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Texture, London, United Kingdom

In the beginning of May, my godparents, Titus and Flora, from Melbourne sent me an e-mail saying that they would be in London at the end of the month and asked me to book a few restaurants for them. As Titus loves his food and he like searching out for good food; while Flora has only got a small appetite, I had to be careful on the choices.  Texture seemed to fit the criteria as I remember from my visit in the summer of 2010 that the meal was not heavy due to the lack of the use of butter or cream in the cooking, and the cooking was exceptional. Luck was on my side also as I managed to secure a table for the Friday evening before the long weekend.

After we settled down at our table, it took us ages to decide what to have. We were debating between the tasting menu and the Scandinavian fish tasting menu first – the former had quail and beef which Flora couldn’t eat, so she was veering towards the fish tasting menu; while Titus was happy with the normal tasting menu. For me, I was actually quite happy with either menus and also a la carte, but I guess the elders always thought that the younger generation (ie me in this case) could eat a lot! Ideally we would have liked to have a mixture of the two tasting menus but the restaurant manager told us that due to the “complexity” of the dishes, the whole table had to take the same tasting menu. Then we spent another ten minutes debating on the a la carte, and finally settled on the Scandinavian fish tasting menu!

The nibbles came soon after we got our aperitifs – a mixture of crisps. The one that got Titus talking was the cod skin crisp, as he didn’t expect to see this in a Western restaurant – and he started telling me about the use of fish skin in various Chinese congees. It didn’t take us long before we finished the whole plate of crisps.

The appetiser was pea mousse and mint “snow” with prawns. It was a very refreshing dish – each mouthful was a delight, with a contrast of the texture of the various ingredients, and the explosion of flavours in the mouth. A very effective palate cleanser.

The next course was smoked organic salmon (graflax) with horseradish. The salmon was lightly cooked and the flesh was still firm, contrasting well with the soft mousse and the crisp bread that accompanied the dish. It was a very promising start, and Titus was already happy.

The next dish was roasted scallops with white asparagus, passion fruit and söl. Another dish that tasted as beautiful as it looked – the scallops were fresh and cooked through nicely, and the use of passion fruit and vinegar lifted the flavour out well. Söl (dulse seaweed) gave the extra interesting dimension to this dish. Another dish that we all enjoyed that we could have easily had second helpings!

The main fish dish was Cornish skate with cod brandade, lemon, radish and garlic oil. There was a generous serving of fish on this dish, and once again the fish was fresh and perfectly cooked. I love brandade, and this went well with the rest of the dish. Titus was somewhat surprised by the high quality here, and I explained that not many London restaurants (even the seafood ones) could cook fish to this standard.

Pre-dessert was sorrel sorbet with muscadet mousse – another very refreshing and effective palate cleanser. It was so nice that Titus said that he could easily have had four of these!

The dessert was something I was not so keen on when I saw the menu – Valrhona white chocolate mousse, ice-cream with dill and cucumber. Not being a big fan of white chocolate, I thought I’d struggle even when it’s Valrhona chocolate, as many restaurants ended up with very sweet white chocolate desserts. So I was pleasantly surprised when the dessert not only looked nice, but tasted absolutely wonderful, without being too sweet. The various textures of the ingredients (from the silky softness of the foam, to the soft mousse, moving to the slightly harder ice-cream and cucumber cubes, all the way to the sprinkling of the nuts on the plate) worked so well together – it was a perfect way to end the meal.

On the whole the meal was just how I remembered it from last year – the ingredients were of a high quality and the cooking was beautifully executed, and the meal was filling but light. The lack of use of butter and cream-based sauces really helped in letting the ingredients speak for themselves. This was the exact reason why my godparents and I enjoyed the meal so much – there’s nothing that beat fresh ingredients, rather than disguising the inferior quality food in some heavy sauces.

Address: 34 Portman Street, London, W1H 7BY, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7224 0028
Website: http://www.texture-restaurant.co.uk
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday: Lunch 12:00-14:30 ; Dinner 18:30-23:00

Food: 9/10
Ambience: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 17/20 [Based on visit in May 2011]

Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley, London, United Kingdom

April 27, 2011 Leave a comment

This is the first time I returned to this restaurant at the Berkeley Hotel since Marcus Wareing broke away from the Gordon Ramsay empire. Hailed as one of the best restaurants in London, and possibly the UK, I have been eager to re-visit this place in the post-Petrus era, to see what the fuss was about. The previous time when I visited Petrus, the restaurant only had one Michelin star, and in my review I thought the starter was good but then it went downhill from there. Therefore I was curious to see if that much has changed.

A few snacks were brought out to accompany the aperitif: squid fritters, foie gras with orange marmalade, and smoky tomato and olive spread with toasted bread. I’d never have thought of combining foie gras with marmalade but the combination worked well.

The amuse-bouche was a mushroom veloute with a truffle mousse on top. The presentation was very topical – it was the week when the volcanic ash from Iceland caused widespread disruption in Europe. The soup was smooth and rich in flavour – this was a promising start.

We ordered the Menu Prestige, which consisted the following dishes:

(1) Foie gras, rhubarb, muffin top, pink pepper, yogurt, thyme. Everyone seemed to be doing foie gras and rhubarb these days. The ingredients were so beautifully arranged that the whole dish looked like an artwork, and the different contrasts in flavour and richness worked well also.

(2) Dorset crab, mackerel, apple, chargrilled bread, hazelnut. The texture of the apple complemented well with the fish. The crab meat was firm though the portion was a bit on the small side.

(3) Quail, smoked white beans, toast foam. It’s not always easy to cook quail but this one came out tender and moist. The flavour of the quail blended in well with the strong smokey flavour of the white bean.

(4) Scottish scallop, celeriac, sorrel, lemon jam – the scallops were somewhat dry and overcooked, which was a real shame as this could have been an outstanding dish. The lemon jam was very sharp and tangy on its own, but it did give an extra dimension in flavour when mixed with the other ingredients.

(5) Cumbrian lamb, red pepper, artichokes, fennel, saffron, or Lakes District venison, smoke, beetroot, juniper. First the lamb – it was on the slightly dry and tough side, and the flavour was somewhat lacking. It was a bit like daily home-cooking – you’d eat the food but it’s not memorable. The venison was tender but the flavour was once again smokey. For a tasting menu, this was the fourth dish with such flavour – where’s the variety to showcase the chef’s ability? Or was Mr Wareing too enthusiastic about his food smoker?

(6) Pre dessert – this was a passion fruit mousse and a chocolate opera. This was beautifully presented – the contrast in colours and shapes was impressive, and they both tasted good too!

(7) Espresso arctic roll, bitter chocolate, blackberry – Maybe because the pre-dessert was so good, this was a let-down.

On the whole, the meal was not as good as I had hoped. Several dishes had the smokey flavour, which would have been fine if the menu was a “smokey menu” rather than a “tasting menu”, which I would expect a chef to showcase the different flavours he/she was capable of. The menu lacked some of the excitements and innovative ideas, and with the price it’s commanding, it felt more like it’s catering for the rich bankers’ expenses accounts. Just like the previous Petrus, the meal started off very promising and it gradually went downhill without recovery.

Address: The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7RL, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44(0)20 7235 6000
Website: www.the-berkeley.co.uk/marcus_wareing.aspx

Opening Hours: 
Monday to Friday: Lunch    12.00 – 14.30 ; Dinner 18.00 – 23.00
Saturday: Dinner 18.00 – 23.00

Food: 7/10
Ambience: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 15/20 [Based on visit in April 2010]

The Ledbury, London, United Kingdom

April 27, 2011 Leave a comment

I don’t often hang out in Notting Hill, and so it is an effort for me to head to The Ledbury for dinner. However, sometimes good food comes at a price, and the price is for me to find the time and energy to venture to Notting Hill for this 2-Michelin starred restaurant headed by young chef Brett Graham.

It’s a beautiful summer evening and it was a delight to find the decor light and airy, and with the large arch-windows the restaurant felt very spacious. The warm and yet informal welcome from the staff was also a breath of fresh air. However, things started to go wrong from that point: one of the menus had a duplicate page of main courses (that was quickly changed when we pointed out the mistake), and then our order of kir royale for the aperitif turned out to be without the “royale”. It didn’t matter as I was just as happy with champagne anyway. So the start was not promising.

Fortunately, the quality of the food was more promising. The dishes with comments were the ones I ordered – I feel that I shouldn’t really comment on dishes that I only tasted a mouthful only. Still, I have the pictures and you can make up your own mind on these other dishes.

Starter:

(1) Ceviche of Hand Dived Scallops with Seaweed and Herb Oil, Kohlrabi and Frozen Horseradish. The horseradish was a little too cold and the flavour too overpowering for the delicate taste and texture of the scallops. It’s refreshing enough but the aftertaste of the horseradish was just a little too much.

(2) Celeriac Baked in Ash with Wood Sorrel, Hazelnuts and a Kromeski of Wild Boar – one of the signature dishes of Brett Graham apparently.

Main Course:

(3) Loin of Sika Deer Baked in Hay with Crapaudine Beetroot, Bone Marrow and Malt

(4) Poached Breast and Confit Legs of Pigeon with Cevennes Onions, Foie Gras and Liquorice – the poached breast was tender and moist, and the other ingredients were bursting with flavour. The leg was presented to the table in a glass dome cover, and when the cover was lifted, the smoke and the aroma that followed was amazing. It was possibly one of the best main courses I have had for a very long time. A symphony of flavours.

Pre-Dessert

(5) Blueberry Panna-Cotta with Blueberry Sorbet – I like blueberries… this was refreshing but nothing special to write home about.

Dessert

(6) Caramelised Banana Galette with Salted Caramel and Peanut Ice Cream

(7) Chocolate Crèmeux with Walnut Ice Cream and Warm Chocolate Madeleines – A dessert that was beautifully presented, and the contrast in texture in this dish was amazing. It’s good to finish the meal on a high like this.

(8) Date and Vanilla Tart with Cardamom and Clementine Ice Cream – This was a special birthday treat. Nice one, and thank you for this!

Finally, the petit-fours were presented on a plate filled with cacao nibs. Not the best idea as the cacao nibs got stuck to the macaroon.

On the whole, the food was impressive – the mix of flavour worked well in most cases, and the contrast in texture in some of the dishes was interesting and memorable. One of the restaurants that I will definitely go back.

Address: 127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, London W11 2AQ
Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7792 9090
Website: www.theledbury.com 

Opening Hours:
Monday 6.30pm – 10.30pm
Tuesday to Saturday ( Lunch / Dinner ) 12pm – 2.30pm / 6.30pm – 10.30pm
Sunday ( Lunch / Dinner )  12pm – 3pm / 7pm -10pm

Food: 9/10
Ambience: 4/5
Service: 3/5
Total: 16/20 [Based on visit in May 2010]