DAL PESCATORE , ITALY – Use your camera if you dare.

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Following on from dinner at Osteria Francescana on the Saturday evening we thought it would be a good idea to stop off for a nice traditional Italian Sunday lunch on our way back to Milan airport. Unfortunate news for our wallets however, the 3 Michelin starred Dal Pescatore Santini happened to be on our drive back up North.

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The restaurant is in the middle of nowhere basically, it`s situated right in the heart of the Italian countryside in a small village called Runate (about 10 houses), Canneto sull`Oglio. Roughly equidistant between Modena and Milan. Sat Nav will literally take you to the front doorstep  so that`s easily the best way to find the place .

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The restaurant  opened in 1925 and has remained in Santini family hands  for 89 years.The food at Dal Pescatore is traditional Italian family cooking so don`t come here expecting high end modern gastronomy as it`s simple country food cooked to 3 star standards.The Chefs are Nadia , Giovanni and Bruna Santini and if they are working then you can guarantee they will be out to meet you with big smiles and warm Italian welcomes. Come to Dal Pescatore if you`re wanting to experience authentic and fresh seasonal ingredients prepared and cooked with love and care. Dal Pescatore comes with a fantastic pedigree and has had it`s 3 Michelin stars since 1996. It was also voted into 48th position on the San Pellegrino list of the Worlds top 50 restaurants 2009. ( Number 90 in the 2014 guide). Nadia Santini was also awarded the best female chef in the world 2013….quite a feat.

One thing i have to mention is the “No photography” request at the restaurant. Now i really have no idea why this is, especially in this modern day and age….BUT  “No cameras allowed” is clearly stated at the booking stage. Does my Samsung Galaxy S5 actually count ? At the end of the day It`s a mobile phone.

My travelling and dining buddy for the weekend was Kevin ,finedining explorer. Kevin was actually starting to get panicky at my constant whinging  almost to the point of choosing another place to eat in.
” Now please tell me you`re not gonna try and take photos in there Alan” .- Kevin actually sounded concerned. Once i had agreed not to take my camera Kevin contacted the restaurant to confirm our booking. What Kevin didn`t know was that i had my fingers crossed at the time so my promise to him didn`t really count.
I left my little Panasonic Lumix in the car and slipped my Galaxy S5 into my pocket. Sixty photos later here`s my trip report from Dal Pescatore.
( Please note that i was in no way rebellious or obstructive , just plain sneaky. The photos as you will see are “mobile phone” quality and would have been much much better had i been allowed to use my lovely little Lumix.)

We chose to have the Menu d` Estate which was the restaurants 10 course tasting menu. The bill came to £400 inclusive of a half bottle of wine and 2 glasses of Prosecco.

       Lunch started with traditional Canapes and quality Parmigiano Reggiano.

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Terrine of Tomatoes and Fresh Basil tips , Basil oil and Balsamico.

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Terrine of Lobster with Royal Oscietra Caviar.

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Tortellini of Pumpkin , Amaretti , Mostarda , Nutmeg , Cinnamon and Parmigiano Reggiano , a classic dish of the restaurant.

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Risotto using the finest Vialone Nano Rice , Porcini mushrooms, Peas and Asparagus.

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Anguilla alla Griglia. ( Grilled Eel ) with Radicchio.

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Duck breast with Aceto Balsamico and traditional Mostarda di frutta.

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Italian Cheese selection.

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Chestnut cream with meringue and Zabaglione.

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Brandy snap biscuits.

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Selection of Dal Pescatore Petits fours.

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The Cottage in the Wood ( 2 )

P1120267A Tuesday evening return trip to `The Cottage in the Wood` , Braithwaite in the heart of the English Lake district. I decided to go for the a la carte this time as the Summer Tasting menu was still running from my last visit in April. Warm welcomes and friendly smiles all around set the standard as soon as i entered the restaurant. It`s good to see smiles and it put me in a great mood from the off.
There`s two choices at dinner here. The first choice is the 8 courseTasting menu which apparently will be changing with the seasons. This menu is currently running at £ 60. The a la carte menu offers a second choice at £45 for 3 courses and consists of 4 starters , 4 mains , 4 desserts. Not a great deal of choice but with a small team operating out of a tiny kitchen and putting quality food on the plates then this is totally understandable.
The head chef young Chris Archer is now settled in and it`s obvious that his previous employers have carved him into a bit of a perfectionist in the kitchen. As i mentioned in my last Cottage post ( HERE ) Chris comes with a good C.V having worked at Midsummer house , Winterningham fields and Yorke arms…enough said….On with the food.

     Canapes

THE COTTAGE IN THE WOOD

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Strawberry Gazpacho with Black pudding and Croutons

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Cottage in the Wood Sourdough and Wholemeal Breads.

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Cured Local Salmon – Yorkshire Asparagus, Almond , Olive , Apple

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Cartmel Valley Duck Terrine – Apricot-Vanilla, Pistachio

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                              Seared Scallop – Satay, Radish, Lime

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                               West Coast Crab – ‘Caesar salad’

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Herdwick Hogget – Curthwaite Goats curd, Artichoke , Courgette, Basil

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Whitehaven Turbot – Roasted Cauliflower, Wild Asparagus, Girolles, Mussel nage

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Lorton Lop Pork - Black pudding, Cider glazed Potato confit, Carrot-mustard

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Trifle – Jefferson’s Rum, Mango, Mint

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Mint Panna Cotta – Raspberry textures,  Pink Ginger, Almond

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Apricot Delice  – Poached Apricot , Lemon curd , Earl grey

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Palet D’Or – Carvetii Coffee aerated Chocolate Hazelnut

P1120322 So to sum Cottage in the Wood up on my second visit, it`s much the same as my first time there. A stunning location in the heart of the Lake district National park and an amazing escape from the perils of city life. A `must go to` destination for lovers of nature , walking , photography , food and basically lovers in general. Great service from genuinely nice people. A small but well thought out and reasonably priced wine selection with some nice wines available by the glass. The food – well i think the photos speak for themselves really. I would have liked to have seen more choice and some new dishes on the a la carte but what`s on there is all faultless, very well cooked and presented.
Only one negative ( for me ) and that`s the same as my last visit ……Cmon guys , and get some Wild food on to those plates.The forest is alive and it`s right outside the front door ,  it`s like walking into a Wild Supermarket. Chris….I`ll get you a foraging book for Chrimbo.
For those on a budget then there`s a very well priced  lunch menu on , 2 starters , 2 mains , 2 desserts at  £20.95  for 2 courses and £25.95 for 3 courses….No excuse not to go really.

To view all of the photos from dinner please CLICK HERE

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“Let`s do Frogs” – Dinner at Osteria Francescana.

P1110973I remember a crazy day quite a while ago , a bit of a mad moment when i made a 350 mile trip down to London and back home again just to eat lunch at Marco Pierre Whites restaurant in Knightsbridge. Since then i`ve obviously grown older and much dafter and regularly make the same journey down to the bright lights for food….it`s the norm now and a 700 mile round trip for lunch doesn`t seem that crazy any more. However, a 2,500 mile trip just for dinner definitely does sound like the actions of a mad man. My reason for undertaking this crazy adventure –  Massimo Bottura and his Michelin 3 star restaurant Osteria Francescana in Modena.
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Any Masterchef fans out there will have seen the finalists heading over to Italy to spend time in the kitchens of Osteria Francescana. I remember sitting at home watching the programme totally transfixed on my T.V. ….What an amazing man this is, I thought to myself. I always thought Michel Roux jnr was the nicest guy in the business but Massimo Hypnotised me . He Oozed passion and creativity. He welcomed the contestants into his kitchen like his own children .His words and encouragement were magical and the contestants were totally won over by Massimos spell… and so was i. I simply had to go to Italy , meet the guy and experience this magic for myself.
A 3 hour car journey from Whitehaven, a 2 hour plane journey to Bologna and then straight into a little Fiat Panda hire car. O…M…G… they drive like lunatics here. 5 lanes of motorway on the wrong side of the road in a left hand drive car….total bloody madness. I arrived a short while later in the sleepy medieval town of Modena….Ahhhhhhh , peace and quiet , my heart was pounding from that little journey ….and yes, they  really do drive like nutters so be warned.
At this point i should really give my B&B a mention and for anyone travelling here to eat at Osteria francescana then this place is perfect. There`s only 2 rooms but the effort that the Italian family have gone to is absolutely amazing. The B&B is dead centre of the old part of the city and 4 minutes walk from the restaurant….perfect. I don`t need to mention anything more , just take a look at the photos. 95 Euros a night for a double room inclusive of breakfast. Click here

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P1110943Massimo grew up in Modena in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. He expressed an interest in cooking from a very early age.Massimo then worked in a number of restaurants building the foundations of his classic Italian roots before working with Alain Ducasse at Louis XV in Monte carlo. This was followed by a summer at El Bulli with Ferran Adria, which encouraged him to push boundaries and re-write rules with his cuisine. In 1995 Massimo opened Osteria Francescana in the medieval city centre of Modena. The restaurant would marry culinary tradition and innovation with contemporary art and design. In 2012, shortly after Osteria Francescana was awarded its third Michelin star.

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I met up with a friend from London ( finediningexplorer ) , another food fanatic who had kindly arranged the restaurant reservation for the pair of us. When we arrived at the restaurant the first person we set eyes upon was Massimo fooling around in the back street with the chefs. Without a seconds hesitation he was straight over , all smiles and laughter with big hugs all around…what a guy, he`s the most likeable bloke on the planet …and nuttier than a xmas fruitcake. He explained what he was going to cook for us , it would be a 15 course combination of his classic dishes and his new dishes in progress. Every course was described in detail to us , this guy loves his food like no other.

” Is that enough food for you guys ” ? Massimo turned and headed to the kitchen before spinning around and heading straight back over to our table….. ” You guys like Frogs ”  ? ……. ” Let`s do Frogs ” and in a flash , he was gone.

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P1110978Massimo`s interpretation of “Lemoncello” –  Lemoncello Granita bottom topped with a hot Lemon foam top. A play with temperature contrast.P1110983“Fish & Chips”. Local river fish ( Aula ) is sandwiched inside a bed of delicate ultra crispy Potato base topped with a quenelle of  savoury Carpione ice cream.The Carpione has a little twist in the name , referring to the fish “Carp”  and “Soused ” ( pickled in a spiced Vinegar ) , a traditional way to preserve fish with Vinaigrette and Herbs.P1110986Bread: Sourdough, Rye Bread, multigrain croissant

P1110988“Oyster in the woods” – This idea comes from the myth of Oysters in the Adriatic Sea which for a fact `do not exist`. Ok….so if there`s Oysters in the Adriatic then there`s also Oysters in the local Woods. This dish consisted of a Raw Oyster in light broth of Oysters and herbs with Horse radish. We were given a small shot glass of `Genziana` to drink with this course. It had a very Herbal / early morning `damp woods` smell to it….very unusual but very interesting and it had us both snorting away with noses in the glass like crazy Truffle Pigs.

P1120001P1110994This dish is called  “Eel swimming up the Po River” and is one of Osteria Francescana`s signature classics. The Po is the most important river in Italy passing through many regions. Here on the plate the Eel is accompanied with Polenta and a Green Apple extraction representing the produce of two of the regions that the Eel passes through during its journey from the Sargasso sea. The Eel is first cooked `sous vide` before being grilled and laquered with repeated layers of Saba (Made from residues of balsamic vinegar) sauce and sprinkled with the “Powder of the canal” ( burnt Onion powder ). The Eel itself was very delicate and had just enough fat giving it a nice richness.
P1120011East meets West – Pasta with a filling of Sausage, Lemon peel and Shrimp, accompanied by Lentils and a spiced Meat sauce.P1120019

P1120029“A Red mullet hiding in the Rockpool “. The fish is Camouflaged using a Powder of Tomato, Green Olive and Black Olive on the crispy skin.The sauce was packed with flavours of intense Tomato and lots of Fish and Crustacean inspired by a traditional Toscana Fish Soup.

P1120048P1120037A Tribute to a Thelonious monk – Using a Black and White theme resembling a Piano key. The fillet of Cod was poached for 20min at a low heat to get the firm texture without overlooking it. The Cod skin was Crispy and coated in Sea Urchin ash. The Squid ink broth was made with Katsuobushi (Japanese dried Bonito flake based stock with good Umami). Vegetable Spaghetti (Celery, Carrot, Daikon) at the bottom.
P1120068Caesar salad –  A Simple lettuce arrived on the plate…or so we thought. Hidden inside were 22 other ingredients.Parmesan, Crouton, Pumpkin seeds, Mustard seeds, Sesame, Bacon, Egg, Dill, Balsamic, Herbs and more.

P1120086P1120077P1120091Remember as a child , everyone wanted the “Burnt part of the Lasagna” ? Here at Osteria Francescana Thin Pasta sheets were fried with Parmigiano, Bechamel and Ragu… but without Tomato.

P1120098” Frogs in the Pond ”  – Toasted Frog legs in Bread and Herb crumbs. Underneath a thin pasta was a tasting of Pine Nut, Hazelnut, diced vegetable and mushroom including a black Truffle. Coffee sauce.

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P1120113“Deer hunting” – This dish recreates a brutal hunting scene surrounded by beautiful Roses and a Sauce of Foie gras, Venison and Blueberry.

P1120121P1120122P1120131P1120133Pre dessert – Reinventing how Risotto is cooked. The juice is extracted from Olive, Tomato, etc and the Vialone Nano Rice is roasted before adding the juices.No Cream , no Garlic, just a touch of olive oil at the end to form an emulsion. The Rice was cooked al dente with a wonderful balance of savoury and acidity. I closed my eyes – it was a Green Tomato salad.These are the “flavours of Italy” , the sweetness of the Green Tomato was lovely, so intense that it even resembled sweet citrus sauce. Slices of Suckling Pigs head hid underneath the Rice and just melted in the mouth.

20140621_230610P1120141P1120142Croccantino of Foie Gras with aged Balsamic Vinegar heart. (Magnum lollypop) Foie gras on a stick coated with crushed Hazelnuts and Almonds. A 50 year old Balsamic vinegar had also been carefully concealed within the lollipop centre which was very intense sweet , sour and very complex. A most unusual stick of ice cream.

P1120150P1120158osteria francescana“Think Green” –  Milk ice cream, Green Pea mousse , Meringue and Strawberry sorbet. Rather an odd combination of Peas and Strawberries which I really couldn`t get my head around.

P1120170The final course was Osteria Francescana’s world-famous dessert called “Oops! I dropped the Lemon tart”. A carefully constructed dish, made to look like someone had dropped the Lemon dessert and served on a specially designed plate. On the plate are small cubes of candied Lemon, Bergamot jelly, Spiced Apple, a few drops of Chilli and Lemon oil, salted and Honeyed Capers. Then a light and foamy, Lemon and Limoncello Marscapone Sabayon is splashed over these ingredients, on to which a Lemongrass sorbet and a broken biscuit are placed. A fabulous dish with a strong sense of theatre, but also a surprising, fastidious attention to detail.

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              Petits Fours….Cmon , how could we refuse ?

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So the BIG question….. Was it worth it ?  All that driving  –  Cumbria , Manchester , Bologna , Modena , Bergamo , Milan. Flying into one Italian airport and back from another 200km away.  Well , tell you what….. I`d go back tomorrow….but only on one condition. Massimo needs to be there. He makes the place come alive , he transfers his passion to the diner both  visually and verbally.  Massimo is the magic behind this business so i`ll certainly be making sure he`s going to be there on my return visit. He`s a very busy guy who travels the world so i feel very blessed that i had the `full on` experience as it should be.
We were each given a little going away gift from Massimo. It was a bottle of his own family produced  and  very special  Balsamico.  The following evening  i checked Twitter and seen that  it had won a competition that same afternoon…. ” The Best Balsamic vinegar in Italy” …..It`s now sitting in my kitchen like a little bottle of liquid Gold….Another Happy customer.

Ohhhhhhh …..I`ve just realised something. –  Massimo added an extra to the menu which never appeared ” The Potato that wants to be a Truffle ” , it`s a dish on the classics menu…That`s it , a perfect reason to go back again  hee hee.

 

TO VIEW ALL OF THE PHOTOS FROM DINNER  PLEASE CLICK HERE.

TO VISIT OSTERIA FRANCESCANA WEBSITE AND MENUS PLEASE

CLICK HERE

The French Alps in June…Still Skiable.

20140621_122740    20140621_171521 (2) 20140621_172007 20140621_172858 - Copy 20140621_173349 20140621_173921 Ooops a Daisy…..I dropped the Lemon tart.        osteria francescana              P1110977        This was an amazing demonstration of how to make the most wonderfully refreshing drink using literally ” 2 drops ” of Genziana liquor. First of all the glass was filled with ice. Then pristine quality aromatic herbs were added to the empty glasses from the kitchen supplies. 2 drops of Genziana were then added to each glass and topped up with “Gazzos” an ultra refreshing mineral water with Amalfi Lemons….OMG….what an amazing drink. You have to try this during a meal at the restaurant.           P1120034 P1120036       P1120058 P1120065P1110990

Janice Wong – 2am Dessert bar ,Singapore.

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For those of you like myself who crave the sweeter things in life then this is the place for you. I had two reasons to go to Singapore. One was to eat at Waku Ghin and the other was to eat every dessert at Janice Wongs 2am dessert bar. I contacted Janice before my trip and arranged a ” Dessert Tasting Menu “, a first for me. Nothing savoury at all , only sweet treats – and dessert Wine of course.

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For those of you that don`t know Janice Wong , she`s only  the `best pastry chef in Asia` . Now Asia is one hell of a big place with an awful lot of restaurants so the girl is pretty good with the sweet stuff. For the last two years Janice has been awarded the number 1 slot by San Pellegrino making her the undisputed Queen of the dessert scene. This has resulted in Books , TV shows and a non stop crazy schedule travelling the globe.

Janice originally graduated with a degree in Economics but diverted for some reason to studying with some of the Wolds great Chefs. Thomas Keller of The French Laundry and Grant Achatz from Alinea offered Janice their knowledge in the USA whilst the God of Pastry Pierre Herme  passed on his skills in France. Not a bad start eh ?

2am Dessert bar opened in Singapores Holland Village in 2007 and does what it says on the tin….Desserts and cocktails until two in the morning.There`s a seated bar area for those who want to be nosey ( me ). There`s also White Leather `Beds` to lie back on and totally Chill whilst you enjoy the delights.

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The 2am bar isn`t easy to find either so set off early. My Taxi driver didn`t know where to go to and i also asked in a couple of shops within the complex and they didn`t know of the place either. Basically get a taxi to Holland village and its directly behind the food complex on the street to the rear.

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I was very blessed to have Janice behind the counter during my visit to oversee the show. I was thrilled even more when i discovered that i would also have my own `one to one`pastry chef creating my sweet delights while i sat and watched and took on board a whole lot of tips for my own cooking. Spanish pastry chef Carmen Rueda  had recently started working at 2am dessert bar…..Straight from heading up the pastry section at Heston Blumenthals Fat Duck restaurant  OMG , How good is this meal going to be ? Had i died and transgressed over into Sweet heaven ? So on with the show and my quest to eat all of Janices Desserts on tonights menu.P1100821Popcorn  – Sweet and Salty, Yuzu , Passion fruit Sorbet. This is one of the signature desserts that never come off the menu. Popcorn mousses , both sweet and savoury accompanied with a tangy Passionfruit sorbet.

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Shades of Purple  - Purple Potato puree, Blackberry parfait, Leather, Lavender Marshmallows, Fruits of the forest Sorbet – A sweet delight of everything Purple.

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Shades of Green – Pistachio sponge, Coco mousse, Pandan Gula Melaka Custard

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Mediterranean – White Peach sorbet , Hazelnut sponge , Olive oil ganache , Rosemary air.

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Red Miso Caramel  – Mustard crumble, Miso Yuzu Lemon foam, Mustard, Yuzu Meringue – My only thumbs down of the night. I`m sure there are many who delight at eating this `dessert` but for me the savoury flavours weren`t my thing….. I still cleaned the plate totally.

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Basil White Chocolate – Seagrapes, Passionfruit fluff, Pastilles, Coconut sorbet – This one stood head and shoulders above the others as my favourite. Eating a combination of everything together had a little of the Janice Wong magic on the spoon. The Seagrapes ( or Green Caviar )  A Seaweed from Japan and the Philippines  turned this dessert into something very special.

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Kayambe H20 Chocolate  – 72% Dark  Michel Cluizel Chocolate , Salted Caramel mousse  , Evian , Yuzu sorbet. –  Chocolate , Caramel and Lemon…. It simply works perfectly.

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Tiramisu – Kahlua Jelly, Espresso Ice CreamP1100904

Chocolate Tart  with a Blood Orange sorbet.P1100919Hot Chocolate - Served with home made Churros                 P1100838I was struggling badly at this stage so nibbled on my little sweet treats , quietly paid the bill , said my goodbyes and headed straight to bed. 2am dessert bar is highly recommended for anyone  heading to Singapore with a sweet tooth and looking for a treat with a difference. I love the place.                       P1100910          To view more photos from my 2am Dessert bar menu please CLICK HERE.

To follow Janice Wong on Twitter please  CLICK HERE

WAKU GHIN – Singapore , A long journey to eat dinner.

 

P1110322 - CopyRestaurant  Waku Ghin , Number 7 on the list of Asia`s best restaurants , Number 50 in the World  2014  and the Singapore base of Japanese chef  Tetsuya Wakuda,  a bit of a shining star of Japanese cuisine and media. The only reason I went to Singapore was to eat here so i was expecting big things and to be honest the `Meal of a lifetime`.The restaurant is situated within Singapore`s Marina Bay Sands hotel which nowadays is the country`s most identifiable landmark…..think of Singapore and you immediately connect with the triple towers and the swimming pool table top. The cost of this complex was “8 Billion” Singapore dollars.                                                                              P1110189

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P1110244The restaurant itself is a bit of a strange place to get to so allow plenty of time if you`re going. Its on the first floor above the huge casino. I tried to get in via the casino but was politely turned away as i didn`t have my passport. I was sent through the exclusive shopping mall , up a lift and onto a totally deserted floor where i had to scout around before spotting the Waku Ghin restaurant sign.

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              The Marina Bay Sands Casino –  1,600  Slot machines and 500 Gaming tables.

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When i arrived i was the only diner in the restaurant. It got a little busier throughout the evening but generally i found the atmoshpere to be a bit awkward. No music…only silence.

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Waku Ghin  ( Spring forth and Arise  / Silver ) interior is split into various small rooms, each containing a set of seats and a counter housing an immaculate griddle. The restaurant where i was dining only had 5 counter seats so that was 5 of us dining on the early sitting. The other two couples arrived shortly after i had been seated , both couples arrived and sat in silence.It was bloody awkward to say the least .I chose not to drink wine as the prices were bordering on plain silly so i went for a cold Tiger Beer at $16 (£7.60)  and a bottle of mineral water at $20 (£9.50) Justify that if you can. This was the view from my seat in front and behind…..So apart from the shopping mall behind me I had a nice wall to look at.

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And so the meal began – The young Asian chef brought in a wooden box of the wonderful seafood which he would be preparing for our meal.Now as far as fresh goes then this lot looked as though it had jumped out of the water and into the box seconds before its dramatic entrance.Obviously this was what we were paying the extremely high prices for , it was indeed  the Worlds finest ingredients put together on to an amazing menu. All the food at Waku ghin is simple and cooked at a very basic level. The whole philosophy is to use as little ingredients as possible to allow the star attraction to shine. Chef informed me that they try to use only 3 to 4 ingredients in each dish. (Note that we didn`t actually get the ingredients in the box , No Ocean trout , No Scallops , No Snapper ,  No John Dory , No Oysters , No Langoustines on our menu so no idea who was eating that lot )

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P1100963The cost of a meal at Waku Ghin is $ 400  per person ( £ 190 ). It`s as mind blowing as some of the totally ridiculous prices in the Parisienne 3 star restaurants. I tried hard to justify paying this for a meal and after considering where i was eating , the sheer expense that had gone into the project and the worlds best products flown in virtually alive and kicking then i kind of reasoned with myself what i was paying for. Alaska , Australia , Russia , Japan , Italy , Canada and  Scotland….best not start discussing Carbon footprints here.

Carpaccio of Halibut with Bitter  leaf Salad. –  Introduced by our server as  ” Flounder fish ” we were given wafer thin raw slices on a lightly dressed set  of  salad leaves. I`m not a big lover of uncooked fish so it didn`t do a lot for me.

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Marinated Botan Shrimp with Sea Urchin and Oscietra Caviar. – The star of the show and Waku Ghins signature dish. Raw sweet Shrimp and Sea Urchin topped with the finest  grade  Caviar.

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Grilled Anago  with Foie Gras , Confit of Zucchini and Sanshou.  –  Anago is the Japanese name for a Marine  Eel ( Conger eel ) . They`re widely eaten in Japan and have a really soft texture and sweet flesh. Sanshou is an essential ingredient in Japanese cooking and is the dried fruit of this Japanese Sansho Citrus tree. The fish was grilled and then sat on top of  seared Foie gras. Anything that involves Foie gras is good for me so this one got the thumbs up.

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Steamed Alaskan King Crab leg  with Lemon and Lime  scented Extra virgin Olive Oil. –  The Crab leg was split and then steamed  under a cloche on a bed of Sea Salt . Soft  , Sweet and very delicate Crab meat. Nothing else…..Just Crab meat.

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A bed of sea salt was carefully prepared on the grill.The Crab legs were then laid on to the Salt and water added to produce steam. The Cloche was placed over the legs for a perfectly precise time to ensure they were cooked to perfection.

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Tasmanian Abalone with Trofie and Tomatoes.  – Very basic once again , “Trofie” hand rolled Pasta from Genova , Italy paired up with sweet Tomatoes and Grilled Abalone…my first eperience of this super expensive Shellfish. Previous meals at Waku Ghin ( as seen on youtube and various blogs ) have had the Abalone cooked at the table ( one per guest ). Obviously they were a bit thin on the seabed  ( or cost cutting ) so this dish was prepped in the kitchens and sent out already plated up…..with a few slices each of Abalone. The Pasta was beautiful with the Tomatoes but the Abalone was merely a texture with very little flavour……disappointing.
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Braised Canadian Lobster with Tarragon. –  Cooked in a saute pan in front of us. Perfectly cooked , sweet and very delicate flesh but the flavour of the fresh Tarragon added at the end of cooking dominated the dish totally.

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Ahhhhhh , Now this bit was great. Freshly baked White Bread to mop up every bit of sauce .Totally clean plates were the satisfying result.

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It was at this stage of the meal that i expected to be served my  Tasmanian Grass fed tenderloin of Beef  course…..It never appeared. Cost cutting again  ? A full main course taken off a $400 dollar menu.

Japanese Ohmi  A5 Wagyu  Beef from Shiga Prefecture , Wasabi and Citrus Soy.  Citrus Ponzu , White Daikon

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Ok , so here is my first real experince of the Worlds finest Beef ,  Ohmi Wagyu from Shiga prefecture in Japan….The most pampered Cows on the planet.  The cost of this Beef is astronomical so surely it had to be mind blowing. I seen this on the menu in a Bangkok restaurant at  £165 for a 400g steak…..One steak. The Beef is extremely rare with select farms processing very limited numbers of Cows each year. As far as the daily massages and the diet of Beer goes, this is stuff of western tales , it doesn`t happen. The beasts are fed a diet of fermented forage and live in stress free conditions in comfortable deep straw barns. The condition of the Beef is all down to the breed and the pampered lifestyle.

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The Beef is known for its unique Marbled , ” Butter soft”  teture and apparently its “incredible” taste. Chef informed me that it was so rich that i wouldn`t be able to eat it without its accompaniment  “Wasabi”. Surely this `extreme` flavour would totally dominate and ruin the flavour of the Beef ?   I was informed  “Quite the opposite”.  The fresh  Wasabi root was grated at the table on a Sharkskin grater and Chef advised me to eat the Beef and Wasabi together to enjoy their complimentary flavours.

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The Beef was cut into two equal pieces and i added the Wasabi as instructed…..What did i get ?  “Beef and Wasabi with a mild sinus rush”. It was tender enough as it was sliced so thinly as not to be but  “Ermmmm…..Excuse me but how much did you say this was”  ?
On to my second and final piece with added Garlic chips….. `Beef with Garlicky Wasabi`. I think I`d best move on here….Not impressed.My first experience of Ohmi Wagyu , the Worlds finest Beef wasn`t a good one.

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Fresh Somen noodles with Myoga and Junsai. –  Another first for me and probably the last as well. A small bowl of freshly made noodles in a cold stock containing Myoga and Junsai. Myoga being the buds of a Japanese Ginger plant whilst the Junsai can best be described as the “Mucus covered buds from the underside of Lillies.

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Gyokuro Green Tea  –  Well this is apparently the finest  and most expensive of Green teas on the planet so yet again  another great opportunity to try a new experience for the first ( and last ) time. The Tea is from Japan and actually grown in the shade for the last 3 weeks before harvesting. The shade causes the amino acids in the plant to increase and in turn develop a sweet flavour.After meticulous preparation ,  pouring and temperature testing the tea was finally poured and it was time to taste the Worlds best Green tea…..Seaweed…….it tasted of bloody Seaweed  for Petes sake…. Give me a hot cup of Yorkshires finest any day of the week.

P1110123P1110136Japanese Musk Melon   –  At this stage of the meal i was ushered from the dining room to the lounge overlooking Marina Bay , this is where i would be served my sweet treats….always my favourite part of the meal. The first dessert to arrive swiftly landed in front of me….  A slice of Melon. No , I`m not joking…..  A slice of Melon. Nothing like a good pastry chef on board to show off a lifetime of finely honed skills is there ?. The  “Melon ” was carefully cut into little slices so i could eat it with a fork….At  this point of the meal i was looking around the room to see if i was being filmed…… This has got to be a joke , surely ?
So in a nutshell i`m eating Japanese “Musk” Melon , once again a World class product. Grown by specialists with an exquisite attention to detail and care .Perfect seeds , cultivation and pruning resulting in one Melon per plant .Brushed daily by hand  which in turn comes with an eye watering price tag of between 50 and 100 dollars in Japanese supermarkets. At the end of the day it was a slice of ripe , sweet Melon. I would never expect to be served this in a World class restaurant charging $ 400 dollars for a meal.

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The final chapter of the menu at Waku Ghin…. The Signature  ” Ghin ”  Cheesecake. The dessert always putting me in a nice mood , satisfying my very sweet tooth. But on this occasion ….”Where`s the Cheesecake” ? ” you`ve got to be kidding right ” ?  It was nowhere to be seen. Replaced by a Chocolate Mousse cake with Vanilla and Macadamia.

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I left the restaurant feeling as though i`d just been kicked squarely in my Gonads . I very rarely whinge about a meal as you`ll see from my many blog posts but on this occasion i felt very differently. My Bill came in at  $ 513 dollars ( £244 ) with no wine. The Tasmanian Beef course was omitted from the menu.The Abalone was “portion controlled”. The fine flavoured Wagyu was overpowered by the fresh Wasabi.The signature Cheesecake never appeared and i was served a “slice of Melon”…….We live and learn. I had a relaxing stroll around the stunning  Marina Bay , took aboard a few thoughts on my life and then went and spent $2 dollars on an amazing bowl of Chicken noodle soup and a stir fry in Chinatown……finally , the food hit the mark.

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TO VIEW ALL OF THE PHOTOS FROM WAKU GHIN PLEASE CLICK HERE

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Koffmann – An evening of the classics.

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My latest trip to London was a bit of a last minute job so i really didn`t have much time to think about where i was eating. My friend David from The CriticalCouple blog suggested that we should do a London classic – Pierre Koffmann at the Berkeley ,old school at its very best. Koffmann is one of the `daddies` of the food revolution in the UK and a bit of a demi god in the chef world.

 I have already been for lunch here so i won`t ramble on and repeat myself once again.( Click HERE for the last visit ) We decided to have a guys night and go for the Old school Koffmann classics , dishes that have been on Pierre`s menu for the last 30 years. There`s no foams , gels , or liquid nitrogen here, there`s just pure classic French cuisine at its basic best. Reduced sauces , Butter and Cream….Just how i like it.

Top marks for the food , simple , extremely rich and very enjoyable. Next time don`t forget the bread guys. We were too busy chatting to realise we hadn`t been offered any. Koffmanns bread is amazing and also very essential to clean up the  wonderful sauces. Here`s what we ate -

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CALAMARS BOLOGNAISE  – Squid Bolognese-style   £11

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LANGOUSTINES  – Langoustine tortellini with langoustine broth   £12

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PIED DE COCHON, TANTE CLAIRE  – Pig’s trotter stuffed, sweetbreads & morels   £29

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CARRÉ DE PORCELET ET HARICOTS TARBAIS  – Roast rack of piglet, Tarbais beans   £26

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FROMAGES  – Selection of cheeses   £15

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SOUFFLÉ AUX PISTACHES ET SA GLACE  – Pistachio soufflé with pistachio ice-cream   £15

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CRÊPES SUZETTE  – Crêpes with an orange liqueur sauce   £10

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PETITS FOURS – Simple as they come.

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Always the last ones to leave.

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Koffmann's on Urbanspoon

Sunday “Dinner” By Heston Blumenthal

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This was my second visit to `Dinner` by Heston Blumenthal. My first time was just a short while after opening and now 3 years later on the restaurant currently boasts 2 Michelin stars. Dinner is situated within The Mandarin Oriental hotel in Knightsbridge so it`s absolutely simple to get to by tube ( Knightsbridge station on the Piccadilly line )

P1100380I won`t repeat what has already been written countless times about the food here so i`ll simply let the photos to the talking for me. The bar is beautiful and a great place to relax if you turn up a little early. Wine by the glass is available for around £7. The food speaks for itself , 2 star Michelin and every plate is perfection. The cooking methods are so refined after countless variations and are now faultless every time.Service ,well that`s also friendly and relaxed,  the best in the business.Thanks to our assistant manager for lunch Danilo Mancini , ours was memorable.

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Most of the diners here seem to go for the `Meat Fruit`  , A Chicken Liver and Foie Gras Parfait encased in a Mandarin fruit jelly. It really is worth going here just to eat this starter , unless you`re brave enough to attempt it at home. CLICK HERE. (As you can see , there are those of us who are daft enough to try it ). It costs £17.50 on the menu , its bloody wonderful. I really need to make this again.

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Earl Grey Tea cured Salmon , Lemon salad , gentleman`s relish , wood Sorrel and smoked roe.

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`Frumenty` – Grilled Octopus , smoked sea broth , pickled Dulse and Lovage. The Octopus was cooked `sous vide` ( in a water bath ) to tenderise it and then finished off `a la plancha` ( char grill)  to give it colour and flavour….it melted in the mouth.

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Buttered Crab loaf – Crab , Cucumber , pickled Lemon , golden Trout roe and Stone crop. The fresh Crab was extremely sweet and the Brioche was totally soaked in the most wonderful Crabby, Buttery, creamy liquid. That`s the best description that i can manage.

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The bread , both here and at Hestons other restaurant `The Fat Duck` is the best Bread you`re going to eat anywhere in the UK. I `think` that it seems to be a very slow proved Sourdough , very waxy inside but that`s as much information as I have on it….Just go and try some for yourself.

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Roast Iberico Pork chop , Spelt , Ham hock and sauce Robert. As Pork goes then this is probably the best quality you`re going to get. Plenty of flavour and a generous sized portion.

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Chicken cooked with Lettuces with a spiced Celeriac sauce. The Chicken if i remember correctly was cooked `sous vide`  (vacuum sealed in a water bath ) for  2 hours at  59.5 degrees .It was then finished off with a blowtorch to give the skin some flavour. It was a demonstration of how to cook Chicken to perfection. An amazing `melt in the mouth` experience , lots of delicate  flavour and at £32.00 yes it was very expensive but was also an extremely large portion and it was stunning simplicity.

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Hereford ribeye of Beef , Mushroom Ketchup and triple cooked chips….Finally i got to try the world famous Chips. They weren`t on during my last visit as the Maris Piper Potatoes weren`t in season.

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triple cooked chips heston

Spit roasted Pineapple…..This is the Pineapple to accompany the `Tipsy cake`.Unfortunately for only the second time since the restaurant opened this dessert was off the menu today as the Brioche hadn`t risen properly.It wasn`t quite perfection so it didn`t go on the menu. Fortunately this also meant that there was an excess of Spit roasted glazed Pineapples which of course we had to sample as part of the dessert tasting.

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Caramelised Apple tart , Eggs in Vejus curd , Bay and Tahitian Vanilla ice cream….Probably the best Apple pie you`re ever going to eat.

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Chocolate bar , Passion fruit jam and Ginger ice cream. This was just richness and powerful flavours to the max.

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Poached Rhubarb , Rosehip jam, Yoghurt cream , Rhubarb sorbet. This was my dessert , and a very girly one it was too. I love to eat something that looks beautiful , a work of art ,  so i was recommended this pretty little Pink number. I minced out of the restaurant a happy man.

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Manjari Chocolate with Orange blossom and Caraway. Just a couple of spoonfuls of Chocolate heaven using the Caraway biscuit as an eating implement.

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The ice cream trolley turns up for the grand finale. The guests all love it , its pure Heston theatre. Handmade wafers carry a spoonful of Rhubarb cooked with Campari which is topped with Nitro cooked Vanilla ice cream. The toppings to choose from are –  Chocolate Hazelnut & popping candy , Freeze dried Raspberries or Candy coated spice seeds.

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The very entertaining assistant manager Danilo demonstrates the art of making ice cream using Liquid Nitrogen. The freshly made Crème Anglaise is poured into the food mixer.P1100496

Whilst turning the handle , Liquid Nitrogen is added to the mixer bowl.

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In seconds , the Vanilla ice cream is ready , ice crystal free and a smooth as anything.

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                          A topping of freeze dried Raspberries and Candy coated spice seeds.

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                                                           Freeze dried Raspberries

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      We got a lovely tour of the kitchens and a nice chat with the chefs behind the scenes.

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 I managed to get a few secret little tips on the Meat fruit process and a good look over the Spit roasting rack for the Pineapples…..which was a tad too complex for the home kitchen.

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spit roast pineapple

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 All in all , it was a wonderful Sunday lunch and i look forward to a return visit very soon. Thanks  very much guys.

To view the full set of photos on Flickr  please CLICK HERE

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal on Urbanspoon

Andrew Wong – A Taste of China.

                                                              

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I normally manage to fit in 3 or 4 trips down to London every year to keep up with the capitals foodie scene.Problem is though i always tend to be a bit of a creature of habit and stick to the places that i know best. On this visit my foodie friend Kevin( finediningexplorer ) managed to drag me away from my Sunday slot at The Ritz in favour of Hestons `Dinner`. He also asked me to put some trust in him and that we should take a tour of China at chef Andrew Wongs restaurant just over the road from Victoria station.

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Andrew Wong is a young and very passionate chef who spent a lot of time training and visiting the kitchens of many restaurants around China. During Andrews travels he picked up cooking techniques and old family secrets to create the unique Chinese cuisine which he cooks and serves in his restaurant…Peking Duck being the star of the show.

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I was booked into the restaurant for a friday evening dinner. On Tuesday afternoon i received a message to inform me that my Duck had started undergoing its preparation….wow , 4 days.Kevin was giving me the pre-show spiel to get my tastebuds tingling and when i say pre “show”,  that`s exactly what it was going to be. For a couple of total food geeks this meal was better than going to see a superstar in concert or a West end musical….this was Andrew Wongs show. A “Taste of China” , encompassing 2000 years of culinary history across 14 national borders. Chef Wong would showcase a selection of dishes to demonstrate to us the plethora of flavours that existed throughout the countries kitchens.

A few little nibbles arrive whilst we get comfortable and my first ever experience of eating Jellyfish. I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised .Ever so slightly fishy but with an amazing crunchy texture….I`m won over with this one for a start.

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Prawn crackers with a difference.

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We started our journey with Cantonese (southern China).  Dim Sum (traditionally served as breakfast). Here we have Har Gow (clear prawn dumpling) and Siu Mai (pork and prawn dumpling).  Andrew added his innovative touch by topping the Har gow with citrus foam and the Siu mai with crispy Pork crackling.

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A popular savory snack food throughout China is ‘Tea Egg’. Instead of completely cooking the Egg in Tea, Andrew slowly cooked it at 63 degrees and then presented it in a nest of shredded Filo and Satay powder.  A  burning Cinnamon candle stick gave off its spice aroma to accentuate the flavours of the food.

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We then travelled East to Shanghai, the most famous Shanghai steamed soup dumplings.  Instead of the traditional way of dipping the soup dumpling in Ginger vinegar, Andrew topped it with little tapioca balls that were infused with Ginger vinegar, a clever little trick.

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Next came the extra course to our tasting menu, the most labour intensive course of the meal requiring 4 days  pre-order .Peking Duck. The most iconic dish within Chinese gastronomy with more than 1500 years of history and taken from the imperial kitchen. Each duck is taken through a series of drying processes over a period of days to  reduce the skins moisture before roasting to enhance the crispiness of the skin. The whole focus of ths recipe is the delicious crispy skin. As you can see here , the result is amazing. I was reliably informed that this is the only place in the whole of the UK ( and possibly Europe) that I would get Peking Duck of this quality.

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Andrew sampled Ducks from many suppliers in Europe and discovered that only Silver Hill farm Ducks from Ireland work for him. The age of the Duck, the right proportion of fat to  meat and the way that Silver Hill carefully plucks the feather without creating holes in the skin (otherwise he can’t blow air in between the skin and flesh for drying).

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The result was stunning and it was my first experience of such a quality and immaculately prepared product. The sweet crisp skin was an absolute joy to eat.The photos below show the breast skin on the left and the leg skin on the right. Cinnamon Sugar was used as a dip to further enhance the flavour.

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P1100156P1100169The second serving was Duck consommé using Andrews `mother`  or `Master` stock. This stock is impossible to recreate at home as it normally runs for the life of the restaurant. Andrew started his mother stock when he took over the restaurant 18 months ago. The stock is replenished daily and meat trimmings and vegetables are constantly added. The flavours and body of the stock improve daily creating a totally unique flavour which is totally exclusive to only that restaurant. Some Chinese restaurants claim that their stocks have been simmering away for over a hundred years. The little pot of stock below was topped with dried Tofu skin.

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The third serving was Duck meat and more of the skin with pancake, Plum sauce, Spring Onion, Cucumber stick and minced Ginger. The Duck was pink and extremely tender and had been expertly carved into the traditional “108” slices utilising every bit of the Duck….Not an easy task for the chef. Andrew said we could count slices if we wanted but it had already been done.

Chef Paul Weaver ( St John B&W )  listens intently as Andrew explains the cooking process….. Don`t even attempt it Paul.

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The traditional accompaniments – Fresh Ginger , Cinnamon sugar , Plum sauce.

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All ready to roll…. you know how its done.

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On to the next course , a  variety of mixed Chinese vegetables with dried Shrimp Butter, fermented Beancurd and Pickles topped with Lotus root crisp.

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Northeast China has harsh winter so relies on preserved ingredients and here is a taste. Tiny pieces of Sea Cucumber, pickled Cucumber, and Chinese dried Sausage to accompany chopped Scottish razor Clam. Lovely textures here.

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Now Andrew took us to Xinjiang province, Northwest China, with their local specialty: barbecued Lamb with Cumin and Chilli served with Pomegranate salad.Robust flavours here and strong influences from India which borders this region of China.

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Then southwest China, Yunnan seared Beef with Mint, Chilli and Lemongrass served with a Chinese Truffle Tofu crisp. This region of China borders with Vietnam and this course brought back memories of my trip there.

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Andrew also wanted us to try some Chinese Truffle….Mushroom dried Bean curd with diced Mushroom and topped with Truffle.

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The main course was in the middle of China, Sichuan known for spicy food.  White cut Corn fed Chicken with Peanuts, ‘Gong Bao’ sauce and Sichuan Aubergine. The favourite dish of General Gong Bao served with Sichuanese  Aubergine, braised in Sichuan Chili sauce!

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So now we move to the sweet treats. Founded in 1903 in the city of Tsing tao is now the 2nd largest Chinese brewery. Here we were given a shot glass of Tsing Tao 1903 a premier verison of the Beer.

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Andrew was inspired by the small vendors outside Beijing train station selling small jars of Yoghurt . Chinese cuisine doesn`t normally do Cheese and dairy  products but Andrew recreated those Beijing moments with his homemade Beijing Yogurt with glazed Pineapple and a touch of Sichuan Pepper. Served like how he remembered it at the train station in small jars.

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Currently China is growing at a rate of knots so after a tour of regional China, Andrew wanted to end the meal reflecting the modern world.  A Snowball Meringue encases Mango puree and Lime sorbet, resting on Lychee Granite. Highly perfumed and refreshing. A perfect end to a stunning meal.

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Petits fours were very cute. Three tiles from the most popular game in China, Mah Jong!  Salted Caramel in a White Chocolate shell.

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There is absolutely no doubt about it , i will go back to Andrew Wong. I`ve thought about it all week in exactly the same way I`ve been thinking about Hedone since my meal there 5 months ago.Both totally amazing restaurants. I won`t dare ask Andrew for the Peking Duck again as there will be low flying Cleavers heading my way. I`ll end up as Mr `Peking roasted Spedding` …….I`ll leave that job to Kevin the finediningexplorer.

TO VIEW ALL OF THE PHOTOS FROM OUR DINNER PLEASE CLICK HERE

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A. Wong on Urbanspoon

The Cottage in the Wood – A perfect lovers escape.

P1090856It`s really hard to believe that there`s an amazing secret little hideaway hotel sat virtually on my doorstep and during all the years that i`ve been into food, i still haven`t managed to eat at The Cottage in the Wood. I`ve travelled all over the world to search for and to eat amazing food and yet a 25 minute drive in the car would have me right at the door of this lovely little white cottage perched above Bassenthwaite Lake in Keswick. The hotel sits in the very heart of the English lake district and was formerly a 17th century coaching inn.Now owned and managed by husband and wife team Liam and Kath Berney. A vacant Friday afternoon came my way and so a reservation was finally made to eat there.

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The stunning view over Bassenthwaite Lake and Skiddaw mountain ranges.

P1100006The Cottage in the Wood is a family owned restaurant with rooms , it`s the ultimate hideaway hotel and a perfect escape for the romantics out there. The rooms are luxurious , the surroundings are magical , the prices are very reasonable, and to cap it all off , the food`s pretty good stuff. The newly appointed head Chef is 27 year old Chris Archer , a really nice young guy with an extreme passion for what he produces on the plate. Chris , a Yorkshire lad comes with a fantastic pedigree – Midsummer House ( Daniel Clifford ) , Winteringham fields ( Colin Mc Gurran / Germain Schwab ) , Yorke arms and  also staged in some of Londons finest restaurants. I was pretty excited when I found out about this so I decided to go for the Spring tasting menu and see what Chris was all about.

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Muhamara – ( A dip from Aleppo, Syria. )
Roasted Peppers , Walnuts , Olive oil , Garlic , Cumin , Paprika.

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Bread – Soda and Sourdough.

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Amuse Bouche
Rillette of Salmon , Cucumber and Horseradish Gazpacho

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Chorizo , Pale Ale jelly ( amazing flavour ) pear puree.
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Seared Scallops
Satay , Radish , Lime

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Belted Galloway Beef cooked two ways.
Blue Winnow , Artichoke , Romanesco , Red wine.

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Jefferson’s Rum , Mango and Mint.

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Fig , Pistachio, Green Tea

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P1090980                               P1090984Ok…so my thoughts on Cottage in the Wood. As far as romantics go and couples wanting to simply escape from it all then  it really doesn`t come any better than this. It really is a little den hidden away in the forests….Ssshhhh no one will ever know you`re there and you can simply vanish from everyday life.

The Food – Well Chris is cooking to a very high standard here , very much city centre fine dining and from what I ate it was evident that his previous employers have carved their mark into Chris`s cooking style. The food is very light and personally I could have started at the beginning and eaten every bit again….but don`t forget I done the 30 courses at Lenclume so don`t go by my style….and belly.

Chris is only a new Chef on the Cumbrian cooking scene so hopefully the menus will soon see more local produce and use of the enormous wild and free larder right outside of the front door. Rabbits , Squirrels , Wood Pigeon and a whole host of berries , Mushrooms and herbs lie in wait for this talented young man once he settles into post. As for the accolades , without a doubt once Chis and the team get to a smooth and confident flow then another Michelin star is heading to the lake district.

The Tasting menu is currently priced at  £60  with accompanying Wine pairing £40

To view all of the photos then please CLICK HERE

The Cottage In The Wood on Urbanspoon

 

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Rogan & Co in Cartmel – Chef Kevin Tickle cooks a Spring Lunch.

                                                                                         

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I`ve been back and forward to Cartmel for over ten years to eat at Simon Rogans Lenclume restaurant. Strangely enough i`ve never actually experienced the food at Simons other restaurant in the village, Rogan & Co. as I`ve just headed to the flagship to eat instead. Recently Rogan & Co has unergone a total refurb and a very talented young fellow by the name of Kevin Tickle has taken up the post of Head chef. Mr Tickle has spent the last few years working for Simon Rogan and firmly established himself as part of the backbone of Rogans business.Thankfully in what must be a large weight off Rogans shoulders Mr Tickle has slotted straight into place and is getting on with the business of heading up the kitchen at Rogan & Co. Meanwhile, the preparations are currently running at full speed for Rogans opening at Claridges in London in the next few weeks.So along with the farms , Lenclume , The Pig n Whistle , Aulis , Rogan & Co., The French , Mr Coopers and Claridges the whole team are working flat out….I really dont envy them.
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So, after a very relaxing and picturesque run down to Cartmel village i arrived for a fab Friday Spring lunch cooked for me by Chef Kevin Tickle. There are two choices on at Rogan & Co for diners. There`s the set lunch running at £28.50 or the multiple choice option of a 3 course a la carte priced at a very resonable £40. Both choices come with a few little extras thrown in which bump the meal up by another three small courses.Personally i would recommend the 3 course a la carte as you`ll end up getting a fantastic 6 course meal for £40. The dishes themselves are all in the Lenclume style and Kevin has added his own little twist to things to create his own unique stamp.

Chef Kevin Tickle

Ham hock with Mustard emulsion , Westcombe Cheddar cracker with Pickle. These were served as little appetisers , i could have happily eaten a bowl full of them with a nice glass of wine.

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Confit potatoes, Lovage emulsion & Caper ,crisp potato skin,Lovage emulsion, Caper powder ,crumb. – A complimentary course which everyone got prior to their food arriving.P1090607

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Lesser Celandine was the Wild herb to accompany the Potatoes.

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Broth of seasonal Mushrooms, roasted Ox Tongue& smoked bone marrow – Scarlet elf cup Mushrooms, Wild Oyster Mushrooms , Judas ear mushrooms, Reindeer Moss. A stunning course both visually and on taste also.The mushrooms are collected from the local woodland , all in season and picked fresh by the foragers. The broth was amazing and i was left the little jug of it on the table….Broth….Bread…Broth…Bread….All gone. The Reindeer Moss / Lichen has little flavour but looks stunning on the dish.

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The Bread and Butter are both made on premises and Sourdough was todays bread. The bread was baked to perfection and as Bread goes , yeah it was decent. Personally i think that the same bread should be served at all of Rogans businesses as part of his trademark. Everyone loves the Pumpernickel , White, Ale, and Wholemeal varieties served at Lenclume and “The French”.

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The next course was a Slow poached Maran Egg , Salt baked yellow Turnip , Truffle and toasted seeds. The dish in itself was beautiful , the Turnip packed with flavour.I didn`t get any taste or scent of Truffle in this one so I`m not sure what part of the dish it was in.

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Cured Pollock, Oyster cream, Apple, Rye & pickled vegetables. Rye crisps, Oyster cream and Apple gelée , lightly cured Pollack.  –  This was a very healthy and extremely light summery offering. Cured Pollock wasn`t my thing as i dont go in for raw fish but eaten with the sweet perfectly pickled vegetables it made a fine pairing.

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Langdale Mutton, roast Parsnip, Kale, Lamb jus & Ramson Capers  –  two cuts of Mutton, crispy and fresh Kale, caramelised Parsnip puree and Parsnip batons.  –  Ohhh now this one done it for me and confirmed  Cumbrian Lamb as my favourite meat. The Parsnips are going to generate a bit of interest i would reckon. Perfectly cooked to a soft velvety texture throughout and a charred dark honey coloured coating on the exterior…. Mr Tickles secret ???  I`m on the case folks.

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Celery Sorbet with Pine and Chestnut puree – This one is a freebie and comes as a bit of a palate cleansing crossover from the savoury to the sweet.

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Rhubarb, Elderflower wine, Brioche & brown Butter –  Rhubarb ice cream, Brioche and brown Butter Tuiles. The well constructed combinations worked very well together, the dish needs no explaination , it was just a refreshing dessert full of lovely flavours. The Elderflower wine Gel offered a highly concentrated taste punch which made the dish.

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Sheeps Milk ice cream , Hazelnut , Sorrel and Acidic Yoghurt.

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Scorched Pear , Walnuts and Coffee –   Was a deconstructed cake like work of art on a plate….beautiful.

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A meal at Lenclume will set you back £125 for 14 courses so the a la carte at Rogan & Co serves up as a bit of an intro to the food across the road. Not everyone can afford to eat at Lenclume so the £28.50 set lunch will give the diner a taster of the kind of food Simon Rogan does. Of course the perfect option would be to stay in the village for the weekend and do Rogan & Co on the Friday evening. Lenclume on the Saturday evening and then finish with a Pig n Whistle ( Rogans village pub ) Sunday lunch……How good would that one be ? .For the romantics out there its an absolute killer package.

The restaurant after undergoing a full internal refurb , it`s warm and very welcoming. The log fire roars and the mood is lovely in there. `Billy no mates` was just sat there alone on a table for one but i`ll definitely be back for a romantic stay once i find myself a Princess out there in the big wide world. I had a wee laugh to myself at the large stainless steel poles in the restaurant. I can guarantee they`ll be put to good use at the staff parties no doubt.
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To view all of the photos from my lunch then please just CLICK HERE

Follow Chef Kevin Tickle on Twitter by clicking here Mr Tickle @mrTickler
Follow Restaurant manager John Strange  @MrJohnStrange
Follow Simon Rogan  @Simon_rogan
Follow Rogan & Co  @RoganandCo

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Rogan & Co. on Urbanspoon

Fab Friday lunches in town.

      My day to day job generates no complaints at all as my hours are based over a four and a half day week. Fair enough , getting out of bed at 5.30am every morning has its downsides but finishing for the weekend on a friday lunchtime makes up for the sleepy starts . Recently,  during January and February i`ve been working every weekend so the only chance that i`ve had to eat is straight after work on a friday.  One of the restaurants in my home town of  Whitehaven has been my destination over the last few weeks for their  very enjoyable Cumbrian based  lunches. I really do enjoy sitting down , no menu and just ordering 3 courses and 3 wines .It`s a pleasant surprise for me and it also keeps chef  Simon Haslam on his toes. The lads in the Waterfront are all a thoroughly decent bunch and more than competent behind the stoves.
Ive already done a previous blog post on the Waterfront  HERE so you`ll see exactly what you`ll be getting on an evening menu. The following dishes are what ive eaten during a “walk in” lunch.
I`ve thoroughly enjoyed my little Friday lunch slots so i plan to do a few more over the next few weeks up until Easter to see what other  West coast  places  are producing.

The pics below are just as the food arrived at the table and taken with my Galaxy S3 phone and a couple with a compact camera.

Mixed slate of Cumbrian Seafood.

The waterfront whitehavenA smaller simpler selection of Seafood. – Crayfish , Seared Scallop , Battered Hake , Mackerel , Fresh Crab and Clams.

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Stilton and red onion tart , baby beetroot – Simple , sweet and well made.

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Sautéed Monkfish on a Seafood stew.

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Seared Isle of man Scallops with crispy belly Pork and Black pudding BonBons.

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Truly Amazing Cumbrian Fish n Chips…..with all the trimmings.

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Irish sea Halibut , Belly pork , Squid , Greens and wild mushrooms.

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Venison Loin , Honey glazed Parsnips , Black Truffle.

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Tutti Frutti dessert.

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Apple Crème Brulee , Apple sorbet on crumble , Biscotti and a nice glass of Hazelnut.

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Irish cream Chocolate dessert with White chocolate cream , Malteser milkshake and white chocolate cookies.

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Apple Tarte tatin.

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Waterfront Pudding plate – Granny smith sorbet , Sticky toffee pudding , Plum crumble , Set vanilla caramel cream , Red wine poached pear.

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 The Waterfront Restaurant and Bar

West Strand

Whitehaven Cumbria

CA28 7LR

01946 328184

 emai  thewaterfront.whitehaven@gmail.com

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Xmas in Asia

I guess i`m simply a homeboy at heart.I`ve spent every xmas at home since I was born …I love it. Xmas day with the family and then my best meal of the year at Mum n dads on Boxing day , cold Turkey , chips , eggs , chutneys and half a dozen slices of bread….WOW. This year I threw caution to the wind and I decided to do something a little different than the norm , I jetted off to Asia wth a couple of friends to celebrate the festive season in a whole new way. Xmas in Phnom Penh , Cambodia followed by New year on a Thai beach and a couple of stop overs in my favourite city , Bangkok.

As always,  most of the time I would spend eating street food and slurping down ice cold San Miguel in the bar , scoffing cakes and exploring the markets and as usual I would be armed with my trusty little camera to capture the moment…and so on we go to Cambodia.

Leaving Bangkok city on Xmas eve en route to Phnom Penh and over the Bang Pakong River.

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So this is where my hotel was situated…forget the beach view , its more interesting looking off the balcony at this lot…Phnom penh market.

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If only we had markets like this in the UK, so fresh and constantly being sprayed with water and passionately cared for to keep the produce in pristine condition.

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Tiny Clams raked out of the sea at low tide, cooked and served with a spiced salt. These are wheeled around the market in barrows and bagged up to order.

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Not sure if the crazy dog was for sale…..but when in Cambodia , eat like the locals. This lady sold various tubers and root vegetables.

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The colours of the market were truly amazing , a feast for the eyes. These Chillis were just a small selection of a variety of fresh and dried on sale.

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The Shellfish army lines up for attack…. try picking one of these for your pot , they`re ultra snappy and violent.

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I`m not entirely sure what these are but I loved the colours. They`re a type of sour unripe fruit and they come with Chilli sugar…sweet , sour , spicy , bitter….Yes, you`re in Asia and its all a play on the senses of taste.

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100 Year old Eggs…..Well they`re not really that old. Basically hardboiled Eggs coated in a mixture of clay , Ash , Lime and salt. Now I don`t know what they taste like or how you eat them so maybe best just google that one.

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Asian Shallots , a basic in almost all recipes.

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Makrut Limes , these are mainly used for the skin as they have very little juice inside. The skins are highly aromatic and used for cooking as well as skin products and essential oils.

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The Squid were still alive and were probably the previous nights catch.

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The weather was hot.. very hot but not humid. It was actually their Winter season. Now personally I wouldn’t buy my meat in such temperatures as my stomach isn`t lined with Asbestos. The locals however had only the one choice and so this is where they bought their meat from. Strangely enough there wasn`t a fly in sight.

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This strange fruit is one of the most popular and controversial fruits of Asia…The ” King of Fruits “…The Durian. Inside the hard spiked outer layer lies delicate lobes of a very soft fruit…..which stinks like sweaty socks , Turpentine , Raw sewers and Rotten Onions. It`s actually banned in some hotels and public transport because of its foul smell. You can`t eat it with alcohol in your bloodstream as some say it can actually kill or cause severe burning and digestive disorders…hence why it has taken me six years to try it….and it`s bloody lovely. Fair enough it does absolutely stink but the creamy flesh actually tastes totally delicious , Almond flavoured creamy Custard is my closest description. Anyone travelling to Asia simply has to try this one out.

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You can see from this photo how the Durian is displayed for sale. It`s split open to reveal the fresh flesh inside…and then plastic wrapped because of the smell.These ones here are so cheap , 80p for a sample and for a full fruit average price is £2 to £3.

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I wasn`t quite sure what these little birds were…probably small chickens. The smell was amazing as they cooked slowly over the hot charcoals.

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BBQ food is everywhere in Asia. This wasn`t for sale , it was the market traders lunch.

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Rambutan fruit , Sweet , delicious and highly perfumed flesh inside.

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Garlic chives harvested on the verge of flowering.

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Bitter Melon – used throughout Asia as a vegetable , stuffed , fried , added to curries and stir fries or pounded and mixed with Yoghurt as a side dish.

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Kampot Peppercorns…The King of Pepper and adds a totally unique flavour to Cambodian seafood dishes.

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This is a stunning dish of fried soft shell Crabs with Kampot peppercorns in a local restaurant.Hot and spicy from the chilli and pepper , sweet sensation from the Crab and aromatic from the lime and coriander….awesome flavour combinations.

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Cha k`dor , a proper mouth burner – stir fried Chicken with Chilli , Coriander and Lemon grass.Very simple food but so full of flavour.

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Chicken with Garlic, Basil and Chilli.

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And at the end of a hard day the guys deliver the nightly round of Angkor beer…..and then end up crashing out on top of it.

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So on to Bangkok for a one night stop before heading south to Pattaya. The city is well known for its street food and around every corner there`s a street vendor selling their unique delights. Some are pretty amazing…others downright horrific ( as you will soon see ) So here , tucked away on the side of the street is a typical street food stall. The ingredients are super fresh and the couple of dishes they specialise in are on the table within 2 to 3 minutes at the most. Plastic chairs , wooden benches and world class food.

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The 2 dishes below are big Thai favourites. Pad Thai Goong ( Noodles with beansprouts , tamarind and shrimp ) and a very healthy Chicken Noodle soup. Both dishes cost 70 Baht which equates to £1.40 ($2). The Pad Thai arrives with the traditional Thai accompaniments which immediately take it to new heights and totally change the dish. Sugar ,Fresh Lime ,Fish sauce , Chilli flakes and Ground Peanuts .These impart the magical tastes of Asia into the dish. Sweet , Sour , Salty , Spicy and Umami.

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Now then….here`s a little look at some typical Thai bar snacks…. Deep fried Insects. The Thais love them , the westerners keep their distance from them.The odd brave Farang ( westerner ) will nibble at one to play the hero of the bar but it soon gets spat out once the flavours hit the tastebuds. They all come separate for those that like a particular species but on the whole theyre mixed up in a bag , nice and hot and come with stir fried garlic , chilli and lemon grass. The ones below include Grasshoppers , Giant water bugs , Crickets , Locusts , Silk worm larvae , Mole crickets, Frogs and Scorpions. I`ve drunkenly nibbled in the past and I can only say they`re bloody awful.

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A deep fried Locust….This one wasn’t flying tonight.

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Crispy deep fried Frog….They`re actually not that bad….after 10 bottles of beer.

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O…M…G… The Thais love them. Giant water bugs….Not a chance.

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Could you honestly put that in your mouth ? It`s even got claws.

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Pick n Mix….Don’t ask me what the hell that is crawling over the top. To view the rest of the Insects then please CLICK HERE

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Ok….enough`s enough….Lets go to Pattaya beach now for new year. The market was in full swing when we arrived so it was straight out for a beach feast. The smell was amazing , everything was being BBQ`d. I decided celebrate my arrival for New year by having this Thai spit roasted Pig on the beach.

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Crispy crackling to die for , its all chopped up and put into the bag with the meat and cost me 100 baht (£2 )

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The Pork ribs are glazed and roasted In large earthenware pots over wood. As a result they taste exactly as you would expect….Amazing.

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Poor little Piggy even gets his head sold off , crispy and every piece edible.

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Bucketfuls of big Shrimp are boiled and then charred over hot coals , they`re then skewered or bagged up and sold to the sunbathers.

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Flat Garlic chives , these were on the Pad thai stall.

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The Eggs are simply broken and quickly fried and served warm over a simple salad.

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Octopus ready for char grilling over the hot coals.

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Soy glazed Squid on skewers.

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Enoki mushrooms wrapped in Ham and skewered. Glazed and then cooked over hot coals.

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How good is that for innovative beach food ? A first for me.

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Sweet coconut sticky rice cooked in sealed Bamboo and broken open to order.

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This is the number one salad in Thailand and seems to be every Thais favourite , “Som Tam”. Bashed up unripe papaya , tomatoes , fiery chilli , shallots and green beans.

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All of the ingredients for Som Tam , its all that this Thai lady makes.

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Another vendor makes Som Tam in a different way.

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Chicken grilling over the coals.

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Mangosteen , Perfumed , beautiful tropical fruit.

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The Mangosteen sliced open to reveal the delicate segments of wonderful fruit.

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Here`s my ultimate bar food , these are cooked and served everywhere on most street corners 24 hours a day. All you do is pick what you want and hand it to the cook then point at the bar you`re drinking in and within 10 minutes its brought to you. Each skewer costs 10 baht  ( 18p ) ( $0.30).

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What you see here cost 100 baht (£1.85) ($3) , add an ice cold beer at 50 baht (93p) ($1.50) and you’ve got your main meal for the day….or in my case , an afternoon snack.

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Here`s my little chef knocking me up some perfect street food.

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And here`s exactly how it arrives off the street….How good is that ? A flight to Bangkok costs from £450 from the uk. A good hotel costs £25 a night….There`s no excuse really is there ?

_DSC9781         _DSC0177 _DSC0179     _DSC0202   To view the gallery in full then please CLICK HERE.

Gaggan , Bangkok. The best of `Gaggan Anands` Tasting menu.

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It was the final day of my  Xmas  holiday and a fellow foodie friend of mine ( finediningexplorer ) had recommended that i eat at Gaggan in Bangkok. It seemed a bit strange to me to be going to an Indian restaurant in the Oriental city but after almost 3 weeks of non stop Cambodian and  Thai food i was ready to eat something a little different. Restaurant Gaggan , named after Chef and proprietor Gaggan Anand is situated in a quiet  Soi  ( street )  in the city centre in an area called  Lumpini. You can get there really easily  via  BTS Skytrain to Ratchadamri station or simply take a Taxi Meter which costs next to nothing. I got a motorbike taxi from my hotel to the restaurant and it cost me 60 baht  ( £1.20 ).

The restaurant offers 3 menus. Apparently there`s an ALC but that wasn`t  available  during my visit.
Pricing  – Be warned , the restaurant is not cheap but don`t forget you`re eating in one of the best restaurants in the whole of Asia.

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For those wanting to sample Gaggan but also stay sensible on the wallet  then there`s the Entry level Menu “What`s cooking in kitchen tonight” – 9 courses  for 1800 Baht. ( £36 )

The intermediate level menu is called  “So far so good” and consists of 12 courses for 2800 Baht ( £ 52 )

For those wanting to experience “The best of Gaggan”  this menu offers 12 courses for 4000 Baht. (£74)  Dont forget to add  drinks , service at 10% and 7% Tax to this.

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Chef Gaggan , created quite a stir when he opened the restaurant. Serving what he called ” progressive ” Indian cuisine with a difference . It wasn`t exactly  in keeping with the city`s Royal Thai traditions  but Gaggan stuck to his visions and  principles and within a very short time the restaurant came in at  Number 10  in San Pellegrinos top 50 Asian restaurants and Number 2 in the whole of  Thailand 2013…. Quite an achievement.  Gaggans previous experience seen him as Chef de cuisine for Bangkoks Lebua hotels and he also worked for a while under Ferran Adria as part of the research / development team at the legendary  El Bulli in Spain.
Gaggan restaurant has it`s fair share of critics out there and it seems that the main bugbear of previous diners is that  Gaggan is trying too hard to stay totally unique in his approach to Indian cuisine. For some this “style over substance” has given the restaurant a little bad press but  Chef Gaggans philosophy seems  to be to perfect the bones of the recipe , stay  with tradition and then add a touch of magic with  modern presentation and  a fun molecular approach….My meal would reveal this from the starting blocks.

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Upon arrival I asked for a cocktail of the restaurants choosing. Thai honey Mango came with a little surprise as you can see below….and fortunately arrived with a spoon. More suitable as a dessert but I certainly wasn`t complaining.

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The “Best of Gaggan”…. and a few Surprises….My menu for the evening started with this little shooter.

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The Edible Packet.

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Samosa with air dried potato mousse.

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Chocolate eyeball with herbs , spices and pomegranate.

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Crispy Pizza ( Nan ) – Crispy Pizza bread with Artisan Cheese , Truffle and Green Chilli Oil.

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Willy Wonka and Foie Gras factory – Foie Gras with Spiced Red Onion Chutney , Cold Raspberry Hazelnut Praline and Glass.

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“In Season” –  Air light soup of Winter Truffles and organic Waynaud Peppers.

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Keema Pav ( Lamb Ragout ) – Minced Lamb curry with Tomato dehydrated bread and Chutney.

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Liquid Salad – Cucumber juice gel with Beetroot and Carrot puree and fresh leaves.

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River prawn with spices.

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Wild Sea bass in an Amritsari batter fried crispy with Lemon air.

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Treasure shells – Norwegian diver Scallops cooked with young Coconut, pepper and Curry leaf.

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Best memory – Free range Lamb chops sous vide with Green herb oil. This was the stand out dish of the evening. It arrived underneath a cloche containing wood and clove smoke. The flavour of the meat was stunning. I would return to the restaurant for this dish alone , Smoke , charred fat and tender Lamb….This ones a winner.

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Curry and More – Chicken Tikka Masala reinvented with Green Tomatoes and fresh herbs.

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Cookies and Cream  – Tiramisu flavoured cold cookie with Cocoa chips.

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The finished “Cookie”. It was quite difficult to eat off the paper. I would have preferred it to have been served as a sandwich between some type of wafer.

P1080919 Moms Love –  ( Gajar ka halwa ) Carrot Porridge made into a hot mousse flavoured with Saffron and 100% Silver.

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Masala Chai , in the form of ice cream with Gingerbread and Cardamom gel. The friendly bar manager brought me one of his special creations to accompany this dessert. It was Bourbon based and tasted of Ginger….The rest is a “Hogwarts” secret….it was fun and also a good sales pitch as the table of 8 beside me all decided to order one after they seen me having fun with mine.

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P1080922An after meal trip to the kitchen for a tour around and an introduction to the team. All pleasant and very happy guys and girls from around the globe. Russia , Scandanavia  and Spain… Gaggan is a really  popular guy , shame I didn`t get to meet him on this occasion….Next time.  Gaggan Bangkok Gaggan BangkokGaggan Bangkok  Gaggan Bangkok

TO VIEW ALL OF THE PHOTOS , PLEASE CLICK HERE

Gaggan
68/1 Soi Langsuan
Lumpini, Bangkok
02 652 1700
www.eatatgaggan.com

An amazing 18 Course Lunch at The Ritz.

The final London meal of 2013 had me returning once again to my old favourite , The Ritz hotel for a little treat before the Xmas madness kicked off. I had booked myself a table for myself which would allow me the opportunity  to be at one with my thoughts and reminisce about the ups and downs of the year and what 2014 would send my way. Well , in essence that was my  plan until a greedy  fellow foodie got to find out what was in store and offered to join me for my  tasting menu…..of `desserts`. Enter stage left….Kevin Chan aka  “The Fine dining explorer”  probably the most travelled  food lover i`ve ever come across. We plotted and arranged quickly over a few emails and then  met up  for what would turn out to be a crazy  `Man v Food` afternoon.

This lunch at The Ritz all came about after i booked a table at Janice Wongs ` 2am Dessert bar` in Singapore for a Dessert tasting menu ( i do have a very sweet tooth ). I was speaking  to Lewis Wilson about my Asia tour next Easter 2014. Lewis is the Pastry chef at The Ritz and he informed me “Ohhhh no problem , i can do you one of those next time you eat with us”. I had never seen a dessert tasting menu before , i was really excited and so  I booked  the very  next day. Lewis said that he would  come in to the Ritz kitchen on his day off ( cheers for that mate ) and prepare me 6 to 8 desserts to sample. Now that sounds like a plan made in heaven …BUT  the new  Ritz chef also decided that he wanted to do some cooking.He said i couldn`t just come to the Ritz and eat sweets without something savoury ( couldn`t i  ) ?.  So he would also do a few `small` courses. Anyways ,  long story short , i met Kevin in the Ritz reception and then sat down to discover that we would be eating an 18 course Sunday lunch. This was after the previous evenings 15 courses at Hedone……Ahhhhh , ok guys , let`s get this show on the road . We sat down at 12.30 to eat. My train back to Cumbria left at 5.30….and so the food began.

Foie gras bonbon truffle madeira jelly , Lemon macaron with salmon mousse topped with salmon roe

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Seaweed cracker / shrimp / cucumber / sauce marie (hollandaise infused with lobster)

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Cheese bacon tartlets,Warm cheese brioche ,Olive wheel with goat cheese,apple jelly

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         Celeriac puree , pea , parmesan, black truffle – How beautiful is that little bite ?

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         Lobster , cucumber, red beetroot, golden beetroot, Oscietra caviar

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Goose Foie gras terrine marinated in salt, sugar, gingerbread liqueur with white port jelly. Red port reduction, pear puree , pear poached in red port , almond and hazelnut cake , Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar. – Now when it comes to Foie gras I tend to slide into a world of my own….its a silent world where I don`t really speak much. I close my eyes and I drift away eating the worlds finest ingredient  sooooo slowly and savouring every single heavenly mouthful.

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    Langoustine, cauliflower puree, spiced apple jelly, apple puree, crispy pork skin

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              Pigeon, mushroom , artichoke , braised onion , parsley puree

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Poached Duck egg, Pomme mousseline, crispy chicken skin, croutons, truffle jus with fresh white Alba truffle sliced over the top. – Now here was my only criticism of the entire meal. A superb dish in the making but as you can see here the Truffle jus was an extremely full bodied affair.The air around us was perfumed with the heavenly scent of white truffle but the taste of the truffle was non existent when eaten with the dominant sauce.A tiny amount , even a spoonful would have been perfect. We ate the truffle with the egg separately to enjoy the white truffle in its prime.The sauce made one hell of a wonderful mashed potato afterwards. Top marks but needs a bit of thought on the serving of this dish.

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                         Wild sea bass , artichoke , bouillabaisse , oyster.

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Veal sweetbread , fried parsnip , parsnip crumbs , parsnip puree , black truffle

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Dover sole ballotine ,gateaux of leek and pumpkin filled with truffle mousse ,pumpkin crumble, shellfish sauce

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 Venison , celeriac puree , seared foie gras , chestnut , roll of red cabbage , leaves of Brussels sprouts , port and elderberry sauce

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Champagne sorbet , sugar shell , gold leaf –  The delicate sugar shell was removed to reveal a quenelle of sorbet.

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                    Clementine – Seared, sorbet, parfait, peel, marmalade and Gold.

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            Caramelised apple millefeuille , apple sauce , vanilla ice cream

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Praline , choux pastry , Caramelised nut brittle – Lewis the pastry chef was having a laugh.  This was a full size Choux bun , a big dessert and filled to the max inside with Chestnut cream…..we sat and ate in silence at this stage.

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Chocolate , Hazelnut , meringue. – Almost four and a half hours after we first sat down the end of the meal was in sight. Dessert number 5 was the one that finished me off. I managed to eat it but that was “hands in the air” time. I simply couldn’t manage the last course…..Someone else could…..his name was Kevin.

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Raspberry tartlet , orange delight , vanilla macaron , coffee chocolate. Photo courtesy of finedining explorer as I had to leg it for the train home….Extremely full of amazing food and wine and i arrived at Euston with 2 minutes to spare. Kevin actually sent me the photos as they arrived at the table….He looked , he pondered for a moment and he ate 2 servings of Petits fours…..What an animal.Oh and for the record he then went home and had Chicken Hot Pot for supper….beggars belief.

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TO VIEW ALL OF THE RITZ PHOTOS THEN PLEASE CLICK HERE

Thank you so much to the wonderful team at The Ritz , always a totally amazing experience for me. Classic fine dining in superb surroundings , Faultless service with big smiles ,  stunning wines and the food….Oh my god… the food.

The Ritz Hotel on Urbanspoon

HEDONE – Ssshhhh , genius at work.

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Next Easter i`ll be making the long journey all the way to Singapore to eat at Restaurant `Waku Ghin`. I was so impressed after reading several blog posts that i ended up day dreaming about the food there every day and so i eventually emailed them to make a reservation.I only wanted a table for one and believe it or not they were already booked up 6 months in advance. They did however manage to offer me the last place on the early evening sitting. The reason why Waku Ghin is booked up so far in advance is because the Ingredients are literally alive and kicking seconds before they`re humanely dispatched and cooked in front of the diner. The kitchen uses the worlds finest ingredients which are then expertly cooked by highly skilled chefs in front of the diners eyes in a 3 hour extravaganza of culinary entertainment. Closer to home now and my discovery that we have our very own version of Waku Ghin here in the UK. Chef Mikael Jonssons Hedone restaurant in Chiswick is a relatively new venture and is currently creating rather a stir throughout the culinary world.I wont go into the nitty gritty fine details about the good and not so good feedback that the restaurant has been getting since its opening in 2011 , you can simply check those out on the other blogs. I can only speak as i find and all i found was pure goodness and quality here.There`s no airs and graces at Hedone, people come here to eat and drink and the buzzy atmosphere and laughing diners are testament to a very relaxing and happy environment.

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The story goes that Chef Mikael orginally trained as a chef in his native Sweden before leaving the kitchen to become a Lawyer. He then decided to go back into the food industry and took a year out to travel around Europe meeting suppliers and sourcing out the best Artisan producers , farmers and suppliers for all of the produce that he would use in his own restaurant. That year of research offered Mikael the very best products that money could buy ,  inferior ingredients never ever seen the light of day. Mikaels philosophy was such that he would follow this path, never deviate from it and only the best would do. A perfect example of this would be Bread. Chef wanted to make the best bread possible so he made the journey to one of the premier bakeries in Paris to spend time working with the owner . He would then source his own `best of British` ingredients , bought the same oven and subsequently  recreated the products in the UK that he had been making in France.

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This same philosophy was also adopted with the Scottish fishing industry , UK Farmers and Game dealers and the various vegetable growers around the British isles. Ok….I`m babbling foodie nerd talk so on to the food and actually getting to the restaurant.

It`s a fairly simple journey yet at the same time it`s quite a distance from the city centre. My hotel was in Russell square and it took me exactly 55 minutes door to door to get there. Please don`t let that put you off because it`s more than worth the journey from any part of the UK never mind central London. Don`t bother with a taxi as that will cost you £35-£40 pounds each way. The tube service is totally foolproof.. Take the Piccadilly line to Hammersmith , walk up the stairs and then get the District line to Chiswick Park ( 4 stops ). Walk out of the station , 100 metres down the road on to Chiswick high street and Hedone is over the road, you can`t miss it. If you tend to get a bit carried away with the food and wine then obviously you`ll end up missing the last tube home. We ate umpteen courses with matching wines and before we knew it 5 hours had passed and we ended up having to head back into town in a taxi    ( £35 ). I wasn`t happy with this but my dining partner for the night, Mr Criticalcouple decided to take my mind off things with a suprise deviation to The Playboy club on Park lane…and my first ever visit to a casino. The size 10 vintage Cheddar Cheese grin below will tell the story….I don`t need to use words on how my night went.

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Foie Gras wafers.

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Beetroot cornets with Smoked Eel….excuse the strange effects , I was playing with photoshop.

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Duck Egg , Girolles , Apricot  ” Chaud Froid “

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Crispy tart of Ceps and marinated Duck Foie gras.

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Warm Dorset Crab cooked to order, Pistachio Mayonnaise , Avocado puree , Mandarin jelly.The Crab was cooked to order , shelled and served whilst we watched.

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Scottish hand dived Scallops , Watercress , Jerusalem Artichoke foam.

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Scottish Langoustine tail ( Memory of Cancale )

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Ahhhh , and now for the controversial Onion course. I`m so glad that Mikael served us this one as it finally served to prove a point that quality and simplicity reign supreme when using well sourced ingredients. We`re talking about an Onion and a Pear here. Unfortunaltely i fell into the negative thinking party after reading comments on the various food blogs.Commenting on something i had no knowledge about. Here was the classic case of “dont knock it until you`ve tried it”. Chef Mikael came to speak with us about the star ingredient , the Cevennes White Onion which actually boasts an Appellation contolee status in France. A few other classic Onion growers actually sent Mikael their own samples and their take on this type of Onion but in blind restaurant taste tests the Cevennes won hands down every time.”There is one Onion and one Onion only for this dish” Mikael tells us and that is the Cevennes.

Cevennes Onions, Williams Pear shavings. Beurre blanc and White Pepper. Apparently this is an even better dish during Black Truffle season but that was 3 weeks away so chef wouldn`t buy until the time was right…. Bahhhhh

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Liquid Parmesan Ravioli , Roscoff Onion Consomme, Mild Horseradish , Pancetta.

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Roasted Pork chop of suckling ” Noir de Bigorre” Pig , Chicory Lettuce , Quince , Japanese flavours.

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How good is this baby Pig crackling ? …WOW.

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Roasted Snipe , Cabbage , Blackcurrant , Smoked Potato puree , Foie gras sauce.

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As you can see here….The Snipe is missing an important part of its anatomy….Well I was told to give it a good sucking.

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A little tasting of Beef at its very best….This was chef Mikaels supper after service but he just couldn`t resist letting us have a couple of slices each. I`m sure that ill be totally corrected if I`m wrong here but I`m positive chef told me it was from a 15 year old Milking Cow , carefully selected for the taste….if im wrong then blame Mikael for all the wine he was plying me with.

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Roasted loin of Sika Deer , Chestnuts , Ceps , Redcurrant.

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Apple and Caramel Millefeuille , creme pattissiere….and as you can see….Home made Puff pastry….its all done properly here.

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Warm Chocolate , Powdered Raspberry , Passion fruit jelly , Madagascar Vanilla ice cream.

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A selection of little sweet treats

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It seems , reading through the various reports on Hedone that Chef Jonsson has been getting his fair share of ribbing over his cooking philosophy and style.Reports that he`s been so obsessed with the sourcing and use of quality ingredients that he has failed to complete and deliver his finished dishes.Personally i can`t see where these people are coming from, maybe i`ve missed something. I have to admit that one week later , i`m still thinking about this meal every day and it will be the first restaurant i eat in the very next time i visit London , I`m very impressed. Chef Mikael is right up my street…he`s ultra passionate about what he does.His love of cuisine has surpassed all levels of OCD and this guy lives and breathes his craft. It was an absolute pleasure to sit down and enjoy our own little trip into the world of Mikael Jonsson and feel just a little bit of the magic that`s going on inside this guys head. Mikael took our order , served us every glass of wine , delivered our plates of food , constructed our menus after a trip to his larder , took our payment and waved us goodbye.As controversial and as crazy as this guy is….I love him to bits , i`m well won over.

Oh and thanks very much David ( Mr CC ) ..awesome evening.

3 courses £35
 Tasting menu £65
 Carte Blanche which I would highly recommend –  £85

TO VIEW ALL OF THE PHOTOS FROM MY MEAL , PLEASE CLICK HERE

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