Posts Tagged ‘Michelin 1*’

The Harwood Arms part II, London

avril 14, 2010

Sunday roast can be eaten in a fair number of restaurants in London, but few do it better than the Harwood Arms. My previous post described their dinner menu, which changes a lot by the way, so don’t expect to see the same dish again. This time, I’ll write about the Sunday roast. The place was absolutely packed when we got there at 3.25pm (!), and people came until about 4pm, so book very early if you want to eat lunch here. At the moment they’re booked out 6 weeks ahead for lunch, and 4 weeks for the evening.

In terms of wine, we started with a 2005 Puligny Montrachet from the brilliant domaine Leflaive. This was a really stunning wine. It needed a little bit of time to get going, but after a good 15min, it was simply exquisite. Quite concentrated for a village wine (which you could expect at this price!), with well-integrated oak, and beautifully balanced fruit and acidity. Just the kind of stuff I like! After this, we moved to something I found at Berry’s, a 2005 Monthelie 1er cru “Les Duresses” from another legendary domaine: Domaine des Comtes Lafon. This was an easy drinking wine. Just right for a Sunday lunch.

To start off with, I had deep-fried brawn, which I was told was pretty much everything from the pig’s head breaded and depp-fried. I love these slightly more interesting parts of the animals, and this was no deception. On the contrary, it was a stunning little cromesquis, as one would call it in French. Outstanding (not to mention THE ever brilliant egg).

Next up we were brought a pumpkin soup with a cheese stick. The soup was great, and worked beautifully with the Puligny. It was quite thick in terms of consistency, and well-seasoned. A few roasted nuts gave it some crunch, and the cheese stick was not to be left alone neither. Very good.

My starter was a roe deer and walnut terrine with prunes. As one could expect from a pub, sepcialising in game, this was very good. It had loads of flavour, and a beautiful soft texture, which still had some bite to it. Nothing to criticise here…

Up next was an intriguing dish: A braised shoulder of venison was breaded and deep-fried, upon it was sat a grilled chop. This was served with a bit of champ and a jus. The shoulder was simply decadent, unctuous, tasty and crispy on the outside: Great stuff! The chop was cooked perfectly, and was just as tender, as one would have imagined good venison to be! Excellent.

The main course was a roast pork belly with black pudding, some kind of mash, and a little salad. It was quite a substantial portion, but it was great. The belly was wrapped around a piece of black pudding, and cooked long enough to become nicely tender, whilst the outside was just about to be crispy (it could have been a little more crispy). The mash was served in a way too big portion again, but you simply can’t leave an unfinished plate, can you? That’s not what you do. Very good.

A bit of cheese was ordered to finish the red wine. There were a few fine British cheeses, whose purveyor I have omitted to write down.

Dessert today was a bit of poached rhubarb with a pepper sorbet. This was just what one needs after quite a big meal: Light, refreshing, a little tart and reminding us that spring is lurking around the corner.

What can I say about this meal? Food wise, there’s not much to criticise, the pork belly could have been a bit more crispy, the rest was just faultless. This is food, you can’t really criticise, and therefore I love this place. Service isn’t like in most other 1* places, but relaxed, smiling, without any fuss and brings all you need directly. What more can one ask for?

Publicités

La Bigarrade, Paris

février 3, 2010

La Bigarrade is conceptually somewhere between L’Astrance, the “bistronomique” movement and Pierre Gagnaire. There is only one menu here every day, priced at a very friendly €65, hence the resemblance to Barbot’s concept. One doesn’t know what is served until one gets it, which is also similar to what happens at L’Astrance, but what really is different here, is the daily menu change. Whilst a Barbot menu will pretty much always include at least the foie gras/mushroom dish, and a shot as amuse, will follow a certain form, a meal here is never like another. The “bistronomiques” come to mind, as this is a very simple setting, in a not so posh area, with only 18 covers at most. Hence, one should book well in advance, as tables go as quickly as they are freed. Finally, Gagnaire’s influence is most prominent on the plate. Christophe Pele worked with the master, and likes to serve a number of little impressions, working with textures, contrasting flavours, temperatures and colours to make the dining experience a very entertaining and engaging one.

Wine-wise, we tried a very good white Loire wine as an apero, and then drank a fantastic 1997, Andre Beaufort Brut Polisy, which evolved and changed its character throughout the whole meal (for the better that is). Later on, we had a lovely St Joseph, whose producer and vintage I didn’t write down. To finish the evening, we were offered a few glasses of a stunning Greek ice wine. The wine list is not overpriced and features only natural wines, all very well selected as it seems.

Beaufort

To start the meal, and this seems to be the only common thing with all diners, one gets a focaccia with olive oil. This is pleasant, but not really that special. Good.

Amuse

Next up were deep-fried moscardini, or little poulpes, with some grilled lemon. This was already a very enjoyable start. The meat’s texture was firm, and juicy, whilst the coating was deliciously crunchy. Such food just is great to eat, and is very good.

Poulpe

Next up was a little glass filled with herring roe, a granite made out of roquet and a clam. This was very bizarre, as the roquet’s bitterness overpowered the rest by far. Not good.

granite

The following course was excellent though. An oyster was served with dashi jelly, black truffle and a little apple. A stunningly well-balanced, incredibly light dish, that simply worked. Apart from the great products, the interaction between the elements here was remarkable. The bonito’s nearly smoky flavour was given a slightly sweet/sour element by the crunchy apple, and the oyster provided a iodine kick, that made the whole thing come together. The truffle was beautiful, but didn’t cut through these delicate, yet powerful flavours. This was a beautiful marriage with the Champagne, which proved a very good partner throughout the whole meal. Excellent.

Huitre

The next course came, and was another very good one: raw scallops, apple and celery. A simple combination that nearly always works. It was another very light, fresh dish, that just was very enjoyable to eat, as the seasoning was spot on, and the products of very fine quality. Such food: natural, direct, clean, spontaneous is simply great.

St Jacques

The next dish saw the largest langoustine I’ve ever eaten. This monster was perfectly cooked and had a beautiful texture. Not quite as good as those at the Square, ADPA or Hof van Cleve, but certainly much better than one would hope for in a 1* place. The accompanying elements (shallot compote, a little crustacean oil, spinach) worked beautiful, even if they were used like little touches, to add colour here or there. Excellent.

LANGOUSTINE

Moving on, next up was a rouget barbet served wit a shallot condiment and daikon radish. What was intriguing in this, and the subsequent fish courses, was the cooking of the protein. The fish was just seared on both sides, leaving it bleu, something I would never have imagined in France. However, to my great astonishment, it worked. With such good quality, the incredibly short contact with high-heat, and a long resting time resulted in a very pleasing unusual texture of the fish’s meat. Together with the vegetables, this was another great dish.

Rouget

After this came a piece of lotte, which was cooked in a similar way. This type of fish would have been even less suited for such rare cooking I thought, but when I tried it, it worked again. Terrific, the first time I enjoyed a lotte, which tends to be very unpleasant in terms of texture. The burnt garlic condiment was a little reminiscent of Inaki Aizpitarte’s burnt aubergine cream, but went well with the fish and the radicchio, clam salad. Excellent.

Lotte

We now moved on to the St. Joseph and a piece of lamb rack from the Lozere region, served with bottarga, Brussels sprouts and a little jus. Boy, this was another great plate! The lamb worked fantastically with the dried fish roe, which gave the meat a much more complex, rich flavour. Whilst the sprout leaves were more for colour, the little lemon condiment on the side lived things up. A great dish!

Agneau

A little cheese is a must, and was of good quality.

Fromage

The desserts were a little more shaky than the excellent savoury courses. The first set was bizarre. On the far left, one had a sweet broth with flowers, which tasted nearly “empty”, or thin or of not much. There was no distinguishable flavour, nor enough sweetness. In the middle, the little glass was filled with a mango sorbet, truffle and beet puree. The truffle was a preserved one, and thus tasted of absolutely nothing, only adding texture (not a very nice one though) to the cup. Otherwise, this was the best of the bunch, as the passionf-ruit/yoghurt cup was inedible, too sour. Not good.

Legende

However, the next little thing was outright delicious. A dacquoise sandwich housed a little praline, and a vanilla cream. Eaten like a normal sandwich, this was fun, delicious, and comfortable. Very good.

Dacquoise

The next dessert, a Calvados sabayon, served with caramelised apple, was great. The sabayon was fantastic, and had just enough Calvados to be noticed, without becoming penetrant. The apple was just decadent in combination with the sabayon. Excellent.

Sabayon

The last bunch of desserts was a little bizarre again. The little chocolate cake in the front was pretty good, whilst the chocolate sauce with litchi was of a very unpleasant flavour. This was no better than the first dessert.

Choco

The food here tonight was fantastic. Apart from the little appetiser, and the 2 desserts, everything was excellent. Products were of great quality, cooking was highly interesting, unusual, clean, fresh, light, and a pure delight. This spontaneous, sketchy cooking is not only engaging, but also enjoyable for the diner, who gets confronted with combinations that might be questionable, but are at least interesting. I had a hugely enjoyable evening here, and will be very happy to return on a future trip, as this really is a gem in Paris, and Europe. A fantastic experience, which is unbelievably cheap too.

In de Wulf, Dranouter

juillet 25, 2009

 

La maison

La maison

This one is special. Not only because it takes you quite a while to get there and is literally in the middle of nowhere, but also because the cooking of Kobe Desramaults is absolutely stunning. This young chef, who opened In de Wulf not too long ago, is one of the most interesting chefs in Europe at the moment. But, there isn’t only his cooking here. The place, the atmosphere and the fantastic service all add to the charm of this little piece of heaven. The Hotel’s rooms are simple, TV-less and make you feel well, as does the lovely garden. There can hardly be anything more relaxing than sitting in that garden, whilst you eat a breakfast with great cheese, charcuterie, viennoiseries, bread, fruit,… This is to be seen as a complete experience, as you will be in a different world from your arrival until you leave. I can imagine that a similar (if slightly different) idea is behind Michel Bras’ UFO in Laguiole. 

 

La salle

La salle

The main ideas or characteristics of his kitchen are running through the 20 courses without ever getting lost. The focus of his kitchen is the purity and cleanliness of the flavours. Having worked with Sergio Herman, he knows how to treat fish and crustaceans and has a penchant for beautifully arranged plates. What amazed me here is the sourcing of the products and the great respect with which they are treated. Fish comes from day boats in Boulogne and the Schelde, vegetables and herbs from the own or the neighbour’s garden, butter from the village down the road (Dranouter), cheeses mainly from the region and meat from the valleys and salt marshes close by. This closeness to the surrounding area is further put forward by constructing clean, nearly natural dishes, which can seem minimalist in some cases and highly elaborate in others.

 

La maison II

La maison II

The restaurant’s room is dominated by the contrast of dark and bright colours. It is relatively simple, but has some lovely touches here and there, like the bottle cooler and the fantastic light. The view from our table was also lovely, as we were able to see the sun set over the fields.

 

La table

La table

The service was lovely: personal, charming, attentive, interested, well-informed and always there when needed. When I asked for an end piece of the bread, I was directly obliged and it was made sure that I only saw crusts for the rest of the evening. Those things make the difference between very good and fantastic service.

Bread was great, with a fantastic crust and airy mie. The butter from Dranoutier and salted pork fat were equally good.

To start the meal, we had a few glasses of Champagne and a whole procession of amuses started arriving. I know many don’t like the idea of having a large number of small bites before a meal, but I find it to be one of the most interesting parts, as the chef has all the freedom he wants, in order to express his ideas.

We started with whelks and a mayonnaise of them. The airy mayonnaise accompanied the whelks beautifully. This was fresh and clean, very good.

 

Whelks

Whelks

Next up where a few stunning bites: Pig’s trotter, mimolette and rind of porc, honeyvinegar. The trotter cracker was a pure delight. There are few things I like more than those cuts of meat, and if they are treated in such a fantastic way as here, they just stun you. The mimolette cream worked beautifully with it. Outstanding

In the foreground is the cracker, which was topped with a cream made out of honey vinegar. This was greaseless and offered a nice crunch. Very good.

 

Pork

Pork

After this came a marinated herring with green apple, North Sea crab and sorrel. This was a perfect example of Kobe’s cooking. The herring was of top quality, as was the crab. Despite the fact that I don’t like herring, I must say that I did enjoy this plate. The crab and slight sweetness of the apple provided a lovely contrast. One has to mention that this is a nod to Flanders as herring is a speciality in this part of the world. Very good.

 

Herring

Herring

Next up came a piece of heaven. A round of marinated mackerel was topped with a pastille of herbs. This was bursting with freshness and flavour. An absolutely stunning mackerel, which must have been the best I have come across in a restaurant. The combination with the cool, refreshing herb sorbet was simply brilliant. Outstanding.

 

Mackerel

Mackerel

The last of the series came in form of different vegetables, herbs and flowers from the gardens around the restaurant. This came with a granite of herbs and a Keiemtaler (cheese from a valley close by) cream. It reminded me a little of Andoni Luis Aduriz’s flowers and herbs dish, where he combines them with a Emmentaler cream (not quite sure about that anymore). Here the peas and courgette in particular struck me. They were of stunning quality: minuscule, sweet peas nearly raw didn’t need the least bit of seasoning to bring out their flavour. Very good.

 

Herbs, flowers, vegetables

Herbs, flowers, vegetables

The first dish of the actual menu was Langoustine, potato, lettuce, smoked eel. A round of langoustine tartar came with a lettuce foam, smoked eel and potato salad. The langoustines were very fresh and tasty. The lettuce foam however, was a little underwhelming. It didn’t taste of much at all, but when combined with the langoustine, it wasn’t too bad, giving it an airy, light note. The potato salad and smoked eel combo was great. I usually despise any potato salad, but this one was good. Looking back, this was one of the two weakest courses of the menu, but it still was very good.

 

Langoustine

Langoustine

The second was back on the level of the amuses: Peas, rucola, egg yolk and broth of lard. The tiny peas (even smaller than those of the herb dish) where stunning, when combined with the strong lard broth and the melting yolk. It was just a fantastic mouthful, which was very pure and rewarding. This is one of those dishes that would not work without top quality products. It is great to see a vegetable based that is that good. Excellent.

 

Petit pois

Petit pois

The following dish, North Sea squid, dill, star anise, chervil, was the weakest of them all, at least for me. The presentation was gorgeous, the squid well prepared and of good quality, but the whole seemed a little ridiculous. Had it not been for the great broth, I wouldn’t have enjoyed this at all. The small cubes of squid where too small to give you much pleasure. Considering the quality of the other dishes, it didn’t really bother me that this wasn’t quite my thing. Good.

 

Calamars

Calamars

Grilled sole, watercress, millet, mussels and cockles. I can hardly imagine a better sole dish. The fish was cooked perfectly and had the firm flesh I so much love with sole. This is the kind of product quality one dreams of when sitting in a coastal restaurant, only that here the brigade really knows how to cook, making it even more enjoyable. The accompanying millet (toasted and as a salad), mussels and cockles gave it fantastic background. This was a truly great dish, which I won’t forget all too soon. Outstanding

 

Sole

Sole

The Eastern Schelde lobster, mashed potatoes with buttermilk was equally perfect. I absolutely love lobster, and such a fine specimen will not grace your mouth every day. The pieces were expertly cooked (which means not too much, rather mi-cuit), and burst with flavour. The simple association with the buttermilk potato puree was one of those minimalist presentations that work. It was like a match made in heaven, one didn’t need anything else. Any addition would have distracted your attention. This was innovative, simple, accomplished cooking I hope to find more often these days. Divine.

 

Homard

Homard

Eastern Schelde eel, green celery, jus of eel & honeymead. Another of these outstanding local products that was prepared in the most effective, simple way. The eel was absolutely beautiful and didn’t fail to impress. The jus was also of interest, as it was treated a little like a meat jus. It was slightly sweet, powerful, a little acidic and absolutely beautiful. Outstanding.

 

Anguille

Anguille

Next up came a few meat courses, starting with Braised lard of pork’s belly, pickled vegetables, elderberry. A small rectangle of braised, tender, tasty pork’s belly came with a few shavings of pickled slightly acidic vegetables, a bit of crunchy pork skin and a hint of elderberry syrup or broth. This was so good, that I asked for second helpings, which were even better than the first round. The pork was just fantastic, and worked beautifully with the pickled vegetables as these gave it a sour, slightly sweet counterpoint. Outstanding.

 

Lard

Lard

The second met course of the day was Lamb from “ La Vallee au Ble” cooked in hay, broad beens, turnips. A piece of perfectly cooked lamb, which had an interesting (in a very good way) flavour, thanks to the hay, was accompanied by very good broad beens and two turnip preparations. Very good.

 

Agneau

Agneau

The chef had tried a dish that day, which he served us to see what we think of it. It was an onglet of beef cooked in salt with a cream of garlic. Extremely simple but extremely good. I would not go too far if I said that this was easily the best of the meat dishes we had that day. The beef came from the coast, and had remarkable texture and taste. I was surprised by the fact that it wasn’t overly salty, as it lay in salt without any leaf or so to protect it. Again, this was a most simple, but accomplished dish. Considering that it was a first try, I would like to know what this dish would look like, once it’s ready to go on the menu. Outstanding.

 

Onglet

Onglet

As this was my first visit here, I decided to go for both cheese and dessert. The cheeses are matured by Philippe Olivier and are served with four jams and two new types of bread. All of them were very good, although I didn’t take the names, I preferred the stronger ones (on the right) and found the vieille mimolette to be very good.

 

Fromages

Fromages

The Dessert parade, started with Raspberry, fresh cheese, staranise, chervil. This was a mostly iced dessert, which featured a range of textures reaching from relatively hard pastilles, to delicate snow and the creamy (not iced) raspberry mousse. It was refreshing, not too sweet and very enjoyable. Very good.

 

Framboises

Framboises

Rhubarb, rose hip, sweet woodruff was the second of the three. This was already much more interesting. The different elements all worked beautifully together and created a magnificent mix of tastes and textures. As with both of the others, this dessert was on the refreshing, moderately sweet side of things. Excellent.

 

Roses

Roses

The last was Sorrel, lemon balm, mint, green strawberry. This one was interesting. Definitely the first time I ate sorrel in a dessert, but hopefully not the last. The many elements worked together so well, that all one had in the mouth was a harmonious flavour, rather than a whole cacophony. Excellent.

 

Oseille

Oseille

 

Tea and mignardises were equally good and interesting.

The following morning saw a great breakfast with more good products and lovely service. We left more than happy, with only one wish: Return as soon as possible.

 

This was an absolutely lovely stay, one that I hope to repeat more than once in the future. The reasons are numerous, but mainly there is of course Kobe’s cooking. It is exactly what I could see as an alternative to the “molecular” extravaganzas of some Spanish chefs, as it brings one great products in a most natural, nonetheless innovative way. The food was (with the exception of two courses) absolutely stunning, definitely worth a second star (he already holds 18p in the Gault Millau if I’m not mistaken). It will be interesting to come back in a few months and see how this kitchen evolves, as Kobe seems to be someone as passionate and hard working as one could ever hope to find.

 

A few words about the price, the menu (without the onglet) is no more than euro110, a price, I find more than fair for this kind of cooking. Shorter versions start at 70, and lunch is no more than 45. The wine list is fairly priced for such a restaurant, with many bottles at around 25-35euro. However, as the place is still young, the cellar needs to age and develop a little, as most wines are from the last ten vintages. I would recommend anyone who goes here to stay there, as it is a most unique experience. The rooms are priced at 90 (weekdays) and 130euro (weekends, holidays).

 

Le petit dejeuner

Le petit dejeuner