A few comments on dinners in London

Here are a few remarks on a couple of meals I’ve had in London over the past month or so. First off, a few places I haven’t talked about in this blog and then one restaurant I particularly enjoy coming back to.

Zuma

This is a bizarre place. Located just behind Harrods and a stone’s throw away from the Mandarin Oriental in Knightsbridge, the crowd here is obviously quite fancy. The design is not bad, and the service is about alright. You won’t feel special here, nor will you find much to fault neither. It’s the kind of service that is smooth, professional, but that isn’t really noteworthy or worth remembering. What I absolutely hated about this was the speed with which one was discarded. A meal that costs a good £80 a head (it was a very light meal with one glass of Billecart for me, and 300ml of the cheapest Sake on the list split for two, no desserts, no real mains) shouldn’t be over in 45min. If I order 5 dishes in other restaurants, I can be sure to have a nice evening there, and enjoy my food as long as I want to. Not here: All dishes come more or less together, making it not easy to see where one should start. Some stuff will be cold when one reaches it, and sushi, following a number of masters’ arguments, shouldn’t be left standing around for too long neither.

The second point of critique I have to this place is the way in which they wanted to sell me a pretty normal piece of tuna for o-toro (£10 for two pieces!). When I told them that this wasn’t what they sold it to be, I got the answer: It is! The second time I complained, they remarked that it was not in season. I know that the best season to eat this kind of stuff (in Europe at least) is in summer, but a restaurant that puts it on its menu should better have good tuna, if it charges such prices. Taking aside the fact that the customer is always right, I was quite shocked at how much time it took them to realise that there might be some kind of problem. After asking three servers, I finally got an answer, and exchanged the pieces.

The third problem was that the rest (which means most of the food) was actually pretty good. We had some beautiful spinach with sesame sauce, which was a truly great piece of cooking. Also nice were some tempura-fried prawns, and a few scallops. All of this was perfectly pleasant food. Too expensive for what it is, but well-made and not bad at all.

I don’t know what to make of a place such as this. With such food, one could easily get a star in London, if one would care a little more about the customers at least. But well, for some it’s all about the ruble, so let it roll!

Hereford Road

Well, this is a bit of a contrast. Small, cosy and trendy enough, this place is one that makes you feel well. Even if the wine list is rubbish, as it is mostly overpriced and not very well chosen, the service is charming, and the food good. Plus, its one of the cheapest restaurants in London I like. A starter can be had for a fiver, a main for around £12, desserts are around the £5 mark too. We had some very enjoyable duck livers (not fattened) with green beans and chervil, a lemon sole with cauliflower and a pork belly with red cabbage and lentils. To finish things off, a little treacle tart was just fine. Everything was well cooked, served without any false pretensions and good. What more can you ask for that money, especially in Notting Hill? All I can critisise is that the cauliflower rosettes with the sole spent too much time in the pan, and were therefore a little dried out. The meal cost no more than £33 a head including a drinkable Riesling from some Alsatian maker, whose name I didn’t know and didn’t write down.

Terroirs

This one is a weird one too. The wine list is great, with really interesting wines: Valette, to Sebastien Riffaut, Vouette & Sorbee, Cedric Bouchard, and many are present on their list, and reasonably well priced. Most wines are about twice retail price. The problem here, as with many « casual » places in London is that the bill quickly adds up. The dishes (miniscule portions) are priced at around £10 each, and with four or five one is just about sated. The vibe in here is great though, and the wines not to be found many other places in London. Therefore, they can afford to price the food, which is decent, in such a way. The place is packed

Harwood Arms


This is a favourite of mine, and for good reason, as I was shown twice during the last month. A longer review will come soon, after my next visit, but a few notes can’t hurt. First of all, Stephen’s cooking is absolutely brilliant. For no more than £30, one can have 3 courses, which are much better than a number of set menus in London’s starred-restaurants (at twice the price). The classics (Scotch Egg, Doughnuts) are always brilliant, and hard to beat, and the rest is very good too. Amongst the absolutely best things I ate during this term was a slice of raw venison meat, on toast with a cream of some kind of liver. That was an outstanding bite, which I would love to see turned into a starter at some point. Who knows? Maybe for my next visit, they’ll agree to do that?

I’ve also been drinking a number of very quaffable wines here, including 1998 Grange des Peres, 2004 Jaboulet Hermitage Chevalier de Sterimbourg, which only add to the pleasure. In short if you are in London for a day: Lunch here, dinner at the Ledbury, and you’ll be a happy man, or woman for that matter!

(with a little more time, add a pizza at Franco Manca, a meal at the Square and Greenhouse and you’ll be good)

To wind things up, lets have a quick look at what happens at Hakkasan and Yauatcha. In both, I had some good meals, in terms of the food. Hakkasan was as good as ever, and Yauatcha was better than I had remembered it to be too. The service in Hakkasan was much better than in Yauatcha, where the only European (!?) lady was more than rude, which did spoil the pleasure of eating there a little. The latter represents better value for money, as it is slightly cheaper than Hakkasan. However, in central London, both must count among the cheapest places with a star to have a meal in. Only point of critique is that both of their wine lists are too expensive. At Hakkasan, one has a great mix of wines though, something of a mix of Terroirs’ best natural wines, and the great names one can find at the multi-starred houses.

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2 Réponses to “A few comments on dinners in London”

  1. Alex Says:

    Hello Felix, I really enjoyed Terroirs. It had the kind of vibe I like in a wine bar. The pricing is still ok I’d say – Fair considering the quality of the charcuterie for example. I was stuffed after the charcuterie platter splitted for 2. But I guess I was a bit fast on the bread also😉. Would go back there straight away. Then again, I’m a vinoholic also. Greets and thanks for the recommendation

    • felixhirsch Says:

      You’re right Alex, it is ok. But I thought that in the end, a place like that should be a little less expensive. But well, that being said, I really liked the concept and place. And of course the wines are most interesting, worth going for alone.
      How was Harwood Arms in the end?

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