Posts Tagged ‘18/20’

Le Champignon Sauvage, Cheltenham, United Kingdom

April 27, 2011 Leave a comment

I have wanted to go to Le Champignon Sauvage for quite a while but never found a good reason to head towards Cheltenham for a visit. In March 2010 I have finally made it there during my gourmet tour round South-West England.

Le Champignon Sauvage is one of those restaurants that does not rely on the media for publicity. As far as I know, the chef, David Everitt-Matthias, has not appeared on television for promotion (and if he has, then he has only rarely been on) and he does work in the kitchen every day. So the restaurant really has to rely on the quality of the food to attract and retain customers. His wife, Helen, looks after the front of house service.

As we entered the restaurant, we were already warmly greeted by the staff. The bar area was relatively small, and so we decided to head straight to the table. The restaurant decor was simple and pleasing to the eyes – some of the bolder colours were dotted around the restaurant, and they were not intrusive. This was a good indication on the food – some bold uses of flavours but they worked well with all other ingredients that were pleasing to the palate.

For starter, I had roasted native lobster with miso glaze, risotto of oat groats, onion and orange, spiced bread – this was an outstanding dish, with the right amount of miso without overpowering the other delicate flavours. There was a generous amount of lobster, and the meat was moist and delicious.

Originally I was going to have “Fillet of cod, squid ink risotto, seared squid and belly pork” as the main course, but when I ordered this, Helen quickly pointed out that my starter was already a risotto-based dish, and I might want to consider something else because there’s risotto in my choice of main course and it might be a bit heavy. This was much appreciated – some restaurants would not have bothered pointing this out and I was just so impressed that Helen had this level of attention to details. So instead, I opted for the red-legged partridge, turnip choucroute, turnip and verjus puree. I was not a fan of partridge, turnip nor choucroute, but this was nicely cooked and well-presented.

For dessert, I chose the coconut macaroon, iced coconut milk and lotus seed ice-cream. I was expecting the dainty French macaroon for some reasons, but it turned out to be of the British kind. I usually can’t stand desicated coconuts, and the macaroon was full of the stuff, but I still managed to clear the whole plate. The sweetness of the coconut macaroon complimented well with the relative blandness of the ice-cream, but the textures worked well together also.

To round off an excellent meal, we were presented with a colourful plate of petit fours. We were so full that we could hardly finish all of them, but then it would be a crime to leave any on the plate!

On the whole, I was very impressed with this restaurant, with excellent food and flawless service. Certainly one I would be happy to go back to.

Address: 24-26 Suffolk Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 2AQ, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)1242 573449

Opening Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 12.30 – 1.15pm (last order: 1.30pm) ; 7.30 – 8.30pm (last order: 8.45pm)

Food: 9/10
Ambience: 4/5
Service: 5/5
Total: 18/20 [Based on visit in March 2010]

Nathan Outlaw Restaurant, Rock, United Kingdom

April 27, 2011 2 comments

It was Nathan Outlaw’s restaurant in Fowey that finished off my Cornwall gourmet trip on a high in 2009, and so in 2010 I have once again chosen Nathan for the grande finale of this year’s SW England foodie tour with my friends Darcy and Bob from the US. I felt this was an appropriate choice given that Darcy was a lover of seafood, and I knew that I couldn’t go far wrong with Nathan with his forte in seafood cooking and his use of local produce – being by the sea really helps!

As the Marina Villa hotel in Fowey was sold off, once again Nathan had to find a new venue to move to. He already has the Seafood & Grill at St Enodoc Hotel in Rock since middle of 2009, so it’s a natural choice to move his flagship restaurant to the same place. For those who are not familiar with the geography of SW England, Rock is in North Cornwall and is located on the opposite side of the Camel Estuary to Padstow. It’s a tough place to be competing with Rick Stein’s well-known seafood empire which dominates Padstow.

The restaurant in Rock had only opened for about 4 weeks when we visited, so certain things still needed to be ironed out, even though most of the staff followed Nathan’s footstep from Fowey to Rock. The sommelier might not be completely familiar with his wines, but he was certainly knowledgeable, and recommended a very nice bottle of Austrian white wine, after I set out the rules of “no Chablis, no Riesling” for the evening. He was even prepared to open a new bottle to let us try a bit first, as I am not a fan of Austrian wine generally – but this was a clever move for him as the wine was light and refreshing, and so we ended up with the bottle to go with the meal.

As it’s the final evening of a week-long gourmet trip and we had a whole day of travelling around sightseeing, we were all too tired to decide what to eat in the a la carte menu, and so we chose the easy way out and opted for the tasting menu.

The first dish that was presented to the table was Smoked Mackerel with pickled vegetables, olive bread and smoked salt. It was beautifully presented (as you can see below). Taste-wise the verdict was mixed – I thought it was good but Russell did not enjoy it too much, but then he was not a fan of mackerel anyway.

The first 3 courses were all fish – it’s a showcase of Nathan’s skills in cooking seafood:

(1) Lemon Sole, with caper potato dumplings and parsley sauce

(2) Brill, with angels on horseback, seaweed and squash

(3) Bream, mussels and saffron with olives and tarragon

It’s hard to find too many faults with these dishes. The only (slightly) negative comment at the table seemed to be on the brill which was slightly on the dry side and overcooked.

The next course was still around the seafood-theme:

(4) Scallops, with hogs pudding, Jerusalem artichoke and apple. When we finished this course, the staff asked how it was – We all agreed that this was one of the best dishes we had during the trip, as the scallops were very fresh and perfectly cooked. The other ingredients complemented the scallops really well, with no one single ingredient dominating the overall flavour. We were told that the scallops just came in on the day and were only delivered at 4pm.

After four courses of seafood, the next course was a meat course:

(5) Venison, chicory tart with hazelnuts, parsnips and thyme. Nearly every restaurant we went to on this trip featured venison on the menu. This one might not be the best, but then it was very good, with the meat not too dry or overcooked.

There were 2 desserts that followed:

(6) Stem Ginger Cheesecake, with poached rhubarb and ginger ice-cream

(7) Almond Financier, blood orange and pistachio with yoghurt sorbet

I must admit that I shivered when I saw “ginger cheesecake” and “ginger ice-cream” in one dish – although I love using ginger in cooking savoury food, I am not a fan of ginger biscuits or in desserts. One of the indicators of a great chef (as opposed to a good chef) for me is that he/she can make me enjoy a dish full of ingredients I don’t like. With this ginger cheesecake from Nathan, while I can’t say that I would go back and choose this dessert specifically, I could quite happily eat another one if I had to. So that’s nearly a total success!

The desserts were nice, but lacked that certain edge that made the dishes unforgettable, like the ones I had in Fowey.

It’s probably a bit unfair to try to compare the restaurant at Fowey against the current setting in Rock. After all, the Fowey restaurant had an absolutely stunning unobstructed view – sitting halfway up the hill looking out to the Fowey estuary. The blinds were closed in the restaurant at Rock, but I didn’t expect the view to be anywhere as good. The service was friendly and informal, though some details still needed to be worked on – but this was to be expected given the early days of this venue and certain aspects still needed to be ironed out. In terms of food, the quality was still as good – fresh produce, nicely cooked. However, it lacked the excitement and the “wow” factor at Fowey – Nathan explained that this was due to the smaller number of staff in the kitchen and that limited what he could achieve. This was compensated by the scallops dish at Rock – the dish was so good that everyone at our table agreed that it would be one of our top 10 dishes to die for!

Certainly a restaurant I would look forward to returning to in the near future – in the meantime, the only thing I could do was to tell friends and colleagues heading down to Cornwall to forget about going to Padstow for seafood at one of Rick Stein’s eateries; instead, consider heading to Rock instead for an outstanding dinner at Nathan Outlaw’s.

Address: St. Enodoc Hotel, Rock, Cornwall, PL27 6LA, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44(0)1208 863394

Opening Hours: 
Lunch: Friday & Saturday 12:30 – 14:00
Dinner: Tuesday to Saturday: 19:00-21:00

Food: 9/10
Ambience: 5/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 18/20 [Based on visit in March 2010]

Restaurant John Campbell at Coworth Park, Ascot, United Kingdom

April 27, 2011 1 comment

One of the main gourmet anticipations for me in 2010 was a visit to John Campbell’s new restaurant at Coworth Park. Since early summer 2010, I had been monitoring the opening date for the hotel and restaurant. It finally opened in September 2010, and since I was planning on a gourmet holiday in November with Darcy and Bob (who were mad enough to fly over to the UK the second time in one year to go on a UK gourmet holiday), I ended up booking a table for November to go there with them.

Calling the reservation was a bit of a chaotic affair when I rang towards end of September, but then it could be forgiven when it’s only just opened for a few weeks (though on the other hand, this would not really be a good excuse when it’s part of the Dorchester group). Still, I managed to secure a table on the date I wanted without any problem – obviously this place was still not on many people’s radars.

When we arrived, the staff were efficient and very welcoming – a good sign. We chose to go straight into the dining room and sip champagne there. To go with the aperitif, we got served Crisps with Tomato and Garlic Dips / Pork Crackling

There were simply way too many dishes we wanted to have on the a la carte menu, and so in the end we chose to go for the tasting menu. There were the non-vegetarian tasting menu as well as the vegetarian tasting menu – you’d think it would be easy to decide with just these two choices, but it’s tough. So in the end Darcy chose the vegetarian menu, while Bob and I went for the carnivore version!

1st course: Parsnip Soup, with Oxtail and Purple Cauliflower – the vegetarian version had the oxtail omitted. This opening dish was delicate and flavourful.

2nd course: Pilchard with Tomato Jam, Lettuce and Tapenade – Not being a fan of pilchard, this dish was out of the world deliciously good, and Bob was speechless as he enjoyed it so much too. For Darcy, the only word she managed to utter on her Aubergine with Cheese Sauce & Chutney was “wow”!

3rd course: Pigeon with Pumpkin & Apple – we thought the last dish was good, but this one was even better. The meat was very tender and bursting with flavour. By the end of this course for Darcy (Beetroot with Salad, Potato & Goats Cheese), she had already decided that this was the best vegetarian menu she’s ever experienced.

4th course: Dried Tuna with Olive Oil, Beetroot & Watercress – This dish sounded so interesting that Darcy actually requested to forego her vegetarian dish and replace it with the tuna also. Perhaps we were expecting too much, so unlike the previous dishes, this was the first dish which we would refuse a second plate even if we were offered another plate of the same food.

5th course: Foie Gras with Muscat, Pecan & Parmesan – the fig and foie gras combination worked really well, though I found the foie gras slightly overcooked – Bob disagreed as his was perfect, and he liked the contrast of the hot and cold flavours in the dish. The presentation of Darcy’s Carrot with Galangal Ginger & Pinenuts was absolutely beautiful, though it looked better than it tasted – that’s not the say that it’s not a good dish as it was cooked just right. It would be very difficult to beat the contrast of such vibrant colours in one dish.

6th course: Pork, roasted with Bacon and Sage – the pork on its own would have been a bit too dry, however when it was combined with the black pudding and swede mash, this added the need moisture and the dish worked like magic. The vegetarian Palm Heart with Chilli & Noodles did not seem to excite Darcy’s tastebud – her description of the dish was “forgettable”, with the noodles being a bit on the gooey side. The other ingredients on the plate was nice enough to save the dish.

7th course: Bramley Apple & Sage – as this dish contained alcohol, Bob had the alternative Mango Sorbet & Cucumber Soup which was refreshing and he said it resembled a tonic and he felt so healthy eating it. For the apple and sage, Darcy and I were pleasantly surprised by how simple ingredients could have made this into a great dish: the smooth silkiness of the apple puree blended nicely with the sage and vanilla. The dish was so full of flavour, and the texture was elevated with a sprinkling of biscuit crumbs.

8th course: Chocolate Bar with Beer ice-cream & Lime / Chocolate Bar (non-alcoholic version). Some chefs tend to go a bit heavy-handed when it comes to chocolate dessert, but not at John Campbell’s. The intensity of the chocolate was perfect. We all agreed that we would quite happily have this dish again.

After dinner, we opted to go to the drawing room for our coffee and petit fours. There was a draught where I sat and so it was not as comfortable as I would have liked, but the petit fours took my mind off that quite quickly.

On the whole, this was a very nice restaurant and the price was very reasonable for this high standard. However, I suspect that when the awards start flooding in in the near future and more people are aware of this place, the price will go up and the reservation will become more of a nightmare. We were certainly glad to have gone there, and we would happily return for another meal.

Address: Coworth Park, Blacknest Road, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7SE, United Kingdom
Telephone:  +44 (0)1344 876 600

Opening Hours:
Monday – Friday: 7:00am – 10:00am, 12:00pm – 2:00pm, 6:30pm – 9:30pm
Weekends & Bank Holidays: 8:00am – 10:30am, 12:00pm – 2:30pm, 6:30pm – 9:30pm

Food: 10/10
Ambience: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 18/20 [Based on visit in November 2010]