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

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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.

 

 

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The Sportsman – Fresh from the garden

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.

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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

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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

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Texture – something good from Iceland!

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

 

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