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Posts posted by PhilD

  1. Great report, great pics.

    I have been to La Régalade and have, I believe, read that attack on it on another website.

    Re the terrine without plates:

    The terrine is for the bread, a little bonus for the wait before the 1st course arrives.

    It is a wonderful generous small touch.

    Everyone who comes often to France knows that in bistros, one is expected to put the bread on the table. In smaller starred places like Frenchie, there are no bread plates either.

    I know I know, it took me a long time to get used to this, mais bon…

    The terrine is not a starter, is not an official pre-first course or whatever.

    It is like butter for the bread.

    I had never felt the sore need of a bread plate.

    To complain about it is really to show an embarrassingly narrow comfort zone.

    Exactly, Parigi. And it is often those same people who complain about the service - perhaps because they look all sour about not getting a bread plate!

    Thanks for the props, too.

    Oddly I read into your review that you also found the "no plates" quite odd. But I agree with the comment that it is illustrative of a certain mind set that people find it odd, to me it is (and has been for years) quite common in restaurants. What next will people be asking for knives and forks with charcuterie plates or in tapas bars!

    I think I am one of the people who has been "hand wringing" about LR and LRSH. My observation is that there are now a number of reports that mention less than great service, and that correlates with my experience. So I believe it is reasonable to draw peoples attention to this, I will still go but it will cause me to temper my expectations. But without the words of warning it could be annoying for some. Maybe it is only poor on certain days, or certain shifts are less good. Who knows, but there is clearly variation.

    Is it "Friggin' nonsense" to say that "the service has slipped terribly" and "perhaps the house is looking for ways to save money"? Well I did have a conversation with Bruno Doucet(chef and owner)in which he told me he didn't hire any more staff because of the cost, and given the price of the food, and the location of LRSH I think it is reasonable to assume they need to keep an eye on costs. So no, not "friggin nonsense" at all.

    Le Chateaubriand vs. LRSH is an odd comparison. One is avant garde the other quite solid and traditional. For me the decision between the two depends so much on what I am looking for in a restaurant. After living in Paris for a few years you get a little tired of LRSH style of food (even though this is one of the best examples of the genre). So Chateaubriand represents a refreshing change, something to liven up the palete etc.

    I believe it is also good to understand what the "50 best restaurants" list is all about. It is a list put together by professionals, chefs critics etc. And they are looking for restaurants that are pushing the envelope in terms of standards and creativity. So in effect it is more akin to MoMA than the Louvre. The food served in many of the top 50 is experimental and often on the leading edge (and at times falling off) so if that isn't what you are looking for don't use the list as a guide.

  2. And should you want me to expand on why:

    Their ratings are based on reports from Joe Public

    That's the reason :)

    I tend to agree, I prefer recommendations from people I know, rather than a "diverse crowd" (I believe Harden is a believer in the "Wisdom of Crowds" - although he seems to ignore some of the pitfalls of group-think).

    I may only know a lot of the trusted recommender's online but because I can build up an insight into someone like David's (Goodfellow) opinions I feel I can tune my reading to my own personal taste. I also like professional reviewers/publications (like Michelin) for much the same reason i.e. I can understand their bias and appreciate their strengths and weaknesses.

    I am also very suspicious about the tastes of a great many people in the UK, the acceptance of so much mediocrity (especially in UK food) illustrates this. I think it is also massively amplified by the media's delusion that the UK food scene is generally healthy, with world leading restaurants - there are a few but it is still too much of a lottery with many overpriced and delivering fairly average fare. I also find it interesting to read a lot of the comments on sites like the Guardian's WoM: given the demographic of that papers readership I find the knowledge and opinion of food to be quite woeful. Given these factors why would a democratic guide based on Joe Public book be good for me? Doesn't "crowd-sourced" opinion simply trend towards the average rather than celebrate the best?

  3. Unless, of course, it's something it has voluntarily included in its licence application - sort of having a self-impose dban on children but giving it the facade of it being imposed by law?

    That is my read of the Scottish legislation, the licensee needs to be explicit in their application about lots of things, one being children's access to the premises. The application is then heard by a local board who make a decision based on the details of the specific application.

    I assume Scottish "conservatism" would lead to "pragmatic" applications by potential licensees i.e. you may stand a better chance of securing a license if you don't include children. I think this is different to to England where the overarching rules take precedent.

  4. "As of 1 September 2009, due to new alcohol licensing requirements, children 15 and under are not allowed on the premises during dinner hours. Please be advised that we require proof of age."

    Is this some new legislation applying only north of the border?

    John, different country, different laws. The new law became effective in Sept 2009, it was passed in 2005 with the intervening years being the transition period.

    I also understand it is license specific, so the licensee specifies what is intended in the application. The local licensing body then approves it or not. I assume this means lots of factors like location, target market, structure of premise (separate room), and nature of offering (i.e. full restaurant vs. bar snacks) are all considered. Thus it can and will vary from place to place.

  5. I notice that it does not hold a Bib Gourmand anymore.

    New chef?

    Or simply a price change - bids are only awarded if you can get a good meal for under a certain price. If the price creeps up then they may lose the bib for this reason - all other elements remaining the same.

    It isn't inconceivable that it could get better as the price rises, so loses a bib but not quite a star yet so it exists in a sort of limbo.

  6. The tide on The Guardian thread is about 98% against them. The view of food obsessives vs the view of the real (okay, Guardianista) world?

    Bertie - I think that has more to do with the average Guardian reader thinking anyone spending over £20 on a meal has too much money and that those who spend £600 will be first up against the wall come the revolution.

    However it is nice to see previous eGullet contributors find gainful employment with WoM and it is good they use the board for inspiration.

    Personally I think we need a lot more of these impassioned debates - good to see a bit of life and activity for a change.

  7. What a lot of people here do not know is that these bloggers tried to make a big splash on another website dedicated to food. They posted at least 5 reviews of London restaurants and all ended with an advertisement for their blog.

    I'm unsure what you perceive to be the issue here.

    A blogger decides to make a contribution on two discussion boards? Well, shock horror at that.

    A blogger includes a link to their blog so folk can view a more extensive review and see the piccies? What on earth is wrong with that? The fact they are "advertising" their blog? Well, let's face it a number of posters here include a link to their blogs or other websites in their "signature" - so they advertise their blog on every post they make. I have yet to see someone complain about that - and why would they? Are we not all grown-ups?

    Well put John. I am finding it quite weird that people are criticising links to blogs. It has been common practice since I started reading the boards. Some are good, some are bad. It is me prerogative to click the link or not. I can't see it as self promotion, it is simply how things work these days.

  8. I am absolutely flabbergasted that a Chef would behave like this! How very unprofessional!

    And posting this fact (about the chef calling) isn't unprofessional?!

    Isn't the idea behind blogs and the boards that it gives is non-professionals a voice? Information isn't filtered which is a major strength (and also a weakness) as the non-professional doesn't need to kowtow to the catering professionals. New media, means new behavioural norms, the private "rant" now becomes very public. Some chefs (including those on this board) are adept at using this new media to get closer to the public and the symbiotic relationship seems to benefit all, but as the public is a fickle beast then due care must be exercised.

    I value posts and blogs that demonstrate a critical distance from the restaurant. Reports that are always positive have no value to me as I don't believe anyone can have that much luck with restaurants and I am suspicious critical facilities are dulled by comped PR meals for bloggers.

    So should the CC have posted/blogged this? Of course they should it shows they proceed without fear nor favour.

  9. The level of familiarity indicated by the use of the chef's first name supports this.

    I wouldn't put much stock on using Marcus' first name, it is pretty standard practice outside the US.

    I actually find it quite strange to see the the use of "Chef XXXX" as a term of address. "Chef" isn't an academic qualification like a Doctorate or a professionally certified qualification like an Architect. Yes, many chefs have gone to college and have trade qualifications but lets not inflate their ego's any more by pretending it is an "accredited" title.

    Next we will have "Plumber Jones" or "Bartender Bill" or "Fryer Tuck"....although now I think I am getting my Dylan Thomas mixed up with English folk tales.

    • Restaurant gets negative review from long term, loyal customer. Who has a history of good reviews i.e. not a troll
    • Reviewer complains on the night (as CC did) and gets the brush off
    • Chef rings up and berates the guest
    • Poor review compounded


    • Restaurant gets negative review etc.
    • Restaurant apologises on the night, chef rings valued and loyal client and offers a free meal
    • Reviewer re-visits and updates review
    • Chef turns a PR disaster into a victory

    For me this is marketing 101, I had a dire meal last week at a restaurant whose chef has a similar media profile and career. I complained at the end. They thanked me for my criticism, and immediately invited me to return as their guest "to experience the restaurant in the way it should have been". I won't write about it until (and if) I take up the offer. Whilst I may not have had a great meal, I can't fault their response, and the brand is stronger (IMO) as a result.

    So one day I found a site where people rate and review businesses. So out of curiousity I looked up our vet. He had three glowing reviews (from long time clients) of the sort we would give him. But also three harsh criticisms from people who were there just once or twice. I feel that those could be chalked up to, say, a bad day, a misunderstanding, or even unrealistic expectations. But these reviews will be there forever and people looking at that page will get the impression that only 50% of his clients are satisfied.

    IndyRob, the classic issue with any site. Isn't the key to read other reviews from these people and assess their competence. There will always be trolls. I don't see the OP as a troll, a bit of research shows they have a good pedigree of reviews and balanced opinions.

  10. Was the experience really as bad as you imply?

    OK they can't make a dry martini but how many pubs can, it is a slightly odd request for a pub and I would have thought you had a one in a hundred chance of getting a good one. I am not certain many pubs in London would do a good job let alone rural Wales. OK maybe they shouldn't have tried but at least they tried.

    You were unlucky and you sat next to a loud table. Part of the risk of eating in a pub. Hardly something to complain about.

    You ordered a decent bottle of wine, but hardly anything near the top of the list which goes from £26 to £148 a bottle with lots in the £50 to £80 mark. It may be high end for Wales but not here. And is a bottle between three OTT to enjoy with a starter? It is tricky to assess whether you waited a long time or not, for me only two glasses each between ordering, eating starters and mains arriving seems quite slow going. And so you ordered another glass each, in total half a bottle each for a meal, is that odd?

    There was a mix up with coffees etc. You reminded them and ordered two more drinks. Was it reasonable to expect them to arrive so quickly that you wouldn't have finished the coffee you had already been served? was it such an ordeal to have the second coffee served with your second brandy?

    If I had received your complaint I would have shrugged my shoulders and wondered how to respond. None of your issues seem like a major disaster, and you are eating in a pub in rural Wales which is going to be quite casual and laid back. That is part of its charm

  11. Whats so grim about Padstow? Paul at Number 6 is doing some really great stuff.

    I must agree: we had a superb meal at No6 last year. Good value for fine cooking. We ate at Nathan's new Seafood Grill in Rock on the same trip and were lukewarm about it, possibly expectation too high after eating at his old place in Fowey. Has he opened the fine diner in Rock now? Or is is still the "Grill"? If so how is it?

    I also agree Padstow is a bit better out of season, but I recall many of the visitors are day trippers so the evenings are a lot less crowded than the days. It is also wise to point out that Rock is "Chelsea by Sea". On the walk from the ferry up the hill to St Enodoc Hotel we took great delight in counting the number of male car drivers who wore polo shirts with their collars turned up - nearly 100%. Couldn't compare it to the beer swilling, chip eating prols in Padstow as they don't wear Polo shirts but at least they don't shout at each other when they are talking...!

  12. Shame about Selah - I would have recommended it actually, as generally I really enjoy it.

    I agree it is a shame it didn't deliver. It isn't a destination diner but a useful place in this part of town which is devoid of much else that is good at this price point. I wonder if it was a bad day in the kitchen...?

    Blue Eyed Dragon is a new one on me, sounds good and worth a trip over to that side of the harbour. Sydney looks like it has a complete compliment of Chinese regions, time for some more exploration.

  13. I'm not quite convinced that the subtle flavours of Vietnam are for me, enjoyable though it was it was no better than I can produce at home.

    I am far from being an expert on Vietnamese food, but I think my general reaction has been along these lines. Summer rolls and Pho are good but rarely excited me. I vaguely remember eating well in Hanoi but don't recall a lot of detail (it was hot so beer was drunk). However, on Friday I went to a modern Vietnamese (sorry not in the UK) restaurant i.e. the kids of the first wave of immigrants who are now opening restaurants rather than cafes much like the second generation on Indian and Thai restaurants.

    They had some really spicy curry's and lively salads (not dissimilar to Thai) with not a Pho in sight. The food was very good and quite different from a lot of Vietnamese food I have eaten.

    It has led me to wonder whether the first generation of places we see are more cafes (or Pho outlets) that serve "daytime" snack or lunch food rather than truly representative of the broad range of Vietnamese food. Maybe a bit like judging British food from eating English breakfast in a bar surrounded by "expats" in Marbella.

  14. To call this worlds bestbrestaurants is just disrespecting to a lot of chefs.

    Then why do so many of the worlds top chefs find the time, and make the effort to vote and attend the awards night?

    I like Andy Hayler's comment, which sums it up quite well:

    "The annual San Pellegrino “Top 50” restaurant list came out. I have written before about this (having been on the panel several times), so will not dwell on it other than to say that it is a great PR exercise that gets people talking about high-end cooking, which must be a good thing. It also gives a chance for some restaurants in more obscure corners of the world to get publicity. Just don’t analyst the list too carefully or the peculiarities will make themselves apparent, like looking too closely at a Hollywood film backdrop. It was nice to see Ryugin getting a look-in, and ditto Eleven Madison Park, while I was pleased to see Aqua doing well. I feel that such lists have limited real meaning, since at this level choosing one restaurant over another is very much a personal choice: chefs naturally enough prefer to reward inventiveness and success, hence the list of very modern restaurants at the top of the list. For me, the Michelin idea of grouping top places into categories is more reasonable, but there is no denying that the “Top 50” generates headlines, whatever its obvious flaws. It is best, however, not too take the actual list too seriously. For example: quickly, name the two top restauramts in London. Did you say St John and HIbiscus? Funny that, neither did I."

  15. The pancake seemed maybe a little greasier than last-time, and although crispy on the outside the layer of batter/mix seemed thick and was still runny on the inside where it met the filling of pork and prawns and beansprouts. Not sure if this was intentional but Sophie was not convinced by the texture.

    Is this a yellow pancake made with turmeric and coconut milk (a Hue Pancake or Bahn Xeo Chay). I understand the secet to their success is to cook them in quite a dry pan, if you don't they are greasy. However they are only cooked on one side for crispness and the centre should be soft.

    Coincidently they were on the "Australian Masterchef" this week. Here a contestant had to go head to head with a chef (Luke Nguyen - "Secrets of the Red Lantern" cookbook etc) and after a demo, cook three of his dishes including these pancakes. The judges then blind tasted both sets of dishes, Luke scrapped through after the contestant did a pretty good job.

    My wife has set these as part of my recipe challenge for the weekend.

  16. I do also think their are some restaurants that just shouldn't be their. Like Nobu.

    Nobu isn't in the Top 100....? Am I missing something?

    I am with FDE, I think the list is pretty good and is a representative snapshot of places that should be tried. It isn't a "safe" list, and so maybe not ideal for the once in a blue moon diner, so I can understand Roosterchefs comment that some will be disapointed: I have got lots of friends who "know what they like" and would find many of these places too far out for them.

    All lists and systems are imperfect, rating a subjective experience is always fraught with danger. I think I like this list because I believe I share the similar tastes to the judges, so it is a list that works for me. Compare that to the UK Good Food Guide and I would say I am in a very different place. Horses for courses.

    Number of visits/votes to win? I go with the idea that there are probably lots of different restaurants on everyone's lists, so maybe 2,000 in the pool. When the votes are spread this thinly it won't require a majority of judges i.e. 401 out of 800 to vote for the winner. To win you simply need the most votes which could be quite a low number.

    How do they get into El Bulli? Simple El Bulli has a critics/chefs section with a number of seats reserved for visitors from the industry, so yes lots of critics can go. And it is logical that it does. Adria doesn't make money from the El Bulli restaurant, he makes it from the El Bulli brand. To maintain the brand he needs to market it to critics, and what better way than to offer scarce tables to journalists and evangelists.

    Why should a UK publication have the Worlds Best Restaurant guide? Why should a US baseball competition be the World Series.....

  17. It's a list. Which means that once a year lots of people talk about restaurants as if they matter. That has to be a good thing.

    I agree with Jay and find it slightly odd that people have got uptight about it. It may be helpful in future years to caveat the list with a description of what it is about, to me it seems to be a list of those restaurants that are in the avant garde, places that are pushing boundaries. It is more like a list of CD's you should have in your collection rather than a ranked list derived from scientific criteria. Unfortunately the "Best Restaurant" title gives it a "Top 20" slant which is a little mis-leading.

    I like the way the list sits with Michelin, online forums and other guides. When read together with these guides, this list adds an extra dimension, they are the places those in the industry see as the best of the year. To use another music analogy, it is like a list of what top musicians have on their iPods, I may not like it all but it helps me expand my horizons.

    That said, I have made it to ten of the fifty and all were experiences I enjoyed and would repeat. That isn't a bad hit rate, most other sources of restaurant recommendations only get a 60 to 70% hit rate at best.

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