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Posts Tagged ‘15/20’

Bladebone Inn, Bucklebury, Berkshire, United Kingdom

January 1, 2013 Leave a comment

I have lost count how many years I have chatted to Kiren, the current owner of Bladebone Inn, in the social media space; but it’s only in June 2012 that we accidentally bumped into one another in the real world. One of his first questions when we finally met was “when are we going to see you at Bladebone?”. OK, Berkshire is not exactly that far from London but I just did not seem to find that opportunity to visit Bladebone Inn because of all my work travels outside the UK. In fact, there was one time when I got so close to visiting the place, but a business acquaintance decided to take his initiative and book another place in a neighbouring village for dinner instead, thinking that the other place was where I was thinking.

Still, finally just before Christmas, the opportunity came up one lunchtime, en route from London to the west country. I grabbed that opportunity firmly and made sure that it would not slip out of my hands into 2013.

Bladebone Inn is a pub in the quiet village of Bucklebury – thanks to modern technology, the GPS was a much-needed gadget to guide me to this former 17th century inn. Strangely enough, the GPS and mobile phone signal just dropped dead as soon as the pub was in sight. There’s a certain charm to the pub, not just its location, but with its “Dogs and muddy boots welcome” sign at the front door.

Kiren came to the bar area to give us a warm welcome and suggested that we should try his “cheeky little 5-courser”. Even though I’ve got plans for dinner that evening, I thought – why not? A first little plate of “cheese and pineapple” promptly arrived, as a prelude to the 5-course tasting menu. Even for a non-cheddar cheese fan, the salty flavour of the fried Montgomery Cheddar cheese really brought out the sweetness of the pineapple cubes.

Cheese and Pineapple

We were then taken to the table, where brioche was brought to the table. Then Kiren just pushed the plant pots in the middle of the table in front of us, and announced proudly “here’s your first course, Chicken Liver Parfait with Brioche”. The presentation  certainly came as a surprise, as it did look more like a quirky herb pot decoration than an edible dish, with some herb leaves growing out of a dark-brown soil-like layer of dried crumbled malt loaf. Digging down into the “soil”, the chicken liver parfait was revealed. The concept was certainly interesting and made the food look fun. The flavour of the liver was a bit too strong on its own; and it was better when combined with the sweetness of the brioche.

Chicken Liver Parfait Brioche

The next course was like a piece of art on a plate and was brought to the table with a glass dome cover – smoked salmon with beetroot and wasabi mousse. The smoked salmon tasted beautiful, and one piece of beetroot disguised itself as a raw tuna lookalike – it’s only when I cut into it did I realise that it was not tuna at all. The wasabi mousse was not too strong-flavoured which was a relief (some chefs were very good at over-doing it with wasabi and I hated that, unless I had a bad cold and completely blocked nose). The beetroot meringue added the necessary sweetness to the dish. There were beetroot popping candies peppered over the plate, which I thought was not needed. Making the dish fun and playful? Yes, but it lowered the tone of the dish.

Smoked Salmon with Beetroot and Wasabi Mousse

The third course was mackerel with squid ink pearl spelt, mussel, samphire and trout roe. While the mackerel was a little on the dry side on its own, it was saved by the moisture from the spelt. There were a few small crunches of honeycomb which gave that little extra sweetness to the dish. The presentation was once again impressive and looked like some Japanese artwork.

Mackerel with Squid Ink Pearl Spelt, Mussel, Samphire and Trout Roe

The main course was duck breast and confit leg, celeriac, mulled cabbage, beetroot, walnut and blood orange. Whilst the duck breast was a bit tougher than I would have liked, it was still beautifully cooked, and all the ingredients worked well together. With such impressive starters and fish courses earlier on, it was a hard act to follow.

Duck Breast and Confit Leg, Celeriac, Mulled Cabbage, Beetroot, Walnut and Blood Orange

So far the portions were not exactly little, but I enjoyed the lunch immensely. The final course was a light . Apart from the lemon, all the ingredients were locally sourced, according to Kiren. This dessert was light and not too sweet – a very refreshing dish to finish off this wonderful journey for the taste-bud.

Blackberry Mille Feuille with Crab Apple Jelly, Wood Sorrel Sorbet, Lemon and Honeycomb

The presentation and choice of ingredients showed some very promising and impressive, yet playful, ideas, even though some fine-tuning is needed to take this to the next level – it’s only a matter of time. Is this a  future star in the making? I think so. I already look forward to the next visit to Bladebone Inn (hopefully not too long into 2013).

Address:  Chapel Row, Bucklebury, near  Reading, West Berkshire RG7 6PD, England, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0) 118 971 2326
Website: www.thebladeboneinn.com

Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday 12.00-23.00 ; Sunday 12.00-22.30

Food: 7/10
Ambience: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 15/20 [Based on visit in December 2012 ]

Degustation, New York City, United States

September 11, 2011 Leave a comment

One of my ex-colleagues in Boston shares the same surname as me (and no, we are not related) and she loves her food, so there was a running joke in the company that we were the London and Boston representatives of Chow With Chau guide on the company intranet. She is now living in Manhattan. So when I was out there visiting, I thought I’d meet up with her for dinner, and let her decide on the restaurant. After consulting some of her friends, she informed me that she’d made a reservation at Degustation in East Village, based on the recommendation from a friend of hers that “it was the best meal I’ve had in NYC”.

Open kitchen at Degustation, New York City

The restaurant was smaller than I expected, and it’s basically an open kitchen with customers sitting at the bar (though we were sitting on chairs and not bar stools). Having experienced the rather “warmer-than-average” open kitchen setting at Momofuku, this one was a lot more pleasant. As our reservation was rather early in the evening, the restaurant only had a small handful of people in there, though we were still “asked” to wait at the tiny reception area for a minute, for no apparent reason, before we were led to the table.

The menu contains a selection of small dishes, a bit like having tapas really. We were told that we could either order a la carte (in which case, we’d order about 3-4 dishes per person) or go for the 5-course or 10-course tasting menu. We decided to go for the 5-course menu, as I was still quite full after a heavy lunch earlier in the day.

The first course was Ajo Blanco with cherries and fine herbs: the white garlic gazpacho was creamy and a welcoming soup for a humid summer evening (it was the evening before New York City went for a complete shutdown due to hurricane Irene – so the outside was rather stuffy). The cherries gave a bit of extra sweetness to the taste of the soup.

Ajo Blanco, Cherries, Fine Herbs at Degustation, New York City

The next course was marinated sardines wrapped in nori and served with salmon roe – the thin slices of sardines were sandwiched between the seaweed and then deep-fried to a very beautiful crispy and light texture. This was probably the best dish in the whole meal.

Marinated Sardines, Nori, Salmon Roe at Degustation, New York City

The third course was sturgeon with vegetable caviar and sea beans – the vegetable caviar was essentially tapioca, which was nicely cooked. However the sturgeon was verging on the tough and dry side. While the taste was nice, the texture and presentation was a let-down.

Sturgeon, Vegetable Caviar, Sea Beans at Degustation, New York City

The fourth and last savoury course was flank steak on rye, sauerkraut and served with a spicy mustard – I was not keen on this dish at all.  The flank steak was cooked to a pastrami style: unfortunately it was rather tough and even with a good steak knife it was still a bit of an effort to cut through the meat. The spicy mustard had a very strong bold flavour – maybe a little too strong if more than just a little dab of it was used with the meat.

Flank Steak, Rye, Sauerkraut, Spicy Mustard at Degustation, New York City

There were two choices for the dessert: Caramelised Torija or a chocolate pudding with vanilla marshmallow and granary cracker. I was going to opt for the chocolate, but then they could not tell me what chocolate they used, so I thought to be on the safe side, I’d go for the former. It turned out to be a good choice – the torija was like a brioche-based bread and butter pudding, with a nice thin crust of caramelised sugar on top.

Caramelised Torija at Degustation, New York City

By the time we finished the meal, the restaurant was completely full and there were already customers on the second seating. It’s a nice cosy restaurant and a fun place to take a friend or two to for dinner. However, due to the layout, it’s probably not a good idea to go with more than 4 people as you can’t really have a conversation with everyone without shouting across. The waitress was friendly and very helpful in explaining some of the dishes.

If I didn’t have such a big lunch a few hours before, I’d probably have happily gone for the 10-course tasting menu. Ah well, there’s always next time!

Address:  239 East 5th Street, Manhattan, New York City, NY 10003 , United States
Telephone: +1 (212) 979 1012
Website: www.degustationnyc.com

Opening Hours: Daily: 12.00pm to 2.30pm; 7.00pm to 9.30pm

Food: 8/10
Ambience: 3/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 15/20 [Based on visit in  August 2011]

Paul Ainsworth at Number 6, Padstow, United Kingdom

How do you squeeze in a meal when your itinerary is already jam-packed and your stomach is not able to squeeze in another full meal? Well, this was the dilemma I had in Cornwall – I had the intention of going to Paul Ainsworth at Number 6 restaurant in 2010, but there was no way to fit it into the tight schedule. This year I had to try to find a slot to visit this place between the two dinners at Nathan Outlaw’s restaurant in Rock – doing a full lunch and then a proper dinner would push my stomach (and waistline) way past its limit, but a “light” lunch in Padstow would be a good compromise.

It was a very sunny and warm day in April – almost like mid-summer. Padstow was crowded, but as it’s not the height of the summer yet, it was still manageable (well, not the parking – the carpark was overflowing).

The restaurant had a bright casual feel to it, and I loved the decor, with its large mirror in one of the rooms. It might just as well be a comfortable surrounding that I could settle into – the task of choosing the dishes from the menu was hard. There were so many dishes which sounded so interesting that the difficulty was to narrow down to a manageable number of dishes – not so simple when even there were several starters that I wanted. The waiter was so helpful that he hinted that we could have ordered in whatever way we wanted from the menu, so the decision was then made: three starters to share between me and Russell: we’d have one each and then share the third.

I chose the sweetcorn soup with thyme and crabmeat tortellini – the soup was smooth and sweet, but I found that the sweetcorn taste overpowered the fresh flavour of the crabmeat. A shame really but it was nevertheless a well-executed dish. Russell had the Terras farm duck “Scotch eggs” with smoked mustard mayonnaise – while it tasted nice, the texture was a bit too crumbly for his liking. I had a mouthful of it and I agreed.

 

 

We then decided to share the third starter: St Enodoc asparagus with Serrano ham, parmesan, quail egg and salad. It was the season for the asparagus and the combination of the various ingredients, although verging on the somewhat predictable side, was well balanced.

Our original plan was to just have a light lunch of three starters, but with the dishes being so promising, we decided to go for a dessert also. Alas, another list to select from…. Difficult choice. So to go for the easy (but very greedy) option, we went for the “Taste of no. 6” dessert plate. We were expecting about 4-5 items on the plate, but when the plate arrived, we were (pleasantly) shocked by the size and selection. It consisted of a few items that I would have liked from the menu, such as pineapple tart tatin with thyme and coconut ice-cream, hot chocolate moelleux, espresso creme brulee with fairground doughnuts, rhubarb trifle etc. So much for a “light” lunch!

On the whole, it was a very enjoyable meal and I would certainly go back next time I am in Padstow. There’s some fine-tuning to do on the dishes to take it to the level of excellence, but the signs were promising. While most people would flock to one of Rick Stein’s eateries in Padstow, I’d be more happy to go to Paul Ainsworth at Number 6 for better food.

Address:  6 Middle Street, Padstow, Cornwall, PL28 8AP, United Kingdom

Telephone: +44 (0)1841 532 093
Website: www.number6inpadstow.co.uk

Opening Hours: 
From May to Sep: Tuesday-Sunday: 10:30-16:00, 18:00-22:00
From Oct to Apr: Tuesday-Sunday: 10:30-16:00, 19:00-22:00
Food: 7/10
Ambience: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 15/20 [Based on visit in April 2011]