Medlar – under the influence

Anyone who has read our blog knows how much we appreciate Chez Bruce and the other restaurants in the Nigel Platts-Martin stable. The Medlar in Chelsea although not directly connected with that group of restaurants, is certainly influenced by them. The head chef Joe Mercer Nairne used to work at Chez Bruce and his business partner David O’Connor also managed front of house at Chez Bruce, The Ledbury and The Square.  So it was no surprise that we found that the menu and the service style was reminiscent of these restaurants.

I started with a lovely dish, Crab raviolo with samphire, brown shrimps, fondue of leeks and bisque sauce. This was matched with a glass of Domaine des Baumard Savennières Clos St Yves 2007, a beautifully smooth fresh tasting wine that I could so easily have consumed by the bottle. My companion was not so enamored by the Lambs Tongue and Lentil salad which was rather dominated by the lentils, he did however very much enjoy the matching wine, a glass of  Egri Bikaver, Bolyki a smooth light red wine from Hungary.

For main course I had Cornish brill with Jerusalem artichoke purée, braised chicken wings, crisp pancetta and salsify, which was another good choice, this was matched with a Marlborough Pinor Noir. My companion also had a rather nice fish dish. The Roast cod with a ragoût of mussels, pieds de mouton and charlotte potatoes. It went well with a glass of Chardonnay, Kooyong “Clonale”.

The wines were selected by Clement Robert the UK young sommelier of the year 2010 and were uniformly excellent.

We knew we could not manage to squeeze in a cheese course, so went straight to dessert instead.  I had a rather good Chocolate tart with pistachio ice cream and my companion had the Almond panna cotta with PX, poached pear and ricciarelli. He really liked the panna cotta part of the dessert, but did not feel that it particularly went with the other elements.

The dress code here is fairly casual, although we did spot one chap who I am sure is on a fashion police wanted poster (there is a certain shade of pink that should only be worn by 5 year old girls).  The customers are very much the Chelsea set. We would not have been at all surprised to see the crew from that dire show “Made in Chelsea” swanning in.

The food at the Medlar is good, we enjoyed everything we ate, although the wine did rather eclipse a couple of the dishes. It’s not going to replace Chez Bruce as a favourite, but it’s pretty good for Chelsea.

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Chez Bruce – Mmm…mmm…mmm

I made our reservation at Chez Bruce at fairly short notice, so our table was probably one of the worst ones in the room. However I was just glad to have a table as even at Monday lunch time Chez Bruce was close to full.

Yet again they did not put a foot wrong on the service front or with the food.  All through the meal we could hear ourselves continually making “mmm” noises, which says it all.  The food is seriously good, well balanced complex dishes that look beautiful and taste wonderful.

My raw, cooked and pickled vegetable tartlet with aubergine and tapenade, was amazing – it was so light and the mixture of textures and flavours worked so well.  My companion also really enjoyed his Pork Belly with Summer Bean Salad, Chorizo and Salsa Verde.

For main course I had the Plaice with creme fraiche and basil sauce, smoked salmon, pancakes and cucumber – the pancakes especially were really moreish. My companion had the Seabass with  prawn tempura, oriental squid and bok choy salad and was really impressed by the flavour of the fish and its distinctive sweet and sour pork crust.

We then moved on to share a cheese plate – the cheese boards in the Nigel Platts-Martins stable of restaurants are too good to miss. We then finished with the Vanilla, Almond and Raspberry tartlet and the Warm Poached Peach and Financier with Pannacotta and Ameretto, along with a couple of glasses of matching dessert wines. Leaving just enough room for a piece of the home made shortbread provided at the end of the meal.

We had a conversation with one of the waiters about Chez Bruces sibling restaurant The Ledbury, which he thought was on the way to its third Michelin Star and if that’s the case, Chez Bruce is well on its way to a second one, as the gap between them is not huge.

Chez Bruce is not just a destination restaurant, it’s a restaurant that makes you want to move to the area. Although in actual fact it’s not that hard to get to, as it’s just 2 minutes walk from Wandsworth Common train station, and there are frequent trains from Victoria with a journey time of 11 minutes.

Marks out of 10

Food 8.2

Service 7.9

Ambience 7.5

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La Trompette – treating ourselves in Chiswick

Made a return visit after a gap of a couple of years to La Trompette in Chiswick.  The area was livelier than I remembered, lots more interesting shops and restaurants.

The weather was good so the full length windows were open to effectively extend the restaurant into the outside space.

We had a very relaxing meal, with good food and friendly service in very pleasant surroundings. This is very much the sort of place where you can enjoy indulging in the wine list and taking your time over the cheese board.

Out of all the Nigel Platts-Martins restaurants we have been too, this one is actually our least favorite, not that there is anything wrong with it. It is still a very good restaurant, it’s just that  The Glasshouse, Chez Bruce and The Ledbury are better. So if you are in the area this would be a real treat, but I still prefer to make the trip out to Wandsworth for Chez Bruce or Notting Hill for The Ledbury.

Marks out of 10

Food 6.9

Service  7

Ambience 7

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UPDATE: April 2013 – La Trompette has been refurbished since our last visit, it now has a more spacious dining room, private dining facilities and a new kitchen. There is also a new Head Chef – Rob Weston.

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What’s coming next ?

The restaurants on our list for the next couple of months include some old and some new :-

LONDON – ENGLAND

  • Chez Bruce – Making a return visit, just because it’s so good.
  • Chor Bizarre – A new venue for us, reviewing the branch in Mayfair, not the one in Delhi or Noida 😉
  • La Trompette – Making a return visit after a gap of a couple of years to this Nigel Platts-Martins restaurant in Chiswick.
  • Launceston Place – Making a return visit after a gap of almost two years to Tristan Welch’s restaurant in Kensington.
  • Maze – Making a return visit,  Alex Marks formally of the Foliage has replaced Jason Atherton as head chef.
  • Morton’s Club – Making a  return visit to this exclusive private members club.
  • Roux at Parliament Square – A lunch time visit for a change.
  • Seven Park Place by William Drabble – A first time visit to this highly acclaimed restaurant in St James Club and Hotel.
  • Trinity – A first time vist to this Clapham Restaurant, its has been on the wish list for a while.

NEW SOUTH WALES – AUSTRALIA

  • Rick Stein at Bannisters – Our Australian correspondent visited Ricks restaurant in Cornwall a couple of years ago so should be in a good position to see how the Australian outpost compares.  Apparently it’s a tad warmer there than Padstow.
  • Quay – One of the Sydney’s top restaurants.

The Glasshouse in Kew – Sparkles

Timing will always impact on dining experiences. Our trip out to Kew was on a lovely spring day, the sun was shining. It was also the day after our rather disappointing meal at Dinner by Heston, so we were desperate to have a very special lunch. The Glasshouse is the only restaurant in the Nigel Platts-Martins stable of restaurants we had not been to and it most certainly delivered that special touch.  There is nothing over-hyped about this place, it’s not somewhere to be seen, it’s just everything a good  neighbourhood restaurant should be.

The food and service were spot on. The enthusiastic and knowledgeable Sommelier was delightful. Letting us try out some additional wines to compliment our food.

I started with the perfectly made salmon and skate ravioli and my companion went for the smoked eel, a stunning starter full of flavour. For main course I had something I am sure Heston would have called “Rock Pool” or “Seaside on a plate” and delivered with an iPod playing the sounds of the sea. It was an amazing looking fish dish with a crispy baby squid  sitting on top of a bed of silver mullet, surrounded by more crispy squid rings and olives. The flavour combinations and texture were perfect, it tasted as beautiful as it looked.  My companions main course was more conventional, he went for the delicious daube of beef.

The Glasshouse has a fairly comprehensive cheese board – lots of British cheeses, as well as some French and Spanish ones, so we decided to share a cheese plate.  It was matched with multiple glasses of wine.  Then for dessert I had some light moist ginger cake with rhubarb ice cream and a sauce that had the lovely intense flavour of ginger beer. My companion had the Rum Baba. The one dessert the sommelier did not match a wine with, being soaked as it was in boozy rum.  However as the dessert wine list was extensive (it even included two different PX‘s),  we just had to try more wine.  I had a glass of the Ice Cider (my dessert was not an ideal match for this, but I just wanted more of the wine I had tried with the cheese), the sommelier also let me try some of the wine she would have matched with the ginger cake, it was  a smooth and subtle wine that complimented the ginger flavours in my dessert beautifully. My companion went for the raisin flavoured PX.

We drank a bit more than planned, but left the restaurant happy and in no doubt that we would return again. Indeed we are thinking, maybe it’s time to repeat the whole Nigel Platts Martin circuit again, starting with La Trompette.

Marks out of 10

Food 7.8

Service 8

Ambience 7

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Kitchen W8 – a perfectly pleasant Sunday Lunch

Kitchen W8 is Phillip Howards restaurant in Kensington, it was recently awarded a Michelin star.

Phillip Howard is Nigel Platts-Martins partner at The Square, so my expectations were high.

I have to admit it did not have the WOW factor of The Ledbury or The Square or even Chez Bruce, but it was a very pleasant way to spend a Sunday lunch time.  The set Sunday lunch at  £25 a head  is not particularly adventurous, but what they do, they do well. My Whitebait starter had maybe a bit too much batter for some tastes, but was fresh, tasty and not in the least bit greasy. The potted pork rillette was a bit ordinary but fine for a set lunch. The mains were well received. The mash served with my well cooked haddock was particularly good.

The Bitter chocolate pudding  matched with PX sherry was a triumph (I should have photographed the empty plates!)

All in all, it was a perfectly pleasant way to spend a Sunday lunch time.

They were also pushing an excellent BYOB deal (no corkage fee on a Sunday evening), something that I do hope more and more fine dining restaurants take up, see Guardian article covering this trend.

Marks out of 10

Food 6

Service 6.3

Ambience 6

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What’s coming next ?

Having lunch at Dinner – Heston Blumenthals historically themed and much talked about venture at The Mandarin Oriental.

Planning trips to :-

and maybe, as we head into Spring, visit some Seaside Restaurants  around the Kent and Suffolk coasts.

Apsleys at the Lanesborough – Where Taste Fails

ONE day and ONE meal into the New Year and we already have a strong contender for the Worst Meal and Most Disappointing Meal of 2011.

We had done a fair bit of research before booking Apsleys (A Heinz Beck restaurant located in The Lanesborough Hotel).  The reviews were mixed, but on the whole quite positive.  Some food critics and bloggers that we would normally rely on (you know who you are), actually rated this place as a future two star Michelin restaurant.

The room is extremely opulent, very much old world styling, which is in keeping with the hotel, however the canned music is a bit jarring.

We also found that the rather irritating, variable lighting levels created the ideal environment to stop bloggers taking decent photographs and certainly did nothing to enhance the presentation of the food.

We chose the 5 course Tasting menu with matching wines.  Normally we have found that Tasting menus while often presenting dishes as small portions still manage to get the balance right, so that at the end of the meal you are comfortably full.  However after 3 of our 5 courses we were pretty sure this would not be the case here.

The first course was Wild red sea bream carpaccio which bizarrely had a tropical theme, tasting as it did of Pina Colada.  In our view this was hardly a suitable dish for the depths of winter.  The next course was a very ordinary Pumpkin tortellini with castelmagno cheese, which was followed by 5 wafer thin slivers of Scallop.

Basically the dishes fell into the category of just okay or downright bad.  The main course of Lamb with quinoa and sugar snaps in particular was actually unpleasant with a harsh astringent sauce and fatty lamb.

The dessert which was obviously designed to introduce some kind of WOW factor, fell flat.  It consisted of a ice cream and honey comb biscuit filled chocolate orb.  The waiter theatrically poured hot chocolate sauce over it to expose the ice cream.   A nice idea, but the overall effect was to produce what seemed to us like a plate of cheap tasting chocolate sludge.

We had such a good run of restaurants leading up to and over Christmas, that we take no pleasure in reviewing this one. It brought back memories of the late and unlamented La Rotonde Restaurant at the Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne and the La Dama Tourist Trap in Barcelona.  Something is badly wrong when you have a strong desire to leave half way through a tasting menu.

The consensus was that far from deserving a second Michelin Star this restaurant really does not merit even the one star it already has. It is frustrating to go to these elitist high end restaurants that look the part and deliver service by numbers while failing to deliver on the food. Indeed it almost prompted us to make a new New Year’s Resolution to focus on just the restaurants in the Nigel Platts-Martin’s stable where food quality and flavour rule.

In conclusion one word sums up our experience of Apsleys – AVOID!

Marks out of 10

Food 3.5 (1.5 for the Lamb, as this was a “get me out of here” moment)

Service 5

Ambience 5

UPDATE: June 2012. Chef Change – Heros de Agostinis is now the new chef at Apsleys following Massimiliano Blasone resignation.  Hopefully he will be more generous with the Scallops!

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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

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