Farewell to Chris Staines @ the Foliage

Had my last meal at my favourite London restaurant the Foliage with Chris Staines as Head Chef. Chris was in the last week of his 3 months notice before he moves onto pastures new. Heston Blumenthal will open up his first London restaurant in its place in the Mandarin Oriental in a  years time.

What amazed me was that even in his last week Chris was producing simply breathtakingly stunning dishes…Respect.

Over the years I’ve  had some fantastic meals at the Foliage. In fact I use it as a benchmark to judge every other restaurant I visit. The service there is exceptional and the way Chris uses flavour and texture is the mark of a true artist. I suspect that the much larger replacement restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental will not live up to the high standard set by Chris or indeed Heston at the Fat Duck.

So many celebrity chefs are going down the “franchise” route, with disastrous results. The Abode chain (Micheal Caines) being a prime example and don’t get me started on how awful Harveys is (John Burton Race).

I’d like to thank Chris and his team at the Foliage for giving us many memorable meals (It was my experience of eating at the Foliage that got me interested in food) and to wish him the very best for the future. I just wish he was staying in London as his talent will be sorely missed.

Marks out of 10

Food 8

Service 9

Ambience 7

LOCATION INFORMATION

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

UPDATE : Chris Staines is now Head Chef at the Allium Brasserie in Bath.

Moo and Moovida – Hotel Omm

Moo is the 1 star Michelin restaurant (part of the Roca brothers empire) situated in the Hotel Omm in Barcelona, (part of the Grupo Tragaluz).

It is very fashionable, very much a place to be seen. Normally in this sort of venue the food disappoints, but here for once  the food is actually good enough to match the atmosphere. Advanced booking is essential.

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Moo

Marks out of 10 – Moo

Food 7

Service 7

Ambience 7.5

Moovida is the informal bar/dinning area. This venue is an especially useful recommendation as you can normally do a walk in.  Its also a great place for food and people watching (unless you are facing the wall that might as well be an NCP car park. Etiquette apparently dictates that the woman sits looking into the room, getting the interesting view. While the man has to stare at a wall. I’ve lost count of the number of tables I’ve sat at looking at a fire exit sign…rant over).

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Moovida

Short video showing Hotel Omm, finishes with some images of that wall in Moovida:-

Marks out of 10 – Moovida

Food 7

Service 7

Ambience 7

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

Comerç 24 – restoring faith in Molecular gastronomy

This 1 star Michelin is something of a Barcelona gem. Its much more experimental and adventurous in its cooking than most. At the beginning of the meal we were presented with a rack of 4 olive oil bottles to try with the bread. Gold leaf coated Macadamia nuts inside a Sardine tin prepare you for a meal that is not traditional by any measure. One particularly memorable course was the soup. Six tiny flavoured  egg yokes suspended in the soup. When eaten they pop and melt over your tongue. A wonderful effect.

I was going off the idea of going to elBulli in this life time, considering it seems impossible to get a reservation, thinking that perhaps its a bit too out there, but my experience at Comerç 24 made me think there might be something to this Molecular gastronomy after all, so if you can not get to elBulli, Comerç 24 might be a more acceptable alternative.

Marks out of 10

Food 8.5

Service 6 – ( Sommelier 8 )

Ambience 5

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

Cinc Sentits (five senses) – you’ll use em all

We stumbled across this Barcelona restaurant 4 years ago. I think it had not been open for long. We had seen some stylish photos of the food on their website (www.cincsentits.com) and thought it looked interesting. Frankly I expected style over substance. When we arrived for lunch the long room was empty but for one table. Not a good sign I thought.

The young lady who acted as waitress and sommelier brought us a shot glass with some strange coloured layers and explained we should drink it in one go. Well….it turned out be the start of a great culinary experience that truly wowed us.

When a dish uses ingredients that you would normally not be keen on (lemon and blue cheese in my case) and transforms them into memorable moments that you still talk about years later, then you know you have a very special chef in the kitchen.

We left on a high. Thanking the waitress for a wonderful lunch and using my sixth sense stated that they should have a Michelin star. Maybe next year she replied modestly.

Well it took a few more years and now they have their first Michelin star.

So we made a return visit in May this year and I suspect they will not have too long to wait for a second star.

The food and matching wines were the best I think I have had any where. Some of the combinations were simply sublime. The only let down was the oxtail course which was a replacement for the pork belly. Other than that I had a near perfect lunch.

We plan to return again in September as this is one restaurant that deserves all the accolades it gets.

Marks out of 10

Food 9

Service 8

Ambience 8

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

Alkimia – If you like fish…for dessert!

The owner of Tram Tram in Barcelona recommended we try Alkimia.  A restaurant we hadn’t heard of at the time.

When we arrived we choose the Grand Festival menu as we expected this to be lots of small portions.

The first 3 courses arrived and they were wonderful. The fourth course arrived and it was a fish risotto that filled the bowl! Oh dear this is going to get tough.  Please let the next course be meat…..oh my god I’m not sure I can get through this.  Then another fish course….argh. By the time we got to the final dessert I had tears rolling down my cheeks as it tasted of fish!

I don’t doubt the quality of the cooking (minus the fishy dessert). The lesson here is be careful when you order the Grand Festival. In this case we literally had bitten off more than we could chew.

Marks out of 10

Food 7

Service 7

Ambience 7

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

Gotham Bar and Grill – Pow and Ka-boom!

The Gotham Bar and Grill is a class act, and one of New Yorks Michelin Star restaurants.  It was recommended by a friend who has been making annual pilgrimages here from Scotland for well over 15 years now.  We have not been there quite so often, but have managed to visit a few times for lunch. We found it to be a quiet refuge from the crowds, an excellent place to relax and enjoy good quality food and wine. On one visit they had a power cut, which the staff handled with ease, turning what could have been a disaster into a pleasant candle lit experience.

The following video gives a good overview of what the restaurant is all about:-

The name of course I have always found amusing especially since the chef is called “Alfred” and my Scottish friend has mentioned in the past a very helpful member of staff called “Robin”. 😉

Update : October 2009 – The Gotham Bar and Grill successfully maintained its Michelin Star in this years awards.

Marks out of 10

Food 6.9

Service 7.5

Ambience 7

Gotham Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

LOCATION INFORMATION

Browse Google Map© :- NoExpert Food Blog – New York, USA

Benares – the return!

It is always interesting doing return visits.  My first visit to Atul Kochhars flag ship London Restaurant Benares was well over a year ago on a Friday evening.

We went for the tasting menu and were blown away by the glorious food and the subtle wine combinations. We’d been to the Cinnamon Club and our experience there with Indian Food Wine matching was scary – give the customer lots of really strong red wine, being the basic philosophy I think. Not so at Benares. Indeed the meal was close to perfect, let down only by the meat course which was fine, but not that different from the sort off food you can get at a good curry house. Ironically our dinning neighbours had the opposite reaction “finally something we recognise” they said. So I guess you can not please everyone!.

Marks of 10

Food 8

Service 8

Ambience 7

Now comes the second visit, it was like going to a different Restaurant. This time I went with friends who were experiencing the restaurant for the first time, it was for Sunday Lunch, on a weekend where Atul was not in the kitchen.  One of my companions had to send her Lamb back, and when it returned (much too quickly) it was still not as ordered. We also had to redirect the waiter to a nearby table that had been trying to get his attention for ages.

Marks out of 10

Food 4

Service 4

Benares on Urbanspoon

Update : October 2009 – The Restaurant is currently closed for refurbishment.

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

Reads – got the looks but not the substance

A while back Gordon Ramsay described Michelin-starred David Pitchford restaurant Reads, just outside Faversham as his 11th favorite restaurant in the UK (in the Sunday Times if I remember correctly).

Unfortunately our visit was a bit of a disappointment, at least on the food front, which was a real shame as the venue is quite lovely.

It is really sad that so many places get this balance wrong.  The restaurant has 3 AA Rosettes, which is 2 too many in my view.

Marks out of 10

Food 4

Service 5

Ambience 7

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