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Pam Brunning

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  1. Hi John Been there done it with most of them but why don't you try Gidleigh Park. We went there for my BIG bithday one year in January - it was nearly empty, we were upgraded from a small room to one of the best suites, it was great. Michael Caines was in the kitchen and the food was fantastic a really memorable occasion.
  2. A friend of mine who frequents Michelin star restaurants worldwide was staying in Marlow to visit 3 restaurants, Orwells at Shiplake, The Hand & Flowers and The Vanilla Pod. He asked me which he would enjoy most, I told him the Vanilla Pod without a doubt. He was surprised but agreed entirely after his visit. How on earth did The H&F get two stars was his comment. One star should be for pubs however good the food, they are basic. Michelin always used to say they took ambiance into account so no way can a pub, without all the trimmings of napery etc., be more that one star. I am afraid when it comes to guides these days it is a case of who the chef worked with. If he trained under Ramsey or Blanc he has a foot in the door and as soon as he opens his own restaurant a star or a GFG high rating comes along a bit quick, regardless of the quality of the food he is serving up. You get a chef without a pedigree and he can produce some great dishes but rarely get noticed. It is all a case of, not what the chef knows but who he knows. There is one advantage, it is possible to seek out some very good cooking at a price that has not been over inflated by accolades.
  3. Can anyone tell me what they think this is. It is Ikea brand heavy weight plastic with stainless steel legs. A friend gave it to me and they didn't know what it is!
  4. We have had a few, very few, top end Michelin star experiences that have been worth the money, where you would say next time it is a special occasion, we will go back. Our most expensive to date being The Fat Duck which was around £500, it was a theatrical experience and the food was like the curates egg - good in parts but not worth going back. We have a few £100+ restaurants we patronise on a regular basis but find it frustrating because they don’t change their menus often enough. When eating out once every week or two there is not enough choice in our area and travelling any distance in this country with high diesel and accommodation prices it makes for an expensive experience particularly so if the food does not come up to expectations. As for the bottom end of the eating out market if we want chicken and chips or pizzas I make it myself. We do have a very good fish & chip shop locally which we visit quite often. Otherwise it is 'eat in' at home.
  5. I find it reassuring that many of you think these expensive restaurants and popups are OTT. We too mainly lunch out, it is normally much better value. As a primary producer, who knows the raw ingredient cost, I never fail to be flabbergasted at the price a tiny piece of meat or fish can command in a high end restaurant. The other day I saw a ¼ of a seared mackerel served with some pickled cucumber and a dollop of cream fraîche as a starter for £10. I don’t care if the head chef had got a Michelin star that is just plain robbery, the ingredient cost was under a pound. You are moaning about the mark up on beer prices - what about wine mark ups? In the same restaurant we had two 125ml glasses of a Côtes du Rhône Villages - the cheapest wine by the glass - at £10 a glass that equates to £60 a bottle for a wine that retails at £14! On a hot sunny day a bottle of Prosecco is always my first thought when I am lunching but we now have an upper limit of £25 for that, some place are now asking anything up to £40 a bottle and I don’t like being ripped off. Many years ago a friend said that they liked to go out for a steak ‘it saves cooking’. Why? If you have a supply of good beef there is nothing to cooking a steak. I eat out to experience new ingredients and flavour combinations I don’t have at home. I look for inspiration but at a reasonable price. I also look for ambiance. I have no desire to eat food, however good it is, in a place with hard chairs, no table clothes, that looks like a factory canteen such as Dabbous. I don’t know how those sort of places have the cheek to charge so much. I am sure that a lot of people who pay these mega bucks for the dining experience would not rate the food so highly if they paid a fraction of the price for it. Yes, I know they all have overheads but the parade shop restaurant with no table cloths has nothing like the overheads of a country house restaurant with a large building and acres of grounds to maintain but they all charge similar prices.
  6. I am obviously biased but if you look at the restaurant reviews in our Food & Wine publication at http://www.iwfs.org/europe-africa/publications/newsletter You will find all the reviews are completely independent. The reviewers’ names are withheld so they do not get known to the restaurateurs and they all pay for their meals in full. My instructions to them are ‘tell it as it is’. They receive no payment either from the restaurants or the Society, they are completely voluntary and independent, resulting in genuine reports.
  7. I find the best way of ensuring a soft scoop ice cream straight from the freezer is to add alcohol to the mix. This is easy when making fruit ice cream as you can use a liquor of the same flavour. An egg yolk and cream based ice cream with dried raspberries soaked in Framboise is soft and luscious. The trouble is finding a flavourless alcohol that won’t detract from the vanilla flavour. I use a cheap Vodka that is not too strong in flavour but it is not ideal. Anyone any ideas?
  8. No Sidney you wouldn't get away with it unless you are a celeb. chef
  9. David I reviewed it a year ago see Michelin Stars We weren't impressed then and haven't been back. Edited to try and make link work!!
  10. Just dug this page up as I am into canapés at the moment as I have a lot to do for Christmas and I am looking for something different. I agree with all that has been said, they are an introduction to a meal and need to be good and changed regularly. We have just come back from Wales and one night we were booked for the 7 course tasting menu. When the canapés came they were dire, we nearly walked out but were glad we didn’t as the rest of the meal was very good. Anyone have any interesting ideas for something different?
  11. I think there should definitely be different classes of establishments. You can’t put the Hand & Flowers in the same category as Le Manior, they both have two stars, but that is crazy. We had a very good £10 two course lunch at the H&F but I wouldn’t pay much more for dining in a roadside pub with scrubbed tables with cracks large enough to lose you cutlery down. Think of the overheads of Le Manoir, maintenance staff, gardeners, to say nothing to the staff to customer ratio in the house and restaurant. In a place like that you should get exemplary service and you can see what you are paying for. Lets face it, its not the ingredient cost of the menu you pay for anywhere. The poor sod that supplies the produce gets dam all compared with what the diner is charged for the food. A pub is a pub - OK for everyday hunger eating but however good the food is, you are only getting a fraction of an all-round dining experience with bare tables, hard seats and paper napkins. Good food should go with exemplary service and first-rate ambiance. As you found out David pubs like the Sir Charles Napier are charging too much money for what is on offer. We drove into their car park a few years ago, looked at the menu and drove out again - it was too expensive for a pub, even then.
  12. I have a surfeit of mushrooms and eggs and need ideas for a tasty supper dish - fed up with omelettes!
  13. Not long after they received their star we tried it get into The Stag but they were doing a refurbishment at the time so it has been a long standing ambition to go there. I was just reaching copy date for our magazine and I needed a good restaurant report as I already had a bad one see My link I rang 3 week beforehand and was 'lucky' to get the last room that night. We arrived at 4pm and I asked if Nicola Reynolds was around and was told they were away. When we booked we were warned that the room was the last one and rather small so were prepared for that. The en suite was so small that the only place for the tiny bar of hotel soap was on the floor! The room was overpriced at £85. A large jar of coffee in the room was encouraging but the dry aromaless ground beans it contained produced a flavourless liquid complete with a large proportion of grouts as the cafetiere was badly worn. Our meal was disappointing. My foie gras was good but a very small portion for £10 served with a disc of rhubarb jelly. Himself had soft shelled crab which hadn’t been crisped up and squirted a watery and flavourless liquid when poked. My main course was lobster, I think it was described as with a madras sauce . A small half beast served with an overpowering sauce climbing out of a jungle of tough frizzy green leaf. Lamb’s sweetbreads and kidneys on a soggy potato rosti had a sweetish, cloying sauce with nothing to cut the richness. As we went to bed the manager presented us with a new jar of ground coffee as we had complained about our room coffee at dinner. He assured us that their coffee was ground fresh every day and what wasn’t used in the rooms was used in the restaurant - a good reason for not ordering coffee! We tried the new jar but it still tasted as if it had been ground a few months ago. The coffee epitomised the meal. If a restaurant can’t get their coffee right what hope is there for the rest of the meal. I may be a hard task master but there are restaurants out there that can get the job right. We have been to two in the past year that are worth returning to but if these places can’t get it right I would rather save my money and stay at home. I don't like writing negative reports so I gave this one a miss.
  14. We went to The Stag a month ago and were very disappointed - there was nothing to recommend it. It is unwise to report on places you havn't been to for a long time. We had heard good reports of it in the past.
  15. Why don't you tell the staff what you require when you arrive for breakfast? When breakfasting anywhere my first request is to be served the toast hot when I have finished my 'full English' to be accompanied by my coffee. If the toast or the coffee is not hot it goes back. We pay enough for B&B in the UK, make sure they serve it as you require it.
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