Articles Tagués ‘Jocelyn Herland’

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester-III, London

mai 15, 2009

 

 

La Salle

La Salle

 

 

Jocelyn Herland doesn’t have an easy job. Since he joined Alain Ducasse’s restaurant at the Dorchester not too long ago, he had to live with some vile, mostly unjust criticism from the British press. Of course, a restaurant doesn’t serve the most stunning food right after its opening, but considering that this particular restaurant bore the name of Alain Ducasse, expectations were,rightfully so, very high. When the critics ate their way through the menu they made it a sport to criticise every possible element of the restaurant. To be honest, one must say that he wasn’t the only one who was criticised without much reason. His compatriots Helene Darroze and Jean Christophe Ansanay-Alex had similarly negative reviews from most of the major British newspapers. In the latter’s case, it went as far as being very personal, the reason of which escapes me. But, Herland tries his best to deliver well-made, product focused food of the highest order, as far as it is possible. Being realistic, he acknowledges that  the comparatively low price they charge here limit his creativity. In Paris, the cheapest menu is a mere 260euro, in Monaco, you can expect to pay similar prices. This being said, one thing has to be mentioned. For prices as low as these, one can simply not expect the same products, amount of work or perfection than you have in these other places. Therefore, it would be wrong to judge Parisian restaurants on the same standard as those in London. Although, there are always sparks here and there, not many but they do exist. 

 

La Salle 2

La Salle 2

 

 

When one sets foot in the Patrick Jouin-designed room, one immediately sees how successful this refurbishment was. Jouin has created a light, warm, modern and welcoming room, where one feels more than well. This young designer is quite talented, as his various projects around the world show (amongst them are the famous Auberge de l’Ill and ADPA). For those of you, who want to spend a bit of extra money, there is the so-called table lumiere, a table for 6 or 7 people, completely cut-off from the rest of the restaurant by a wall of some fancy light sticks. In this little cocoon, you will see the (Hermes) crockery change according to the season and can expect to pay 1300£ for your meal (drinks exclusive).

DSCN0601

La table lumiere

 

 

The rest of us sits equally well in the normal room of the restaurant. At lunch, the sun (if it does shine) shines through the windows, and you have a lovely view on Hyde Park, which lies vis-a-vis the restaurant on the other side of Park Lane. The tables are widely spaced, which is a rare pleasure but the background music really isn’t necessary in a restaurant of that standard. However, they don’t have it running for dinner, which would not fit with the ambience that reigns here.

la table

la table

 

 

The service is as good as always and is remarkably knowledgeable which is always good. The sommelier presides over a nice selection of wines, that aren’t that crazy, in terms of price. Bottles start at 30£ and for 45£ you have a decent selection of interesting wines. Those who want to celebrate can decide to have various vintages of Yquem (up to the 1930′s), or any of the other big Burgundy or Bordeaux producers. I let the sommelier choose the wines for me today, and must say that he did a very good job.

A meal here always starts with very good gougeres. They are light, slightly crunchy and go very well with a glass of champagne. It’s just a classical combination that is hard to beat. Of course. this is nothing that you don’t find elsewhere but very well-made and very pleasing.

 

gougeres

gougeres

 

 

A few words about the bread. It came in four different varieties: Baguette, sourdough, olive and some kind of epi. It is baked in the house, which as we know, is a rare thing in London. The bread is probably the best you can find in any London restaurant and shows, once again, that it makes a difference if you do your job properly. With it came very good salted butter and Fontainebleau, which is very light, both in texture and seasoning.

Les pains

Les pains

 

 

After this, I got some barbajuans, little Monegasque ravioli, stuffed with squash and ricotta. These are then deep-fried and served piping hot. They always blow me away at the Louis XV, in Monte Carlo, and here they weren’t  in the worst of shapes neither. The little ravioli are unbelievably light, well seasoned and most importantly, extremely comforting to eat. Also, the squash/ricotta filling worked even better than the spinach/herb/ricotta version I had at my last meals in Monte Carlo. Excellent.

 

Barbajuans

Barbajuans

 

 

Following this comes the amuse-bouche. Today, it was a brunoise of courgettes, a cream of artichokes, an artichoke a la barigoule and a tomatoe emulsion. All flavours were there, and the elements were well cooked, but I didn’t understand, why they served this cold. It just tasted a little empty at this cool temperature, not as rich as it would have when served slightly hotter or at least lukewarm. Good not more.

Amuse

Amuse

 

 

The first course today was a guinea fowl consommé, guinea fowl and foie gras ravioli and crispy thighs of the same bird. All in all, the dish could have been great. The ravioli were of stunning quality, cooked perfectly, the crispy thigh was equally well cooked and the consommé had very clean flavour. It shows how much work is put into these dishes. Take the thighs for instance, they are slowly cooked, boned, de-nerved and then pressed. The skin is then pressed on top of these pieces and the whole thing is pan-fried until crispy. The only problem I had with the dish, was that the whole thing lacked  seasoning. Once sprinkled with a (rather substantial) bit of fleur de sel, the whole dish seemed much better and was very good.  I don’t know if the whole collection of herbs were needed, but they didn’t disturb neither. Very good if relatively uninspiring (with exception of the crispy thighs, which were lovely).

consomme de pintade

consomme de pintade

 

The second dish brought the meal back on track. Two very big scallops, left whole – thank god – came with grilled squid, primavera jus, black and white pasta and confit tomatoes. All in all, it was a stunning dish. The scallops were, as always here, of exceptional quality and cooked to the very best. The squid too, were very good and tender. The accompanying pasta and jus (made out of asparagus, peas and broad beans) gave it a bit of a fresh backbone, which justified the title. This truly was a fantastic dish, that shows, how satisfying such a relatively simple composition can be, if made well and based on the best products that is. Excellent. This is one tip I can give anyone who goes to dine here: Get a dish with (cooked) scallops! Over the last few months I tasted various preparations around them and all of them were stunning.

 

Les saint Jacques

Les saint Jacques

 

 

The main toady was another fantastic dish. Especially in London where you don’t necessarily expect to get such divine products. Turbot was coated in Champagne-sabayon served with green asparagus and crayfish. Now this is a classical dish, that never fails to impress if it is made from such amazing products. The turbot, cut from a huge beast, was delightfully firm and tasty, which I missed with the turbot I had here in January. Also, it was cooked in a way, that let it retain its "fatty", gelatinous side, which normally only comes after having cooked it on the bone. The accompanying crayfish and asparagus were equally fantastic. Note that the asparagus were pan-fried after having been blanched, which lets their flavour come out fantastically. Combined with the lovely sabayon, which still had the slight sparkle of the Champagne, this was one rewarding, perfectly executed dish. Outstanding.

Turbot

Turbot

 

 

Desserts here are easily the best in London. Even those who don’t particularly like the restaurant do acknowledge that fact. In general, I find desserts at Ducasse restaurants to be among the best you’ll find anywhere. Even in some of his less bombastic restaurants like Spoon at Marignan or the Abbaye de la Celle, they serve perfect desserts (the rest is less spectacular in those places). It always puzzles me, when you get served some mediocre dessert after a fantastic meal. After all, a dessert only needs a good recipe that is followed meticulously. Today, I had a lemon and strawberry dessert, that showed, once more, how good the patisserie here is. Sandwiched between layers of arlettes (thinly cut, caramelised puff pastry) came a lemon crème chiboust (a creme patissiere to which one adds some Italian meringue), marinated strawberries and a strawberry sorbet. This was just a perfect dessert. I couldn’t see why you would not go to this restaurant, be it only to try the desserts. In fact, one should sit down there and eat the whole dessert carte. Outstanding!

Fraises/citron

Fraises/citron

 

 

Seeing that I’m a bit too gourmand, I asked for a second dessert, which was directly obliged, with this little chocolate triangle. A tender chocolate mousse came with a thin soft biscuit and a crunchy coating. Very good, strong chocolate flavors in pleasantly different textures. A bit ordinary, but very well made. Very good.

 

chocolat

chocolat

 

 

The mignardises are equally good here. Macarons, the best you’ll find anywhere in London come along with piemontesi, little gianduja filled cookies, caramelised almonds, a few caramels and chocolates. At dinner, they also have a lovely cart carrying huge numbers of different sweet treats. All of them were perfect, as is quite a lot of stuff here.

 

Mignardises-1

Mignardises-1

 

Mignardises-2

Mignardises-2

 

 

 

I can’t really see, as I have written many times, why some people despise this restaurant as much as they do. You get some of the finest food in London here,  that goes without a doubt. Also, the service, wine (the list isn’t any more expensive than that of Ramsay, Darroze or any other restaurant of that class) and décor all add up to deliver something close to a complete experience. There is, of course, the odd dish, which will be a bit less good than the rest but I’d rather have one that isn’t as great and a few others that really work. The 2 stars are completely justified by now. If Pied a Terre has two, this easily deserves them as well. I can even see why you would give it an espoir for the third, provided you choose well.

Upon leaving, you always have one desire: Come back, as soon as possible! (Although, I will try a few different places in the meantime and give them some time to develop).

 

 

le lustre

le lustre

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester-II, London

mars 17, 2009

I had another very good lunch here today. 

As the weather was a little more friendly today, the sun shone through the large (but dirty) windows, which illuminated the room beautifully. Service was pretty much perfect as usual. 

Amuse was a royale of broccoli with a few raw vegetables, and a olive sauce. Very well made, tasty little amuse, that sets the palate up nicely. Very good.

This was followed by a dish that quite simply blew me away: Scallops with Jerusalem Artichokes, Endives and Black Truffles. Now scallops can be good. They can be very good even, if they’re fresh and treated with enough respect. These on the other hand, were simply amazing. Huge pieces, cooked perfectly with the intensive truffled jus, the slightly sweet Jerusalem Artichoke and the very discrete bitterness of the Endive/Truffle poelee. I simply haven’t come across such an accomplished dish in quite a while. Everything was right here. You simply could not find anything wrong with this dish. The Truffles were very strong taste-wise and the whole was just very harmonious and sooooooooo pleasing to eat. Truly divine.

Main was a Braised Halibut with a Vin Jaune sauce, Shrimps and blettes. The tastes here were again very strong, perfectly balanced and very comforting to eat. The shrimps were quite simply delicious (slightly crunchy texture). The only problem I had was that the Halibut, due to the fact that the very tasty Shrimp/Nut crust was gratinated on top of it, was slightly dry on the edges. Now, for some this might have still been ok, but I found that it was slightly over-cooked. Apart from that it had lovely frim flesh and was very well seasoned. In general this is another very mature, tasty, gratifying dish to eat. Even if the fish was a little over-cooked, I would say it was very good, excellent if the fish were cooked to perfection.

The dessert was interesting. Having been to Monte Carlo (Le Louis XV) twice during the last 2 years, I tried to of their signature desserts, the Louis XV au croustilant praline and the glace au lait entier et a la fleur de sel. Both of these are amongst the best desserts I’ve encountered on my travels across Europe and are worth the trip to the Riviera on themselves. What Herland did in his version of the Louis XV is give it a much more beautiful presentation and adding the Milk/Salt ice cream a part. This was as perfect as the Scallop dish, simply unbeatable, even if the combination of both isn’t necessarily needed (I don’t complain though, as this ice cream is about as good as it gets). Amazing.

A few words about coffee and petit-fours: They are both of top-quality. The macarons are the best I’ve found in London (correct me if I’m wrong), the chocolates too, are very well made and tasty. 

In conclusion I can only say, that this is a very good restaurant indeed. After some starting problems Herland seems to find his way. Even if not every dish is on the level of these Scallops, the bar is slowly but steadily raised. If I had to look for one restaurant that could deserve three stars pretty soon I would point to this one. It just represents all you want from a 3*: Great food, very good service, luxurious room. 

The only thing Herland could maybe stop doing is doing dishes they do in Paris or Monte Carlo in a more elaborate version. This just doesn’t do him justice, as he definitely is one of the very best chefs in London, one who has the ability to produce perfectly executed, very mature dishes, who might be classical, but in the best sense of the word.

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, London

janvier 21, 2009

 

After having tried a few dishes at Ducasses’s restaurant at the Dorchester in October, I decided to go back to celebrate my birthday. Just a few days before my visit I came across the new Michelin rating: Jocelyn Herland (chef de cuisine) was awarded two stars and marked as a rising three star! Amongst the foodie world a hefty discussion broke out immediately. Most have visited the restaurant directly after the opening 14 months ago. Back then Herland told me, the dishes they sent were not at all what he expected and the constant improvement is clear today. But let us not rush things…

The most friendly staff welcome you very warmly and champagne is offered to accompany those extraordinary Barbajuans, little fried ravioli from Monaco, and Gougeres. The Barbajuans are just as good as at the Louis XV, the legendary 3-star in Monte-Carlo. The Gougeres are also very pleasan, if a little mildly spiced for my taste.

Next up, we were offered bread, all three types were excellent accompanied by very good butter and Fontainebleau. The latter didn’t really excite me, but my companion enjoyed it.

When we finished our champagne the first part of our menu arrived: Delicate royale de foie gras et potiron, emulsion fumee. A wonderfully rich royale of foie gras which interacted beautifully with the diced pumpkin and the smoked tea emulsion. A great way to start a meal.

 

emulsion de foie gras

emulsion de foie gras

 The first "real" course of the menu were the grosses langoustines d’Ecosse en salade tiede, jus coraille. Lovely, crunchy langoustines with (considering that it was January) fully flavoured tomatoes, chicken strips, a anchovy/parmesan mayonnaise and a langoustine jus. A very pleasing, refreshing dish, that portrays the kitchen’s understatement perfectly: These chicken strips are in fact the legs, which are cooked, boned, de-veined, pressed and then covered with the skin. This little package is then pan-fried until crisp. This immense amount of work behind the different components doesn’t show, unless you know it, or have some knowledge of the cuisine here.

 

langoustines

langoustines

 

To continue, we were served a stunning adaption of a classic from ADPA:  Noix de Saint-Jacques dorees, pommes et coings en beaux morceaux rotis au beurre demi-sel. The scallops replaced the lobster here, and the dish was simply one of the best scallop dishes I had in a very long time. Perfect quality of the products, extremely precise cooking and great combination with the sauce and the garniture. Along with the Barbajuans the best dish so far.

 

Saint-Jacques

Saint-Jacques

After such a strong dish, the following one had a big problem: I had tasted the "original" version of it in Paris in September. At ADPA it was probably the best dish of my life, but here the dish was slightly less complex. Also the turbot wasn’t of the outrageously good quality as the one I had in Paris. However, it was still very good, with a lovely sauce and delicious gnocchi. Would I have not had the original, I would have loved this dish right away.

 

Turbot

Turbot

As you probably noticed, the lighting suddenly became much darker. It seems to be trendy in London to make restaurants so dark that you barely see what you have in front of you. 

The meat for me was another star of the night: Filet de chevreuil roti, potiron et chataigne, sauce Grand Veneur. Perfect venison in another great sauce. The only slight fault here was the mildly seasoned punpkin, but that is an affaire de gout. Excellent, nothing that will change your life, just comforting enjoyable food on the highest level.

 

Chevreuil

Chevreuil

 After the four (plated) cheese, which in general were fine. We came to the best part of the meal, that is the sweet stuff.

I had the Barre coco-caramel, sorbet citron-vanille. Ducasse restaurants are sure to deliver some of the best desserts around, if you go to the trendy Spoon, the not quite so brilliant Abbaye de la Celle or any haute cuisine restaurant, you can be sure that the desserts will be better than many you’ll get in some 2 or 3-star places. Here this doesn’t really change. Perfect execution, very well thought out tastes, all you need.

 

Coco-caramel

Coco-caramel

 

My companion was served the dessert I had at my last visit: Carre gourmand framboise et rose. This is an outstanding dessert. If there is one dish to be tried here it is this one. It is really on the level of the best restaurants in the world, that should be enough.

 

Framboise

Framboise

 

 

 

The petit-fours are on the same very high level. Macarons are simply irresistible and only Pierre Herme makes better ones. 

What can one say overall?

The evening was a real pleasure. This is partially due to my friend, but the food certainly played a role too. It was perfect throughout: excellent quality products, extraordinarily execution, mature, well constructed dishes and reassuring combinations. It is clear that you won’t find the most inventive, crazy cuisine here, but that should not be what you expect of Ducasse (or in this case Herland). It might not be able to deliver one oustanding dish after the other, but there are more than enough excellent ones (desserts, scallops, foie gras, barbajuans). What you get here is simple cooking somewhat between the simplicity and strong flavours of the Louis XV and the refined neo-baroque of ADPA. Herland’s brigade is running like a watch by now and really deserves the two stars. Overall this was much better than Ramsay for instance, or any restaurant in London I’ve tried.


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