Laurent-Perrier Champagne Pairing Menu at The Greenhouse

Note: Chef Antonin Bonnet has now left and been replaced by chef Arnaud Bignon from the two-starred Michelin restaurant Spondi in Athens.

I was lucky enough to be invited to sample the new limited edition Laurent-Perrier champagne pairing menu recently launched at The Greenhouse for the festive season. The House of Champagne Laurent-Perrier, founded in 1812, is one of the most recognisable and famous champagne brands in Europe. The Greenhouse is a one Michelin-starred restaurant in the heart of Mayfair and is well known for its Asian-inspired French cuisine.

The menu matches five of Laurent-Perrier’s most prestigious and pioneering champagnes with a selection of dishes created by head chef Antonin Bonnet. Each course is designed to enhance the lightness, freshness and elegance of each of the Laurent-Perrier champagnes in the menu. Antonin Bonnet is a protégée of the famous three Michelin-starred chef Michel Bras, and this influence shows in his elegant and refined cooking. I have been to The Greenhouse several times and I adore the food (my last blog post for The Greenhouse is here), and this evening had the makings of a glorious affair.
The evening kicked off with a salmon canape followed by an amuse of runny hen’s egg. This was followed by our first course of a refreshing apple cider marinated mackerel with horseradish snow and pickled black radish. The zingy acidity of the cider was a wonderful match against the oiliness of the fish, and the freshness of the snow added a touch of spark to the dish. The accompanying champagne was Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut which had lovely hints of citrus.

Apple cider marinated mackerel

Apple cider marinated mackerel

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The French Laundry at Harrods

The French Laundry at Harrods

The French Laundry at Harrods

The French Laundry at Harrods, the 10-day pop-up restaurant by six-Michelin starred Chef Thomas Keller (3 stars at The French Laundry, 3 stars at Per Se) was a project that was 18 months in the making. The idea was conceived in April 2010, and every detail has been meticulously planned, including the timing of the harvest at The French Laundry Yountville garden to ensure that the vegetables that were brought over for the pop-up would be perfect. Yes, lots of ingredients were flown in from the US to recreate a true French Laundry experience, but let’s not judge the food miles but the meal alone.

The pop-up restaurant occupies part of the Georgian Restaurant on the fourth floor of Harrods. Much has been done to recreate the feel of the original, from the sign at the front door to the clothes peg pinned to our table napkins. Crockery came from The French Laundry Yountville, and a number of the chefs and the service team were made up from a cross section of chefs and waiting staff from within The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group including The French Laundry and Per Se.

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Tamarind

Tamarind made waves in 2001 when it became one of a hand full of Indian restaurants in London to win a Michelin star. Executive chef Alfred Prasad ran a number of restaurants in five-star hotels in Southern India before coming to the UK in 2000. The food at Tamarind draws its influences from North-Western and Southern India and offers a modern interpretation of Moghul cuisine, the ancient courtly food of Rajasthan that centres round Tandoor ovens.

I dined at Tamarind at the invitation of the restaurant along with a number of other guests. The prices listed below are for the à la carte portions. We started with pudhina chops, ginger, turmeric and mint coated lamb cutlets served on a chilli-yoghurt dip (£10.25). This was accompanied by aloo tikki, sago crusted potato cakes on a bed of spinach and topped with tamarind chutney (£6.95). The lamb was tender and the potato cakes yielded a lovely texture, although the tamarind chutney was a touch too sweet against the potato.

Lamb cutlet & potato cake

Lamb cutlet & potato cake

A side dish of papdi chaat, spiced chickpeas, whole-wheat crisps and sweetened yoghurt topped with blueberries and tamarind chutney (£7.50) was lovely with its creamy and chilling nature.

Papdi chaat

Papdi chaat

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Apsleys – Visit # 3

Note: Chefs Massimiliano Blasone and Marco Calenzo have now left the restaurant. Consequently this blog post may not reflect the current state of affairs at Apsleys.

Apsleys, the one Michelin starred Italian restaurant located in the Lanesborough Hotel, kindly invited me back to try their new spring menu. I went to Apsleys about six months ago for what was my second visit and had a glorious meal (for that blog post click here) and it was such an honour to be asked back again. At the helm is Executive chef Massimiliano Blasone, Sous chef Marco Calenzo, and restaurant manager Pasquale Cosmai. Apsleys is the sister restaurant to Heinz Beck’s three Michelin starred La Pergola in Rome.

We kicked the meal off with a wonderful selection of amuse bouches that thrilled. Kingfish sandwiched in sesame ‘waffles’ was a delight, with the wafer-thin texture of the buttery waffles contrasting well with the fish.

Sesame waffle with kingfish

Sesame waffle with kingfish

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Apsleys – The Return

Note: Chefs Massimiliano Blasone and Marco Calenzo have now left the restaurant. Consequently this blog post may not reflect the current state of affairs at Apsleys.

Back in March I went to Apsleys, a one Michelin starred restaurant, and had the five-course tasting menu. Apsleys is the London outpost of Heinz Beck, a chef who holds three Michelin stars with his restaurant La Pergola in Rome. I had therefore expected good things. Instead, I left the restaurant feeling a little under whelmed. It wasn’t a bad meal per se, but my tortellini pasta was a bit overcooked and there were inconsistencies in the presentation of the food. I also found the tuna tartare dish with herbal infusion and green tea sorbet slightly odd.

Somehow the restaurant got hold of my post. Perhaps they had a point to prove because they contacted me several months later to invite me to dine at Apsleys again, saying that things had much improved. Interestingly, The Critical Couple wrote of an underwhelming first experience followed by a much more positive one at Apsleys. I was therefore sufficiently curious to try it again.

To start was a trio of seafood amuse bouches. From left to right, tuna tartare sparkled with the gentle hint of orange pieces. Next was a seabass tartare with cauliflower and candied lemon mounted on some finely chopped cantaloupe melon. The sweetness of the fish contrasted wonderfully with the fruitiness of the melon and the acidity of the lemon. Finally, a stunning sliver of thinly sliced scallop marinated in olive oil and lemon was served on a bed of creamy amaranth (a black corn stock).

Amuse bouches

Amuse bouches

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Apsleys – a Heinz Beck Restaurant

Note: Chefs Massimiliano Blasone and Marco Calenzo have now left the restaurant. Consequently this blog post may not reflect the current state of affairs at Apsleys.

Heinz Beck has the distinction of being the only chef in Rome to hold three Michelin stars with his restaurant La Pergola at the Rome Cavalieri Hilton. And Apsleys, at the Lanesborough Hotel on Hyde Park Corner, is the London offshoot of this internationally acclaimed, German-born, Italian-based chef. Apsleys opened about two years ago, and this year, it received Michelin acclaim when it earned its first star in January.

As befits a restaurant that is housed in a St Regis hotel, the Apsleys dining room is a statement in jaw-dropping art deco elegance. It exudes luxury, with three massive chandeliers holding centre stage as they dazzle in front of your eyes. The interior designer was none other than Adam Tihany, the internationally renowned restaurant and hotel designer. Pierre Gagnaire’s Sketch counts as one of his designs, and notable upcoming projects include the redesign of the Mandarin Oriental in Hyde Park which will feature the new Heston Blumenthal restaurant which will open this autumn.

Being an Italian restaurant, there are the usual antipasti, zuppe e primi and secondi courses on the menu. There is also a five course (£59; with matching wines – £89) and a seven course (£79; with matching wines – £119) tasting menu. The five course tasting is based on the seven course menu, but with no lobster starter and a choice between the sea bream and the venison courses rather than both.

We selected the five course menu which kicked off with a ‘Chef’s Surprise’ amuse bouche of an arancini (a rice ball coated with breadcrumbs which originates from Sicily), and a sweet pepper and courgette terrine. The arancini, which tasted like a deep fried risotto, was pleasant but unspectactular. The terrine was filled with natural sweetness and had a lovely soft texture.

Amuse bouche

Amuse bouche

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The Square

A selection of canapés

A selection of canapés

It was that time of year again, yes, my birthday. I decided against organising a large celebration this year, instead listing a couple of things that I most wanted to do with a few close friends. First on that list (yes you guessed it) was a good meal, and second was a nice spa afternoon. The latter I duly accomplished in fine fashion, but to the nice meal…

My choice was The Square, a two star Michelin restaurant. It’s been many years since I have been, and I was craving something with great finesse. The chef and co-owner is Philip Howard, who after spending a summer cooking in the Dordogne region in France, went on to work under Albert Roux OBE at the Roux Restaurants group for a year. This was followed by another year long stint with Marco Pierre White at Harvey’s, a restaurant that was situated where Chez Bruz now is, and then a similar amount of time under Simon Hopkinson at Bibendum.

The Square has won many awards along the way since it opened in 1991, and arguably Philip Howard, who is known for his elegant, classical French cooking is one of the best chefs in the UK today.

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Aubergine

Note: This restaurant has now closed. It was really bad anyway…

Scallops over mushroom puree

Scallops over mushroom puree

My latest lunch adventure was at Aubergine Restaurant, which is perhaps most famous for the fact that this was where Gordon Ramsay won his first Michelin star in 1995 and a second in 1997. A desire to own his own restaurant coupled with differences with the owners resulted in Ramsay leaving shortly thereafter to open what we now know as Gordon Ramsay on Royal Hospital Road. In Ramsay’s place stepped the current Executive Head Chef, Billy Drabble. He too soon attained a star which he has managed to hold onto ever since.

So I came to Aubergine with an element of curiosity, inspired by its history more than anything else. But under Drabble, Aubergine has also collected its share of accolades. Since 1998, along with its Michelin star, it has also continuously held onto 4 AA Rosettes. And in 2006 it won the ‘Grand Prix of Gastronomy’ as awarded by The British Academy of Gastronomes.

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