Tag Archives: restaurant

Review: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

9 Aug

‘I want to sit in the lounge.’ This was the first requirement of one of my Dinner acquaintances and the reason for our group arriving, or at least planning to arrive, half an hour early. Unfortunately the Mandarin’s lounge is not all that, and drinks weren’t forthcoming, so having scored early minus points, we decided to draw a line under the pre-lunch experience and moved on (drink-free) to the object of our Knightsbridge trip. Namely, Dinner. Well, lunch anyway.

The restaurant is simple: dark brown and cream, with an impressive kitchen, fully visible and encased in glass through which you can see rows of pineapples being slowly roasted on the rotisserie and a surprisingly calm front line of chefs. The menu held no surprises, as we had all done our internet research, and of course at least two of us were bound to have the restaurant’s first signature dish, the meat fruit. As a signature dish, the meat fruit more than fulfilled its premise. The appearance of a tangerine, the taste of the smoothest parfait of chicken liver and foie gras that you could ever hope to come across and the skin of a mandarin, so fine that you almost couldn’t separate its texture in your mouth, but which added a minute and perfectly weighed fruity tang. I, with my roast marrowbone – which was incidentally, more than satisfactort, with well balanced flavours and just enough anchovy to give it a gentle kick – suffered severe food envy.

Meat fruit

 

Eating starters, and on our second bottle of wine, all five of us were more than content, but the service score was still suffering. We had been sat without a drinks list and not approached with one before asking. In a restaurant where the average spend per person is around £100, I don’t think it is too much to ask for the waiting staff to be diligent enough to think of drinks before we do.

We drank Billecart Salmon Brut (New Zealand), Albarino (Rias Baixas) and Sancerre first of all and were brought a Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon just in time for our red necessitating mains, which encompassed powdered duck, spiced pigeon, and two great hunks of meat – a rib-eye for one and a wing for two. The duck was probably the best of the dishes, ‘powdered’ meaning that the leg was a coated with spices including fennel and star anise, and providing a burst of pungency that begged for savouring. The pigeon was impossibly soft and smelt amazing in ale and spices, whilst the great quantities of steak with chips (not triple-cooked. The potatoes aren’t ready until September) were nicely fat-laden and rich in the taste of pure, bloody, carnivorous meat, although the rib-eye was slightly over-cooked. The sides deserve a mention, not least because the chef among us declared the pommes puree to be the best thing he’d eaten at the table. Exquisitely seasoned and emitting surprisingly strong flavours, the carrots were so good that you almost didn’t want to share them with the mainstays, instead enjoying the multiplicity of flavours within each meat-free mouthful.

Tipsy cake

 

Feeling spoilt for choice and sure that any preference would cause consequent regrets and inedible green-eyed monsters, we made the wise decision to get five desserts to share as pudding tapas. Feasting on chocolate bar, brown bread ice cream, tipsy cake, lemon suet pudding and taffety tart, the verdict was more or less unanimous that the ice cream and chocolate bar were the standouts in a competitive crowd. I couldn’t find the time or words to accurately and tangibly describe how truly great the brown bread ice cream was. Served atop crunchy salted butter caramel, it had savoury tinges of brown bread and salt that assimilated perfectly into the sweetness of the ice cream and the sugar, with a clashing and fusion that demonstrated complete understanding by one of the other.

Unfortunately, the same could certainly not be said of the £15 liqueur coffees that two of us ordered post-dessert. Triple layered in naff glasses, the booze stayed firmly at the bottom, the coffee somewhere in the middle and the cream managed to marble its way through the whole beverage infecting it with a tepid and lukewarm flavour.

Leaving suitably drunk and full of good food and wine, we argued over whether or not Dinner would or should be awarded a Michelin star. I would say not yet, but a cranking up of the service and a few serious floater coffee training sessions later, and it ought to be rearing to go.

 

 

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Review: Dover Street Restaurant

30 Mar

Getting to Mayfair’s Dover Street Restaurant, on Saturday, looked likely to be something of a challenge. At around the time we stepped into our taxi, angry protestors were reportedly smashing up Piccadilly Square, and our driver was despondent about our chances of getting the car onto Dover Street.

Said driver spent the greater duration of the journey gossiping excitedly on her hands-free set, ooh-ing and aah-ing and ‘oh my gawd-ing’ about the ‘hooligans’ running the streets. It was something of a surprise, then, to arrive at our destination unscathed; unaffected even, by anarchical protestors.

My mum and brother had chosen this restaurant not so much for its menu (not that there was anything wrong with it), but for its multi-entertainment purposes. The restaurant’s website brands itself as ‘the complete night out in Mayfair,’ replete with late opening hours, live band and dance floor. Fun for all the family.

The venue itself is nice, in a shiny sort of way. The walls are adorned with black and white photos of classy entertainers like Ella Fitzgerald, the staff are smart and attractive – but no more skilled or knowledgeable than your average casually-attired waitress in a small bistro – and the two bars, resplendent with glowing spirits and liquids of every imaginable type,  are lit up to high heaven in various hues.

Our pre-dinner drinks, which included an Apple Martini and a Mojito for the females of the group, were delicious and beautifully presented, but the wine chosen to accompany the meal – a Chilean Ochigavia Sauvignon Blanc, was a little disappointing; sharp and tangy, yes, but not fresh.

To start, I had crab au gratin, whilst my brother chose toasted goats cheese with roasted Mediterranean vegetables. Both were sizeable dishes with simple strong flavours, that were tasty if not particularly interesting. I was more excited about my main course. I’d picked the most expensive seafood option (£22.50), for its combination of sautéed king prawns, scallops and crab claw – surely a guaranteed winner. The seafood came in a green pepper and a (separate) champagne sauce, which was strangely and colourfully presented in rows beneath two lines of prawns and scallops, met at either end by a crab claw. Bringing the dish together – if only aesthetically – was a carefully piped line of mashed potato running through the centre of the square plate. I ate with an open mind, but still fail to see what the stodgy mash added to the plate, except for a heavy stomach. The fish, however – and most notably the king prawns – were perfectly cooked and delicious.

Shortly before ten, and we were given dessert menus that were, frankly, uninspiring. Crème caramel: check; chocolate gateaux: check; cheesecake: check. Boring, boring, boring. We were, however, shortly to enter the night’s entertainment phase. No sooner had the last table been cleared from the centre of the restaurant, than middle-aged women in inappropriately short dresses and impossibly high heels, began flooding onto the newly-revealed dance floor. And instead of the soul band, advertised to come on at ten, we were treated to hits by the likes of Wham, Take That and Spandau Ballet. A personal highlight was the moment when a James Caan (Dragons’ Den) lookalike, sporting a sleazy pinstriped suit, danced his way, elbows jutting and fingers clicking, onto the floor, in what I suppose he imagined to be a style reminiscent of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. He was presently joined by a squat blonde who’d spent the previous hour hanging from the arm of another suited and booted man at the bar. Both looked pretty pleased to have found dance partners to equal their own prowess.

We didn’t see the band, which was reportedly going to come on an hour later than advertised, but after the night’s antics so far, I wasn’t altogether assured that we wouldn’t have been treated to a wedding band- style re-hashing of Al Green and Lionel Richie.

The night as a whole was enjoyable: the food was nice, but nothing to write home about and the entertainment – though not what we’d expected – was certainly, well, entertaining. If you came here with work, you’d probably give Dover Street Restaurant ten out of ten, but for smaller groups it is somewhat lacking in intimacy.

 

 

Review: Berwick Lodge

19 Jan

As a waitress, Sundays are a precious commodity that are not so much to be enjoyed as to be spent indulging other people’s brattish offspring.  As such, it was a great luxury to be free last Sunday to have people serve me, and some work friends, at ‘luxury country hotel and fine dining restaurant’ Berwick Lodge

The day began early, at Whiteladies Road Boston Tea Party, and then onto the number one bus, which takes you to within a twenty-minute walk of the Lodge. Our journey began before the rain, and was a pleasant preamble to what was sure to be a delicious,  expensive and boozy lunch.

When we arrived at the hotel, we were confronted with a rather scary fountain surrounded by broken-down old-fashioned streetlamps that must have escaped the hotel’s five years of regenaration, and a surprisingly small, but impressive, building.

Inside,  all was plush, and subtlety forgotten. We enjoyed pre-dinner drinks in a luxurious room on luxurious sofas, where heavy interiors and furnishings were completed by an over-the-top chandelier, Georgian-inspired furniture and a strangely mismatched modern painting whose presence apparently attests to the hotel’s ‘arts and crafts’ status.

Of the five of us, only four were given a menu, as one guest was vegetarian, and not generally catered to.  We were told that the kitchen had put together a pithivier for our herbivore friend, but disappointingly, the specifics of her special menu were not communicated to us, until she got up to ask the waiter, who had to bring a chef out to explain.

On to the dining room, and we were suitably impressed. We had a large oval table for just the five of us, and this room was much more simple and elegant than its predecessor, with sweeping white curtains draping large windows, and a more simplistic approach to interior design.

To start, we chose a bottle of As Laxas Albarino (£29), which was complemented by the delicious bread selection, and the starters, which were primarily fish, with three of the group choosing scallops. I ate pidgeon with walnuts, pistachio, cherry, cocoa and Turkish delight. It was absolutely delicious; the flavours complemented each other perfectly, and the turkish delight was especially savoured, as I tried to make it last the pidgeon (it didn’t). The scallops were reportedly under-salted; I did taste them, but didn’t take much notice, being distracted, as I was, by my own dish.

Pidgeon starter

Prior to the main course, we moved on to a bottle of red – a Prophets Rock Central Otago Pinot Noir (52), that was perfect – light and smooth, and chosen by our most wine-cultured diner (that certainly wasn’t me) who could surely describe it more aptly.

With the main course, I continued on a meat theme, and was not disappointed. My duck with foie gras, kumquats and red cabbage, was perfectly cooked, beautifully presented and completely satisfied my high expectations. The foie gras – which I have only eaten once before, and whose ethical questions I am vaguely concerned by – was perfectly textured – like a mousse, but somehow lighter and more substantial – and not nearly as rich as I would have expected.

Duck

The others ate halibut, beef, chicken and ravioli, and all reported happily. I maintain (smugly) however, that mine was the best choice.  To pudding, and I wanted something light to follow my first two courses, and opted for the creme brulee with apple sorbet and compote. This was lovely and light, with welcome sharpness from the compote, but the sugar top was disappointingly lacking in the satisfying crack that you should experience when first breaking in to a good brulee. My friend’s chocolate coulant was over-cooked, but her disappointment was somewhat dissipated by the £25’s worth of ‘frozen brandy’ that she had to accompany it. I had a single shot of said brandy, and whilst it was undoubtedly very good, I did feel a pang of guilt at discovering that I – a non-brandy drinker or fan – had spent a lavish £12.50 on a digestif.

After lunch, we asked each other whether we would visit again. The general consensus, was ‘probably, but only after quite some time’. Perhaps for those more fiscally endowed, a repeat visit would be a nearer eventuality, but for myself, such spending on lunch must be spread out (occasionally) over various places.

My rating: 7/10