Posts Tagged ‘AA Rosettes’

Harveys Fish Market, Oyster Bar & Restaurant – still not the plaice to go!

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

Harveys of Ramsgate now has an AA Rosette and a change of chef (or so we were told).  We thought we would give it a second chance, and see if our opinion of it differs now from our last rather damming post.

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Harveys Fish Market, Oyster Bar & Restaurant

We ordered the fixed price ‘grazing menu’, (which had a very limited fish selection)  2 courses for £12 (this certainly sounded like a bargain),  and a couple of glasses of pretty good wine. We also ordered a portion of their own baked bread which was okay. The starters arrived. Things were looking up as the presentation appeared to be not too bad. My salmon and beetroot with micro greens actually had flavour. Unbalanced but flavour none the less. My companion went for the butternut squash risotto. It also looked good but turned out to be completely lacking in flavour, basically just stodge ….oh dear as we were ready to amend our opinion and eat humble pie.

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My main course arrived. Apparently this was a ‘belly of pork’. Well it was like no cut of meat I had ever seen. It looked more like a cross section of spinal column (more cartilage than belly!). Only one word came to mind during this course and that I’m afraid was ‘Repulsive’.

Belly of Pork!

Belly of Pork!

My companions Plaice looked like it had been bitten by a Shark!. It was also over cooked.

Plaice and Potato salad

Plaice and Potato salad

When asked if we wanted dessert or coffee we decided to pass and left the restaurant as hungry as we went in.

Instead we had pancakes at Miles Cafe Culture – a genuinely buzzy and quality establishment.

Pancakes at Miles

Pancakes at Miles Cafe Culture

Our visit to Harveys was on a Saturday at lunchtime, only two other tables were occupied, so for ambience we had some background music and a baby crying in the corner. We were also a bit surprised that the fish slab was not  in use, to let us see what fresh fish was on offer.

We passed by again in the evening, on the way to Age & Sons, and noticed that the restaurant was barely half full. Which was interesting when compared to the completely full Age & Sons, which attracts exactly the type of clientel that Harveys are trying to target.

How the AA could award Harveys with “The only AA Rosette in Thanet” is beyond me. There are more deserving restaurants in Thanet, such as Age & Sons. It was also disconcerting to read the description of Harveys in toptable, it used words like “steller seafood” and intimated that Celebrity Chef John Burton Race was involved in the cooking. I am pretty sure he is not.

After two visits now, our conclusion was that Harveys would be an ideal candidate for another Celebrity Chefs TV show – Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.

It’s great that so much money has been invested in Ramsgate, which does really need a good fish restaurant. We just don’t feel the investment has  been made in the kitchen where it really counts. It’s also good to know we are not alone in our views, as I have spotted a couple of reviews now that use words like “Dire” to describe the food in Harveys. So unless there are some major changes here, Harveys can relax as we won’t be reviewing them again.

UPDATE – November 2009 : Just read Jay Rayners recent review for the Observer, spot on. He was also brave enough to try the Oysters!

UPDATE – July 2010 : See picture below, this is amazing. It looks like they are actually using the negative review in The Observer to market the restaurant.

UPDATE – October 2010 : About time!  Harveys is finally closed – RIP please! For more information see post from Isle One.

Marks out of 10

Food 2

Service 3

Ambience 2

Harvey's Fish Market & Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

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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 dinning 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.

Abode – not so inviting!

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Before I visited Abode in Canterbury, I had read a  review by a well known food critic which I thought was a bit harsh, this is after all one of Michael Caines projects.  Boy was I wrong, if anything he was being too kind!

When we arrived we were left waiting for what seemed an age as there was no staff in the dining room. Not a good start.

The food when it arrived was totally underwhelming, some of it was just downright unpleasant.  One desert tasted like play doh© and another tasted like cigarette ash.

The kitchen also recently came under criticism from other sources, see Caterersearch.

The service was in general chaotic. What was particularly hard to swallow was that they charged London Michelin star prices. You would get better value taking the train to London than eating here. Sadly another “Faux Gourmet” experience to chalk up.

Abode apparently merits 2 AA Rosettes – the definition for this is “Innovation, greater technical skill and more consistency and judgement in combining and balancing ingredients are all needed at this level.”

On leaving our opinion was that the only talent there was the busker playing outside.

Marks out of 10

Food 2

Service 3

Ambience 3

Michael Caines Restaurant at ABode on Urbanspoon

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