Jump to content


participating member
  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Posts posted by Winot

  1. If you think about it for a moment, any city-special of any magazine is not going to sell many copies unless it presents that city as an absolute must see.

    London's a great food capital, but I don't think any of Gourmet's contributors genuinely believe it's the greatest. Like most writers, their job is to sell their publication, and without hyperbole they're not going to shift many copies.

    So Gourmet's claims are understandable given the context. What is harder to understand is that people believe them. Either you've eaten out a fair bit in Paris, Madrid, New York, etc. in which case you know it's not true, or you haven't and you're taking what you read at face value.

    I think this is right, but I think that you've got to have done more than to have eaten out a fair bit in a city in order prpoerly to rate its dining scene in relation to another's.

    I've eaten out a fair bit in Paris and in New York and had good and bad experiences in both. However I'd be much more confident on any single occasion of having a better dining experience in London, simply because I've lived and eaten out in the city for 12 years and am much more confident of picking up on the cultural subtleties that provide clues in advance as to whether a restaurant is likely to be any good.

  2. An astonishingly good meal there yesterday lunchtime, before the astonishingly good "A Minute Too Late" at the National. I do love London.

    Four of us ate:

    Beetroot and horseradish salad

    Cabbage, chorizo and white bean broth

    Snails and bacon on laver bread toasted with duck fat

    Smoked herring, fennel and blood orange salad


    Roasted pollack, lentils and green sauce

    Pigeon, ceps and mash

    2 x pumpkin and parmesan torte


    Creme caramel

    Marmelade Bakewell tart with marmelade ice cream

    It was all fantastic. The bill for the food came to £83 plus service. If you can time it right I can't think of anywhere in London I'd rather eat.

  3. I popped in for a bite to eat last night at about 7.15pm. They were booked till 9pm but managed to find me a place in a corner behind a pillar in the bar area. I'm not proud.

    I had three dishes:

    1. Crispy squid with salted egg yolk (£8) -- lovely tender squid (about 6 bits); the egg yolk turned out simply to be a batter. I had been hoping for something wackier (should've asked). Nice but not exceptional.

    2. Shanghai Xiao long bao dumplings (3 for £5.50). I agree with Jon's assessment. Nowhere near those I had in Yangsee River in Flushing, NY a couple of weeks ago (clang!); perhaps not even as good as in Golden Dragon last Sunday.

    3. Shanghai marinated duck -- supposedly served with tofu but actually came with peanuts. Very tender, quite tasty duck served with a nam pla style dipping sauce. Didn't come with anything else. £15.

    I asked the maitre'd if they had any Szechuan dishes and he said not many -- he mentioned a beef dish and a lamb dish but I looked afterwards annd they weren't on the menu so I guess you've got to ask.

    Over all I thought the food was good but not exceptional and overpriced. I won't comment on the service/ambience as I'd intentionally placed myself in difficult spot. On this taster though I'm not sure I'd bother returning -- for that style of meal I can't see that Shanghai Blues offers Hakkasan much competition.


  4. So, the bloody New Tayyab has "lost" my reservation for 14 people this evening. Apart from the guy on the phone is possibly the rudest man I have ever spoken with, I guess I'm not going to be eating here. Ever.


    That's incredibly annoying - commiserations.

    I love the food at the Tayyab but they've simply got to learn that the correct response is "I'm sorry, but we don't take reservations". Anything else is dishonest.

  5. Well we went and survived -- and in summary the food wasn't as bad as I feared but predictably no fireworks.

    We had lunch one day in the Arts Centre cafe which was really pretty good with friendly service and good views over the Tweed. Nothing unusual on the menu (I had warm potato and bacon salad) but good ingredients sensitively handled and incredible value. It's on a steep hill between the main drag and Bridge End St.

    On Saturday night the place reminds me of Newcastle just down the coast with crowds of dressed up youth wearing not very much doing lots of drinking and a bit of fighting later. Everyone who isn't drinking seems to be packing the few restaurants which are either dodgy or jacket/tie/disapproving glances-affairs in hotels. The exception was the virtually empty "Il Porto del Mare" (or summat) which is part of the King's Hotel and wasn't as bad as all that implies. Fairly standard Italian (I had the old fall-back of calves liver and mash), overly formal service but very friendly once they'd relaxed and no horrors.

    Sunday night six of us had the "rustic supper" in our B&B, the No.1 Sallyport mentioned above. The owner apparently used to run a restaurant in the town and can certainly cook -- no better or more flash than most of my friends, but good home-cooked comfort food -- mushroom soup, leg of lamb then creme caramel. For what we got (and the fact we had to serve ourselves) I thought £27.50 a head was a bit steep, but it was a good meal food-wise.

    The problem however was the owner's attitude -- she managed during our three-day stay there to make us feel distinctly uneasy. An example -- four of us were having a pre-dinner drink in the (excellent) Barrels Ale House just a minute down the road, well aware that dinner was at 8pm and fully intending being there on time. In fact we were all of 3 minutes late, and were met halfway by my better half who had been dispatched by the owner to fetch us, as (in the owner's words) she really didn't want to have to wait. And this was for mushroom soup (which then was served about 8.15pm), not souffle.

    There were other instances (such as telling us in no uncertain terms that our non-resident friends had to use a specific loo rather than the one in our room) none of which were particularly serious, but the general impression she gave was that we were intruding into her home and she deserved praise for putting up with us. Unfortunately I find this is all too common in British B&Bs (as discussed on this thread). When will the owners realise that it's not their home we are staying in it's a B&B?

    In case you're thinking that perhaps your reporter is a little uptight and an unreliable narrator, all this happened after we had been woken on the first night at 5am by the owner's 17 year old son, incoherently drunk having lost his keys and being unable to wake up his mother, and then an hour later (after we'd let him in) by the alarm going offf in the empty room opposite. Now I've been an incoherently drunk 17 year old son in my time, and I wasn't going to give the owner a hard time for her son's cock-up, but I did think she could have been a little more apologetic the next morning, and I certainly think it should have resulted in a little more latitude than we were afforded with dinner times and the like.

    Anyway, it was a shame, as the house was lovely and the rooms had been kitted out fairly well. The location was excellent and the breakfasts fantastic, as can be seen from the web site. And to give the owner credit, she did let us have breakfast at 10am every day we were there. It's just a shame she seemed more concerned with the number of style mags she could get into than with making her guests feel welcome.

    In general terms, then, Berwick has some considerable way to go before becoming the Ludlow of the north-east. I was surprised at how poor the town seemed to be, with every other shop a charity outlet or cafe, more so than sugggested by the beautiful Georgian buildings you see from the train. If someone was going to try starting a high-end restaurant there, they'd have to be pretty sure that there was sufficiently well-off local custom to keep the place going out of tourist season.


  6. As for the local press and monthly glossies: well, it's obvious they simply cannot afford to print a critical review and piss off their advertisers: the restaurant plus a dozen or so local suppliers. On the rare occasions you get a review, it's always in the advertorial style: "My partner and I chose rump steaks from the long and varied menu prepared to order by chef Ebenezer Horobin, who has an HNC in catering from Barnstaple Tech."

    We have these in London too -- in my neck of the woods (Brixton) there's a wonderful publication called Living South (Living Dead) which regularly reviews local restaurants and funnily enough is always bowled over. Indeed, a glowing review once ended with the admission that the writer was looking forward to visiting the restaurant in question...

    The intended result is a rise in house prices; hardly surprising as estate agent ads account for half the publication

  7. It's a long way of asking if people have had similar experiences there and what the views are on not paying service (btw unusually, they don't include any service on the bill, it is entirely discretionary, unlike the cover charge)

    It's a discretionary service charge -- if the service is crap, don't pay it. It sounds like your friends did exactly the right thing.

  8. So what’s wrong with L’Enclume? The service needs work and the wine pairings were pretty poor.

    Do you think he might have difficulty getting wait staff of sufficient experience given his location? Is this a problem generally for rural high-end restaurants?

    Great review anyway.

  9. What a great idea for a thread.  Thank you California.

    I take it this is any eating out apart from take-away.  Mine are (most recent first):

    1.  The Good Companions pub, Warlingham, Surrey.  Traditional christmas dinner "with all the trimmings" three courses £8.95.  Grim.

    2.  Song Que, Kingsland Rd, London.  Vietnamese.  Good starters poor mains.

    3.  Festival Square - Digby Trouts new cafe behind the Royal Festival Hall.  Not bad at all.  Good pre-concert choice.


    Yep, this is just about eating in! Have you tried Viet Garden on Liverpool Road? I rate it much more highly than Song Que (I've banged on about this before) Also, can you tell us a bit more about Digby Trouts? I think the RFH is a real dead spot for food.

    Haven't tried Viet Garden, only Viet Hao. I'll give it a go if I find myself in deepest darkest Islington (unlikely). FWIW, the best Vietnamese I've had in London is at West Lake in Deptford.

    Re. Digby Trout -- they are a catering company that specialise in doing food at galleries/venues/shops eg Heals/British Museum as you can see. Results are mixed (I think the Court Restaurant at the BM is pretty diappointing despite the great location) but I've got a soft spot for them as they pulled off a pretty decent buffet for 135 at our wedding party in Dulwich Picture Gallery in Septemeber 2003. I'm afraid I can't for the life of me remember what I ate at Festival Square, but it was reasonably good and reasonable value bistro food in an area which as you say is a bit of a food wasteland.

    Anyway, back on topic, my latest three:

    1. The Wolseley (report posted).

    2. Hakkasan (report posted).

    3. Fujiyama, Brixton (not up to their usual standard but it was 28 December and they were closing).


  10. With a weekend coming up in Berwick on Tweed I scoured the boards for tales of Ludlow-style dining but alas could only find this topic in which Thom said:

    Restaurant magazine (you may know us from such threads as 'Taking top 50's too seriously') did an article on Rick Stein and Padstow, and identified 10 other towns which were ripe for the Padstow/Ludlow treatment.

    The potential culinary hotspots (some obvious, some not)were: Margate (wealthy, close to London/Dover, the next St Ives?), Ilfracombe (unspoilt, and new road links to Exeter/Bristol, Damian Hirst(!) planning fish restaurant), March (prime produce on the doorstep, close to Peterborough, Cambridge and Newmarket), Melton Mowbray (home of pork pie, and close to home of Stilton, a short drive from Nottingham and Leicester) , Ashbourne (good beer tradition if not food, sited in a National Park, with major population centres nearby), Skipton, (gateway to the Dales, thriving tourist spot) Hornsea (hotspot for fresh fish), Berwick on Tweed (popular tourist spot, between Edinburgh and Newscastle), Arbroath (smokies, working harbour and beautiful beaches) and Stockbridge (rural hampshire, rich area, with great local produce).

    Are these places worthy/not worthy of fine restaurants? Are they actually better served than we thought? Did we miss anywhere more deserving?

    So has Berwick taken note? Does anyone have any recommendations?

  11. Lufthansa business class food is pretty good, but they don't have flatbeds. I agree with Jonathan that sleep is the real bonus. Unfortunately, whenever I fly business (not very often), sleep has to be balanced against the "kid in a sweet shop" temptation to guzzle as much free booze as possible.

  12. What a great idea for a thread. Thank you California.

    I take it this is any eating out apart from take-away. Mine are (most recent first):

    1. The Good Companions pub, Warlingham, Surrey. Traditional christmas dinner "with all the trimmings" three courses £8.95. Grim.

    2. Song Que, Kingsland Rd, London. Vietnamese. Good starters poor mains.

    3. Festival Square - Digby Trouts new cafe behind the Royal Festival Hall. Not bad at all. Good pre-concert choice.


  • Create New...