Hélène Darroze at the Connaught, London – Ambitious Pricing

Hélène Darroze at the Connaught
The Connaught,
Carlos Place, Mayfair
London, W1K 2AL
United Kingdom
Tel. 020 3147 7200

Food type: French

Nearest tube: Green Park

Website: Hélène Darroze at the Connaught

It has been a while since I last visited Hélène Darroze at the Connaught. I’ve been twice, once when the restaurant shortly opened and the second shortly after they were promoted to two stars. The cooking here is pleasant enough, although its not on the top of my list of places to revisit as I feel that there are other stronger 2* restaurants in London I would rather go back to. Interestingly enough, Darroze’s flagship restaurant in Paris was demoted from 2*s to 1* around the same time her restaurant in London was promoted. Perhaps Madame Darroze has been concentrating more of efforts here in London, although from what I understand, she splits her time between both restaurants equally.

Ping Pong Ball Menu

Ping Pong Ball Menus

Since my last visit, the restaurant has introduced their now famous ‘ping pong ball and board’ menu concept. Each ball contains the core ingredient of a specific dish on the menu and the idea is that you would leave on the board the items you want while putting aside the items you do not fancy. If you are ordering from the lunch menu you  er… order the old fashioned way. I guess it makes it easier for the front of house when taking the orders with their multi-course, design your own tasting menu. It is a bit of fun, but my wife thinks that this is a naff idea and out of place in a dining room which is formal and opulent.

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Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, London – In Safe Hands

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Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester
Dorchester Hotel
53 Park Lane Mayfair
London W1K 1QA
Tel: 020 7629 8866

Food type: French

Nearest tube: Hyde Park Corner

Website: Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester

We returned to the Dorchester recently to celebrate our wedding anniversary. One year has flown by very quickly for us. This time last year, all I could remember was the stress of wedding planning leading up to the big day. Thankfully, this is something you only have to do once in your lifetime. Restaurant Alain Ducasse holds a lot of sentimental value for us as I proposed to my wife here (dining at the Table Lumiere) and of course, our wedding reception took place at the hotel.

Table Setting

Table Setting

Much has changed since we last dined here, almost a year and half ago. Former Executive chef Jocelyn Herland has now moved to Ducasse’s restaurant at Le Meurice (Paris) and in his place is Jean-Phillipe Blondet, previously his 2nd in command. He brings with him a more contemporary style of cooking compared to Jocelyn’s more unashamedly classical style. Restaurant Director, Damien Pepin is one of London’s finest Maitre Ds and recognised us immediately on arrival. After all, he was responsible for helping to ensure that the engagement went smoothly. After handing us the menus, he made our choices a lot easier by offering us a bespoke tasting menu to allow us to try some of chef’s favourite dishes making use of the best seasonal ingredients. As a side note, given that menu prices in London have pretty much skyrocketed in the last couple of years, the prices here have remained relatively the same. The tasting menu is now £140 compared to £135 2 years back, and the seasonal tasting menu is still £180.

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L’Enclume, Cartmel – Cerebral

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L’Enclume
Cavendish Street
Cartmel, Grange-over-Sands
LA11 6PZ
Tel. 015395 36362

Food type: Modern British/ Creative

Nearest tube: Sloane Square

Website: L’Enclume

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Table Setting

L’Enclume was the main reason for the road trip in November. A five hour or so drive from my home in Surrey to Cartmel is no mean feat, especially for someone who suffers from travel sickness. I blame my weak inner ear fluid. My desire to visit L’Enclume was born from my visit to Fera at Claridges (which Simon Rogan has recently announced parting ties with) earlier in the year. By no means was the meal at Fera bad. It felt rather industrialised which is unsurprising giving the number of covers. The cooking was polite and correct, but lacked character. It lacked soul. But as Rogan’s food is so highly rated by both food writers and chefs alike, I decided to make the long trek up to Cartmel to experience his cooking first hand.

There is only a tasting menu for both lunch and dinner, prettily presented in a sealed envelope. They do check for allergies and dietary requirements beforehand so I am sure the menu is not completely set in stone. Priced at £130, this is on par with most 2* restaurants in London. It is actually more expensive than say the tasting menu at Marcus. There is also a shorter lunch menu priced at £55. We booked their ‘Cartmel Escape’ package which included the dinner menu for two, accommodation, half a bottle of Nyetimber sparkling wine and breakfast at Rogan and Co. the next day. Just as a side note, unlike many restaurants with rooms, the accommodation (and sister restaurant) is not located at the same site as the restaurant but is a short 2 minute walk around the corner. It was not a problem for us, but it is important to come prepared, knowing what the British whether is like.

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Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London – From Strength to Strength

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Restaurant Gordon Ramsay
68 Royal Hospital Road
London
SW3 4HP
Tel. 020 7352 4441

Food type: Modern French

Nearest tube: Sloane Square

Website: Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

I have been very slow to update my blog. One of the main reasons is because of my new job which requires me to do a fair bit of commuting. That leaves me very little free time in between to blog. With free time at a premium, I have prioritised eating over blogging. In between, I have also discovered Instagram. Yes, I know I am a bit late to the game, but the whole app is rather addictive and I have found myself spending more time uploading pictures and notes of my meal there rather than writing a formal blog.

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Restaurant Entrance

Anyhow, almost a year to the date, we returned to Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Royal Hospital Road for lunch. Last year, we dined at the Inspiration table which was an excellent experience altogether. Much like my free time, getting a table at RHR is hard to come by given how small the restaurant is. Despite the restaurant not featuring prominently with today’s Instagram crowd (the restaurant allows photos via camera phones only) it is still a very popular spot for both their regulars and gastro-tourists alike. One of the main reasons is because the food here continues to evolve with todays trendy dining crowd. Although the cooking here may be rooted in classical flavours, they continue to modernise, embracing newer cooking techniques and lighter flavours. Of course, Ramsay has been blessed with a very talented team as well with long time sous chef Matt Abe now heading up the kitchen.

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Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham – World Class

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Restaurant Sat Bains
Lenton Lane,
Nottingham, NG7 2SA
Tel. 0115 986 6566

Food type: Modern British

Nearest train station: Nottingham

Website: Restaurant Sat Bains

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Restaurant Sat Bains

There are some restaurants that you have such a perfect experience at that you dare not revisit in case it does not live up to that memory. Restaurant Sat Bains is one of those – a restaurant I had visited nearly 4 years ago for my birthday and had one of those most interesting, thought-provoking meals. I can still remember each and every single dish of that meal which is a testament to how memorable my experience was. This would be my 3rd visit here, having visited once when they held a solitary star. For the complete, experience, we would also be staying in one of the hotel rooms, which are all individually furnished and unique. Nothing beats rolling into bed after a lengthy meal.

The drive up to the restaurant takes you through an industrial estate which is rather unattractive. Energy pylons hang overhead. This is a very unlikely setting for a fine dining restaurant. Yet, the moment you arrive, you are transported into a little tranquil oasis. The property has undergone a bit of development since my last visit. One of the rooms has made way for their new prep kitchen, there is the addition of their developmental kitchen (Nucleus) which doubles up as an exclusive dining room and finally they continue to expand their gardens by growing vegetables on site.

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Tasting Menu

One of my fellow diners used to frequent the restaurant, back when he was living in Nottingham and the restaurant was actually called Hotel Des Clos. Back then the restaurant offered an a la carte menu, with the tasting menu (surprise menu) created spontaneously by the kitchen. By that, what I mean is, they did not actually have a tasting menu so when the customer (on the very rare occasion) ordered the tasting menu, the kitchen would scramble to come up with something. These days, the a la carte menu is gone and there is only a choice of 7-course tasting menu (£85) or a lengthier 10-course menu (£95) which features a few extra dishes. We dined at the Chef’s Table on this visit where the 10-course menu attracts an additional £30 supplement. Sat’s Great British Menu winning dish ‘Ham, Eggs & Peas’ is available as an extra course for a supplement of £15 and cheese is an extra £8. We went for the full monty with all the extras although we opted to skip the wine pairing in favour of a couple of bottles from their excellent wine list.

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