Posts Tagged ‘michelin star’

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.

The Square, London

février 18, 2009

The Square, a restaurant run by Philip Howard and Nigel Platts-Martin, has one of the most accurate descriptions for it’s own cooking: Howard claims to serve refined comfort food. You can hardly blame him for being pretentious. The restaurant itself lies opposite the local Brioni shop a stone’s throw away from Bond Street in the heart of Mayfair, just to give you an idea of the people you might find there. Apart from the beautiful Russian expressionist plates and the elegantly dressed tables, the room isn’t the most striking in terms of design and doesn’t do the cooking justice. For those interested in more background info, you’ll find the best resume  on my friend’s site, who along with Andy Hayler  joined me for this little escapade. 

Service throughout the meal was faultless: attentive, friendly, always present when needed and very knowledgeable. 

Bread is baked at the restaurant, which is a rare luxury in London, which even Ramsay is not able to offer. Of the three offered types the raisin and hazelnut was the best, brown the least interesting. Butter was from Brittany and very decent.

To start the meal Howard served us one of his signature dishes: Saute of Scottish Langoustine Tails with Parmesan Gnocchi and a Potato and Truffle Butter. Now, despite Britain being an island, most restaurants still don’t manage to source and serve decent langoustines. Here however, the story is very different. I challenge anyone to get me better and fresher langoustines. These were of marvelous quality and were cooked as good as  humanly possible. On par with the greatest restaurants in Europe. The Parmesan gnoccho (it was one), truffle emulsion and mushroom puree complemented the langoustine in a very harmonious way, turning  it into a most delicate  and greatly enjoyable dish. Here the (very) refined comfort food Leitmotiv is spot on. If there is one dish that I’ve had in London which came close to blowing me away it must have been this one. Outstanding!

Langoustine

Next up was a Red Mullet Escabeche, Red Mullet Soup. A soup made out of red mullet, somewhat reminding me of a light bouillabaisse encapsulated the essence of the mullet’s flavour. The escabeche (a marinated piece of fish, originally from Latin America) showcased, yet again the pristine quality of the ingredients Howard uses. In France rouget is rightfully known as the Becasse de la mer, as it is a richly falvoured but extremely delicate fish. The fact that it was served in an escabeche here, let the clean flavour stand out and resulted in a most pleasant texture. 

Rouget

The third course was a Ballotine of Chicken, thinly sliced with Jerusalem Artichokes, Charlotte Potatoes and Mushrooms. This was the only weak dish I tasted during this meal. Whilst all elements were well prepared from a technical point of view, the overly strong flavour of an acidified cream dominated the dish and did not let the chicken stand out. Also, the ballotine was sliced very thinly, maybe too thin.

Chicken salad

Poached Irish Rock Oysters with a Coriander Mousseline, Pomegranate Dressing and a Light Curry Cream got the meal back on the level we encountered at the start. Beautiful, meaty oysters sat in a subtly seasoned curry cream with some pomegranate seeds providing a textural counterpoint. The curry was a very interesting pairing with the oyster, that created a very rich taste-spectrum, ranging from the iodic, salty oyster, the rich coriander mousseline, to the sweet pomegranate and the refreshing slightly spicy curry cream. Again, this dish featured great products, perfect execution and no unnecessary complication. Excellent.

Oysters

Main course was a Roast Duck Breast with Spinach, Tarte fine with Endive and Blood Orange Sauce. This was the third dish from the lunch menu (35£) and was just as good as the sweetbreads or turbot from the a la carte (75£). Tender, nicely cooked (I like it a little more bloody) duck, amazing spinach, a very good duck jus, the slightly sweet endive tarte fine created a very complete dish. The blood orange puree (which features also on a foie gras dish) didn’t really add much to the whole dish, but might be a hint to canard a l’orange and did in no way disturb. One can hardly do anything but simply enjoy the food, which, here again is just as good as it gets in England. 

Duck

Cheese was decent, a relatively big selection, which did not really impress. The only one that stood out was a Blue Monday, which they source from Paxton and Whitfield. 

As time kept flying by, we eventually got on to the sweet part of our meal. The first dessert we tried was a rice pudding with rhubarb. a generous portion of heavily vanilla-ed rice pudding, which was topped with some rhubarb jelly, poached rhubarb and some sort of crumble. All in all very decent, a bit in the style of the riz au lait Thierry Breton serves at Chez Michel in Paris. This was another case where refined comfort food offered a very accurate description.  

rhubarb

The second dessert featured various banana preparations. A banana beignet, mousse with some praline feullantine based crumble, cylinder filled with vanilla parfait or ice cream and marinated crushed banana. This was much better than the previous dessert, mainly because it featured every possible texture: Creamy, cold parfait encased in the crunchy cylinder, the hot, crunchy and rich beignet and the refreshing mousse. Very good dessert where one can hardly criticise anything.

banana

A Black Forest Souffle proved to be another very pleasing dessert, where the airy souffle was studded with cherries and some chocolate bits that gave it an interesting twist. However, whilst being airy and not too sweet, a stronger chocolate could have made it more intensive, taste-wise. The star of this dessert was a small roulade of black forest gateau, which was terrific (unfortunately the portion was very small).

souffle

Another dessert was the real star of the sweet part of the meal. Just as good as the langoustines. Not surprisingly this too is one of Howard’s signature dishes. Brillat-Savarin Cheesecake with Passionfruit, Mango and a Citrus Terrine. I can hardly say anything about this dish other than it being divine. The only cheesecake of that quality is Pierre Herme’s and that is as good a compliment as one can make. The lime ice cream coming with it was wonderfully refreshing, with some pieces of zest giving it a strong, clean flavour. The base of the cheesecake was just the way it should be, far from being soggy, it still had the crumbled pate sucree’s crunch and complemented perfectly with the mango puree. The only element that didn’t add to the dish was the spherical citrus-fruit ball and it’s base. Still I would say this was divine.

cheesecake

Another dessert with truffled cream, Earl Grey jelly and some canneles and financiers was a dish which none of us really liked. It certainly was very interesting, but on the other hand, it did not really give you any pleasure eating it seeing that it consisted only of a jelly a cream and some little cakes on the side, which did not have a relation to the dish. This just seemed a little odd, as all of the other dishes seemed very well thought-out. 

Petit-fours and coffee are perfect. The home-made nougat was simply to die for, creamy, rich.

petit

 

Overall, the Square must be one of the finest restaurants in England. Out of the 20 or so dishes we had, only very few weren’t at least very good. The only technical problem was a slightly over-salted sweetbread and, if you can call it a technical problem, a beautiful scallop which was (as everywhere in England) cut in half. WHY? Having a huge scallop sit in front of you is  a hell of an experience. Why do the Brits have to slice their scallops in half? 

Apart from those minor problems some dishes were easily on three star level: The langoustines, the cheesecake and possibly the scallop (had it not been cut in half!). These were dishes that provoked some emotions, something I haven’t had in a British restaurant before. With exception of the chicken, all others were very solid 2* and judged by the 3* Ramsay holds even 3*. Howard just has a much more original style that one can recognise instantly and seems very mature in that it doesn’t have  a mess on each plate (something all to many British chefs do). Here every element has it’s role in the dish, which must be the definition of a good kitchen. We spend some very pleasant hours at the Square, chatting, eating, drinking, enjoying life, forgetting about it’s troubles. I can hardly imagine another place on earth other than a restaurant or, where you sit down for nearly five hours and just completely let go of everything. Pierre Gagnaire once said that a meal is the only time of the day, when people sit down for a few hours and just enjoy themselves. The Square fits this description just perfectly.

Pied a Terre, London

février 5, 2009

You will not find many restaurants, serving a lunch menu that is better, or at least as interesting as the (more expensive) a la carte menu.  I can think of Pic, Les Ambassadeurs, Le Louis XV and, in London Foliage. Pied a Terre is another one of  these. Shane Osborn’s cooking is often criticised as being too complicated, featuring a multitude of unnecessary elements on each plate. If one looks at the reviews of others (Food Snob for instance), one sees that Osborn isn’t exactly a minimalist chef. He much prefers to construct dishes consisting of many, small, technically perfect components. The menu du jour (24.50£ for 2 courses) features Osborn’s cuisine, without the extreme complication of the normal dishes. Here, he focuses on top quality products and relatively classic taste combinations. 

The restaurant is relatively small, cozy and  it’s atmosphere is quite relaxed for a 2*. It is also noteworthy, that it is one of the rare restaurants without a dress-code.

At lunch, one is greeted with a spoonful of pumpkin foam and ginger oil and a little foie gras spread between two sheets of philo pastry. Both  are very well made and set the palate up in a most enjoyable way, especially the foie. 

 

amuse bouche

amuse bouche

As the restaurant had run out of both of the menu’s starters I was offered a Jerusalem artichoke risotto. This was a very pleasing dish, were one could only criticise the slightly overcooked rice (I guess that it was cooked this way to adapt to the Brits’ taste). Flavour-wise this was strong, simple and very comforting. Not quite what you see on the starters of the alc menu. Despite the cooking mistake, I would still say this was a very enjoyable dish.

 

Risotto

Risotto

After this, we were offered a dish from the tasting menu, which let us enjoy a remarkable piece of fish: Poached Sea Bass, Truffle Crust, Romanesco, Chanterelles. Pinenuts, Broccoli Veloute. Despite the complete standstill of the British economy during the preceding days and Osborn’s allergy against fish (he can only touch it with gloves!) this was on solid 2* level. Perfectly cooked, beautiful sea bass, with a crust that reminded me of the one I had a week earlier at Foliage (sole) and different broccoli preparations. All in all, every element had a very precise role on the plate and resulted in one hell of a dish. Excellent.

 

Sea Bass

Sea Bass

Pan-Fried Cod, Ragout of Chick Peas, Chorizo, Red Peppers and Sea Kale, Parsley and Lemon Emulsion. Yet another excellent fish dish! This might have been the best piece of cod that I’ve had since Erfort last year. The cod was of pristine freshness and cooked to utmost perfection. One can hardly say a negative word about the dish, as it was the second brilliant, if rather classical, dish from a chef who can not even touch the main ingredient!

 

Cod

Cod

My companion decided to take cheese, which featured a beautiful Epoisses, a nice little salad, the quintessentially British crackers and some rather mediocre chutney. 

The pre-dessert was another part of the tasting menu: Apple Mousse, Rhubarb Veloute, Yoghurt Crumble. The second time that I come across this strange British winter rhubarb, although it was a very pleasant meeting once more. The freshness of the rhubarb, the very present yoghurt taste in the crumble and the apple mousse were yet again a very pleasing, excellent combination of flavours and textures.

 

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

Coconut Rice Pudding, Mango Jelly, Coconut Biscuits, Mango Sorbet. At my last visit, the desserts were not on the same level as the previous parts of the meal. This time, the dessert did not fail to impress. An amazingly intensive, fully-flavoured mango sorbet, very light, fresh rice pudding wrapped in a delicate jelly and a pleasant coconut emulsion created a simple but very refreshing dessert. Excellent again.

 

Mango, Coconut

Mango, Coconut

After this we had their top quality petit-fours and some coffee and at 5pm, left as they finally closed the place for a well deserved break.

 

What can I say after my second meal here? In general, the relaxed atmosphere, extremely friendly, warm and attentive service all add up to the great food that Shane Osborn serves. The sommelier, Matthieu Germond, always suggests very interesting wines to accompany each dish and can offer a wide variety of regions, not always present in the UK’s top restaurants: Luxembourg, for instance, whose great wines are hardly known outside of the countries borders. Another strength of the wine list is Austria, which is present with different regions.

It might be the small room, the lovely service or simply the great cooking, but Pied is definitely one of the most comfortable British top-restaurants.

Foliage, London

janvier 28, 2009

On a depressingly grey London day I came to the very impressive (in a good way) Mandarin Oriental in Knightsbridge. Foliage, the Hotel’s restaurant was designed by Adam Tihany and is now the realm of Chris Staines. Staines worked with Marco Pierre White and with Nico Ladenis before coming to Foliage in the early 2000′s. 

During the last few months one didn’t hear a lot from this restaurant and Food Snob and I decided to see what they had on offer. At 12h we enter the room, are the first to be there and directly greeted by the excellent manager, Arno Liebscher.  After having been seated, we decide to let the chef decide, as we wouldn’t have been able to decide on what to have anyway.

To accompany our champagne we were served some salmon with ponzu jelly. Very good quality salmon, cut from the heart of the fillet slipped into a sheet of Ponzu jelly. A most pleasant little bouchee, which lets you see the philosophy behind Staines’ cooking: Very good products, faultless technical execution, clear, often strong flavours and very clean presentation.

 

Salmon

Salmon

Bread is delivered by Poilane, butter by Jean Yves Bordier from Saint-Malo, who also counts Passard, Ducasse and countless others as his clients. Both were very good, except for a walnut bread, sliced extremely thinly and a mediocre baguette.

The amuse bouche consisted of a lentil ragout, with shredded Peking duck, a cream of potatoes and croutons. Here again you had very clean, strong flavours, precise seasoning and a nice interaction between the individual elements.

 

Lentil/Duck

Lentil/Duck

The first course of our menu was Scallops/Orzo / Squid ink / Thai Curry. Hand dived scallops, perfectly cooked, with lovely firm texture sat on some delicious orzo pasta, cooked in squid ink in which some small squid pieces swam. It was accompanied by some almonds, who didn’t necessarily add much to the dish and a Thai curry foam. This was one of the best dishes of the day, the only point that isn’t quite to my liking is the fact that the scallops are cut in half. I only find this in England and don’t see the point of it. An excellent, comforting dish, that is just very pleasant to eat.

 

Scallops

Scallops

At the same time Food Snob was served Haddock Raviolo / Leeks / Herring Roe / Lobster Sauce. Notice that this is one of the few restaurants that knows that a single raviolo is called raviolo and not ravioli. That alone deserves to be mentioned. The raviolo was filled with Haddock and egg yolk. It was crowned with some Avruga caviar and lobster sauce. All in all a very nice dish, were the only problem was the egg yolk, which was too present. Because of the richness of the Haddock, the egg yolk and the Caviar, a slightly acidic element could have been a nice addition. But on the other hand it was just a very indulgent dish, that made you forgot the depressing British weather.

 

Haddock

Haddock

 

The next set of starters began with Calves Head / Piccalilli / Watercress / Speck. Here calves cheeks were braised and pressed into a terrine, covered with Speck (a kind of bacon/ham from South Tirol) and accompanied by some quintessentially British Piccalilli and pickled vegetables. This was another dish bursting with very strong flavours. The slightly sour vegetables were a great counterpoint to the rich cheek. If this dish couldn’t live up the the (extremely) high standard of the scallop dish, it was still most enjoyable.

Calves Head

Calves Head

 

 The highlight of the meal was one of the dishes, none of us would have ordered. Gnocchi / Mushrooms / Sage and Onion / Butternut Squash offered gnocchi of exceptional quality: Unbelievably light, fluffy gnocchi, which were nearly on par with some I’ve had at the Louis XV a few years back. To accompany them some fried onions and sage gave a crunchy note, whilst shimeji mushrooms gave a deliciously earthy flavour. To complete, parmesan added some salty touch. This was a real stunner, especially as we never had expected such masterfully executed gnocchi. Also, every element had a distinct role. With the scallops, the second dish that would have felt at home in most 3 star restaurants. Outstanding!

 

Gnocchi

Gnocchi

 

 As fish course, we were served  Sole / Parsley / Brown Butter / Capers. Here lemon Sole was steamed, which resulted in a very soft, flaky texture. It was then covered with some buttered breadcrumbs, which gave it an amazing richness. The sole package lay on a disc of white balsamic jelly and spinach. Around it were served crispy (excellent) capers, a very good beurre noisette emulsion and confit potatoes with trompettes de la mort. Another very mature dish, which, again, proved to be excellent. The only thing that I personally don’t really like is when Sole is slightly soft, but that is a matter of personal taste.

 

Sole

Sole

 

The second fish dish was Lobster / Curry Sauce / Mango Chutney / Pilau Rice. Here, perfect lobster sat on pilau rice, covered with red onion crisps and curry sauce. Mango chutney and sauce gave the whole a lovely, fruity freshness. The magnificent lobster was the star of this dish, the rice didn’t impress us particularly, but then, we both don’t really like rice that much. As long as it isn’t a risotto or paella of some sort. What was very nice, was the interplay between the firm, powerful lobster, the curry sauce and the slightly sweet, refreshing   mango chutney.

Lobster

Lobster

 

For mains I  started with Pork Belly / Macaroni Cheese / Spiced Pumpkin / Black Pudding. Now this was another highlight. A (unfortunately) small piece of braised piglet, with a divine crunchy crust was served with black pudding, spiced pumpkin puree and an interesting play on macaroni and cheese. Certainly very different from Heston Blumenthal’s macaroni and cheese, which he serves with his pork dish, this version was cold, with a very good jus and some buffalo mozzarella. All in all this was another stunning dish. As I’m a big fan of crunchy things, this pork was just heaven on earth, or very close to it.

 

Pork

Pork

 

At the same time Food Snob had a most interesting dish, of which he generously let me try some bits. It was Lamb Neck / Olive Mash / Sweetbreads / Pepper. Here again, one saw the interest Staines has in offal or not so common products. It was one of those very satisfying dishes, which surely don’t attract everyone, but do reward those who know the good things in life. Braised lamb neck, sweetbreads were the main protagonists in this play, in which the sweet/sour peppers and olive mash gave a feeling that you are somewhere closer to the sun. (No photo for that, sorry)

As third main, we had Chicken / Mushroom Puree / Broccoli / Gewürztraminer, which was another great dish. In this case I really enjoyed the very full flavour of the (British!) chicken and the remarkable mushroom puree. The chicken was served in two preparations, once the breast and the rolled leg, both with rich flavour and amazingly tender. Another outstanding dish.

Chicken

Chicken

 

To begin with the sweet world, as Ferran calls it, we had a Hazelnut Daquoise / Chocolate Mousse / Blood Orange and Cardamom.

The idea behind this was a deconstructed trifle. An excellent orange and cardamom sorbet and the hazelnut emulsion were the elements that stood out. It was a nice dessert, but not on the same level as the savoury courses we had enjoyed so far. Maybe there was just too much going on on the plate.

Orange/Chocolate

Orange/Chocolate

 

Finally, to conclude our meal, Food Snob had asked for Rhubarb Souffle / Pannacotta / Ginger / Streusel. Now, coming from « Europe » as the British call it, I find it strange to have rhubarb in January. Food Snob however, told me that in England one has found a way to grow winter rhubarb. The souffle was lovely, with a thin layer of Streusel and some interesting bits of rhubarb (?) in it. The sorbet, also rhubarb, wasn’t that successful. All in all I did enjoy this dish, even though it still didn’t fascinate me.

 

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

 


As petit-fours we were given some of the best madeleines I have coma across. The chocolate and lemon, vanilla and honey ones were so delicious that we asked for a second round.

 

All in all, I went to Foliage without very high expectations, wrongly so as I remarked after this remarkable lunch. This meal was definitely one of the best I’ve had in London so far. On the same level as ADAD, Pied a Terre and Darroze, maybe even more interesting in some points.  Throughout the meal, the service was excellent, which certainly helps you appreciate the whole lunch. The only « weakness » would be the desserts, which didn’t seem to fit in with the clear, very well thought out savoury dishes. 

This is definitely a place to visit when in London, even if not as popular as some other places. One will certainly hear a lot of Staines in the future, as this was a most promising meal.

      


 

 

 

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.

Ledoyen, Paris

janvier 13, 2009

 

dscn0102

Apres une tres belle journee passe en cuisine chez Alain Passard, ma deuxieme soiree a Paris a ete reserve au Ledoyen. Christian Le Squer a pu garder ses trois etoiles depuis quelques annees maintenant. Cote salle, il est epaule par le tres bon Patrick Simiand, qui lui dirige un service de tres haut niveau.
Le menu commence avec quelques tres bonnes bouches dont un carre de foie gras, passion et pain d’epice et le meilleur.
Apres ces mises en bouche vient un oursin prepare en coque. Un produit d’exception legerement entoure d’une creme, d’un « air » et d’une gelee, qui laissent exploser les differentes saveurs vegetales et iodees. Un debut tres prometteur.
  

 

Oursin

Oursin

 

 

On continue avec un autre plat de mer, qui est particulierement chere a Monsieur Le Squer (qui est Breton, il faut le dire). Deux preparations d’huitres belon. Une juste gratinee, quelques autres en tartare avec un chip d’algues et une mousse d’huitre. Encore une fois une fraicheur remaquable au niveau des saveurs qui est juste agreable. Un plat qui est excellent, sauf peut-etre le fait que la huitre gratinee avait trop d’eau, c’etait trop liquide.

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Un dernier plat de poisson met a l’avance un des produits favoris du chef: L’anguille. Ici elle est posee sur un « toast », recouverte d’une sauce au jus de raisin et vin rouge. Apres le foie gras et l’oursin un deuxieme grand moment. L’anguille est traitee parfaitement, la sauce et le toast en font un delice qui reunit le fondant, croquant, l’acidite, une legere douceur et un ton legerement fumee. Elle est accompagnee d’une pomme de terre remplie d’une creme, qui elle n’a pas grand interet. A part de cette derniere petite pomme, ce plat est superbe.

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En plat de viande on me propose un des grands classiques de Christian Le Squer: Le ris de veau caramelise, salsifis etuves, jus d’herbes. Un ris de veau d’exception pose sur de tres bons salsifis. La sauce par contre, n’est pas sur le meme niveau: Elle est beaucoup trop forte, a une saveur qui derange un petit peu. Dommage, car accompagne d’un jus de veau legerement epice ou truffe ce plat aurait pu etre genial.

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Les fromages ont la meme qualite que les autres produits, notamment un camembert d’une rare qualite. Les pains proposes tout au long du repas, ainsi que les pains speciaux pour le fromage sont eux aussi tres bons. Cependant, il est interessant, que c’est le premier plateau de fromage, qui n’a pas de comte, beaufort ou autre de ce genre.
 
Le premier dessert est un autre classique, qui me laisse un peu froid. Ce croquant de pamplemousse aurait pu etre tres bon, mais une gelee beaucoup trop dure gache le plaisir.

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Le deuxieme dessert etait a base de caramel, lait fume et chocolat. Tout court: Un plat extraordinaire!

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En general ce repas fut parfait: les produits d’une qualite exceptionelle, les cuissons d’une tres grande justesse, un service a la hauteur et un cadre qui est luis aussi rare.

Si on veut critiquer un point: Quelques petites fautes techniques (sabayon liquide, sauce d’herbes trop forte, gelee trop dure), qui ne sont pas graves mais qui sont un peu genantes a ce niveau la.

Helene Darroze at the Connaught

novembre 19, 2008

After a long period of silence, here comes a new post. 

I have had a very nice lunch at Helene Darroze’s new restaurant today.

The room has been renovated completely and one sees that they did not spare any expense, which is always good to see.

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The meal started with very good amuse-bouches: Bigorre ham, a cake of some cheese and a rather forgettable crisp with tomato. 

Next up was bread, which was top quality, all of the 4 different types. 

The first proper amuse was a foie gras creme brulee with apple sorbet and some kind of foam. This was less intensive as the one which Jocelyn Herland does at Ducasse but still intersting.

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The first course was « Chipirons de ligne…cooked with chorizo and confit tomatoes, black and creamy 2006 vintage Carnaroli Acquerello rice, reggiano parmesan foam ». This was one of Helene’s signature dishes and is very good. The risotto has a lovely rich flavour and the ensemble fits together perfectly. Only slight remark one could make: The chipirons could have been a little more tender, but they were still very good.

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Second course was « Le Lievre…Raviolis of civet gratinated with Reggiano parmesan, Beet baby leaves »

They obviously don’t have an Italian check their titles but the raviolo was extremely good. The gratinated blette was a bit greasy, which could be the only reproach one could make. The jus was also very good.

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Main course was « La Palombe des chasses Landaises…spit-roasted and flambeed au capucin, slices of caramelized small pumpkin, salmis jus with champignons de Paris and lardons »

This palombe, wood pigeon in English, was perfectly cooked (rare) and thus remained all of its flavour, which is quite gamey. The very good pumpkin and salmis sauce complemented the palombe very well. Again, this was a rather classic, but very well executed dish.

 

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« La figue de Sollies…poached and warm,Bourbon vanilla parfait, pain d’epices, allspice jus »

The dessert was with the palombe the best part of the meal. The parfait was the best I’ve eaten in a restaurant so far and worked very well with the figs and the pain d’epices.

 

The petit-fours should be mentioned as they were oustanding.

 

Well what can one say about this meal? It was very good, one couldn’t find anything to criticise really, but as Francois Simon said about her Paris restaurant: There is nothing that changes your life. This is a problem I have had with all London restaurants so far. I haven’t come across a restaurant which is giving you such grandiose moments as do some Parisian or European places I have been to. The only exception being Aiden Byrne’s veal with langoustines, Ramsay’s scallops with gnocchi and maybe the dim-sum platter at Hakkasan.

This being said, I spent a very nice couple of hours and must say that this is certainly on the same level as Ramsay or Pied-a-terre, if not more interesting than Ramsay.


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