Archive for the ‘4 AA Rosettes’ Category

Taste of Launceston Place

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

For a special occasion meal I have only a handful of London restaurants on my list. They’re high end and totally reliable, Launceston Place on a quiet backstreet in Kensington is one of them. It’s not a brash trendy restaurant and is all the better for it. It’s fairly low key, simply and tastefully decorated. It has a small bar area, two smallish dining rooms and a private dining area. The service is impeccable and friendly. The Head Chef Tim Allan during his tenure has seen the restaurant gain both a Michelin star and 4 AA Rosettes. We have been here several times over the space of 6 years before and after the aforementioned awards and Launceston Place has always been excellent. I am sure the team will keep up the good work when Tim Allan moves on to The Wild Rabbit in the Cotswolds in a few weeks time.

On this visit we had originally planned to have the Market Menu but the huge slightly daunting wine list and the tempting Tasting Menu changed my mind. I can rarely resist menus with matching wines and Launceston Place’s new Sommelier Piotr Pietras choose some stunning ones to match 5 of the 7 courses that made up our Tasting Menu.

We started with some excellent bread, two tasty canapés and a beautiful Tomato Consommé with goats cheese and micro basil. Our next course was Duck Egg with slow cooked bacon and pea cappuccino which was just full of flavour, this was served with a stunning Pinot Gris (2013 Lismore Vineyard, Ata Rangi, Martinborough, New Zealand). Next was the Glazed Duck Breast with smoked eel, beetroot, foie gras, walnuts, endive and cherry also served with a white wine (2004 Clos du Papillon, Domaine des Baumard, Savennieres, France). The forth course was our absolute favorite, a stunning Scallop dish, with glazed Chicken wing, truffle cassonade and apple blossom, perfectly matched with a beautiful Riesling (Heymann-Löwenstein, Uhlen R, Schieferformation “Roth Lay”, Mosel, Germany). Then for the main course we had Salt Marsh Lamb with white polenta and parmesan, Morteau sausage and carmalised cauliflower matched with an elegant full bodied Roija (2003 Reserva Viña Bosconia, Bodegas Raúl López de Heredia, Rioja, Spain)

The Lamb course may have looked small and delicate but it had big flavours especially the tiny slices of Morteau sausage. It was very filling, so much so that we had to sadly bypass the cheese course to leave room for dessert. The first dessert was Amalfi Lemon served in various ways including as granita and ice cream, a very refreshing and tasty palette cleanser. The next dessert was Raspberries with custard, arlette aerated white chocolate and coconut. Aerated white chocolate is a fantastic ingredient to include in a dessert, loved it. The matching wine for this was a Rudera Noble Late Harvest Chenin Blanc 2010 from  Stellenbosch, South Africa. We then finished the meal with a small selection of Petits Fours.

After our delicious lazy 3 hour lunch we strolled down to the nearest tube station Gloucester Road and used our train journey home to have a little nap. We took the slow train from Victoria Station as it’s nearer to the restaurant, so our return trip took 2 hours but the high speed train from St Pancras does the trip to Ramsgate in an hour and 20 mins making day trips to London for lunch an expensive but fairly easy option :-)

UPDATE: October 2016, Launceston Place no longer has  a Michelin Star.

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The Square – indulgence dilemma

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Saturday night at The Square, what an indulgence!

We started in the bar area with some delicious canapes and a glass of the house champagne then moved to our table where we had the dilemma, do we go for the tasting menu or do we go À la carte? Tough one.


There were so many lovely sounding starters on the À la carte, we were pushed in that direction. Which was actually a mistake, as we have effectively trained ourselves to appreciate the smaller portions and broader taste range of tasting menus. So the larger portions for the mains were a bit of a struggle. The other plus for going the tasting menu route is if one course is not so great then it’s not such a big deal, as it effectively gets lost in the crowd.

Two of us made main course choices that really showed off The Squares cuisine.  I had the Roast Saddle of Lincolnshire Hare with a Tarte Fine of Celeriac and Pear which was amazing and one of my companions had the Fillet of Aged Ayrshire Beef with Autumn Truffle, Smoked Bone Marrow and Red Wine, again stunning but too large a portion.  My other companion choose the Caramelised Pork Belly with Glazed Trotter, Savoy Cabbage, Langoustine Claws and Lentils and was very disappointed, as the Pork Belly was very fatty. Which was such as shame as up until that point everything had been sublime.

The pre dessert was a rather nice  doughnut and rhubarb/raspberry concoction. Then for dessert I had a very boozy Rum and Raisin Soufflé with Gingerbread Ice Cream – stunning.  To finish we then had coffee and some Armagnac.  This was served with a nicely balanced selection of petits fours that consisted of some chocolate/nutty/Carmel truffles and a range of lollipop style sweets.  We finished them all. Only to have a second set delivered later.

The Square like Hibiscus has 2 Michelin stars and 4 AA Rosettes, but from the point of view of imagination and food quality based on our visits to both these restaurants, the Square is streets ahead of Hibiscus. However when we directly compared it to Tom Aikens which has 1 Michelin star and 5 AA Rosettes, the conclusion was that Tom Aikens pipped The Square at the post.

Marks out of 10

Food 7.8

Service 7.6

Ambience 7

Square on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

LOCATION INFORMATION
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Michelin Stars v AA Rosettes – Ding Ding!

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

No Expert has just hit the 100th post mark, so for that milestone rather than single out a restaurant, this post focuses on an issue that impacted on a number of our restaurant choices and that is can we trust Michelin Star and AA Rosette ratings alone.

I know there is a lot of debate over how accurate the Michelin star rating system is. I believe we have been to enough Michelin starred restaurants to give an opinion on the subject. Basically the  problems seem to be inconsistency and big name restaurants hanging on to stars they no longer merit. The Michelin star rating seems to be about as reliable as the S.Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants list, i.e., not reliable at all.

The rating system definition for Michelin stars is:-

  • 1 star – A very good restaurant in its category
  • 2 stars – Excellent cooking, worth a detour
  • 3 stars – Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey

For more information see Michelin Guide

We have been to some 3 star and 2 star Michelin restaurants that are not in the same class as 1 star restaurants.  Compare Tom Aikens to The Waterside Inn for example.

The 5 AA Rosettes award however does seem to match our tastes. The ones on the list in England for example are among our all time favorite restaurants.

The rating system definition for 5 AA Rosettes :-

  • The supreme accolade awarded only when the cooking is at the pinnacle of achievement. Flavours, combinations and textures show a faultless sense of balance, giving each dish an extra dimension.

The rating system definition for 4 AA Rosettes :-

  • At this level, not only should all technical skills be exemplary, but there should also be daring ideas, and they must work. There is no room for disappointment. Flavours should be accurate and vibrant.

Then just when I thought I could maybe rely on the AA Rosettes I find out that one of our worst of the worst restaurants Harveys of Ramsgate has just been awarded one AA Rosette, and that another of our least favorite places Abode in Canterbury has 2.

The rating system definition for 1 AA Rosette :-

  • Chefs should display a mastery of basic techniques and be able to produce dishes of sound quality and clarity of flavours, using good, fresh ingredients.

The rating system definition for 2 AA Rosettes :-

  • Innovation, greater technical skill and more consistency and judgement in combining and balancing ingredients are all needed at this level

Our experience of Harveys of Ramsgate and Abode indicated that they were sadly lacking in several of the areas associated with the definitions.

For more information see:-

The conclusion is that research is essential before you  commit to the really expensive dining experiences in the high end restaurants.

  • Check out the food blogs.
  • Check out Hardens and Zagat.
  • Look for real customer reviews via Google Maps.
  • Be really wary of the hype.
  • Be wary of Celebrity Chef endorsements.

Click here to access our prefered Food Blog/Site list.

  • It is also worth trying one of the restaurants deals first, e.g., a pre-theatre or set lunch deal.  It is surprising just how many of the top restaurants do offer less expensive options. The toptable web site is a good place to start to find these deals.

The Waterside Inn – old fashioned comfort

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

I found the food at  The Waterside Inn in Bray to be quite conventional, fairly typical french haute cuisine. I have to admit I expected a lot more from a 3 star Michelin - I suspect at least 1 star applied to the location.

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It was also a bit of a struggle to find a reasonably priced bottle of Champagne – the wine list was a bit daunting. That said it was a lovely day out. The Waterside Inn is a very comfortable venue. We made our selves at home, spending hours out on the terrace after lunch drinking brandy that was older than we were, and indulging in a little too much PX.

Here is a short video about The Waterside Inn:-

Marks out of 10

Food 6.5

Service 8

Ambience 8

Waterside Inn on Urbanspoon

LOCATION INFORMATION
Browse Google Map© :- NoExpert Food Blog – Berkshire, UK

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Hibiscus – too much hype!

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

For a while Hibiscus seemed to be the most talked about place.  Everyone just raved about it. We even had it recommended while in L’Astrance in Paris.

The conclusion from our visit on a Saturday evening when they only do tasting menus (a rather mercenary approach in my view), was that it was over hyped, overpriced rather boring food.

When the best dish in a £175 a head meal (food with matching wines) is the cheese course, then there is something wrong.

This restaurant is currently number 56 on the S.Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants list. It has 2 Michelin stars and 4 AA Rosettes, so it should have been superb or a least very good, as at this level there really should be no off days.

Very disappointing

Marks out of 10

Food 4

Service 4

Ambience 7

Hibiscus on Urbanspoon

LOCATION INFORMATION
Browse Google Map© :- NoExpert Food Blog – London, UK

The Capital – post Christmas treat

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

The Capital had been on my wish list for ages.  I certainly did not expect to get a booking at a few days notice, especially for lunch on the Saturday after Christmas.  However if you do not try, you do not get.  One email reply later and we were all set.  The down side was that the only choice seemed to be the a la carte menu.

I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the room, it is small and quite intimate.

The style of food was pretty conventional – classic french cuisine.  One standout was a herring fish course, the flavour was so strong and distinct.

The matching wines were also first rate, even if they did push the price up quite dramatically. Overall it was a superb meal.

Update: Since our visit the Chef and a number of his team have left.

Marks out of 10

Food 8

Service 7.5

Ambience 7.5

LOCATION INFORMATION

Browse Google Map© :- NoExpert Food Blog – London, UK