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    Stevenage, UK
  1. Juniper just lost its star; I believe the chef moved to Scotland. Shame - I ate there once and rather liked it. Northcote Manor's not too far away.
  2. Oh excellent! That maps coming with me~! thanks, d.
  3. Newest that I would recommend is Estragon Tapas on Harrison in the South End. On Friday and Saturday you can get whole braised pig head: the other dishes are far less daughting and very good. ← I'm there on a Saturday - but sadly on my own so I'm not sure I can manage a whole head. I assume that's not a dish for one ; ) Will try to get down there though. Looks good.
  4. Any very recent openings? I've been to Boston a few times and eaten at many of the recommended places. I'm keen to try a couple of new places - even if no one can say if they're good or not yet... D.
  5. No, they still seem to be 'talking' about it. I took a brief look at the upstairs private room too and that seemed to be more in need than the main room, which I actually didn't mind the look of though it was not as nice as Pearl Brasserie.
  6. Ok, confession time. We ate there on September 30th, 2007. Clearly that's more than common laziness not to have posted by now. What happened? Well, I guess I was just overwhelmed. We arrived at 19.45, expecting to enjoy a drink in the restaurant before the meal. No bar, we were told and sent away. We wandered in the night, passed on an empty sports bar, killed time. On our second arrival we were shown to our table for four and given a little time to peruse the menu. No need. We'd decided on the tasting menu before setting out. We had 19 courses according to the menu. In fact, due to a squeamish guest who wouldn't touch a couple of the more outre ingredients I ended up eating 21. Petits fours "red pepper-black olive" were served on a stone slab and tasty; very tasty, in fact, which was to prove the theme of the night. Presentation was good through-out but the star quality of each plate was in the tastes, not in visual trickery. At this stage we had no idea how many courses were actually in the tasting menu. We thought it was 12. Oh, so wrong. A shot glass of Cucumber and shiso cocktail was gone in an instant but lingered on the palate like an exotic kiss. The Oyster in urchin jelly to follow continued to create the false sense that this would be a meal of a dozen bites - delicious but brief. We were being suckered. The next course - a seaweed-citrus granite with corn and tomato was a fraction more substantial but light, and exquisite. And then, the dish I'd prayed would be on the menu: Arpege-farm egg. And yes, it's very, very good (and imitable by an amateur cook too!) At this point we thought we were well into the meal, so we were somewhat shocked when the waitress explained that our amuse were now over and we were moving on to the "real" dishes. Charcoal grilled foie gras with tomato jam was good, but let down a bit by the quality of the foie. Shellfish in a herbal tisane of melon, golden raspberries followed and was sweet and subtle with intense flavours of the sea. Tomatoes and smoked roe, roast tuna jus, looked dark and unsettlingly unappealing. It tasted good though. By contrast the next dish, Spot prawns on the plancha with exotic spice, citrus, looked beautiful. And tasted beautiful too. For me, very nearly the high point of the meal; surpassed only by the trinity of cod, pork and lamb yet to come. Blue hubbard pumpkin, nasturtium ice cream followed. Extremely tasty and I'd happily have had more, though by now we were rather full and still had no idea how many more courses were to come. And then 'In the Vegetable Garden...' followed by Abalone in its own spice bouillon, with more sub-par foie gras. Oh my lord. I hated both of these courses and left more than half of each. The first was lovely to look at but tasted very much like garden prunings covered in spit. The second was probably fine if you like crunchy, cold, abalone. I don't. Just a bad fit for me. Now I must admit that at this point I finally gave in and asked how many more courses were to come. Manresa was good I'd decided. In the case of the Arpege egg or the seaweed and tomato, really good, but not great I'd decided and if it was nearly time to go, well... fair enough. Just a few to come: three more mains and some dessert, I was told. And then it all came together. I'm honestly not sure what to say about the remaining "main" courses. I don't have superlatives fitting. Delicious? Exquisite? Ok, how about perfect? Black cod with celeriac-lemongrass sauce: perfect. Suckling pig and boudin noir, pink delite apple: perfect. Probably in God's own cookbook. Spring lamb and spiced carrots and brown butter: the best lamb I've ever had. I was straining at the waist. I was dog tired. I was incapable of speech. I was in heaven. And then they hit us with three desserts: panna cotta with red wine granita; almond croustillant, pears with black licorice ice cream; chocolate cremeaux, raspberries in armagnac, tobacco ice cream (no, it's not easy to describe the taste of tobacco ice cream - suffice to say it's much better than it sounds!) We thought that was it but, in symmetry with the first amuse we ended with petits fours "strawberry-chocolate" again on a stone slab. It was like running a marathon. A very moreish marathon. If it hadn't been for the slimy Vegetable Garden dish and the disappointing foie gras this would have been a meal of unquestioning dominance. As it was, well, I'll just have to go back and see if they can improve on "nearly perfect." ; ) One last note: chef David Kinch came out for a chat around midnight as we were finishing our coffee. He looked like he'd run a real marathon but was completely charming and very down to earth. Overall, Manresa is the best restaurant in California that I've been to. A crescendo of dining.
  7. Just spent a couple of days in Dublin, enough for three meals (could have been four if Ryanair had left Luton on time!) I went to Eden, One Pico and Pearl Brasserie. Was considering Thornton's but some posts in another topic here put me off. I also tried to get in at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, but no luck. Eden (lunch, day 1) remains in my opinion one of the best values to be had for lunch, not just in Dublin, but anywhere I've been, with three courses for just €27.00. I started with roast halibut with Red pepper polenta, sorrel butter & tomato pesto which was good enough that I wished I'd taken it main-course sized. No fear though since the slow cooked pork belly with colcannon, roast carrots & spiced plums was sublime. I'm crazy for pork belly and this example did Eden proud. Dessert of vanilla scented panacotta with pineapple & ginger salsa, lime syrup rounded off the lunch a treat. Dublin is one heck of a foodie city IMHO, but it's often very pricey indeed without the levels of competition found in some other European capitals to drive prices down. In this environment Eden stands out as being not only a contender food-wise but a bargain to boot. At One Pico (dinner) I started with Bacon & Cabbage (aka Terrine of Ham Hock & Spring Cabbage, Portobello Mushrooms, Mustard & Tarragon Aïoli, € 12.50) which was jolly tasty. Jolly is the right word - you couldn't help but like it, with it's cute name and pretty plating and all, but it was just dinner. A good passion fruit jelly separated the courses, then Roasted Organic Salmon, (w/ Marinated Beetroot Risotto, Horseradish Foam, Parmesan Tuile & Herb Crème Fraîche, € 32.00) which was memorable - a pretty pile of food that combined sharp, separate flavours into a dish that was more of an experience than a 'whole'. We took some Green Beans & Crispy Shallots (€ 4.50) as a side dish, which were unnecessary. Dessert was Poached Meringue, Toasted Nuts, Lemon Curd, Compote of Berries, Vanilla Cream (€ 11.50). This dish rocked. I'm a meringue fan anyway and this novel ensemble really worked for me. Pearl Brasserie (lunch, day 2) is beautiful, and they know it too, casually suggesting that you go and check out the restaurant's famous alcoves. The service was, by my preferences, some of the best service I've had in any restaurant (the best being at Boston's No. 9 Park). Crispy Dublin prawns wrapped in spring roll pastry, Mango & black pepper dressing (€9.00) were a sizable and tasty starter but more hearty than engaging. Pan Fried Aged Irish Rib-eye Steak, French Fries & Mustard Sauce (€18.50) was perfectly cooked and excellent brasserie food. So far so good. Dessert was Crème brûlée of the day (which today simply seemed to be Crème brûlée). I was in a top mood by this point but still I'm going to stand by this opinion: this was the best of countless Crème brûlée I've eaten. The absolute best. Indeed it was so good that I had to finish it all, thereby overeating (by a fraction) which makes me, well, sleepy. A walk in nearby St Stephen's Park was needed to wake me up. Overall a splendid trip. And only six hours of rain!
  8. The workshop of Joël Robuchon could just have easily been called the 'theatre' so engaging is the view into the kitchen from the counter where I ate my set lunch, currently just £25 for three courses, recently reduced from £35. I ordered a glass of decent enough champagne (Bruno Paillard, £10) while I waited for my first course, a pigeon terrine. Usually I could care less about pigeon but some intuition guided me and I'm glad for it. Really excellent and the standout of the meal. Not that there was anything at all to fault with the middle course of poultry with roast potatoes, lettuce and the legendary Robuchon mash potato, (served in it's own cast iron dish). It was just fractionally less delicious. Desert was a mouse of pistachio and chocolate served with pastry sticks (gold topped) and chocolate ice cream. Lovely to look at and even better to eat. This meal cost just over £40 inc. service. Add in the fun of watching the kitchen in full flow and this is a great bargain.
  9. The Head Chef at Number Twelve is Santino Busciglio. I like his cuisine a lot. It has an Italian influence and style, but it's not Italian. Quite original, really, with very feash, neat flavours. m ← Located in the refurbed Ambassadors hotel Twelve is a nice looking place, if a bit bland - very modern. Service was sharp though and the place was nearly full at lunch. Dishes were well explained and wines were reasonably priced. The important bit: the food was excellent. I mean really very impressive for a place that's not really cropped up on anyone's cool list. I started with tuna, very lightly seared on the edges but mostly raw. The fish was high quality and the execution and presentation very accomplished. Pork belly main was better still. I love pork belly and this played to the dishes strengths; crisp where needed, butter soft elsewhere. Delicious. Desert was a neat semifredo.
  10. another vote for Sketch and am I alone in enjoying the lunch at l'escargot?
  11. No flames? Ouch. Still I know I'll have to try it out (if only to take my mind off where my bags are.)
  12. Ok, I'm a bit late to this thread but I just ate here on Thursday. I began with Crab crème bruelee, pickled cucumber (€12.50) which was interesting but, even in a small pot, too rich to be a starter IMHO. Vicky had Caramelized onion & beetroot soup (€6.50) which she declared the "best soup ever." Following that her main was always going to have trouble living up to expectations and indeed she ended up abandoning her Herb gnocci with field mushrooms & Beaujolais dressing (€18.50) partway. I tried it and thought it tasty but again, too cloyingly heavy for me. My main course, Pot au feu of pork €22.50 was perfectly rendered and completely consumed. I'd eat it again right now if I could. Initially I was served the wrong desert so I got to eat a spoonful of fluffy savarin before I noticed. I should have stuck to the wrong dish as Lemon berry meringue fool (€8.50) was no more interesting than any home cook could knock up. Judging by the three deserts I tried (Vicky's was pear poached in muscat de beaumes de venise) Flynn isn't much interested in puddings and would be advised to get in a pastry chef sharpish if he want's to prosper on my business ; ) Service was sub voce (Vicky asked me if she'd gone deaf) but attentive enough. Overall, with two disappointing courses each you'd expect that I wouldn't be back to Balzac but the combination of the stunning room, well-priced wine list, and the excellent soup and pork mean that it'll probably get a second chance.
  13. Back to the original question: I don't really favour one or the other; I mean how will you know one way or another until you show up? But the better experiences I've had this year (The Elephant, Juniper, Manresa, reMAKE) - the chef has turned out to have been "in" and hands on.
  14. Then lunch is your friend - their lunch menu is good value and actually fairly representative.
  15. I admit it: Incognico isn't my favourite London restaurant, but it is probably my most frequently visited in the ~£100+ (meal for 2) price range. Why? Location has a lot to do with it of course -- it's at the epicentre of where I do business in town and easy to find for guests. But there's also the simple fact that while the service can be wildly variable the food has never disappointed. My most recent visit: Salt cod with aioli (£9.50) was a comforting treat after a frankly lousy journey into town (a "passenger incident" cancelled all trains on the Central line) and Roast sea bass (£15.50) was an elegant main. Dessert of chocolate mouse was unusually presented in a soup-bowl and a bit too much powdered sugar was sprinkled on for me but they redemed themselves with absolutely excellent margherita's. Overall a very reliable and rewarding evening out, but if I was pointing a newcomer to town to places they should try I doubt I'd mention it... So my question is: what other places are there that don't get talked up much but which you favour nonetheless?
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