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Posts posted by PhilD

  1. Both The Times and the The Indy comments boards make for depressing reading, the general consensus seems to be chefs should know their place, chefs are prima donnas, the owner is always right, and pubs should serve burgers not fancy "Michelin" food in order to make money.

    Obviously the posters are ill-informed and don't recognise that many pubs that gain stars also make lots of money so something was wrong at The Goose, and given it chequered history it doesn't appear the issues were all in the kitchen.

    However, I saw today that Chris Horridge is to leave Cliveden after a short tenure. I was put off the Bath Priory because of his healthy food evangelism, a message he carried through to Waldo's. Maybe, like me the punters were put off. It illustrates to me that the chef and the Owner need to be very closely aligned, I wonder if the only way to do this is for them to be one and the same, like Pernes at The Star?

  2. The perfect stylish Sydney Sunday lunch is to find a beachside restaurant with great food and wonderful view. Pilu ticks most of the boxes, sitting on a hill overlooking Freshwater Beach; it has smart beach chic décor, and a great reputation for Sardinian food (17/20 and two hats in the SMH GFG).

    It is a smart restaurant with most people wearing their Sunday glad rags, service is very smooth and professional, which starts with the booking: “come along at 2:30 we can sit you in the window” and true to their word the table was perfect.

    Two menus to choose from, a $105 Sardinia tasting menu, and ALC; We chose to construct our own degustation by ordering oysters, two entrees and two mains, but then asking for them to be split and served one after another making five course; they are happy to oblige.

    First the oysters, good and plump, good flavour and creamy texture, served with a fine shallot/vinegar which was not overpowering but had a nice kick.

    Frito Misto.jpg

    The first entrée was a frito misto, a good selection of seafood, although the batter on the fish was more F&C shop than fine diner, it was tasty but could have been a little more refined.


    Next a special, Tonarelli (square spaghetti) with a long slow cooked lamb ragu and olives, the lamb falls apart and flavour is amazing. The tonarelli is interesting, not only the square shape and also the texture, more reminiscent of Chinese egg noodles than pasta.


    The first main is pan fried Mulloway with baby fennel and olive puree’s, crispy fennel and asparagus. The fish is good and crisp on one side and the purees add an interesting dimension. The olive one is very defined by the fennel one less so; it is almost a puree of anonymous vegetable.


    Our final main is the signature dish of long roast suckling pig with home made sausages, and condiments consisting of a good apple puree and a pesto like paste, we accompanied this with a mixed portion of roast potatoes and green beans. It is superb, and justifiably a signature dish.

    It is a very fine restaurant, worth the trip out to Manley and perfect for a long lunch. Service was impeccable throughout the meal and we enjoyed every dish. The wine list is long and deep in Italians varieties, we asked for help and enjoyed a good Sardinian white (Stellato Pala Vermentin) and red (Pala Triente Cannonau). Total bill was $280 for two, including $116 for the wine.

    If anyone is familiar with Michelin I would put this at a good one star level, some dishes, and service edging to two, but probably not enough flavour definition to get two.

  3. Well he didn't when we ate there in August - the menu had a definite Japanese influence.

    He does as a rule. Maybe not this particular time (I did not go last year), but every time I went there, several courses were clearly based on local products and preparations. Besides, it would be pointless to claim that the Catalan touch is absent from Adria's cooking. While it is blatant that Sa.qua.na lacks the slightest hint to its geographical location. Except perhaps a remarkable calvados I happened to spot on a table on the way out (and took the time to smell), but that really felt like a concession.

    I think it is best to agree to disagree.

    I go to great restaurants because they are great; some are regional, some are not. I go to regional restaurants because they are regional; some are great some are not.

    Sa.Qua.Na is clearly not regional, but that shouldn't stop anyone heading there as it has a strong, and growing reputation.

  4. I also recommend Normandy, minus Sa.qua.na — no need to go to one of the most fascinating regions of France, products-wise, to find yourself at a restaurant that could be located anywhere in the world, serving food that does not reflect the region in any way.

    A rather extreme view. Isn't it sensible to try and eat at the best restaurants in a location and also eat in restaurants that are representative of the region? If they are one and the same great, if they are different then that is fine as well. If there for one night it can be a tough call, but if you go for a few nights isn't variety a good thing?

    I see Sa.Qua.Na is tipped for a second Michelin star in March, it seems to be an up and coming restaurant. I missed it when I was last in Honfleur and have regretted it. Alexandre Bourdas is starting to get a pretty good global reputation.

  5. Felix, that echoes our meal. Generally very good with some highly memorable dishes, but one or two howlers. As an example an eel and potato dish simply didn't work. That said I would happily return for many of the other dishes we ate, my partners medley of mushrooms was very good.

  6. What I didnt particularly like were the big pieces of dried and fried red chili. They were plastic-y and unpleasantly chewy to try and eat

    I think you usually eat the chillies in the Gong Bao chicken however there are some Sichuan dishes where the chillies are quite large and they are are there to both give flavour and fragrance to the dish but aren't meant to be eaten. I wonder if they have done this in their version of Gong Bao?

  7. Yes, I think we can and should be comparing ourselves to Parisian (and New York, San Sebastien, Lyon, Madrid etc etc) standards.

    I do agree, a true comparison by someone like Michelin needs to be consistant across cities/countries. However, I don't want to lose that Australian flavour, quality shouln't be about copying the style and food of another country. Michelin is oft critiscised for being good on classic French food but a bit wayward on other cuisines.

    My questions back to FDE were to try and establish the yardstick being used as I felt the comment needed to be fleshed out:

    unfortunately, they're not on par with the top places in Europe

    Clearly Sydney's top three don't match up with very Europe's top tier, but FDE's set is a fairly rarefied top tier. However, I think they do stack up pretty well against some of the other "Top 50", for example (a few I know well): St John, Hakkasan, Le Chateaubriand, and L'Atelier Joel Ronuchon (Paris). Thus I was keen to put the argument forward that taken as a whole Sydney (and Melbourne's) overall level of food quality does stack up pretty well and it isn't as bad as FDE implies.

    I can't speak for New York but I can't think of other cities with the diversity and depth we have with good quality across many cuisines. I know London struggles; the good is great, but the overall average is really sub par when compared to us. Paris is wonderful for traditional French food, but it is very poor for other cuisines and even struggles with modern food (although that is starting to change).

    I see Sydney/Melbourne as being very strong in the middle ground but struggling a bit at the top, but that said I have had some great food here. Not a destination for those collecting "Top 50" restaurants but still one for those serious about good food.

  8. I would also agree on the Sydney/London comparison. We lived in Paris for a couple of years and found the UK to be over-rated compared to the general standard in France. Lots of press talking up he standard but we often found the delivery lacking on the plate. That said France can be patchy, we never had a bad three star meal, but had one or two questionable two star ones and a few ones stars.

    In Sydney I have had a few meals that are firmly at the good end of two star territory. Becasse a couple of years ago really impressed, all the more so as we were fresh from Paris. Last year we had a stunning meal at Universal, with some really impressive flavour combinations. We are yet to really get back into the swing of Sydney restaurants but it will be interesting to see how they have changed over the last couple of years. Sydney vs. London: well I know I am glad to be home!

    The inconsistency comment is also very pertinent, Rockpool when it is good is really great, but some dishes don't quite gel. That said I think Neil continues to push boundaries and isn't recognised as much as he should be for his ability to elevate and deliver Asian influenced dishes to such a high standard.

    I would love to see Michelin here, the anominity and the relative consistency would be a good yardstick. I like the GFG because it does a pretty good job of judging good and bad, a 14 pointer or one hatter is going to be good. Whether the shenanigans at the 2 or 3 hatter level has much merit I don't know, I tend to view them in a similar manner and don't really put much stock by the place that is "the best".

    I wonder though whether we can judge Australian food by French standards? Is it appropriate to benchmark against the grand palaces of Paris? Should Michelin make allowances for the Australian style of food? The same debate rages in London i.e. why did it take St John so long to get a star (IMO because it doesn't deserve one, unless it is the "hall of fame category). And I know Gary Marshal on the UK board has argued that Michelin use a Pub scale to rate places like The Star (I am not sure about that), so Australia may warrant an assessment based on our individual style of food. Alternatively have we lost our way a bit because everyone is trying to be someone else, restaurants are French or Italian or Spanish, where are the modern Australian ones, they seem to have fallen out of fashion.

    The other factor is price, the top tables in Sydney are already too expensive for what they deliver, imagine the cost if they wanted to compete at the three star level. Most three stars have a chef per diner, plus all the FOH staff. I imagine the ratio in Sydney is closer to 1:5 if not greater. Paris restaurants are fabulously expensive as a result, even the ones where the hotels cross subsidise. Cheaper three star food can be had in the countryside, but here wages are lower, property is cheaper etc. It will be interesting to see how the Royal Mail Hotel goes in this regard, I was intrigued to see it listed as Anthony Bourdain's best meal of 2009 (on OAD). I need to get down there, the menu does look very interesting, but it is a hell of a way out of Melbourne..!

    Re: the Banc crew, have any of them returned yet? I thought the ones who had gone to London (like Brett) where still there, whilst others like Warren Turbull went straight from Banc to their own places in Sydney (I know Warren had a stint in London pre-Sydney). If Brett comes home hopefully he will bring Stephen Williams with him so I can enjoy the Harwood Arms scotch eggs here.

    Anyway off to throw a few racks of lamb on the barbie and open some old Clare Valley Riesling and enjoy a simple backyard BBQ on Australia day.

  9. Thanks for the clarification, it is a tough comparison to compare the best of the best in Europe to the best in Australia. IMO Australia punches well above its weight (we only have a small population) in terms of absolute quality as well as the high number of good restaurants. Of the three you chose in Sydney there are another six at least that are in the same league.

    It is true the style of service and fittings and fixtures are going to be very different to Europe.

    Our service is quite casual and our restaurant fit outs take advantage of the climate and views, we are never going to be the same as a French palace (Ducasse) or an old English country house (Blanc), but that said I never find Australian service to be bad simply different. Pricing in Australia has crept up and we are not the bargain we once were, in some respects European restaurants have held their prices against inflation whilst Australian restaurants have leapt ahead, and the currency doesn't help. Last year Quay (degustation @ AUD$210), the most expensive, would have been £95 it is now £116 simply due to the really strong Australian currency. Although this still isn't that bad compared to Bras at £160 ($280), mains alone at Ducasse hovering around the £89 ($160) and Blanc at £125 ($225). That said I still think the top end in Sydney is pushing the envelope too much and far better value is found in the next tier down.

    I wonder if Brett Graham will ever return, that would be interesting.

  10. Thanks for all the great replies! While I was working, my girlfriend set her mind on Mont St. Michel. How is that for a destination?

    I found Mont St. Michel to be overrated and coach tourist hell, but it is probably worth the trip...just not the first trip.

    Better to follow Margaret's advice and head south. We found that Burgundy was an OK car drive as was Alsace but we tended to do these on long weekends in order to get some quality time there. A good train trip is Avignon or Aix, both good stop off points for Provence and the villages, but hire a car and get out of the towns to get the best out of a trip. It should be a lot nicer weather this time of year. The TGV usually has really special deals/discounts: get on their web mailing list. If heading North (although in winter is is grey and desolate) a good short trip is Honfleur, lots of tourists but still cute and it has Sa.Qua.Na. a must try restaurant.

    One other tip, we picked up a book from the Brittany tourist office in Paris called "France de l"Ouest: Bienvenue au Chateau" it is a book with lots B&B options in old chateau's. The places are spectacular and rates reasonable, and your host is the owner which is wonderful (and at times quirky) i.e. home made cider served by the Comte et Contess de Kermel in Brittany.

  11. My wife applied on the 16th Oct '09 and got the confirmation on the 4th December, I received my rejection on the 30th October after I applied on the same day. Luckily for me my wife invited me to join her...!So best to hop you don't hear too quickly.

    Roses is worth the visit even if you dont go to elBulli its a beautiful town by the sea!
    Jontysc: you are kidding aren't you? I thought Roses was a bit run down, there are lots better in Spain.

    If you don't get El Bulli you can still plan a trip to the area and head to El Celler de can Can Roca and/or Can Fabes. We booked our accommodation in Roses a few weeks before we went, it is a big Spanish tourist resort (i.e. it is where the Spanish go on holiday) so lots of cheap hotels, but tricky to find really high quality, especially as many sell rooms by the week during high season.

  12. Unfortunately, they're not on par with the top places in Europe. If I have to pick one, Pier was our best meal in Sydney.

    I would be interested to hear you expand on the comment. Which ones are you comparing against and where do you think they fall down?

    In my experience Sydney restaurants do stack up quite well, probably more at the one and two Michelin star level than three but never the less a good standard.

  13. ...with charcuterie late dinner back at apartment (? Charles charcuterie nearby).

    Also visit Bellota Bellota just round the corner for a great range of Jamon Iberico de Bellota they usually have 3 or 4 varieties on the go.

  14. After reading this whole post, especially the first, it made me think about the Tarte Tatin's that we've had in France (not just in Paris).

    Excuse me, but shouldn't Tarte Tatin use a sweet sable for the pastry? Every time we get it in France, it seems to be made on a (very delicious) puff pastry.

    But its not true Tarte Tatin. Otherwise, its just a nice carmelized apple tart on a nice puff pastry. No flipping of the tarte, not the same IMHO (in my humble opinion).

    I would think a Pâte Sablée is going to be too sweet for the already sweet filling, it is also usually a very short pastry so suits traditional tartlets made in tins better.

    I believe the original recipe uses a Pâte Brisée (un-sweetened short crust), or a Pâte feuilleté, but probably a rough flaky pastry rather than refined puff. Looking through my cook books they seem to confirm that.

  15. I like Lantana (13 Charlotte Place), it is Australian with a "Bills" like menu, so really great coffee and good breakfast options ranging from fresh and light (home made bircher museli) to more substantial (corn cakes with bacon etc) and IIRC some very good home made baked beans.

    I suspect their website was done by a mate from one of the ad agencies around the corner and suffers as a result, here is a pdf of the breakfast men: http://www.lantanacafe.co.uk/pdf/breakfast.pdf

  16. For the Welsh region James Sommerin has been selected again. along with Aled Williams from Plas Bodegras. and apparently the Head chef from Manor House. (He gained a star in last years michelin guide and retained it this year). i have been told its between 3 people and gets judged down to two. does anyone know about this? cheers paul

    Didn't they do this a couple of years ago. Matthew Norman ate at each restaurant and then eliminated one/two chefs (IIRC they went from four to two) I quite liked it because you saw them in situ. It also prompted us to go and try the local ones that didn't get in, i.e. Bell's Diner in Bristol.

  17. This die-hard Parisian may agree with you.

    In Paris I never get excited about an ice cream run the way I do in Italy.

    Isn't ice cream like sangria; you can only really appreciate it whilst on holiday. Grabbing a scoop from Le Bac à Glace whilst juggling the Bon Marche bags on a grey and soggy Saturday in February isn't quite the same as slowly licking one whilst perusing the lithe tanned bodies on the beach in July.

  18. Also another (smaller) blow to GR, his pub The Narrow lost its Bib Gourmand.

    Is that because of quality or because of price? You only qualify for a bib if you are below a certain price point (anyone know the 2010 figure?) so your quality may rise but if your prices do you may lose the bib. And no, bibs are not the level below a star, it is a different system.

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