About cumbriafoodie

Who is Cumbriafoodie ? Alan Spedding from Whitehaven in West Cumbria , Food lover , Restaurant goer ,Wild food forager , Amateur kitchen dabbler , Cumbrian food photographer and general lunatic.As for the food photos, just shout up if your food need lovingly snapped.

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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meat fruit heston blumenthal

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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Selection of Local Cheese and accompanimentsP1090955

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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

hedone london

Hedone on UrbanspoonP1070812

Restaurant `Nahm`, The Oriental city`s finest.

     nahm bangkok  I won`t babble on about Nahm when i`ve done it a couple of times at length on here already. The most important thing is to actually see what you`re going to get to eat whilst you`re there so just take a quick look at the pics below. Anyone wanting more detail about the restaurant then simply have a little look at my previous post HERE.

The beautiful lobby of The Bangkok Metropolitan hotel.

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 The food at Nahm is up there with the best you`ll ever eat in Thailand. It`s traditional royal Thai cuisine brought into the modern world by Australian Chef David Thompson. On this occasion , same as the previous visits i chose the Nahm set menu for 1800 baht (£36 ) which is very good value for what many rate as the number 1 restaurant in BangkokP1070121

Ive been to Nahm 4 times now and every visit is more or less the same….or as the Thais say ” Same same but different “. I`ll probably give it a miss for a while now and start trying other places. My trip to Sra Bua ( HERE ) was enjoyable and I`d like to eat here again although in a huge city based around food I could eat in a different place every day for the rest of my life .As far as amazing food goes then it really doesn`t get any better than Bangkok.

Dinner always starts off with little bites of “Ma Hor ”   Minced Pork / Shrimp , Palm sugar , Tamarind and Peanuts sitting on top of fresh Thai Pineapple.

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                          Smoked Fish , Peanut and Tapioca dumplings.

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Salted Threadfin Perch with Ginger , Chilli and Green Mango on Betel leaves.

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Blue swimmer crab with Peanuts and pickled Garlic on Rice cakes.

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Prawn and Coconut wafers with pickled Ginger.

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If you like your meal spread out slowly over the evening then be prepared , it`s all pretty quick stuff here. Once you`ve eaten the selection of Nahm appetisers , all of the mains arrive at once in traditional Thai style , soups , curries , salads and relishes all crowd the table in one delivery. I suppose you could request that the soup be served as a separate course to make the meal last a bit longer .Other than that you`ll be in and out of the restaurant in just over an hour.

Clear soup of roast Duck with Thai Basil and young Coconut.

P1070052                Smoked fish and shredded Prawn soup with sour leaves.

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 Minced Prawn and Pork , simmered in Coconut cream with young Chillies , Red Shallots and Coriander , fresh vegetables and deep fried cured Carp.

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Aromatic curry of Chiang mai Chicken with sweet Potatoes and Shallots.

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Stir fried soft shell Crab with Chilli , Salt and Coriander

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Grilled Beef salad with Cucumber and Mint.

P1070041  Deep fried cured Carp, quite possibly the worst thing I have ever eaten. My Thai dining companion tried it and ended up pulling a face like a distressed Water Buffalo..not nice.

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A selection of Thai herbs and unripe fruit accompany the main course dishes.P1070050Unripe Green Mango is served before the sweet courses.This bitter fruit is accompanied by a sweet dip of Sugar , Chilli and Salt.

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Pistachio pudding with Golden tear drops and perfumed Mung beans in Coconut milk.

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A refreshing selection of fresh fruits arrive as an Asian fruit salad.

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I must attract them as i`m always getting bitten.This little critter preferred the taste of Thai Pineapple rather than my legs on this occasion. The restaurant did change the dish.

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A little selection of Thai sweet treats arrive to accompany Coffee. Little sweet puffed wheat balls on honey banana , half spheres of sweet Egg yolk , Young Coconut cream in icing sugar and shredded Coconut.

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To view all of the photos on Flickr then please click HERE.

Making the very best of Natures seasonal bounty.

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I forage for it , i cook it , i style it , i photograph it  and then finally i can eat it .If the truth be known then the latter is probably my favourite part of the exercise. The whole process can be a pain in the butt and  takes a full day of my valuable weekend off work but once the dishes are washed and everything`s completed  it`s then rather rewarding looking over the results on the computer. This one started totally out of the blue. I`d finished work on the friday lunchtime and headed up into the mountains for a 5 mile run. During my circuit and as i passed through the forests i noticed far more fungi than there normally was at this time of year , they were everywhere but unfortunately all inedible varieties. We`ve been having a bit on an Indian summer here in West Cumbria and the average daily temperatures are 10 degrees warmer this year which no doubt accounts for the late flush of Fungi. I had a little feeling inside that if there were this many mushrooms around then my number one secret location must also be laden, and so off i went to have a little forage. I was only 10 metres from the car when i got straight into my first batch of Ceps ( porcini ) , prime specimens only a few days old. A few metres further on and i stood open mouthed in amazement….. Jeeeeeeeez man , they`re everywhere. I actually counted 42 Ceps growing around one tree alone.

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Ceps , according to the experts normally like to grow near Silver Birch but this woodland was mainly coniferous so bang goes that theory. I ended up picking what i could carry back to the car and then returned for the same again. I actually left more than i took home with me and at current market prices of  £88 a kilo…wow.  I gave half to a friend for his restaurant and kept the rest for drying.The fungi that you can see below are all 1 , 2 and 3 days old , no more.The ones at the bottom of the photo are slightly different , these are Brown Birch Bolete mushrooms and they`re pretty foolproof to identify. They`re also very edible fresh or dried.

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This stunning specimen below was as solid as a rock , heavy and in prime condition.I would reckon about 3 days old. I sliced this one up for drying and it`ll end up in either a wild Porcini Risotto or a cream sauce to accompany some free range Chicken.The flavour of a Porcini cream sauce is one of the highlights of the gastronomic world.

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The prime Ceps , the little baby one day old specimens i kept for this recipe which would be my own take on the one i ate at Massana in Girona a few months ago.

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The flavour combination of this recipe is totally heavenly on the palate.  Wild Mushroom , Trufflle , flavours of the Sea balanced up gently with a smokey Pine nut vinaigrette , Scents of  Douglas fir forests and the tangy kick of freshly picked Wood Sorrel.

So to start the recipe off I gently dry roasted 80g of Pine nuts in a cast iron pan. They have a lovely flavour as it is but once roasted they take on a whole new taste.

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Put 120ml of Cider vinegar into a pan along with 1 1/2 tablespoons of Honey.Reduce this down until only about 1 tablespoon remains.

Finely chop 1 Shallot and add it to a bowl along with 2 tablespoons of Cider vinegar , Salt and freshly ground pepper.Let this sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

Crush the Pine nuts roughly between two pieces of kitchen paper with a rolling pin. Stir the vinegar reduction into the shallot mixture and then whisk in 60 ml extra virgin Olive oil. Add the crushed Pine nuts to the vinaigrette and season to taste.

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Fresh Douglas fir shoots carry the most delectable fragrance. It`s a shame it can`t be bottled.I`ve been steaming Chicken over these for years now and it`s nice to see that finally they`re part of modern day cooking. My friend Simon Rogan from Lenclume restaurant infuses the shoots with milk and makes the most fantastic Douglas fir Milkshakes to go with hot Donuts at the end of a meal there.P1060892Wild Wood Sorrel grows right throughout the Spring , Summer and Autumn months in woodland all over Europe.It`s really easy to identify by its heart shaped leaves which fold up on themselves after picking.They carry an acidic Citrus flavour which accompanies fish beautifully.wood sorrel

P1060893To make the Wood Sorrel dressing it was basically a case of trial and error. I took a good handful of fresh Wood Sorrel leaves and blended them with a spoonful of Cider vinegar , a spoonful of honey , salt , pepper and Olive Oil ….I just added and tweaked until it tasted right….No rules , just fun.

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The Prime Isle of man Scallops landed at Whitehaven , straight off the boat and into the harbour shop.They`re so sweet they can be eaten raw and so that`s exactly what I decided to do with them. I bathed them very gently in the marinade below for 15 minutes.The citrus fruit acids actually cook the Scallop meat and this is also known as Ceviche.I chopped a little of the Douglas fir sprigs into the marinade to add a delicate perfume of Pine to the thinly sliced shellfish. P1060903Take the juice of 1/2 Lemon and 1/2 a Lime , add a splash of Extra virgin Olive oil , Salt and Pepper. Mix in some very thinly sliced Wood Sorrel and finely chopped Douglas fir shoots and there you have the marinade for the Scallops. Slice the Scallop meat finely across the grain and lay the slices into the marinade.P1060897

You can see here that after only 15 minutes sitting in the marinade , the Scallops have actually been cooked by the acids in the Citrus fruits. P1060910The marinade for the Carpaccio of Ceps is a simple mixture of 6 Tablespoons of good quality English Rapeseed oil , The juice of 1 Lemon , Sea salt and mixed peppercorns. Gently whisk the ingredients together and then add the thinly sliced mushrooms.Let them sit in the marinade for 15 to 30 minutes to soak up the flavourings.The mushrooms are similar to sponges and when left alone for a while they`ll soak up the marinade and take on the flavour of whatever liquid they`re sitting in.P1060947 P1060953Here`s the final result and a lovely little seasonal Autumnal starter.Carpaccio of marinated Cumbrian Ceps ,Douglas fir infused Isle of man Scallops with Roasted Pine nut vinaigrette and Wood Sorrel dressing. To finish it off perfectly I added White truffle oil which took the dish to a whole different dimension.

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Bo.lan – Bangkoks best traditional Thai dining experience.

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Another visit to Bangkok and another wonderful little exciting adventure into the amazing cuisine that this city has to offer. Restaurant Bo.lan opened in 2009 and now sits comfortably at number 3 in Bangkok .It is also ranked number 36 in Asias top 100 restaurant experiences so definitely one for the traveller to add to their itinerary.

The restaurant cuisine is an amazing marriage of Oriental flavours brought together by two very talented young chef / owners. Duanporn Songvisava , better known as ” Bo ” from Thailand and Dylan Jones ” Lan ” who is the Australian side of the partnership hence the joint name “Bo” and “Lan”…… Bo.Lan…. Get it ? Bo and Dylan both headed up the kitchens of David Thompsons restaurant , Nahm in Bangkok before venturing out to open their own place 4 years ago.

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Bo.lan restaurant is in the city centre and reasonably easy to find. The closest skytrain station is Phrom pong and a taxi is dirt cheap. My 15 minute journey cost me 80 Baht ( £1.60 ). The restaurant sits in a very quiet city centre street and is all decked out traditionally in wood , baskets and is bathed in soft warm lighting.It`s definitely a restaurant for romantics.

The food here is traditional Thai but comes with a lovely twist and a trendy modern approach to the presentation and eating of classic Thai cuisine. My personal advice to anyone wanting to eat here for the first time would be to put your trust in Chef and go for the “Balance menu “. You can order your food a la carte if you wish but with the Bo.lan balance menu you`ll get an all round taste and flavour experience of the cuisine Bo.lan has to offer.The balance menu also changes 6 times a year so anyone visiting probably wont get the same menu twice. The restaurant is rated in the guides as `expensive` and i suppose by Thailand standards it is, seeing as though you can get an amazing feed on the street for 100 baht ( £2 ). The price of the set menu here is 1880 Baht ( £ 37 ) which i personally think is an amazing price for the experience they offer the diner. I also went for the wine pairing to accompany the set menu. Personally i really dont think that you can pair good wines with robust Asian flavours ( Chinese , Thai, Indian food …for me , it just doesn`t work at any level ) but i was in the mood for alcohol so decided to put my trust in the house selection. Sparkling Rose , Crisp white , chilled and very floral Rose , Fruity smooth Red and a very small glass of Dessert wine made up the package to accompany my Bo.lan food.

                          Iced Pandan water as a little palate cleanser.

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My dining partner Arisa was brought up on good Thai family food. Mum and dad both work for the government so the family eat pretty well at home. She seemed to find it quite amusing when i told her that an Aussie guy was most probably going to cook her the best Thai food of her life….” ok ok Mr Alan….we will soon see”.  We both decided to go for the Bo.lan Balance menu and i would go for the spicy version whilst Arisa chose the girly mild option…..and she`s the one who`s meant to have a stomach of steel.

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 Puffed rice with palm sugar, lemongrass and chilli served as a little nibble.

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Yaa dong grachai dum (traditional Thai spirit a bit like herbal Whisky ) served with pandanus juice and sour fruits

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As you can see here , there`s a little selection of soured fruits.I really had no idea at all what to do with these as no one explained how to eat this course. I just drank the Whisky and then the Pandan shooter and then nibbled on the Sour fruits which really weren`t pleasant at all. There was also Salt and Chilli but I didn’t know what to do with those so I didn’t touch them…..maybe it was a bit of a tequila moment , lick the salt and Chilli , knock back the Whisky and Pandan juice and then suck on a sour fruit.I really don`t know……HELP.

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                         Bo.lan amuse bouche, five bite-sized appetizers.

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The next couse was a little tasting of noodles. Im not sure exactly what it was but it contained baby Aubergine , Bean sprouts , sliced Wing beans and the noodles.

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My main gripe when eating at the restaurant Nahm is that all the food comes at once. I know that this is the traditional Thai way but i really don`t like it. I want to sit down , chill out , enjoy some wonderful drinks and eat slowly course by course and to be able to take everything in. At Nahm you`ll find that the soups , salads , curries , relishes and rice all turn up at the same time so you`ll end up eating half the meal stone cold. At least in Bo.lan is a slower affair and the meal is spread out over the evening instead of Wham…..Bam….Thank you Ma`am. The mains still arrive in a huge entourage but it isn`t too rushed. The selection you see below is the main courses….which all land at once….you have to be hungry here.

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Salad of Mea klong Samphire with grilled Squid and ocean Prawn in Thai herbs.

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Angel Chilli relish ( Prawn and Mung bean ) served with crispy fish cake , assorted greens and solf boiled egg.

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         Stir fried herb fed Chicken with Bamboo , Mushrooms and Orange Chilli.

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Relish of salted fish simmered in Coconut cream and minced Pork served with local stuffed flower.

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         Home style Tom Yum of Pork Ribs and rainy season Bamboo shoots.

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             Red Curry of grilled Pork tenderloin and local green sugar Banana.

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                                          Organic wild unprocessed Rice.

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                                                      Bo.lan Pre dessert.

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                                                        Bo.lan Dessert

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          Bo.lan blend Chiang Mai tea with spices , Mint , Ginger and Honey.

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A huge slate of sweet treats arrived with the Tea , many different textures, flavours and beautiful colours here. None of these were show stoppers but very pleasant all the same.Tapioca and Coconut , Pandan jellies , Sweet Rice crackers and many other very sweet little bites had me totally bursting at the seams. Arisa couldn`t manage to eat them so i had to indulge in two of each….its was extremely difficult but i hate to see food going back and so demolished them all.

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 I`ve previously enjoyed 4 dinners at Nahm in Bangkok and this was my first trip to Bo.lan. From now on i`ll definitely be making Bo.lan my first priority as the food there is quite similar but definitely better.The flavour combinations work well , it`s pushing the classic flavours of Asia into the modern world and with Bo and Dylan constantly striving for better things they`re in the kitchen at every service. Im my 4 visits to Nahm , Chef David Thompson hasn`t been there once. Bo.lan was fully booked during my visit and chef Dylan Jones still managed to get out to our table to say hello. So if you`re in Bangkok and want to eat traditional Thai cuisine , cooked to perfection with a modern twist then this place is definitely the number one restaurant to head for….See you at Xmas.

Service – Came with lots of smiles , very friendly and helpful staff , absolutely no complaints here.

To view all of the photos then please click HERE.

To visit Bo.lan website please click HERE

42 Soi Pichai Ronnarong Songkram, Sukhumvit 26, Klongteoy, Bangkok 10110

Restaurant Massana , Girona and the dish of a lifetime.

 massana girona Foodie travellers on their journey to Girona will no doubt be heading over to eat at the Worlds number one restaurant 2013, El Celler de Can Roca. Once they`ve had that culinary experience then what else is on offer in the area ? Well Barcelona is the obvious place to head to but that`s about 60 Miles away. Girona itself offers quite a few options , the obvious one being Tapas bars….everywhere does Tapas. Whenever we got hungry we simply hopped from bar to bar buying 2 cold Beers and a small selection of Tapas in each one which was really enjoyable. As far as Michelin standard food and fine dining experiences go then Girona doesn`t have a great deal to offer apart from the obvious one. All is not lost though because the restaurant i chose for my Saturday evening slot turned out to be a totally wonderful experience and some of the best food i`ve ever eaten.

Restaurant Massana is a 1 Michelin starred establishment run by husband and wife team Pere Massana and Ana Roger. The restaurant has now been open for 25 years serving up refined Catalan cuisine embracing the very best of regional produce. I chose this restaurant after seeing it on the Critical Couple food blog and after googling the current menu it sounded right up my street so i simply emailed them and booked online. A super double it was then , El Celler de can Roca for Friday lunch and Restaurant Massana for Saturday evening dinner , then back home on the Sunday. Yes….we foodies are totally nuts , its a bloody long way to go from Cumbria to the East coast of Spain for two meals…but worth every Euro.

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The restaurant sits in the heart of the city , you`ll be best off using ” Maps ” on your smartphone  to locate it because if you blink then you`ll miss this place. The restaurant is very well disguised and basically just looks like part of an apartment block. My “Maps” guide directed me right to the front door of Massana before i finally spotted the sign.Of course a taxi will be no problem finding the place so no worries there.

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The diner has 2 options here , A la Carte ( individually priced ) or a set Gourmet Menu consisiting of several tapas courses followed by a 10 course meal for 85 Euro ( £ 71 ) The wine flight is a very reasonable 38 Euro = ( £ 32 ) for 8 glasses of various wines. The choice was an obvious one , Gourmet Menu with wine flight. My son Max decided that he wanted a Mojito when we arrived. One of the staff apologised and informed us that they dont do cocktails but within 5 minutes there was one on the table. They had obviousy `Googled` a recipe and made one in a flash….perfect start.

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Pere Massana , Chef and owner came over to greet us and welcome us to his restaurant and seconds later the first Tapas arrived at the table and we were straight into our food.

Foccacia of Iberian Ham – Prime trimmings of fine quality Jamon on a fresh Tomato pulp set on a cripy wafer.

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Parmesan sticks and Paprika “La Vera”

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Smoked “at moment” Norwegian Salmon with Citrus and Ponzu sauce. – Really fresh slices of Salmon which were smoked very gently prior to leaving the kitchen. These were served covered in Bell Cloche jars and uncovered at the table perfuming the whole restaurant of fresh smokey Oak aromas.

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Marinated Mussels with Lime and Coriander. – Tender and succulent , perfectly cooked and `just` enhanced with the minimum of accompanying ingredients.

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Semi sphere of pickled Tuna and Tomato sand. – A one bite liquid burst of very Tomatoey flavours.

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Bagrir ( Moroccan Pancake ) of Shrimp , Leek and Bacon. – I could definitely have eaten an awful lot more of these.

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Liquid Cep Mushroom fritter. – Once again this was a `one bite` experience with the intense flavour burst of Liquid Ceps ( Porcini ) wild mushroom.

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Iberian Pork Ham ,”Dehesa de Extremadura” 2009 reserve ( From the Black Acorn fed Iberian Pig ) – Chef Massana smiled as he walked out of the restaurant and over to the leg of Jamon with his serrated knife.Affter slicing off a small plate of ham he came over to our table. This Ham was available as a starter for 25 Euros but Chef sensed that we were both here because we genuinely love our food and would appreciate this wonderful taste of Spain on a plate. This was the very best 4 year old Jamon Iberico that money could buy….and a little gift from the kitchen. The flavours were very creamy and fragrant and the ham fat just melted in the mouth . A normal Jamon would take between 18 and 24 months to reach its curing maturity. This ` reserva ` was 48 months of age….Beautiful.

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Massana choice of Bread was only 2 varieties , both were absolutely perfect…but No Butter , same as Can Roca….Must be a Spanish thing.

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Yogurt Foie Gras as a Royal with Muscat Jelly , Crunchy Corn and Toffee.- One to eat very slowly and definitely one small spoonful at a time..with a sip of Sauternes wine in between. Creamy Foie gras and Sauternes are simply one of lifes greatest gastronomic marriages and one of the best combinations of food and drink anyone will ever experience on this planet.

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Buffalo Mozzarella spheres , Pesto , Tomato soup and Caviar. – Fresh flavours and simple food that just tasted awesome. Mozzarella , Tomatoes and Freshly made Pesto. Another classic meeting of flavours that totally complement each other.

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Wild Mushrooms , Prawns and Truffle Carpaccio , Marinated Prawn and Pine nut vinaigrette. – O…..M….G This one was one of my `closed eyes` moments and came with concerned words from Max , my son ” Dad….are you alright ? ” I had actually drifted off into the heavens for a brief moment in time and after just one mouthful i had discovered my best dish of the year and infact one of the most delightul taste experiences of a lifetime….. Yes , a lifetime , it really was that good. We had been advised to make little parcels out of the ingredients and to try and get a small piece of everything into each bite.I done just that and immediately put my fork back down on the table again. The flavours and textures here were mind blowing. Soft wafer thin slices of fresh raw Cep ( Porcini ) mushroom topped with Marinated `raw` Prawns , slivers of fresh Summer Truffle , Toasted Pine nuts and a Pine nut dressing….Oh wow wow wow…. Ive never eaten anything so slowly. I would fly all the way back to Girona for this one plate of food….That`s how good it was. So when you come to Girona if you try nothing else then please go and sample this one.

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When I returned back to the UK from Spain , this dish was constantly on my mind.It was quite a journey for me to return to try it again and so I set out to re-create the flavours from Massana at home using local ingredients. Local marinated  baby Ceps ,Isle of man Scallops marinated in citrus and Douglas fir ( pine ) , Wood sorrel leaves and Puree , Pine nut dressing and White Truffle oil….and the taste ? Well I think I just about hit the flavours almost perfectly.

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Roast Scallop , Cucumber , Lemon and Dashi broth. – Well cooked large Scallop with a delicate perfumed broth and flavours of Citrus.

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Red Tuna on a Lentil Stew “Beluga” veil of Bacon , Wakame seaweed and Sea air. – A rare piece of very fresh Tuna with nicely paired accompaniments. The `Sea air` was exactly that…A sea water foam.

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Rabbit shoulder laquered with herbs and Apple Rosemary. – A very simple plate of food here , 3 components on the plate and needing nothing else. The Rabbit leg cooked long and slow ,glazed in a rich sauce and freshened up by the addition of sweet Apple and aromatic herbs.

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Laquered Iberian Pork , Aubergines , Black sesame and Wheat cracker. – It was so nice to eat Pork that tasted of Pork during this course.The meat was glazed heavily with a high gloss reduction of the cooking liquors which offered up really nice flavours.

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Coconut , Banana Guacamole , Sugarcane and Pina colada ice cream. – And so on to the desserts and my favourite part of the meal. This one didnt disappoint at all.The Pastry chef was rather creative in this dish of a realistic looking Coconut in a chocolate coconut shell with Pina colada flavoured ice cream sitting on top. The Sugarcane sponge and the Guacamole Banana sauce or whatever it was all went really well together.

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Unfortunately I can`t remember what this dessert was….Probably due to the wine flight taking another victim. Perhaps someone can remind me.

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Chocolate , Peanut and Lemon , Creamy Chocolate , Snow of Lemon with sugared Peanuts. – This was so weird , it was like actually eating a Lemon snowball and had exactly the same texture and feeling as eating a piece of compacted fresh snow.. I was gutted when i checked the menu to see that this was my last course…i really could have eaten another two or three dessert courses…. Maybe next time i`ll do a deal…..Oh and there will definitely be a next time. It`s a long way to get to Girona from the English lakes but ill be back to Massana if nowhere else.

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It was mentioned on another foodie blog that this restaurant was, at the time , running away comfortably on a 1 star level and the only way forward for Massana was to address their weaknesses and attention to detail. I believe they have now done that and in my eyes this restaurant is definitely cooking at a solid 2 star level now….Time will tell and i wish them lots of luck. Genuinely nice people.

                   To view the full set of photos then please CLICK HERE.

              Coffee , a very reasonable 2.2 Euro ( £ 1.85 ) and Petits fours.

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 Chef Massana must have spotted me lurking close to the wine store and so decided to stand guard….The Wine doorman makes a stand….he wouldn`t budge.

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The Best Restaurant in the World ?

                                                                                                                                         20130901_142808El Celler de Can Roca , Girona.The “ Worlds best restaurant 2013 “…..quite an accomplishment and an even greater reputation to keep hold of once you`ve earned it. An establishment that`s virtually impossible to just `slip in` for a meal there unless you`ve pre- secured your table ” one year ” in advance.If you want to eat there then be prepared for a bit of forward planning and a hell of a long wait. Do i think it`s the Worlds best ? No i don`t  but read on and alll will be revealed.

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So first stop – Getting a reservation. El celler de can Roca sits on the East coast of Spain .Eating here  has been described as rewarding as `obtaining tickets for the Olympic finals` so there you go. I counted myself extremely blessed that i was heading over there for lunch. Originally it was going to be a joint birthday treat for myself and my dining buddy  ” The Laird ” but unfortunately due to a tragic accident  i very sadly  lost my best friend a few months ago. I contemplated cancelling my reservation but decided to take my 16 year old son Max along for a weekend foodie treat he`d never forget and at the same time we would raise a glass and enjoy a very special meal in memory of the “Big man”
Getting the reservation is obviously the first thing you`ll need to be doing if you want to try the experience. Get the table first and then book the hotel, flight and organise everything around the Can Roca meal. I wrote an email to the restaurant in April for a table in August and their reply arrived a day later with the news that i would have to book at least 10 months in advance. This was even before they got the Number 1 slot. I wrote a further nice email asking them to allocate me a table  “whenever” one was available and i would then book my whole Girona trip around a Can Roca  table time….Magic , it worked , they found me a spare reservation and i was offered a lunch or dinner slot for the week that I required it. Please note that now they`re holding the title i believe waiting times have risen to over a year so in a nutshell book this September for next September.

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I`m not going to babble on forever about Can Roca , i`ll let the photos do the talking for themselves. Any information that you`ll need along with dozens of blog posts are all online…just google it. I`ll just fill you in on a few minors to assist anyone that`s heading out there.
Flights are straight forwards from the various UK airports to Girona – Ryanair fly every day and a return flight is less than £100. Transfers from Girona airport to the city are 35 Euro by taxi or 2.50 Euro by bus. The bus stops outside the terminal every 30 minutes and goes direct to Girona bus station.
The hotel i booked was URH Girona and was £50 per night for a spotless room. Its 10 minutes walk from the bus station and also a 10 minute walk into the main city square. A taxi to Can Roca is 6 Euro or a 10 minute walk back when you`re absolutely stuffed….its basically just over the bridge from the hotel….ideally situated.

I booked the restaurant for lunch simply because i wanted nice daylight colours for my foodie photos.It would also allow me to fit in more food later on that day….Cold Beer and Tapas.
The first lunch tables are available at 1pm so i arrived early with my son Max for a look around the place and to settle in nicely. We were the only people in there apart from a camera crew so we chilled out on the big soft seating with an ice cold glass of  house Cava . The whole of the premises are architecturally beautiful , a design masterpiece which extends to both the restaurant itself and the most high tech stunning kitchen ive ever laid eyes on. Huge glass walls , a mini plantation of what looked like silver Birch trees , Tunnels of pure  White lead to the various areas of the restaurant and unique pieces of pottery and sculpture commissioned exclusively for the business. The whole set up is marvellous and the last thing one would expect to see in the middle of a residential area of Girona.

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The Price –  For an establishment carrying such an exclusive honour the cost of eating here  is very reasonable indeed. There are 2 menus at Can Roca and therefore only the 2 choices at both Lunch and Dinner. The signature menu will set you back 155 Euro and the menu that we went for cost us 190 Euro for the 22 courses. The total bill for the meal above with 2 glasses of House Cava , A wine flight of 13 carefully selected wines and 2 bottles of water was £ 440 . Rather less than that Olympic final and personally far more enjoyable.

el celler de can roca menu

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So our tasting menu begins with “The World”  -  A paper lantern representing the globe is dramatically opened up in front of the diner to reveal a mini planetarium of nibbles from around the World.

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el celler de can roca

Mexico – Guacamole , Tomato seed , Tomato water and Coriander. – Designed to be eaten in one bite and contains an explosion of semi liquid Mexican flavours.

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Peru – Ceviche broth – Once again , eaten in one bite and contained a liquid filling.

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China – Pickled vegetables with Plum cream.

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Morocco – Almond , Rose , Honey , Saffron , Ras el Hanout , Goats milk Yoghurt. – Highly aromatic bite encompassing all the flavours of Morocco. This was a stunning flavour explosion.P1060020

Japan  - Miso , cream Dashi and Nyinyonyaki Tempura.

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Caramelized Olive / Anchovy  - This is a regular that the diner will always experience at Can Roca. Real minature Olive trees with “pick your own” fruit hanging from the branches. The olives were both sweet and salty being stuffed with Anchovy fillet and then encased in a wrapping of Caramel…. certainly different and raised a smile.

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A nice selection of freshly baked Can Roca breads.

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Crispy Shrimp –  Little wafers on a fishing net . I`m not entirely sure what the seasonings were on these but if you look closely then you`ll notice the tiny shrimps and various sprinklings.

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el celler de can roca

Carpano bonbon with Grapefruit and Black Sesame –  Basically a  crisp shell with a Vermouth liquid filling , not a show stopper and gone in a bite.

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Zucchini Omelette –  A miniature delight containing a semi liquid filling.

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Truffled bon bon – Stunning and very realistic  looking with an amazing burst of Truffle flavour.

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Truffled Brioche….soft , sensuous and heavenly flavour of Truffle. Dont ask me how they moulded that silver baseplate off a slice of Bread .

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Vegetable stock with sprouts , flowers , leaves and fruits. – Very pretty , subtle and fresh flavours of Summer.

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Elderflower infusion , Cherries with Amaretto , Gingered Cherries and Smoked Eel. – Cracking dish with a  heavy Cherry flavour. Little bites of Smoked Eel to bring a very slight savoury transformation to what would have otherwise  been a divine dessert. The Cherry was magically filled with a Ginger ice cream and then frozen. Cherry gel was piped into the Cherry consomme liquid once it had been plated up. One of the stand out courses of the meal.

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el celler de can roca

el celler de can roca

White Asparagus and Truffle Viennetta. –  Nice little take on the classic ” Walls Viennetta ”  but it didn`t work for me as i`m not into my ice cream tasting of Asparagus.

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Charcoal grilled Cheeks of Sardine with Green sauce. – Ohh dear , this was the worst taste experience ive had in a long time. Semi raw sardines on a sauce that tasted of “not a lot “. My son Max took one bite and turned White….” Im really sorry Dad  , i can`t eat this “… ” Max….. you can`t leave a full plate of food , just try some more”. Then i tried my own…….. Ahhhhh , i see what you mean. Enough said.

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Salad of sea Anemone , Razor Clam , Royal Cucumber and Seaweed in Escabeche. This one reminded me a little of the flavours of Heston Blumenthals ” sound of the sea” a highly technical marriage of Ocean flavours and textures. Clean tastes , very fresh seafood flavourings , a sauce in the bottom of the shell made from the juices and edible seaweeds. A stand out course and one of my favourites. I think a mistake was made in the wording of this dish .. Sea “Anemone” should have been ” Urchin” as i wasn`t aware that the former were edible….correct me if  i`m wrong folks.

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“A whole Prawn” – Charcoal grilled King Prawn , head juice with Seaweeds , Seawater and Spongecake of Plankton. –  Barely cooked and very soft , sweet  Palamos Prawns presented with their “Head Juices”. Nice flavours here and the highlight for me was the Crispy legs and carapace.

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Palo Cortado steamed Langoustine , Langoustine bisque veloute and Jerez Caramel. Another  highly flavoured Shellfish dish. One Langoustine was presented over a piece of hot Charcoal , swiftly doused in a Sherry and the lid replaced. Served with a Bisque created from the Langoustine shells and finished off with a `drop` of liquid Jerez Sherry Caramel on a spoon. Nice rich dish and i could have eaten a dozen of these.

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Grilled Sole with Black and White Garlic , Parsley juice and Lemon. – Very fresh and extremely delicate piece of snow white Sole. with a beautiful creation of accompanying sauces, Looked  great but at the end of the day it was a piece of fish with a very light bathing of sauce.

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Calamari parmentier with smoked Paprika and Calimari broth. This was my sons and an alternative dish to my course as it contained Hazelnuts.

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Cod with Miso and Hazelnuts. – Perfectly cooked little square of Codfsh with fresh Hazelnuts.

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Charcoal grilled Lamb breast fillet and Sweetbreads with Eggplant , Coffee and Liquorice. –  Beautiful ” two”  bites of heavely flavoured Lamb breast coated in a laquer of Lamb reduction scented with Coffee and Liquorice. Crisp skin , soft smokey meat and the most amazing dipping sauce….Sat above glowing embers but only the 2 bites , i could have eaten a full plate of this wonderful food.

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Pigeon Parfait and  Onion , Curry caramelized Walnuts , Juniper , Orange peel and Herbs. –  This one was gone in two mouthfuls….”One” thin slice of Pigeon breast…. ” Where`s the bread “

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Before we started on the desserts we got a good look around the kitchens. It was so modern , clean and housed all the latest technology.

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Sourdough ice cream with Cocoa pulp , fried Lychee and Sherry vinegar Macaro. –  A Jordi Roca creation and an introduction to more sweet treats.

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A fragrance adapted  ” Shalimar by Guerlain ” – Chai cream with blood Orange , Vanilla , Mango and Roses. – This dessert came with a small cone with the words ” Perfum ” printed on it. We were instructed to eat the dessert and then sniff the cone.Ahhhhh , all becomes clear , a very clever breakdown of the components of Shalimar perfume laid out on a plate. Jordi Roca had certainly researched this one well as they matched up exactly. I found myself sneaking a few sprays of Shalimar on the Guerlain stand in Girona airport duty free shop…..Heaven scent.

el celler de can roca

el celler de can roca

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Viola – A sphere of Cinnamon and Viola with Coconut and Honey toffee.  -  I`m definitely a dessert freak , i could have eaten Jordis creations as a tasting menu on their own. Violet ice cream ,WOW.

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The Sweet trolley with Espresso. – This was just a case of ” How many can you eat ” …i could have eaten the same amount again.

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So to sum up my feelings on the `Worlds best restaurant`… well it`s definitely each to their own.One mans meat is anothers poison and all that. It was an enjoyable experience and i`ve now been to El Celler de can Roca, bought the T-shirt and seen the show. In my eyes it`s definitely not the best meal i`ve eaten by a long way. My Fat Duck experience ( HERE ) embodied so much more creativity and glamour. Hestons food was extremely theatrical and technical the likes of which `joe public` could never ever recreate at home.( i did try – HERE ). Dominic Jacks food at Castle terrace, Edinburgh , my best meal of 2013 was confident and technical cooking to the highest standards of competance. ( HERE ) Then there`s Simon Rogan at Lenclume ( HERE ) , the next UK 3 Michelin star restaurant in the making  offering a totally unique meal in beautiful surroundings the likes of which you`re not going to get anywhere else in the UK. So there`s 3 restaurants  which i would all put above the food of Can Roca…….But just to stress….”in my own opinion” .It`s a good job we`re all made differently or the food world would be a pretty boring place.

El Cellar de can Roca is definitely  worth the trip , especially when it can be combined with the likes of my amazing meal at Massana the following night ( next blog post ). The food will delight some and not others but no one will leave the place disappointed. Its a tick in the box for the foodie traveller that has to be checked off. My biggest let down at Can Roca was the service. It wasn`t personal in any way , shape or form . It was very refined , silent,  orchestrated and distant. No smiles and no personal touch like The Berkeley or The Ritz ( HERE ) ,  It was business only and i found it to be very cold and impersonal.. I met Josep Roca as he passed around the tables , lovely guy , both quiet and unassuming. I also met Joan Roca during a tour of his amazing kitchens who was also softly spoken and very humble. He welcomed both myself and my son Max backstage with a full tour to meet the staff…..so impressive. Overall , they have the whole package at can Roca , the best of everything that the culinary world can offer but i have eaten better food almost on my doorstep in Cumbria so you can`t please everyone.

A tour of the Hi-Tec wine cellar housing 30,000 bottles of wine from around the world…try and put a value on that lot.

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Fragrance of El Celler de Can Roca in a bottle. Take away for 50 Euros…I have to admit it was a beautiful aroma.

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Believe it or not i was still hungry and my son Max , without prompting actually asked me ” Where we eating tonight dad ” ? Within a few hours we were sitting with cold beers in the city square with plates of Tapas.

To view all of the photos from our El Celler de Can Roca experience  then please just

                   CLICK HERE

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Rocambolesc , Girona …. Could this be the Worlds best ice cream shop ?

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Visitors to Girona will notice the sheer amount of Gelateria and ice cream parlours dotted all around the city. They`re beautiful little set ups decked out in traditional yesteryear styling and dotted every few paces in and around the old town and the citys main shopping streets of the Santa Clara area.

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I also observed that almost all of them were almost empty apart from one…. “Rocambolesc“.This crazy little outlet had a queue right through the shop and out on to the street…and why ?  Simply because it was owned by the Roca family and having the shiny new title of  “Worlds number one restaurant” in their bag, could they also hold claim to ” Spains best ice cream shop” at the same time ?.

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Visions of the Pied piper of Hamelin or the Child catcher on Chitty Chitty bang bang teased children magically across the street towards the shop entrance. Once inside they became the latest victims of  Jordi Rocas spell. As soon as we had arrived in Girona and unpacked our bags it was a case of  “fancy some ice cream” ? and we headed straight out into town. I had done a little research prior to the trip and being an ice cream freak i knew exactly where i was heading to…. The Willy Wonka styled  ice cream shop better known as  `Rocambolesc` by the Roca Brothers. Jordi Roca , `El Celler de can Rocas` Pastry chef created this shop and his wild imaginative sweet fantasies were  in top gear when doing so.

rocambolesc girona

rocambolesc girona

There isn`t a large choice of flavours here so don`t go expecting a hair pulling exercise as there`s only 6 to choose from….and of course we decided to have all 6 ( over a few days of course ).They only do a small amount of flavours but they do them well….extremely well. 4 ice creams and 2 Sorbets and that`s your lot.

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The twist in the tale comes from the 34 toppings and this is where you will definitely pull your hair out trying to decide which ones to go for.

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rocambolesc girona

I simply let the young lady behind the counter make the choice for me and off she went with her `soft serve` style Ripollesa Sheeps milk Yoghurt ice cream topped off with freshly spun Candy floss.I have to admit that it definitely brought the child out in me as it was so much fun to eat.

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rocambolesc girona

This is the Baked Apple ice cream with Caramelized and baked Apple….and little squares of Apple pie shortbread.

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Apparently all of the ice cream flavour bases are created and manufactured up the road in the family restaurant Can Roca. They are then sent down to the shop by bicycle. Here`s a combo of Chocolate and Vanilla seed ice cream with Chocolate Brownie and Chocolate covered popping candy.

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Chocolate ice cream with Strawberries, Chocolate sauce and Chocolate Brownie.

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Carrot Sorbet with Mango , Cape Gooseberries and Marshmallow.

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Chocolate Cone with Popping candy and White Chocolate sauce.

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Rocambolesc acts as a little teaser as to what`s happening up the road at the Mothership restaurant `Can Roca`. The ice cream shop is a far cheaper alternative way to sample the sweet delights of Jordi Roca and at the same time you`ll be able to treat yourself to a designer `Roca fragrance` or a Roca cookbook to recreate some of Jordis classics when you get back home.

Carrot Sorbet with Mango,  popping candy and Orange sauce.
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Another Carrot sorbet with Cape Gooseberries and Mango.

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So without doubt Rocambolesc simply has to be on the list for the foodie traveller heading to Girona. I would guess that a very large percentage of food lovers visiting the city are here for the one reason only so now you have two. Oh and when you see my post on Massana you`ll make that Three.
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