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Top 10 meals of 2011


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Ok, here goes:

Head and shoulders...

1) Auberge du Vieux Puits, Fontjoncouse, Langedoc

The restaurant that finally convinced my partner Jo that there was (or at least, could be) a point to my obsession with fine dining!

Then in no order other than the one in which they sprung to mind (which might provide a clue in itself...)

- Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley (IMHO transformed from the first couple of times I went; lighter, more imaginative, less staid and heavy. Now very special indeed)

- First visit to Pollen St Social (crowned with the chance to eat rice pudding out of a saucepan: they just figured since we've served most of it, why not leave the pan..?)

- Sa Qua Na, Honfleur (after a month of Magret de Canard and Fois Gras, French cooking that was modern, light, adventurous, beautifully balance, not a rip-off and accompanied by fantastic service).

- La Cerisaie, Paris 14th (he cooks; she serves, 20 covers, tiny, cramped and utter joie de vie in the food, the wine, the service, the customers...)

- Bella Vista, Blackheath (No stars, no stand out culinary genius or accollade, not a "Top Ten" experience individually. But if you've eaten in a restaurant maybe 20 times in the course of a year and not once had a duff dish, or a bad service experience, surely, for cumulative effort and delivery alone it can't be denied a place?)

- Medlar (fantastic lunch but mainly included for the brilliant wine pairing)

- Gambara, San Sebastian (A plate of ham; a plate of wild mushrooms; a sole with a couple of turned potatoes. A perfect lunch).

And the turkeys...

- Guy Savoy (nearly E500 a head to be sheep-dipped. Shame on him; shame on Michelin.)

- Mugaritz (Was my lunch of the year 2-3 years ago and now, just didn't hit the mark. In all the quest to be challenging and avant-garde forgot about the "food should taste nice" bit.)


Good to see a list that isn't just made up of top fine-dining places. I've been to a few michelin starred places in my time, but nowhere near as many as people on this board. I have enjoyed all of those meals, but I'm now coming to the conclusion that the overall experience at these places is not as enjoyable as others, where the atmosphere is more relaxed and the people are more approachable and friendly. Others on here have mentioned that they are no longer enjoying long tasting menus, and this may be part of the problem - too many small amounts of very "techy" and accompished dishes, which end up blinding us to what it is we have enjoyed.

It sounds awful, but I went to L'Enclume for the first time at the end of last year, and, while the food was amazing, I'm not sure that it would get into my top ten list. The staff were so stiff and the atmosphere so formal that we felt stiffled. We did manage to crack the staff by the end of the night and enjoy ourselves, but it took some work to do this! I have to say that a lunch we had in a cafe in the hills in Spain, which consisted of fried chorizo in honey, salad, a decent paella, dessert and rough house wine (60 Euros for four people), was far more memorable and will stay with me longer than the experience at L'Enclume and some other fine-dining places. I like a sense of occasion, but I don't think this should replace enjoyment and "human" interaction with the staff.

I'm glad you included La Cerisaie - I've only been once and loved it. We only had the money for one decent meal in Paris and I did lots of research - I was very pleased that we found it, as it so rarely gets mentioned on reveiw websites like this.

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