The Ledbury – embarassing leaks

Lunch at The Ledbury was always going to be an occasion. The food is superb.  I simply could not fault any of the dishes I chose from their Sunday Lunch menu.  Indeed it was one of these occasions where I really wanted to try nearly all the dishes on the menu.  Fortunately I was part of a large enough group to be able to order a range of different dishes. There were no dissenting voices at all, every one loved the food.  Only one thing went wrong during the lunch, which impacted on the table next to ours.  Water started coming through the ceiling from the room above,  I guess a burst pipe due to the cold weather. Nothing much the restaurant could do except, put a bowl on the table, call the plumber and move the guests to another table.  However it must have been very embarrassing for the staff, as the guests concerned included Martin Scorsese, Sacha Baron Cohen and Isla Fisher who certainly did not seem to particularly want to draw attention to themselves. Something that is hard to do when you have to stand up to avoid being splashed!

However when the food is this good, you do not let little things like plumbing problems get in the way, so back to the food.

My starter was the Flamed Grilled Mackerel with Smoked Eel, Tokyo Turnips and Celtic Mustard, it was a great choice. The Mackerel had so much flavour, it was really fresh and just melted in my mouth. The portion was quite substantial for a starter, but despite that I could easily have had seconds.

I was also tempted by the Ceviche of Hand Dived Scallops with Seaweed and Herb Dill Kohlrabi and Frozen Horseradish which one of my companions ordered. Visually it did not look as good, but I was told it was delicious, if a little light and summery for a winter menu.

For my main course I choose fish again. The Skate Poached in Brown Butter with Truffle Puree, Cauliflower, Parmesan Gnocchi and Sea Vegetables. This has to be my dish of the year. It was just so moreish. The Skate was perfect and the Parmesan Gnocchi reminded me so much of another favorite, the Gnocchi dish I had at The Foliage.

For dessert I ordered the Brown Sugar Tart with Muscat Grapes and Stem Ginger Ice Cream, which was matched with a surprisingly fruity Pedro Ximenez sherry from Barossa Valley in Australia, it was very different from the Spanish ones I have had in the past.  The tart was very light and the ice cream was very subtle.  The dessert highlight however had to be the Passion Fruit Souffle with Sauterne Icecream, which was large enough for us all to try  – a perfect Souffle.

Marks out of 10

Food 8.6

Service 7.4

Ambience 8

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Tetsuya’s – It’s a knockout!

A post from No Experts Australian Correspondent

I have to confess Tetsuya’s has been very high on my list of restaurants to visit since our move down under. Despite losing a “hat” recently, it remains the most notoriously difficult restaurant in Sydney to bag a table at. Think Fat Duck, at the height of it’s fame and you’ll be  getting close! Waiting lists currently exceed 3 months.

The restaurant itself is tucked away on Kent St,  behind an extremely industrial looking grey wall and electronic gates. On entry, however one is greeted by a beautiful Japanese Garden and Villa. The steps up to the entrance are pretty intimidating, and one could be forgiven for thinking one was braving the domain of a noble Samurai Lord. Entrance to this exclusive domain is the privilege of few.

Our entry, on this occasion, was to attend The New South Wales Wine Awards Dinner, part of the Sydney International Food Festival, hosted by “Tets” himself (why do the Aussies have to shorten everything?) and  Huon Hooke, the Sydney Morning Herald’s wine critic. We were certainly in for a treat.  Hosted in the Private Dining Room, we were a little disappointed that we would miss the views of the garden that diners downstairs enjoy, however we were not to be disappointed in the food! We were greeted with a Glass of Centennial Sparkling and settled in to meet and chat to our fellow diners.

Our 13 course dinner was absolutely incredible,  and I am at a complete loss as to where to start.  Chilled Cucumber soup with sheep’s curd ice cream was deliciously refreshing, somewhat overwhelming the poor Pokolbin Estate Riesling that really didn’t have a chance. Sashimi of Kingfish with Black Bean and orange, was an exquisite dish, the citrus from the orange beautifully counter balancing the black bean.  Our surprise dish of “Just like Oysters”, turned out to be a shaving of scallop, with seaweed and foie gras, which with the metallic zinc seaweed tasted “just like oysters” but finished with an amazing rich finish from the foie gras! Delicious!

The NSW wine of the year, Tempus  Two’s Copper Zenith Semillon From 2003  turned out to be a revelation. It had a kerosene like nose typical of Semillon, but with layers and layers of complexity. It went surprisingly well with Marinated Scampi, Avocado, and caviar. Having been to this winery on a visit to the Hunter Valley, I was extremely unimpressed with their wines, and the poor knowledge of the staff at the Cellar door. The winery is located in one of the most stunning winery buildings I have ever seen, but all style and no substance does not  impress me! Earlier in the evening I had been fairly vocal about my disbelief that Tempus Two could actually produce a decent wine, only to discover that Scott Comyns the wine maker was at the table next to us! Oops! My embarrassing moment didn’t last long, and Scott proved to be a nice guy, who was delighted to have proved that his winery can produce a decent drop!

Tetsuya’s signature dish of Confit Ocean Trout followed. The accompaniments  to this dish are varied by season, and while the apple complemented the fish superbly, I found the flavours of the celery a little bitter.  Every dish was brilliant, and it is almost impossible to pick fault. The nuttiness of the grilled artichoke with the barramundi matched well with our wooded Chardonnay. Braised oxtail  just melted in the mouth,  the sea cucumber that accompanied this dish was an interesting experience for someone who had never before tasted this delicacy.  I found it rather bland, although the texture contrasted nicely with the softness of the Braised oxtail, making this one of my favourite dishes of the night.

I could wax lyrical for hours on how wonderfully exquisite and beautifully delicate each dish was. However I am conscious that a blow by blow account of 13 courses will  probably have your eye’s glazing over! The food at Tetsuya’s is simply world class. So how indeed did they lose a GFG Hat?  I was absolutely perplexed as to how this amazing restaurant could possibly be deemed unworthy of 3 GFG Hats?  The answer lay  half way through this meal,  when I was elbowed in the temple by a waitress. No apologies at all from this young lady!  In response to my discomfort, she retorted with a sarcastic “would you like an ice pack for that madam?” An hour later, with my head still ringing from the blow I’d received, I was beginning to wish I’d accepted that offer!  Quite shocking in a restaurant where other than this one incident,  the service was superbly courteous and friendly.

In summary then, the food at Tetsuya’s is an absolute knock out, that is providing the staff don’t knock you out first. Despite my bad experience with one waitress, I would not hesitate to return. Simply, despite the blow to the head, this probably is the top dining experience of my life.  If there’s one restaurant that’s worth flying across the world for, then Tetsuya’s is it.

Marks out of 10

Food  9.2

Service  6.9 (Should rate a high 8 really)

Ambience  9.0

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Iggy’s – missing a little something!

A post from No Experts Australian Correspondent

I have to admit that we chose to go to Iggy’s after much agonising. We had a quick stop over in Singapore and only one real opportunity for fine dining.  I was concerned that my partner who is notoriously fussy about his food may not like the concept  that the only option for dinner was an 8 course tasting menu. My other concern, was with regard to the fact that that Iggy is a Sommelier rather than chef! Nevertheless this restaurant appears as number 26 on the S.Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants list and must be worth it’s salt!  Lastly the restaurant had just reopened in a new location at the Hilton in Orchard Road. We arrived at the dining room to a courteous welcome which the Singaporeans do so very well. We selected a glass of champagne each and matching wines to accompany our taster menu.

The food was absolutely superb! Canapes of chicken skin lollipops were divinely crunchy and perfectly seasoned. Oysters and steak tartar served on a soup spoon, simply melted in the mouth, the beef beautifully seasoned with capers, shallots and  parsley.   My partner commented that if he hadn’t known the dish was raw, he would never have known from the taste.

What followed was a series of divine dishes, however one issue ended up dominating the evening. The kitchen seemed to lack consistency, with dish after dish, well at least in my case,  missing some ingredient central to the dish. You would think that limiting guests to only one choice of a taster menu, the kitchen would at least be able to turn around consistent plates.

Beautiful succulent lobster, with tomato and radish appeared without the radish on my plate, although Mr T seemed to have his intact.  Foie Gras with chanterelle mushrooms, missing the mushrooms completely, and lastly venison with pumpkin and dates, completely missing the dates! In each case Mr T appeared to have a perfect dish, while I seemed to receive the dish with a  missing ingredient. After initially biting my tongue in acquiescence to Mr T, who entreated me with “Don’t make a fuss! Have one of my radishes”. I kept my peace. After all I am I’m not a huge fan of radish anyway, but was keen to see how it complemented the lobster! I am a food blogger after all!

Our-waiter’s response was good, and he immediately whisked away our plates for them both to be made again. A couple of seamless dishes appeared, the pasta with truffles being lovely, and I was just beginning to enjoy myself again, when voilà, venison with pumpkin and dates sans dates! Grr! The dates were added to my plate after a quick duck back to the kitchen. See if you can spot the pictures with missing ingredients.

One can’t help but wonder whether this lack of consistency is  a regular occurrence at Iggy’s. Is it simply down to the fact that I am a food blogger, that I noticed the differences, and if this happens all the time, or was it a one off? Is this symptomatic of the lack of Head chef’s supervision? A casual look at the plates should have made the differences glaringly obvious!

One of the highlights of Iggy’s is supposed to be the opportunity to sit at the Chef’s bar and eat dinner while watching the chefs prepare it.  We were offered the chance to sit at the bar and watch our deserts  being prepared and eat them there. To be honest I was much more comfortable sitting at our comfy table in the dining room. The prep area was freezing, and not at all conducive to a romantic night for two! In retrospect I wish that we has declined this opportunity. The desert of Blueberries with Calamansi and Cream cheese was reminiscent of a deconstructed cheese cake, and pretty as a picture! The after dinner truffles and coffee superb.

A nice gesture from the house was to not charge us for our two glasses of champagne, which was appreciated. The food was superb, but then I wouldn’t expect anything less when the bill was over $800 (£385)  for two (including the matching wines). As to whether I would return, I think with so many other restaurants to try in Singapore, it’s unlikely in the short term, but I would return in a year or so to see how Iggy’s has matured. Gunther’s is high on the list for my next visit.

Marks out of 10

Food 7.5 (This would possibly have been an 8 or higher, if the dishes from the kitchen were consistent)

Service 7.5

Ambience 7.9

LOCATION INFORMATION
Browse Google Map© :- NoExpert Food Blog – Singapore

Roux at Parliament Square – Private dining

Had a lovely evening at Michel Roux Jnr’s new restaurant, even if it did mean battling my way through the crowds outside Westminster Abbey waiting for a glimpse of the Pope.  Roux at Parliament Square is just around the corner from the Abbey located in one of the most beautiful buildings in Westminster, a period building designed by Alfred Waterhouse, the architect of London’s iconic Natural History Museum.

We started with drinks and canapes in the upstairs bar, then strolled down to the private dining room to indulge, we had pre ordered the 8 course tasting menu.

The Private dinning room is lovely and the service was unobtrusive, it was like being at a fabulous dinner party.

The food did not let us down either. The menu was well balanced. I liked the mixed style of modern and traditional french cuisine. The standout dishes for me were, the Brill with razor clam, mussel and shrimp  and the chocolate mousse, Caramel foam and banana sorbet with popping candy.

One of the advantages of being in the private dining room was that the matching wines were presented punctually by the Sommelier just prior to the food service. The  wines were all French and selected by Albert Roux. I especially enjoyed our second dessert wine, the Maury, Dom.Lafage, Landuedoc-Rousillion, 2008.

Our visit was on a Friday evening, which is actually a quiet day for the Restaurant. This Roux outpost is definitely worth a return visit.

Marks out of 10

Food 7.1

Service 7

Ambience 7

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LOCATION INFORMATION

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Tom Aikens – Where has the magic gone?

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

Tom Aikens on Urbanspoon

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

LOCATION INFORMATION
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Texture – feeling a bit rough!!

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

Texture on Urbanspoon

LOCATION INFORMATION

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The Landmark – Champagne brunch in the Winter Garden

OK so it is still Summer, but champagne brunch in the Winter Garden at The Landmark Hotel is just too good to resist.

It’s 3 hours of non stop champagne and access to an extensive buffet containing a wide variety of lovely dishes.

You can go for breakfast, perhaps have an omelette from the Omelette station, or go for  typical brunch dishes like Eggs Benedict. There was also a lovely fish pie, lots of salmon dishes, and a really good range of sea food and sushi.   If you prefer Lunch to Brunch, you also have soups and roasts.

For those of us with a sweet tooth, this place is an absolute delight, as there is no skimping on the dessert selection either.  Desserts included a chocolate fountain, sorbets and ice cream, tarlets, fruit and cakes off all sorts.  I especially loved the marmalade meringues and the cup cakes.

In fact to really appreciate what’s on offer here, it is best to make this the only meal of the day.

The venue is lovely too.

This has to be one of the best brunch spots in London.

Marks out of 10

Food 7

Service 7

Ambience 7

Winter Garden on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

LOCATION INFORMATION

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40|30 at the Gherkin – COOLest venue of the Noughties!

My last visit to 40|30 Restaurant at the Gherkin was in January, long enough a gap in my view.  So it was back again with a group of friends to enjoy a night out in the one of the  “COOLest venues of the Noughties“.

So is it still “Cool”? – Absolutely.

This place has substance and style, there is no question that 40|30 is continuing to delivering first class food in a first class venue.

The menu was both interesting and varied, some classic food combinations and some more surprising ones.  My main course of  Pork belly with Black Pudding doughnuts was  just stunning and the cheese cake with celery of all things, was another standout.

For food of this calibre in such a world class location, 2 courses at £39.50 and 3 courses at £47.50 is such a good deal (especially as it includes an amuse bouche and a pre dessert).  The wine list is extensive but there are sufficient bottles under £40 to ensure that it is not too daunting.

You could tell by the empty plates at our table just how much we all enjoyed the food.

Marks out of 10

Food 7

Service 6.9

Ambience 6.5

View 10

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Square Meal

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Moments @ MO, Barcelona – Setting the standard

At long last we managed to have lunch at Moments restaurant. The delayed opening meant we missed the chance on our last visit to Barcelona.  We were pleasantly surprised by the  interior, as the Mandarin Oriental website does not do it justice. It is a beautiful room that is both stylish and comfortable.

We were greeted by a familiar face, Carlos formerly of the Foliage in London. One of our regular haunts. He presented us with a glass each of Carme Ruscelleda’s 20th anniversary Cava.  Without hesitation we decided on the tasting menu (125 euro’s ouch!) along with a lovely selection of wines by the glass.

The meal began with the famous Appetizers Micro Menu which consisted of four appetizers one for each season. We then had a very artistic dish based on “Miros Bird” the original which we understand hangs in Carme Ruscelleda’s restaurant in Tokyo.  This was followed by a very refreshing dish of cuttlefish and peas then a very moreish crayfish dish with morel cream. Next came an unusual but successful combination of flavours. Sea Bass with strawberry chutney.  There was a choice of main courses. Tuna Cheek or Iberian Pork. The Tuna cheek in particular was stunning.  We then moved on to the cheese course and two desserts simply named “Red” and “White”. We both agreed that the Red was our favourite as this was a standout dish and not just because it used popping candy!

We finished the meal with the Eight Pastry Divertimenti. A selection of Petit-fours presented on a three tier cake stand.

After the meal we were introduced to the head chef Raul Balam (Carme Ruscelleda’s son).  It’s always nice to be able to tell the chef how much we enjoyed the meal.

The restaurant is too new to have been awarded a Michelin star or should I say stars as it will undoubtedly pick up more than one in the not too distant future, it is certainly a rival to its 3 star sister restaurant Sant Pau in Sant Pol de Mer.

WARNING: Dining at Moments can seriously damage your appreciation of other restaurants. Every other restaurant, even ones you really rated start to look scruffy and unprofessional in comparison. The attention to detail at MO is second to none.

UPDATE December 2010 – Moments awarded a Michelin Star in the 2011 Michelin Guide. In my view they merit two. For more information, see :-

UPDATE November 2012 – Moments awarded their second Michelin Star. Saw that one coming!

Marks out of 10

Food 8.3

Service 8.2

Ambience 8.5

LOCATION INFORMATION
Browse Google Map© :- NoExpert Food Blog – Barcelona, Spain

Moo – Sensations

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

LOCATION INFORMATION
Browse Google Map© :- NoExpert Food Blog – Barcelona, Spain

Murano – oh dear!

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

Murano on Urbanspoon

LOCATION INFORMATION

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The Capital – comforting

Made a lunch time visit to The Capital, to see how it fairs under “newish” head chef Jérôme Ponchelle, compared to my last visit when Eric Chavot was running the kitchen.

It was actually impossible to judge as the set lunch was very different from my last à la carte experience. However that is not to say it was not excellent, it was.  Well worth it, especially the amazing portion of lamb carved at the table. Delicious.

They had a good selection of wines by the glass. Prices were typically between £8.00 and £12.00 a glass, so ordering bottles was a better deal. We got through a very full bodied bottle of Gewürztraminer which went well with the Lobster and Langoustine Bisque and a smooth New Zealand Pinot Noir that was perfect for the Lamb.

The Capital restaurant is actually well worth a visit,  comfortable rather than fashionable, which has to be a good thing.

It did lose its two Michelin stars this year, but that is certainly not going to stop me returning.

Marks out of 10

Food 6.9

Service 6.9

Ambience 6.9

Capital on Urbanspoon

LOCATION INFORMATION

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