Le Gavroche (2nd Visit) – Review

•December 20, 2009 • 3 Comments

Le Gavroche
43 Upper Brook Street,
London W1K 7QR
Tel: 020 7408 0881

Food type: French

Food rating: 8/10

Nearest tube: Marble Arch

Website: Le Gavroche

Apologies once again for the lack of updates. Unfortunately work has caught up with me faster than a speeding bullet and I have been swamped with the lack of time to eat let alone blog. I went to Le Gavroche for my annual birthday celebration visit. This is, along with the Square, one of my favourite restaurants in London. While I do not particularly enjoy being forced to dine with a jacket on, for the special occasions it is a bit fun to do a bit of dressing up. I still remember my first visit vividly from the superb cuisine to the service which was nigh-on flawless. Expectations were indeed high.

The menu is a selection of food that you actually want to eat. There are plenty of choices and dishes are classical. If there is something I particularly like about the food here is that it eschews all the latest trends like foams or weird funky ingredients for highly-refined, classically influenced French cuisine. As chef Michel would describe it – this is comfort food at its best. The a la carte menu hosts the usual suspects of French gastronomy – lobster, foie gras, truffles and caviar but without showing disrespect to cheaper cuts like trotters and cock’s comb. A practise which is unique to the Roux brother’s restaurants (at least in England) is that there is only one menu with prices which is handed to the host. I’m sure a few male diners have been sweating under their coat jacket worrying how much damage their female companion would do. Prices are definitely breathtaking with one starter a generous £60. For this visit, me and my dining companion decided to pick from the ALC menu.

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The Waterside Inn – Review

•November 14, 2009 • 7 Comments

The Waterside Inn
Ferry Road
Bray Berkshire
SL6 2AT
Tel. 01628 620691

Food type: French

Food rating: 8/10

Nearest tube: -

Website: The Waterside Inn

Sometime during the Autumn this year, I made a trip down to Waterside Inn, which is conveniently half an hour’s drive from my house in the leafy village of Surrey. As many are aware, Waterside Inn is one of only three restaurants in this country to hold the top accolade of three Michelin stars. As a quick reminder, here is how Michelin themselves describe a restaurant worthy of ‘trois etoille’.

“Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey. One always eats here extremely well, sometimes superbly. Fine wines, faultless service, elegant surroundings. One will pay accordingly!”

After the success of Le Gavroche in 1971, the Roux brothers decided to expand their business to the quiet little village of Bray, Berkshire. That was 1972 and a joint venture between Albert and Michel. Of course many years down the line, they would part ways with Albert in charge of Le Gavroche (later handing over reigns to his son Michel Roux Jnr.)  whilst Michel Roux would stay at the Waterside Inn to later relinquish it to his son, Alain Roux. Unlike his cousin, Alain Roux has pretty much shunned the publicity of appearing on television and instead concentrated on events in the kitchen. Then again, he does have a brand new kitchen to play with these days.

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Within two years of its opening, the Waterside Inn garnered its first Michelin star and a second followed three years later. The trifecta was completed in 1985 and they have since held on to the highest accolade ever since. It is actually around this time (1984 to be precise) that Alain Roux started as an apprentice, working in the pastry industry. He trained for two years at Pâtisserie Millet in Paris before moving to various Relais & Chateaux restaurants in France. He then returned to the Waterside in to work under his father in 1992. It was not until a decade later that Alain Roux was given full reign of the restaurant as chef-patron, taking full control of the kitchen.

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Michael Wignall at The Latymer (Bagshot) – Review

•November 1, 2009 • 4 Comments

Michael Wignall at The Latymer
Pennyhill Park Hotel and The Spa,
London Road,
Bagshot,
Surrey, GU19 5EU
Tel. 01276 486 156

Food type: Modern French

Food rating: 5/10

Nearest tube: -

Website: The Latymer

Continuing on the theme of local Surrey Michelin star restaurants, this week I make it to Pennyhill Park to dine at the Latymer. Michael Wignall formerly of the Devonshire Arms, has recently been appointed as the head chef in2007 to helm the high end restaurant in this luxury hotel and spa which literally a 5 minute drive from where I live. Well I say 5 minute drive but due to my poor sense of direction, and night blindness, I managed to make a chore of locating the hotel.

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Michael Wignall like most chefs started off in catering college before having stints at Broughton Park (when Paul Heathcote was cooking there) and L’Ortolan (during John Burton Race’s time there) befire moving on to Cliveden where he was appointed head chef at Waldo’s. Wignall won his first Michelin star here under the guidance of executive chef Ron Maxfield. Ever since then, stars have been following him wherever he went – at Old Beems in Waterhouses and Michael’s Nook.  Wignall was then approached by Devonshire Arms to head up their Burlington Restaurant and turn their fortunes around. Within 6 months, the restaurant was awarded a star and 4 AA rosettes.

Of course, Pennyhill Park, home of the England ruby team,  came calling and Wignall could not resist the siren’s call to return  back to  the south of England. Again, recognition came quickly and in abundance. The restaurant has been awarded a Michelin star and Wignall has been nominated as Best Newcomer in the 2008 edition of the Good Food Guide.

The menu here is an interesting read with many tempting options. The ALC dinner menu is £58 for three courses whilst the ten course tasting menu is £78. Wine pairing with the tasting menu is a spicy £65 with 6 glasses although they are poured generously. This is of course as expensive as most One star restaurants in London. Lunch is £33 for 3 courses. A nice touch is that there is both a proper vegetarian tasting menu as well as a fish-only tasting menu available which was greatly appreciated by one of my guest. We tried the tasting menu on this visit.

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Drake’s at the Clock House (Ripley) – Review

•October 15, 2009 • 4 Comments

Drake’s at the Clock House
The Clock House,
High Street, Ripley,
Surrey, Gu23 6AQ
Tel. 01483 224 777

Food type: Modern Eclectic

Food rating: 6/10

Nearest tube: -

Website: Drake’s

Finally, it is time for my first review of a Surrey restaurant. After all, I have had more than enough time to settle down in my new home and find my way around. Located in the little village of Ripley, is Steve Drake’s eponymously named restaurant, Drake’s. Go ahead. Google it! There are actually two Michelin starred restaurants named Drake’s (the other located in Abinger Hammer)  which is a little confusing to say the least, so if you plan to make a booking do check you have the correct place.

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The reason that there are two restaurants named Drakes is pretty interesting but lets start with when chef Drake himself began his cooking career. Steve Drake began his career at the Ritz during the early nineties working with such luminaries like Nico Ladenis and Marco Pierre White. After a stint as sous chef at Aubergine (under William Drabble now heading Seven Park Place), Drake was appointed head chef at Drake’s on the Pond. It was during this time that Drake’s career started to blossom. He won the prestigious Roux Scholarship in 2001 (after failing to be placed in the competition two years prior) and a belated Michelin star soon arrived two years later. Most chefs would be happy with where they had got, but Drake had other ideas – that very year, Drake decided to leave Drake’s on the Pond to open up his own restaurant, Drake’s at the Clock House in Ripley. He won a Michelin star within a year of opening. Steve Drake consents to the use of his name on the former restaurant, hence there being two Drakes restaurant in Surrey.

The A La Carte dinner menu is sensibly priced with 3 courses at £46 and a tasting menu at £60. As an additional bonus, the restaurant offers a full vegetarian tasting menu for the same price. Unlike many restaurants who offer up a token gesture as an excuse for a vegetarian dish (or alternatively, a vegetarian menu cobbled up with whatever ingredients they have in the kitchen), the vegetarian tasting menu here is designed from scratch, and features as many bells and whistles as the regular menu. Lunch is £25 for 3 courses and a glass of wine.

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Eastside Inn – Review

•October 9, 2009 • 4 Comments

Eastside Inn
40 St. John Street,
London EC1M 4AY
Tel. 020 7490 9230

Food type: Modern French

Food rating: 6/10

Nearest tube: Barbican

Website: Eastside Inn

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When Bjorn van der Horst decided to set up his new venture, Eastside Inn, in the middle of the bleak recession, some pundits were wondering whether he had lost his mind. After all, his previous venture with Gordon Ramsay holdings, the ill-fated La Noisette, lasted less than 18 months. At least, this time around, his new venture is divided into both a more formal fine dining area and the casual (and cheaper) bistro.

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Born to a French mother and Swiss father, growing up in America, van der Horst definitely has an interesting mix of nationalities. His CV is impressive indeed starting as a commis chef at Joël Robuchon (his 3* restaurant) and then at Alain Ducasse (Paris). He then had stints at Picholine (Manhattan) and Gaia (Connecticut) before moving to London as head chef of the Greenhouse. With the financial backing of owner Marlon Abela, van der Horst earned a Michelin star. Their relationship was a strained one and in 2006, he left the Greenhouse to join Gordon Ramsay Holdings in opening La Noisette. After its closure in 2008, van der Horst took a sabbatical before finally opening Eastside Inn with his wife Justine (and the backing of some unnamed investors).

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We decided to dine in the more formal fine dining area. The décor in the room is minimal with a few paintings by British artist Chris Gollon. Tables are well spaced and this is definitely a credit to the restaurant as they could certainly have fit in at least 2 more tables. Three courses are priced at £55 whilst the tasting menu is £70. From my understanding, the prices have gone up some what since my visit in July (three courses now cost £70). There are a lot of extras thrown in – for example, amuse bouché comes in three servings. Business lunch is priced at £25 for 2 courses and £35 for 3.

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Schloss Berg (Part 2) – Review

•October 4, 2009 • 4 Comments

Victor’s Gourmet Restaurant Schloss Berg
Schloßstraße 27-29
Perl-Nennig 66706
Germany
Tel. +49 (0) 68 66/79-118

Food type: Modern French

Food rating: 10/10

Nearest tube: -

Website: Schloss Berg

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When I last left talking about Schloss Berg, I had barely touched half the dishes that Chef Bau had cooked for us. You can read about Part 1 of my review here. As I mentioned, I had the privilege to eat two back to back meals at his restaurant. The first meal highlighted on this blog was from our ‘lighter’ lunch. It is worth mentioning that there are no concessions offered but as you probably already know, there are plenty of extras thrown in. The 4-course menu that we tried during lunch is probably the most popular options with diners but for our second meal, we decided to brave it and try Bau’s 12 course “Voyage Culinaire”.

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Obviously eating two meals back to back presents some challenges for the kitchen. Undeniably there will be some repetitions but it is also a very good test of the kitchen’s repertoire and versatility. I will only talk about the new dishes that were part of the extended tasting menu, omitting the canapés and pre-desserts which were similar.

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Theo Randall at the Intercontinental – Review

•September 27, 2009 • 6 Comments

Theo Randall at the Intercontinental
Intercontinental Hotel,
1 Hamilton Place
London  W1J 7QY
Tel. 020 7318 8747

Food type: Italian

Food rating: 4/10

Nearest tube: Hyde Park Corner

Website: Theo Randall at the Intercontinental

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Despite frequent appearances on TV, most recently on Good Food Channel’s Market Kitchen, Theo Randall has never rose above the ranks of minor celebrity chefs amidst more illustrious counterparts like Giorgio Locatelli and (shudder) Jamie Oliver.  It is definitely not for a lack of his cooking ability. Despite not (currently) holding a Michelin star, Theo was at some stage of his career (actually a good 17 years) the mastermind alongside Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray at the ever popular River Café where he won them their first star.

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Theo began his career working under Max Magarian at Chez Max in Surbiton. He spent four years training here before a short stint at the River Café. Theo then moved to California where he had a short one year stint under Alice Waters at Chez Panise. He soon found himself back in England where he was appointed head chef at River Café. More importantly, now as a business partner, he elevated River Café’s status from, well, a simple café to one of the most popular foodie destinations in London. In his own words, Randall could have easily stayed at his cosy little bubble he had erected for himself at River Café but opted for a new challenge.

“I always felt that I might look back and wonder if I could ever have done it on my own.”Theo Randall

In November 2006, Theo left River Café to head his own venture at the Intercontinental. The restaurant has gone from strength to strength winning the accolade of ‘Italian Restaurant of the Year’ at the 2008 London Restaurant Awards. Much like at River Café, the cooking here is based on simplicity, seasonality and ingredients of the highest quality. Randall attributes this to the frequent yearly trips he would make as a child (with his parents of course) to Italy where they would stock up on the top produce available there – a practice he still partakes in to inspire his ever changing menus.

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