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Posts posted by PhilD

  1. I love Gandarias. Fantastic service, and they sell Belondrade (beautiful white wine) by the glass... Mmmm

    me too... like a one trick pony I drank the Belondrade y Lurton only at Gandarias for the 4 days we were there....interesting husband and wife wine!

    Agree a really good wine - the sommelier at Arzak had recommended it to us last time we ate there. They also serve it in a great tapas bar in the old town in San Sebastian (sorry don't know the name - one of the larger ones in the last street to the north of the town), they keep their better wines by the glass in a dispenser which keeps the air away from the open bottles, and they have Riedel glassware for the good wines.

  2. Mallorca is an interesting destination for food – some dramatic contrasts.

    Our best meal was at es Racó d’es Teix in Deia. It is a small restaurant with one Michelin star. Service was absolutely fantastic, very attentive and friendly. We started with two amuse bouches, an asparagus mouse with foie foam, and a foie soup with a pear ravioli; both were interesting and well executed. Next we had a lobster bisque, and foie gras with cinnamon, again both good. However, the main courses are the real star, one dish of lamb 5 ways and another of suckling pig (actually pork a number of ways). Lots of interesting flavours and every element of the dish perfectly cooked. We finished with a selection of deserts, which rounded off the meal very well. We drank wines by the glass, the sommelier consulted us and gave us a few options (all Mallorcan), for the bisque a chardonnay, with the foie a Gewürztraminer, and for the mains red Bordeaux like blend (predominantly cabernet). All the wines were from freshly opened bottles which showed a generous nature.

    We ate at a few other places in Deia. The restaurant in Sa Pedrissa (a well situated hotel) was good, with ambitious cooking which was well executed, a good example of which was the amuse – a Spanish sushi of bacalao and salmon wrapped in seaweed with miso paste. Restaurante Sebastian in Deia itself is very popular and our meal was again good, but I did feel the skills in the kitchen don’t match the ambition on the menu.

    In Palma the best we tried was the Asador Tjerra Aranda a traditional restaurant full of Spanish families celebrating Easter. Garlic soup, a place of jambon iberico, and then a shared suckling pig leg. The pig was quite different to the one I had in Segovia, probably a bit older, but it was still very good. I noticed most tables had the same. For desert we had fried milk which was a first and quite tasty. We chose one of the more expensive local Cabernets from the list and it was nicely decanted and served in good glasses – a good wine. Overall a very pleasant lunch – rustic and traditional.

    The other restaurant we tried was Caballito de mar a specialist fish restaurant in the old town. We had a very fresh sole, well cooked and presented, and fish lasagna, we drank a local (quite cheap) chardonnay, which was highly quaffable. A very decent restaurant although we felt we could have been in any major city.

    On our travels we also grabbed a quick lunch at Sa Farinera on the road halfway between Es Carritxo and S'Horta. We stopped because the car park was full; again it was full of local families enjoying an Easter lunch. Good traditional Mallorcan food the highlights of which were “sobrasada torrada” (sobrasada grilled on local bread) and “botifarrons torrados” (small grilled spicy blood sausages) – both excellent.

    The big disappointments were the tapas. We tried quite a few different the two best were La Boveda in Palma and El Barrigon Xelini in Deia, but even these were quite unremarkable. The most interesting comment was from a waiter in Sollier who told us most dishes on the menu were off, as the order hadn’t been delivered yet although they had been ordered a week ago – nothing fresh, simply bought in. Are Tapas traditional in Mallorca? Would you find better outside tourist areas? (are there any non-tourist areas).

  3. Whilst the format irritates (the constant repetition of past scenes) it is good to watch Sat Bains and Glynn Purnell cooking this week (is that Steven Wallis lasts years Master Chef winner in the background?).

    Looks like some good, interesting food, and two really genuine personalities.

    Wish I lived closer to the midlands, however looking forward to trying Elisha Carter's food at Charlton house when I get a chance. If nothing else GBM3 has opened our eyes up to some great chefs.

  4. Authentic is a difficult one as most "Indian" restaurants in London are run by Bangladeshis and the popular cafes (Tayabs, Mirch Masala etc.)  tend to be run by Pakistanis. I would stick with one of the cafe type establishments. new Tayabs is well liked, my personla favourite is actually Mirch Masala which now has several branches. you could do worse than go to somewhere like Tooting where there is a wide choice of restaurants including a branch of Mirch Masala.

    Agreed. Also in Tooting is Kastoori if you can handle a meat-free meal, which was recently awarded a Bib Gourmand.

    Quilon in Bckingham Gate SW1 has a Keralan chef (Sriram Vishwanathan Aylur) so it is really Indian.

    It got its Michelin star recently which is not always a good indication of an Indian restaurants quality/authenticity. However, there have been quite a few recent reviews that are very positive.

    I also believe they do a good value set lunch.

  5. Helene Daroze.

    Shes well regarded, the Irish food writer who is based in France, Trish Devine, rates her very highly and Trish is I suppose a kind of Nigella to the French middle class foodies. I've eaten Helene's food and it is good, she herself is rather feisty.

    I would like to see more French food in London that is noisy and unpretentious, down with Ducasse I say, and she could be the sort of person to do it. Although I doubt if the Connaught's prices will be all that inclusive.


    I ate at her 2 star in Paris about 18 months ago and it was dire - average food, poor service etc.

    She is a favorite of the French press, partly I suspect, because she is a "women in a man's world" and as you say is feisty.

    I also understand she has opened another restaurant in Paris (in addition to the tapas place under the 2 star) which I believe has had some good reviews.

  6. Daniel, that sounds like a great trip. My cap is doffed!

    I'd be interested to hear your views on Arzak vs. Akelare vs. Mugaritz, especially for those who might be inexperienced in cutting edge cuisine. I'm looking for one big meal for a group in June, and while I obviously want something mindblowing, I don't want to choose intellectual/cerebral over tasty.

    In any case, I'm looking forward to your report.

    Simon - I took 5 "non-foodie" friends to Mugaritz for lunch last September and was a little fearful that they would be challenged by the "cerebral" food. I am glad to report we had a cracking meal which everyone enjoyed, it lasted from 1:00 to 5:30 and was aided by the excellent sommelier who quickly got our measure and paired some really interesting wines with the tasting menu. She put together a great selection of well priced wines that were very interesting.

    A couple of years ago my partner and I ate at Arzak and Akelare and again enjoyed both meals, at the time they were more traditional. Mugaritz had more talking points on its menu - although I am certain the others menu's will have changed over the years. The same group of us ate at The Fat Duck last month and all felt Mugaritz was in the same league albeit without the theatrics.

  7. I currently (and temporarily) happen to live almost next door to Bibendum and was hoping to take a friend arriving on a late flight to dinner there next week before bedding him down. After reading the reviews I've decided not to do it.

    But where to take him then? In Chelsea, within walking distance?

    Racine? French comfort food a 10 min walk up Brompton Rd.

    ... and founded by Henry Harris who was in the Simon Hopkinson's original brigade at Bibendum all those years ago.

  8. San Sebastian is almost perfect for what you want, although all-nighters might be tricky.

    Barcelona would be just fine, although an awful lot of places are shut on Sundays. But the bar-hopping would be later and more diverse.

    Sevile isn't a bad town to go from bar to bar. No beach though.

    Seville is a good thought especially if you go for a big blow out dinner at La Alqueria in el Bulli's Hacienda Benazuza.

  9. What do you do when you go to a restaurant that should be really good, hits the mark in many areas, but has some misses that are so far off the mark you question how a chef could believe the dishes are good? Is it worth trying to have a chat with the chef, or do you risk a barrage of abuse?

    On Friday we had dinner at “The Circus” a newly reopened restaurant in the centre of Bath. First impressions are very good, the room is nicely decorated in a modern style, the table settings are good, and the waiting staff very friendly and professional. The menu looks interesting, and the wine list was good. Lots of good French regional wine plus a few Spanish and Italians that are very well priced – average price about £16. Bread was presented in a large basket with a choice of good hunks of rustic white or brown, and butter is served very cold on a little plate. So far so good – expectations are high.

    The menu has a lot of choice and some interesting items. We start with “Crab cakes made with Beesands crabmeat, spring onions, wasabi and fresh herbs, Served with pickled limes”. Sounds great, you expect spanking fresh crab from Devon set off with herbs and spiced up with a little wasabi. You get a Thai style fish cake, which is dense and rubbery served with an Indian style homemade lime pickle. Unfortunately not only didn’t the flavours mesh together – Japanese, Indian, and Thai – but none of the elements are executed very well. My partner had the “Duck liver parfait with toasted fruit bread” which was very well done, good bread, a well-flavoured and textured parfait and good homemade chutney.

    My main course was “Crisp roast Somerset duckling with potatoes cooked in duck fat and a shallot, thyme, and red wine gravy”. I had put the starter down to good ambition that was slightly misdirected, however the main course confirmed that something isn’t quite right in the kitchen. Both the duck and potatoes looked like they had come out of the deep fat fryer. The duck was very crispy, but the meat was very well done, tough and quite tasteless – grey and chewy. The potatoes also lacked flavour, the crust was smooth, not really the crunchy texture you expect from a duck fat roasted potato. The sauce also lacked flavour; a sort of insipid onion and red wine mixture, rather than an integrated sauce.

    My partner’s main was a fish special, a grey mullet with an interesting sauce, was well cooked. Simply grilled fish and a good-sized portion. The only negative was a lack of vegetables or potatoes; we hadn’t been told there was none served with the dish. Desert was a “Dark Chocolate and salted peanut caramel tart with cream” this was very, very sweet, almost like a turbo charged mars/snickers bar – it was excessive, not subtle, but good.

    All dishes arrived very quickly, which often worries me in restaurants, overall it is OK, great in parts, but we are not certain we will head back, although there was much to like, and we would like it to succeed as Bath needs better restaurants. The place was busy, they were turning tables at least twice and they were turning away walk ins, when the summer hits the tourists will pack it out. Maybe they don't need to improve. Total bill was ₤42.20 for two with a glass of wine so well priced and would be fantastic value if all the dishes delivered.

  10. We don't open on May Day, never have, never will.May Day is all having a day of fun, seeing friends, and maybe the odd drink.Even if i wanted to, the logistics of opening are difficult; deliveries are a nightmare as the town is closed to traffic, staff just do not work on May Day, many people in the town have it written into their contracts.

    enjoy the day !

    oss oss wee oss!!!!!

    ....but are restaurants open on May Day eve...?

  11. I'd second Steins Fish and Chips, one of the finest pieces of cod I have in or out of batter :smile:

    I think we went on an off night, we are not Stein bashers and we had a good meal in his bistro the night before, but...

    My partner ordered tuna and asked for it to be cooked rare (is there any other way). It arrived cooked very well done. We sent it back. The waiter/mâitre d' informed us "no one eats rare tuna, that isn't how it is served".

    They had run out of salad. The people next to us asked if they were planning to replace the salad in the dishes that included salad with anything else for example the mushy peas. The response "if you want mushy peas you can have them, but they cost ₤XX"

    It was impossible to get a 2nd drink....and believe me I try hard when thirsty.

    I also thought the queuing system was the most inefficient I have ever seen. The queue we waited in had a party of seven at the front then three or four twos. Looking into the restaurant we could see lots of vacant spaces for two. I suggested (nicely, after nearly being physically thrown out for violating the sanctity of the queue) to the mâitre d' that he could seat the twos and the seat the seven when a big space filled up - there where other large parties who were seated and getting to the end of their meals. He said that would be OK if the party of seven agreed - they didn't. We were all eventually seated, the seven sat in seats vacated by other large parties, and us twos all sat in the seats we had been gazing at for the last 30 minutes.

    Maybe I am weird. Maybe people in the UK love to queue. But in Australia we have a lot of great restaurants that operate on a "no reservation" system. They make a list and seat logically, getting as many bums on seats as possible in the optimal way. It works pretty well - the best ones will even get you from the pub across the road when the table is ready (and the pub lets you take the beer over - symbiosis). Given the amount of time Rick spends there It is a shame he hasn't copied this.

    We are in Padstow for May Day so plan to sample some of these recommendations - maybe Margot's.

  12. San Sebastian:

    - A very compact area of bars for drinks and tapas in the old town. Some of them are very, very good, others just good.

    - A couple of good beaches, with some reasonable surf. You could book some surfing lessons or hire some boards (if experienced) and that will blow the cobwebs out of the system.

    - Very good selection of Michelin starred restaurants both in the town, and the surrounding areas. Can be nice to go out for a long, long lunch in the country - I recommend Mugaritz (molecular) or Etxebarri (asador).

    - Small and compact so it is quite easy to walk around without resorting to taxis or buses.

  13. It looks really good. I wished I lived in the North West.

    Marc - do I see influences from Andoni Aduriz (Mugaritz) in the menu - the pebbles and the presentation of the cheese board for example? Nothing wrong with that as Aduriz has one of the best restaurants in San Sebastian at the moment.

    the pebbles are based on the idea from mugaritz dont know the recipe from there but i use black rice and squid ink and hopefully the cep cream is different to theirs,

    the sea weed idea i thought was mine damn that wheel have you seen it at mugaritz? i use sour dough, montgommery cheddar and cristalized sea weed

    Don't worry the cheese is safe. I was picking up on the comment Culinary Bear made in '05 as the pairing presentation was similar - I didn't notice the date - looks like you have upped the ante.

    Aduriz's pebbles are baked potatoes covered in a very fine clay, he serves his with an aioli. He also uses his as an ice breaker and it works really well getting 6 of us into a really good mood before we dived in.

  14. Thanks for the help everyone, a little bird tells me that Allium is open for Sunday lunch, so I think we'll either set off early, have a massive lunch then sleep the rest of the day, or do as Gary suggests and just do the whole drive Monday morning, I would like some Stein fish and chips, as we hadn't got any Stein visits planned for this trip.

    And yes Gary, I live near Harrogate now.

    Another idea is to stop at The Old Spot in Wells which is just south of Bristol and not to far from the M5. It is open on Sunday lunchtime (but not Sun evening or Monday) so a good place to break the journey if you are going to do it in a day. The Chef is Ian Bates ex Bibendum. We are there on Sunday on the recommendation of Insomniac and it is very good.

    Here is a Jay Rayner review:


  15. It looks really good. I wished I lived in the North West.

    Marc - do I see influences from Andoni Aduriz (Mugaritz) in the menu - the pebbles and the presentation of the cheese board for example? Nothing wrong with that as Aduriz has one of the best restaurants in San Sebastian at the moment.

  16. Thank you to both Sarah and Insomniac for the recommendations - tried both this weekend and both are good.

    Dinner at Cafe Roma on Friday was good, next time we may go for more spicy dishes as the ones we chose were not to hot. Breads were good and the menu was interesting.

    Sunday lunch at the Old Spot was really excellent. Highly accomplished cooking, interesting dishes, and a very comfortable room. Lunch for two was ₤55 including two glasses of wine and coffee. We had:

    Wood pigeon salad with walnuts - very tender rare pigeon with good fresh leaves

    Gravlax - really fresh and vibrant with great home made pickles


    Smoked Haddock on a bed of carrots, leeks with great mashed potatoes

    Belly pork, lentils, carrots, cabbage & bacon, and a really vibrant salsa verde


    Chocolate Brownie with Chantilly cream - stuffed full of pecan/walnut praline which made it very filling (but no complaints)

    Apple and almond pudding with creme fraiche - like a great gooey tarte tatin

    Flavours in all dishes were very good, with each component standing very well on its own and showing really good technique. All in all a restaurant we will return to over and over again.

    One other restaurant we tried in the area was the Wheatsheaf at Combe Hay. This pub/restaurant has got a "Rising Star" in this years Michelin. It is worth a trip, and will be great in the summer as it has a great terraced garden with nice views, and I believe the restaurant expands into his during the summer. However, the food was a bit hit and miss. When good it is fabulous, but not all dishes worked. The bread appears home made with a number of varieties on offer - I really like the dense cheese muffin. We had:

    Scallops with belly pork which was OK, although the portion of scallops was quite small and the belly pork was bland. I felt it needed a stronger stock for the braise.

    Torchon of foie gras with an onion marmalade and brioche. This was OK but a little pedestrian.


    Rabbit wrapped in ham, with a black pudding tortellini, and pureed cauliflower. Overall it was OK although it did need more black pudding to balance he dish.

    Halibut (from memory) on a bed of carrot noodles and a tempura oyster. The oyster was very, very good and overall this dish worked.


    Bannana tarte tatin, with peanut butter ice cream, a jam milk shake, and toffee coated peanuts. OK we did go for the wackiest desert and most of it worked (apart from the jam milkshake), but probably one concept to many on the plate.

    The bill was ₤85 for two with a couple of glasses of wine and no coffee. Which we thought was quite expensive for the variable standard of cooking. The room is quite comfortable, and service is good. However, no tablecloths, or other touches that I would expect at this price. We will go back because it shows some promise and we want them to succeed, but not 100% convinced yet - after all The Old Spot isn't to much further and has better cooking at lower prices.

  17. Is Willie Harcourt-Cooze’s Venezualan Black 100% chocolate available on the market yet? A piece here from the Guardian.

    He says that he's targeting the most interesting chefs in the country, but from the tv programme it looks like a cookbook is in the works. Although the recipes don’t look too inspiring so far. Obsessive man married to a Tania with made for TV children makes chocolate spread at 5am in the morning before heading out to the airport, cooks gazpacho with chocolate with side show Ricky his Venezuelan employee, beans and chocolate with Ricky’s wife, hot chocolate and rum to finish off a hard day’s work in the sun and a chocolate marinated pig in an amazing wood burning oven for a cool party. It all feels weirdly colonial, a bit short on real content but I’m interested to see the factory end of things and dying to try the chocolate.

    I found this on the web....

    "Now, despite setbacks in Venezuela, including an eco-posada project that never really got off the ground, Willie's Venezuelan Black chocolate venture in the UK is going quite well. The 100 per cent cacao bars went on sale in Selfridges in London on 18 February and Willie says he took £700 on the first day. He's been supplying chocolate to his mate Marco Pierre-White, one of London's top chefs, who has been experimenting with it in a number of recipes."


  18. We have been in Bath now for nearly a year and are still exploring the food scene.

    Are here any updates on this topic for both Bath, Bristol and the surrounding area (I have already noted Allium is quite close)

    Especially interested in good quality Indian restaurants. After a long time away from the UK I had been looking forward to again eating great Indian food. I had be telling my partner how fantastic the restaurants were. At the moment she is not convinced and thinks Paris has better...! We have tried the ones with "awards" including the one that is "best in the south west" (and yes it is for 07/08), and I can only assume it was awarded by the owners cousin..!

    Heading to the "The Wheatsheaf" in Combe Hay (near Bath) this evening, it was noted in this years Michelin as rising to its first star, so high expectations of Lee Evans food. I will report back.

  19. He seems to have settled into a Willy Wonka persona which I think defiantly suits him better than the Salvador Dali persona the Sunday Times were trying to fit him up with. Maybe one day a little poor kid will open a Heston Bar and find a golden ticket, wouldn’t that be nice?

    Though attempts to grace food with anything like the intellectual rigour of art history are odious, I find the Dali reference interesting.

    Both Adria and Blumenthal cite memory and humour as elements in their work and in doing so bear some comparison to Surrealists like Dali.

    Dali is often snobbishly rejected by English art historians, partly because some mistrust the suspiciously commercial accuracy of his draughtmanship but partly, I've always reckoned, because they had a problem with that awkward 'humour' thing. If you partly base an aesthetic on humour it's going to be culturally specific. Dali giggled at naked ladies and elephant bums. Perhaps those things are not so universally amusing. Could there have been a German Dali? An English one?

    Adria has a lot in common with Spanish Surrealism but I would maintain that HB can't claim a similar connection. If Heston is going to base an aesthetic on humour, dreams and memory, it's going to come out different. I really hope he's looking at the work of the tiny band of English Surrealists. They were funny, amateurish, iconoclastic, geeky and ultimately rather sweet. (Dali, though a constant joker, took himself so horribly seriously - a trait he shares with Adria)

    Oddly enough, English surrealism informed people like Dahl when he wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It also inspired the set designers who came up with Wonka's workshop in the first film and Caractacus Potts' lab in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

    His Nutty Professor persona fits brilliantly into English surrealism, rather better than any remaining connection with Adria. Personally, I reckon the better HB channels Rowland Emett the better he'll get as a chef.

    Now that is a cracking idea - an automated Emett inspired delivery system to replace the FOH team.

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