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Foliage


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Here are some highlights from the interview we did last week with Chris:-

Full interview and piccies on www.thymusgland.net/Chef/ChrisStaines.html

You seem to like combinations that include Offal?

A fascination for me is taking traditional second cuts and making them something a bit exciting and tasty. I’ve heard St John is doing really interesting things with ingredients like tripe which takes some doing.

What was your background prior to Foliage?

I was at The Oak room for 2 ½ years with Robert Reid, Chez Nico on Park Lane with Nico Ladenis, Lucknam Park in Bath prior to that. My first job was working in Wales for Sir Bernard Ashley in a country house hotel called Llangoed Hall.

What do you think are the main differences between large hotels and an independent restaurant?

Pluses and minuses – a big plus is the security of being in a big company, opening a stand alone restaurant is very tough, for every restaurant that opens, a year is the life expectancy. Two in every ten will see out their first year, these are frightening statistics! The back up of the financial resources of the hotel group is great and we’re effectively treated as a stand alone restaurant – they really do let us get on with it – working here has given me a lot of scope.

Which chefs have inspired you the most?

Difficult to say, when you love your work and are passionate, you take so much from all those around you all the time. I found Robert Reid a massive influence at the Oak Room. He's an extremely talented chef who taught me a great deal about flavours, cooking process and how to treat ingredients. And certainly since I’ve been here David Nicholls has taught me a lot about management style. Probably 30 years ago chefs were just chefs in the kitchen but today they are rightly considered managers who need the necessary skills.

How do you get the best out of your brigade?

Choosing the right staff is key to getting the best out of people, if you have people who want to better themselves then they develop naturally. We have also changed the working day to enable the chefs to get 3 days off a week, so they’re not doing 90 hours a week and they stay fresh. Leading by example is important, I try to be first to arrive and first to leave but generally if people are dedicated to bettering themselves you can’t go far wrong. As a result I have two fantastic sous chefs who I trust without question. This in turn enables me to stay fresh. When I’m recruiting I’ll typically ask someone to come in for a service or a day and you can glean a lot about them in that period. Once they get the job we train and build them up slowly. The brigade is close and friendly which encourages a quiet and comfortable atmosphere, people do not feel intimated.

Have you any thoughts on Molecular Cooking?

The two people who are good at it do it extremely well. Heston is a really really clever guy – I’ve eaten there (Fat Duck) a few times; fascinating and challenging, really brilliant. What concerns me is that people will try and emulate it, Heston has done so much research and has used a team of scientists, trying to copy it or mix and match is very dangerous. It does have a place in catering but if you’re going to do it then you need to deliver wholeheartedly. I hear good things about Anthony’s in Leeds, where the chef worked at El Bulli. On the other hand I’ve heard horror stories about people who’ve eaten at places and found them poor copies that haven’t pulled it off.

Which chefs cooking today in England do you admire?

Tom Aikens without a doubt is doing brilliantly; the restaurant is stunning, he’s been away for three years and wham he’s back. He’s really trying to make the food different and original; when you look at his dishes there’s so much work that goes into it, it’s incredible. Shane Osborn at Pied a Terre is very talented. I hear Morgan M is very good but I’ve not had time to get there yet.

Does any chef inspire you in France?

Pierre Gagniere is the best meal I’ve had in France, that was a couple of years ago, his understanding of flavours was quite stunning.

How do you delegate a taste?

Very difficult, I find that trust comes through training the staff and developing their knowledge. It helps to always explain why, you can’t just show them how I do it or you get a 100 different results – when working on a dish I explain why you caramalise it, why you roast it, why it’s roasted for so long, why you cook it so slowly, why you don’t season it until it’s nearly cooked or why you season it before it’s cooked. The team have to have that level of understanding or I would have to be here every time.

Edited by DDarwood (log)

www.thymusgland.net

Who took the cork out of my lunch? (WC Fields)

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Having watched Chris work for a year, i can honestly say he has the best attitude of any chef i have seen. He is passionate about his food, but also understanding and polite, not typical chef qualities. I hope he gets all the plaudits he deserves.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Dinner here on Saturday night. I asked for 8:30 - 8:45 and they suggested 8:45.

In short food was cracking as usual, service great, some very good value on wine list as always.

Chatting with the staff, they are very proud of what they are doing right now and it shows.

A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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  • 2 months later...

Went to Foliage for dinner last night....packed to the rafters. Lots of new faces in front-of-house (Paul Noll still there). If you've got the stomach for winter richness then the fillet of beef with raviolo of Oxtail is a must. Won't litter the page with positive hyperboles as I'm biased...

I'd love to know how many inspections the GFG made this year; in fact how many inspectors in general the GFG have had in 2004; IMO some of the descriptions for 2005 are less compelling in their research (although maybe with the progress of the internet and the amount of data available expectations have gone up too much). They'd never say of course but a dialogue would be interesting....

020 7770 7564

Ring ring, ring ring, ring ring....hello, is that Sojourner Jones? Requesting an interview with Mr Turvil for eGullet... :smile:

Go on Andy...good marketing opp for them and for eGullet :smile:

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  • 2 years later...

I had the tasting menu at Foliage last Wednesday night. Not a cheap meal -- thankfully, someone else was paying -- but a very good one. I'll post more details if I have time, but I want to give a special mention to the wine pairing. Very nicely done.

Bruce

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  • 6 months later...

Had a stunning meal here on Saturday. Some of the most memorable dishes I've ever had, with special mention going to sweetbreads & polenta, and scallops.

Was a birthday meal so it needed to be special, and thankfully definitely was.

Front of house seemed a bit confused - one guy tried to top up my tapwater with bottled water and was reprimanded from the other side of the room - but as they were friendly enough I can forgive them.

Overall a brilliant evening and one I can't wait to repeat.

Read my full report here.

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  • 9 months later...

Last night in London, so 3 of us visited Foliage tonight.

Should have had the tasting! It wasn't that much more. ALC was a decent £60. Very good food, cooked precisely, and it all works. Only disappointment was the braised beef, which to be fair I should have seen coming ("braised" does not mean "a seared piece of delicious rare fillet") - a few tiny pieces of what was a well presented boeuf bourguignon. The grouse was the best item. The amuse-bouches were amusing. The chocolates at the end (served despite us not getting coffee, how generous!) had star dust in them.

Very friendly service, and they conveniently ommitted our second bottle of sparkling water from the bill. The atmosphere was absolutely fantastic - plenty of light, beautiful interior, not too noisy.

IMO and that of my guest, beats Hibiscus from the time we visited Hibiscus (a few weeks/months after opening) which was also £60 ALC.

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  • 1 month later...

Went here for lunch at the end of August so apologies for lateness (and subsequent vagueness). Two of us decided to go off the a la carte lunch which is the best value I have come accross in London (including Le Gavroche) with an extra dish each.

After a couple of comped glasses of fizz (nice to be with someone who knows most of London's concierges) there was an amuse bush off pea soup with a bit of rolled sushi on the side. Sounds quite a weird combo but was actually one of the best things. The soup good and concentrated and the sushi well prepared with a gentle hint of Wassabi. Between us on the menu proper we had the foie gras and betroot (very good with a nice hit of ginger), swordfish carpaccio, scallops on squid ink rissotto (lovely and a good size but slightly rich after a while), sweetbreads with glazed leeks (a weak course for me as was a bit over seasoned but was cood for friend), halibut with citrus and tomatoe (good bit of fish and a very light dish), rump of lamb with pressed shoulder, guinnea fowl with pollenta (again a good bit of meat but heavily overseasoned) and for desserts Stilton with pears and a Calvados Souffle which looked and tasted absolutely stunning.

Wine pairings were good and I actually managed to get a third glass due to an end of bottle. Breads were only ok but the chocolates at the end were fantastic. One dark (with a drop of balsamic), one milk and one olive oil. I know I'm probably the only one never to have had this before (and the only one to actually like it) but it was actually very very good, being smooth, strong, choclatey and olivvy all at the same time. How is this done? (please tell if anyone knows).

Service was good and the view fine although slightly affected by the Candy development next door.

As I say ingredients, preparartion, combinations and timing were excellent although they need to go steady on the salt at times (which I will allow as me just being unlucky). Will definately be back for a Saturday lunch sometime soon especially as all of the above only cost £40 each (ex SC).

Edited by Paul Reynard (log)
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Went here for lunch at the end of August so apologies for lateness (and subsequent vagueness). Two of us decided to go off the a la carte lunch which is the best value I have come accross in London (including Le Gavroche) with an extra dish each.

After a couple of comped glasses of fizz (nice to be with someone who knows most of London's concierges) there was an amuse bush off pea soup with a bit of rolled sushi on the side. Sounds quite a weird combo but was actually one of the best things. The soup good and concentrated and the sushi well prepared with a gentle hint of Wassabi. Between us on the menu proper we had the foie gras and betroot (very good with a nice hit of ginger), swordfish carpaccio, scallops on squid ink rissotto (lovely and a good size but slightly rich after a while), sweetbreads with glazed leeks (a weak course for me as was a bit over seasoned but was cood for friend), halibut with citrus and tomatoe (good bit of fish and a very light dish), rump of lamb with pressed shoulder, guinnea fowl with pollenta (again a good bit of meat but heavily overseasoned) and for desserts Stilton with pears and a Calvados Souffle which looked and tasted absolutely stunning.

Wine pairings were good and I actually managed to get a third glass due to an end of bottle. Breads were only ok but the chocolates at the end were fantastic. One dark (with a drop of balsamic), one milk and one olive oil. I know I'm probably the only one never to have had this before (and the only one to actually like it) but it was actually very very good, being smooth, strong, choclatey and olivvy all at the same time. How is this done? (please tell if anyone knows).

Service was good and the view fine although slightly affected by the Candy development next door.

As I say ingredients, preparartion, combinations and timing were excellent although they need to go steady on the salt at times (which I will allow as me just being unlucky). Will definately be back for a Saturday lunch sometime soon especially as all of the above only cost £40 each (ex SC).

The chocolates are water based ganache no cream and are bought in from Damien Allsop

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Had a stunning meal here on Saturday. Some of the most memorable dishes I've ever had, with special mention going to sweetbreads & polenta, and scallops.

Was a birthday meal so it needed to be special, and thankfully definitely was.

Front of house seemed a bit confused - one guy tried to top up my tapwater with bottled water and was reprimanded from the other side of the room - but as they were friendly enough I can forgive them.

Overall a brilliant evening and one I can't wait to repeat.

Read my full report here.

Chrisp - I totally agree. Your post made up my mind and we went there for Sunday lunch.

At the moment they have a visiting 2* chef (Norbert Niederkoffler from Restaurant St Hubertus at Hotel Rosa Alpina in Italy) and he has a number of his dishes on the menu. The good news was he was cooking on Sunday.

The menu is £29 for four courses with extra courses at £7.50 each. Overall a really fantastic meal - the photos hopefully show this.

Only two complaints: First, they do really up-sell the wines and the sommelier didn't settle at our level. For example after we had enjoyed a good Givry at £49 a bottle with our mains, we ordered two glasses of house Cabernet at £7 each for the cheese course (although he had suggested some very expensive Italian reds). My partner then asked for a glass of red, but before we could blink, he had suggested and delivered a £18 glass of Pinot Noir (without telling us the price). It leaves a bitter taste after an excellent meal - I will be communicating directly with the restaurant as I didn't want to raise it in-front of guest.

Second, was my mistake. Extra course were £7.50, and the cheese board was a £7,50 supplement. We didn't realise this actually meant £15 each for cheese...!

This is the meal for three people - five courses:

Amuse Bouche

gallery_58133_6172_7250.jpg

COURSE #1

Pasta parcels stuffed with prawns and apple reduction

gallery_58133_6172_1020.jpg

Salmon tartare, tuna sashimi and wasabi ice-cream

gallery_58133_6172_6630.jpg

Foie gras with creme brulee and terrine

gallery_58133_6172_3171.jpg

COURSE #2

Scallops with squid ink risotto

gallery_58133_6172_7791.jpg

Sole

gallery_58133_6172_365.jpg

Breaded sweetbreads with truffles

gallery_58133_6172_5303.jpg

COURSE #3

Monkfish, truffles and pearl barley risotto

gallery_58133_6172_7031.jpg

Lamb

gallery_58133_6172_1880.jpg

Beef cheeks, with a cannelloni

gallery_58133_6172_5813.jpg

COURSE #4

Stilton plate

gallery_58133_6172_2577.jpg

Cheese platter for two

gallery_58133_6172_3431.jpg

COURSE #5

Chocolate fondant

gallery_58133_6172_2855.jpg

Calvados soufflé and apple sorbet (yes the little apple is sorbet)

gallery_58133_6172_609.jpg

An exotic trifle (I think)

gallery_58133_6172_7969.jpg

Edited by PhilD (log)
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The chocolates are water based ganache no cream and are bought in from Damien Allsop

There is a recipe for a water-based ganache in Chantal Coadys chocolate book

Oh theyve got that st hubertus guy back? He guested at foliage a couple of years back - we went and weren't that impressed. slightly strangled italian food trying to speak haute french - the usual lost in translation issues...

J

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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IMO and that of my guest, beats Hibiscus from the time we visited Hibiscus (a few weeks/months after opening) which was also £60 ALC.

Roger - one thing I forgot to say - your comment is spot on.

We had eaten at Hibiscus on Friday, and Foliage on Sunday, Hibiscus was OK, if anything a little disappointing given the reviews/comments it has received.

Foliage was far better in terms of both food and service - I wouldn't hesitate to return to Foliage but I would take some persuading to go back to Hibiscus.

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The chocolates are water based ganache no cream and are bought in from Damien Allsop

Oh theyve got that st hubertus guy back? He guested at foliage a couple of years back - we went and weren't that impressed. slightly strangled italian food trying to speak haute french - the usual lost in translation issues...

His dishes are marked on the menu, if I remember correctly there was one available per course. Of the dishes we chose we probably had one per course in our selection. Overall they were similar in concept to the standard menu (and to many other meals we have tried at this level. The weakest dish was the pasta entree which was one of his, all the others were good.

It is very impressive to have a 2* chef in the kitchen on a Sunday - he toured the restaurant so he was there. It is also great to be able to eat his food for £29 for four courses - must be the best value 2* in the UK this month.

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I finally went last week to Foliage.

I thought I might be able to kill two birds with one stone, trying Norbert Niederkofler's cooking as well as Chis Staines'.

I tried the guest chef's tasting menu plus a couple of ALC dishes.

I thought NN food decent, clean and flavourful, but I would not say it wowed me. I did like, however, some different techniques and ingredients he brought with him.

I only tried one of Chef Chris' creations (plus a dessert) and quite enjoyed it, but I do not feel I can fairly judge Foliage on this visit...

Foliage Critique

Food Snob

foodsnob@hotmail.co.uk

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  • 1 month later...

Had another excellent lunch yesterday. To start an amuse of ginger and green peper soup had good flavour while an accompanying chicken confit was rather bland and pointless IMHO. Bread throughout was lovely especially the baguettes which had good consistency and had an ever so slight hint of cheese.

To start I had poached duck egg with roasted onion, smoked bacon and a mushroom red wine sauce. Excellent breakfast style dish and proper posh comfort food with the egg being perfectly slow poached with tremendous flavour. My dining companion had the ever present scallops and squid ink pasta which seemed to go down well enough as normal.

Next up for myself was Sole with a brown butter and caper sauce. This was by far the weakest dish with the sole not tasting too good and the texture very mushy (I know it was a risk having fish on a monday but still quite poor). The capers also lacked much flavour at all which is the first time that's ever happened to me. My friend had a potatoe gnocchi dish which was well made with dinky button mushrooms and a good sage and onion sauce.

Next up for me was tongue and cheek of beef. The tongue had been confit I think and then shredded and put in a cannelini tube while the cheek had been braised and then rested on a lovely salsify confit. Accompanying reduced red wine sauce with hints of chinese type flavouring could be too rich for some but for me was on the money and perfect. Again a stellar dish. Friend had the duck which was of good quality but for me just not as interesting.

We both had the stilton course to finish which had good sourced cheese and the accompanying honey jelly and poached pears were pleasant although nothing out of the ordinary. No coffee was taken although petit fours of good lemon and chocolate madeleines were served.

With the lunch we had the accompanying wines which were well chosen especially a lovely Argentinian red to go with the beef. Service was again polished and friendly although a little slow at times.

Overall this was a solid one star again although elements of a firm two star (egg and beef dishes for example). Another thing which really stood out more than last time was the quality of the presentation which is really quite beautiful and intricate while not taking away from the flavours. Looking forward to going back to this great valule lunch spot.

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  • 1 month later...

Good precise food. Fairly priced. One of the few places you can get a great haute french lunch on a sunday in lunch and quite easy to book in the bargain.

Although for my money the capital has slightly more punch to its cooking (and is also open on Sunday and highly bookable). But foliage is close.

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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Good precise food. Fairly priced. One of the few places you can get a great haute french lunch on a sunday in lunch and quite easy to book in the bargain.

Although for my money the capital has slightly more punch to its cooking (and is also open on Sunday and highly bookable). But foliage is close.

You made some good points there. We both didn't really expect to get such an interesting and really well executed meal. I have some pics on my blog, they show that Staines has a lot of potential.

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You made some good points there. We both didn't really expect to get such an interesting and really well executed meal. I have some pics on my blog, they show that Staines has a lot of potential.

I think if there is a criticism of foliage the food is sometimes too precise, at the expense of flavour. I remember a cold foie gras dish (their cold foie gras is some of the best in london, btw) with perfectly arrayed balls of apple gel alginate which didn't taste of much. It was a perfect picture on the plate but seemed to sacrifice presentation for flavour. That's probably the distinction between Capital which is a bit messier, but can be a bit punchier flavour wise.

Yes Chris Staines (and I guess the other chef at the hotel - theres the foliage chef and the overall hotel chef I forget) very underrated. The hotel has done a good job of maintaining a reputation for food down the years, from MPW down to Hywell Jones and the current mob.

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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You made some good points there. We both didn't really expect to get such an interesting and really well executed meal. I have some pics on my blog, they show that Staines has a lot of potential.

I think if there is a criticism of foliage the food is sometimes too precise, at the expense of flavour. I remember a cold foie gras dish (their cold foie gras is some of the best in london, btw) with perfectly arrayed balls of apple gel alginate which didn't taste of much. It was a perfect picture on the plate but seemed to sacrifice presentation for flavour. That's probably the distinction between Capital which is a bit messier, but can be a bit punchier flavour wise.

Yes Chris Staines (and I guess the other chef at the hotel - theres the foliage chef and the overall hotel chef I forget) very underrated. The hotel has done a good job of maintaining a reputation for food down the years, from MPW down to Hywell Jones and the current mob.

I can't say that for any of the dishes we had, except maybe the desserts. They were slightly less good, the rest, however, was some of the best food I've had in London recently

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