Bruno Loubet’s restaurant at The Zetter has had some excellent reviews. Indeed it was voted 3rd Best Restaurant in the UK at the National Restaurant Awards, just behind The Ledbury and The Fat Duck. That seemed a bit odd to me I have to admit, as this is a very different type of restaurant to the fine dining establishments I have just mentioned. Bistro Bruno Loubets is a “proper” bistro that serves good homely french food. It’s not fine dining, nor is it trying to be.
We visited on a Monday lunch time and were on the whole surrounded by affluent dinners enjoying business lunches. The tables are very close together, so you can not help but overhear conversations. I picked up a least one investment tip 😉
The staff are friendly and efficient, you could probably even manage a one hour turn around if you needed to here.
For starters I had a snails, meatballs and mushroom dish, a bit wintry for the lovely spring weather, but very tasty all the same. My companion had the Beetroot ravioli, which was lighter and more suited to the climate, it was accompanied by a fresh rocket salad. For main course he ordered the braised oxtail stuffed with cabbage and I had roast rabbit crumbed with almond and “forgotten” winter vegetables, that included atomic red carrots and some type of root vegetable I did not recognise.
We moved on to dessert, I had a very light Tarte Tatin with cinnamon ice cream and my companion ordered the white chocolate and passion fruit mousse with raspberry sauce. We accompanied this with a small and reasonably priced bottle of Domaine de l’Ancienne Cure 2007.
We then went on to explore the surrounding area. In the same square you have The Modern Pantry which looked inviting and the rather interesting building opposite is the Priory Church of St John which is part of the Museum of the order of St Johns. The Zetter has also expanded into the square with its sister venue The Zetter Town House. which has a small rather quirky cocktail bar.
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.
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.
The Fat Duck in Bray is the complete opposite of its near neighbour the Waterside Inn, The Waterside goes for old fashioned comfort (old money clientele), the Fat Duck does “flash” (new money clientele).
The room is minimalist in style and the food is excellent with very over the top presentation.
We visited before the recent alleged food poisoning problems, and experienced all the trade mark gimmicks – Dry Ice, Dragons Breath, IPods and the obligatory Snails Porridge. We also went for a matching flight of wines. There are two price options here, expensive and extortionate. We restrained ourselves and kept the wine bill under £100 per person.
It was an experience, but I have to admit I missed the warmth of the Waterside Inn as once the meal is finished, there is no way you would want to hang around or indeed be encouraged to hang around in the rather cold room. Then again I guess that is why Heston Blumenthal’s Hinds Head is only a few yards away.