Chez Bruce – better late than never!

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

Chez Bruce on Urbanspoon

LOCATION INFORMATION

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

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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 ensure that collectively we were 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 favourite, 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 Ice cream, which was large enough for us all to try  – a perfect Souffle.

 

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Sidart, New Zealand – The Metro Best New Restaurant 2010

A post from No Experts Australian Correspondent

A recent business trip took us to Auckland in New Zealand. Having failed to get a booking at our first choice of  The French Café on Saturday night, we decided to opt for Sidart in Ponsonby, based on the fact that they had just won The Metro Best New Restaurant 2010. Ponsonby, for those of you that don’t know it is a hip suburb of Auckland with a strip crammed full for cafés, bars and restaurants. After several trips around the one way system in our taxi, we eventually found Sidart. At this point I was beginning to think that we had made a serious error in our selection of restaurant. Not only did the restaurant have no street presence at all, it appeared to be crammed upstairs in a rather tatty looking shopping centre. After picking our way past the chemist, we ascended the escalator to what did appear to be the entrance to a modern, and trendy restaurant. On arrival, through the sliding (to save space) door, we were issued a warm welcome by the staff. The room was a little cramped, but beautifully decorated and very modern, if a little dark. We started with a glass of champagne while perusing the menu. A lucky break landed us with a  table by the window, which had fabulous views across the City.

We eventually opted for the tasting menu, with matching wines, which left the staff delighted. The tasting menu, appears to be deceptively simple, but in fact we were presented with a series of spectacularly complex and beautiful dishes matched with superb wines from France and New Zealand.

The entire menu was delicious.  A dish worthy of mention was the Salmon. This appeared to be two dishes on one plate,  Salmon served with Mascarpone ice cream in the centre, which was amazing, with a second crumbed piece of salmon, served with goats cheese and liquorice served on the side of the plate. I was quite pleased by this, because the liquorice was not to my taste at all.  The couple at the table next to us, just loved it, however. We also learned from our neighbours, that the shopping centre we were in was of historic significance, having previously been an ice rink, cinema and Spanish restaurant. It seems the Alhambra Shopping Centre, is a much loved local landmark! We were entertained by stories of how our neighbours used to visit the cinema in their courting days over 40 years ago….I did say it was intimate, didn’t I?

The Duck with Chocolate and Avocado proved to be an amazing combination, and a joy to eat. I was slightly perplexed by the small piece of  Pork Belly on the plate. It was perfectly cooked, but didn’t really seem to belong with the rest of this dish.  My favourite dish of the night had to be Lamb loin with a smoked beetroot foam, with a yogurt sauce, cashew nuts and sprinkled with Nigella seeds. This dish was obviously inspired by chef Sid Sahrawat’s Indian heritage, and was a sheer delight to eat,  evoking memories of my childhood visits to our local in Indian. A perfect example of modern cooking, borrowing Asian flavours.

Service was friendly, warm and good, but perhaps not quite as polished as you might expect from a restaurant serving this quality of food. The staff were extremely passionate and seemed genuinely enthusiastic and excited by the food and wine that they were serving, making it an enjoyable evening over all. The food is inspired and innovative, and incredibly technical. Complex flavours were well matched with the wine, and our visit to Sidart has to rate as my best Gourmet experience of 2010 (so far). The restaurant is quirky, and very, very intimate, but well worth a visit for it’s exceptional food. Sid Sahrawat is a rising star to watch closely!

Marks out of 10

Food 8.5

Service 7.4

Ambience 5.1

LOCATION INFORMATION
Browse Google Map© :- NoExpert Food Blog – Auckland, New Zealand

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

Foliage – The Last Post

Last Post for the Foliage, not last post for No Expert – we are still going strong.  The Foliage at the Mandarin Oriental however had a farewell lunch service today. It was lovely to be there but tinged with sadness, as it marked the end of an era for us.

The team pulled out all the stops.  We started with a complimentary glass of superb champagne and some very tasty canapes. This was followed by the amuse bouche.  We then had the opportunity to go off menu to choose some of the dishes. One of the standouts being the Sea Diver Scallops with chicken and mushrooms.  It was also impossible not to order our last gnocchi, one of the Foliages sublime dishes.  For main course we choose the lamb and an off menu beef dish, the wine selection chosen to go with this was absolutely stunning. Indeed all the wines selections were off a very high standard.  I especially enjoyed the Trocken Beerenauslese, Nittaus, 2004 dessert wine.


The ever attentive staff were on hand to bring us up to date on the progess being made to complete the Daniel Boulud Restaurant (Bar Boulud)  in the basement, due to open in May, and the Heston Blumental Restaurant which would be the Foliage replacement, due to open towards the end of this year.  It is just a shame that a such a fine restaurant is closing prematurely to make way for these changes. It was good to see the Head Chef Alex Marks come out of the kitchen to talk to some of the regular dinners, where he received some direct praise for his teams work over the years.  It was also a nice touch to be presented with a copy of the menu signed by members of staff as a memento. 

So it’s a fond fairwell to the Foliage. We and the other regulars will miss you.

See also Post – Fairwell to Chris Staines

Marks out of 10

Food 8.5

Service 9

Ambience 8.5

UPDATE : January 2011 – Alex Marks in now the head chef at Maze.

LOCATION INFORMATION

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

Inamo – for high tech gastronauts

Inamo is a rather unusual restaurant, that gives you a taste of “Living in the Future.”  The main attraction is off course the rather fun interactive tables, where you can select everything you need – food, drink, table cloth! You can also view the Kitchen CAM and order a taxi.  It can get expensive as everything looks so good, and there is a very interesting selection of Sake’s.

The food when it arrives (within 15 minutes of ordering) is beautifully presented and prepared.

The dishes are designed for sharing and arrive when ready,  just like Wagamama – but Wagamama the Next Generation!.

The food highlights for me, were the Hamachi with soy mirin truffle, the Hot Stone Rib Eye served on a hot stone with 3 sauces, nam jim, soy and truffle, and the desserts – Macaroon and white chocolate mousse (pandan macaroon and yuzu flavoured white chocolate mousse with lemongrass and coconut sorbet, and milk chocolate sauce) and Thai Basil Pana Cotta served with coconut foam, tropical fruits, and coconut tuile.

This place defines Geek Chic. It may be a novelty, but it’s one that’s worth returning too.

Marks out of 10

Food 6.2

Service 7

Ambience 6.4

Inamo on Urbanspoon

LOCATION INFORMATION

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

The Berkeley – Pret a Portea

A friend reserved a table for the Pret a Portea at The Berkeley – the famous fashionista’s afternoon tea. Not that I qualify in any way for the description of fashionista, but there were plenty of them in the room to make up the shortfall.

The table was beautifully set, with individual stylised menus and a personalised name card.  Our only criticism was the size of the font on the menu (see vent number 21). We also had some concerns when only one cake stand was set on the table for four people – there was only two handbags!.  However the waiter quickly reassured us that the plates would be swapped out as and when we finished them. He was true to his word as we discovered following multiple plate changes.

The sandwiches (we had 3 rounds each and were offered more!), savoury spoonfuls and cakes were all of a very high standard. In fact I actually enjoyed the afternoon tea more than the lunch we had a few months back in Marcus Wareings restaurant!

We also had a few glasses of champagne – they offer standard or couture. The waiter serving the champagne was particularly proficient as he single handedly poured the champagne, smoothly swapping from one hand to the other. He also used a small laser pointer to individually identify and describe the sandwiches and cakes! I jokingly commented that he put on a better show than the Fat Duck.  So you can imagine my shock when Heston Blumental walked by a few minutes later. The Berkeley will be a rival to his planned new Restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental just around the corner (see Foliage replacement – the gossip!), so I guess he was just being neighbourly!

Marks out of 10

Food 8

Service 7.5

Ambience 7

Caramel Room (The Berkeley Hotel) on Urbanspoon

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

Cuines Santa Caterina – cleaning up.

I would love to find a market restaurant like this in London (Roast is the closest, but the food there just does not do it for me), so we have to go to Barcelona to indulge. On this trip we started with a shared plate of dips – very fresh ingredients, lovely fluffy pita bread.


I followed this with Tuna Tartare and my companion had his usual Catalan sausage with baby beans and fois gras. For dessert I had a quite stunning Crema Catalana, washed down with some fresh fruit juice. We left our plates so clean that the waiter commented rather amusingly that the “cleaner would be pleased”.

For more on this venue, see Cuines Santa Caterina – Grupo Tragaluz goes to the market and the following video.

Marks out of 10 for this visit

Food 7

Service 7

Ambience 7

LOCATION INFORMATION

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Parc des Eaux Vives – a bit of a surprise!

My first visit to the Michelin starred restaurant at Parc des Eaux Vives, a small 5 star hotel on the shore of Lake Geneva was with some trepidation.  After some disappointments on the culinary front in Switzerland I expected to spend too much money on mediocre food.

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The table had been booked a month in advance for Saturday lunch time, we arrived at the beautiful venue, got escorted to the lovely dinning room and found we were actually the only guests, it did not bode well!

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As soon as the amuse-bouche and the amazing seaweed bread arrived we knew we were on to a winner.

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We finished off a delicious meal and moved to the terrace overlooking the gardens and the lake, taking time to enjoy a small bottle of PX .

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So as the first experience was so fabulous we returned, this time staying as guests in the Hotel and much too my surprise they had actually upped their game. The restaurant was still not full, just a few tables set up outside on the small terrace, which made for a lovely atmosphere. The food was superb, and beautifully presented, this place really merits its two Michelin stars.

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We also tried the Hotels more informal restaurant “The Brassery”, which was OK, but nothing to write home about. Oh yes and they upgraded us to a suite, so all round it ended up being great value for the money.

UPDATE : March 2010 – This restaurant has sadly closed. See :-
Genevalunch.com

Marks out of 10

Food 8

Service 8

Ambience  8

View 8

LOCATION INFORMATION
Browse Google Map© :- NoExpert Food Blog – Geneva,Switzerland

Le Bristol, Paris – oh la la

Visited Eric Frechon’s restaurant Le Bristol (www.hotel-bristol.com) last Summer, and am so pleased to hear that it now has its third Michelin star, it’s the only restaurant in France to get one this year apparently.  We had the summer tasting menu, which was in a class of its own, everything was perfect. Unfortunately I was so into the food I did not take enough pictures to truly capture the experience.

It was very expensive last year and now with the Euro exchange rate and its third star, it’s way out of most peoples price range (gents also require jacket and tie….argh).

This is my benchmark for culinary excellence, no wonder it is rumoured to be Nicolas Sarkozys favorite.

For more on Le Bristol, check out this video:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABMyH2-UuYk&NR=1

Marks out of 10

Food 9.5

Service 8

Ambience 8

LOCATION INFORMATION
Browse Google Map© :- NoExpert Food Blog – Paris, France