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Everything posted by marcusjames

  1. I went to L'Enclume last week; was there pretty much a year ago to the day and what a difference. Not so much from the food (take that as a given mind-bending BTW), more the service. New open plan kitchen in the main restaurant, more staff and a real finesse about the floor, much of it thanks to the oft mentioned GM Sam, who is clearly coming into his own. OK, they've up'd the main degustation to £120 from £95, but at least you can see where your money's going and, by French standards, it's still a bargain - that's a single dish at L'Amboisie. The parade of nibbles at the start is so good it verges on eclipsing the remainder of the meal. That being said, my money for the 3rd star this year once again goes to Andrew Fairlie. He's slipped under the GFG, AA, gastro-blog radar (thus Michelin can claim the 'discovery'; they do seem to be a bunch of bitchy girls if someone starts and gets on the band wagon ahead of them) and has the weight of the Gleaneagles (Diageo) experience all around and behind him. The food is executed briliiantly, plus the dining room is resplendent in understated luxury that screams mahooooosive expense without being overstated. I'd be delighted if Sat got his third too, I used to live in Notts and what he's achieved as a destination experience in that location and part of the world (which I love) is phenomenal. Either way, if he, Fairlie or Simon Rogan nail a third it will make headlines as no restaurant that far north has ever reached that level before. Michelin have the world before them in the UK this year. None of it would be unjust in my opinion, but they could make a huge wave in restaurant history with the forthcoming guide. The stars (no pun intended) haven't ever aligned in this way. It could be interesting...
  2. Koya in Soho is perhaps the best value restaurant in London considering the food alone. Excellent Japanese soba noodles (handmade), although there are other options in the form of Bone Daddies and Tonkotsu, which are ramen specialists and also excellent, although all aren't the sort of place you'd want to linger. If I have any criticism it's that they've all fashioned themselves on that minimal NY style that's taken over in recent years. I'd also give a shout to Claude Bosi's relatively new gastro-pub in Fulham, The Malt House. Same produce as Hibiscus, albeit in pub style. Still has Michelin execution in my opinion. I wouldn't be surprised if this place does join the Harwood as London's only starred pubs come October. Staying with gastro pubs, my latest find has been the Princess Victoria on the Uxbridge Rd, which despite being a slight trek from the center of town, is fantastic and worth the effort; it possibly has the best triple cooked chips in London (and yes, even better than the originals at Heston's Dinner. Curry wise, check out the Cinnamon Soho, the Cinnamon Club's Soho outpost. It's much, much cheaper, yet the food equally as tasty.
  3. Look, I used to work in the industry and didn't want to be mean spirited, I merely said I didn't think it much of a surprise based on my experience there. I do sympathise with all the issues regarding livelyhood etc. I agree the Corn Exchange was a bigger venture and may have had more to do with pulling the overall house down from a business model point of view, but these sort of empires are built on flagships and Anthony's buzz and reputation died out way too soon. Had the fine dining gained a star, or his TV exposure continued, there's a strong arguement the CE may have ridden its coat tails as is usually the way. I do still stand by my comment about some of his regional peers being much, much better though.
  4. I think the journalist from the Examiner's claim that, 'At just 33, he has already made a much bigger impact on the British restaurant industry than his peers Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay did in their early careers,' is the biggest load of bull$h!t journalism I've ever read. MPW got his 3rd star at 33, the youngest chef in the world (at that time) to ever to achieve the award. And Gordon wasn't far behind, I think RHR went 3 star when he 34. Whilst this is sad news I'm not surprised. I went to Anthony's once and thought it a crashing dissapointment. That basement dining room was horrid and the experience average at best; some of the combinations really didn't work, the execution was dubious in a number of places and the service utterly sterile, bereft of any personality whatsoever. I never went back as a result and I'm the sort of punter who'd be most likely to, which speaks volumes. Putting my personal experience to one side, I suspect the lack of that first star (which again speaks volumes), coupled with the emergence and evolution of far better regional chefs such as Sat Bains, Glynn Purnell, Kenny Atkinson and Simon Rogan were the major contributions to drowning him out and losing his place in gastronomic consciousness. Ironically, a second, decent starred restaurant in the Leeds area probably wouldn't have hurt either. People are far more likely to make a desitnation effort when they can combine, look no further than Bray / Marlowe, Edinburgh or Padstow / Rock as great examples.
  5. Not a milion miles away is the oft mentioned Indian Zing in Ravenscourt Park (or it's sisters, Zest in Sunbury and Zilla in Barnes). Zing is the flagship and has the slight edge though. The owner used to be the head chef for the sisters who own Chutney Mary, Amaya, Veeraswamay and Masalla Zone so he knows his onions. Staying in Ravenscourt I'm also a massive fan of Potli. Chef used to head up the curry division of M&S foods by way of the Oberoi group and recently went it alone. The 3 different types of chicken tikka and the banana pepper curry (side) are worth the price of admission alone, but it's all very, very good and quite keenly priced. Finally, although not local, I went to the recently starred Trishna the other day and thought it deserved of it's accolade and certainly better than all it's other high-end peers, most of which I am fortunate enough to have visited. Worth considering as a destination option if heading in to town.
  6. Popped in for lunch today and thought the food worthy of mention. It's more traditional at lunch. The set offers 2 dim sum and a main for £30. Add in pud and it's £35. I bolted an extra dim sum in and had three, the prawn/truffle Har Gau and Squid Balls with a phenomenal kaffir lime mayo standing out. Scallops main with peas and crisp rice were lovely. I especially liked the fact they served two king scallops whole; none of that slicing the buggers in half to make it look like they're going further which is starting to drive me nuts. A king scallop is one of the best ingredients on earth, let them sing! Had the famed 'Sex on the Beach' to close. I won't elaborate if you haven't read about it, but suffice to say the flavour matched the gimmick, which was a relief (again, no pun intended). There were a few service issues, though my biggest gripe is some of the pricing. £5 for a bottle of Pellegrino? And the set, although good, is pricey compared to the value you get at other multiple Michelin gaffs allowing for all the extra amuse, mignardise, frills and fancies. They may need to consider that in the long term, perhaps even now; although busy, it wasn't full, which is a surprise considering this should still be classified as their 'honeymoon' period. In contrast to the food, the wine list is not massively marked-up and well sourced with some really interesting oddities. Nice to see the man himself there too.
  7. I think Andy Hayler's report and photos on GRRHR from a few weeks ago spoke volumes Putty Man. It appears to have more to do with Clare Smyth pushing things forward than any Ramsey heritage. Fair play to her. As AH highlights, the presentation really seems to have gone up a notch. I've never been excited about going there in the past, but I have a real yearning now...
  8. There was a debate on here last year about taking photos in restaurants focusing on those that allowed it and those that didn't. This debate is now becoming a slight extension of that considering blogging and social media is another form of possible promotion: ultimately, should chef's embrace it or not? I think the disclocate comes - and here's the gamble on their part - when these bloggers give negative reviews, in most cases they are people who haven't trained in the industry, know nothing of the processes involved and often expose their, albeit passionate, ignorance. I can see how that would get my professional back up; as MPW once said of Michelin, "You're ultimately being judged by people who know a lot less about cooking than you." Same is true of professional critics as it goes; these are journalists who usually migrate into their positions with absolutely no catering background whatosever. You do, therefore, have to sympathise with chefs at a certain, trailblazing level. I think in their world the only justifiable criticism they actually feel comfortable with, or respect, is that of their peers. As Man points out, maybe it should all be done anonymously, if the chef hasn't courted or engaged the blogger they can not feel betrayed. That being said, if they know they're coming in, why shouldn't they fluff them a bit and make them feel special? It's no different to any more traditional business showing hospitality to their clients in order to grow and further their business. However, therein lies the answer (I think), if a more traditional business does pursue a client and the contract still remains elusive, they don't jump to Twitter to profanically (new word?) denounce them. Yes, it's a disappointment, but all you can do is absorb, smile and roll with it in a politcially polite manner. But that neatly brings us back round to the dislocate issue and, as we all know, isn't something chefs are renowned for. Although it may take a certain degree of colour from the industry (for who honestly doesn't like the romantic notion of the anarchic chef?), it's something they may well have to learn in the digital age.
  9. To provide a further piece of context, the word c$%t is frequently bandied around in the catering industry - high-end professional kitchens in particular - and doesn't hold the same level of taboo and insult as it does in the wider world. That being said, although Claude may have had a justified grievance, the use of the word did overstep the mark a tad and it would be nice to see some form of contrition from #chefsunite moving forward. Still, it proves the theory that anger and / or drinking don't mix with social media (which in itself is a sub-division of don't drink and dial). One can only wonder what fun we would have had if Twitter had been around during Marco Pierre White's Harvey's heyday!
  10. I haven't been yet, but I'd love to know what the concept is here; it seems to fall somewhere between the Cornwall experience as a mix of what Nathan does in the Grill and the fine dining proper. I'm a little confused to be honest. I know the title hints at it being slanted toward the Grill, but the Duck / Monkfish combo' suggests otherwise. Actually, considering it's only a 25-30 cover room I'm not entirely sure why they didn't just go for the full blown fine dining experience; with the weight of the name and location I doubt it would have been that difficult to fill, in spite of the economic climate. Reviews have been thin on the ground so I for one, as a fan of Outlaw, would genuinely welcome a little more info from those who have been.
  11. I popped in last week. The food's unbelievable considering the price and I wish them well, apparently they have a massive hill to climb each day; am sure I read somewhere they've got to turn every table three times before they cover costs. Still, at those prices, in that room and the typically strong Corbin & King service it deserves to succeed. I can't think of another London experience that delivers so much for so little money.
  12. Have you ever actually eaten there? I know the food splits opinion, pushes boundries and - for many - isn't the most enjoyable meal they'll ever eat; I couldn't get my sister back there if I paid her. However, the quality of ingredients, research and execution is, I think, beyond doubt. Every one is entitled to their opinion, but to say the FD isn't, or wasn't, a 3 star at the time of elevation is incredulous.
  13. Putty Man - the cooking at the Fat Duck isn't 3 star standard? Really? Whatever your views on molecular gastronomy, degustation menus or Michelin I don't think there's any doubt it's worthy of its rank. And from what I understand I think the influence on his cooking owes more to the work of Herve This than Ferran Adria, but I guess only he could really answer that.
  14. I personally think you need to seperate experience from cooking here. I went to the Hand & Flowers recently and don't think it compares to any other 2 star restaurants (note use of word restaurant) I've visited in the UK. However, not to contradict myself, but I can understand why Michelin promoted it despite the lack of liveried staff and usual trappings. Just from a cooking point of view, the ingredients were impeccable and the execution exemplary. OK, it is re-invented pub classics mixed in with more inventive fare, but whatever the dish, the presentation was imaginative and the food hard to find fault with overall . A red wine jus that accompanied my best end of lamb in farce and sweetebreads wrapped in caul crepinette and pastry to create a form of Wellington, was as good as any I've had in the best 3 star; crystal clear and reduced to a depth of flavour that came within an inch of its syrupy life (I can only assume that was Tom's Adlard's heritage shining through; David Adlard was renowned in the industry for his saucing). And to give H&F further credit, the pricing isn't comparable to any other 2 star, it's much, much cheaper. Lest we forget, the Fat Duck was once a pub. The catering industry was astound when Heston nobbled the 3rd, not because of the cooking, but the venue. Until that point venues were considered everything. It's no secret Ramsey only bought RHR because it was once Tante Claire and Michelin couldn't deny him the 3rd as a result. I'm not a fan of Michelin. I do find them inconsistent in a world where the one thing they live and die by is consistency. But fair dues, they've really made efforts to move forward and embrace the British scene in recent years. Perhaps their innovation isn't enough though. Maybe, just maybe, they should consider some form of their own Zagat system that separates cooking from service, venue and experience. OK, they have a venue guide in the form of the knife and forks, but still... The advent of the restaurant in gastropub clothing is, I suspect, one that isn't going to go away and will need further consideration. Whilst the French have grown-up with fine dining, grandeur, white linen table cloths and (potential) over-staffing the British have always had their pubs and it's where, ulitmately, they're most comfortable. Put short, there's a cultural gulf and, in an ironic way, the more Michelin attempt to move forward the more exposed it becomes.
  15. L'Enclume finally showing 2 as well! Did Trishna get starred last year, they may have picked one up otherwise. And has Thackery's won theirs back? Shame about Sharrow after so many years. That must be down to the whole Von Essen fall out.
  16. I've said this before and I'll say it again: I think Michelin have a real element of a petulant child about them. The problem a number of UK chefs had in recent years is GFG and AA recognised their talent long before Michelin and my theory is they don't like being beaten to the punch. Wareing and Sat are two prime cases in point who shot up the ranks of 'other' guides and then waited longer than they should for their second stars. There are a number of current chefs who now face the same probem (although the best example is perhaps to be found overseas at Noma), so it will be interesting to see what happens this year. My money on major activity for this year is going to Scotland and Edinburgh. I wouldn't be surprised if Wishart and / or Kitchin get elevated and, as a total left field prediction, a possible third for Fairlie. Having eaten his food this year I think his style and execution is slap bang center of the target in terms of what Michelin favour. They threw a wild card at us last year in the form of the Hand & Flowers and I wouldn't put them past awarding the first three star north of the border as this years talking point. Not to mention the fact he's flown under the radar relative to his peers so could be, for want of a better word, their 'discovery'.
  17. Yep, It's not cheap, but they seem to supply all the restaurants around the Camel Valley direct so in an ironic sort of way, if eating out, is worth ordering as seems to work out the same as you see it on local off-license shelves for, ie around £25. Both the standard Brut and Rose are sensational. Fair to say I've tried all the British sparklers now and they're undoubtedly my favourite. Had a lovely time around there last year. Ainsworth was very good, but Nathan Outlaw, both in the Grill and fine dining proper was sheer class. Funnily enough the things that linger in the memory are the triple cooked chips which, having been to Dinner at the Mandarin since, out Hestoned Heston. That being said a mackerel dish in the posh gaff just beggered belief. Must also make a notable mention for a little place called The Harbour in Port Isaac. Small but very beautiful 20 cover restaurant right on the platt that's run by a passionate husband and wife team. Well sourced, uncomplicated yet well executed cooking and, overall, the most fantastic experience. I'm surprised it hasn't cropped up on here before. Total un-notable mention for The Seafood Restaurant. Cramped tables, less than average food... actually, scrap that, it was shite... and a whopping bill at the end of it all. Still, it's nearly 100 covers now, and they turn tables, so I really shoudn't have expected any better.
  18. Just a few thoughts... First, if you're going to any form of Michelin star establishment and can not abide dramatisation what's wrong with pro-actively and politely asking them not to? You know damn well they're going to do it otherwise. Also, if you do want a dramatised, but don't get a full explanation or forget why not point the ingredient out and ask? I do it all the time on account of my addled (booze soaked) brain! Bottom line - you're the customer / client. You control your experience. I accept there can be exceptions, and there's no excuse for frosty or aloof behaviour, but I think that's very much a thing of the past in the modern restaurant climate.
  19. I think they're having a bit of a push on the staff front MacD. Things have defintiely changed over the past year.
  20. I took a birthday trip to L'enclume last week and thought I'd bump this back up the thread because they whole heartedly deserve it; it was, by quite some margin, the best meal I have ever eaten there and right up there in terms of overall experiences fullstop. I won't prattle on about each dish, save to say it bore some similarities to Sped's documented pics above. There's real depth of flavour and consistency across the current menu- every dish landed in that rare, truly memorable, utter-belter class. However, what underpinned all this and really took me by surprise was the quality of the ingredients, most noteably the herbs and veg that's now coming out of their dedicated farm. I last went eighteen months ago and, from what I recall, I don't think it was providing as much of the supply; with one or two specially foraged exceptions absolutely everything that goes on the plate now comes from there. Many of the herbs I'd never heard of or tasted before, but even then, those I had like the nasturtium, or humble runner bean(!), were elevated to a jaw-dropping levels. I should also mention the lovely, relaxed staff and small, brilliantly sourced cheese board from UK and Ireland, which also surprised since it all came from the Cartmel Cheese Shop. I can see why the GFG gave them 10/10 for 2013 and wish them all the best as the wider awards season approaches... Either way I'll be heading back sooner rather than later. It'll be interesting to see what Simon does as the Autumn season kicks in.
  21. It's probably worth pointing out the bar in the Mandarin, although next to Dinner, has nothing to do with the restaurant. It's the hotel's only bar and does indeed attract the typical 5-star clientlele. My opinion of the restaurant last year (I think I may have posted already earlier in this thread) was brilliant food, incredibly executed given the size of the place, that's certainly not overpriced for what you get. What's awful is the wine list, which has a couple of very unimaginitively sourced bottles sub £30 that then skips to £60+ (I'm assuming this won't have changed in the interim, apologies to the venue if it has). It screams 'we want to take your money off you', so self-important custom aside, getting soused in the bar before hand - even at those prices - is probably no more expensive. Given this W/L I can understand how customers ended up voting as such in Harden's; it does have a dramatic impact on the bill. Also, the restaurant boasts nearly 100 covers, which they turn over at least twice of an evening service from what I understand, so they have considerably more potential voting footfall - positive or negative - than peers such as The Ledbury or Marcus Wareing that seat the standard 50 (approx) with no real turns to speak of. Finally, considering Heston's fame and reputation I bet the restaurant enjoys a wider audience who would only ever eat there on special occaisions and consider the pricing expensive full-stop.
  22. Sandia used to work at Roganic RDB, which many members of this board have sampled since it launched 18 months or so ago. I don't quite know what you'd pair with a hot dog, but the champagne element does work. Most of all, I don't think even they intend for it to be over-analysed to this degree. It's just a bit of well thought out, aspirational fun at the end of the day.
  23. So, was in the Smoke earlier today, just happened to be in the Charlotte St area at lunch time and, quite by chance, managed to be one of the first through the door as Bubbledogs opened for business. Nice, small space, probably between 35-40 covers. It's mostly high wooden tables of four which are communal; you're told on arrival you may have some 'new friends' joining you very soon so if you're of an anti-social disposition this is definitely not the restaurant for you. I was soon joined by a couple of young gents keen to sample the fayre. Overall it's very much in the NY / Russell Norman / Polpo school; there's more stripped wood, a lovely copper lined bar and, of course, those old-school, dim-lit light bulbs with the naked coil who seem to be breeding throughout the London restaurant scene like rabbits! Menu-wise they weren't kidding about the champagne, with the exception of a few cocktails and some well-sourced beers and ciders it's all about the bubbles (the clue was in the title after all!), six or seven of which are available by the glass and seem to be quite keenly priced, ranging from £6-9.50. Bottles are mostly £35-60ish. Turning to the dogs, well, they're very traditional and similar in size to their NY cousins, so you really need two to fill you up, but considering they're mostly a very reasonable £6-7.50, I guess that's the idea anyway. I knocked in the Buffalo dog with spicy sauce, celery and blue cheese, followed by the BLT, which is a bacon wrapped creation with caramlised lettuce and truffle mayo. The latter won by quite some distance and was very tasty indeed. My 'new friends' enjoyed their dogs, though added a note of concern that the equivalent at Meat Liquor (which is just around the corner) comes twice as big and is loads more dramatic (their words) in terms of the toppings - all for the same price. I'm not sure they'll really tread on each others toes though. Staff were polite, friendly and exceptionally well drilled. Special mention too for the toilets where I can only assume James and Sandia have pooled their menu collection from previous posts and travels to create a scanned, wallpaper collage. It makes for brilliant reading, perhaps a little too good as I can envisage a queue forming with foodie patrons reluctant to vacate the unisex cubicles! So, def worth a look. No doubt the anticipation will be amplified when the Kitchen Table comes on line from mid-September. Actually, it will be interesting to see if the critics flock to Bubbledogs now or wait for the fine dining. Only time will tell...
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