Posts Tagged foie gras

The Hand & Flowers….the Michelin downfall?

I don’t even know where to start, seriously. Hand and flowers is this kind of places – not being their fault – but trapped into the endlessness vicious circle of Michelin establishment and early stage rating and granted 2 stars by the Michelin guide in the 2012 edition. OK this is nice, this friendly, this is overwhelming…but STOP with young staff, waiting for you (as we were 36 min late – our fault, I’ve to say).

This is a fact, after 7 years being living in the UK I’ve always been easy with the rating of restaurants in the country, trying to identify the difference and understand. When we go back to France, I do feel the rating is more serious and professional than in the British country one. However I’ve so say it’s sometime difficult to even understand, within the UK itself. From the lovely Sporstman in Whistable with 1 star, where despite being served the classical tasting menu, at least they had the decency of showing a certain hospitality to Alain Ducasse in London, there is a huge gap (of price as well).

From most starred restaurant in the world, to the best places in France and the UK, I’ve to say, that in this particular occasion we reached the level of the ridicule. Certainly supported by an unexperienced staff, lovely crew of people, but young.

Not for the respect of the chef, certainly not. After a full meal I think I had quite a decent experience for 3 hours. But come on, this is not acceptable to compare some places in the UK to the Hand and Flowers. How can this be marked 2 stars. This is illogical and can’t be reproduced.

This is not acceptable to compare the Green House (two stars) in London to this pub, or the Maison Lassere in Paris, all those teams in the world suffering every day to bring an experience, a moment in the life for you and me. This is not simply acceptable to compare the Gavroche or Joel Robuchon to the H/S. Even the Mid-Summer which I detailed over a full post was to be applauded in this particular day. Something is going wrong in the Michelin rating establishment and we will have to understand what is happening.

Is it a kind of mafia surrounding the French established born guide ….. carrying what they did for the some recently recognized Chef in the world, and almost being creating a subsidiaries of connection with some grown up chef.

I’m seriously fed up with this outrageous way of the Michelin guide to establish new scales, new benchmarking where there is definitely none. This is a real downfall and this is bad from a guide which has established a reputation of regularity and impartiality in their judgment. I will take the example of some Tailevent in Paris. How dare would you rate Taillevent the same level as the Hand and Flowers? How rude is that.

Am I missing the point here? Are we saying the UK Michelin got a different rating as the rest of the world? Then if the anwer to that question is a Yes, then I’m giving up. I though Michelin was establishing a global and standard level of rating all cross the world and this is what we’re paying for? This would be my mistake.

Here Tom Tom Kerridge, with all the best respect I got for his talent since I’ve seen him in Great British Menu, I can’t understand how you could have the respect to be part of the group of established Michel Roux or Joel Robuchon and not being ashamed of been awarded the same level on a simple pub in the middle of Marlow. I would be you, I would write to the Michelin headquarter telling that there must be a misunderstanding.

The first minute of this moment, when we arrived, I think we all been chocked almost.………was close to nothing….I think I almost thought for two seconds that we must have made a mistake and this is not the place we were suppose to open the door….maybe it’s was 200 meters away…no IT WAS THERE.

on top of that, like Matthew Norman for the telegraph said here, “It’s the absolutely generic Home Counties gastropub,” with a referenced Classic Posh Pub Décor No 4 (B).

We arrive, we see a nice pub, a team chatting, an usual hesitation on taking your clothes and then the noisy dining room, then the waitress telling that you’re late (which of course, you aplologies and I suggested we could take the dessert/coffee in another room to aarange, we’re flexible…..but no other option I’m told)….are you sure this is the place you’re coming to have a Sunday roast?? Almost surreal.

Two Stars? This is a joke!!

My god….Michelin Guide UK is driving the people nuts by doing this kind of analogy. This is really bad, and this is not even the fault of mister Kerridge. Seriously.

The Michelin star in the UK is not on the first time proceeding to this kind of operation. They did it recently in 2011 for Arbutus in London. Same scenario, as the good (or bad) surprise was random and unexpected from the staff (I’ve been told by an established 1 star chef – friend of mine).

Come on Michelin team, you can do better and be realistically independent. Stop trying to ruin the level you established in other countries by just rushing and creating stars where there is none. This is a competition, but a real high level one. You’re destroying the credibility of your own establishment by acting as such.

I’ve been recently to the Elephant in Torquay*and this was a far better experience than the Hand and Flowers….how weird.

Worse than that, something happen which never happen to me before, and which was even worse for this poor chef…..a hair….seriously I’m not joking….this is a first time I had a hair in a dish. This was a joke. I’m not even doing any fuss of it ….expect that my friend had to wait 20 minutes to get another dish ready to replace, and that has not even change the attitude regarding the timing.

Also I’ve to say, on top of that, we’ve been commended to leave the table for a certain time….what the hell is that…if you’re a 2 stars…you deal with that, aren’t you? I can’t wait to see serious people coming to your restaurant (pub), some people who are filling up the places like Gavroche or Robuchon un Tokyo….there will be an issue…I’m telling you.

Stop it Michelin……

In essence…..forget about this place, as a 2 stars this is simply NOT ACCEPTABLE…..as a good pub…yes, certainly one of the best …. but in this case I would put 1 star to the Great-house in Lavenham then.

This is stupid, as if the food can be nice….and the fact than such a bad start can ruin the full experience.

But about the food, I’ll not even comment about it as I use to do usually….as I’ve been so much disgusted by the treatment and the rudeness of the management and staff.

Enjoy the photos below and I’ll make short comments….rude as they could have been….but still fair.

Braised Pearl Barley, pan fried foie gras with Orange Oil and Sommerset Hare

Interesting one, with the crackling effect of the pearl. Overall interesting, nice try on the combo of orange and foie gras (maybe a variation of the Heston classic). But I’m afraid the orange flavour is too subtle, the hare totally disappear in the sauce. Over all feeling a richness more than flavour. Nice but not fantastic.

Salt Cod Scotch Egg with Chorizo, red pepper sauce

Quite nice flavour, I’ve to say, but you’ll tell me it’s a big bacalao with a chorizo base. Good point for the red pepper purée….superb to balance the chorizo.

Parsley soup with smoked Eel, Bacon and Parmesan Tortelini.

The winner without any doubt. Amazing parley potage (not velouté in this case). the eel was supberly balancing the herb effect.

Breast of Suffolk chicken with Pistachio crumble, lovage poached turnips, Soft Polenta and Winter Truffle

I was my first attempt, what a shame. I’ll not reveal the location of the intruder. However the flavour of the truffle was sublimed by the richness of the creamy polenta. I’m afraid the turnips didn’t turn up (ahahaha) as being the most flavoury vegetable to go with this dish. However the chicken was super moist and the creamy polenta was adding so much value to the overall combo. The pistachio crust was just sumptuous. Well done. Shame I didn’t finish it.

Red Wine Braised Shin of Beef, with Hand and Flowers carrot and Shin sauce. (Replacement)

My second main course, I have to say has totally rebalanced the overall drama. The carrot slow cooked in somewhat an essence of flower I guess, was just the best carrot I had ever. The sous vide technique is bringing here a sweet carrot, glazed at the last minute. Stunning.

And the beef shin, covered with a layer of simple potatoe purée, all wrapped in caul fat. The beef was superb, maybe a little bit rich again. But this is a very good traditional dish. Almost a boeuf Bourguignon, revisited.

Cornish Day boat Skate, with bacon roast parsnips, trompette, cockles and lardo.

I’ve tried also this one. I’m afraid we all agree the skate was dry. On this kind of variation around a Classical Grenobloise Skate dish, I would have expected a kind of noisette butter on the side.

Essex Lamb “bun” with sweetbreads and salsa verde.(closed)

Essex Lamb “bun” with sweetbreads and salsa verde (open)

This one was of course the most impressive. Just by the look. However, seem like the expectation was again too high. When you open it you’ll find a nicely wrapped in caul fat lamb minced meat. Surprisingly no sweetbreads as they’ve been mixed up in the meat.

I would cook this same dish, I would separate the 2 elements, do one big for the lamb, one for the sweetbreads, as the client can enjoy the combo like a game. This would have been more ludic and the  client would have enjoyed the flavour separately.

Amazing good point here for the Salsa Verde, the best one I’ve ever tried. Purée of Parsley, Garlic and Olive oil…..simple but done to PERFECTION.

Tonka Bean Panacotta, poached Rhubarb, ginger wine jelly and rhubarb sorbet.

I’ve to say this one, despite a really non glamorous presetnation was from far the best dish on that day. Light but creamy. Full of flavor and I’ve to confess I’m not the biggest fan of rubarhb as well. The sorbet was stunning, the jelly tasteless…unfortunately. But overall a WINNER

Warm Pistachio Sponge cake, melon sorbet and marzipan

This one was defo my favourite, as I LOVE melon. Very surprising to have melon in the middle of Jan, but who cares. I was essentially tempted by the pistachio sponge cake. I have to say my pistachio financier are stronger in flavour than this one. I like the chequers of melon. Nice one also.

Hand and Flowers Chocolate Cake, salted caramel and Muscovado Ice Cream

Maybe the boring one. Chocolate…….again!! and certainly not the the WOW you’ll expect. Nice ganache made of good quality chocolate, but the texture was somewhat too creamy. The Salted caramel and muscovado Ice cream was low in flavor and I’ve to say, this version of this dessert a the Elephant in Torquay was far more better….no futher comments.

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To put an end to this bad story, I even had to claim to cancel the price of counted replacement dish???? …….in a history of good food and Michelin star, this is a pure disappointment, leaving me with hanger against my favourite guide and the fact that some people are currently committing into the selling of the quite old and established guide. We’re losing in quality and independence. This is a shame.

I hope this is not the start or even continuity of a downfall. I’m working to make people understand the real rating established a long time ago by people with passion. Recently the Michelin guide has committed a self-suicide by promoting too many places ….and not really looking to their own rating benchmark or policy guide. I would recommend to those people currently working at Michelin to travel more. To experience more places in the world. To come back to the root of the rating and system they implemented. Also to the Management to introduce some level of double checking (I can’t possibly conceve that the H/F has been double checked in this case).

You should go to Tokyo messieurs. You should go to Paris or Spain messieurs.

How can you rate Noma, Robuchon, Gavroche, Carré de Feuillants, …..or even Mid-Summer with a 2 stars when you are rating 2 star at Hand and Flower.

Let’s enjoy also this picture of the toilets taken by my friend. Notice the lovely plastic flowers. The apparent plumbing is adding to the global experience as well. Hopefully the towels were ready and some moisturiser for hands…. at least.

lovely plastic flowers.....a must to have in a 2 Michelin Star rated place.

This is OUTREAGOUS.

I would recommend you to extend your bib gourmand to different level…..this would be wiser.

As a lover of food and quality…….I’m sorry Hand and Flowers is a nice pub…maybe the best….but this is a PUB. Don’t get me wrong, this must be the best food I’ve had in a PUB, indeed…..but if you establish a rating with Hibiscus in London, or Taillevent in Paris as challenger….the Hand and Flowers can’t compete….and this is the issue with the rating here.

Please do try to enjoy the food…….unfortunately on shade by the silliness of an international rating established by the Michelin currently falling regulators.

It seems that we’ve got here some similarities with the big financial rating agencies…..it seems that some food rating agencies are currently diverting from the core established policy to please a maximum of people and maybe to create virtually some stars where there is none…..this could be their downfall soon….the scale you established mister Michelin is not a race, it’s a recognition, and this need to be given fairly. Some people, clearly strong in this industrie will soon dislike your judgment. And I’m starting to be one of the people, and I’m not the only one…..watch that space.

The Hand and Flowers, 126 West Street, Marlow SL7 2BP
Contact 01628 482277; www.thehandandflowers.co.uk

MY RATINGS :
 
FOOD = 6/10
DECORATION/AMBIANCE = 5/10
SERVICE = 5/10
NOISE = 5/10

Hand & Flowers on Urbanspoon

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Religious diner……Galvins LaChapelle* // 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.

The main dining room

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.

The Menu Gourmand

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.

Lasagne of Dorset crab & “beurre nantais”

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.

Risotto of Fresh peas and goat’s curd

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.

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Roast pavé of Salmon, white peach, mussels, cobnut & verjus beurre


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.

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Tagine of Bresse pigeon, couscous, aubergine purée harissa sauce


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…

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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.

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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

 

Galvin La Chapelle on Urbanspoon

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I’m a frenchman in London….by A. Ducasse*** at Dorchester

Alain Ducasse – Dorchester – Park Lane – London

 

Jocelyn Herland

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.

The main dinning room with the private crystal 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?

 

Alain Ducasse

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.

Carpaccio of Scallops

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

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester on Urbanspoon

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The versatile master..from Classical to Modern….Guy Savoy***//Paris

Guy Savoy

Big warning for this post…….the famous sacred chef Guy Savoy will transport you into one of the best table on earth. Here is just PERFECTION. Full stop.

This is not a national choice at all or blue-white-red french preference, but I honestly believe this master chef his the most current talented chef on earth and I’ve ever had to experience the food.

When you arrive at Guy Savoy, you feel first of all like if you enter the Guggenheim or the Tate modern combine with the Louvre, this is a sumptuous combination of Modern art and classical atmosphere. Just sumptuous and relaxing. I can bizarrely remember the weird presence of “burgundy red” all around me during diner. Sometime your memory can be attracted by something you don’t really notice at first instance, however it stays in your mind for life. I’ve to say, this moment are in you memory forever and at Guy Savoy, i’ve to confess, this is definitely something I’ll remember.

Guy Savoy is for me a modern “designer” of cooking Art. He is able to surprise you at any courses. We talked about the Chiberta in another post, and I’ve been so surprised by the combination of food, than if you go the main Guy Savoy restaurant you’ll just be pleased and fulfilled.

We – as usual!! – took the tasting menu which includes many of the main chef specialities. I’ll there develop The Oysters “à la nage” and the Truffle soup.

This is really bizarre, but even if I do remember that this diner was overall just perfect, surprisingly I do remember only those two courses and one “mise en bouche”. I think this is coming more from the situation and the reaction of the people, on top of the quality of the courses.

I’ll not be too long on the “mise en bouche” but I had to mention it to you as it was just surprising. It’s almost difficult to describe it. As far as my memory goes, I do remember a floating small ball made of foie-gras in a conic glass the size of a shot glass. The ball was swimming in a juice made of truffle, foie-gras and veal stock. Simple, but just totally “superb”. The foie-gras was suddenly revealed to his entire nature by the veal reduction (cold of course) and the light flavor of truffle. Genius, light and Art. Well done for an introduction.

Then we move to the first course…speciality of Mister G Savoy. The Oysters “à la nage”.

Oysters "a la nage"

I’ve to explain exactly what means oysters “a la nage”. This is basically a transition between a raw oyster and a nice reduction of veal and the natural jelly out of it. I think at this stage I almost need to explain the course by using the recipe. Cook slowly one veal trotter – i know some people at this stage will just stop reading – with some nice carrots and leak. After cooking leave the juice to stabilise and turn into a jelly in the fridge.

Now let’s imagine the water from the oyster – full of iodine – being mixed with this nice natural jelly and some cream fresh mixed beforehand with some oysters crushed!!! The full oysters are just totally recomposed in the shell itself, but they just lie down on a nice bed of cream, lemon and spinach purée. The serving is usually 4 per person (“a la carte”, but only one for the tasting menu!!! otherwise you’ll not survive). On top of each oysters the chef spreads some of this iodine and veal jelly crushed and covered with some chives meticulously chopped to the thinnest ever possible level. The course is served literally very cold and you just have to eat the oysters as normal, without any need of a fork (even if you can notice one on the picture aside!!). Now I can tell you about the sensation all about sweetness and lightness and above all freshness. All at the same time reveal to you….veal, iodine, lemon, cream…..just sumptuous….

At this stage, I think the entire table was just recognizing some uplifting level in Guy Savoy and we were all just waiting for the second surprise.

One of the biggest force of mister Savoy is probably to have no real classification between the classical cooking and the modern european or any new funky “fusion” style. He is just feeling at ease in any cooking fashion. And this is exactly where you can recognize a “grand chef”. Savoy can jump from preparing the best “velouté Dubarry” you’ll ever have in your life to the most fusion exquisite “Truffle Vietnamese Nem” you’ll ever eat. The second Savoy’s speciality we had is the perfect demonstration of what I just suggested. As per the menu (still actual) the dish is simply an Artichoke Soup with Black Truffles, Brioche with Mushrooms and Truffles (fr : Soupe d’Artichaut a la Truffe Noire, Brioche Feuilletee aux Champignons et Truffes)

This is one of the numerous specials from the sacred chef.

I do remember, just after having this incredible “farandole” of oyster, presented in a very modern style plates and decoration, jumping into a very middle-age style. Unbelievable, here comes the copper sauce pan and the classical soup vintage bowl. Very disturbing, as some people could find it very tacky, however we were all very suspicious at this stage, we were just waiting for what will happen next.

Then the waiters arrive with some simple dressed plates with some brioche made with mushroom and truffle, hidden in some nice proper cotton napkins. The flavor of fresh brioche started to spread in the dinning room like a fresh bakery perfume of Paris street early in the morning. Yummy. I’ve to say, usually you never remember the full list of the menu when you go for the tasting menu, the list is too long and you just don’t care as you can’t choose anything….you just eat (lol).

Burgundy wood atmosphere

So at this stage the surprise is total and intact. One of the sous-chef (unfortunately not mister Savoy himself – he will arrive later) arrives with this massive casserole, in copper again, and started to fill each of our soup bowls. Amazing theatrical scenario, totally unexpected. Smiles on the faces, questioning sometime, we were all trembling on our chairs to taste the light green elixir.

Here we come, the sous-chef disappear, and then in a very relaxed manner the head waiter just said…..”enjoy it like you want, crush the brioche if you want, spread it, eat separately, ……oh well…..do like you prefer…feel at home”….friendly and so true. How would you be complicated for a soup? never, just enjoy. I remember some very thin slices of aged parmesan on the side as well, some raw crystal salt,…..mix and enjoy. This is your soup and you appreciate the way you want.

But first of all, just taste it…..UNBELIEVABLE.

A stunning flavor of Artichokes, but not just the heart of it, same as at another place I’ve went to recently, the soup was made of the bottom of the artichokes leafs. This part when you eat the leafs (either with vinegar or mayonnaise) which is more bitter than the heart. This is it, the soup is a revelation of work, the chef must have been grating the leafs of all the artichokes to gain this amazing and so particular flavor. And then the second essence comes, the truffles, not too strong….not to fade. Just perfect. A note of cream of course. A stock of veal or chicken on the background to link the texture and the ingredients. An ACE, just spot on and so simple in a way.

And then you do what you want….spread the brioche, …..eat it separatly….it’s almost like a game. The brioche, made with mushroom, was adding a buttery taste in the soup…I try with and without….totally different, but in each cases, just wicked. A second serving of the soup is offered in the tasting menu, just like for the a la carte option. I did take advantage of the second serving this time, as any of the people on the table.

Another restaurant, another memories……

This is really weird, when people ask me which restaurant is you best experience, I’m always coming back to Guy Savoy. I would honesty would like to work one day with him and experience the way he is creating. Every dish sounds like a pure piece of Art. He would remind me some singers, comfortable with singing Jazz, Pop or Rap. Guy Savoy is part of this exclusive and restricted group of chef in the world to be able to switch from a style to another. And I’ve to say, by choosing the tasting menu, you just can confirm this. In somewhat 8 courses, you jump from classical to modern in a very nice way. We had the chance to see mister G Savoy coming to the table at the end, maybe to congratulate us for having finished the full list of courses, but certainly to get some “bravo” from the table. No default, no issues, no false note…..just PERFECTION.

Front door Guy Savoy - Paris

I will love to go back again there…..

Just one big issue nowadays. G Savoy has become incredibly over priced and the current tasting menu is nearly 300 € per person without wine!!! maybe an extravaganza at this price. I’m not sure I’m supporting this kind of prices, even if the result is awesome. One good thing to notice, maybe the crisis effect impact, G Savoy is suggesting for Lunchtime or after 10 pm from the 15th of July to the 15th of September a 5 Courses with 5 vines for 130 €….great value. I’ll go next time I’m in Paris. For sure.

My ratings :

Food = 9/10
Decoration/Ambiance = 8/10
Service = 9/10
Noise = 9/10

Guy Savoy Restaurant

Rue Troyon

75017 Paris, France

01 43 80 40 61

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The Ledbury** chic…..a products “revival” – London

Chef Brett Graham

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.

beetroot macaron with foie gras mousse

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.

Celeriac Baked In Ash with hazelnuts

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

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)

¹http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/mar/22/british-cook-better-than-french

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www.theledbury.com

127 Ledbury Road

London W11 2AQ, United Kingdom

020 7792 9090

The Ledbury on Urbanspoon

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Did you say "pot au feu Rossini"??…..welcome to Le Chiberta*

Watch out here, big Chef in the kitchen.

I’ll not hide it more, mister Guy Savoy is on the desk and control this place for more than few years now and the restaurant been granted one Michelin Stars recently (2007 I think, but please Google).

Mr. Guy Savoy

Now you wonder why I want to start by this restaurant, while I must have done other ones and far better sometime. I would like just to demonstrate for you the principle which I’ve mentioned in the introduction of the series of experiences. As I told you the art of cooking is for me mostly in the surprise, in the chock or the creativity. Since I went to Guy Savoy (the main chef empire location in Paris), I’ve felt the pleasure of food and the pleasure of being amazed in a way by the art of food and flavor.

First of all, it’s always an excitement when you arrive in a freshly awarded place. Why? just because the staff is in a strong performance mood. Everything need to be perfect, and not only what you have in your plate, but mostly anything.

So from the moment we got in to the time we left, we had an incredible experience.

To start with, we noticed the decoration, a kind of combination of modern and classical in a gray deep overall tone. Quite an interesting choice for a restaurant, may sound depressing but it’s not. But the interesting thing to notice is this succession of long walls made fully of rare and pricy bottles of wine. Quite a clever idea, as I spent almost ten minutes turning around in the full restaurant “drooling” like a dog watching a bone….I was literally transported to Burgundy and other Bordeaux famous wines.

Then the diner starts, we  choose the tasting menu (always the best of the chef) which we checked few week before was reasonably priced for Paris, and from this stage, I remember two mains courses.

The first course (actually the second starter) may sounds simple, but in fact it’s not at all the case. Do you know what are Jerusalem artichokes? you maybe barely bump into this vegetable, or you never paid attention to it in any market. It’s ugly, look more like roots and can be easily mix up with ginger. It’s also called topinanbur.

Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus)

But be careful, this forgotten roots is just a pure delicacy and especially when this is prepared in a perfect “purée”. I’ve got an enormous respect for people who are peeling the roots. So long, so hard, so painful (I did many times, I hate it). But this is the force and quality of this kind of restaurant, to give us the chance to appreciate things which are non common and difficult to prepare. This time, the combination was simple but very interesting. Scallops, simply roasted “from fear*”, “purée” of Jerusalem Artichokes, red wine reduction and some fresh Golden Chanterelle (Girolles) slighly roasted. Just exquisite, just perfect and so simple. The taste of the topinanbur is so surprising as, like is english name says, it’s a yonder family of the artichokes. Therefore, this magic mash artichoke sounds like a purée of soften artichokes hearts. And this is suiting perfectly the scallops.

The second recipe is just the perfect signature of Mister Guy Savoy. The combination of classic and modern. Perfection of Idea and just the astonishment of the non conventional hence leading to creativity. As anyone, you had either the best “pot au feu” made either by your grand-ma or an old aunty. Or maybe you had that made over a nice family lunch over the country side. The pot au feu is this mix of beef meat cooked for hours in a simple cooking pot full of water and various vegetables such as carrots, leak, turnips, sometime even courgettes or cabbage. One very important ingredient are the cloves, giving all the substance to the broth. Never be mean with using them….put a lot….it’s giving the main flavor here.

Another important choice is the beef cut to be used. Always the best and tender cut. This will prevent the meat to be too hard on the teeth, as the full cooking is long (usually 4 hours). And now comes the chef, the master. Obviously you can expect the best from a 3*** chef. But you’ll not just expect the best “pot of feu”. It would have been too simple.

Here comes the service of the main course in two steps. First round of waiters (always with a smile of course)…. “this is the chef main of the menu tonight, Madame, Monsieur, hope you’ll enjoy this nice pot au feu “façon**” Rossini“. And indeed, at this moment you think “oh my god, the chef is crazy”. Indeed you look at the plate and you see in front of you a perfectly dressed piece of beef, cook just a little “medium rare”, but no blood, almost “pink” which is unusual for a beef cooking style. Just two big simple slices of perfectly cooked prime cut beef, dressed above a stunning combination of carrots, and turnips. All shiny, and already smelling the flavor of your childhood. And then you notice above the quite good amount of delicacy diamond i.e. a perfectly cooked slice of raw “foie gras” from the Landes cover up by a large slice of black truffle mushroom.

And then second step, the “finale”, when the second waiter arrives with a flask of “smelly” broth elixir and pour a suitable volume of mixture in the plate, making sure he is not dropping any juice on the meat and the vegetables, but only surround the pyramid.

Then we had a long grin on the face. Like spoil kids receiving an extra side with the simple but excellent “pot au feu”, but just having the special gift. The Foie Gras just combine perfectly with the beef as it usually does for a “Tournedo Rossini***”.

Chiberta was a great moment and I’ll go back. This is a really good choice for a reasonable price in Paris. As you can tell, the memory is still there. I would advise you to go to the Chiberta and enjoy some similar moments.

* notice than we say in french than scallops “cuisent the peur”, this means than a scallop shall be cooked less than 1 minute per side, as they’re so scared to be cooked ;o)

** term usually used to notice the way the recipe is prepared, it can be the name of a chef, or a way to prepare it. Direct translation means “at the manner of …”. e.g. “façon grand mere”, “façon Prunier”.

*** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tournedos_Rossini

http://www.lechiberta.com

Rue Arsène Houssaye
75008 Paris, France
01 53 53 42 00

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