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Everything posted by Gareth

  1. A bit cheaper and Italian ? How about "Vasco Piero's Pavillion" in Poland St. Totally unreconstructed 1970's Italian charm makes it about as camp as a row of pink tents. Great fun and decent, straightforward cooking. Gareth
  2. Working in Her Majesty's Home Civil Service, not only can I afford lunch at GR's but I also get a half-day Maundy Thursday. What better opportunity ? The set lunch menu offers great value (£35) and has a couple of choices at each of three courses but these didn't quite hit the mark, so it was dispensed with in favour of the a la carte (given we were doing our best to project an air of refined sensibility, the full tasting menu seemed a little excessive at lunch...) Covered many of the same bases as the previous reports - Pigs Trotter, Foie Gras, Duck Three Ways and that sensational Tarte Tartin (for me the exemplary part of it was persuading each segment of apple to pillow out softly in emalution of the puff pastry that combined the right notes of crispness and indulgent stickiness...) The wine waiter came through with a decent selection in the £50 mark (an Alsation Pinot Noir) that was a little cheaper than the Loire red I had been waving at. However the absolute highlight of the meal - and one not covered in previous reports was Jessica's main dish of Milk fed Pyrenean lamb. This was exquisite, the delicacy of the lamb provided a blank canvas on which the flavour could be painted. The texture was melting and it was suffused with rosemary. Absolutely spectacular and an out and out winner of my Dead Animal of the Year Award. Overall, 9/10 but the lamb gets a clear 10. Total cost, including pre-drinks coffee and tip £120 a head. Since £120 a head equates to not going to the Admiralty twice, what better value could there be ?
  3. I reject the backpacking theory. My hypothesis is that all antipodean restaurants have either Lewis Carroll or Edward Lear as a menu consultant. Pan-charred Snark in a quandong glaze. Jugged Jaberwock with Slithy Toves Jullienne of Jumblies To be eat with a vorpal knife and a runcible spoon, of course...
  4. Well, the dog track for a start. And if you're really feeling adventurous I can suggest a few local restaurants where you can probably eat the loser. David was asking where he could find good quality shitsu in London, wasn't he ?
  5. Try Kikuchi in Hanway St. off Tottenham Court Road (round the corner from Hakkesan). Not particularly cheap (c.£30-40) but very good quality compared to the others I've tried in London. I was first taken there by a friend who works for Sumitomo - it is always packed with a japenese clientelle. This is all the more pronounced because its 'you'd never find it unless you were really looking' location means it doesn't exactly attract the passing trade. Interested in what you make of it if you visit. Gareth p.s. Walking down St James's the other day I saw Suntory had shut. Does those who have their finger more on the pulse than me know if this is refurbishment or recession ?
  6. Well we're off to L'Ambrosie. If my wife likes it, she can thank Lizzie and if she hates it, she can blame me ! I promise to report back. Indeed, this is our lucky month since we're at Gordon Ramsay's next week (normally, its a humble diet of gruel and Mickey-D's, I promise....). So we can compare and contrast. B.T.W. I'm sure we've all seen worse liberties taken with the language of description than anything this particular 'sabayon' would suggest. The one that sticks in my mind was a starter of "Oriental Tapas". The waiter was non-plussed when I asked whether this was anything like Spanish Dim Sum...
  7. I agree that the Cinnamon Club disappoints - not that its bad, just that the hype, style and - especially - the bill, create expectations of standards the kitchen never quite delivers on. For my money, (and as a 'umble public servant with no access to high falutin' expense accounts, it *is* my money...) Quilon up the road in the St James Hotel on Buckingham Gate is much better value. In fact, I preferred it to Tamarind even when whatisname was the chef there...
  8. Locatelli has definitely been my favourite restaurant over the past year (been about 5 or 6 times) and the Calf's Foot Salad is a strong contender for my dish of the year. I think it takes too much money to get the most from the wine list so I tend to cut corners here but the result is a very reasonable bill for consistantly fantastic food. My way around the telephone trauma has been: a) go on a Saturday lunch; or b) phone after 8-8:30pm asking if they have any tables there and then. The latter has always come up trumps with never more than a 15 min wait in the bar. Gareth
  9. The first anniversary deserves something special (presuming, of course, that I pass my annual appraisal...). So it's a surprise jaunt to Paris for Saturday lunch. Looking for that perfect combination of elegant surroundings, refined service and - of course - superlative food. I have tried two of the top restaurants before: Pierre Gagnierre and Guy Savoy. Of these (and being mega-picky, but hell its my money and my anniversary, so why not...?) P-G I found technically astounding; astonishing ideas, creation and execution but a difficult meal to relax into. Too much like sitting an exam or embarking on literary criticism - plenty of intellectual awe but not a direct and instinctive emotional enjoyment. G-S was sensational food and well pitched relaxed service and I would hurry back but the room has not quite the romance I am looking for on this occasion (told you I was being picky...) So, can any kind souls make a recommendation or point me in the direction of a useful thread ? Many thanks, Gareth
  10. Yes, definitely interested in this one. Last time I had suckling pig was at Fung Shing a year or so ago - first rate. Gareth
  11. At the risk of Square bashing.... I have only eaten here once and very disappointing it was too. Mainly due to 2nd rate service and overlong delays between courses. Menus and drinks arrived very promptly and then, that was the last we saw of a waiter for 30-40 minutes. Eventually frantic gesticulation, waved banners saying "We'd Like to Order" and a letter to the Times procured a waiter, who promised to get another waiter actually qualified to take orders who 5-10 minutes later turned up, told us how busy he was (restaurant half full...) and expressed surprise that we didn't know about the specials. He skipped the apology bit which brought us to about as close as I've come in a while to cutting my losses, paying for the aperitifs and just finding somewhere else to eat. Anyway etc. etc. Food, although not well paced, ranged from good to (in the case of Saddle of Hare) really exceptional. And I find it difficult to believe that our experience was other than an aberation. But frankly, I can't afford to outlay the thick end of £300 for two all that often so for that price I'll stick to Gordon Ramsey or Le Manoir or next time venture to Le Gavroche or somewhere I'm convinced has standards rather than put £300 on another spin of the Square roulette wheel. Gareth
  12. 22 Mill Street, Chagford. Chagford is a gem of a place with a very decent deli (try the pate, sourced from Wales) , a great dairy (good range of local cheeses, and clotted cream skimmed from the urn on demand !) and the kind of tucked away restaurant that everyone dreams of ‘discovering’ on their provincial tours of France. Andy – the Geordie chef – trained at the Manoir (the Crewe Junction of chef CVs...) and the skills show. However, much more importantly, he limits service to a single sitting of about 22 covers (lunch and dinner – and definitely NOT Sundays). This gives him the time to run his restaurant as he wants to – a chef-patron, keeping standards up in the kitchen, whilst providing the welcome front of house. Not grandstanding – just honest hospitality. The cooking is French and not cutting edge, but it is better than well done - with the emphasis on taste over frippary. Two of us had the set menu and two ordered from the card. The amuse was a teacup of haricot blanc veloute, with basil oil and spicy red mullet. This set the scene for a meal that was never going to surprise, but consistently over-delivered on expectations. The soup was on the hearty side of refined, and on the flavoursome side of sophisticated – and none the worse for that. The menus followed this pattern, well cooked turbot with earthy wild mushrooms; a nicely judged rissotto on butternut squash and saffron that balanced strong flavours well whilst delivering a perfect ooze to rice ratio. Elsewhere on the table rabbit and terrine was winning votes (especially for the inclusion of the kidneys – nicely pink). There was some over-richness: guinea fowl with fois gras and madera was unctious, but a little much to follow a heart-stopping starter of globe artichoke stuffed with mushroom and glazed with hollondaise. The set menus included a couple of intermediates of sorbet and cheese that were perfectly OK (the cheese was well kept) but had a bit of a ‘making up the number of courses’ feel to them. However, dessert rounded things off nicely; the set option was a fantastic raspberry gratinee with honeycomb ice cream (I think Kensington Place used to do something similar...) that was like a warm liquid pavlova; a very fruity rhubarb souffle and cinnamon ice cream hit all the right buttons opposite. Personal highlight was the starter of sweetbreads with brown butter. Nothing flash or innovative but with attention wholly on flavour. The sweetbreads were crisp on the outside, but not overcooked. They were balanced on some finely shredded savoy cabbage to just counterpoint the richness and the butter had a vinigery, caper-y depth. The wine list is workmanlike and interesting enough, with nothing over £40 a bottle. Total damage four 4 with service, coffee etc. £177. I have frequently paid in excess of this in London at restaurants that have had their moment and now slipped into disappointment/complacency (Mju, Admiralty ...etc.) It is nice to see someone doing something designed to be enjoyable and sustainable - concentrating on how the food tastes and giving people a good night out. It really is worth a visit – especially when the wallet can’t take Gidleigh Park down the road... Gareth PS Elsewhere in Devon the Traditional British Hospitality Industry is thriving. The Two Bridges Hotel on Dartmoor is a lovely setting and I’m sure the Hotel itself is very nice but it was not exactly at its most accessible on Saturday. The roaring log fire looked welcoming but the equally welcoming bar was not available to non-residents. Oh well, perhaps a coffee...? Well, no....although residents could be served (indeed there was a group of 4 sipping away in the corner) they didn’t start afternoon tea for non-residents until Wednesday week. And so, with a smile, a cheery goodbye and a mind-numbing incomprehension of the concept of flexibility they waved more business away. Its just down the road from Dartmoor prison – could it be a franchise operation ?
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