Helene Darroze

HELENE DARROZE

Helene Darroze has long been recognised as one of the world’s best female chefs, receiving one such acclaim when she became the winner of The Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef Award in 2015. Darroze is a fourth generation chef, with the generations before her running a family restaurant in Landes, Frances. Helene Darroze honed her skills under the tutelage of Alain Ducasse at the Le Louis XV restaurant in Monaco, before returning to the family restaurant in Landes and then ultimately opening Restaurant Hélène Darroze in Paris. This, her flagship restaurant won her the first of her three Michelin stars in 2001. In 2008 Helene Darroze opened at The Connaught, taking over from the site previously occupied by Angela Hartnett. Helene Darroze at The Connaught currently holds two Michelin stars.

The dining rooms at Helene Darroze at The Connaught are resplendent and beautiful. The interior is filled with beautiful wood panelling, floral touches and plush furnishings, and the dimly lit space bestows the restaurant with a timeless intimate elegance. The classically French a la carte menu is priced at £95 for 5 courses or £130 for 7 courses. Therefore the 3 course lunch at £52 is comparatively good value. With restaurants in both Paris and London, Helene roughly splits her time between the two cities.

The menu at Helene Darroze at The Connaught is presented using a very unique format and is worthy of a mention. A round board containing marbles is given to each diner, and each dish on the menu is inscribed on an individual marble. A full listing with a description of the dishes is also presented to the diner, and so you are therefore able to choose your meal by eliminating the marbles with the names of the dishes that you don’t want. Genius! And so much fun.

Helene Darroze - London Food Blog - The menu

Helene Darroze – The menu

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Social Eating House

Located in the heart of Soho on Poland Street, Social Eating House was the third restaurant in the portfolio of celebrated Michelin starred chef Jason Atherton, once a protégé of Gordon Ramsay.

Set over three floors with a basement chef’s table, a group floor restaurant and a top floor bar, Social Eating House offers a contemporary bistro menu and currently holds one Michelin star. I loved Jason Atherton’s food when he was still cooking under Gordon Ramsay at Maze, before he got financing and expanded internationally. His restaurants can now be found not only in London, but also in Asia, New York and as far afield as Sydney. It’s not easy to maintain high standards when chefs expand so rapidly. Too often I find that with such expansion the food develops a formulaic feel to it and lacks the sense of heart and substance that won the chef his accolades in the first place.

We went to Social Eating House and dined on the special prix-fix menu which was priced at £29.50 for 2 courses and a cocktail or £34.50 for 3 courses. The vibe was informal and quite buzzy, with a fun and funky energy. It was all very nice if a little too noisy. We found the experience to be acceptable relative to the price we paid, but didn’t find it particularly special for a Michelin starred restaurant. Sure we only had the prix-fix menu, but we hadn’t expected to find errors in the food.

Starter number one was the Normandy chicken with BBQ sweet corn, popcorn, strozzapreti pasta and laksa sauce. The chicken was pleasantly cooked, but the sauce was quite strong which ended up overpowering the chicken. There was also quite a lot of the sauce which didn’t help matters. Moreover the sauce hadn’t been heated up properly and so was slightly cold. I didn’t much like the popcorn in the dish either – it did not taste as it had been freshly popped. However the pasta was lovely.

Social Eating House - London Food Blog - Chicken with laksa sauce

Social Eating House – Chicken with laksa sauce

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Hakkasan – Chinese New Year Menu

Several months ago I visited Hakkasan Hanway Place to try their delightful Dim Sum Sundays menu. The experience was really enjoyable. Not only was the food good, but there was also plenty of booze to go with the food which made it a really fun way to spend Sunday afternoon. And now, with Chinese New Year upon us, Hakkasan have brought out a Chinese New Year Menu to celebrate the year of the monkey.

As some of you may know, the number 8 is the luckiest number in the Chinese culture as it has a similar pronunciation to the word wealth. Accordingly, this Chinese New Year menu is priced at an auspicious £88.88. The menu begins with a soup, several starters, followed by a selection of mains to share.

The soup was ginseng and chicken with bamboo pith and wolfberries which was really delicious. The broth was clear with a beautiful flavour, and it showed off a wonderfully authentic, masterful touch, with both its choice of traditional Chinese ingredients and also in how it had been prepared.

Hakkasan - London Food Blog - Double boiled fresh Ginseng and chicken soup with bamboo pith and wolfberry

Hakkasan – Double boiled fresh Ginseng and chicken soup with bamboo pith and wolfberry

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Quilon – Indian Wine Event

QUILON – INDIAN WINE EVENT

A guest post by ‘O&M’ *

We were thrilled to be invited to Quilon recently to take part in a press event showcasing Indian Wine, with the focus being on two particular vineyards, Grover Zampa and Sula.

Quilon - London Food Blog

Quilon – Indian wine event

Indian Wine is relatively unknown in our supermarket shelves or wine shops. India’s APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) is leading a brand promotion of Indian Wine to raise publicity in Europe and particularly in the United Kingdom.

Quilon - London Food Blog

Quilon – Indian wine event

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Hakkasan Hanway Place – Dim Sum Sundays

HAKKASAN HANWAY PLACE

Hakkasan Hanway Place needs little introduction and is the first of the Hakkasan restaurants to open. Hakkasan was designed by famed interior designer Christian Liaigre and embodies the height of sensuality with its wooden screens intertwined with black and gold traditionally-drawn panels. Opening in 2001, in 2003 Hakkasan was awarded a Michelin star, which it has retained to this day.

Hakkasan offers both an a la carte menu as well as a dim sum menu. On Sundays, it has a special ‘Dim Sum Sundays’ menu which is priced at £58 per person (with a minimum of two people sharing) and which I thought to be really good value. The menu included a selection of dim sum as well as cooked dishes. Moreover, the menu included a choice of a starter cocktail, half a bottle of Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV Champagne each, and a choice of after dinner cocktail. We all agreed it was a great way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon, enjoying some good food with good company and with lots of booze.

Hakkasan - London Food Blog - Louis Roederer champagne

Hakkasan – Louis Roederer champagne

The menu begins with a crispy duck salad with pomelo, pine nut and shallot. The salad was really lovely. The duck was, as the menu suggested, nice and crispy, and it worked well with the sweetness of the pomelo.

Hakkasan - London Food Blog - Crispy duck salad

Hakkasan – Crispy duck salad

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Umu Japanese Restaurant at Frieze Masters

Umu Japanese Restaurant in Mayfair is a favourite of the many who work at the Japanese Consulate, and understandably so. Executive Chef Yoshinori Ishii previously spent nine years at Japan’s three Michelin-starred Kyoto Kitcho and recently won Umu its second Michelin star. Chef Ishii’s haute cuisine approach to Japanese cooking means his food at Umu is graced with a touch that is both elegant and precise.

Every year Umu runs a pop up restaurant at Frieze Masters, the annual 5 day art fair that brings together several thousand years of art from over 130 of the world’s leading galleries. The last day of Frieze Masters was on the 18 October, but I managed to squeeze in a visit to the Umu pop-up restaurant before Frieze Masters finished. The Umu pop-up only offered a limited selection of starters, sushi, sashimi, and mains from the original Umu menu, but it was still a great showcase of the flavours of Umu, drawing on similar dishes and ingredients from the same sources. Umu Head Chef Yoshinori Ishii remained in charge of the pop-up and worked the sushi bar as we ate. Also in attendance was a legion of full time staff from Umu in Mayfair.

From the starters a tuna tartare salad (£17) was deliciously meaty and sweet from a fabulous shiso dressing. Dressed with micro cress, the tartare was topped with some thin and crunchy lotus root chips that worked a treat with this generously portioned dish. A seafood salad (£17) with prawn, scallop and abalone was also delectable. The seafood was delightfully fresh and sweet and worked well with the lovely lightness and acidity of the accompanying tosazu jelly.

Umu Japanese Restaurant - London Food Blog - Tuna tartare

Umu Japanese Restaurant – Tuna tartare

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Quilon

Quilon opened in 1999 and quickly established itself as one of the pre-eminent Indian restaurants in London. Located in the St James Court Hotel, Quilon exudes an air of smart, refined elegance. Chef Sriram Aylur discovered his love of food at a young age when he first stepped into his father’s kitchen. He gave up a career in law to pursue his cooking career, joining the Taj Luxury Hotel Group in 1989. Chef Sriram hails from the South West coast of India, and as such, seafood is at the heart of the Quilon menu. Despite that, Quilon also offers an eclectic range of meat, poultry and vegetarian options, with many dishes designed for sharing. Chef Sriram’s approach to Indian cooking is contemporary and progressive, importing many of his spices from India. In 2008 Quilon won a Michelin star which the restaurant has retained ever since.

A starter with a fitting name of Fisherman’s catch (£16) contained a selection of lovely, fresh seafood. On the plate were some well-flavoured pepper shrimp; a crab cake plump with fresh, sweet crab; a beautifully cooked piece of lentil fish topped with a gorgeous chilli and mango relish; and a succulent piece of grilled scallop.

Quilon - London Food Blog - Fisherman’s catch

Quilon – Fisherman’s catch

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Galvin At Windows – The Lunch Menu

GALVIN AT WINDOWS – THE LUNCH MENU

We recently tried the set lunch menu at Galvin at Windows, a Michelin One Star Restaurant by the renowned chefs and restaurateurs, the Galvin Brothers. Located on the 28th floor of the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane, Galvin at Windows offers glorious views over Hyde Park and Central London. The three-course set lunch with bellini is priced at £33 and was great value, offering three choices for starter and main, and two choices for dessert.

We both started with the beef steak tartare which was lovely. The beef was tasty and had been finely chopped and marinated with herbs and a strong level of acidity for a great flavour. Accompanying the tartare was a well-made selection of condiments including mustard mayonnaise, a gorgeous confit egg yolk and pickled vegetables.

Galvin at Windows - London Food Blog - Beef Tartare

Galvin at Windows – Beef Tartare

To mains, and the roasted fillet of Suffolk pork with braised pork cheek proved to be an accomplished dish. The pork cheek was particularly delicious as it was tender and rich with flavour, although the fillet was a touch chewy as it was slightly overcooked. All the other elements on the plate were good, including a fricassée of broad beans, celeriac and a chorizo and honey spiced jus, all of which were delicious and worked well in bringing the dish together.

Galvin at Windows - London Food Blog - Suffolk pork

Galvin at Windows – Suffolk pork

Kimchee risotto with slow cooked egg, fresh corn, sesame and Parmesan proved to be a very interesting dish. There was good depth in the stock, the rice was al dente and the egg added a lovely richness to the risotto. The big disappointment however was that it was very salty.

Galvin at Windows - London Food Blog - Kimchee risotto

Galvin at Windows – London Food Blog – Kimchee risotto

To desserts, and an apricot and cherry almond tart with a verbena cream was good but not great. There wasn’t enough of a frangipane flavour in the tart, and it lacked for a buttery sweet pastry that makes classic French tarts taste so great.

Galvin at Windows - London Food Blog - Apricot & cherry almond tart

Galvin at Windows – Apricot & cherry almond tart

A second dessert of rice pudding with peach compote, raspberries and pink pepper sorbet was tasty and enjoyable as it was fresh and very summery.

Galvin at Windows - London Food Blog - Rice pudding

Galvin at Windows – Rice pudding

There were a few elements in the Galvin at Windows lunch menu that could have been better, but on the whole, I couldn’t fault the cooking which was accomplished and refined. Another plus point was that the menu was very reasonably priced at £33, making it decent value for money. Other plus points included great service and wonderful views. The lunch menu Galvin at Windows definitely gets a big tick from me.

Summary Information:

Likes:
1. The quality of the cooking especially at this reasonable price point.
2. The good service.
3. The amazing views.

Dislikes:
1. The saltiness in the kimchee risotto.

Lunch menu food rating: 4/5
Service rating: 4/5

Lunch menu price: £33 for three courses plus a bellini. Excludes other drinks and service.

Website: http://www.galvin-at-windows.com/


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