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Posts posted by MrsCC

  1. Aulis is something special, unique in fact, for Simon Rogan has thrown open the doors of L'enclume's test kitchen to members of the public who want to get even closer to the food. We jumped at the opportunity therefore to have a 'light lunch' at Aulis and the result was one of the most memorable meals of our life.

    Aulis is new this year with the test kitchen only recently modified to seat up to six people along the bar where you can watch your meal prepared in front of you. But don't mistake this for the chef tables you get in London restaurants for it is a significantly more personal experience. For a start, Aulis is a physically separate building to the main L'enclume restaurant/kitchen and your chef and host for the event, Dan Cox, is cooking exclusively for you. The menu too is exclusively for you with bespoke dishes that are not featured on the L'enclume menu either.

    But what really distinguishes the experience from all others is the level of interaction you have with the chefs. Dan is assisted by Kevin Tickle, long standing sous chef at L'enclume and that's it; there are no waiters here to serve food or wine, it's just you and two chefs. Talk of course mostly centres on the food (at least it did with us) and Dan's open about all aspects of what they do. In our view, Dan is absolutely perfect in the role: relaxed, engaging and really willing to share, nothing is held back from you, nothing is 'top secret'.

    And then there's the food. Those familiar with L'enclume will know what style of food to expect though we were still caught a little by surprise. Having been told that we were booked in for 'a light lunch', we forgot that in L'enclume-speak, that would mean a lot of food and the menu today consisted of four 'snacks' to start and six main menu courses!

    While the mise en place has been done before you arrive at Aulis, the cooking and plate assembly is performed in front of you after which Dan simply passes the finished dish across the counter for you to tuck in. So that you can see what actually takes placel.

    With Dan and Kevin exposed to the watchful eye of the dining guests at Aulis, there's little room for mistakes here, but it doesn't matter for there are none and all the food presented is perfect. Crispy chicken skin the way it is supposed to be, tripe with beef strands that is intense, and a duck liver parfait and duck fat that shames the best foie gras. And as always with a meal from the Rogan stable, there's surprise ingredients aplenty with the main talking point today cod tongue - Twitter confirming that most are unaware that cod even have tongues. They are in fact like mini cod fillets: one tongue contains two of them, separated by cartilage with skin around them, served with this removed of course.

    It is from start to finish a stunning display of understanding (of ingredients), genius (of composition) and excellence (in cooking).

    Since discovering L'enclume last year, we have constantly urged foodies who have not been to go and eat there believing it to be the best restaurant in the UK, for it really is. Aulis however is not a restaurant, it's a test kitchen that allows you to be as close to the food production process as you are in your own kitchen. What's more, Dan makes you feel so welcome you'll feel as comfortable as you do at home in your own kitchen also. Chances are however, that's where the similarities with your own kitchen will end, and you can now sit back, relax and let Dan and Kevin cook up a world of surprises and treats.

    This wasn't just a memorable meal, it was a deeply memorable and unique experience, and on that basis trumps almost everything else we've written up on for the enjoyment we took from it. In fact, we believe Aulis is the most exciting thing in the UK's restaurant scene right now.

    For those that want to read more, view pictures and watch video you can take a look at our blog

  2. We just got back from Noma yesterday. We loved our evening at Noma: loved the surprises, loved the food, loved the service. We’re sure too that if we went back three months from now, the menu will have changed up sufficiently to allow us a whole new dining experience all over again. If El Bulli spawned a whole copycat industry of molecular gastronomy, it will be interesting if Noma’s influence takes the food scene back in the other direction; a third way is probably the most likely outcome. Whatever the outcome though, it’s fantastic that Noma’s doing what it’s doing and it was undoubtedly one of the most exciting dining experiences of our lives.

  3. When MW says he's saddened the phone call was made public, I would guess he really means he's saddened it was made public because it embarrassed him. We all do and say things we regret when we're angry. Had the issue not been made public, perhaps he would have called with an apology. Now he might be too embarrassed and/or too proud to offer any regrets.

    Question to Mrs. CC--would you return to the restaurant (assuming you were allowed)?

    Never. We would have before his phone call but not now.

  4. I must apologise for not following up as I had said I would. The media picked up on this and we did not want to further stoke the fire.

    We posted our last review about MW because we felt it honest to do so. I posted the information about the call because I was angry. I thought it would be of interest to other foodies but naively I never thought it would be of interest to the press.

    If Marcus had engaged with us on the phone in a conversation rather than a one way shouting match then this would not have happened. I trust both parties have learned from this. I know I have.

  5. Hi Mike,

    I think that is a very interesting comment. I have had many comments and conversations that have been most thought provoking. I want to talk about these in further detail once I have our commitments this weekend out of the way and I can properly put pen to paper. In the meantime, I will quickly clarify your pending questions:

    We have been to MW 7 times in around 11 months. On our first visit, Marcus was incredibly generous with his time and chatted with us table side and showed me around the kitchen. The second time, I was taken into the kitchen and had a brief chat. After that Marcus was not present or available. He was kind of enough to leave us a personal note after we were married and returned to the restaurant after our honeymoon. In all fairness, our relationship was with his restaurant manager who is currently in the process of working out his notice and was not present on the evening in question, who always made us feel most welcome. Every time we have been there we have paid 100% of our bill. We have never enjoyed complimentary courses or drinks. It has been a 100% commercial relationship. In this day and age, I hope you will forgive my familiarity by referring to him as Marcus. It was born out of custom rather than the desire to imply a friendship of any kind. For example, I never called my previous bosses by their surname.

    This incident and the subsequent feedback and chats has given me much to reflect on. What do we expect from a 2 or 3 star restaurant? What responsibilities do we have as bloggers to both our readers, ourselves and the relationships we may build with restaurateurs? What responsibility do chefs/restaurateurs have to acknowledge and take on board the implied impact of bloggers and other social media on their business? Do we relinquish being a customer once we start blogging? Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester recently invited a group of bloggers for a complimentary tasting menu with wines and all of the bloggers have so far slated it. Is Alain currently looking for their numbers? I am not saying I have the answers. I don't. This incident upset me on many levels. I want to explore the issues I have raised along with any others that come up along the way.

  6. Thank you for your reply. We tried to point out the positive comments made even in the recent post but he would not listen to a word. He just yelled. I told him I had a three page letter to him in my handbag that I was about to post to go into our experience in more detail. He said, "don't post it". In my view, this is not how one retains business. We have been to MW 7 times in less than 11 months, it mattered not.

  7. You may have seen my recent post about Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley. Today I received a phone call from Marcus Wareing himself. He ranted at myself and my husband for close to 30 minutes. Why I did not hang up the phone I am not sure. Actually, I do know why. I felt bad for him. He was obviously upset. Having thought about this, we are actually now quite angry with his phone call. We paid £600 for our meal and if we want to say we didn't enjoy the evening then we have every right to do so. Marcus Wareing was actually abusive in his call. At one point he said, "how would you like me to write about you and your appearance and the way you dress?" He came back to this several times. He was angry because he felt that we should not have posted a negative view of his restaurant on our blog http://www.thecriticalcouple.com/1/post/2010/10/marcus-wareing-at-the-berkeley-a-very-disappointing-service.html What are your thoughts?

    Mrs. CC

  8. We’re big fans of Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley which makes it somewhat distressing to say that our recent dinner there was severely lacking. Indeed, had that been our first occasion to eat at MW, we really would be wondering what fans of MW see in the place. Reflecting on the year, we were in fact surprised ourselves to discover that we had eaten there on no less than six occasions previously but what that does mean is that we have a very good idea of what to expect from MW on a Saturday night; sadly, it missed almost all the targets.

    In one of our earlier blog posts on MW, we said that ‘the restaurant is run with unassuming efficiency, precision and grace’. On this occasion though, it was less clear that the restaurant was being run with senior oversight at all and it certainly possessed none of those aforementioned characteristics. Marcus himself was not in the kitchen that night as he was travelling to Brazil, surprisingly though, nor was Head Chef Alyn Williams. Out front meanwhile, longstanding Restaurant Manager Giancarlo Princigalli has now stepped down while Head Sommelier Michael Deschamps was also not present. In other words, what for us has been the core of MW over the past year was absent and sadly, it showed.

    It was in the area of service that they were caught out most. For the most part, staff serving our table lacked smiles, warmth and charisma. What we have loved about MW in the past and what has brought as back again and again is the personal attention that front of house give to their guests. From our first visit there, it has always felt like a personal relationship, and that continued to grow in time. They have of course a CRM system and normally, they use it intelligently to engage us in all aspects of the dining experience. This time around, despite it being Mrs CC’s birthday (and them knowing that fact), the new Maitre d’ (who we mistook for a regular waiter as he acted in all ways just like a regular waiter) didn’t even wish her a happy birthday. We mentioned this toward the end of the night when he finally enquired how we had enjoyed our evening and taken aback, he said that they were going to bring a candle out with dessert (as they had for eight other diners during the evening) and so didn't see a problem here; could they be less personal? It was sort of laughable.

    For the food, it’s tasting menus only on a Saturday night and we chose the Gourmand menu with paired wines. We have few photographs as we were never intending to blog this visit but the first three courses were in fact excellent. Scottish lobster with lobster bisque was just perfect, Foie gras, prunes and walnuts gave a unusual take on foie gras as it came as stacked cylindrical layers with walnut topping looking more like a dessert than a foie gras dish; we enjoyed it. Dorset crab with potato bread and pears was delicious but little changed over the past year where we've eaten something similar on a number of occassions, but we really hit the bumpers on the quail dish where despite it being perfectly cooked, it was so salted that neither of us wanted to eat it. They offered to send us through another but with the tasting menu, we elected to move on. The Cornish seabass that came next was perfectly cooked and totally beautiful.

    On to the mains, Cornish lamb for Mrs CC and beef fillet for me. While there was nothing wrong with the main courses, there was no wow factor to them either. Two stars aspiring to three should have a wow factor on a main course. The lamb was underwhelming and while the beef was tasty, there were few discernable clues from the dish that you were eating in one of the country’s best restaurants.

    Cheeses were nice enough but hardly difficult for them, the pre-dessert was okay but little changed since our July visit and the actual dessert, the basil parfait was also identical to that being served on the gourmand menu back in July, and possibly earlier. This time around however, the jelly atop the sherbet was so acidic that Mrs CC felt it burning her throat. The waitress clearing the dish said ‘yes, it can be a little strong’. No, this was not about flavour, strength or otherwise, this was unbalanced acidity. It was a poor comment on her part but somehow didn’t seem surprising that night.

    MW has been our go to destination over the past year but on the strength of this performance, is unlikely to be so in 2011. We’ve spent a lot of money there on previous visits and never minded the fact because it’s always been so good, but coming away from this evening, for the first time, we did begrudge the money we had spent that night. What’s more, by the time dessert had come, we just wanted to leave the restaurant and get home for an after dinner drink in more comfortable surroundings; usually you have to prise us out the door.

    Every restaurant encounters change but they need to ensure that the change does not adversely impact the customer experience, certainly not to the extent it did here. They need too to ensure brand consistency. And maybe it was circumstances beyond their control but having so many senior staffers absent at the same time meant they were certainly not on their A-game.

    The top end restaurant scene has become ever more competitive with the likes of The Ledbury getting a second star, Apsleys shooting for their (surely deserved) second star and coming soon, Heston’s Dinner just over the road at The Mandarin Oriental. We love Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley and indeed Marcus himself who has been so generous sharing his time and ideas with us over the past year so we dearly hope that this experience was a one off. However, the conclusion must necessarily be that if Marcus does want to spend more time outside the restaurant promoting the brand, he needs at least to spend some more time thinking about who will be in the restaurant in his absence ensuring that he’s not missed, because right now, his absence is noticeable and we do miss him sorely.

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