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Roger le goéland

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  1. For Sydney at least as a former resident I would be inclined to lean for the "better coffee" theory. Not just talking about CBD, Eastern Suburbs or the North Shore - had routinely decent coffee as far as Bankstown and Cabramatta (whether this is in "Sydney" is a debate for another day ). Just on the street of my former office, there were 4 different options 3 of which were Monmouth-good (at least the pre-2010 version - no idea what it is like now). And I prefer Gloria Jeans to Starbucks, Nero and Pret (for coffee at least). On the other hand I'll give you that coffee is extortionate in Australia. That mining boom...
  2. Interesting insights! I have left the UK for quite a bit, but always remembered the UK Dining board as one of the best (if not the best) places to discover new places to eat in that "high risk high return" city that is London. The board actually offered 2 things that I could not find elsewhere: - anonymous discussion - true expertise from experience and taste coupled with information impossible to find elsewhere. The first may sound odd to many of the above posters, who post with their name, photo, blog link and ample reputation; but I do not know any of you bar one and as such really enjoyed only reading your arguments and way of thinking, without judgment being influenced by any personal considerations. Also meant my own meager contributions were suitably handled regardless of who I was, where I worked, who I knew, etc. - and by complete strangers who happened to be food geeks, not friends in real life who cared for my ego. The second is still one of the best things about this board. I got on it from personal reference by an aforementioned "geek", and had to fill in a personal statement regarding why I joined. Talk about a culture! Maybe that is why everybody seemed so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about food. I still remember reading Matthew Grant's thread on Arbutus, with his detailed comments on what the chefs were trying to do, how, and what people ate, which probably brought them several dozen repeat visits from me and my friends (and how I wish Chiswick wasn't so far away, so that I could repeat with Hedone on my next trip). I learnt a lot regarding what to expect, what to order, how to think about a restaurant visit, how to spot truly worthy cooking from temporary fashions, how to make the most of my sterling from various discussions between vastly more experienced board members. Do blogs replace the Forum? I'm not sure. I usually scan blog entries quickly to have a look at what is served; beyond that, few get into the level of detail, and shall we say more philosophical arguments that make many of the threads here worth a read. As mentioned above the discussion is the best bit. I really do wish there was a similar group on the Singapore/SEA board, as the local food scene is otherwise dominated by PR agencies, and where every interesting meal has come via a personal recommendation. Alright, back to lurking.
  3. I had the chance (some may say the misfortune) to stay in Geylang my first week here. Tried maybe 15 places in the area as I did not have the luxury of previous recommendations. Don't go out of your way for those but... At the corner of Crane Road and Onan Road, a man fries up some parathas (my breakfast of choice in that area). You might spot him throwing the dough around in almost meter wide circles of potential deliciousness. 80c gets you a basic one with a couple of sauces, but I upgraded for the mutton at 2.50 SGD. This was hands down the best of all parathas/pratas/variations thereof I've had in Singapore so far. If you are somehow not filled and fancy something different, walk along to Carpmael road, turn left and somewhere across the road from what Google Maps calls 88, there lies a prawn and rib soup noodle place. This is a dish I have tried in many hawker stands but never again have I found the deliciousness of what I assume is stock that is topped up continuously. That stock was close to Ichiran's tonkatsu stock (in Tokyo) in terms of concentrated flavour. I almost wish I still lived in Geylang! I tried Fei Fei's wonton noodles, they were no better than the average in the area if a dollar more expensive. Tried a few Viet places looking for decent hu tieu, forget about it. Nobody cares about stock. Just that prawn mee place. Tried Smokey's, well, it's what it says on the tin and not a bad choice if you are fed up with hawker stands, why not pay 15 hawker meals' worth for 48 hour slow cooked smoked meat and fries? PS: Durian: just no. The smell stays in your mouth for hours. Hours.
  4. For tapas in the old town, Tempranillo (on Casa Baja) was pretty good compared to its neighbours.
  5. Any recent experiences? I'll be visiting for a weekend in two weeks.
  6. I'd guess it is because there is no demand. Students have cheap, readily available opportunities to eat in a formal setting in Hall/Formal/whatever you call it at the other place (at £5 for a 3 course meal with silver service + BYOB, it's hard to beat). There aren't enough foodies in the city to sustain more than a couple of places, which operate in part as "neighbourhood restaurant" for the rest of the pro crowd. 45 minutes gets you into London which has a wide, cheap (by continental standards) selection of Michelin-level cooking. And maybe few chef wants to move here when they can have the lifestyle and access to produce/talent/etc. of London. Thoughts?
  7. There's also a deli with a huge plastic cow in front near Emmanuel. This is awesome and strongly recommended if you want a cheap satisfying meal. The inside is a pastel version of McDonald's though so perhaps not the best dining experience. If you can, go to Grad Hall at Trinity on a Friday night. It's my favourite of the bunch. Ask any graduate students who go to Trinity if they can invite you. A good place to drink on a Friday night is Clare College MCR (again you will need an invitation from a friend) whose bar has something like 70 scotches going for £1 or £2 a shot (£2 for a shot of PC7! fabulous). Another "local" secret, the butcher's pork and sage sausages from the market are the best I've ever tasted anywhere in the world, and I've eaten a lot of sausages (they are way better than Ginger Pig's). He also sells duck eggs, so here's your breakfast suggestion if you have access to a kitchen.
  8. I see Cambridge threads haven't been updated for a while so let me indulge: Midsummer House is great indeed and worthy of the detour. An oft overlooked one is Alimentum. Take a cab if you must, otherwise walking there and back is part of the fun on a warm British winter day (an oxymoron, but who knows, you might get lucky). Ask the waiter for a Sazerac, the bartender rarely gets tough requests, which is a shame because he was I believe voted Best in the UK or similar in 2006. He knows his stuff. The food has been consistently satisfying, better than many a London 1* (Arbutus included), every time I went although my last visit was about a year ago. Set lunch for £15 is an absolute steal. If you want your head blown off, go to a Chinese restaurant called Sesame next to a church, it looks like any other Chinese place with Chinese-British dishes (black bean chicken and other variations on sweet gloop with protein). When I was there last, they had just translated the "Chinese" menu, but it's still worth going with a Chinese person. Ask for the spicy cold noodles, and the Szechuan water-boiled fish, and Chinese-spicy please (i.e. with an inch of floating chillies). Sesame is the hangout of the Chinese Scholars Association (loosely translated) and basically serves as a canteen for the homesick Chinese student, but they usually dine downstairs. They also do pig's feet and cool things but I could never manage to eat these without a Chinese friend ordering them for me. A nice takeaway, and another homesick Chinese student canteen, is on the corner of Lensfield Road and Regent Street, opposite the church. It's called Lan Hong House, has a wooden bench inside, and limited English. For £4 you can get an amazing fatty pork belly with or without aubergines (Hong Shao pork or sea-salted aubergines). It should reliably feed you and another person. I keep hearing good things about Restaurant 22 but never set foot there. I love the Maharadjah on Castle Hill for curries. Don't rate any other places, which seem designed more for students to get very drunk than for dining but then I rarely ate curry back in the days. Another good takeaway is Manna Mexico. Those burritos... when I am back (which is rather rare these days) the first thing I do is get a pork burrito with guacamole and loads of cheese. So satisfying. Coffee is hard to come by but a good place is a small cafe/Italian deli whose name escapes me on Regent's street. They use fresh roasted beans, albeit quite a strong roast, which in a former life, I used to be much more sticky about (a new workplace with free nespresso has rapidly dulled my coffee taste buds to oblivion, unfortunately). The food is pretty decent too although expensive by UK standards. Other than that your best bet is to go for a chain. Zizzi's and Wagamama's are the safest.
  9. Two servings of bone marrow was definitely too much considering the amount of delicious fat on that steak and on the chips. Next time I'll stick with one. I can perfectly cook a steak at home (from Ginger Pig or a good butcher around here in Geneva, they source pretty well). It will be tasty like this one, not quite as fun or convenient however. I do think H is a great place to go out with friends and enjoy a relaxed Saturday night. At 50 quid a head including cocktails, leaving us too full to more than nibble the tasty (but not as satisfying) desserts I call it good value, but then my idea of value is twisted by the fact a kebab is about 20 quid in Geneva and a decent cocktail starts about there too.
  10. Ah, but at $200 a bottle and with it available only once a year for about three hours, this will have to remain sipping territory for me... maybe I'll add a touch of sherry to my PC8 instead
  11. Well, it's Fall 2010, so Sazerac 18 went back on the market. I am almost ashamed of the amount I paid to have the Whisky Exchange ship a bottle to me to Switzerland... probably three times as much as you guys over the pond. But it was worth it, since for two years I have been looking for this bottle and been completely unable to buy it. Spectacular, especially the nose. Still, call me mad, but I prefer the Thomas H. Handy. For me, both taste of everything that is great about America, but Handy takes it further, it is more extreme, more enveloping, more thoroughly satisfying. Cask strength helps...
  12. Some recent drams that got my attention, summed up in a line. They are very personal, I hope you disagree, since it will make for interesting discussion: Bruichladdich Octomore 02.2 Orpheus: cool, delicious, creamy, long finish, love it. Damn hard to drink though. Like a cigar infused rum (I had exactly that 2 weeks ago, so I can compare). Ardbeg Supernova 2010: gimmick, especially after the Octomore; was expecting the other way round because of PPMs. Peat don't make no taste here. Caol Ila 25 Year Old 1984 (cask strength): subtle, powerful, bitter, younger than it sounds. Ardbeg Corryvreckan: Ardberg. Highland Park 16 Year Old Calvados Finish: Speyside with apple juice, like a middle school experiment gone wrong. Highland Park 22 Year Old 1987: wonderful nose, beautifully full in the mouth, bites like a young 'un, damn good. Did this come from the same distillery? Lagavulin 12 Year Old 2008: ouch, but I do LOVE that loooooooong finish that lingers for half an hour. 16 is fine thank you very much! It's also... less salty... PC7: astonishing. In fact, I went out and bought PC8, which will be reviewed shortly. If you haven't tried a Port Charlotte yet, and you like Islay, do it asap!
  13. Recently, I discovered a wonderful British website which came up with the idea of selling "samples" online, so that you can try before you buy. Geneva being about as sophisticated about spirits as a Dubai housewife about Karajan's post-BPO recordings with Decca, I jumped at the occasion and rock-bottom prices (thank you New Labour for killing the GBP), ordered 10 scotch samples, and rapidly consumed them to my satisfaction (discovering that I prefered the easily available Buffalo Trace bourbon to the supposedly "finest bourbon" (Washingtonian says so) that is Rock Hill Farm. My second order contained 19 samples (what, a French guy's gotta live) whose average age, if applied to a person, would grant them entry to an American bar (you guys have ridiculous age limits!). Of those, three were rums; after discovering the Ministry of Rum, my curiosity was piqued, and I decided to order two "interesting" ones and a classic. Please bear in mind the following review is done by a complete philistine to the world of spirits (as becomes abundantly obvious from what I write), and after just one tasting late at night in dry and cold Switzerland (as opposed to a warm Caribbean beach). Ron Zacapa 23 year old. This is supposed to be the classic against which all other rums must be measured. I think that's just good branding - it's a bit like saying you can rate a Highland Park 20 year old versus a Lagavulin 16 distiller's edition or a PC8. Those spirits try to do completely different things! Ron Zacapa comes from Guatemala, and has had a fair bit of marketing done to it. It's made from the Solera method of producing sherry, which means adding younger spirits to the barrels as they age to replace the "angel's share". It's a good idea, in my view, you get both the full body and presence of a teenager with the maturity, complexity and interesting potential of the older stuff. Bear in mind that Ron Zacapa has changed substantially over the years, and changes from bottle to bottle (so I hear/read/have been told). My impression of the RZ 23 was fairly disappointing. This is an incredibly sweet spirit. Whilst the nose is wonderful after dinner (so long as your dessert was not too sweet and rich), I felt like I was drinking one of those sweetened rums handed out at parties. Yes, crucify me. For me this is not worth the price tag it reaches at least in Europe, nor the hype on rum forums and reviews. Perhaps my taste buds are just not there yet. In large part I think this is because I am used to the dryness and clean flavour profile of scotch, but I loved Angostura 1919 and Havana Club (international, not US) Anejo Especial (or was it the 8 year old?). By the way, those last two, or at least the first for you US residents, are great intros to rum (I have read that Bacardi has recently launched a competing Havana Club brand within US borders, which is markedly different, sweeter and aimed more at the mass market). Now for the interesting stuff. When I saw the bottle picture for the offerings by the Renegade Rum Company, I knew this was going to be fun. This is Bruichladdich-style new design, with care but without the flash that marks out certain other spirits as club-fodder. I love special bottlings that have something extra to offer, and generally, any spirit that has the balls to stand out. After all, Diageo etc.'s main product lines are very good at the balanced and boring style. Why have a Glenwhatever when you can have a Port Charlotte or other Bruichladdich madness? (loved Octomore II, by the way, although it took me a while to finish) My drinking "account" is limited, I can only have so much scotch in a working week, and I sure will try cool stuff whenever possible. I ordered two. One crazy one and one subtler, more complex and interesting sounding one. 1. Renegade Barbados Black Rock 9 Year Old 2000 - Château Pétrus Finish Incredible. Simply incredible. This overpowers every single of your senses. The nose, the taste, the char, the afterburn, everything is just powerful but in a nice, balanced way. It's tasty, it's a challenge, it excited my brain, I'll buy a bottle, or would if they hadn't run out. Incredibly dry for a rum, similar to those I had from Havana Club. The Petrus is there, oh yes. Very, very there. This is berries, pepper, some hints of sherry, char, and a whole load of other things, but mostly excitement and a sense of amazement that someone out there cared enough to make this, and knew enough too. This to me is like . Powerful, rich, complex, well crafted, incredibly tasteful yet absolutely overpowering, pure pleasure to sit down, close your eyes and enjoy. Look how excited I am to talk about it. Try this rum!2. Renegade Grenada Westerhall 12 Year Old 1996 - Château Margaux Finish I should have had that one first. It was good, very good, well balanced (unlike the RZ 23), sweeter than the first. The story was in the nose and in the finish. This was a perfect after dinner tipple. I must admit I bought it because of Margaux. There's not much in the way of Margaux in that glass (unlike the Petrus overload of 1.), maybe hints if you smell carefully; but I do not mind, it works well. This, to me, is Schumann's piano quintet op. 44. Good, and interesting in occasions, but I generally prefer the . I'll stick to trying Laddie's various experiments, which do the same job at 2/3 of the cost.I'll be trying some more from Renegade. Anybody else experienced this brand? I also had a Goslings, but it was as part of the Widder Bar's excellent "Nelson's Blood" cocktail. I do not usually go for cocktails which are shaken (the alcohol account thing; I'll have a clear cocktail like a sazerac with Van Winkle Special Reserve 13 year old over a daiquiri any day), but this one stayed in my mind. Grapefruit juice, lime and simple syrup, and something strong and powerful in the nose like Goslings. Give it a shot instead of your next Dark and Stormy! Next on my list: Diplomatico, Renegade's rest of the collection, Angostura 1824, Cruzan...
  14. As Bottega was apparently closed ("forever") we visited Tre Risotti, which was ok, and Al Pompiere, which was expensive and decent but less good value than TR, with an interesting but bit too young wine list. Thank you for all your recommendations! I particularly enjoyed Amarone, enough to purchase a few bottles. I didn't, however, enjoy Gini much; perhaps because the Soave style reminds me of my university days when it was on sale at Sainsbury's and therefore the alcohol of choice for most of my neighbours. Now for Joia in Milan, hopefully, and then back to the food desert of Switzerland... Photos coming up.
  15. I will be in Verona this weekend for the opera festival and am looking for options for lunch, dinner, breakfast and lunch. What good quality dining (1*+) is there available in Verona? Any recommendations for a quick lunch towards 1-2pm within walking distance (1-2km) of the Arena? Any food, any style, any budget. Any wine recommendations to match the local cuisine? Should I just go to Milan for lunch on Sunday? If you know an interesting place to have breakfast on a Sunday, please do let me know...
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