Archive for category London
Freshly awarded 1 star in 2011, the brother Galvins (Jeff & Chris) are not unknown on the market as they’ve been running Windows at the Park Lane Hilton since 5 years already. But far from the lux and chic of the Hilton outdated hotel chain – to be fair I’m not a fan to be fair of Hilton’s hotels, mostly 70’s old designed and tasteless – Galvins’ bros started this very clever new address in a far more “bobo” location, off the thrilling East End, not far from vibrant Brick Lane, close to the city and their financial clientele.
When you arrive, I would describe it as a revelation, almost a pray! Are you getting into a cathedral, a church, maybe just a barn? Very confusing as it was formerly a Victorian School Chapel now re-designed and listed grade II.
Massive, grandiose, superb…those are the words I would use here to describe the feeling. Please have a stand in front of the huge front wall, and then enter where you’ll feel almost like entering to a royal procession. The long bar on the left hand side welcome you and then you start to have an eye to the high and superb wood roof and the chandelier. 30 meters high, it’s an impressive volume, and above the open plan kitchen you can see the massive mezzanine.
Wonderful architecture and very bizarrely, you would expect the place to be very noisy, it’s totally the opposite. I appreciate my first minute in this religious dining room, almost a royal ceremony.
At this point in time, you can feel that the atmosphere is dedicated to food. A glance at one or two plates on other tables can straight give you the feeling that you just landed in a respectable place and that you’ll certainly enjoy the rest of the evening.
I’ve evocated recently the lack of service on most of the place I’ve tested so far in Europe. What a pleasure to arrive at Galvins and get a nice smile, to have someone opening the table for you i.e. take the chair away from the table for you to seat easily. But above all the cheer up from the staff, smiling and talking to you nicely. I think it’s been a while since I had this kind of really nice and professional feeling. From the maitre d’ to the sommelier, all the staff has been really professional. Always the right suggestion at the right time, no need to ask for bread here, it’ll flow naturally, and icing on the cake : clean up of the table between every course as well.
To notice as well, the sommelier was explaining the wines with such conviction and talent, this was a pure moment of pleasure just to listen.
But let’s start with the courses and appreciate the talent of the “chefs” in action.
Undoubtedly one of the best performance of the evening. Simple and in the meantime so clever. Made almost like a French style quenelle, but flat, then lightly dropped into a Lasagne style cocoon. Dress up with simple cress and cover of a light “beurre nantais”. Strangely the simplest dish of the evening, but at same time the execution was so perfect.
Another hit there, I’ve to say, somehow I would be able to eat this risotto every morning. The delicacy of the curd mixed with amazingly perfectly cooked peas. Another simple dish but just a perfect cooking. The peas where cooked to perfection and “popping” in your mouth while eating. The curd was giving some extra texture to the whole risotto. A must to taste.
Nice mix here and some creativity. Peach and Salmon, sweet and sour. Maybe adventurous but I’ve to say it works. The salmon was very fishy hence was perfectly balancing the sweetness of the peach flavor in the sauce and the slices under the salmon “pavé”. As the juice was a verjus reduction, the sauce texture was almost like a syrup. Very nice combination and well balanced. Otherwise, don’t ask me why, but we didn’t find the mussels!! Instead there was a scallop. Certainly a change of last minute. Not bad!! Another gem was this cucumber pickled and marinated in some almond juice or liquor?! Can’t really tell but it was fantastic.
Finally the chef signature dish, which I would call a “deconstructed” Morocan Tagine. I have to say, I never had that for a long time. The service as usual was fantastic, as the two waiters waited the last second, that all the tagine been dropped on the table to open all the four lids at the same time (very professional).
And then the perfection…..instantly the flavor of the best tagine I’ve ever had started to fill the air with a wonderful smell. All North Africa’s cuisine was instantly “embalming” the room. Harrisa, the couscous, the pigeon, …..unbelievable.
Then all the components were just divine, from the couscous “galette” under the pigeon, to the pigeon pastilla, and aubergine unbelievably creamy.
Then this pigeon breast itself which am assuming has been cooked slowly on “sous vide” and just slightly roasted at the last minute (assumption). The simple cooked garlic and this amazing lemon pickled with some almond flavor again.
Superb….. I just want to go back again …..
JUST FOR THIS MAIN COURSE…
Apple tarte Tatin, crème fraîche (not represented here)
Ok, let’s be honest here, I’m French, so as such « tarte tatin » is part of your language and our french culture as the “baguette” would be. Hence no restaurant of such a high standard should fail on this and a unique dessert, I felt a little bit disappointed. When you chose to take a “tasting menu” it is usually to have the chance of being blown away by the talent and creation. I’m afraid here we’re facing another issue on this menu. You can’t leave this amazing place on a bad impression. And I’m afraid, as well you’ll be sad if you leave the concert of your favorite singer without having your favorite song being performed, I felt the same…….
Don’t get me wrong, the dessert was superbly cooked. But not “twinkle” enough for my taste and for the price. Can do seriously better here.
So overall, what to think about Galvins?
I would stay on a kind of confusion feeling, share between excellence and disappointment. Some dishes were just superbly creative and full of taste. The creation is the key and root to the excellence. Over 8 courses, maybe only half of them are really striking my attention. The other half, I’m afraid is such pointless that it’s unfortunately leaving this feeling of inconsistency.
I think sometime chefs want to impress by the number of dishes on the menu list, and forget to balance with quality. Here maybe 6 courses would have been enough. Skip the terrine, skip the cheese. Replace by something exciting, unknown, or forgotten. And please, the dessert (even if this is not my favorite part in a full dinner) can’t be bad, neither average nor common. This is the grand finale, like in a firework. This needs to be fabulous.
Hopefully, I’ve to say I really enjoyed the raspberry macaroons and the pure chocolate seeds in the silver pot with the coffee. I think it was my real dessert; people were amused to eat for the first time chocolate seeds, uncommon and funny.
To sum up, I would say that Galvins at Lachapelle is still in getting on his strides. Some adjustments needs to be made on the overall food architecture. From a service perspective, for whoever is working for the staff and reading those lines I’ll give a 10. This was just one of those rare moments of professionalism.FOOD = 7/10 DECORATION/AMBIANCE = 8/10 SERVICE = 9/10 NOISE = 8/10 www.galvinrestaurants.com 35 Spital Square
City of London E1 6DX
020 7299 0400
Alain Ducasse – Dorchester – Park Lane – London
After a long time, I am finally putting pen to paper to write about the world’s current second best chef, having the most three starred restaurants, including establishments in London, Paris and Monte-Carlo; Alain Ducasse seems to be a “3 star machine”. Simply because of this, I respect the man. You’ve certainly never seen him on TV, he is very discreet and even still, he is one of the most talented chefs in the world and is perhaps one of the best restaurant managers in history. He currently holds 24 stars on his own, second only to Joel Robuchon.
His foray into the restaurant scene in London was not, as many think at the Dorchester, but at ‘Spoon’ in the Sanderson Hotel in Fitzrovia. After five years of hard word, the restaurant won its first star. Then in 2009, the chef took a step-up into the world of fine dining and took over the direction of the main restaurant of Le Dorchester on Park Lane.
I’ve tested his restaurant in Paris at the Plaza Athenée (part of Dorchester group) and I’ve always loved it, so I wanted to find out if the Dorchester’s reputation was all it was cracked up to be. Ducasse, helped by his protegé Jocelyn Herland, won the Dorchester two stars in 2009 and within one short year they attained le Guide Rouge’ s pinacle – three stars.
So how do you get from two stars to three? I got a bunch a serious foodie friends together to investigate further; we weren’t sure what to expect.
Obviously in this freshly redecorated dinning room, we expected to find a sumptuous space, created by one of the world’s best interior designers. Patrick Jouin, who had already decorated the Ducasse in Vegas had taken-up the challenge. As we walked in, an oval shaped waterfall of swarosky crystal welcomed us into a light bright, and generous space, which was pure and calm against the frenetic, noisy chaos of Park Lane in the outside. I liked the chocolate and green spotted walls in the alcoves and the contemporary furniture, which added to the serenity of the room.
But what I really like in the London Ducasse is that this French master chef has somehow managed to create a unique environment by mixing British flair, with typically French elements and themes. He has more importantly, found a way to cleverly adapt his cooking style to the local palette with his usual genius. Not finding this cross over of French classic cooking to British needs has perhaps been Joel Robuchon’s downfall.
Delicate royale of FOIE GRAS & PUMPKIN, lapsang souchong emulsion
The “mise en bouche” was one of those example marking simplicity and softness. This is crazy how mister Herland can just be simple and realise at the same time the most exquisite creation in cooking art creation. This one was superb. A pumpkin velouté so soft and mixed that you could see your face in it by reflexion. In technical terms we could call that a “glacis”, glossy as a mirror can be.
Presented in a small old fashion soup bowl, the velouté was honestly like a chinese lacq, in an orange tone. In the middle a round spot of foam from the lapsang souchong emulsion, slightly darker, almost burgundy coloured.
Then you start to eat. The dream starts at this stage, when you realise that on the bottom of the bowl has been dressed with some foie gras dices. I presume the velouté has been served directly very hot on a quite good portion of foie gras cubes. Therefore you don’t have them mixed, which would have been too strong and boring. Nooooooooooooooo here the chef has just created a 3 layers sneaky unprediactable flavour and shapes…the cubes, the velouté and the foam. All mixed together was just a superb combination. Well done I have to say, and certainly a good start for diner.
ARTICHOKE RAVIOLI, in herbs consommé
This starter was just an unbelievable moment in time. This kind of moment you’ll never forget, mainly from the faces of my friends, and from the full emotion we had when we started to eat the large ravioli.
Here we reach the sumptuous of being in a 3*** restaurant. Except if you are a serious professional cooker – or maybe mad – you’ll never try to do this recipe at home. “Why not??” will you ask…just because it’ll take you ages and patience?
Now to help you to understand, let’s come back to your imagination and when you were little.
Usually, we all love artichokes (Right??)…and what we love usually in artichokes is to scratch the leafs one by one with the teeth…after the artichokes being cooked….with either a vinaigrette or a mayonnaise.
Here J Herland create and invent, bring to us simplicity and brio. When you read the name of the course, you assume it’ll be again one of those artichokes heart (the inside)….and I wouldn’t say it’ll not be good….but I would say it’ll common or even boring.
But the master chef is sending you back in time and brings you the flavour of the artichokes. The bitterness of all those black-green part of the leaf that we love to suck, even just steamed. The raviolis are simply full of this crunchy and dark artichokes purée, which accommodate sumptuously with the herbs consommé. I can perfectly picture the “comis” in the kitchen meticulously scratching each leaf of the artichokes in the morning and preparing those large balls of artichokes purée, then coated with light simple ravioli pasta.
May seems simple, but most often simple ideas turn into a festival. Here, no “singing” oysters, no crystallized eggs, just the simplicity of the products and the brightness of the preparation. The Dorchester brings us into the past, using the simple sensation of our best moment. It’s something mainly used in those kind of restaurant, as it’s somehow giving the client a kick, a slap in the face, the thing they were not expecting. But this is the goal in achievement for such a quality place. Always pushing the boundaries.
Carpaccio of Scallops, beetroot and Truffle dressing
Artist? Yes mister Ducasse is an artist and his “protégé” seems to show it as well. From the minute we saw the waiter dropping the large plates on the table we all of a sudden recognized the beauty of the picture frame we had in front of us.
The round flower made of really thin scallop slices, alternating with beetroot slices and spinach in a wonderful “rose-window” style art creation. But what we didn’t realize at all – as I didn’t read properly the menu as usual – is that there was some truffle in this recipe. And it was a real fascination when I looked at the nice cabalistic shape of black and thick foam on the side of the plate. By just smelling it you can recognize the strong and famous truffle odour. At this stage this was a sumptuous delicacy and very odd combination! Black truffles are mostly preferred to be associated with meat. Here we were somehow intrigued by this white and black association. But I’ve to say….it works…and very well.
The truffle must have been crushed and reduce with a sea food stock coming I must guess from maybe squids. Thie latter was combined with a light lemon and lime background flavour, making the black sauce just very light. We can’t be too strong in flavour with Scallops, they are delicate and soft…..by covering with too much strong ingredients, you’ll destroy their supreme perfume. Truffle on one piece of Scallops, add some beetroot (sweet and tender) and a little spinach. Yummmmmy
What a perfect spot……I loved it.
AN APPLE COMPOSITION… « Comme trois pommes »
This is as usually really rare from me to talk about the dessert selection, simply because I’m not a sweet person (!! Ah ah ah). I just prefer salty dishes. It’s a fact.
But I’ve to say, this one was just the apogee of the full diner. I’m usually skipping this part, or not really enjoying it. But this time, the waiter treated us with respect (maybe because we’re French – lol). On the top of the regular dessert planned on the tasting menu, the waiter dropped on the table a 3 way apples style tart. One tart with three various way cook apple. Tatin (obviously!!), Apple Crumble style, and a Apple Curd Jelly with a crunchy of Apple juice on top. What can we say at this stage? Nothing just that we can commend all at the same time and have a huge respect for the idea; and certainly more for the quality of the tart. Paradoxically the Tatin tart was somehow the less interesting of the 3 flavours. The Crumble style was just superb, with the slightly cooked slices of apple. The last one was a very surprising shortbread layered apple tart with a layer of tender apple jelly and an apple juice crunchy….just totally fantastic. It was ace. Seriously
To sum up, Alain Ducasse surrounded by his head chef Jocelyn Herland succeed his magisterial entry in the small – very small – world of 3*** restaurant in the UK. The architect of the “haute gastronomy” has now proven that there is a great adaptation of French cuisine with british food and I’m somehow looking forward to go back again and try some of the new creation.MY RATINGS : FOOD = 9/10 DECORATION/AMBIANCE = 9/10 SERVICE = 8/10 NOISE = 9/10
Pure, fascinating, appealing ….those would be the words I would use to qualify the Hakkasan in London. Above all mysterious. The end of an alley lost in Firotzvia and always those big cars and those security guys… “do what to sneak a peak?
Then the smilling bouncer with her guest list. Here forget it…….not in the list or table booked hence this is hard door. And then this suspicious black front door, like the hole leading to a cavern……very intriguing and chic. Here we are at the Hakkasan.
Also this long dark staircase. Black colour seems to be a “leitmotiv” in Asia. Some alcoves garnished of huge and stunning strong lilac-purple orchids. Then this reception desk which could remind some trendy Hollywood stars clinic directly coming from Troy & McNamara…..also this double glassing door…some movement on the background….you cross some glamorous people once you open the door….what’s happening behind??
Hakkasan, a Japanese nirvana dedicated to the Asian “gastronomy” of the Rising Sun country, in the heart of London. One of the most famous table in the world granted of one star on the Guide Rouge*. You’ll be “lost in translation” in this place!! Noisy…swarming with people…but overall exciting. The walls, daintily decorated of flower shapes could give the impression of being transported to an Asian food market (hawkers) like the Newton Market in Singapore, or maybe a simple bed room in a nice house in Kyoto…..
I’ve to say, among anything else, the Hakkasan is one of the most famous bar in London, and got one of the most uncommon cocktail list in the world. All the cocktails are just divine. I would advise the Pink Mao Mao, refreshing and light, but above-all this stunning mix of Vodka, Watermelon and Sake (genius!).
At this stage you enter into a universe of feelings and flavors. Don’t expect here the standard french level of one star…”duh!!”. All is about forgetting where you are for a moment in your life. People are shouting all around you, the waiters parade like a procession in a street of Tokyo….this is like any market (trendy) in Japan.
To make the long story short, the owner of the Hakkasan is more than well known from Londoners, as he is is not only running this restaurant, but he is managing the vast empire of Wagamama (noddle bar) and Bussaba Eathai and more recently Cha-Cha moon. Mister Alan Yau plays himself as well in the high quality food restaurant as such as the Hakkasan and the Yauatcha, both awarded of one star on the Michelin Guide. Without any doubt there is a reason for that. The restaurant is currently conducted by the chef Tong Chee Hwee*.
On the “a la carte” menu, you can enjoy various nice things. To my attention we tried the Stir fry venison with water chestnuts, Thai celery and black fungus. I was mostly attracted by the “water chestnuts”, I never heard about it before. It’s called water chestnut mainly because of his shape, which I have to confess, once cooked, could look like a proper roast chestnuts. Those ones would remind somehow the flavour of some turnip, i.e. between something particular and very plain at the same time, but the texture of it is totally different, almost crunchy. The association with the venison is a perfect match. The overall is cooked on “sautée” style and added some oyster sauce and reduced with some kind of “lack” style, certainly strong dark honey. The result is somewhat nice and would surprisingly taste like one of our “European stew”. I would not compare it to one of our French wild board “daube”…but I must admit this is not far away. The water chestnut brings some character to the dish, maybe was I appealed by the round vegetable though.
If you’re adventurous and “gourmet” you’ll certainly want to try the Japanese abalone. Those seafood are very prized in Japan and very exclusive. It could be compare to the french delicacy e.g. sweetbread. This very beautiful shells, when they’re alive are commonly serve to really hype clientele in japan. It is along road to prepare the superb animal. You first have to excavate the inside of the shell, i.e. the mollusk. But this ones are very hard, so you have to beat them to tender their muscles. Once all done, you can cook them.Here it was simply stir fried with chili and soy sauce, and some thin morning glory. the texture of the abalone would remind, after a nice cooking time the texture of our european sweetbread indeed, surprising.
Another one was the Jasmine tea-smoked pork ribs. I maybe never said to you how much I’ve got some favourite meat I love on earth, and among any other meat, I’ve to confess, I couldn’t leave without eating pork. Pork is one of my favourite meat for the flavour and the texture of it. And among any cooking of pork (which I like to prepare with beer and, cloves and cauliflower, cooked for ages to juice absorption – I’ll write a recipe section one day – I have to) I really like the BBQ spare ribs. At Hakkasan you can enjoy the pork ribs steamed in a Jasmine vapour and then lightly roasted with soy sauce. This is just superb. You can really appreciate the smell of the jasmine flower surrounding the meat. The meat itself is cooked perfectly to just literally fall into parts into your fork. Over all it’s a divine creation.
To sum up, what can we say about the Hakkasan? Certainly we can confirm that this is a sensational moment in time. We can also justify the score below to be average for the noise. In Fact if you’re looking for something quiet and romantic, pass your way. This Hakkasan is among all a travel in Asia, more than a quiet and romantic dinning room.
But if you fancy some experience in the best Asian food market in the world in the heart of Europe, there is certainly no other place. Some can argue the one star Michelin. I would, but I can understand why we could put one star on an other hand.
One think to mention as well, the Hakkasan was 19 on 2008 World Best Restaurant list, but I don’t even now how to interpret this such this list is random.
For the service, don’t be surprised if you’ve been told that you have the table for 2 hours only, it’s what we had. It’s actually not too bad as your diner will certainly not last more than that time slot…..it’s very good, quick and loud.
In fact, you should just book a table and go, and have your own opinion.
8 Hanway Place, London W1T 1HD
Reservations +44 (0)20 7927 7000
My ratings :
Food = 7/10
Decoration/Ambiance = 8/10
Service = 6/10
Noise = 5/10
If London has definitely catch up Paris in the last ten years in bringing one of the best french food establishments, it is still difficult to admit that the pure english food has been really brought up to tha same level. Some arrogant french people will just tell you that is simply because there is not english food, and will stay on the conception that “mint lamb” is not good. How pity is that. I’ve understood the english food since I arrive in the UK and I think that I can now confirm that UK concept of food in focusing on the quality of product and the usage of many unknown or forgotten vegetables.
When I first arrive in the UK I was amazingly impressed by the variety of vegetables you can find in a department store. Some old marrow, small ones in different shapes, and colors. Squash, Jerusalem artichokes, turnips, and other else varieties of vegetables that we don’t see very frequently in France. He sounds like in the UK you can find more variety of products?? paradoxical? nope …..recent studies¹ are proving that UK citizen are better than french at cooking…..no surprise on my side, and especially after 5 years in the country. I think is also come essentially from the mixed culture in this country. If we take only London, it’s amazing how you can jump from the best Indians restaurant, to the temple of Iranian delicacy, towards the proper Chinese dumpling, and obviously without missing some of the best french empires. Hence the UK has now reach his high quality level of cooking and here the Ledbury is an example of how British food can be just sumptuous. In 2010 Brett Graham won his second star on Michelin and after a full diner there I can confirm it worth it.
From that nite I can remember some really good stuff, but I had to select only few as I can’t give you to read the Bible.
When we arrived, while we were enjoying our aperitif we had the pleasure of testing the beetroot macaron with foie gras mousse. What can we say here, I’ve tested loads of macaroons from the most exquisite places in Paris e.g. Laduree and Pierre Herme, but this ones are just totally delirious. You can’t imagine how light they are. When you eat them, they just literally melt down into your mouth like a cloud. The beetroot flavor first, lightly sweet and then the foie gras mousse….how can it be richer than that. This was like eating a bubble full of air, and the sweetness of the beetroot was the perfect alliance. “Mise en bouche” or dessert…..I could eat more of those….anytime. Just “Yum”.
At this point in time, I’ve identified some perfection and extravaganza in this first start and I was expecting more to come. I’ve seriously not been disappointed by the second course which seriously confirmed the two stars here.
Squid Risotto!! what could you expect? another hit of course. When the plate been served, the first impression is that we were looking for the squid!! Usually you know how squids are presented, as those long and elastic white tubes (common, boring, tasty, but nothing really exciting, like a piece of plastic). Here nothing like this at all. When I started to eat the risotto, I was already impressed how creamy and delicate the rice was. But at some point I was wondering where was the squids!! and then we all look to each other around the table.
Stunning, and as simple as that, the squid was cut so thin that we didn’t even realized that the risotto was in fact made not with rice, but with really thin and cubic pieces of squid. I can’t even tell if there was, or not, any rice in the recipe. Unbelievable. Stunning, surprising and clever. How can you expect to have a risotto without rice? Just come and try at the Ledbury.
The next one was I’ve to say somewhat “theatrical”. After few minutes left to relax from the “risotto without rice”, then mister waiter came back to the table with a ball of pastry on a wood plate. Surprise!!! I was not expecting that. Then he started to explain what was on the plate. This rounded piece of pastry, just golden by the yoke, just came straight from the oven. Then we’ve been told this has been cooked for 40 minutes slowly at 160 C°. At this stage we were wondering what it could be!!?? hopefully the waiter broke the silence and explain as well that the chef decided to drop a nice size celeriac in some wood ashes and to cook it into a simple pastry. From there the celeriac will not be the usual one you usually dislike or put on the side of your dish. No no no ….this time you’ll love celeriac.
The dressing was exceptional. Once sliced in 5 or 6 leaves for each plate, the celeriac was dressed in a kind of flower frame, then the chef did prepare a nice mayonnaise with horseradish and truffle and some vinegar. The idea was obviously not to cover the nature of the amazing creation. The principle was to obviously get the flavor of the ashes on the celeriac. Once in the mouth it was just a perfect “equilibrium”. The celeriac, being cooked very slowly and long just stayed perfectly firm and reveal his original flavor. Then you feel this “cheminée” flavor, like if the celeriac would have been dropped directly on some coal and cooked on flame. Almost a kind of burning wood essence on the background. And then on top, the truffle with horseradish. The meeting of sweetness and hot, superb with the celeriac.
After this one, I’ve to say, I really confirmed the two stars been reached. This kind of piece of art, even if you think (and you’re right) is not mega expensive, this is just what you can expect from such a high level chef. Just to be surprise by the creation and the efficiency and the combination of the ingredients, as such as the technicality of the cooking.
We followed after with another wonderful Tea-infused venison with roast potatoes, pickled red cabbage and rich port sauce. Same a the previous one, it sounds like the chef like his fire-place and use to cook with ashes. But in this case, of course he will not roll the venison in ashes, but just marinated it into some black tea most commonly known as lapsang souchong. This is giving the incredible flavor of burning to the meat, which I confess is not the easiest choice in a restaurant like this. How dare would you serve some game in such a restaurant, and especially on a testing menu. Just because you know that the lapsang souchong will create a perfect equation to sweeten the strength of the venison, and enhance the dreariness of the cabbage. Just enlighten by some port reduction. Deliciousssssssssss
The Ledbury, a new stunning address in London and I’ve to say the pleasure of enjoying some real english food, prepared in the respect and the standard level of french chefs. I would emphasis that here, by creating and inventing, the English cooking has become an ace and the Ledbury just proved to the rest of the world that english “cuisine” is simply a question of “rediscovery” and that at some point more Ledburys will open. The usage of unused products or forgotten, just as well shows that english food is somehow maybe more diversified and can be therefore maybe be more creative!! Will see how it goes in the next few year though, but I’ll follow closely mister Graham. ;o)
127 Ledbury Road
London W11 2AQ, United Kingdom
020 7792 9090
Another post, another restaurant, and this one has been visited by myself more than one time, for various occasion and I’ll give you my feeling later in the post.
We don’t have to present the master chef Joel Robuchon, most starred chef in the world with currently 28 stars on his own all over the world. He used to run the Relais du Parc in Paris on Avenue Raymond Poincaré. This has been some of the most brilliant rising years of the master chef. I do remember back in the days, the restaurant was like an icon and was very exquisite. Rumours went long and Joel Robuchon started to put his print over Paris by reaching 3 stars in this first restaurant (followed just after by the discrete and nevertheless famous Alain Ducasse). Then Robuchon became the most respected chef in the world and been elected to Best Chef of the Century by Gault & Millault in 1990. I had the chance to go many times to his first London address in Covent Garden.
First of all, I’ve to make a comment about the concept. When you arrive at the Atelier in London, you will feel like if you get into an industry of food and chic. Mister Robuchon literally invaded a full well situated mansion-house in the heart of Soho/Covent Garden area. Perfect location and amazing building. Funny though, the address must be hundred meters from the Ivy – the very hype and famous London old tavern – which can be understood as a French incitement. One ground floor with the Atelier, the 1st floor with the Cuisine and then the roof with the bar. But is there any competition?! I’m not too sure. The restaurant is currently driven by Olivier Limousin.
Barely arrived in the lobby, you feel the vibe of a high standard “food empire”. You notice the Japanese bar kitchen from the Atelier on the back of the main entrance, and then you’re directed to the lift to enjoy one of the most fantastic bar experience. Roof floor, a very cosy and charming bar, quite dark.
There I would recommend the Apple Martini which is at the image of the Chef i.e. a stunning revolution. When you see the cocktail arriving, you suddenly realise that you’re not just in a simple bar, but in one of the best address in the world. The Apple Martini is presented as a “declinaison” (eng = declination) of Apple, in 3 acts. A wonderful champagne glass with the Apple Martini, some dry apple slices and then a crunchy of Eau de Vie de Pommes. (fr = granite a l’eau de vie de pomme). And then obviously the waiter explains that you have to proceed in order, starting by a piece of dry apple, then a spoon of crunchy ice, then finally the Martini. Full sensation here, the full on Apple “bomb” is impressive, bursting out all your senses. Sounds like eating a piece of Apple sorbet stuffed with Eau de Vie. Wicked, tasty, very refreshing, and certainly very hype.
Then from the various times I went to the Atelier/La Cuisine, I would recollect 2 main creations.
One was a starter called crab-meat in tomato jelly and avocado. I’ve to say, I was seriously not expecting that. From the description on the menu, what would you imagine? some Jelly cubes maybe from each flavour? The piece of art arrives served in a half-cut egg look-like pottery, Japanese style, dropped on a dark slate. Very modern, very chic, simple. Then at the first bite, you understand the whole concept.
Three layers of pure creativity. First layer of pure crab meat, fresh and tasty. Second layer of tomato jelly, just spiced with “piment d’espelete”, enough to enlighten the crab. Then the wonderful avocado jelly, soft green and slightly pop up with some horseradish (fr : raifort) and little acid from lemon. This combination of three, beyond making as well a sumptuous colour match (green, pink and red), was just an ace in term of simplicity and a remarkable refreshing starter. One point to mention as well, when I say jelly, don’t be scared of having a very firm sensation on the mouth. Not at all, the texture is more like a dessert jelly or a cream (like a “danette” dessert cream) but this time it’s not vanilla or pistachio, but a far more better mix starter….enjoy
The second course which spotted my attention is uncommonly a dessert. Indeed, you may have noticed that my attraction is focusing more on salty courses than sweets. But I think I’m generally never influenced by sweet things in general. It’s generally always the same thing, ……CHOCOLATE.
I’ve to confess, I’m not a fan of chocolate. For a dessert I would seriously prefer the flavour of an almond tart, or the freshness of a fruit mousse. I found usually chocolate nice, but quite repetitive and sometime very boring. From restaurant to restaurant you always find the Chocolate fondant or the chocolate mousse…again and again. But in this case I was drawn by the name of one on the list i.e. Dome Croquant. Firstly the waiter arrives with a soup plate. A simple mushroom shape made of a massive meringue coloured with real gold, with on top two crazy decorations imitating the shape of two snakes unlaced. Then below the body made of home-made strawberry sorbet (of course). I always knew at this point that I’ll be pleased. I love sorbet (more than ice cream) and I was clearly anticipating the perfect merger with chocolate. But where is the chocolate?? ….Then suddenly the waiter come back and literally flush a serious amount of Viennoi Chocolate on the meringue, hot and very creamy. All of a sudden, the incredible happens, the meringue (made of sugar) obviously melt down into floating pieces or in a mixture of white egg. The sorbet previously invisible starts to appear on the centre of a dark chocolate ocean. Don’t need to tell you how the chocolate dating the strawberry can be!!!….it is just unbelievable. As well as the mix of hot and cold at same time which is just spot on. I licked the spoon till the last drop….and I have to confess, I’ve almost hesitated to lick the plate as well….but Vincent…come on….you’re at the Cuisine from Robuchon…..you can’t do that. It’s not CHIC. ;o0
But I would like to make a statement here. After testing the Cuisine more than just one time, I’ve to say despite of the food being really exceptional, I can’t say the same about the service. The head waiter (maitre d’hotel) is really not very friendly. And the atmosphere is very noisy as well, and this is not what you expect from a 2 stars Michelin restaurant. And having discuss about this with many acquaintances, it sounds like this is a generic comment about the place. I would still recommend it, but not for romantic diner, it’s NOT AT ALL a romantic place. For this reason I still wonder why the place has gained the second star in 2009. Maybe some French withstand from Michelin guide!!L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon http://www.joel-robuchon.com 13-15 West Street London WC2H 9NE, United Kingdom 020 7010 8600
19/01/2009 – Another good think about restaurants is that you can bargain on them as well. To clarify, I was checking over the past success stories of Mister G Ramsay
on the internet when I bump into an article about the Murano in Mayfair. After a quick look at the menu on the website, I’ve come up myself to a conclusion that this one was seriously a rising star and was seriously aiming for it in a near future. So we decided to book a table there with a friend. Obviously Gordon is not the chef here, but just the “advisor” and as such, he left he driving to one of the rare chef women.
In recent years, Angela Hartnett has emerged as one of Britain’s most successful, best-loved and busiest chefs.
From the first minute we understood that our first feeling was right, as barely arrived, we’ve been placed in the very cosy and chic separated little saloon for a glass of champagne. Perfect host and perfect kick-off for a crazy diner. Small nice “mise en bouche” as well.
Then we’ve been showed our table.
Three things come to my mind on that night and I’ve to share them with you here.
First of all, how can you be amazed by just simple things…but just simply because you literally don’t expect to get a wake up on so simple products.
When we arrive, the waiter arrived with simple slices of bread, a kind of look like of some indian “popodum”. But it was honestly better than that, more crunchy, more textured, more like a maze “galette”. And then the same waiter again, came back with a simple (but so special) bottle of Olive Oil, very slim and small. Then you start to think, “noooooooo they can’t do that” like in any other London trendy restaurant. The usual Italian style dressing…..was about to claim the Focacia to go with it. And then your host mention the name of the Olivier elixir …..Manni?! Obviously you don’t know what is it about. Then you try…..and OH MY GOSH….what is that?? this is not olive oil, this is between a liquor of pleasure and pure olive caviar pressed. So difficult to describe, a bit of sweetness, a drop of bitter and a full cloud of softness. After checking on the net, obviously you understand the value of it, 40 GBP for 100 ml !!?? maybe you can even use it as a perfume ladies. By the way, I forgot to mention that some amazing aged smoked ham from Pays Basque was served at same time, but we didn’t even pay attention to it, even if some salt crystals rocks were crunching under our teeth fulfilling our global enjoyment.
Then arrived the starter. First of all, I need to give you a bit of background, the menu was great on paper but we were under a preconception of a use of very simple product (maybe too simple). A Halibut (fr = flétan) prepared with a red wine reduction!! Oh devious is that! shocking shall we say in french. How can you associate red wine and fish. But in this case, “oye oye” here comes the great UK exception of modernism. Let’s try, let’s see and will judge. And then what to say, just “spot on” mister Ramsay. You may know than if you leave some nice wine in a “casserole” cooked for a long time (30 minutes) you’ll get a so sweet wine reduction, very very sweet. Now imagine the sweetness of the wine reduction, simply poured over and amazing quality Halibut, just japanese steamed cooked and some soft and tender, but still firm “girolles” just slightly roasted on the side. I can tell you, this is simple, but you stay literally stuck in your chair. Shocking!! but so pleased, believe me. Even amused in a way of this sweet and sour combination can work accordingly. Well done mister.
The final what just pure magic. This kind of instant you’ll have in your memory for life. Like one of the recollection of your life you’ll tell the story of to anyone who wants to hear it. All the diner was just amazing. Nothing to say. But when you think you arrive to the end of the “armada” of food and courses, you about to think you will give up. And then the waiter come back with an interesting object, and within a careless manner dropped it on the table and with a big smile he explains to you that the chef in the kitchen want to play a game with you and ask you to find all the perfumes on the various three white plates facing you. Three level of pure “painter palette”. All those colors are just made of cherry sized fruit sorbets. Twelve amazing flavors, that you have to guess to battle the chef and prove you can win the game and you deserve to be there, sitting in this restaurant. Then we played, seriously. Laughing out loud in the restaurant, whilst we found and we compare our opinions. We even sometime looked to the waiters amused by our participation (you know how much I can laugh sometime). And then we called the waiter almost ten times to confirm our thoughts. Almost 100% good….but we failed on one….grrr. One very subtile but indeed so true. One that we thought was some exotic papaya, was found to be in fact pure “vineyards peach” from Provence. How weird is that. But I would have a special mention to the Olive oil (again!!) and mint-basil sorbet, I want more now….believe me again. Just literally crazy overall.
After all this slash of seven or eight delightful courses we ended up the last ones in the restaurant (which was full when we arrived). We finally stayed and discussed over a coffee with the staff till they fully closed. We so much enjoyed the place that we didn’t wanted to leave it, and the people. And then we talked about the “guide rouge*” and the fact that they seriously deserved at this point in time a Michelin star. This diner took place let say one month before the release of the 2009 new guide. Few weeks later, it must have been a pleasure for them to learn that the Murano been awarded his first “macaroons**” …..a great accomplishment totally deserved by the chef of course, but all the staff as well. Food is important but a restaurant is a whole enterprise. And I can tell you the Murano can go far….very far. And can grow up to the level of some Senderens or recently Ledbury. A real good moment in great company. Will be back.