The Gilbert Scott

The Gilbert Scott is situated in The Renaissance Hotel St Pancreas (previously the Midland Grand Hotel) which finally reopened last year after being closed for almost three-quarters of a century. In keeping with the style of the original architecture, the restaurant has maintained many of the ornate features of the building. With high ceilings, limestone pillars and intricate details. The Gilbert Scott feels grand, but also somewhat old-fashioned and sterile. The refurbishment of the dining room was undoubtedly expensive (the whole hotel cost about £150m), but I didn’t care much for the garish peachy colour scheme or the icy atmosphere of the restaurant.

The restaurant is named after Gilbert Scott, the architect who originally designed the building. However it was the name of Marcus Wareing that I was most curious about. The two-starred Michelin chef of Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley is behind the brasserie and bar operations at The Gilbert Scott. The menu made for a nice read, and fittingly, resonated Britishness.

The kitchen operated with clockwork precision, and eerily so. It only took a few minutes from the time we placed our orders until our starters turned up. The turnaround time was so quick it made me question the level of effort that had been made with our food. My first course of curry spiced mulligatawny with quail (£9) tasted like it had been pre-cooked and quickly reheated for service. The mulligatawny could have been hotter and better spiced. The quail was a nice touch, but as it had been immersed in the broth for some time it had become bland. This was an unremarkable dish.

Mulligatawny

Mulligatawny

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Tim Anderson Pop-Up – In Aid of FareShare

2011 Masterchef winner Tim Anderson and car brand Citroën recently came together to work on a charity project in aid of FareShare, a charity that tackles food poverty by challenging food waste. For this purpose, Tim created a special five-course tasting menu based on the five senses for a pop-up restaurant known as Delicious by DS5 (one of the cars in the Citroën range). The charity restaurant was held at 89 ½ Worship Street and proceeds from the evening went towards FareShare.

I was excited by the prospect of trying his menu. Winning Masterchef is no mean feat, and his eclectic take on food – at least from what I observed by watching him on Masterchef – showed that he drew a lot from Japanese influences.

The Delicious venue

The Delicious venue

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Corrigan’s Mayfair – The Spice Menu

Corrigan's Mayfair

Corrigan's Mayfair

I must confess I didn’t have the best experience when I first tried Corrigan’s Restaurant. Having already eaten at Bentley’s and Lindsay House (Richard Corrigan’s previous one Michelin starred restaurant which now houses Gauthier Soho), I had expected better. But lots of positive comments since have convinced me that perhaps that experience could have been an anomaly. Anyway, things were set right last week when I went to try the spice menu at Corrigan’s which is available until 29 January 2012.

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Pollen Street Social

Jason Atherton broke away from the Gordon Ramsay stronghold last year by leaving Maze and going it alone. Pollen Street Social – one of the hottest restaurant openings of 2011 – was the result. The décor is sleek and modern. Tastefully done, it exudes understated elegance. The furniture is dark and the tablecloths are crisp and white. Located on Pollen Street, it sits directly opposite the very expensive (and bad value for money) 5 Pollen Street.

I have been dying to try this place. I was a big fan of Maze and wanted to see if the food at Pollen Street Social would live up to its predecessor. However, the concept here is meant to be more social (hence the name) than it was at Maze. There is a large bar area open for both drinks and food. And at Pollen Street Social, Jason Atherton has introduced London’s first ever dessert bar.

But we decided to station ourselves in the spacious main dining room instead. The menu presented an interesting read with a strong ‘deconstructed’ theme running through it, in particularly with the desserts. We kicked off with scallop ceviche, cucumber and radish, yuzu soy dressing and apple (£11.50) which was absolutely beautiful. The scallops were of the highest quality and the acidity in the yuzu worked wonderfully with them. The icy cold effect of the horseradish snow was a clever complementary addition to this starter. This was a lovely, classy dish – delicate, light and well judged.

Scallop ceviche

Scallop ceviche

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Dinner by Heston Blumenthal – Visit # 2

Yep – somehow I managed to score another reservation at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. I know I only a few weeks ago (check out that post here), so I debated whether I should go again so soon. But in the interests of research (and for another taste of that meat fruit), I thought why the hell not?

So this blog post will be a little different to the others. I won’t be talking about the things I covered the last time such as the décor. Instead, I’ll focus primarily on the new dishes I tried on this second visit.

But it’s a little hard to past up a mention of the meat fruit (£12.50 – c.1500). It again delivered the ‘wow’ factor to my dining companions who were new to Dinner. The meat fruit looked and tasted great, although it was served a little too cold. This truly has to be one of the most dazzling dishes to grace London tables of late.

JL went for the hay smoked mackerel (£14.50 – c.1730) with lemon salad, gentleman’s relish and olive oil. The mackerel was lovely, and there was a wonderful balance of acidity in this dish, especially from the gentlemen’s relish. (For a copy of this recipe which was published in The Guardian, click here).

Hay smoked mackerel

Hay smoked mackerel

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Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Dinner

Dinner

The most excited I’ve ever been about getting a restaurant reservation was when the people at El Bulli emailed me to say that I had secured a table. The excitement of getting a reservation at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental came close, except this time I managed to control my screams of euphoria. The restaurant receives about 6,000 phone calls a day and is now booked out until the end of June. The arrival of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal was highly anticipated and it has to be the hottest opening of 2011. It is so hot that reservations are being traded on ebay.

An Adam Tihany design, the restaurant is beautiful with dark wood panelling and leather furnishings. The previous occupant of this space was Foliage, which Tihany also designed. It’s airy and light, and the high ceilings give it an incredibly spacious feel. It’s also elegant but relaxed, and there’s a touch of mischievousness and fun to the room with the use of some cheeky jelly-mould lights. The kitchen is an open one providing diners with a look-in, but that’s if you don’t find yourself getting distracted by the fabulous views of Hyde Park.

The kitchen at Dinner

The kitchen at Dinner

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Spago, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles

Here begins the first of several write-ups from my flying visit to the States recently. I will do my best to blog these posts ASAP. But you know how it is – with work and a busy schedule, it will probably take me longer than I would like. Please bear with me. In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy the taste of the first instalment – SPAGO.

Spago

Spago

With the help of some of my American readers (thanks to you all – you know who you are) I managed to come up with a fantastic shortlist of restaurants to try. Spago Beverly Hills is the Los Angeles flagship restaurant of Wolfgang Puck, that all-conquering Austrian-born celebrity chef to the superstars, who for the last 16 years has catered at the star-studded post Oscar’s Governor’s Ball. With its guest list being 1,500 long, this is no mean feat. (An interesting fact about the Governor’s Ball which I picked up during a tour of the Kodak Theatre, the home of the Academy Awards ceremony: there is always one item on the menu that it shaped like the Oscar’s statuette. This year it was the hand-cut Oscar croutons in the salmon starter – can you imagine making 1,500 of these?)

Puck’s name is indelibly marked everywhere. His empire extends across the US, and covers a range of eateries (casual to fine dining), catering products, supermarket food ranges, cookware, and of course, cook books. So I was sceptical about Spago. Could it possibly live up to all the hype? Would it really be that good? It held two stars in 2009, but was that based purely on the fame of the chef’s name as sometimes Michelin restaurants tend to be? (Note that in a backwards, cost cutting measure for Michelin, the guide stopped reviewing the city of Los Angeles in 2010. Therefore there are no restaurants in LA with stars (Michelin ones, that is) at the moment). I debated long and hard about whether to go to Spago, especially given my time limitations, but in the end I decided to try it. After all, this restaurant embodies everything that is LA.

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Bar Boulud – Visit number 2

Charcuterie

Charcuterie

I know I’ve only just been to Bar Boulud. And it’s not often that I go back to a restaurant so soon, but I couldn’t help myself. I was dying for a taste of that fabulous charcuterie again, and it really was remiss of me not to have tried the Boulud hamburgers that New Yorkers rave about last time. And beside, I thought I’d give dinner a go. My repeat visit was also rewarded with the presence of Boulud himself who was working that huge dining room and hobnobbing with the Knightsbridge set.

I couldn’t get a table booking for dinner, but you can turn up without a reservation to see if you can secure a seat at the charcuterie bar, the drinks bar or the lounge. At night, the restaurant feels more up market and less ‘Holiday Inn’ – the dimmer lights help – so I liked the décor more during dinner. I went for the charcuterie bar which places you in full view of the kitchen. Sitting here turned out to be an interesting experience as I hadn’t expected to see what I got to see. It seems that one of the chefs has a habit of licking the spoon he uses to plate food with. This would be alright if he washed the spoon after each use, but he didn’t, so some of the dishes had an added ingredient known as chef’s saliva. I watched him with great interest for at least 30 minutes, and in that time frame that same spoon made it into his mouth countless times but only got washed once. Ick! Hopefully this practice will be eliminated for we quietly mentioned this to management…

Thankfully the above mentioned chef had no hand (or saliva) in the food that we ordered. The charcuterie platter (£14 for small) was again excellent. We had some repeats from my last visit, but also some newbies, including tagine d’agneau (terrine of slow cooked spiced leg of lamb, aubergine and sweet potato) (extreme left), which was meltingly tender, and pâté grand-mère (fine country pâté of chicken liver, pork and cognac) (bottom centre), which was good, but not as flavoursome as the pâté grand-père. We also sampled the lomo Ibérico (Spanish cured pork loin) which sizzled with flavour and melted on your tongue.

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