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‘Fine-Dining’ Category

  1. Pullman Dining Carriage | London to Exeter

    February 15, 2015 by Dini

    Train fine dining

    10 February 2015

     

    When Great First Western invited me to travel in style from London Paddington to Exeter St. Davids in Pullman first class style, I thought ‘why not?. It is definitely an experience, and something I wouldn’t ordinarily do. My alternative would probably be what most do, a quick basket dash in M&S convenience for a stockpile of sandwiches and snacks and just make do.

    As a result of my experience, I’ve realised ‘making do’ really isn’t the best… if you have:

    1) the finances

    2) journey time is sufficient to enjoy a leisurely three course meal

    3) missed a lunch or supper time service on destination arrival

    If you’ve got a big tick next to all of the above, then you’ll easily be converted to the idea of train fine dining. Of course, the major clincher was the fact that Mitch Tonks (famed seafood restaurateur of The Seahorse,  Rockpool and consultant for Hawksmoor Air St) created the menu, with seasonal and locally sourced ingredients from the south coast of England (train final destinations).

     

    A quick trip to the galley in the carriage next to our dining car, revealed Chris; our Chef for our service. He looked unflappable in the small, swelteringly hot galley (which couldn’t have been bigger than 6x 2 metres), I was in sheer astoundment how he managed to rattle off  three courses for twenty diners in the carriage.

     

    Image c/o Mitch Tonks

    Image c/o Mitch Tonks

    On to the food…

    Starter: Dressed South Devon crab (£10*) ~ fresh and succulent flakes of crab from Brixham (as Mitch put it, more superior than Cromer’s finest)

    Main: Ox cheek in Sharpham wine, Somerset quince jelly, roast new potatoes, courgettes and cauliflower cheese (£26*) ~ I am a massive slow cooker fan of cuts such as ox cheek and shank braised in this way. The meat becomes so tender it falls apart. The quince jelly had just enough bite to cut through the richness.

    Dessert: ‘The Seahorse’ olive oil and pine nut cake with Blackmore Vale dairy mascarpone and grappa syrup (£9*) ~ a moist and light sponge laden with the hint of grappa , followed by West country cheese board (£9*)

    Wine: Cornish wines by Knightor, selected by Mitch Tonks to accompany the menu (at £27* for 2013 Trevannion 75cl) as well as few more glasses of  a fab Jean-Jacques Bardin Sancerre, Loire – 2013 (£19* for 37.5cl).

    Cautionary notes:

    I learnt quickly that there is a certain knack to dining on a train, a sudden jolt, break or twist on the track, means your table components can roll or fly in directions (including your lap). Therefore, diners ought to have swift reflex manoeuvres, this did cause much banter between the brilliant serving staff (who were learning silver service literally on the job) and diners. Secondly, being spoilt with a sumptuous lunch or dinner might mean the onset of a ‘carb coma’, but do stay alert as you don’t want to miss your stop! I did wistfully wonder if Hercule Poirot might tap me on the shoulder or if I might sit next to a Peter Whitman type (Adrien Brody in The Darjeeling Limited) in the glamour and splendour of a vintage dining carriage but alas it wasn’t meant to be. Thankfully, the only crime on board, was the fact Exeter arrived in no time at all and I needed to hot foot it off the train.

    I was informed by our waiting staff that breakfasts and late weekday journeys were the busiest of the services on daily journeys and is actually bookable for those with a first class ticket or ordinary ticket holders if seats are available. Click here, if you’d like to find out more about First Great Western’s Pullman routes.

     

    *Please note: I received a complimentary ticket and dining experience on this occasion, where I have labelled prices, this is for your reading reference. Prices of the dishes are inclusive of mineral water, bread rolls from Pullin’s bakery, Somerset farmhouse butter, accompanying seasonal vegetables and coffee or tea.

     


  2. Gymkhana | Michelin Indian style

    February 15, 2014 by Dini

    Birthday private dining

     

    15th February 2014

    Birthdays are smashing, an occasion for good company and pushing the boat out. With this in mind, Gymkhana was my first port of call for luncheon date with a gaggle of five gregarious girlfriends. Since opening in Mayfair in the autumn of 2013, it had been a hot ticket and I wanted to get in before gaining an inevitable Michelin star*, like it’s sister restaurant, Trishna in Marylebone.

    After some wrangling in the form of telephone queues, emails and a visit to see Front of House, I landed the plush private dining vault in the basement. A group on a budget, I was also granted the set three course lunch,for £30, as a ‘one-off’ as the vault is normally chargeable for a higher priced tasting menu. I took this as a minor win in addition to my determination to land a hotly contested table.

    Image c/o The Independent

    Image c/o The Independent

    Soft mood lighting, swathes of cushioned velvet banquettes and no worry of your table being turned at the two hour mark are three thankful advantages of dining in the vault. Starting as we meant to go on, aperitifs to hit our table included carafes of punches and a couple of Bloody Mary’s.

    Punch

    The punch above is the ‘Bombay Presidency’ namely ordered as it featured Ceylon Arrack, poignant as a tipple from my motherland. I loved the theatre of pouring my punch over ice and grating the fragrant nutmeg as a garnish.

    To share and try as many dishes as possible, we tried a combination of all of the dishes available on the set menu. We also ordered recommended dishes such as the vindaloo suckling pig, which was so tender it fell apart and the Dosa with Chetinaad duck and coconut chutney.

    I rarely go for an ‘Indian’, as a Sri Lankan I can dine from sub-continent dishes at home. Therefore, to pay for it, is certainly an extravagance, and to be disappointed is just dismaying. Having dined at Trishna (Gymkhana’s sister restaurant) previously and enjoyed my experience, I knew it wouldn’t be a disappointment, it’s worth a visit just for the superb wine flights. The reason why I chose Gymkhana is that it takes Indian food and raises the sophistication bar. It isn’t the paneer or chicken I could even dream of recreating myself. I would say though that the dal  (lentils) dish didn’t cut the mustard with me, it just didn’t have any punch. Notably dal is a subjective dish, where most have a bias towards their regional style of preparation, whether with tomatoes, mixed lentil varieties or with a kick of dried red chillies.

    Would I go back? In a heartbeat… the ambience, sumptuous surroundings and delicacies on offer leave you fulfilled in every way. For an afternoon, you can definitely feel like a Maharani, transported back to the days of the Raj. There is of course an underlying hankering to make another reservation there and then, to return to try more dishes or work your way through the dangerously good cocktail list.

    *Added note in 2014 – Gymkhana has since been voted National restaurant of the year and gained one Michelin star, to be included in the 2015 guide.

    gymkhanalondon.com

    42 Albemarle Street, London, W1S 4JH
    020 3011 5900


  3. Dabbous’ Opening Sitting

    January 21, 2012 by Dini

    Choc and virgin olive oil ganache, basil moss, sheep milk ice cream

    Room for Four Desserts?

    20th January 2012

    With no reservations or even an inkling of the offering, I walked to Dabbous with a friend, to check out the bar. We weren’t even sure if it was open, I had seen some preview tweets, from the previous night, but on the off-chance we thought we’d give it a try. It was around 2pm and is it turned out, it was Dabbous’ first day of opening and first sitting. So naturally I spied @theskinnybib in ‘1st day blogging’ residence, I waved and the went downstairs with my friend for a drink.

    Dabbous basement bar

    Dabbous basement bar

     The interiors, were pretty stripped back, going for the stark industrial feeling… exposed walls, steel girders, pretty sexy wood finishes and furniture. I especially liked these seats, like 1930’s areoplane seats.

    Dabbous downstairs

    Dabbous downstairs

    Sat at the bar, quite boringly, we opted for soft drinks and decided to come back to peruse the cocktail menu on another occassion, when word had spread and we weren’t the only one’s propping it up.

    My friend had to dash back to work, but I snuck back to ‘theskinnybib’ and joined him as he moved onto the desserts in his Tasting menu. I ordered different dessert options, so that we could see a good cross section and taste each other’s selections.

    Cucumber and perilla in a chilled lemon verbana infusion

    Cucumber and perilla in a chilled lemon verbana infusion

    Barley flour soaked in red tea, Tahitian vanillla cream

    Barley flour soaked in red tea, Tahitian vanillla cream

    Fig Leaf Ice Cream (with edible twig)

    Fig Leaf Ice Cream (with edible twig)

    Choc and virgin olive oil ganache, basil moss, sheep milk ice cream

    Choc and virgin olive oil ganache, basil moss, sheep milk ice cream

    The portions were dainty ‘small plate’ sized, but executed lovingly on big pieces of slate or platter plates, not really conducive to sharing or multiple dishes for the small dining tables. The dishes were beautifully presented, absolute pieces of art and obviously attention to detail reaped (by the Exec Chef – Ollie), having had past residences at Le Manoir and Texture. The Waiter told us that the Chef wanted diners to be able to appreciate dishes at all prices from £4-£14 all created with the same attention to detail, great ingredients and presentation.

    Not knowing anything of the venue, I asked our waiter of what Dabbous was and it’s meaning… I hadn’t realised it was the Chef’s surname, even more surprising, was that he was British! Chef was promptly ushered out, by the Waiter. He was very humble and relaxed considering it was his first ‘proper’ day on the job with ‘paying customers’. I say paying with inverted comma’s as their BT line was down, so I had to leave my card details for payment. He apologised for this and told us that this day had taken a long time coming and was his dream coming true. He even enlightened us on his geese supply via TFL every morning via his producer’s wife on her daily commute in, from Essex. Quite charmed and relieved to hear our ingredients had a low carbon footprint, we finished up.

    I’ve marked this venue with a fine dining tick, as although I think the bar is great for casual drinks and definately dates, upstairs is a more refined offering. All in all, it was a pleasant afternoon. The service was charming (a few snags, but it was the first day and they’ll hopefully be ironed out). I love the interiors, obviously the stunning dish compilation and thought put into them.

    To view theskinnybib’s post, click here

    Address: 39 Whitfield St, WIT 2SF
    Website: http://www.dabbous.co.uk/
     
     

    Dabbous on Urbanspoon


  4. Hedone…Gastrophile’s Chiswick Delight

    December 24, 2011 by Dini

    Slow cooked hen egg, apricot, Scottish girolles

    Great ethos, but not for me…

    17th September 2011

    It seems that Hedone, based in the heart of surburban Chiswick, has had quite a love affair with critics, bloggers and gastrophiles. I stayed away intially as:

     1) Chiswick is quite a trek

    2) It looked on the pricey side and

    3) I really wasn’t sure it would be my cup of tea

    After some coercion I accompanied two of my ‘twitter’ food-loving friends to deepest, darkest Chiswick. I knew from reveiws, that Mikael Jonsson (Previous Blogger , now Restaurateur/Chef) used and sourced amazing produce and his execution was simple, allowing his ingredients to be the star. Not my cup of tea, as I’m not one for surprises, I like to know what I’m going to eat and what it consists of. Call me boring, but I am a little fussy and having the quirk of wanting to order what I want to eat, hence I rarely opt for ‘surprise’ tasting menus. A lack of a menu on the website, knowing that the Restaurants change menu based on produce availability (which I appreciate and herald as a great trait) and then cryptic descriptions made me twitchy… Alas, I’m trying in vain to be more ‘adventurous’, try more styles of cuisine, ingredients and so this was the perfect opportunity to embrace this.

    I’ll hold my hand up, I was late majorly late (by an hour). I apologised profusely to my dining cohorts and to the waiting staff. I’m sure neither were pleased, as this delayed service somewhat, it was quiet that Saturday and by the time we had finished, I’m sure service had meant to have been over.

    ***

    The Highlights:

    • True to form, the fresh, seasonal ingredients sung out loud, like Julie Andrews on the top of the Alps, in the Sound of Music
    • There were unique and original combinations that danced beautifully on the plate
    • I liked the fact, there were polar taste combinations, such as sweet and salty, testing my palate

    ***

    The Low Points:

    • I felt my sea-bass dish was partially under-cooked… this was declined by Chef, not even addressed by the Waiting staff until I asked and not replaced or taken off the bill… (Big disappointment!)
    • The waiting staff on the note above as well as when we asked questions, were pretty off-hand and elusive like they didn’t want to undo the cryptic menu descriptors
    • The decor wasn’t to my taste, bizzare ceiling print, with fish grafitti. My cohorts loved it, it was minimalist, but this is a small point, as for me, it’s the food that should take centre-stage

    ***

    One major advantage of dining with food-loving friends, is that you can all take the opportunity to order different things and then share/sample dishes between you. This is exactly what we did. We dined on the 3 courses for £30, as we were already late to start. I’m not sure if the Gougeres mentioned on the menu were given to my friends, whilst they were waiting for me, a mystery somewhat like this restaurant for me.

    Hedone has just won The National Restaurant Award’s ‘One to Watch’ (2011) and in 2012 they are looking to expand with a Wine bar, so I’m sure they will be lauded with more accolades. I value their ethos and I can understand why it ticks so many of diners’ boxes, but the brusque service and contrived taste combinations are a step too far for me.

     
    Hedone: 301-303 Chiswick High Road, W4 4HH 
    Telephone: 020 8747 0377
    Website: http://www.hedonerestaurant.com/Home.html

    Hedone on Urbanspoon


  5. Marcus Wareing’s The Gilbert Scott

    May 5, 2011 by Dini

     

     Brasserie Lunch Preview

    1st May 2011

     Amongst recent launches in London, The Gilbert Scott (TGS) nestled by the newly opened St Pancras Renaissance Hotel and eponymous of the architect is one restaurant, definitely on my list. I was delighted to be invited by TGS Team to preview the restaurant (for a significantly reduced price). My only down point is that I had to rush through the lunch with my family to then attend a birthday party, there-in I still managed a three-course meal and noticed I took longer than the ‘allocated’ two hour slot. I do hope they’re not too heavy handed with table turning; it’s so easy to wile away time there.

    The decor is stunning, lovingly restored, with respect to the original architecture. On arrival the bar welcomes you, where you’re welcome to sit and have cocktails and bar snacks. I actually spotted Marcus on arrival at the bar, so it was nice to see he’s there within at least the first few weeks before getting back to The Berkeley (his 2* Michelin restaurant). ‘Love’ him or ‘Hate’ him, I’ll allow Giles Coren to give you a guided tour of the restaurant (thanks lovefood.com).

    Service: Friendly, with the right amount of interaction. We were seated right at the back of the room, which was great for people watching. Alas, we weren’t honoured with some of the celeb-tastic preview diners that have recently been in Mr Fry, Mr Gervais and even Mr Law!  Service was sharp, staff knowledgeable in all areas and we even had a welcome from the very friendly Chantelle (GM).

    Bread: I tried the Dyet bread, which was made with fennel seeds and sage, quite a nice combination. My only bug bear was not having a resting bread plate, if only to be a saving grace from my major crumbs spillage.

    As there were three of us for lunch, we decided to order one course each and share, to see what all the dishes tasted like. This worked quite well, as dishes were easy to portion out.

    Starters: Dish 1 : Yorkshire Fish cake (Nicely flaky, nice contrast with the cucumber). Dish 2:  Brown & Forrest Salmon (which was beautifully cut salmon with a piquant caper butter. Dish 3:  The Dorset crab (which was beautiful and a lovely combination of textures with delicate crash meat).

    The Main Event: Dish 4:  The Queens Potage (visually stunning, the texture was good with pistachio crunch and pomegranate freshness). Dish 5: Soles in Coffins (I especially approved of use of potato skin for the crispy potato garnish, it made chuckle too). Dish 6: The Sea Bass Cullenskink, beautiful execution of both fish dishes, loved the crispy skin on fish. Our fish dishes were complimented by our sides of asparagus, spinach and colcannon. The colcannon was absolutely heavenly, I’m sure due to the amount of copious amounts of butter laced through it. Also on order was the Pease Pudding, (not my favourite), but I’m not generally a fan of split peas. I did also notice a couple of diners around us had opted for roast chicken to share (not for us as we wanted to try different dishes), however I was quite envious of the look of their crispy roast potatoes.

    Pudding: Usually the main event for my family, as we all have extremely sweet teeth, also knowing that Marcus Wareing’s stellar reputation for Patisserie.  Unlike Pollen Street Social, the Patisserie Kitchen isn’t really a seated dining offering. Instead, diners seated on tables close by can view the assembly of desserts and the gentle sound of the bell at the pass for dessert collection. We greedily ordered four desserts (knowing that the ‘specials’ – option of Custard Tart was a must, with the Great British Menu history in mind). Dish 7: Mrs Beeton’s Snow eggs (curiosity prevailed on this one); I guess the original inspiration from MrsB for in modern day, what we’d call as floating islands? Great texture, execution, especially the Everton Toffee inside the meringue – superb! Dish 8: The Orange Marmalade Jaffa cake was a deconstructed affair with bitter chocolate ganache in the centre and a delicious accompanying Earl Grey ice cream. Dish 9: The Lord Mayor’s Trifle was lovely; I liked the unusual combination (almost like a pina cola trifle, although obviously a whole lot classier).  Dish 10: The Custard Tart was our much anticipated finale. I liked the side of apple and rhubarb compote, slightly tart against the soft set of the custard. I prefer a bit more of a wobble to my tart, but I guess that’s subjective. Next time I think I’ll try the Manchester Tart, it sounds a bit like a banana trifle with pastry (yum!).

    Final Thoughts: I can really see TGS working well as a destination Brasserie for those who relish this sort of ‘British’ dining experience, as they have stalked to The Ivy, The Wolsley and even ‘Dinner’ to some extent. With the draw of Marcus Wareing and let’s face it, Kings Cross is crying out for great dining venues. The pricing is accommodating as you have some rich ingredients; actually very pleased you don’t appear to have any POA’s (as I keep seeing on other menus – so no surprises). It’s nice to see an English cheese board, and also inclusions of Polgoon and Camel Valley to the drinks list. By TGS offering all day and evening dining, I can see straight off, lots of different occasions that I’d pop in for. There’s no set lunch menu and budgeting may be tricky with so many delights to select from. However, there is an Early Supper menu (offered between 5.30-6.30pm, at £19 for 2 or £24 for 3 courses). I’m already looking forward to breakfast, likely to going live late in the Summer, hope they’ll be some interesting dishes harking back from the past and not just a traditional fry up.

    On leaving, I got to meet and thank Marcus for his hospitality, as he was by the Pastry Kitchen, which was a very nice touch to our dining experience. I liked experience of dining at TGS; the dishes are simple but well executed without ANY superfluous gimmickry.

    Be aware of: There is a £2 cover charge, 2 hour booking slot (standard as it would seem with Brasserie dining), Vegetarians have a few options at the moment, however the restaurant is flexible to work to your needs (more dishes will be included in time).

    Take time to: Explore TGS in its entirety; it’s such a beautiful venue, especially with an aperitif or digestif at the bar.

    The Gilbert Scott
    St Pancras Renaissance Hotel
    Euston Road
    London, NW1 2AR

    +44 207 278 3888
    http://www.thegilbertscott.co.uk/

     

    The Gilbert Scott on Urbanspoon

     


  6. Jason Atherton’s Pollen Street Social

    April 19, 2011 by Dini

    Opening Night @ Pollen St Social

    18th Apr 2011

     The excitement was at fever-pitch the week reservation lines went open for Pollen Street Social (PSS), similar to that of Heston’s ‘Dinner’.  They only seemed to be advertising the telephone reservations line and not the website booking system, why I don’t know to increase hype from engaged phone lines. I managed to get through and landed myself a table for the launch night. Fellow tweeps also declared their attendance, so I knew I’d be in good company. Excitement was also spurred on when the menu was posted on the website the weekend prior to opening, but without prices. Chat ensued ‘Wonder what would the prices be like’ and ‘Ooh, I recognise that from Maze’ etc.

    On arrival we each received some PSS Keys, a nice touch (we presumed for sort of gift on exit). The decor is light and airy with a very eclectic mix of ‘Art’. The restaurant has 4 different areas: tapas/cocktails bar, dining area, dessert bar and private dining downstairs. The dessert bar I find an interesting concept, which I’ve experienced in New York, Singapore and of course at William Curley’s (here in London). In some respects I wonder if it’s a Restaurateurs’ clever ruse for table turning in a polite manner. But, all the same as a fan of desserts, I love the idea and showcase of the concept.

    When seated I especially liked the little handbag stool brought over; thankfully I had my worthy enough ‘Julien MacDonald’ that night. The menu in the first week was hot, cold, mains and desserts. We were told that the restaurant concept was all about sharing dishes, so noted we ordered several dishes from all section to ‘share’. Not my favourite word unless of course I suffer from food envy and then I’m always willing to cheekily share. I guess it’s appropriate if you’re with a loved one, people you know well, but I’m not usually in the habit of dunking my egg with acquaintances or heaven forbid, had I been entertaining clients on business. Thankfully, Jason has reviewed this and has now halved and combined the original list of 16 hot/cold starters, of which a tasting menu could now be created. Most recently Jason helped judge the 2011 heats of  ‘The Great British Menu’ , the theme being sharing. I did have a little chuckle at this…fine words but a hard task to master indeed.

    I need to come back to try out the cocktail list, it’s immense, with a great feature on gin and ‘food-driven’ cocktails. On the night I had an aperitif of a ‘Ramos Gin Fizz’, it was pretty heavy, but taste wise, I could get the hints of mango milk and black olive caramel. On the food, I really can’t complain, the dishes that myself and my fellow two diners had were beautiful in presentation, well executed and a pleasure to eat. There were some stand-outs: The English Breakfast, The Aged Casterbridge Onglet and I have to say all the desserts we tried (of which we had 5!).

    The Dessert bar had only 6 seats available along the front (on the first night), however there were 2 on either of the sides, I don’t really know why these weren’t offered; instead of making us wait half an hour? In my opinion the only dish so far that grants ‘theatre’ is the Fruta Cru with dry ice. The other desserts are works of art, but more so watching gentle assembly, rather than being wowed by say molecular gastronomy.

    I popped into the kitchen to say ‘Hello’ to Jason, he seemed calm and collected, there seemed to be a relaxed vibe to the kitchen, not a pressure cooker at all. However, to add to Jason’s first night nerves, it was the night of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, so around 10pm the restaurant was awash with critics, PR’s and notable chefs such as T. Keller, D. Boulud and I. Chan. What amused me is that the restaurant was fully booked (praise to the PSS Team they took 5000 bookings on the first day) and these esteemed chefs had to plump for eating in the bar area.

    The first instance where I was ‘chef struck’ that night is having Alexis Gauthier dining right next to our table. I managed to corner him when I was exploring downstairs. Embarrassingly, I gushed as to how I was a fan and asked for his photo. I don’t know what came over me (the wine probably!). Worse still I had camera fail, he was amused and put me at ease, saying until recently he had the same camera. I told him that I was starting a blog and PSS would be one of my first posts, he wished me well and departed. Woe betide, I seemed to feature in his blog the next morning (I had no idea he kept one) he was critiquing the ‘me-first’ culture of bloggers and mentioned me. Somehow he had misunderstood, I was not attempting to be first to blog at all and it was merely supposed to be one of my first blogs. Hey ho, fame before publishing, so yes, it probably was ‘unsexy’ to ask him to pose by the meat ageing cabinet, and yes hopefully ‘I will learn’ – Thanks Alexis! I love the fact that he was in fact first to post, so watch out bloggers, chef’s are now out there too…

    The morning after was spent enjoying my ‘goody bag’ received on returning the key. A PSS tea bag and some lovely financiers, a nice touch indeed. I’m wishing Jason luck in his first solo restaurant, it’s great to see the Team taking feedback on board and making quick changes. There is great attention to detail and staff are so friendly in all manner of communications (phone, email, twitter), so will go back to see different menu changes and to sample a cocktail or two.

    Be aware of: Pricing can add up, if you wish to get a gist of the offering, try the set lunch menu, with some nice dishes created for it.

    Take time to: Explore the different areas of the restaurant and sit at the actual Dessert bar, probably the highlight for me, as it was nice to see and also peek into the kitchen from there too.

    Pollen Street Social
    10 Pollen Street
    London, W1S 1NQ
    020 7290 7600
    http://www.pollenstreetsocial.com/

    Pollen Street Social on Urbanspoon

     


  7. Heston Blumenthal’s ‘Dinner’

    February 21, 2011 by Dini

     Lunch at ‘Dinner’

    15th Feb 2011

     

    On the 1stof December 2010 when the reservation lines for Heston Blumenthal’s eagerly anticipated second restaurant opened, I was unfortunately sitting for my PostGrad Marketing exam. Thankfully, the prospect of not landing a prized table didn’t distract me and I happily passed and also managed to book a table for my Birthday. I went for lunch as I was conscious about fine dining pricing and yet thought of it as a first of many visits. Having never been to the Fat Duck (alas in Bray and never managing to master the reservations procedure), I was excited to celebrate and in between the weeks of opening to my visit, voraciously read every review and blog on it. Thereby, I knew the whole menu inside out before arrival. In some respects I regret this, as there were no surprises on the day and I knew exactly what was coming next. Amusingly enough, I also laughed at early diners mistaking the circa dating for calorie counts.

    I was graced by the lovely company of a fellow food-loving tweep @EmmaLDickinson. We shared all the selections: I opted for the set lunch and we both agreed on al-a carte dishes. As a birthday request I’d specifically asked to be seated by the windows, having an early slot, we were fortuitous to have good weather and a lovely seat.

    View of Hyde Park from 'Dinner'

    We met a couple of other twitter food lovers dining there and it was quite a sociable atmosphere. I realised later through reviews that within the first few months they weren’t turning tables, which is why we indulgently dined for five hours.

    Drinks:We started as we meant to go on with 2002 Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Brut Champagne (ok, we succumbed to good up selling).  To accompany our meal, we settled on a reasonably priced 2005 Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino, which complimented our meaty selections.

     

    Starters: Dish 1: Meat Fruit (c.1500) beautifully presented on a wooden board and the creamiest liver parfait imaginable. After all the hoo-ha about it, it just had to be done, and the hype is definitely worth it, executed in such a fun manner.

    Meat Fruit

    Dish 2: Ragoo of pigs ears (c.1750) delicately soft with an anchovy seasoning. Dish 3:  Rice and Flesh (c.1390) rich and creamy rice, deeply infused with saffron and calf tail.

    Mains: Dish 4: Roast quail (c.1590) served with amazingly smoked parsnips and thyme type. Dish 5: Spiced pigeon (c.1780) with an ale sauce and melt in the mouth artichokes and pomme puree.

    Triple cooked fries

    Dish 6: Triple cooked fries, infamous from Heston’s early TV appearance and now pretty much common place, I had to try the ‘originals’. Crispy, yes but I’m going to be controversial by saying that the best I’ve had to date were by the Young Turks @BurgerMonday, crispy from beef dripping but soft and fluffy on the inside!

    Desserts: Dish 7: Brown bread ice cream (c.1830) with salted butter caramel yeast syrup, with textured sprinklings.

    Brown Bread Ice Cream

    Dish 8: Chocolate wine (c.1710) with a Millionaire tart, strangely enough the strange descriptor sums it up, taking a red wine and pouring chocolate into it, the tart densely chocolately.

    Tipsy Cake with spit roast pineapple

    Dish 9: Tipsy cake (c.1810) like a billowy brioche concoction lovingly ladled in rum nestled with deliciously spit roasted pineapple; there were just enough hints of caramelised goodness. Spit photo courtesy of @theskinnybib (thank you).

    Pineapples on spit roast

    Dish 10: A complimentary amuse-bouche with a ‘Happy Birthday’ iced note. This was a delectable White chocolate and Earl Grey ganache, with condensed milk sweetness, moped up with crunch caraway seeded biscuits. We were shown the English cheese board, but already full, politely declined and opted for a selection of teas. I now know that Henrietta Lovell (@raretealady) assists in their sourcing and the rose bud tea was especially fragrant and beautiful.

    Earl Grey & White Chocolate Ganache with Carraway seed biscuit

    After our meal we couldn’t resist taking a peek around the restaurant and had the chance to thank Ashley Palmer-Watts (Executive Chef) for a wonderful meal and when the bill came along, I discovered also a complimentary meal and Champagne. This was very kind and a lovely Birthday gesture, I don’t know if it was the norm or because I had been tweeting Ashley (@APWChef),  for months in advance of my visit regarding Dinner. Either way, I was grateful that my bill had been halved, I still wished to split the bill of my accompanying diner and after all we had shared everything!

    The tour consisted of a look at the Chef’s Table and the Private Dining area which housed the Liquid Nitrogen ice-cream trolley, a treat solely for private dining initially, but perhaps to be rolled out when the second machine arrived.

    Overall my experience was everything that I hoped for, great fun, delicious food and an experience. The service were extremely friendly, one might even say ‘bouncing’ with joy, perhaps first month keenness. Now I’ve had all the dishes I really wanted to try, I’m waiting for something new before I visit again, although if they did takeaways of the Meat Fruit, I’d be their No1 customer. Afternoon Tea was mooted for the Summer, however it seems due to their own success and scheduling of service, this now seems low on the radar. A shame I quite fancied Heston’s ‘Fishy Tea’ as seen on his C4 Feast series.

    Be aware of: The ‘ouch’ effect of the bill, wine and dishes do add up (especially the POA ones)

    If you’re lucky: You can sit in the outdoor terrace area, in the sunshine, with a view of Hyde Park

    Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
    Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
    66 Knightsbridge
    London, SW1X 7LA
    +44(0)20 7201 3833
    http://www.dinnerbyheston.com/
     
     

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    contact me at: dinidolce@gmail.com


  8. Bob Bob Ricard’s Russian Lunch

    January 3, 2011 by Dini

    BBR Rhubarb G&T's

    My Glamorous Russian Prixe Fixe

    Dec 2010

    On a rainy December lunch-time, I decided glitz and glamour was in order, so I joined some fellow twitter food-lovers at the Soho restaurant, Bob Bob Ricard. On entering, I was not disappointed the decor was like entering a grandiose palace, with stunning fixtures and fittings. As a fan of the colours, gold and turquoise, I was in my element, David Collins (Interiors Designer) certainly won me over.

    First off we started with a round of cocktails, well we were getting into the Christmas spirit. I have to confess at this point, Management had been alerted to our booking, due to my ’blogger’ dining guests, Richard (Co-Owner) graciously sent us some complimentary items, to get our dining off to a bang! Then complimentary cocktails of the house Rhubarb Gin & Tonic arrived. This was a delectable drink and probably my favourite of
    the cocktails, because the gin allowed the fresh rhubarb to shine, in the simple drink composition.

    Next off we received a complimentary Russian Salad, topped with shavings of Black Truffle, accompanied by a 25cl glass of Kauffman luxury vintage vodka 2008. The vodka came in a dainty cut crystal glass, that had frosted over due to the cold serve at -18 degrees. Paying attention to chill the vodka made such a difference in tasting the quality of it and it’s combination with the creamy salad and melt in the mouth truffle.

    Russian Salad with shaved Black Truffle & Kauffman's Vodka

    Russian Salad with shaved Black Truffle & Kauffman's Vodka

    For my paid element, I opted for a two-course Prixe Fixe menu, seeing we’d already had a starter course. As a ‘Burger-holic’ I selected the BBR Scotch Beef Burger (traditionally a cheese-burger, but I’m not a fan of cheese on my burgers so opted out. However, I’ll report that one can have an option of either Danegeld Cheddar or Kraft Cheese). Alongside this, I had fries and coleslaw… however we shared each other’s side dishes to get a taste.

    BBR Scotch Burger

    BBR Scotch Burger

    For my own personal preference, my burger was a little too charred for my liking, but the taste was superb, juicy and great quality meat. I especially liked the fries served in cute BBR boxes. The majority of service-ware and trims had the BBR insignia, a nice touch.

    BBR Scotch Burger & Sides

    BBR Burger & Sides

    For dessert, I had 3 scoops of ice-cream (Peanut butter/banana, Valrhona chocolate & Salted caramel). My favourite of the flavours was the chocolate, rich and dreamy. The other two, were full of promise in flavour descriptor, but for me failed to deliver. A little ironic that the items, I recieved that were complimentary, were superb, but those I selected and paid for myself, lack-lustre – perhaps my poor choices.

    I especially like the touches such as the ‘Champagne Button’ in each of the booths, it’s such a whimsical notion, to summon a waiter on request, just for Champagne – but why not? My favourite spot of all, was actually detailing in the wine menu… they cheekily do a wine price comparison in pricing, against Michelin starred restaurants…

    A cheeky wine comparison:

    Chateux Margaux 1st Cru Classe, 1985 – £575

    This wine is £1500 at Corrigan’s Mayfair

    Bob Bob Ricard delivers with bags of confidence. If you want a feast for the eyes, this is definitely a place to come, for the decor, people-watching and beautiful dishes. I didn’t get my burger or ice-cream to my taste, but I’ll let this go, as the service and vibe was spot-on.

    Bobby’s Bar alas was closed when we waddled off, however I have been back and definitely recommend the Rhubarb G&T (now a staple in my London drinking tipple’s). With a ‘clear’ Bloody Mary named after the supermodel Natalie Vodianova, you know this is going to be a high glamour and glossy venue.

    My photo’s don’t do justice to the opulence and beauty of this establishment, so I’m going to guide you to the excellent @paulwf’s shots.

     
    Bob Bob Ricard
    1 Upper James Street, London, W1F 9DF
    0203 145 1000
    http://www.bobbobricard.com/

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