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Posts posted by PhilD

  1. According to today's Independent http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-...ays-881385.html the government are to introduce legislation next year, after consultation, to

    a) ban restaurant owners from using tips and service charges to bring staff wages up to the legal minimum and

    b) demand transparency on how customer tips are distributed.

    Whilst I do support the Indy's campaign, I wonder if they missed one of the hidden benefits of the system that rjs1 pointed out i.e. the proportion of "pay" that was derived from tips/service charges was free of both employer NI @ 12.8% and employee NI at @ 11%.

    Obviously this change means this money will need to be found from somewhere. My guess is that we (the diners) will pay more - assuming the economy/market will allow it. But more importantly I wonder whether the staff will actually see less in their take home pay as a result.

  2. I've been toying with signing up to egullet for months but have waited....

    John good to hear your voice again. Great review.

    This is the inspiration I need to put together a road trip for my partner who wants to see great English cities like Birmingham....! (she's not from round here). Purnell's on the way up to Fraiche, over the top to Anthony's (resisting the urge for a country break out to The Star) and then back down stopping at Sat Bains.....! Must get planning.

  3. I've been to the actual restaurant there and found it good.........I haven't been there since Ramsey but I imagine it to be somewhat similar from what I've read.  I can't remember the brasserie so I am just assuming he's in the restaurant. 

    I am afraid it is impossible to claim you have eaten in a restaurant before it actually existed...!

    OK the hotel had a restaurant and brasserie before Ramsay opened his two restaurants. But they are totally different restaurants, they just happen to be on the same site.

    However, you are correct in saying Ramsay trained in France he worked for both Guy Savoy and Joel Robuchon.

  4. Nice reviews Phil and Sasha; but prices were what?  And Sasha, which resto did you eat in?

    John - in my post - "The bill for two starters and mains, one desert, coffee and petit fours, Evian and a bottle of Chablis came to €183 - very good value for cooking of this standard, good service and a very pleasant room."

    Sacha say they at at "Trianon GR" which I take to be "Gordon Ramsay au Trianon", and looking at the photos would appear to be the restaurant rather than the brasserie (La Veranda)

  5. I don't know his history but I suspect his training/early years were spent in quite a traditional environment and he hasn't staged in innovative restaurants so hasn't had the apprenticeship needed to execute this style of food well.

    Well, of course he ran the Mom and Pop sized Temps au Temps and before that a tapas place Le Gusto that should with his Grand Prix for the Ile de France of the Trophée Champagne Jacquart de l'Etoile Montante de la Gastronomie, indicate some talent.

    John - I wasn't doubting his talent or skill. It was more a comment on his breadth of experience. I would expect that chefs who are adept at combining different ingredients and flavours will have had a broad range of culinary experiences and/or worked in kitchens with chefs who have the talent to do this well. From our experience of the dishes we ate we found that many of the combinations didn't work. The deconstruction of the lemon tart is an example. I have eaten quite a number of deconstructed dishes and they usually have wit combined with wonderful flavours. This version simply missed the mark and became a pointless dish. The flaw was in the conception rather than the execution.

    Is he a product of Paris schools and kitchens or has he traveled far and wide to gain experience in kitchens across the world? My guess is the former rather than the latter and I believe this shows in the design of his food. IMO Paris has great restaurants, but few that successfully push the boundaries.

    There clearly are some execution problems although these seemed minor in comparison to the structure of the dishes. Maybe some staff replacements are needed, but also why is a talented chef letting poorly executed dishes out of his kitchen. Is he struggling with the larger brigade and bigger restaurant?

  6. Looks like I'm in a minority here. I ate in Mugaritz last week and also in the Guggenheim in Bilbao, a fine dining restaurant owned by Martin Berasategui. I had some serious problems with Mugaritz, both in respect of the food and the service. See my write-ups of both experiences on my blog:



    You coments on Mugaritz are interesting. It is a restaurant that does split opinions, for every rave review there seems to be a negative one. We ate there last September and had a superb experience - great food, great wine and great service.

    We are booked in, in a few weeks time, hopefully it will be similar to that one, and Mathews, rather than yours.

  7. any ideas for the same combination - will actually be a couple, sunday dinner, beginning of August - but this time around the 7th (rue du bac)?


    Parc aux Cerfs 50, Rue Vavin 75006, Tel : 01 43 54 87 83, is open on Sundays (at least it was last time I checked) and not too far from Rue du Bac. I tried calling to see what their August schedule is, but they're not answering at the moment (and no info on the recording about closing)

    thanks will give it a try and see if i can get through.

    do you (or anyone else) know La Fontaine de Mars? It is open on Sundays and should not be too much of a walk from Rue du Bac...

    It is an easy walk from Rue du Bac (I lived on rue du Bac for a few years) however it is a very touristy bistro with translated menu's etc. We ate there once but found the food to be average at best with the standard bistro classics etc. We were surrounded by lots of loud English speaking tourists trying to get sulky teenage kids to try the food - once was enough.

    A far better bet is Les Fables de La Fontaine (131 rue St-Dominique) which is opposite the La Fontaine. A quick check of Michelin and Le Fooding indicates it is open on Sunday. It is Christian Constants fish restaurant, he has installed a young team who cook very well, and turn out creative dishes. Very reasonably priced for this calibre of cooking. They generally have two sittings and so it is best to go for the second one at 9:00ish as the first can be rushed. We became regulars.

    Another idea is Les Coccottes which again is Christian Constant (slightly further along the road). This is casual food, no booking etc and is good.

  8. I don't think I have seen this mentioned here, but it seems that Itinéraires had some problem with their staff, which could explain why the quality hasn't been on par with what it was a few weeks ago. Their problems will be dealt with and everything should be back to normal after their holidays.

    This is second-hand information, but it apparently comes from a reliable source.

    But it wasn't the staff, it was the food that was wildly inconsistent; even the same dishes (fish cocotte, gaspacho & tongue). And enough folks have experienced it that I am not returning til I hear some very good new reports.

    But if they have less or less-experienced people working in the kitchen, isn't it somehow predictable that the food will be inconsistent at best?

    Based on our recent visit I fear that there is a more fundamental problem in the kitchen rather than poor execution. We found the underlying concept of some dishes and the combinations of flavours in other dishes simply did not work. Less experience in junior staff will account for patchy execution, but I fear lack of experience in the head chef is resulting in the odd structure of some dishes.

    I don't know his history but I suspect his training/early years were spent in quite a traditional environment and he hasn't staged in innovative restaurants so hasn't had the apprenticeship needed to execute this style of food well.

  9. Having seen Marco's programme last night I'm interested in buying and cooking some gulls eggs.

    does anyone know where I can buy them in London or are they already out of season?



    Allens the butchers in Mount Street very near the Connaught Hotel had them recently, or so the sign said outside the shop, I didn't notice the sign when I went past today. Are they out of season? May be worth a call.

  10. Funny, though, I thought Ducasse had nothing to do with the Relais du Parc (for years.....) although the chef may be "Ducasse-trained"

    Another snafu from the NYT?

    Relais du Parc is on the Ducasse website as one of his stable of restaurants. I understood his strategy was to train talent in his top restaurants then let them make their own names in the smaller restaurants which may be the case with Romain Corbière - "a young chef....trained in Louis XV in Monaco".

  11. Hélène Darroze returning from having opened a gastronomic restaurant, brasserie, grill, bar, room-service and banquets at the Connaught in London, closes her Boudoir on the rue d’Assas, because business fell off;

    The Connaught in London only opened today 14 July - I would have thought Darroze would have still been in London until it bedded down?

  12. I had wanted to try Les Ombres when it first opened, but after hearing from several friends that it was a see-and-seen kind of place, with average food, I lost interest.  I did try the Mini Palace with John and while we both liked it, I don't remember being overwhelmed and neither of us rushed back.

    Les Ombres - Felice we should have taken your advice, but as no one had had a direct experience I thought it was worth giving it a shot. More fool us...!

    Actually I had, see above
    Here are my takes on Les Ombres and the Mini-Palais.

    Sorry John I had forgotten I had read this. Well at least one thing has changed - they have a carpet...! However, it looks as if the food experience may have got worse, there is no menu in the evening simply ALC.

  13. Hey everyone! Considering most people on here are fairly avid diners and have an obvious interest in food (if you don't then you took a really bad turn when searching for the latest football results on google!), what/who do you think are the next generation of stars in France? I don't just mean two stars waiting to become three stars, I also mean the local restaurant waiting for their first star or the new bakery/patisserie who are producing some really good stuff etc etc.

    I'm sure there are similar threads to this one but I haven't managed to find one!

    How about Jerome Legras who is cooking at La Veranda? I also imagine Simone Zanoni is also very good and cooking at Gordon Ramay au Trianon.

  14. I was there and I loved it too. I too will report in detail later (blog post, Flickr set…) but Julot's pictures are a good rendition of that lovely meal.

    Since I can't edit my older post, I'll just mention that my blog post on the Ramsay lunch is here.

    We have just had Sunday lunch at the Veranda and can agree with both Ptipois and Juliot that it is very, very good.

    My partner started with stuffed calamari salad with fried tentacles - very delicate, deep fishy flavour, and a light herby salad. I had a special of lamb confit ravioli, on a goats cheese fritter. A deeply satisfying dish.

    For the main course I had the roast chicken, beans cabbage and pomme pure. It was all wonderfully presented, really deeply flavoured, the chicken simply melted in the mouth, and the vegtables were perefect. My partner had the Rouget with Mediterranean vegetables, a simple dish but perfectly executed with everything tasting perfect.

    For dessert we shared a passion fruit Ile Flottante, which was deeply flavoured and very moreish. Even the coffee was wonderful, an incredibly smooth flavour with some good petit fours.

    The bill for two starters and mains, one desert, coffee and petit fours, Evian and a bottle of Chablis came to €183 - very good value for cooking of this standard, good service and a very pleasant room.

    The French critics may have harshly reviewed it but that has not put off the great and the good. We were sat at the next table to Jacques Chirac and his family (wife, daughters and a husband). They all seemed to be really enjoying the menu, with two starters each followed by mains.

  15. I had wanted to try Les Ombres when it first opened, but after hearing from several friends that it was a see-and-seen kind of place, with average food, I lost interest.  I did try the Mini Palace with John and while we both liked it, I don't remember being overwhelmed and neither of us rushed back.

    Les Ombres - Felice we should have taken your advice, but as no one had had a direct experience I thought it was worth giving it a shot. More fool us...!

    We had to book a few weeks in advance and even then could not get a Saturday night and ended up there on Friday. It was simple to find our way into the restaurant, although I had read it was tricky. The room is good, with an amazing view of the Tour Eiffel, tables are well spaced and the seats quite comfortable.

    The menu is in both English and French, which is often not a good sign, although there was a far mix of nationalities there, with quite a few large French parties having family celebrations.

    The first fault was that our food arrived before our wine even though the order was taken at the same time. I had chosen white asparagus, with parmesan, and a poached egg. Overall a very average dish, very little flavour from the asparagus and a pretty average egg. Maybe I have been spoilt with the English asparagus season with great flavoured asparagus coupled with duck eggs or gulls eggs.

    However my partners "summer vegetable salad" was an absolute horror. At €33 for an starter we were expecting something special, instead we got a bowl of lettuce, with a few radishes, olives and a few peas. You could have bought a bag mixed salad from Bon Marche and had a more interesting salad. This has got to be the worst dish we have ever been served in a restaurant. It was simply a disgrace.

    For main course I chose the pigeon served in a number of ways. It was average: a chewy leg; quite a large piece of liver, and a few other bits and pieces. My partner had the goats cheese ravioli, with a tagliatelle of mango and celeriac, from the starter menu. Overall nothing special. We had an OK bottle of red from the Luberon and in-total the bill came to €170 for the wine, three starters, one main course and no desert or coffee. Incredibly poor value given the atrocious food.

    Apart from the poor food it also had very poor service. They have two serving stations in the middle of the room (so in full view), these are used to accumulate all the detritus from the tables as they are cleared, and are used to distribute the food from the kitchen which arrives on enormous trays. Often the food couldn't be put down because the area was so crowded with used glasses , etc. When it was put down there were hurried, agitated, whispered conversations about the food and where it should go. There was little order and direction in the room, it seemed that the team lacked any leadership at all.

    The view is outstanding and this is clearly what allows them to charge so much for this awful food, and clanky service. The venue deserves a far better restaurant, it is quite a travesty that such a poor restaurant exists in such an iconic space.....maybe Ducasse can be persuaded to take it on and save national pride...! (like Jules Verne)

  16. Colette thought her gaspacho was equal to her last one
    Well, Margaret and Colette agree on that.

    This place mystifies me.

    Let's see what PhilD gets Saturday.

    Like Margaret my partner and I really wanted to love the place. After meeting friends for drinks in the 7eme we had strolled through the tourist horrors of the 6 and 5eme and thought Itineraires looked really good. A comfortable room, and a really nice welcome, set the tone for what we hoped with be a great meal. But like others have found it was very patchy. The next table to us asked what we thought after our starters (they had just ordered) I thought the most tactful thing to say was "interesting...!". At the end of the meal he replied "interesting..!" Our experience was as follows:

    Lots and lots of blackboards, a good sign obviously a seasonal food. But no, once we had settled the waitress reeled off a list of specials. I had wondered how long it took to update the blackboards everyday - mystery solved they don't, they are simply a design feature.

    First course I had the veal tongue. Quite nice and crispy, but accompanied by grapes, and grapefruit segments and spicy guacamole - although it was either very mild spicing or else the fruits flavours had blown out the flavours because it was very bland. Overall a pretty badly constructed dish with a lot of the components fighting each other. My partner had a salmon cerviche with beetroot puree and sour cream. An even stranger dish, the beetroot had raspberries through it, and the sour cream was aerated (soda siphon?) giving it a strange texture. Again badly put together, very nice salmon, but the beetroot/raspberry puree simply didn't work, and the sour cream could have come out of a can.

    For our main courses I had the beef cheeks, which would have been good except for the beetroot/raspberry sauce which was around the beef. It came with potato puree, which had a very weird texture best described as "claggy" with almost a mouse like structure. My partner chose the rabbit, with celeriac puree, which she thought was truly outstanding - no overdose of tarragon. She loved every mouthful.

    For desserts my partner had a warm strawberries with basil and dried olive pepper, and vanilla ice-cream. Another outstanding dish - everything worked. This was a contrast to me dessert which was a "tarte au citron revisited" - I wish I hadn't.

    In summary a disappointing experience, we so wanted it to work, but the food was almost schizophrenic. Some dishes quite superb others very well cooked but mis-constructed with jarring flavours. Needless to say the four Parisian gentlement at the next table were also disapointed and remarked they would not be back. This may not be an issue for them given the number of American accents in the room - I think it has just had a favourable review in a national paper in the US.

    As we discussed the meal we wondered if this could be a result of the chefs in Paris having very limited horizons, during training they stage through kitchens cooking variations of the same theme (and no doubt they relax in these places as well). Paris has great traditional food, chefs with great technique, but it does it have the breadth of food to let new chefs gain experience of what works and what doesn't...?

  17. I assume Lucken  is a typo for Lucknam PhilD. I'm booked in for lunch there mid July. Anyone else been recently?

    Yes a typo - Lucknam Park it was. Wish I could comment in more depth on the food, but as I said the portions were so small it was tricky to gauge the quality. I had hoped the Taste festival would have led us to want to try some new restaurants based on our experiences but we are none the wiser.

    I will be really interested to hear your thoughts on Lucknam Park as we have been toying with the idea of eating there.

  18. We went to out first Taste festival in Bath this weekend. We went with high hopes but were quite disappointed. There were some good bits, but these were few and far between. First the food:

    Bells Diner - the restaurant from Bristol, really interesting Oysters with cucumber espuma. A good serve, and very interesting. We also tried some braised belly pork with cauliflower puree and oloroso raisins. Which was good

    Lucken Park - a loin of lamb with fricassee of peas, and gnocchi. Quite tasty.

    The Bath Priory Hotel - roast scallop, lemon balm puree, and cumin. And a Duck cured in Birch sap, tangerine, and omega rich seeds. They both looked good but the miniscule portions meant you really found it difficult to taste.

    The Dower House - suckling lamb, japanese samphire, celeriac espuma, and lamb nage. Quite a reasonable size plate and very good lamb, although the other ingredients got lost.

    The Hole in the Wall - Mini Beef Wellington with Foie Gras, wild mushrooms, and madera juice - sounded great, but it was overcooked and dried out. We also tried the Whole Confit of Gressingham Duck, with pineapple chutney, and cucumber and coriander salad. Much better, but confit survives a bit of over cooking.

    Hudsons Steakhouse - Fillet Steal and chips with bernaise sauce. OK steak and chips interestingly the most popular.

    The Angel Coaching Inn - Beer Battered Whiting and chips. Nice fish and chips, and the second most popular.

    So some interesting food, that should have been very good. We managed 10 dishes in a couple of hours and that is the problem. The plates cost between £4 and £5 each, but they were mainly the size of an average amuse bouche. Nearly £50 worth of food between us and we were still very hungry. Given it also cost £12 each to get in this made it very expensive.

    The wine wasn't much better. Thank god for Sainsbury's, they at least sold well priced generous portions. Most of the other stands had expensive, small plastic glasses of wine.

    So why my provocative title? Well, I have been to great food festivals in Australia, great events in France, but this was my first in the UK. Other countries festivals have a generous undertone, people are happy, there is a fun spirit, portions are generous, the charges are reasonable. You come out with a good feeling. You want to visit the restaurants, you are happy spending money.

    Instead, after this experience, I felt I had, had my wallet wrung out. Little was good value. The exception was Chris Wicks at Bell's Diner - we will be paying him a visit.

  19. Thats quite a power chord of places Fisherman, are they all new to you?? You will not be disappointed with Hipping Hall, one of the best places in the north west easily. Punchbowl is more informal, have not eaten there in the evening for quite a while, so do not know if its still as good asit was. Be interested to read your views.

    We ate at the Punchbowl in early may and had a really good meal.

    We had tried the Drunken Duck the day before, where the cooking was good but the value appalling - miniscule portions. The Punchbowl's cooking was IMO far better, although simpler. And it was far, far better value. Generosity on the plate rather than the stingy portions at the Duck - very weird considering they are owned by the same people.

  20. We are booked in next Saturday (12th July) so it will be interesting to see which version of Itineraires we experience. I will report back.

    We have decided to try mostly restaurant that we have not visited - all get mixed views - should be interesting. We start at the old favorite with lunch at Le Regalade, Dinner at Les Ombres, then Itineraires, and finally lunch at the Ramsay's La Veranda.

  21. In another pocket I was armed with a list of approximately 80 tapas bars with a description of what was supposedly their “speciality” in English and also the Castellano version so that I could make a fool of myself to the Spanish barman.


    A few questions:

    Do you have addresses for the ones you visited (or at least old town, new town type of thing)?

    which were your top picks?

    Do you know if they are open on Sunday nights (lunch at Mugaritz but will need to graze)?

    Heading down for a day from Biarritz and keen to make the most of it. We have been a few times but I have a similar inability to order small beers so memories are very hazy....! Although I think I went to Alona Berri (New Town?) and it was superb.



  22. Looks like a long time since there was any action on this thread.

    We are heading to Biarritz for a long weekend in August. We would love recommendations for good food, and good locations to eat in.

    Interested in the full range of options as we like the variety of both simple food as well as the more complex starred places.

    We will probably head to San Sebastion for lunch one day (Mugaritz) for a decadent feast, so what in Biarritz would contrast with that.



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