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Entries in Michelin Star (5)

Thursday
Dec292011

Where to eat in St Foy en Tarentaise

 Having visited St Foy every year for the past decade and suddenly realising that there was absolutely no literature about where to eat in this rapidly expanding town - it was time to make the ultimate guide on where to dine. Please note - all prices for dinner are estimates and include significant amounts of alcohol and that bookings in high seasons are a good idea - think a couple of months in advance for La Colonnes or a year in advance for New Years Eve.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jan252011

Zafferano - Not to be saved for last.

 


In an attempt to continue balancing out my restaurant reviews by eating at restaurants starting with letters in the last five letters of the alphabet. I headed to Zafferano. Zafferano is an obvious choice for people who love Italian food. It wears the one Michelin star badge, which puts it in a category with The River Cafe, Locanda Locatelli, Apsleys and Semplice, the last two I have never had the fortune to visit mainly due to not winning the lottery (Apsleys) and never really having heard about it until a couple of weeks ago (Semplice).

The restaurant is a bit of an icon at 16 years old, but suprisingly, its star is just three. My expectations of Zafferano were not that high. I assumed it was similar to Locatelli, where I found the restaurant stuffy and the food dull and under seasoned. I could not have been more wrong.
Zafferano is yet another great place for "spot the expensive handbag".  In terms of this league, Zafferano is the clear winner -  I saw a seven year old with a handbag that costs more than many people's cars.


The location is also ritzy. Its next to a Christian Louboutin store, and I vowed next time I was mad at The Boyfriend, to book it for lunch, order a bottle of champagne and post-meal drag The, semi-lucid but very well fed, Boyfriend next door.

Oddly, the restaurant was not even full, which for a Friday night seemed strange, although a bit reassuring that if you ever need a truly outstanding meal at a last minutes notice, Zafferano can help you out. Anyway, we started with a glass of champagne, some bread (not life changing) and some sort of deep fried pasta (much more exciting. So exciting in fact, that I felt a little heartbroken when the waitress took the last one away before I could eat it.)

I started with Bresola and Rocket in a goats cheese dressing. Now, I'm not really a salad fan and definitely not a rocket fan, so it says something if the dressing is so good on a salad I want to devour the whole thing. It was and I did.

The Boyfriend opted for a Octopus, Potato and Olive Salad, mainly to compare with the other italian restaurants we had been trying lately. This one was far superior to both Cecconis and Il Baretto. It was less complicated and fussy and really just let the three flavours speak for themselves. I know people always go on about how "you can taste a difference in the quality of ingredients" and to be honest, a lot of the time I really can't taste the difference between a "happy, free range chicken that had the most perfect life in the world until it died" and a chicken. Zafferano was different, that quality of the ingredients was so high, that even a simple combination of flavours tasted truly amazing.
So far, so good.

For the pasta course I ordered the Fregula, with seafood. What struck me about the dish, was the sheer amount of seafood. The menu at Zafferano is semi-set, two courses for X pounds, three courses for X + 10 pounds and four courses for X+20 pounds. Some of the items had a supplement on them, but suprisingly the Fregula containing half the Atlantic Ocean had no such thing. There were clams, mussels, scallops and langoustine all in a tomato soup like sauce. It was again, great. My one very small complaint, if I really, really was looking for something,  was that I wished there had been a little more Fregula but this was pretty damn good.
The Boyfriend went for the Pheasant Ravioli. I found the pheasant flavour a little too strong but The Boyfriend, as always, enjoyed it.



The Truffle menu is located at the back of the normal menu at Zafferano. The Boyfriend and I decided to accurately judge the restaurant, something off this menu had to be tasted. The Whole Roast Chicken, with leaks, mash potato and black truffle (£15.00 per person supplement, for a minimum of two people) was good, but not life changing. The truffle was incorporated into all three components, which was a little overpowering and meant that all three flavours were vaguely similar. The chicken was on the chewy side although I imagine it was one of those "happy, free range chicken that had the most perfect life in the world until it died" chickens. I should also note that the portions were so large by the time we had reached the main course both of us were stuffed.

Despite this, we ordered Apple Pie and both of us managed to eat it. It was like the rest of the meal. Simple but perfectly executed. 

Not innovative cooking, no weird combinations of flavours, science or things cooked in front of you. No food that resembles art, or waiters in outfits that match the decor . At Zafferano, the ingredients and the cooking are enough. The service merits no complaints, bar the waitress stealing the last fried pasta thing. It was efficient and swift, and our meal took a little under two hours - not bad, for four courses and three little bits too. At a little over £100 a head its not exactly cheap.This is, in part, due to our ordering a fairly expensive bottle of wine, two glasses of champagne and a taste of the truffle menu, all of which weren't that necessary.  Its just a shame that simple, great food is this expensive. But still it was worth every penny.


Zafferano on Urbanspoon

 

Monday
Dec062010

Roussillon – A story of Romulus and Remus

The story of Romulus and Remus, a story of two siblings, one who eventually overpowers the other. The success of one is linked to the demise of the other. Sounds a bit like Roussillon and Gauthier.


The menu is a moderately set, 5 options for each course, all of which change seasonally, but at a fixed price of 60.00 for three courses (personally I am not a fan of this I don’t like to be forced into eating dessert I would like to eat it willingly) and the price seems pretty steep. Even steeper when compared to Gauthier, the new younger sibling of Roussillon but sans Michelin star, at which three courses costs just 35.00.

The price gets even higher when considering that the atmosphere in Gauthier is more enjoyable then Roussillon and that Gauthier is in a more accessible location with better food. So here is the theme of the evening – Roussillon pales in comparison to Gauthier, and worse Gauthier is half the price.

The restaurant itself looks a bit outdated but The Boyfriend was very happy about the numerous Christmas decorations of which the novelty never seems to wear off. We started off with some unmemorable amouse bouche and then swiftly on to the starters.

The Boyfriend’s “Scallops & Apple Pan Seared Hand Dived Scottish Scallops Apple Puree, Ginger & Fresh Apple” was nicely presented. The quality of the produce really shone through with two of the largest scallops I have ever seen, which were beautifully cooked I might add. The apple, scallop combination was very nice and I assume the apple, scallop, ginger combination would be even better sadly, the dish seemed to be missing ginger. Strange. All in all though a nice light start to the meal.

My “Autumn Truffle & Wild Mushroom Cappucino, Mushroom Assiette, Coffee Jelly & Cep Veloute” was lovely to begin with. The coffee flavour cut through the mushroom flavour to begin with however, as I progressed through the dish, the coffee flavour became overpowering and just generally bitter. The description as with the Scallops and Apple, seemed to be misleading the Coffee was not in a jelly like consistency and again the truffle seemed to be missing. Very strange.

My “Pan Roasted Scottish Cod & Mussels, Cauliflower Couscous & a la Plancha, Taste & Textures Of The Sea” was a distinct let down. The theme seemed to be “everything but the garden hedge.” The Boyfriend enjoyed what looked like Christmas tree needles on top of the Cod mainly because, they looked like Christmas tree needles but quite frankly the taste didn’t appeal to me and neither did the rest of the dish. The Cauliflower Coucous had a distinctive bitter taste and a consistency of cottage cheese.  The mussels were overcooked to the point where I could not even cut one in half. The fish itself was nicely cooked but under-seasoned. Overall, a disappointing dish.

The Boyfriend’s “Pan Fried Stone Bass & Scottish Langoustine, Kohlrabi & Pistachio Puree, Red Pepper & Cardamon” He enjoyed. The fish was cooked to perfection with a nice crispy skin and he enjoyed the sauce. The langoustine looked a bit out of place, like it had accidentally ended up on the plate.

These dishes were followed by a beautiful palate cleanser. A fruit juice, of god knows what combination with cantaloupe. This half made up for the previous food.

My “Gingerbread & Apple, Caramelised Apple, Apple Sorbet, Gingerbread Biscuit & Vanilla Cream” was amazing. The apple sorbet was refreshing but not too sour juxtaposed against the sweet caramlised apple. The vanilla cream had a perfect vanilla flavouring. The gingerbread biscuit was overly chewy and took 3 minutes of chewing to finish the thing.

The Boyfriend’s “Banana & Cherry Gateau, Peanut Butter Ice Cream & Sour Cherry Jam” according to the Boyfriend was wonderful but to be honest, he loves peanut butter so I think he would probably have been equally satisfied by just a jar of peanut butter.

The service was fine, attentive but not particularly personable and the dishes came quickly.

Overall, Roussillon was a let down. Had it been the cost of Gauthier I think it still would have been a let down. In the end, Gauthier is the younger sibling which, completely overshadows its older brother. 90.00 a head, which is what we paid, would be understandable for Gauthier, but for Roussillon it just wasn’t.

Update - Under two months later Roussillon lost its star and, unsuprisingly, Gauthier gained one.

Roussillon

16 St Barnabas Street
London
SW1W 8PB

0207 730 5550
Roussillon on Urbanspoon

Thursday
Nov182010

Bar Boulud -

Daniel Boulud is America's equivalent of Gordon Ramsey except he's not American, or bankrupt or having a public fight with his mistress/father in law/mother in-law and wife but you get my point - incredibly successful with numerous restaurants and Michelin stars . Despite being from Lyon, Bar Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental is his first venture in Europe and when it first opened in May it received a lot of acclaim. In fact it took about 2 weeks before it became tough to get a table less than a week in advance. So finding a table on a Wednesday, for that very evening made me a very happy camper indeed.



The Boyfriend and I arrived at the restaurant 15 minutes early of all things - something which has never happened and probably never will be repeated. The restaurant happily accommodated us and seated us immediately. 


The restaurant itself has the "ikea look" that seems so popular now. Why the backlash against white table cloths? I really dont understand. Despite being the World's Biggest Ikea Fan I think the restaurant itself looks a little tacky. Clearly not an off-putting factor as it was packed when we entered.


The service was charming and attentive and easily the nicest service I've experienced in a while. The menu is like a typical bistro restaurant although with a lot of emphasis on charcuterie, terrines and pates, which according to the message from Mr. Boulud himself at the start of the menu is their speciality.  The wine list was "good and comprehensive" according to The Boyfriend.


We started with a White Truffle Risotto at - 37.00 



This was a special and only available I assume for the limited time period they are in season (Oct- Nov). Basically, book now. Order this dish.  Order the big one. Maybe two. Trust me it will be worth it. No-one I think can sum up how I felt about this dish more eloquently than Liz Gilbert writing about Pizza in Eat, Pray,Love - 
" I love my [risotto] so much, in fact that I have come to believe in my delirium that my [risotto] might actually love me, in return. I am having a relationship with this [risotto], almost an affair."

The Boyfriend stated it was fair competition and that it was so good I would be completely justified in trading him for another plate of the risotto. 


Luckily for him and unluckily for me before I got the opportunity the Charcuterie - 14.50 - provided a distraction.



Given, the little note at the start of the menu about how Mr. Boulud's friend makes the best charcuterie, I thought this was disappointing at least no-where near as good as the one I had at Somerset House last Wednesday. The charcuterie consisted of:
- Lamb terrine (which tasted like solid curry) 
- Duck terrine (with aubergine I think?)
- Pig's head terrine (The noise level was quite high - I might have misheard that one)
- Another terrine (under seasoned) 
- Ham (boring)
- Salami (equally boring) 
Maybe it was because trying to follow the risotto was a tough act or because the memory of Tom's Kitchen's Charcuterie was sill in my mind but regardless it just didnt hit the spot.
The next dishes were similar, good but didnt live up to the standard set by the Risotto. 


The Boyfriend's Seabass - cooked la plancha,roasted figs and fennel and bordelaise sauce - 19.00 




He said was good but " too much fennel", "messy presentation" and the "the fig is just not working".
My Mussels - steamed in white wine, shellfish veloute, garlic, parsley with grilled ciabatta - 13.75


Was fine, a bit average and quite frankly, I like the mussels in my local Loch Fine better. They just tasted like they were missing something. What I'm not sure, but definitely something.


By the time we had made it to dessert the service started to slow a bit and our glass of Muscat didn't arrive till we were halfway through our dessert. 


The dessert itself - coupe peppermint, flourless sponge, hot chocolate sauce, mint and chocolate ice cream -8.50


Was possibly the funnest dessert I've eaten in a long time. A sucker for anything with a bit of a production, I found the pouring of the hot chocolate sauce on to the frozen chocolate "lid" of the dessert and watching it all collapse on to the mass of peppermint chocolate-ness inside all very amusing.  The main desert itself was rather strange. The mint was heavy and not quite balanced by the chocolate and inside were what tasted like rice krispy treats. I didnt really like it but for some reason I could not stop eating it. 




The bill came to 175 which given it included a 60 bottle of wine and a 40 starter seems reasonable.
All in all, I really like Bar Boulud. The atmosphere, the menu, the charming service are all very likeable. If I had the option of eating here every Wednesday I think I would. In fact, I might starting booking them now


Bar Boulud
66 Knightsbridge
London

SW1X 7
Bar Boulud (Mandarin Oriental Hotel) on Urbanspoon

Sunday
Nov142010

Le Gavroche - A trip to 1967?

I wasn't going to write about my trip to Le Gavroche. Instead, I was going to relax and enjoy the experience, which is why I failed to take photos. That was until they annoyed me. 




I don't know why other reviews/blogs don't mention this point. Maybe because they are written by the "host", or maybe they think its charming in an old school sort of way. Regardless, only having ONE menu with prices on that goes to the "host" is an irritating concept (I know this is typical in France but in London?). I genuinely don’t know how they work this out. Whether its the name of the person who made the booking or the just assume the man will pay.  If the booking was in my name would I have got the menu with prices? I mean what happens if I want to take my sister to dinner there who is the "man" then?

The restaurant itself, I found a bit outdated which again, I'm sure some people love. I thought it looked a lot like a dark and dingy basement and a much older version of The Brompton Club. But the tables were nicely spread out and large.   

What also annoyed me that in the middle of the table, a table in a restaurant that costs on average £75 a head, was a small cardboard card, much like the ones you find in Pizza Express advertising their "New Christmas Menu only - £14.95!!!", containing a picture of Michel Roux, a blurb about his new book and polite instructions on how you could buy the book for only "£25!!!".  It was tacky, and looked very out of place. If they were going to pimp his book out to people already spending 3 figures per table, it should had have done in a classier fashion and not on a cheap bit of cardboard. 

But anyway, so we moved on 2 amuse bouches were brought out but they weren't memorable. Then we received our menus which neither the Boyfriend or I realised was different. These were our thought processes:

Me - The menus don’t have prices? How cheeky! Is this like one of those really expensive stores? If you need to know the price you shouldn't be eating here? That is a bit snobby. Oh well, I guess none of the prices can be that different. I don’t imagine that they could have a main worth £100 and not warn people about it. I'll have the Artichoke, Foie Gras and Truffle to start and then the T-bone of Turbot with butter chive sauce and spinach. 

The Boyfriend – That is a £40 starter and a £50 main. That is a bit out of character she normally doesn’t order the most expensive thing on the menu. She must be mad at me. I wonder what I've done? Hmmm oh well maybe this will get me out of trouble.... Great sweetie, I'll have the Double Cream Cheese Souffle and the Venison with Chocolate Sauce.

The service was attentive and I think they had more people serving then being served, a nice change in so many restaurants. It was very precise, very well organised but a bit cold. Having 14 people serve you all trying to be efficient meant that you didn’t get the friendly experience so many other restaurants have. It also meant that if you looked around the restaurant you might as well have been watching an athletics track field as the waiters seemed to be running in circles.

The wine list was "very comprehensive" and "physically very heavy" according to The Boyfriend who was also impressed they had Montrachet by the glass in such limited selection of wine by glass. His wine, he liked, though not enough to remember the name. My wine, as usual, got a thumbs-up.

My starter, was beautiful - Artichoke filled with Foie Gras, Truffles and Chicken Mousse. It was surprisingly light; the truffles didn’t over power the rest of the flavours and the bite of the artichoke balanced out the rest of the flavours. Easily the best starter I've had in a long time. Definitly agree with the Michelin Man on this.

The Boyfriend's starter – Cheese Soufflé cooked on Double Cream - was equally good. It looked like a cloud not a soufflé dish in sight in sight just a mass of white goo. All light and fluffy looking but surprisingly "heavy" and "difficult to eat. Perfect "hangover food" although I imagine most people who head to Le Gavroche aren’t hung over - just him and I. 

The next course, I found a little more disappointing. Now, I know I complain about Michelin star restaurants competing to be so "out-there" so innovative, so creative that combinations of flavours that shouldn't be put together are. There is a fine line between fresh, new and interesting vs. plain disgusting and just plain. I feel the starters were in the first category, interesting and something I had never tried before (maybe there are similar things elsewhere, but I have yet to encounter them) even the soufflé, which was cooked in a way unlike any other I had seen before. The main courses were a little less original. This was my first trip to a 2 Michelin Star restaurant - maybe I was expecting too much. But the menu, much like everything else during the experience, was a bit outdated.  Given the standard of cooking in London is rising so rapidly its no wonder that chefs are forced to push the boundaries. Cooking perfect traditional French food isn't enough any more when there is so much competition in the field.

My turbot was perfectly cooked no doubt. The whole combination of flavours was lovely. From the chive and butter sauce, to the spinach, to the cannelloni with swede was great but at the same time not groundbreaking. Maybe I was only let down by the two star tag but I regardless was disappointed. 

The Boyfriend's Venison with chocolate sauce - The Boyfriend finished every bite of this. At least he offered to let me try some. His one complaint was that there was little too much of the chocolate sauce but regardless I think had we been at home he might have licked the plate.

Despite groaning that we were "so full I’ll never eat again ". We went for dessert. This is when we realised the menu pricing issue as both men and women get to see the prices of the dessert. As I commented on this, the boyfriend pointed out that the price had menus leaving me wondering for a good ten minutes whether I was losing my mind or vision. The Boyfriend, hoping to reassure himself and I that I wasn't crazy; asked the waitress who explained the situation.

The Tarte Tatin was faultless but nothing spectacular. Not "all I want to do is eat this dish over and over again for the rest of my life" or "I would trade you, my boyfriend/girlfriend, for this dish". Just good. 

The cost came to £210, which given that my food cost £90 is understandable. I happen to wonder whether that might be the logic for the menu/price thing - that people will be encouraged to more expensive things like me or that your supposed to be encouraged to eat whatever you want regardless of cost but I felt a bit cheated and embarrassed when I saw the bill. Assuming that you were on a date or with someone who you wouldn't discuss the bill with I think it gets even more awkward because they would assume that you knew the price but just happy to have them pay for the wildly expensive thing you just ordered without realising.

I dont't think it was worth the cost. If there was a choice between repeating the experience or buying that Alexander McQueen Skull Scarf I've been wanting so much the scarf would have left me much happier.

The Boyfriend summed up the meal by saying "The food is the type that will give you a heart attack if you are over the age of 50, but I guess that is French food." In the end, I guess you are paying for the brand, with 43 years of experience the restaurant is so well-established and an institution at that, that they can demand the prices they do and continue to have punters regardless of the experience. However, the food is very good but some things need to be updated.


I'm not alone in my issues!
43 Upper Brook Street
London

W1K 7QR
020 7408 088a
urant/London/Le-Gavroche-Mayfair
Le Gavroche on Urbanspoon