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Everything posted by Gareth

  1. Their web site says "Dress is smart casual; men are required to wear a jacket." This is good news. It tells me that at least I have not yet reached the age where my definition of casual starts to include jackets.
  2. Jamiemaw's argument seems to be that good restaurant criticism should involve multiple visits and prolonged research and that whilst reviews not underpinned by the are less worthy. I think this is a false premise, since it assumes that all reviews have the same purpose. Instead, you might categorise them as Entertainment Reviews; Signpost Reviews; and Interest Reviews. I think there is a parallel with theatre/literary criticism. Signpost Reviews are the mainstay of British restaurant reviews - and theatre reviews - what's on; is it worth a look ? Keeping the time-scarce punter up to speed with the myriad of trends new/openings etc to which Circeplum refers. I wouldn't need or expect the reviewer to have made multiple trips any more than I would expect a theatre critic to have seen lots of performances. Like as not, I'm going to be judging my experience on a sinlge visit so why not take the steer of someone whose opinion I trust on the same basis ? Entertainment is the domain of Mssrs Gill and Winner. More soap opera than anything else. I'm a big fan of scathing theatre reivews: on the show "Bernadette" - "It's at times like this I wish I were in a kinder business, like whaling or seal clubbing..."; on "The Bakers Wife" - "je ne baguette rien..."; and Kenneth Tynan's famous "I seem to have knocked everything except the knees of the chorus girls, and there nature has anticipated me." The difference is that in theatre criticism such barbs are kept in the quiver only to be shot if the target presents; the purpose for Winner and Gill seems to be to invite us week after week to admire their archery, the target being secondary. That and the fact that I don't think either of them know as much about food as Tynan did about theatre...so, harmless enough if you find them engaging or funny but it's for a readership that doesn't really want to be troubled by considering whether they would actually want to eat at the places reviewed. Interest reviews are for the sheer joy of engaging with the detail of a topic: the literary criticism of Hamlet, or the consideration of an actor's career, rather than a review of a single performance. This seems to be much more of the nature that Jamiemaw values. I do too; I find it particularly valuable when I am choosing those couple of meals a year that are going to be my total treats: "Tom Aikens" or "The Fat Duck"; "Guy Savoy" or "L'Ambroisie" ? I when I can't get to these places I can enjoy them vicariously through writing. I agree with Jamiemaw that I would like to see more of it in the UK press. But in its absence, I am happy to get it on "e-gullet". But at the end of the day we need the lot: god forbid we sacrifice breath of coverage on the altar of depth; or that 'one visit' reviews erode the understanding of the topic which must support them. And God forbid that critics write dull reviews.
  3. Dinner last night at the bluebird Restaurant. And very enjoyable it was too, even if, for me, it didn’t quite hit the level which some of the reviews had been suggesting. Highlights: a nice bar with a well mixed Whisky Sour. The fact that in a relatively lightly loaded (and very striking) dining room, we were nevertheless steered to one of the better tables available (how often is the rule “first come, first stuck by the kitchen door..”). Indeed the service was attentive, unstuffy and discrete throughout – a real plus. We had an excellent bottle of Valpolicella for £23 off the main bit of the list but “sommelier’s selection” I just found odd: Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc and Moet didn’t strike me as the most imaginative and (perhaps just my perception) but the mark-ups seemed to peak in this section. Food hit some real highspots particularly in an unctuous chicken liver parfait and roast pork with crackling that arrived as a giant hunk of loin chop – really knockout. But it also stumbled in a couple of places. The sticky toffee pudding was OK but ultimately not good enough to sustain interest through a large portion. The venison and root vegetable pie got off to a cracking start with an aromatic rosemary pastry crust that just lifted the dish…but then it needed to: there were no vegetables in it. Not under-filled or badly cooked, just all venison - so heavy and one-dimensional. Bad scoop of filling or something. To be fair, the response of the staff was good: we weren’t seeking for it to be replaced or knocked off the bill (it wasn’t) but the complaint/comment was followed up by the Maitre D. We weren’t brushed off in other words and that is the most important thing. More puzzling was the underlying concept. The ingredients looked as impeccably British sourced as was reported, but the menu seemed far more multicultural than I was expecting. A ballotine of foie gras here; a section of risottos there; spicy lentils under the cod; marscapone desserts; borscht. Not saying any of it would be other than very good, but part of the attraction going in was the thought that Bluebird would be resolute in its British approach, another to stand alongside St John and Rhodes. In the event the menu diluted this and, as a result, some of the excitement went with it. Still it would be wrong to end on a suggestion that this was not a distinct cut above the average Modern British new restaurant clone. The roast pork alone is enough reason to return.
  4. Good time to ask: 1) Locanda Locatelli 2) Fung Shing 3) Fino Oh and...er...the usual office Chrismas lunch nightmare, where everyone democratically votes to go somewhere with Fayre on the menu and where the wine names the grape on the label. Rancid and like a car crash waiting to happen from the moment a month ago when the vote was decided... G.
  5. i'd be interested to know what you thought of anthony's vs tom aikens, maybe stick it on the anthony's thread if you have a mo? i assume there are no complaints with the cooking at winteringham cheers gary ←
  6. I have only been once about a year ago, and thought it was OK. But given expectations, OK was a disappointment. Have heard great things about it (akin to Moby's post) in relation to parties, events etc. It really is a shame if the restaurant is under-performing since their cookbook (old one - haven't got the new one yet; expecting at least 3 for Xmas....) continues to delight. Got round to the recipe for pheasant with cinnamon and chestnuts the other day - delicious winter stuff. Easily do-able in about 1 hour and if you use partridges you don't even have to joint 'em. We have now cooked it 3 times in a fornight.
  7. Remind me again, which of these 1950's cookery books includes the recipe for snail porridge ? My, they cooked some funny things back then.
  8. Thanks for the post – it neatly reflected my (one) experience at Gidleigh in March this year – delightful setting and very enjoyable food – indeed a great day all round - but, as you say, that ‘wow !’ factor proved elusive. Except when the bill arrived, of course. However, if you’re in the area you might also want to check out 22 Mill Street in Chagford – the following post refers. Mill Street Oh and a tenner for the taxi sounds more than reasonable. Gidleigh may be only a couple of miles from Chagford as the crow flies, but it feels like a good afternoon’s drive once you add in all the bumps and bends !
  9. It pains me to say it, especially after Tarka was kind enough to let me have the directions, but I’m afraid I found Centre-Point sushi a real disappointment. The fish was tired; the rice a little ‘wet’; the portions quite small. We ate a lot – just to give a fair test, you understand (interests of science etc, etc). We also drank a lot – beer, saki; more beer; more saki (in the interests of medicine etc.). All in it came to £35 a head. So pricing-wise I have it in my medium cost (for sushi category). And, to be fair, quality-wise it was a cut above the low-cost sushi benchmark. But I struggled to find it good value, simply because I’d prefer to pay the £50-£60 a head for bigger, better pieces of brighter fish than pay thirty and just think, well ‘blah’. Sorry Tarka – still nothing ventured etc. and the spirit of exploration is always half the fun.
  10. Tarka/Anyone Looking to go this evening. Do you have a name or address or directions ? As a graduate of the Mark Thatcher school of navigation I need all the help I can get. Hell, I'll be lucky if I find Centrepoint !
  11. Personal favourites: ­ The Prawn Cocktail Years (Simon Hopkinson/Lindsey Bareham) ­ Moro the Cookbook (Sam and Sam Clarke) ­ Sichuan (How can you resist a book by anyone called Fuschia Dunlop ?) ­ Roast Chicken and Other Stories (Also Simon Hopkinson) Foods from the Far East (Bruce Cost) ­ A Chef for all Seasons (Gordon Ramsay) ­ Your Place or Mine (J C Novelli – it dares you to go that one step more ambitious !) As you can see, I’m a sucker for celeb chef’s and glossy photos. But I would also add: ­ Good Housekeeping Cookbook (when all else fails it *will* be in here !) ­ An Omelette and a Glass of Wine (For reading, not cooking from…) ­ Numerous bits of paper scribbled on by family and friends… And, from childhood, it was something like: ­ My Round the Year Cookbook (Sue Green ??? – dredging the memory here…come to think of it, maybe this is why I turn to the Gordon Ramsay grown up version so much !)
  12. Moro is great for parties, but I would also put in a bid for Fino. Tapas is ideally suited to serving to large groups and it has the added advantage of being able to accommodate any number of food dislikes/preferences scale of appetites etc.
  13. Very good question. The Central London wine bar scene appears dominated by Balls Bros and Davey’s which are Ok-ish but hardly riots of imagination when it comes to the list. The Cork and Bottle remains a favourite in Leicester Sq. and I really enjoyed the Bar attached to Club Gascon for doing something really interesting within a region. One of these days RSJ might do something similar for the Loire, I hope. But in general, your post prompted the thought that whilst interest in wine has progressed leaps and bounds, interesting wine bars have not. My impression is that there’s far more variety and fun to be had on the cocktail scene than with wine bars, or I am just looking in the wrong places ? B.T.W. I thought Vinopolis was dire. What appeared to be a superficially comprehensive list was in fact compiled by selecting a very limited number of producers and then buying wines of every grape made by them. This equates to: a) corporate profiteering; b) laziness; or c) bad wine. Perm any two from three. Anyway after a couple of early visits I didn’t go back… If you don’t mind getting your suit dry-cleaned afterwards, you could always try Gordon’s in Villiers St. From Vinopolis to Necropolis in one easy move…
  14. We went to the Manoir for a joint birthday celebration last Saturday. We had a great day – the weather held, the gardens were delightful, the food was excellent. We arrived at one and finally left about five-thirty ! Of particular note were the vegetables. Vegetable risotto was bitingly fresh, and the crushed minted peas nestling under the best end of lamb were also a bit revelatory. My top tip is, that if you order the vegetable risotto, then your amuse, rather than being a chilled shot of (first rate) gaspacho, becomes a knock-out dish of courgette flowers, stuffed with taboulah and with a balsamic dressing. Both fish and meat (monkfish; lamb; sucking pig; beef) were done very nicely. One niggling criticism would be that the beef was not desperately flavoursome. However, it was textured perfectly and when combined with the mushrooms, smoked mash and fois gras the total worked well. Overall, I rated it a notch below GR@RHR but with daylight between it and Gidleigh Park. It was favourably on a par with my last ‘two-star’ in France (Hautes de la Loire) My Dad is more generous to Gidleigh and has it and the Manoir neck and neck. Both offer a similar overall experience (food+setting). Both do not offer a similar price experience. I seriously recommend that before you go to Oxford you put your wallet through some high-altitude acclimatisation training. Maybe start with a with a haircut at Nicky Clark, progress to a scarf at Hermes, maybe purchase a trinket or two at Garrards, before plunging into Le Manoir. It was not quite as expensive as the three starts I have been to in Paris. But it was signifcantly more so than GR@RHR and Auberge De L’ill (or Hautes de la Loire). My veg risotto was fabulous but at £32 for a ladleful it bloody should have been (especially since they didn’t even have to buy the veg…!) When I start to rationalise it at £20 per hour, then my heart slowly starts to edge back below a couple of hundred beats per minute (or about tuppence a beat in Manoir money…). But even so, if I had one criticism it was that I could never quite escape the pervading sense everyone was seeking to charge me handsomely for their wonderful hospitality.
  15. I hope you took the time to visit the "Princess Di and Dodi" memorial and laugh.
  16. I enjoyed the Orrery - especially the fact it was open on a Sunday. The quirky interest of the sommelier at the Orrery appears to be Austrian wines. He has some excellent ones on the list and we found it well worth taking a detour into his pet subject area. Since I generally rely on the advice of the sommelier in top-end restaurants, I've found this a useful strategy: often the wine list has an area which is disproportionate in length or unusual in orgin - or both - which ends up reflecting a particular interest of the sommelier into which he puts more care and enthusiasm than the boilerplate stuff which comprises the bulk of most wine lists.
  17. I sense your frustration: the discussion seems to have gone a little off-piste into a debate as to whether the best British restaurants are in fact Spanish or French. This is, of course, because after a couple of thousand years of self-inflicted stodgy misery we finally caught on to the fact that British food is, by and large, diabolical and we were far better off inviting the rest of the world over to cook for us. This policy has proved such a triumph that British chefs are now competing with foreign nationals to see who can cook their food better. By and large this results in the same standards of excellence that we have come to associate with the British Winter Olympics Team, but now and then a Torville and Dean of cookery does slip through and upset the natural order by cooking world-class French, Italian or Mesopotamian food. Needless to say, this confuses things horribly when people then start discussing the best of British food. However, getting to the heart of your e-mail: For Indian, you need to try both the highs and the lows (price-wise) to get a proper sense of the cuisine. Huge debate rages over whether the Daal you are eating tastes like it properly would in the backstreets of the subcontinent (and whether this matters) but putting all this aside I have enjoyed eating at: (poncey Indian): Mela; Zaika; Red Fort; Rasa (in Charlotte St, esp. for the crab). The Painted Heron in Chelsea also gets stellar reviews, but I have yet to get there (I really, really want to, so if you go tell us what you think). (cheap and cheerful Indian) Kastoori (in Tooting); New Tayyab (in East End). If you really wanted a distinctively English food experience you could just step into a Little Chef, soak up the abusive service, fake maple syrup, and microwaved meals and realise just why we went cosmopolitan after all. However - nil desperandum – there are one or two establishments that buck the trend to the extent of putting the words “English” and “downright enjoyable” into the same service. In your shoes, and in order, I would be picking up the phone to: Rhodes 24 (ask for a window table and have the mutton pudding…); St John (the Eccles Cake for pud…the eccles cake !); and the Ivy. The Ivy is a particularly good bet for Sunday Lunch. Dress code is almost universally relaxed (ie. that smart-casual sponsored-by-Gap look is fine even at the top end). The noteable exception is Le Gavroche where it seems obligatory to wear a jacket and tie and to bring a mistress. Curiously, I have found top-end North American restaurants much more stuffy about dress code than London. Regents Park is close to Marlybone High Street where there is a good selection of places to eat – including downstairs at Providores if you are after something less formal. Just off MHS is a branch of Le Fromagerie which is a knockout cheese shop (it is next to the Ginger Pig which is a knockout butcher – my advice for a truly great breakfast would be: nip into Millets, buy a primus stove; buy all the ingredients at the Ginger Pig and set fire to your hotel room. Or the Park.) The Fromagerie is not, however British (or rather, it is, (see discussion above)) but – and the clue is in the name, here… - it doesn’t specialise in British cheeses. For that, follow the earlier advice and go to Paxton and Whitfield or Neals Yard Dairy. You will also discover that, for the purposes of cheeses, we have employed the reverse gambit to our general cookery approach and, instead of inviting others to join us, simply conveniently forgotten that we were ever kicked out of Eire and so continue to count all Ireland as British (this also applies to international sport, once England have been knocked out in the opening phases. But not, generally, winter sports where Ireland’s record is not, frankly, of the best, being unable to deal with a form of precipitation, or indeed any form of weather, that does not comprise at least 80% rain). And finally…if you do read Patrick O’Brien novels (and not just for the cookery tips) you might want to take a boat up to Greenwich and visit the National Maritime Museum. It’s a good day out. If the weather is bad you can have a Whitebait supper at the Trafalgar pub and if its good you can picnic in the park beneath the Royal Observatory looking out across the Naval College and enjoying one of the architectural wonders of the world. At weekends a Sardinian couple sell excellent cheese and hams in Greenwich covered market and just a few hundred yards out of town (on the Trafalgar Road which runs between the park and the college) is a first-rate wine shop called Theatre of Wine (closed Sun) where you can pick up a bottle or two (including of a very passable English sparkling wine…). Look for it on the left just after the gas station. Hope this helps.
  18. I was last there about 2-3 years ago. I remember a fabulous meal (genuinely the closest I have found - outside of GR@RHR - to an English restaurant touching the quality of best in France...). I also remeber my wife blushing to her roots (nicely offset by a white summer frock) after innocently suggesting to M.Blanc that he might want to rent rooms by the hour (she meant in order to enjoy the post-prandial siesta demanded by an untterly replete stomach, honest...). Further evidence of Raymond's culinary talent was exhibited in the Observer magazine recently, since anyone who can seduce a lady as glamorous looking as his partner whilst wearing a sky-blue nylon pringle jumper must possess incredible compensating attractions. Anyway, the good news is that we're heading back in the middle of July for a joint birthday party, so I will be able to provide an up-to-date report on the quality of food, the minimum rental period for rooms, and any satorial initiatives from the proprietor...
  19. The best Tarte Tartins I've ever had were at GR@RHR and by my wife, following much experimentation with the Ramsay recipies. This leads me to: 1) Completely agree with the advice to caramalise it as long as you dare and then take a deep breath and let it caramalise for just a bit more... 2) add a couple more suggestions picked up from the recipies: first to mix just a little five-spice powder into the sugar; and second to leave the peeled and quartered apples to brown for a few hours before the cooking.
  20. Thank you for the suggestions. I will report back after the weekend.
  21. A funeral means making a short-notice trip to Aberystwyth (from London) at the weekend. Whilst it would have been nice to break the journey in Ludlow, all places there are, unsurprisingly, fully booked for Friday and Saturday. Any alternative suggestions of place in or around the Welsh Marches where it is a) possible to eat well; and b) there is an outside chance of getting a last minute table ?
  22. The best sushi I have had in London has been at Kikuchi in Hanway St (round the corner from Hakkasan). I can't supply any international comparisons but, for my money (quite a lot of my money actually...) it was sight better than I had a Nobu. I was introduced to it by a friend who works for Sumitomo and whose years living in Japan make in far more qualified than me ( I don't know my arse from my ebi...). At this point I could also say that the clientelle is almost exclusively Japanese. I could point to this as an indication of quality, but on the other hand Little Chef has an almost exclusively British clientelle and that doesn't exactly make it Gary Rhodes now, does it ? I would be interested to hear if anyone else has tried Kikuchi and is able to make a comparison with some of the other places mentioned in this thread.
  23. My favourite for this year (past 365 days...) have been: - Calves Sweetbreads at Gordon Ramsay - Percebes at Fino - Spare Ribs (from Sichuan cookbook) at home - Mutton Pudding at Gary Rhodes - Oysters with Leeks and Lime zest at Domaine des Hauts de Loire - Affagato at Loco - Loin of Pork at St John - Elvers in vinegarette with pimento pepper – pinchos at a bar in San Sebastian - A little pot of melted mexican chocolate that went with my churros in a restaurant in Jackson Hole - Spicy sausage sauce at home However, if I can wind back the clock a further ten days, then at Amboisie in Paris there was a Chocolate Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream that was the only time in my entire life I have tasted a dish that was absolutely perfect in every regard. Heart-achingly good. Completely unimprovable.
  24. It's a public service I undertake at great personal cost. "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" - It is a ftting thing to eat more Tiramisu for one's country
  25. I share some of Gavin's thoughts about whether top restaurants are always all they are cracked up to be. My bank manager does not permit me a statistically significant number of visits to anything more expensive than my local take away. So my opinions (apart from GR@RHR where I have eaten maybe 6 times over 4 years) are based solely on one or two meals. I found Capitol and Claridges a bit of a non-event. The service was so bad at the The Square that I couldn't tell you whether the food was good or not - poor treatment had curdled my opinion long before (and I do mean LONG...) we were served. I still find GR@RHR a real treat every time but I think that over the past few years the style has definately evolved into the comfort of consistency rather than the risk-taking fireworks of trying to get a third star. (Not unexpected - and saw this with Guy Savoy in Paris too) Gidleigh Park was elegant and beautiful with cooking that lived up to - but didn't exceed - its surroundings. The Manoir QS did, however - this was absolutely knockout. And gave Jessica an 'oooh-Raymond-dreamboat...' thing that didn't disappear until Johnny Depp came along in Pirates of the Carribean. My meal at Petrus in its new guise was very good and I would definitely revisit. Probably with fewer Martinis inside me before I sat down (curse it for being so close to the Lanesborough...). Nobu, incidently, was far better than I expected given the off-putting celebrity cachet and the sheer bloody noise in the dining room. Of ones tried previously but now defunct (or reincarnated in an entirely different form). Chez Nico was splendid (kind of what I hoped the Capitol had become...given just how bloody good Interlude was when it kicked off) Pied a Terre was good and Tante Clair very disappointing (caught it on the way out). I don't think this is just a British phenomina - I've been in some postively rank Michelin starred places in France, whilst in Spain Akelare in San Sebastian boxed aboved its weight at 2* (truely great meal) but El Raco de Can Fabes (3*) was very pedestrian (great breakfast though...). Overall however, I have found nothing in England that touches Ambroisie or Pierre Gagnaire (in Paris) or Auberge de L'ill (in Alsace). Mark you nothing in England matches the precipitous prices of Paris either. Let's remember Ramsay's A la Carte menu (three courses) is the same price as some of the starter at Ambroisie ! But most of the enjoyment for me falls outside the Michelin-elite anyway. Trips to GR@RHR may be the highlight of the year but in between what I enjoy most is the good in its class (Hamburger Union; Dim Sum at Hakkasan) or something that brings a freshness to the genre in London (Kikuchi; Locatelli; Fino; St John; Meela) or something that offers comfort and certainty (Passione; Fung Shing; Jenny Lo's Tea House; Laicram - my local Thai). Pip pip Gareth
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