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Everything posted by Patrick_O

  1. Having said all that, if a customer brings a complaint to your attention, regardless of what you might feel about it, you surely have to do better than "your comments are noted"?
  2. Try Commerc24 for a 1* tapas experience. Very self conciously cool but food is excellent. I enjoyed a superb 2* meal at Lasarte in June. Very different experience from Commerc24 and more formal Michelin but definitely worth a try as the food and service were the best that we experienced in Barcelona.
  3. Wow! This is exactly the type of information I was after, thank you so much. I will report back on your recommendations on my return.
  4. Planning to visit the area next month and will be based in Santa Margherita Ligure. We will travel for good food and would greatly appreciate any heads up for places to sample good quality local food and wine. I'm always wary when dining out in areas with such a high tourist concentration so if there are any gems to look out for I'd love to hear about them.
  5. My SO and I were in Barcelona and Girona for a week in early June and I've listed some highlights and observations below. As a general observation, we found the standard of service to vary between average and downright frosty..even in some of the high end places we visited. This seemed to permiate all elements of the service industry from restaurants and hotels to coffee shops and bars. We have a small amount of Spanish to get by with and always made an effort to engage staff but more often than not we hit a brick wall. Service issues aside, we enjoyed some amazing food and wine. We started out with the tasting at Masanna in Girona. Some excellent cooking and wine pairings with foie gras and espresso reduction stealing the show. We followed this with El Cellar de Can Roca and the cooking stepped up a notch. From the 11 course tasing menu we could not fault a single dish. The signature prawn was every bit as good as we had hoped as were all of the seafood dishes particularly. FOH left a lot to be desired for a 3* though. Moving on to Barcelona, the best meal we ate was a superb lunch at Lasarte, Martin Berasategui's 2* which was in the hotel where we were staying. We hadn't heard much about this restaurant but are big fans of MB's restaurants in San Sebastian so we decided to try it. Service was easily the best we encountered on the whole trip and the food was superb. Highlights were squab pigeon and veal sweetbreads. The only other starred reservation we had was Commerc24but unfortunately we had to leave before our starters as I was not feeling well ( hardly surprising in hindsight given the amount I'd eaten in the previous few days!!). It looked fantastic ( if a little pretentious) so we will definitely go back next time. The rest of the time we ate tapas which were generally very good. We made the obligatory pilgrimage to Cal Pepone evening. Food was just ok but I guess it's the atmosphere people go there for and we certainly enjoyed our night. A decent tuna tartare was the highlight food wise. I can also recommend grabbing a stool at the counter of the fish stand in the Boqueria getting some grilled fresh sardines or whatever else they have on the day. Grilled fresh fish with a squeeze of lemon and a cold beer are hard to beat on a hot day. Overall we were really impressed with the standard of food and even though the service wasn't always up to scratch, it didn't take too much away from our enjoyment. We're already planning a return visit.
  6. Can't argue with the logic of your point but in reality many waiting staff are minimum wage workers who depend on tips to earn a living and by the time the taxman has had his cut, it doesn't amount to a lot. Having the machines closed to tips is generally the policy of the restaurant and not the staff. The owners incur less credit card charges, employer levies and admin burden by having to account for the tips and, as you point out, not everyone will have cash with them so the staff end up losing out on a tip.
  7. I think the problem is that if tips are captured on debit/credit cards then they have to be put through the payroll system and taxed. In addition to this, the bank sticks it's hand in the jar and pinches a few percent of all tips left on cards.
  8. Wow! Thank you all so much for the recommendations. Certainly some very interesting and diverse suggestions and exactly the sort of tips I was hoping for. Coming from Ireland, I generally travel and eat in Europe and have some experience of east coast USA but no experience of San Francisco or surrounding areas. I'm looking forward to melting pot of cultures and cuisines which appears to make SF such an intersting destination.
  9. We are heading to San Fran for a week in May and want to experience the best of what the area has to offer in terms of food and wine. It doesn't have to be high end although we have been strongly recommended Coi and may also travel to Manresa based on recommedations from this side of the pond. What we're really interested in are those hidden gems that only locals will know about but are really worth seeking out. I have never been to San Fran so any advice would be greatly appreciated.
  10. This annual debate usually divides opinion as everyone has their individual favourites. For what it's worth, I certainly raised an eyebrow at Can Roca getting a third star. Having eaten at both Mugaritz and Can Roca over the past 12 months, I consider Mugaritz a far more worthy contender for 3 stars. Can Roca undoubtedly has the better setting but I rate the cooking no higher than solid 2 star level.
  11. I agree with Tonto in relation to Ananda and Pichet. I think Pichet is a contender for a Bib in the future but not a star and I personally don't think Ananda is at one star level. I'd rate China Sichuan way ahead of it and view it as a more worthy contender. The only other movement I forsee is Thorntons regaining it's second star. Kevin has been back in the kitchen and focused for over a year and the quality is back to where it was when they won two stars. I think that Conrad Gallagher's new venture Le Salon de Saveurs will be the big hit for 2010. I understand that he is going all out for a star, and with three tasting menus at €24, €34 and €44 he appears to have pitched his prcing with the recession in mind . One thing is for sure, he won't be short of media attention when he opens.
  12. Off to London in a couple of weeks for a few days and so far I am only committed to visiting the Harwood Arms and The Sportsman. I want to book a high end lunch and clearly I will have to put my first born's name down to get a reservation at RHR so I'm trying to decide between The Square, Hibiscus or possibly Texture ( all of which have been recommended to me). I'm looking for great food, an interesting wine list and preferably a room where it is possible to have a conversation without having to whisper. Also, we will be going to the theatre one evening ( after a pre theatre in Arbutus) and looking for somewhere to get a decent cocktail afterwards. Any advice would be most welcome.
  13. Thanks for the info. Doesn't sound like too much hardship!
  14. I will be heading to London in early November arriving Friday morning, leaving Sunday afternoon. I really want to go to the Sportsman and was wondering how long the door to door trip takes from the centre of London and if it is worth the trek given we only have a couple of days? I was thinking Saturday lunch might the best bet? I have a shed load of other places I want try too and will probably be back over early in the New Year with a little more time on my hands.
  15. I'll second that..the carpaccio and veal were definitely standout dishes. I also thought the sole was spectacular. The only dish that I probably wouldn't rush back for was the marigold soup.
  16. We ate at Mugaritz last month and it was superb. Flavours were stunning and every single dish on the tasting menu was innovative and perfectly executed. Service was relaxed yet totally professional and staff were passionate and knowledgable. I have eaten at Arzak and think it is also excellent but for me, the overall experience in Mugaritz make it a cut above the others.
  17. Could have just been one of those days...couple of staff ring in sick, supplier arrives late with the fish, oven goes on the fritz, sink springs a leak and you're full for lunch and dinner!
  18. Simon, We're off to San Seb in a couple of weeks and we encountered the exact same issue in Arzak. We cancelled and booked Mugaritz instead. I've since been speaking with friend who is just back and having eaten at Arzak, Mugaritz and Martin Berasategui, he said the latter just blew him away. I was contemplating cancelling Mugaritz but will proabably stick with it. If you fancy a blow out while you're there, it certainly seems decent value for a 3*. www.martinberasategui.com
  19. According to the gossip pages in the Sunday Indo this week, he was spotted in Dublin last week with Conrad Gallagher.
  20. I agree Corinna, it was a very difficult room to try execute the level of food and service that Dylan strived for. I don't know how they operated in such a confined space. I still feel strongly however that without some good advice, a willingness to change, and perhaps a business partner with a lot more industry experience than he has, Dylan will struggle to achieve the success that his talent so richly deserves.
  21. Corinna, It's not the financial end of the business that I'm talking about. I've lost count of the amount of people who have said to me that they loved the cooking in Mint but would not go back because they did not feel comfortable or enjoy the overall experience. This equates with my own recent exeperience when I enjoyed the food but did not have a relaxing evening. I actullay commented after seeing a customer berated in front of the whole room for asking for his lamb cooked a little more that the business would not survive. I feel that customers are thin enough on the ground without alienating the ones you already have. When the chef's ego takes precedence over the customer's enjoyment of their meal, it's the slippery slope for any restaurant.
  22. Without doubt Mint's closure leaves a gaping hole in the top end Irish dining scene and I am also very sorry to see it close. Sorry but not surprised. I feel strongly, that if Dylan Mc Grath is to move on to another venture, he will need to change significantly in order to avoid the same pitfalls in the future. Clearly good chefs do not necesarily make good restauranteurs. One of the most common mistakes is that they put themselves before their customers..critical mistake in any business. My own personal opinion is that we only need look to Dylan Mc Grath's mentors ( Tom Aikens and Conrad Gallagher) to get the complete picture of why Mint closed. Clearly the recession played a part but I think DMcG should have a long hard look at his business management before embarking on another venture.
  23. Bistro food margins run anywhere from 65-80% so the dish you get in your local bistro/gastro pub for £9.95 will most likely have cost no more than £2 to put together. It appears that he has a production kitchen where dishes are probably "cooked from fresh" and then distributed to some of his informal dining places. Might make sense with the number of outlets he now has. Is there a story here?
  24. Sunday isn't the best day to seek out great seafood but Bentleys (http://www.brownesdublin.com) would be the obvious city centre choice.
  25. I'm pretty sure that the strong Euro has a lot to do with Ireland being expensive for visitors from the UK at the moment. I'm off to London in a couple of weeks to do some eating and there is a noticiable difference compared with this time last year-we're just lucky that it's in our favour for once
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