Archive for the ‘1 Michelin star’ Category

Seven Park Place by William Drabble – A tale of two menus and an offensive statue

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

I had a lovely lunch at Seven Park Place by William Drabble in the rather quirky St James Club and Hotel, but that was mainly down to the company and the fact that I ordered À la carte rather than going for the Set lunch menu.

We were a fairly large group and ordered a mixture of À la carte dishes and Set Menu dishes.  À la carte dishes are usually larger portions and perhaps more extravagant, but in a Michelin star restaurant you still expect the set menu to be of a pretty high standard as well.  I tried some of my companions dishes and it did seem like the set menu ones had come from a different kitchen.

From the À la carte menu I had the delicious Poached  lobster tail with English asparagus, pea shoots and truffle dressing for starters, that dish was definitely up to scratch. I followed this with a tasty pigeon dish.  This was in stark contrast to the mousse of foie gras and wild mushrooms starter from the set menu that I tasted which was pretty bland and the pork belly that was a bit too fatty and insipid in both taste and color, with tiny slithers of crackling. My companions were not blown away by the other dishes they had either.

The desserts were pretty ordinary all round, although the home made chocolates presented at the end of the meal and the boxes of marshmallows were a nice touch.

There were also several issues with the service. The staff were very nice, but one of our groups main course did not arrive with the rest of the tables so he had to wait a while for it. We were also seated in a booth like area that made it impossible for the staff to serve the people in the back three seats, so plates and cutlery had to be passed around the table. I have never been in a restaurant of this calibre where the waiter has to ask a customer to use his napkin so he can pass him a hot plate! There was also a couple of minor mix ups with the wine too.

On a completely different subject, there was a piece of art on display, which was most definitely a talking point for all the wrong reasons. It seemed to us to be in rather bad taste.  Quite offensive actually, take a close look at the picture of the statue above and you will see what I mean.

So if I was looking for a word to sum up the experience I would have to say “Flawed”.

Marks out of 10

Food (two sets of markings for the food as the menus were so different)
5.6 (À la carte)
4.4 (Set Menu)

Service 4.8

Ambience 4.9

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The Glasshouse in Kew – Sparkles

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Timing will always impact on dining experiences. Our trip out to Kew was on a lovely spring day, the sun was shining. It was also the day after our rather disappointing meal at Dinner by Heston, so we were desperate to have a very special lunch. The Glasshouse is the only restaurant in the Nigel Platts-Martins stable of restaurants we had not been to and it most certainly delivered that special touch.  There is nothing over-hyped about this place, it’s not somewhere to be seen, it’s just everything a good  neighbourhood restaurant should be.

The food and service were spot on. The enthusiastic and knowledgeable Sommelier was delightful. Letting us try out some additional wines to compliment our food.

I started with the perfectly made salmon and skate ravioli and my companion went for the smoked eel, a stunning starter full of flavour. For main course I had something I am sure Heston would have called “Rock Pool” or “Seaside on a plate” and delivered with an iPod playing the sounds of the sea. It was an amazing looking fish dish with a crispy baby squid  sitting on top of a bed of silver mullet, surrounded by more crispy squid rings and olives. The flavour combinations and texture were perfect, it tasted as beautiful as it looked.  My companions main course was more conventional, he went for the delicious daube of beef.

The Glasshouse has a fairly comprehensive cheese board – lots of British cheeses, as well as some French and Spanish ones, so we decided to share a cheese plate.  It was matched with multiple glasses of wine.  Then for dessert I had some light moist ginger cake with rhubarb ice cream and a sauce that had the lovely intense flavour of ginger beer. My companion had the Rum Baba. The one dessert the sommelier did not match a wine with, being soaked as it was in boozy rum.  However as the dessert wine list was extensive (it even included two different PX‘s),  we just had to try more wine.  I had a glass of the Ice Cider (my dessert was not an ideal match for this, but I just wanted more of the wine I had tried with the cheese), the sommelier also let me try some of the wine she would have matched with the ginger cake, it was  a smooth and subtle wine that complimented the ginger flavours in my dessert beautifully. My companion went for the raisin flavoured PX.

We drank a bit more than planned, but left the restaurant happy and in no doubt that we would return again. Indeed we are thinking, maybe it’s time to repeat the whole Nigel Platts Martin circuit again, starting with La Trompette.

Marks out of 10

Food 7.8

Service 8

Ambience 7

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Kitchen W8 – a perfectly pleasant Sunday Lunch

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Kitchen W8 is Phillip Howards restaurant in Kensington, it was recently awarded a Michelin star.

Phillip Howard is Nigel Platts-Martins partner at The Square, so my expectations were high.

I have to admit it did not have the WOW factor of The Ledbury or The Square or even Chez Bruce, but it was a very pleasant way to spend a Sunday lunch time.  The set Sunday lunch at  £25 a head  is not particularly adventurous, but what they do, they do well. My Whitebait starter had maybe a bit too much batter for some tastes, but was fresh, tasty and not in the least bit greasy. The potted pork rillette was a bit ordinary but fine for a set lunch. The mains were well received. The mash served with my well cooked haddock was particularly good.

The Bitter chocolate pudding  matched with PX sherry was a triumph (I should have photographed the empty plates!)

All in all, it was a perfectly pleasant way to spend a Sunday lunch time.

They were also pushing an excellent BYOB deal (no corkage fee on a Sunday evening), something that I do hope more and more fine dining restaurants take up, see Guardian article covering this trend.

Marks out of 10

Food 6

Service 6.3

Ambience 6

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Apsleys at the Lanesborough – Where Taste Fails

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

ONE day and ONE meal into the New Year and we already have a strong contender for the Worst Meal and Most Disappointing Meal of 2011.

We had done a fair bit of research before booking Apsleys (A Heinz Beck restaurant located in The Lanesborough Hotel).  The reviews were mixed, but on the whole quite positive.  Some food critics and bloggers that we would normally rely on (you know who you are), actually rated this place as a future two star Michelin restaurant.

The room is extremely opulent, very much old world styling, which is in keeping with the hotel, however the canned music is a bit jarring.

We also found that the rather irritating, variable lighting levels created the ideal environment to stop bloggers taking decent photographs and certainly did nothing to enhance the presentation of the food.

We chose the 5 course Tasting menu with matching wines.  Normally we have found that Tasting menus while often presenting dishes as small portions still manage to get the balance right, so that at the end of the meal you are comfortably full.  However after 3 of our 5 courses we were pretty sure this would not be the case here.

The first course was Wild red sea bream carpaccio which bizarrely had a tropical theme, tasting as it did of Pina Colada.  In our view this was hardly a suitable dish for the depths of winter.  The next course was a very ordinary Pumpkin tortellini with castelmagno cheese, which was followed by 5 wafer thin slivers of Scallop.

Basically the dishes fell into the category of just okay or downright bad.  The main course of Lamb with quinoa and sugar snaps in particular was actually unpleasant with a harsh astringent sauce and fatty lamb.

The dessert which was obviously designed to introduce some kind of WOW factor, fell flat.  It consisted of a ice cream and honey comb biscuit filled chocolate orb.  The waiter theatrically poured hot chocolate sauce over it to expose the ice cream.   A nice idea, but the overall effect was to produce what seemed to us like a plate of cheap tasting chocolate sludge.

We had such a good run of restaurants leading up to and over Christmas, that we take no pleasure in reviewing this one. It brought back memories of the late and unlamented La Rotonde Restaurant at the Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne and the La Dama Tourist Trap in Barcelona.  Something is badly wrong when you have a strong desire to leave half way through a tasting menu.

The consensus was that far from deserving a second Michelin Star this restaurant really does not merit even the one star it already has. It is frustrating to go to these elitist high end restaurants that look the part and deliver service by numbers while failing to deliver on the food. Indeed it almost prompted us to make a new New Year’s Resolution to focus on just the restaurants in the Nigel Platts-Martin’s stable where food quality and flavour rule.

In conclusion one word sums up our experience of Apsleys – AVOID!

Marks out of 10

Food 3.5 (1.5 for the Lamb, as this was a “get me out of here” moment)

Service 5

Ambience 5

UPDATE: June 2012. Chef Change – Heros de Agostinis is now the new chef at Apsleys following Massimiliano Blasone resignation.  Hopefully he will be more generous with the Scallops!

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Chez Bruce – better late than never!

Friday, December 31st, 2010

We finally got around to trying out Chez Bruce in Wandsworth.  So many people had raved about it over the years. In fact it was first recommended to me about 15 years ago when I lived in the area.  Isn’t it annoying when other people are right, I really wish I had listened and started eating there then.  I might have better fitted into the age group of the clientele too, who are typically 30 somethings.

The food which is often described as Modern British,  actually has lots of different influences, French, Italian and Nordic.

To start my companion had the Gravadlax and beetroot club sandwich with herring salade lyonaise and horseradish, which was sublime.  It definitely gets his vote for best starter of the year.  I  had the middle white pork terrine with warm potato salad and sauce gribiche which was also excellent. We accompanied these dishes with a carafe of rather stunning Pouilly Fuisse wine.

For main course my companion had the beautifully moist and tender venison loin with potato rosti and squash puree.  A wonderful dish.

My Shetland salmon and scallops with Jerusalem artichoke puree, gnocchi, prosciutto and chaterelles, worked well combining fish and meat flavours beautifully.

As you can tell from all the superlatives I have used so far we really rated this place.  It became our post Christmas treat, actually eclipsing Koffmanns, which is saying something.

Chez Bruce is very relaxing and not somewhere you would want to rush, so we extended our meal by having a cheese course matched with a lovely glass of chilled Rasteau 2007, Domaine De Trapadis, before “resting” and continuing on to dessert.  For dessert we focused on the lighter dishes.  The  beautiful poached pear with honey and stem ginger ice cream and the prune and armagnac ice cream, accompanied by a refreshing glass of Muscat d’Asti.

We had no room for coffee and truffles, but did manage to squeeze in a small piece of shortbread, offered at the end of meal. Best shortbread I have ever had, with a hint of caramel, it was quite lovely.

We then asked for the bill, expecting it to be excessive as we had rather indulged ourselves. We were pleasantly surprised at how reasonable it was.

Chez Bruce is a part of Nigel Platts-Martins stable of restaurants.  Holding its own against it’s sibling restaurants which include The Square, The Ledbury, La Trompette and The Glasshouse.  Nothing jars here (not even the bread), the food, the service levels and the atmosphere seem just right.  I certainly won’t be waiting another 15 years to return.

Marks out of 10

Food 8.2

Service 7.5

Ambience 7.9

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L’Autre Pied – Pied à Terre Lite

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Had lunch at L’Autre Pied in Marlybone yesterday. This restaurant  has been on our wish list for a while.  It is the sister restaurant to an old favourite Pied à Terre. The set lunch at £17 for 2 courses and £22 for 3 courses is a good deal, you really do not need to spend hundreds of pounds here, although you could if you wanted to, by following the example of the Commonwealth Development Corporation who allegedly claimed for a £700 dinner on expenses – see Telegraph artical.

For each course of the set menu a reasonably priced matching glass of wine is recommended. They also do a 4 course and a 7 course tasting menu.

l’Autre Pied is much more casual than its sister restaurant Pied à Terre, certainly at lunch time there is not a white table cloth in sight.

We had an interesting amuse bouche -  a tiny tasty sausage roll presented on a piece of slate.  Then we started with the Canneloni of Confit Guinea Fowl, Lemon Thyme, Roasted Button Onions, Tarragon Cream, followed by Roasted Breast and Confit Leg of Partridge, Root Vegetables and Turnip Fondant. The Partridge  was beautifully cooked, moist and full of flavour, we also had a couple of stunning matching wines.

For dessert they had to change the set menu as they had ran out of the Treacle Tart, so I had a Caramel parfait instead, with hazel nut ice cream and Caramel foam. My companion ordered her dessert a la carte, going for Baked Alaska  Poached White Peach, Vanilla Ice Cream and Raspberry Sorbet. The dish looked rather like a small white hedgehog when it arrived. The Baked Alaska had not been cooked in the conventional manner, rather than being in the oven it looked like the meringue had been added by hand and heated with a blow torch, which meant the sorbet was a little bit too hard, however it was still a delicious dessert.

On the whole I found the food at L’Autre Pied to be quite similar to Pied à Terre, which is praise indeed.

Marks out of 10

Food 7.2

Service 6.9

Ambience 6.5

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UPDATE: October 2016, L’Autre Pied no longer has a Michelin Star.

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Tom Aikens – Where has the magic gone?

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Could not resist the toptable deal of £49 for a 5 course lunch with champagne and petit fours at Tom Aikens.

They are also doing a free corkage deal this month too, but as they only allow one promotion at a time,  it did not apply to our lunch option. The normal corkage fee of £30 a bottle would be charged. So we decided to leave our bottles at home on this occasion.  Ironically the corkage deal would have been the better one, as the normal lunch tasting menu is £49. So the deal was really just a free glass of champagne.

The sparkle does now seem to be missing from Tom Aikens, there were no stand out dishes at all.  The salmon and grapefruit dish worked but the fois gras was just lost in an overdose of blackcurrent.  The main course of lamb was too simple and a tiny portion (when I compare this to the lamb cuts I had on my first visit to Tom Aikens a few years ago, then there is no comparison).  There was a good cheese course and the chocolate dessert although complex was not very exciting. We finished with some basic petit fours -  the spectacular ones are saved for the evenings these days.

On the plus side the bread basket is still one of the best around – offering at least 6 different bread selections.

On the wine front, we ordered a rather disappointing bottle of Mt Beautiful Pinor Noir 2007 at £29.

In conclusion, I am sorry to say that in my view Tom Aikens has lost its magic, as reflected in the marks below.

Marks out of 10

Food 5.9

Service 6.5

Ambience 6

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UPDATE : March 2012 – The Restaurant has had a major revamp – see Matthew Forts post for details

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Texture – feeling a bit rough!!

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Birthday lunch at Texture – rather over did it, going for champagne cocktails, tasting menu and matching wines, cheese board and more wine. The Food was of a high standard and the Wines were all very, very good. Maybe a little too good as I definitely suffered for my overindulgence later that day. This level of fine dining comes at a cost (physically and financially), next time definitely going for the very reasonable set lunch at £22.00.

The menu we had included a delicious Heritage Tomato (or Heirloom Tomato as they are known in the US) salad, my favorite Texture dish – Anjou Pigeon with, sweetcorn and bacon popcorn, a rather moorish Icelandic Cod dish and a very refreshing Strawberry Textures Moscatel sabayon.

The presentation and menu choices included in the Tasting Menu were not as effective as those on our earlier visit (see Texture – something good from Iceland),  but eating at Texture is certainly a pleasure. Looking forward to returning in the not too distant future.

Marks out of 10

Food 7.5

Service 7.5

Ambience 7.5

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The Sportsman – Fresh from the garden

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

The Sportsman in Whitstable is a destination restaurant, well a Michelin starred gastro pub with quite a reputation.  Do not even think about going there to eat without an advance reservation.

They pride themselves on their fresh ingredients. Everything is either from the garden out back or from nearby, its all about provenance here.  On the whole the pride is justified as the ingredients especially the fish and vegetables are really fresh and the cooking shows them off.

We treated ourselves to some Pol Roger Champagne and started on the tasting menu (something you need to pre book or alternatively you can order from the dishes on the blackboard by the bar). We started with some pork scratchings, and to quote “Steve” the chef, the Sportsman is a pub after all.  They were nothing like typical pub pork scratchings, they were delicious, as was the mustard, herring and soda bread they were served with.

We had a very nice salad (Salmagundy, which apparently means a salad made out of available ingredients), but the standout courses were the dover sole with seaweed butter and the turbot with smoked roe sauce.  Our conclusion was that the meal started well and that the fish dishes were excellent, but that the quality dipped with the 2nd lamb dish (some mash would have been nice) and the desserts (can chefs get over popping candy please).

We enjoyed the meal but I must say I wasn’t as wowed by it as some other reviewers.

Oh and we finished off the day with a nice jug of Pimms at Miles Cafe Culture in Ramsgate in case you were wondering.

Marks out of 10

Food 7.1

Service 6.9

Ambience 6.9

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Moo – Sensations

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

The Roca brothers 1 Star Michelin restaurant Moo is in the Hotel Omm. It is ideal for people with jaded palettes, as Moo is all about “sensations”.

We went for the gourmet tasting menu at 85 euros with 25 euros for matching wines.  We started with a visually stunning dish called the “golden egg” – an egg yolk in a gold caramelized shell served with what tasted like crushed cornflakes – the epitome of breakfast.  The next dish conjured up the sensation of being in a forest, this was delivered by the pigeon carpaccio with juniper ice-cream presented in a smoke filled glass cloche which when removed gave of a strong woody aroma.   After the “forest” we moved into the “orchard” – that sensation came in the form of a snow crab ravolli in a citrus sauce.

We finished on a high with the dessert, which brought back memories of being at the “Fun Fair” -  Candyfloss, toffee apples and nuts.  They used actual candyfloss (something we also had at Moo’s sister restaurant El cellar de Can Roca ) along with a beautiful “fake apple” -  a caramelized shell containing mousse. This was a really impressive dish.

The Americans at the next table were doing the usual thing of trying to get the food done their way, a real No No here. The Maitre’d handled it well, but when the food is effectively an art form you just don’t mess with it. It’s like telling Picasso to use less blue.

The dining  room is very artistic (let down only by the NCP carpark style wall, that we have mentioned in earlier posts). The plates used to present the food were unusual perhaps even unique – they included one signed by chef Ferran Adrià of El Bulli.

We returned to the Hotel Omm a few days later to eat in Moovida, where the menu is a lot more down to earth.

Marks out of 10 for Moo.

Food 7.2

Service 7

Ambience 7

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Murano – oh dear!

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Lunch at Murano today, what a disappointment. It is so old fashioned and not in good way, rather the kind of food you might have found acceptable in the 80′s.  Just not a gourmet experience. We were really glad we decided to go for the £30 set lunch and not the overpriced tasting menu.

We started with fairly ordinary bread with a good olive oil and some charcuterie. Then a Chicken Ravioli that was too salty and a rather ordinary beef carpaccio.  The main courses consisted off a coronary inducing calf liver, with capers in a red wine jus with mash and a salmon dish decorated with pea shoots. Pre dessert was Tiramisu and dessert was a peanut butter crumble with caramelized bananas – very uninspiring.

The wine list was disappointing too, the mark up did seem to be excessive.  It was difficult to find a decent glass of wine for less than £14.00.

It was so hard not to compare the Murano experience with our recent visit to Texture, which just served to emphasize everything that was wrong with Murano.

Overrated and based on our experience, cooking that is not of a Michelin star level.  Another Faux Gourmet experience in a restaurant that looked the part but failed to deliver.

Marks out of 10

Food 4.9

Service 5

Ambience 5

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Texture – something good from Iceland!

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

One definition of the word “Texture” is “the distinctive character or quality of something” and Texture the restaurant is all about character and quality.  Angnar Sverrisson who is originally from Iceland does it all, delivering great tasting, beautifully presented food that has its own distinct personality.

We had our usual debate, should we go for the tasting menu or stick with our original idea of trying the set lunch menu at a fraction of the cost.  Fortunately we opted for the tasting menu with matching wines.  Indeed as soon as we tasted the amuse-bouche, a selection of different textured “crisps” artfully arranged on a piece of slate with a dip and the Pea and Mint iced tea, we knew we had made the right choice.  With every course and every glass of wine,  we echoed that sentiment.  The appetizer was asparagus with parmesan snow and hazel nuts. This was  followed by a sublime pigeon dish with sweetcorn and bacon popcorn. The next two courses were just as good, they consisted of  Icelandic cod with Chorizo and a very refined version of  steak and chips.   Then came the entertainment,  a rather topical looking pre dessert, a green apple concoction set in a bowl of dry ice, that spilled out on to the table like something from a volcano!  We finished with a Mango and Pineapple  dessert and a selection of petit fours that included a crispy variation of a traditional french magdalene which was surprisingly good.

So far we have just mentioned the food, but the wines were equally special. We particularly enjoyed the Californian Pinot Noir and the Australian Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine selections were perfect matches for every course, and very reasonable at £45 for a flight of 5 glasses.

Definitely looking forward to coming back here – a rare treat.

Marks out of 10

Food 8.5

Service 8

Ambience 7.5

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