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Alan Smeaton

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Everything posted by Alan Smeaton

  1. The Grainger Market needs to be approached with a degree of caution but there's good stuff there if you look hard enough. For example, one of the fishmongers also has an outlet in Fenwicks, but the market prices are generally lower. Agree about Brighton Grove, a treasure trove for Indian/Bangladeshi cooking.
  2. emsny Here are some suggestions: Meat - Northumbrian Quality Meats in the food hall at Fenwicks Department Store. Not cheap, but worth it. Fish - the various fishmongers at the Grainger Indoor Market. Also the fish quay at North Shields where you can buy stuff freshly landed. Veg - Grainger Indoor Market or Fenwicks. Deli - Stewart & Co, Brentwood Avenue, West Jesmond. Very good for cheese, dried pasta, olive oil and other goodies. Ridleys's Fish & Game in Corbridge are supposed to be very good, but they are 15 miles west of the city. Hope the above helps.
  3. Terry Laybourne's operations are still the benchmark for Tyneside, Cafe 21 and also Jesmond Dene House, a beautiful hotel located 10 minutes from the city centre. I recommend the Black Door Brasserie in Shieldfield, about 5 minutes from town. The main Black Door Restaurant has a very high standard but over a period I found the portions to be getting smaller and smaller - haven't been since late last year. The Comfort Food Co in Pudding Chare is definitely worth a visit. They are very keen on provenance and almost all their produce comes from local sources - check their website. Having said the above, I think some of the best and best-value cooking is currently at Amer's Restaurant in The Jesmond Hotel http://www.amers-jesmondhotel.co.uk/page10.htm. Paul Amer was head chef at The Fisherman's Lodge, a very good but now frighteningly expensive restaurant in Jesmond Dene. He also worked for Terry Laybourne. Amer's has just been awarded a michelin bib gourmand. The food is outstanding and front of house manager/owner, Charlie White, is also ex Lodge. If you only go to one place, try this one. For inexpensive, you have to try Pani's Cafe in High Bridge. A wonderful place owned by a Sardinian family - no pizzas, but some very interesting sardinian dishes. The staff are delightful. It's been around for a long time as has Komal Balti on Stanhope Street. Very good Indian food - no licence so byo with no corkage charge. You can save a fortune if, like me. you are keen on wine and hate restaurant mark-ups.
  4. We were at Le Gavroche recently and it is as good as ever. I honestly haven't eaten better anywhere else in London. Another suggestion is The Capital Hotel. Eric Chavot's cooking is great and the service is first class.
  5. My favourite restaurant up there has always been Martin Wishart. It isn't cheap, but the food is magnificent. Number One at The Balmoral is also superb.
  6. It's quite simple, really. If you object to wearing a jacket or dressing in a particular way, don't go. Maybe Le Gavroche isn't for you. It seems to have been doing ok for the last 40 years and isn't exactly short of customers. Personally, I really like the place. Bearing in mind my wife will spend several hours getting dressed up the nines I doubt she would be very impressed if I couldn't make the effort to look half decent. Chacun a son gout, or something like that.
  7. This thread reminds me about the three star michelin chef, Nico Ladenis, who ran Chez Nico in London during the 80's and 90's and was known to throw out customers who requested salt and pepper on the table. Ah, the days when the customer wsn't always right!!
  8. We had dinner recently at GR's operation in Claridge's and it was pretty good. Having said that, our own preference is for Michel Roux's place, Le Gavroche. Sensational food, best front of house service we've ever come across, and just sitting there watching the "performance" is as good as a seat at the theatre. The only downside is the cost, possibly even more than GR's places, but they also do a fantastic value lunch offer.
  9. Interesting notes, Patrick. I confess to being slightly prejudiced against the Maxfield Group as I feel their pricing is a little severe for restaurants in the North East. The Fisherman's Lodge in Newcastle was a great favourite of mine under the previous owners, but under Maxfield 3 courses at dinner will now cost £50. To me that is almost michelin starred London pricing. I've no complaints about the quality of food that I have eaten there and obviously The Samling must have delivered food-wise. Trying to guess the price of your wine, I assume the Sunday lunch excluding drinks was £35 - £40 a head maybe? It's interesting to note that the set lunch at Petrus and GR's operations at Claridges and The Connaught is £30. Then again, from experience I know that "fine dining" is often more expensive in the provinces than in London.
  10. Yes, a bit worrying when the winner's piece de resistance was shepherd's pie with a secret ingredient....baked beans. Frankly, I wouldn't have trusted any of last night's lot to produce toast. Hope it picks up as I thought last year's winner, Matt Dawson, really showed that he could cook very well.
  11. Andy You must be clairvoyant. I definitely qualify for the over 40 club and recognise a grand total of three people on the list, one musician and two sports people. I really should get out more.
  12. I last ate at The Capital in November. Went for dinner and it was faultless. Some of the best cooking in London. The service was utterly immaculate and nicely balanced between formal and friendly. I also think it helps that the dining room is not too large so the number of covers is limited.
  13. I would definitely agree with pinot noir for the main, or even a good cru beaujolais. For the starter, maybe a pinot gris, or if it is very rich, something like rousanne, marsanne or viognier.
  14. Although the main reason we go to a restaurant is presumably to enjoy good food and the company of one's dining partners, I think most of us would also admit that there is an element of pleasure in people watching. Sitting in a deserted room rather lends itself to talking in whispers. I also like to take my time over a meal and that can sometimes be difficult when there is an unstated pressure to finish so that the staff can all get away.
  15. Living in Newcastle upon Tyne we do go out a lot to restaurants. However, it becomes more and more clear that dining out midweek can be a very strange experience. Take last week, when we decided at short notice to go out on a Tuesday. Rather than our familiar local cheapie, a wonderful Sardinian cafe called Pani's, we decided on a change. Cue a new Bangladeshi place, opened at lavish expense and with good write-ups. We arrived at 20:45, looked through the window of an 80 cover restaurant, to see one person in total eating there. In desperation, and still seeking a change, we decided to call in on a new branch of the Italian chain, Strada. Arriving, we noted about eight people dining in a very large city centre space. Now, I don't mind a reasonably quiet place, but a restaurant needs at least a few customers to generate an atmosphere. Ironically, we ended up at Pani's which at least had about 16 people dining in a room that isn't too big. Based on that and other experiences, I would have some concerns about being a restaurateur in a city where you are probably dependent on just three nights trade (Thu - Sat) to generate your profit, bearing in mind that there isn't a big demand for lunchtime bookings. Is this the same in other British cities, excluding the capitals of course?
  16. Not having dined in NY personally, his comment about top end restaurants in London being more expensive is interesting. Overall, I think London prices pretty well at the lower to middle range, especially compared to the provinces. At the 2 to 3 star level it does become a painful experience particularly once you factor in some outrageous wine mark-ups. There again, as he points out London "fine dining" is relatively small scale in terms of numbers of covers per restaurant. Presumably he does think that it is possible in NY to do top end stuff at high volumes. Always interesting to see how our cousins across the pond view us!
  17. Perhaps two different scenarios are to be recognised here: 1. Menu quotes the main part of the dish i.e. meat or fish with appropriate sauce/dressing and that is all you get. Suddenly, what looks an attractive price starts to inflate once side dishes are added to make a substantial meal. 2. Chef carefully designs a plate of food with specific accompaniments. In this case I wouldn't be too chuffed to have customers requesting the entire dish be reconstructed to suit their whims on accompanying vegetables etc. I wonder what the result would be of such a request if a certain Mr Ramsay was in the kitchen? On that note didn't Nico Ladenis throw people out of his restaurant if they asked for salt and pepper, or is that apocryphal?
  18. Agree with you RDB. Our food culture seems to be at least partly based on greed. Look at the number of buffet restaurants these day where the attraction is to pile as much on the plate as you can. I have been on a couple of P&O cruises with mainly UK passengers. I avoid the buffets like the plague but you see huge numbers of people wandering about with plates so full they can hardly carry them. Ironically they end up often throwing half the contents away. Some people's concept of value for money with food seems rather distorted!
  19. Ah yes, the large portion syndrome beloved of pub owners. So many of the local reviews that are published up here focus on the Pub Sunday Lunch, the quality of which seems to be judged by how many different roast meats you can have on the plate, the number of vegetables and the size of the Yorkshire pud. It amuses me the number of people who would almost faint at the prospect of paying £40 per head for a meal. They are often the same people who will happily put £80 in their pocket, visit the Newcastle Quayside pubs and clubs, eat a kebab, get a taxi home, having spent the whole lot. As a nation we don't particularly respect food as a culture. I know you can eat badly in Italy or France, but you also have a damn good chance of having a very good meal at a modest cost. Especially in urban locations I'm not sure food has ever meant a lot to the Brits. Ironically, everyone seems to watch cooking programmes on TV but still goes out and buys Supermarket ready made gloop. Funny old world.
  20. Evening everyone. New to the forum and posting a new topic - oh well, might as well jump in with both feet, just don't be too hard on me! Also, let me know if this has been the subject of another thread. Living in Newcastle, it is quite evident that the so-called dining revolution in the UK is still very strongly London-centric. We have some very good restaurants up here, but not that many. As a regular London visitor it always amazes me how much easier it is down there to eat very well at a relatively modest price compared to here. In the small number of really good places up here you are looking at about £35 to £50 per head at dinner for food only, excluding service charge. At the top end that is heading towards Michelin * prices. I suspect the simple answer boils down to basic economics. Places up here will be busy at weekends but midweek and lunchtimes will be a lot quieter. The number of covers that an average London restaurant will achieve in a given week will be a lot more. This must be one of the few areas where it's cheaper to be in London than the North. I do get a bit grumpy about the lack of national coverage of regional restaurants. The majority of restaurant critics churn out review after review of London places and if they are feeling adventurous might venture into the Home Counties. There is one in particular who I swear never seems to review anything outside Knightsbridge or Kensington! Anyway, grumble over. I await the incoming flak.
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