoted without VAT on the menu? That makes you right to point it out, doesn't it, not an arse. ← Your efforts to undo my self-inflicted arse status are noble and kind. Alas, the prices on the menu included VAT. My bill had VAT separated out but, in the context of some disbelief at the final figure, I leapt wildly to the conclusion that VAT must have been added at this stage.
  10. I realise this conversation has moved on a bit but, in the interests of clarity, I re-checked my bill and VAT wasn't added. It really was that bloody expensive. Anyway, it still makes me a bit of an arse. Apologies.
  11. Before this gets too litigious, I would be keen to triple-check my bill. I have been wrong before... That said, VAT or not, the number was too big for the quality of the food!
  12. Let's talk tax. How usual is it for a restaurant in the UK not to include VAT on their menu prices? I'm reasonably sure that 9 times out of ten (or more), I only ever pay service on top of the menu prices. Anyway, at Ducasse, you pay tax too. So, in real money, £75 for 3 courses is actually £88. That is pretty pricey... Putting that aside, I don’t think Ducasse has received such a panning because the food is rubbish, it’s simply a bit disappointing against the background of all the hype. I have little to add to all the current opinion in the public domain, except to say that technically the cooking was good. I had the chestnut veloute, then the pigeon then the coco caramel. They were all tasty and well-executed, but it was the standard I’d expect in a one star restaurant, not one with a multi 3 star heritage. So, there were no disasters. Service was good and the food was fine. But I’m not convinced that all the people that have cancelled their bookings will have an altogether different experience a few months down the line...
  13. Friday lunch was a bit disappointing at texture. First observation was that the dining room was nearly empty - a couple of people en seule, then maybe one or two other tables of four. A bit surprising, I thought, for a friday afternoon. Canapes were as described above with a couple of underwhelming dips, one of which was a wasabi cream. Pre-starter was a celeriac, raisin and, I think, apple, topped with cream - a kind of play on a waldorf salad. Perhaps just a little bit sweet, so erred slightly on the side of a pud. My colleague can't eat dairy and was substituted a crab dish dressed with... erm... yoghurt. Bacon and egg starter was the highlight for me. The tomatoes were good, as per Jon Tseng's. The bacon was so very thin and crispy though, that it was almost difficult to extract any flavour from it. I should say at this point that I wasn't feeling my best, so I was undoubtedly in non-peak condition for tasting. Pork belly, I thought, could have been a bit more fatty and I wasn't a great fan of the spiced cabbage. It had that slightly preserved flavour, which I guess is a Scandinavian thing? Not to my taste. Some crispy (again) pork fat tasted of little and there was no incremental benefit to the dish as a whole. The muesli was a good finish. Milk sorbet was well made, smooth, yet light. The underlying muesli was, however, very much just muesli. I suppose I was expecting to be wowed by this place, but wasn't. The cooking standard is high though not, in my opinion, high 1*. I'm not overly fond of the concept. If you concentrate on adding novel or unusual textures to a dish, rather than the flavour and balance, the result isn't always optimal. It'll be very interesting to see how this thread progresses as a few more people try it out...
  14. All in all, three of us had an extremely enjoyable evening at Pearl last night. We went with some expectation to be served sweaty cheese and extortionately priced wines, but were pleasantly surprised to experience neither. The tasting menu was along the lines of this: Tomato consomme and cucumber sorbet Tasty, refreshing but modestly oversalted. The cucumber sorbet erred more on the side of dill than cucumber and the tomato consommé had a strong undercurrent of ketchup. Not bad though. Scallops, frogs legs, parsley puree and garlic foam Even for a tasting menu not receiving a whole scallop seems a little bit mean. Instead we each got two-thirds. One of my thirds was a little overdone. For me, the main problem was the overpowering parsley puree. Autumn vegetables By far the most disappointing dish of the night. The roasted parts of the dish tasted if they had been roasted some time ago. The fact that they were fridge cold was a further give away. Nice horseradish dressing though. John Dory, Ossobuco croquette An absolute stunner. At the time, I got a little excited and declared it one of my favourite dishes of the year. Maybe it is. The combination of the fish, the orangey/gingery dressing and the crunchy, meaty croquette was delicious. Pata Negra, Chorizo and lentil salsa, red pepper puree, roast langoustines Well-executed but it did seem odd having such a Spanish dish on a menu that otherwise was French. It was a bit of an assault on the taste buds. Tasty pig. Vanilla yoghurt, sugared almonds, jam A posh version of a prêt very berry breakfast bowl. Custart tart, walnut ice cream, prunes Second best dish of the night. Nice texture to the custard tart. Great ice cream. A slightly wintery, heavy-ish way to finish the meal. Wine matches were mostly predictable (except for a dry Tokaji with the vegetable dish) but good. Our wine waiter was lovely, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Other than the menu being a little eclectic, there was really very little with which to take issue. Ooo except that they bizarrely only served two of each canape between three of us. I just don't understand that - someone always misses out. Anywa, I’d go back just for the john dory/osso buco...
  15. It's about tradition and respect innit? We should respect the tradition because it is one factor that determines the way we behave today. The past informs the present. Dressing smartly also shows that we respect our guests and the restaurant. I wouldn't want to turn up looking scruffy because the message it sends to whoever I am with is that I couldn't be bothered. Even if you were eating at Le Gavroche on your own, donning shorts and t-shirt would signify one or both of the folloing i) you don't respect the restaurant and other diners ii) you believe yourself to be above the dress code. I wouldn't like to be viewed as either. Conversely, if you are eating at home privately, you dictate the rules and arguably the tradition. So wear what you like...
  16. Just adding to the previous comments really... Getting some work experience is an absolute must, as is making sure that the experience matches the type of restaurant you want to work in full-time. When I was at uni, I built up this elaborate dream of becoming a chef. I worked in a 1* restaurant over the summers, having just picked up the phone and asked. I did it for free though... Anyway, I loved it and decided to get myself a proper job after graduation. I wrote to Le Gavroche, did a trial day and got a full time job... and hated it! Busy central London kitchens are completely different, so you need to know what style you are happy with for the long run. Oh... I work in The City behind a desk these days! Turns out finishing the economics degree wasn't a bad idea!
  17. I live in the same building as Trinity and have been three times now, yet each visit has been a little bit disappointing. Not awful, just not as good as I had hoped for. Similar to Andy, there have been long waits for food, despite the restaurant being less than half full and on more than one occasion, dishes have tasted and appeared pre-cooked. A morel tart springs to mind, which was barely warm, soggy, limp and underseasoned. It always seems pretty busy though, so maybe I'm wrong... Gazette in Battersea Reach is nice enough. Superbly cheap, rustic French stuff. Nearish to Clapham Junction.
  18. There is a MasterPark on Queensway, no further than 200m from the Royal China. Otherwise, if you're there at around 12.00ish, you can usually sneak a spot on Inverness Terrace - parallel to Queensway to the east.
  19. It was with low expectations that, en famille, I visited La Noisette; it has managed to engender some fairly strong negative opinion in all areas, from the décor and service to the food itself. On first impressions, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, the dining room is a bit hotel-like and uninspiring, but it’s not that bad. To me, it felt a bit 1970s glam - I was expecting Foxy Cleopatra and Austin Powers to burst through the doors at any second, but then I wasn’t alive in the 70s and I’m hardly glamorous. Canapés were a simple affair - breadsticks and something that tasted and looked like houmous, but was, of course, described poetically enough to hide the fact, and olives. Certainly nothing special – they were more like bar snacks, than a start to a meal. The menu is the veritable maze that I had been warned of. Various set menus/tasting menus, all mixed in with ALC choices, all very confusing. Simply, you have three choice: £50 for ALC, £60 for a tasting menu of starters and £70 for the inspirational tasting menu – created by the chef on the spot depending on his mood... blah blah. And for a mere £35, “we can shave white truffle from Alba on pretty much everything!” Yes, but does white truffle actually taste nice with everything? No, it doesn't, in the same way that fine leather might make a nice briefcase but you certainly wouldn't want your briefs made out of it. Anyway, we went for the inspirational menu to see what mood the chef was in… He obviously wasn’t particularly hungry for the first course – a carpaccio of venison with rocket salad and parmesan. It was perfectly nice, with high quality ingredients but the portion did feel just slightly mean. I remarked that you could probably fit the whole thing onto a fork, which my brother duly did – and with ease. But this is a tasting menu, so small portions are to be expected. Next up, Mr van der Horst’s mood obviously got slightly more adventurous. It was a sea urchin pannacotta with langoustine jelly and caviar. ‘Twas a very pretty looking dish and was served with three potato crisps. One was salt, one was cayenne pepper and the third was herb. It was a bizarre thing to eat because the crisps were so thinner-than-wafer-thin that one struggled to even pick it up without breaking it into a thousand tiny pieces. It was innovative, I suppose, but the pannacotta lacked any real flavour beyond what it said on the tin. Mon pere said it would have been better suited as an amuse bouche or canapé, a sentiment I agree with entirely. The first mouthful was lovely, but I was bored by the third. Chef, we think, got a bit cross for the next course, or developed a cruel sense of humour, for he served up what was quite simply the worst dish I have eaten in a while. It was described along the lines of a caramelised turkey wing in an oriental sauce with spicy popcorn. It turned out to be, and I am quite serious in this description, burnt turkey wing, bathed in a sticky, gloop that tasted exactly like the spare rib sauce you can buy from Chinese supermarkets (although also burnt) and with a bit of popcorn. It really was awful. I just can’t understand how it was even allowed to leave the kitchen. In retrospect, given that the dish came with those disposal chopsticks you get in cheap sushi bars, he was definitely having a laugh. There’s no way you could’ve used chopsticks to eat the dish, and if you could, you wouldn’t. We sent it back after a mouthful or two. BVDH felt a bit guilty. Next up was a complimentary and delicious foie gras dish with an almond crust, an almond foam (I think) and caramel. It was delicious, and certainly made up a lot of the lost ground from the preceding disaster. The first of the main dishes was a lovely, plump piece of roast sea bass. It was brought to the table in the roasting tray, sitting proudly atop various roasted vegetables and fruits, which I couldn’t now name, and served up tableside. It was ostensibly cooked with a fair slug of orange juice, perhaps too much as it just started to dominate the flavour. Overall, it was hearty, good food. The sea bass was perhaps slightly overdone, but it would be unnecessarily picky to let that spoil the view of the dish. Chef got generous and developed a gargantuan appetite. Two enormous ducks arrived, and the nod to the Orient returned, cooked as they were with soy and honey, but this time rather more successfully. Breasts that would make Jordan blush were carved off at the table and split between us. It was a massive portion and served with roasted root vegetables. Again, a relatively simple, country-style dish but, apart from the obvious differences, it seemed very much of the same ilk as the sea bass. Just slightly too familiar, particularly the veg. The pre-dessert was a delicate little taster – clementine segments and vanilla ice cream essentially. It was perfectly satisfactory but not one to write home about. Last up was a large conical pyramid of chocolate mousse. Everyone else’s had pear in it, mine didn’t, but it was an architectural masterpiece. In fact, it wouldn’t have been that hard to build but it looked stunning and tasted rather lovely too. It was a nice, but quite filling ending and a bit of a struggle after Broke-beak ( )Mountain. The petit fours were nice and followed by a further round of chocolates topped with a noisette, of course, to go with coffee. They have a lot of work to do on service at La Noisette. The food was slow to come, with the exception of the seabass, which arrived before we had finished the foie gras. The foie gras was an extra though, so I’m sure played havoc with kitchen timings. The turkey was a farce and it will unfortunately mar my parting impression of this restaurant, despite what was otherwise a reasonably good meal. What really stood out though was that the best dishes (sea bass and duck) were the more simple ones. I’m all for innovative dishes, but they have to be executed well and the risk of serving up a stinker and ruining a whole meal needs to be closely considered. And so I left with expectations mostly fulfilled. I will give it another try in a few weeks, but when turkey is off the menu, and when the service is in order. At the moment, at over £800 for five with wine, it just isn’t worth the money.
  20. Excellent! Well, it's encouraging to know that I'm not being overly picky. So the next debate is - what is the etiquette to feeding this sort of stuff back to restaurants? I feel like I know them reasonably well and do rate everything else they do, but if someone just told them to sort out the canapes, it would have an incrementally positive effect on the meal as a whole. Has anyone ever tried to give such constructive criticism? Will they be mortally offended? Is it not for me to say?
  21. I was back at a regular haunt of mine the other day and it occurred to me that the canapés haven’t changed in about two years. Without fail, as you sit down at the table, they produce chickpea beignets (made to look like chips), cucumber with salmon/crayfish with pickled ginger on a stick and crudites (radish and baby carrot) with a wholegrain mustard dressing. It’s a restaurant that is clearly gunning for its second star and has recently upped its prices. The tasting menu is now £70 – so getting on for serious, high-end money. The rest of the food, in my view, is approaching 2-star quality but the canapés are just rubbish. In my cheffing days at Le Gavroche and the (now gone) Monsieur Max, we used to change the canapés most days and I thought they were great (especially when I was making them! ) but this place just doesn’t bother. Am I wrong about this or, as the first thing that you eat, shouldn’t canapés aim to be something to awaken the taste buds, give you a taster of what is to come and impress you at the first opportunity?
  22. Do you think you could ask for wine to go with each course? At 100ml per glass, that would come to nearly 3 full bottles.
  • Create New...