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Posts posted by PhilD

  1. John - how about Bath Priory? It's a luxury hotel just on the edge of Bath so good for a stroll around town and not too bad a drive from the wilds of the North.

    I ate there before it recieved it's recent macaroon, and I think soon after Caines took over as exec chef, we had a really good lunch in a very bright room that looked onto some pretty gardens - light, bright and a perfect summer meal. Not certain if Caines is still actively involved but I think the hotel is still the sister restaurant to Gidleigh Park.

    You can also try Allium Brasserie for lunch in the town centre - Chris Staines new place - it's in a Best Western in the centre of town but don't let that put you off - I think Rayner reviewed it recently.

  2. Interesting, the first review that doesn't seem to be all about putting the boot in. I have had a sneaking suspicion a lot of reviewers have been playing "the man and not the ball" so good to hear about the food. It sounds like they may have the pricing wrong but that's not uncommon with a lot of London open endings.

  3. Disappointing to see comparitively few UK/Ireland restaurants in this UK/

    Agree on the ones with no UK restaurants at all, but I find it very interesting seeing the relative ranking of UK and non-UK places in the list. Helps give a little perspective.

    Sadly, not eaten in the UK since New Year's Day and that was at my sisters so may not count. But if I stretched the point to include just before Christmas I think the Ledbury would be close to the top of my list. Manressa near San Francisco would be up there, as would The Four in Hand in Sydney (an Irish chef so relevant to the board), Cumulus & Co in Melbourne and Robuchon in Macau (which had great food but in an odd room) and TBLS in HK which became a regular haunt.

    For those that miss Shane Osbourne from his days at Pied à Terre I am glad to report he is delivering some superb food in HK - London's loss is our gain despite it being an odd format Alan Yau restaurant. I think if he tames the venue he could be a contender for my list next year.

    Overall though not a great year for good food, in total we ate at over a hundred different places and many of the better meals were mid-priced simple places, a good curry, seafood on the beach, interesting Mexican, great dim sum. Could this be because we didn't get to Europe and thus missed out on where the action really is?

  4. Mince steak for your own burger, hand carve your steak tartare, open your own oysters (from a good source) and you should have no problems. Choose a good restaurant etc etc and again very unlikely to have problems.

    But even choosing a good restaurant is not a guarantee. Plenty of reports of people being poisoned from eating at top restaurants/hotels in the UK




    Of course there is never a 100% guarantee, things do go wrong. Oysters from the best suppliers can get infections, the best sushi chef may miss a parasite (although in the UK your fish is frozen so less risk but equally less good texture), the unpateurised cheese may be loaded with listeria, the soft egg yolk may be full of e.coli, the innocent foraged "Chinese" mushrooms that turns out to be deadly death caps (chef Liu Jun in Australia this year) or even a fellow diner may release an "aerosol" of norovirus when they go to the loo (believe me a common vector of contamination in an outbreak) which you breath in as you go for a pee....should you mitigate this risk by nipping outside and peeing up the wall instead or by not using public toilets at all? If you exclude all risk you stop eating out, and stop using many cooking techniques.

    There is risk in even the most mundane of foods and you can add to that the environmental risks so impossible to alleviate them all. So why do food hygiene authorities focus on things like rare liver, and burgers? Is it simply an irrational need to make everything 100% safe, or us it a far more simply reason. They don't, instead it is the media who take and beat it up into something else. With all these stories the main issue seems to be how food was prepped and it was a focus on kitchens improving standards it's the media that turned it into " no rare burgers" and possibly chefs who should know better running scared.

    For me it is always going to be about a calculated risk: better quality places should be safer due to higher standards. Better quality produce should be safer etc etc. I eat street food in Asia, I eat raw fish in good sashimi places, I carefully select oysters to shuck, and I enjoy a decent rare burger or some steak tartare. I understand the risk and am prepared to balance the risk with my enjoyment. Others take their pleasure in other ways: mountaineers fall off, fell walkers fall over, sailors get blown away.....we don't question their right to do it, nor the need to rescue them and fix them up at tax payer expense. Why should it be different for an adventurous eater......?

  5. Wonder what the reaction would be if people were allowed to eat rare burgers but should they get sick, they will have to pay for their medical care. Would you take the risk with an undercooked burger?

    Having been taught/brainwashed that burgers and sausages should be cooked through, the thought of eating pink minced meat seems so wrong to me.

    Where I live I do (but then I pay far less tax than the UK so have not "paid" for the NHS and the promise of universal care). And yes I am still quite happy to order rare and raw food. You have to remember it isn't really the food that makes you ill, its he handling, preparation and care. Mince steak for your own burger, hand carve your steak tartare, open your own oysters (from a good source) and you should have no problems. Choose a good restaurant etc etc and again very unlikely to have problems.

    You could take your "if you choose, you pay" suggestion further. How about those who go to dodgy dirty restaurants - they are also taking a risk. Or the cheap buffet with food kept too long, the cheap egg mayo sandwich from a roadside cafe. All are easily avoidable risks.

  6. There are many food which have a degree of risk - from sashimi, through raw oysters, to rare and raw meat products. And whilst I applaud the food safety people efforts to ensure good practice in retaurant kitchens etc it worries me that my freedom of choice is being limited. I enjoy a rare burger, I understand the risks, I assume the food safety inspections have ensured the kitchen is safe etc etc and thus should be able to make my own decisions.

  7. It is disappointing that activity is slowing, the standard of discussion here, and knowledge of the members is far better than many other places. There are clearly lots of reasons for the decline, I suspect it is mainly because the number of sources of information has grown so much. In the good old days I would read a few reviews in newspapers and that was it. Then came boards, blogs, on-line food sites like the guardians WOM and Time Out, and of course twitter.

    I now find I skim a lot of sources and that i think is the issue - the lack of time to digest and respond. Or maybe it is a cultural shift, we no longer appreciate the depth and quality of the debate instead we want a broader, yet shallower, coverage. Is it not the same in music? Once we had albums now I sample from iTunes, or skip around the Radio 6 programs on iPlayer - browsing and sampling rather than truly listening.

  8. Because I am australian, and I know its a complete fictional invention.

    And you cannot sensibly point to its rejection of starbucks when it embraces the far worse gloria jeans & hudson

    I will agree about Gloria Jeans and Hudson (and is it Dome in Perth?) but if you think about the ratio of independents compared to these mini chains it is clear the independents have a far stronger hold. Every time I head home to Sydney I am confident I will get good to great coffee with ease, in London I need to travel, I found the same in California (SF included) and New York. In other European countries you can get reasonable coffee, but IMO only Italy has the consistency in supply that I experience in Aus. OK country towns are not as easy, but even these generally have at least one place to get a coffee (although a recommendation for a decent coffee on the Hume Highway would be good).

  9. Scott - why do you say it's a lie? You can get good coffee in all the major cities in both countries. In every CBD there are lots of independent cafes that sell good coffee. People select a cafe based on the coffee used and skills of the barista. Big coffee chains like Starbucks have struggled (Aus was the first country SB retreated from leaving a few token stores or tourists). Compare and contrast to the UK with high streets dominated by chains, independent cafes staffed by untrained and disinterested staff and a few good coffee places in London like Monmouth and Flat White having Antipodean roots. Compare to the rest of Europe: Spanish and French coffee can be good but it is a lottery with lots o poor technique in terms of roasting and prep. German and Northern European coffee is different but hardly great. And North America has some good coffee towns, but even places like San Francisco don't have lots of great coffee, most of it is still SB or Peet's (professes to be better but has all the bad chain attributes). And whilst places like Blue Girl at SF Ferry Terminal stand-out the fact that you need to queue for 30 mins for a coffee on a Saturday morning shows a lack of supply to satisfy demand (and it actually isn't that good - average Aus standard).

  10. For the UK I agree with PS Smith that you should use an English term to describe what is sold as espresso - what one finds in this country mostly has nothing to do with real espresso :laugh: (personally I have found good espresso only in some restaurants, never in any chain - but I admit I've given up searching a while ago).

    I must agree. We should use the correct terms, but then we should get the correct product in return. UK coffee names are a travesty, if I order a Cappuccino I want a properly made coffee not some foamy, milky hot drink. If I order custard I actually expect something different to creme anglaise, the former should be almost industrial, reminiscent of school dinners and steamed sponges. The latter refined made with vanilla pods and cream, Used appropriately the words have precise meanings. It is the mis-use of terms that annoys me, not that they are foreign terms.

    Thank god for the antipodean coffee revolution in London - at last we are getting better coffee in the UK as its influence starts to spread. However, even the trendy coffee bar isn't immune from the "barista yoof" who hasn't a clue (there is a local mini-chain in Bath that is especially bad). We always felt safer when the barista has a good Aussie or Kiwi accent....!

  11. Grew up in England, moved to Aus, then back to the UK after the "coffee revolution" and was completely mystified about ordering coffee - or should it be more accurately described as a "caffeinated milk drink" given the ratio.

    However, "Frothy Coffee" takes me right back to the steamy coffee shops in Yorkshire of my mis-spent youth, nothing like the cappuccino of today but just the ticket after a winter's afternoon canoeing down the Ouse (why this wasn't a summer sport on the school timetable was a mystery) before I understood what a wetsuit was!

  12. Putty Man - quite an odd argument. I can't see why their alleged method of finding new restaurants is wrong. Isn't it sensible to use media sources as a research tool. I know my company (like most others and nothing to do with food) actively monitors every column inch of media comment about our industry, including market activity, competitors success and failures, and key staff movement. We know some data is good, some is average and some is wrong but it is the good source data fir our research teams - who then check it. Why shouldn't Michelin do much the same? Obviously it only gives you the "news" but armed with that they can visit and assess - to me this approach is common sense.

    So look at the two examples I know. First, The Red Lion; to my knowledge reviewed by JR back in 2009 and got a good Dos Hermanos review around the same time - i have seen little since. It is in the middle of nowhere in deepest Wiltshire run by a couple of young career chefs who have great pedigrees - doesn't quite fit the stereotype. Next Paul Ainsworth's, a chef with a great track record, one or two media reviews and a few blogs reviews from those search good food in Padstow, isn't he a classic example of a chef who has worked hard to receive the accolade. He isn't a sure thing, nor a surprise but a one who worked hard to gain the eventual recognition.

    And just an FYI the Sportsman is a pub.

  13. I have some sympathy with David's view of LCS having visited back in Feb '08. I re-read my post from back then and was very surprised to see I loved the food and wine list but disliked the lighting and service. Four years on from that meal and all I recall is the extremely poor service and the very frosty Helen (an no not a tape recorder in sight) - I don't recall the food at all.

    This probably ties into to the research mentioned upthread about all the factors that lead to the enjoyment of a meal. Good food, and good food but overridden by my memories of the frosty service. I was surprised as the board had been very fulsome in its praise about the warmth and high standard of the service. I wonder did this missed expectation lock this part of the experience in my memory?

  14. I think he was talking in terms relative to the slop they serve up in Birmingham's City Centre and the Balti Triangle (not all restaurants, but the vast majority). I agree that, for example, Atul Kocher has done something pretty similar in London with Benares. And I remember when I was growing up in Brighton there was a place called the Black Chapati with a similar approach.

    Nick - was that in Preston Street in the mid to late '80's? I remember a great place in that vicinity that did a amazing salmon another fish curries. Was it the Black Chapati?

  15. There is certain to be a back story here, Michelin is so often used as the smoke screen excuse to hide something else. As to Petersham Nurseries I never ate there because I couldn't reconcile eating at a garden centre with the difficulty in getting a table there (and that was pre Michelin) - in those days it seemed to be a restaurant with a distinct attitude.

  16. One question I have for the sushi experts - do you still use chopsticks or do you go for the fingers/rotate method?

    I am a chopsticks person, and from memory my Japanese colleagues in Tokyo are as well, I am there tommorrow so shall ask.

    One story to share. On my last visit we went for sushi and shasmini at the fish market, my sushi platter has a prawn dish with the usual presentation with the tip of the shell left on. As I reached for it the tail fluttered, I jumped a mile. My colleagues told me I was lucky as it is a sign of how fresh it is and of the chefs skill: it was very good.

  17. Personally I regard Sushi and Sashimi as too complicated a subject for anyone who has not had many many years of experience eating it to really pass judgement on. I mean for an expert all kinds of subleties seem to come into play when grading the quality, most of which the casual eater will have no knowledge of. Angle of rice grains, number of slices, day on which the boat went out, fisherman's star sign etc

    Maybe that us true if you are debateing the best of the best but I find it quite easy to tell good from average. It is almost one of those "eureka" moments when you have good stuff, you suddenly get what it is all about.

    That said the weirdly non-traditional shushi would send warning signals to me so not surprised nothing stood out from the platters - gimmicks over quality?

  18. A lot of things we do out of courtesy to others aren't things that are strictly required or "owed".

    My guess is as Janeer writes from the US she has no idea what la Gavroche is all about and thus the advice lacks any relevance. My rule of thumb is to treat all resturants with respect and you will reap the rewards - they are staffed by people not machines, do a little bit of common courtesy goes a long way.

    This. Not just in restaurants but generally across the board. I've lost count of the number of favours I've been done by hotels (free upgrades), airlines (ditto), restaurants etc. simply by treating them with respect and not acting like a customer is always right asshole.

    As I sit writing this from my upgraded hotel room in San Francisco, may I say that you have no business suggesting I am an asshole for saying that not everyone at the table has to order. Or for any other reason.

    I wasn't casting anything negative about your character. But I wonder if you have a lot of experience at top restaurants? Restaurants with a small number of covers and where each diner is a key element of the profitability in their business model. I can see your approach working in many of the high turnover restaurants in the US but would you try this in Manresa, The French Laundry, Saison, Quince, or Station 1....?

    OK in mass market restaurants it isn't a real problem with many covers and tables turned a few times a night. But the restaurant we are discussing is quite small and thus if 50% of the party don't eat (and thus don't pay) it can really dent the profitability of the restaurant and viability of the restaurant. Isn't part of the social contract you make when you book a table for X people is X people will eat in order for them to occupy the space provided by the hosts.

    Common courtesy would suggest it is simply polite to ring the restaurant and discuss this, not doing so seems very arrogant and very rude.

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