Monday, 25 December 2017

The Ledbury

The Undisputed King


Warm Pheasant’s Egg, Celeriac, Arbois, Dried Ham and Truffle


If you ask me which is the best restaurant in London, I would say The Ledbury without needing to think twice. The double Michelin starred restaurant by Executive chef Brett Graham is a dining temple and one of the hardest to book restaurants in the Capital, the food is modern French at a very refined level. The Ledbury was also newly crowned the best restaurant from The OpenTable's top 100 list, voted by the UK consumers. Returning for my 8th visit, I was so eager to see how the menu has developed and I was sure it would be something very special.

Monday, 4 December 2017

The Square

The great come back?



Marinated Scottish langoustine, hibiscus, citrus

If you are a serious foodie and lives in London, the chance is you will know about The Square, an iconic restaurant in the fine dining sector in the UK. Once owned by the double Michelin starred chef Philip Howard before it was sold to a fine dining restaurant group called MARC in 2016, it went through a sketchy patch with a replacement chef coming in leaving due to personal reason. However, it appears MARC is determined to regain The Square's formal glory and has appointed a new Executive chef from France and redesign the dining room completely to a more urban, dark and modern look and feel. New chef Clement Leroy earned a Michelin star for Auberge du Jeu de Paume back in France before taking on his new role at The Square.

Claude Bosi at Bibendum

Hibiscus MK2?



Claude Bosi at Bibendum

Claude Bosi is one of the most talented chefs in the UK, his cooking is all about daring to explore new flavours and challenging your mindset of what should and shouldn't work. Many chefs tried something similar but very few can pull it off, and Claude is one of them. I was gutted when his double Michelin starred Hibiscus was shut down last year as the restaurant offered some of the most exciting tastes you can find in London. Fortunately, he has returned to a new restaurant, taking over the top floor of Bibendum in South Kensington. Amazingly, the restaurant was only opened in Spring this year but already awarded 2 Michelin stars from the 2018 guide.

La Dame de Pic London

Pure class


Scottish Langoustine seared in shellfish butter with cucumber Kabosu, Granny Smith


This is my second visit to the 3 Michelin starred chef Anne-Sophie Pic's London restaurant inside the Four Season Hotel in Tower Hill. Having eaten its set lunch menu before it gained a Michelin star, I was impressed by its clean taste and creative element, and that was my reason to return for its tasting menu. As while set lunch menu offers a good indication of a restaurant's capability, usually the al la cate or tasting menu are a step above with use of top level and more expensive ingredients. What also caught my eye is almost every dish on the menu contain some element of alcohol, from gin, whisky to sake. Something that I think it can become a trend in the near future as top end premium spirit offers so much flavours.

The Clove Club

Edgy modern British dining


Burnt clementine granita

2017 has been a fantastic year for The Clove Club, long only it has retained its Michelin star status, it is now also the highest ranked UK restaurant in the "World 50 best restaurants" award from the influential trade media, Restaurant Magazine, ranked higher than the like of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and The Ledbury. Combing with its fashionable location in Shoreditch and the media hype, booking is high in demand and it becomes one of the very first UK restaurants to employ a new booking system which diners have to pay in advance in order to secure a booking. This can be annoying for some as sometimes things don't always go according to plan. However, the payment in advance rule only applies to dinner and you can book for lunch without the hassle.  

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Ceru South Kensington

The taste of Eastern Mediterranean coast


Lamb Shoulder


Lately, I have been dining out at European restaurants very often, so is good to switch it up a little to try something different. Ceru is a Middle Eastern themed restaurant offering the taste of Levant region so this could be anything from Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel to Turkey. This is actually my second time trying Ceru after having experienced its pop up restaurant in The City a while back. It was an enjoyable occasion and that was the main reason I have decided to visit the South Kensington venue. The dining room contains an open kitchen with bar counter sittings for walk-in. It has a really modern and casual feel to it and it was buzzing and busy on my visit.

The Oystermen Seafood Bar & Kitchen

Seafood joint in Covent Garden


Oysters time!


Newly launched in the summer, as the name would suggest, The Oystermen is a seafood bar that is specialising in fresh oysters. The tiny Covent Garden joint is located on Henrietta Street and somehow has made into the no1 ranking on Tripadvisor for London restaurants, not that it really matter anyway as the site is loaded with fake reviews. I decided to pay a visit as I am a massive oyster addict, and central London really lacks a proper good old fashioned oyster bar. True that there is the like of classic choices such as J Sheekey and Bentley's, but these joints are much premium and formal and I am seeking something a bit more casual.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Core by Clare Smyth

A new chapter



Isle of Mull scallop

It is very common to see chefs wanting to have their very own restaurant, but what surprise me was it took that long for Clare Smyth to leave Gordon Ramsay to set up her own gig at Notting Hill. After maintaining 3 Michelin stars status for Gordon's flagship restaurant Royal Hospital Road for almost 9 years and won countless awards such as National Chef of the Year and perfect 10 by the Good Food Guide. I had high expectation and I was really interested to see what Clare's cooking is really like when she has total freedom on the dishes creation, and how it compare to other top dogs in London, such as The Ledbury, which is just down the road from Core. 

Galvin at Windows

Sunday lunch in style


Seared fillet of halibut, chilli shellfish, mussels, hispi cabbage


This is my third time visiting Galvin at Windows, a fine dining French restaurant on top of Hilton Park Lane hotel. The restaurant is one of the two restaurants with a Michelin star by the Galvin brothers, a successful restaurateur duo with numbers of restaurants across the UK. These days, Galvin at Windows is headed up by Joo Won, a Korean chef who has injected some Asian element into the restaurant's signature modern French cooking. Dining at this restaurant is usually reserved for a special occasion, with high-class service and a sky-high view over London to match, as the Hilton Park Lane is one of the tallest building around Mayfair. 

Seven Park Place

Cosy fine dining 


Saddle of Lune Valley lamb, turnips, red wine jus


Located inside the luxury boutique St James Hotel in Mayfair, Seven Park Place is a tiny restaurant with less than 10 tables. Headed up by William Drabble, the Michelin starred restaurant offers modern French cuisine in a cosy, warming and intimate space. I have dined here a couple of times before for lunch, and both visits have proven me that William is such a skilful chef and the lunch menu is one of the best value for money deal you can find in London. This time, I went for the tasting menu to fully experience what the restaurant is really capable of.

The Coal Shed London

Seafood BBQ


Fire Roasted Shellfish

If you visit Brighton and ask a local to recommend a top restaurant, the chance is the name "Coal Shed" would be mentioned high numbers of time. Back in Brighton, Coal Shed is a popular restaurant that serves fresh seafood and steak, and the big selling point is the restaurant loves cooking the food over an open fire, it is all about big smoky and savoury aroma. The team from Coal Shed has launched a second outpost in London, and once again, seafood and prime steak will be the main focus. The restaurant is located in the new One Tower Bridge development by the River Thames, over two floors with an impressive slick modern looking decor.

Old Butchers

Hidden seafood heaven


Fruits de mer

I love the Cotswolds, I usually travel there a few times a year for holiday, and one of my favourite thing to do at the Cotswolds is to discover great hidden gems. This time, I stopped by Stow on the Wold, right in the heart of the Cotswolds countryside and dined at the Old Butchers. The interesting thing about this place is that it is actually a family-run seafood restaurant and wine bar, you won't find much meat on the menu, it is all about fresh seafood from around the UK. The Old Butchers is one of the most popular restaurants in Stow on the Wold, it was buzzing with locals on my visit while the street on the outside is totally empty.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Martell Cognac

The Sublime Society of the Beef Steaks & Cognac Punches


Roasted scallops with garlic and white port


As part of London Cocktail Week 2018, Martell (the oldest cognac house in the world) teamed up with British steak joint Hawksmoor to offer one hell of an evening called "The Sublime Society of the Beef Steaks & Cognac Punches". A special dinner that paired with cognac and food. (For those who would like to find out more cognac, check out my "Harmonies" article in partnership with Cognac Bureau). It is great to see cognac brands repositioning to be a bit edgy, more versatile and fun along the way, vs the old days when it was associated just as a winter warmer. Good quality cognac is such a beautiful thing that can rival the finest single malt whiskies in the world.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Waterside Inn

French fine dining, the classic way


Devon crab with langoustine tails, lovage


In the whole of UK, only 4 restaurants have been awarded 3 Michelin stars, and Waterside Inn is one of them. However, Waterside Inn is far more than that. Located in Bray, this 3 starred restaurant has been holding such acclaim for 30 years, which is an amazing achievement and no other restaurants in the UK can rival it. This restaurant is what traditional fine French dining is all about, dining at The Waterside Inn does come at a cost, however, with most dishes costing around the £50 mark, my advice would be go for the 8 course tasting menu, as you would be only paying just a touch more than the standard a la carte option, but with so many more dishes to try. 

Shikumen

Top notch Chinese cooking in The City


King Prawn Curry with Almond Slice


Shikumen, the highly acclaimed Chinese restaurant in Shepherds Bush has long been on my to visit list. The only thing that has been stopping me is due to the western location, but this has all changed with it has launched a new site in Algate, right by the tube station, inside Dorsett City hotel. The restaurant offers a dim sum menu at lunch hours and an a la carte for dinner. What really stood out is its menu is pretty short for a Chinese restaurant, which could actually be a good thing, as the chefs can focus on really refining the dishes and reducing waste. Below are some of the highlights from my two visits.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Gauthier Soho

King of Soho


Scottish scallop, chorozo, squid, marrow


For the 6th time, I headed back to Gauthier Soho for a lengthy tasting menu affair. Located in the heart of Soho, this fine French restaurant is full of charm and renowned for its modern French cooking whilst maintaining a touch of classic element. Unlike many other high end French restaurants, it is well priced with one of the best lunch deal in town, £45 for 3 courses, a glass of bubbles and 2 glasses of wine.  Come for dinner, its low light setting, small but well spread out space make it ideal for impressing a date, not to mention its 8 course tasting menu is simply a patch to food heaven. The below are some of the highlights from the dinner tasting menu.

Le Relais de Venise

Steak-frites combo at its best


Steak frites

Le Relais de Venise is a mini French restaurant chain spreading across London that came from France. It is now a global presence business with sites across France, UK, US and Mexico. The restaurant is renowned with its single menu item, a starter of salad and a plate of steak and frites, at £24 per person. The only choice you have is for the dessert course (which you need to pay extra for). In a way, it is a little bit similar to Flat Iron's £10 steak concept. The house "Porte Maillot" steak, aka a piece of tender sirloin steak that came with a special sauce was simply a pure sensation. The secret recipe contained butter, parsley and anchovies, which offered bags of rich and creamy flavours to the steak, and was perfect to dip in with the crispy fries. Also special shout out to the wine selection, well priced with some bottles costing under £15 but at a fine quality at the same time. This is an amazing value for money steak joint, with charming and classy service. Perfect for any steak lovers.

One O One

Seafood fine dining


Cod / Red Prawn / Paimpol Coco Beans Cassoulet /
Iberico Chorizo / Piquillo / Parsley

This is my second time dining at One O One restaurant, a fine dining seafood restaurant located in Knightsbridge, inside the Park Tower Hotel. The restaurant is highly regarded with its seafood offering. It has won countless awards including Sunday Time's best UK restaurant award at 13th and 3 AA Rosettes. The cooking style is French in essence with a few creative element in the mix. They use the top quality seafoods such as Cornish seabass and Norwegian king crab, to turn it into something refine and visually tempting. The restaurant has a best kept secret, 50% off for its tasting menu if you book online.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Temper City

Indian BBQ


Dry goat curry


Temper City is the second BBQ concept from Neil Rankin. I have been a fan of Neil Rankin for a while, from the Smokehouse days to his first Temper restaurant ,when it was launched in 2016. Temper City is nothing like the first Temper in Soho however, the Soho site focus on South American theme with tacos and tortillas, while the brand new City site is all about Indian BBQ, with curry and tandoori taking central stage. I was really interested to see how Neil's BBQ and open fire pit style of cooking can apply to one of the most loved world cuisine in the world.

Magpie

Trays and trolleys



Starters selection from a tray

Magpie is a brand new restaurant by the same people behind the Michelin starred Pidgin. Located in Oxford Circus, Magpie is a modern British restaurant offering a rather unusual dining concept, with guests getting to pick their starters and desserts from trolleys and trays that goes around in the dining room. Diners have the chance to see the look of all the dishes before deciding, the trolley dish sizes are similar to dim sum and tapas, ranging from £3 to £8. Magpie also offer main courses in a more traditional manner, cook to order with about 5 choices.

Belcanto

Lisbon's finest


Oxtail with chickpea, foie gras, veal tendons, onion cream with Serra cheese


Located in the heart of Lisbon, Belcanto is one of the only 2 Michelin starred restaurant in Portugal, and some would consider it is the very best the country has on offer in terms of fine dining, as voted one of the top 100 restaurants in the world by the much celebrated San Pellegrino's world best restaurant award. Operated by heavyweight chef Jose Avillez, the restaurant is all about progression and develop highly creative modern Portuguese cuisine. The restaurant has a short choice of a la carte, along with 3 tasting menus to pick from. It is a small restaurant with no more than 15 tables, so do book well in advance.

Alma

Modern Portuguese fine dining


"Cobblestreet" salted cod, onion purée, egg yolk


Alma is one of the handful of Michelin starred restaurants in Lisbon, located in the city centre and headed up by a talented and ambitious chef, Henrique Sá Pessoa. The cooking are playful and forward thinking, with some classic Portuguese elements in the mix. At the same time, there is plenty of global influence, from French to Japanese. There are a few set menus to choose from, as well as an a la carte menu. If you visit in a large group and enjoy tasting a range of dishes, I would suggest the a la carte so that everyone can pick different dishes, just like what I have done on my visit.

Cervejaria Ramiro

Seafood heaven


Giant red shrimps


As Lisbon is surrounded by fishing villages nearby, seafood doesn't come short in supply, and if you ask a local to suggest a seafood restaurant, most will recommend Cervejaria Ramiro. It started off as a beer house back in 1956 and has since developed into a well regarded seafood joint. The restaurant offer an iPad menu in multi-languages as some of their English are limited, we ordered a large selection of seafood, from langoustine to lobster. Basically it was a seafood feast. Be aware as this is an extremely popular place and it doesn't take booking, try to arrive early or you might will need to wait for over an hour. 

Saturday, 5 August 2017

XU Restaurant

Exquisite Taiwanese cuisine



Char shui Iberico pork

Xu is from the trio behind the successful casual dining joint Bao, Wai Ting Chung , Shing Tat Chung, and Erchen Chang. They started off as a street food vendor before setting up their first restaurant in Soho, and Xu is their latest offering, specialising Taiwanese cuisine with a slightly more upmarket approach. Xu is located right on the edge of ChinaTown, it has a retro feel with a mini cocktail bar and a tea bar. The menu is fairly long, with some Chinese and Taiwanese classic dishes, along with some innovative dishes, such as XO Carabinero prawn and shortrib & bone marrow pancakes. Xu also has an excellent set lunch menu which you can have 2 courses with rice for under £20.

Neo Bistro

Far more than just a bistro



Cornish crab with courgette, confit lemon

Woodstock street of Oxford Street has always been known to be surrounded by tourist trap restaurants, but that is not the case with the newly launched Neo Bistro. Founded by Anglo's Mark Jarvis and Alex Harper, ex-head chef at the former Michelin starred The Harwood Arm pub, you can already see star quality written all over it. It has a short a la carte menu along with a tasting menu, modern European style but dressed up in a rather simple format, but of course, using top notch local ingredients. I would suggest trying the tasting menu as it pretty much cover everything from the a la carte menu and the cost between the two aren't that great.

Marksman Public House

Pub of the year?


Fish head Curry


Marksman has long been on my agenda to pay a visit, a good quality gastro pub is hard to come by these days and Marksman appears to ticks all the boxes for me. Awarded the best pub in the UK by the Michelin guide, along with countless top reviews from the press. On top of that, Marksman is run by Tom Harris (ex St John Hotel, which also had a Michelin star) so my expectation was high. The a la carte menu had a mixture of modern dishes with some pub classics, such as roasted chicken and pies. For me that is a great balance, as many locals still treat the pub as a local hangout joint instead of a dining destination for foodies like myself.

Sushi Atelier

High quality contemporary sushi bar



Sashimi omakase

Located on Great Portland Street, Sushi Atelier is a brand new opening from the same people behind Chisou, a high end Japanese restaurant group with sites such as Mayfair and Knightsbridge. Sushi Atelier is a small sushi bar with two floors, offering a contemporary take on sushi, with plenty of unusual elements, such as parmesan cheese and truffle. Far from your classic sushi bar, Sushi Atelier also has a small range of hot dishes, from gyoza to bbq eel, as well as more international items but with a Japanese twist, such as ceviche and carpaccios. Good quality sushi is hard to come by in London, and it normally comes at a premium price, but even the most expensive omakase set only came at £24, which is pretty good value for money.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Klaw

Shellfish heaven



Irish oysters

I have got nothing but love for seafood, so when I was planning my trip to Dublin, Klaw,  really stood out as one of the must try places for me. Located right in the heart of Temple Bar. Klaw is a tiny shellfish bar offering freshly prepared seafood in a very informal, casual space. It has an open kitchen with no more than 15 seating, the decor is very "hipster" and modern. Klaw claim that they have one of the largest selection of oysters and this is music to my ears. I can just imagine myself sipping a pint of Guinness and losing up with a mountain of shellfishes. 

Chapter One Dublin

Modern Irish charm


Grilled lasagne of scallop and Atlantic crab, pickled seaweed butter


Not to be getting mixed up with Chapter One in Kent, Chapter One Dublin is also a Michelin starred restaurant located in the northern part of the city. It appeared this is a much loved restaurant in Dublin, as it had countless awards and also rated highly on Trip-advisor. Interestingly enough, the restaurant was part of the former home of George Jameson, the founder of the world renown Irish Whiskey brand Jameson. Like most modern fine dining restaurants, Chapter One offers an a la carte menu, a tasting menu and 2 well priced lunch menus. We opted for the four course dinner menu as a group but shared all of our dishes so we got the chance to sample more than 10 dishes per person.

Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud

Dublin's answer to haute cuisine


Tuna tataki, sesame, red curry

As the one and only 2 Michelin starred restaurant in Ireland (there are no 3 stars in Ireland), it would be normal to think that Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud is the best fine dining restaurant that the nation has to offer. Located in the heart of Dublin, launched in 1981 and became a household name to the city offering the finest French cooking, using top quality Irish ingredients. More than 30 years later, its reputation only got stronger with countless raving press reviews. As fine dining come at a price, this time around, I opted for the lunch menu at £48 for 3 courses. You will be looking at paying over £100 just for food for a dinner at the same restaurant.

The Greenhouse Dublin

Creative Irish fine dining



Cod, pea, Wye Valley asparagus, girolles


Greenhouse is one of the few Michelin starred restaurants in Dublin (Not to be confused with The Greenhouse in London which has 2 Michelin stars). It is a tiny fine restaurant located next to one of the National Museum of Ireland. The cooking is modern Irish/French in essence but featuring mostly local ingredients. For dinner service, the restaurant only offers tasting menu so be aware if you are not a fan of such format. What really caught my attention with The Greenhouse is the unusual and complexity of its ingredients combination, something that I think is so hard to get it right but the result could be so rewarding if the chef managed to pull it off.

Friday, 9 June 2017

La Dame de Pic London

Make or break?


Edible lime leafs


Another high profile oversea chef setting up a shop in London, this time in the name of Anne-Sophie Pic at the Four season Hotel at 10 Trinity Square. Anne is a true celebrity chef back in France, with her flagship restaurant "Anne-Sophie Pic" reaching 3 Michelin stars status. The problem is, London hasn't really been a happy place for high profile oversea chefs in the last few years, Celeste (by French heavy weight Eric Frechon, holder of 3 Michelin stars at Epicure in Paris) failed to get a handful of bookings in the evenings despite the high quality of the cooking and Ametsa (by the same team behind the 3 Michelin starred Arzak in Spain) had to run constant promotion to attract customers. Here, will La Dame de Pic suffer similar fate? The menu at La Dame de Pic is your typical fine dining restaurant format, tasting menu, a la carte and a reasonable priced lunch menu, taking some of the dishes from the a la carte menu.

Fire Dog

Not your usual Turkish restaurant



Charred octopus

Located on the former site of Piquet on Newman Street, just a stone throw away from the ever busy Oxford street, Fire Dog is a brand new restaurant serving Turkish inspired mezes and grills. Labelled itself as a "Meze dining club", Fire Dog is not your usual Turkish restaurant. It spreads across two floors, with neon signs, graffiti artworks and a strong focus in cocktails, it feels more like a night club. The all-day dining restaurant provides sharing dishes. Diners are encouraged to order a selection of cold and hot mezes, before moving on to the open flame charcoal grilled dishes, ranging from classic lamb cutlets to stuffed aubergine. 

The Test Kitchen

Test lab


Raspberry, Wasabi, Buttermilk

I am a fan of Adam Simmonds, his performance at the Great British Menu from a few years back was such a joy to watch. Having experienced his cooking at Kensington Pavilion, when he was head chef there, I can just see how talented and creative he is as a chef. So I was delight to see he is making a comeback in London. Located on the former site of the ever popular Barrafina, The Test Kitchen looked pretty much the same just like before, it offered counter sitting only in front of an open kitchen, ideal for people who enjoy watching how chefs prepare your dishes. The Testing Kitchen is all about Adam dishing out experimental cooking and gaining feedback, before opening a permanent venue in the near future. 

Blacklock City

Meat is good


All in!

Blacklock, a meat specialist had just expanded recently. After gaining rave reviews from the media and packing out almost every night, it had launch a second Blacklock in The City, offering a similar menu. Unlike the first Blacklock in Soho, you can book! Which is such a relief, as getting a table is not easy in the area. The other difference between the two is that Blacklock City had a few of its unique food offering, with starters and some big cuts that specially designed for a single diner.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

The Sir Charles Napier

Sweet lunch on the go


Pumpkin, ewes curd, king oyster, roscoff onions

This is my second visit to Sir Charles Napier, a Michelin starred gastro pub in Oxfordshire with a stunning garden, packed with interesting sculptures. I had eaten at Sir Charles Napier for the first time six months ago, and I was generally very impressed with the cooking quality and flavours execution, which meant it was totally worth a detour when I was on my way to Cotswold from London. This time I opted for the set lunch menu, at £19.50 for two course, not something that is possible in London!

5 North Street

Small restaurant, big flavours


Quail, asparagus, ceps


Whenever I visit Cotswolds, one the most exciting thing for me is to dine at top quality local restaurants. It is very interesting to compare to London restaurants, from ingredients to the atmosphere. I discovered 5 North Street in Winchcombe from the Michelin Guide, but what really won me over for a visit, was the endorsement from other heavyweight chefs, such as David Everitt-Matthias and Michel Roux Snr. At dinner time, the restaurant offers a la carte (£54 for 3 courses) and a tasting menu (£74), the tasting menu is mostly dishes taken from the a la carte menu. The restaurant has a much more affordable lunch menu at day time, at £32 for 3 courses.

Lords of the Manor

Dine like a lord



Salmon, lemon and artichoke

Located in Upper Slaughter, Lords of the Manor is a luxury countryside hotel with a restaurant with the same name. It gained Michelin star status for 8 years in a row with some very positive reviews from the press. As a fine dining lover, Lords of the Manor was too good to give it a miss when I was travelling to Cotswold. The decor and surrounding of the venue was seriously impressive, it has a stunning garden with an elegant dining room to match, it is almost like a mansion. The restaurant offers a la carte and tasting menu for dinner at a rather premium cost, but it does have a much more affordable set menu for weekend lunches and that is what I went for.

The Chef's Dozen

Chipping Campden's finest


lamb – celeriac, walnut, sloe gin

I first tried to get a table at The Chef's Dozen the year before and I should have known better. Without booking and turning up for a walk-in, luck wasn't on my side and I failed to get a table. It appears this little restaurant in Chipping Campden is the real deal, rated the best restaurant in Chipping Campden by Trip Advisor and adored by the locals, I took no chance in my second attempt and booked a table online well in advance. Unlike your standard restaurant format, Chef's Dozen offers a 4 course menu with 12 courses to pick from in total plus a tasting menu, with a range of canapes served before your first course.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Martín Berasategui

Simply perfect


Charcoal-roasted young pigeon with red endive and olive bites

Out of the three 3 Michelin starred restaurants in San Sebastian, Martín Berasategui was the one I was looking forward to the most. I dined at his restaurant in Barcelona called Lasarte a few years ago, and that wonderful memory still remained strong in my head. My dinner experience at Lasarte was one of the very best meals ever in my life, exceptional cooking, stunning presentation, world class service. The resturant had everything, so it was well deserved to see it has been promoted to the 3 Michelin stars club in the latest edition. If Martin Berasategui's outpost can be such a beast, surely his flagship restaurant can only be even better?

Akelare

Seaside fine dining, luxury Basque country style


Roasted pigeon with mile and cocoa

Akelare might have a lower profile compare to the other two triple starred Michelin restaurants in San Sebastian, but it certainly has by far the best views. It is located on a hill and offering stunning sea views that few restaurants can match. Beside the Michelin status, it is also a member of Relais and Chateaux, which can only mean 1 thing: a top quality, luxurious restaurant with services that is fit for royalty. Unlike most fine dining restaurants, it has 3 tasting menus that allow diners from the same table to mix and match any of the 3 menu, a rarity as usually these types of restaurants would need the whole table to take on the same menu.

Arzak

Why the hype?


Oysters mondrian

The name Arzak really needs no introduction if you are a serious foodie, located in the gastronomy capital San Sebastian, it is a 3 Michelin starred restaurant with serious reputation. It has constantly been voted as one of the finest restaurants in the world from the World 50's best guide and it's head chef: Elena Arzak has been named the best female chef in 2012. I have eaten at Arzak's outpost in London: Ametsa, back in 2013 when it was first launched and it wasn't anything special at all. But given the fact that so many high profile foreign chefs failed in London, I was pretty sure Arzak would be a different story and could deliver an extraordinary meal, but sadly, that wasn't the case.

Restaurante Kokotxa

Affordable top notch fine dinning experience



“Carabinero” (large red prawn) rice, beets and seaweed

Most people are aware that San Sebastian is the food capital of Europe, thanks to its triple 3 Michelin starred restaurants and countless of value for money pintxos bars. However, there are also plenty of great restaurants too and Kokotxa is one of the finest in the Old Town area of the city. The restaurant is renowned for its contemporary cooking style, using high quality ingredients with international influences. Just like most high end restaurants in the Basque region, it offers the standard a la carte as well as two tasting menus. The decor is fairly standard, with white paint and tablecloth across the whole dining room.

Bar Zeruko

Modern pintxo bar


Bar Zeruko


There are so many pintxo bars in San Sebastain, but without a shadow of a doubt, Bar Zeruko is one of the finest the city has to offer. Located right in the heart of the Old Town area, the bar offers a range of traditional pintxo, as well as some very creative and modern pintxo that wouldn't look "out of place" in a high end restaurant. Some of the "stood out" dishes: The grilled scallop, well seasoned and blessed with smoky aroma and freshness, a total steal for only five euro. The suckling pig dish could easily serve in a fine dinning restaurant, beautifully cooked, moist and crispy on the edge with the mustard adding a touch of sharpness to offset the richness. The Ox fillet with foie gras was full of delightful intense and bold flavours, the fillet was tender and the foie gras had a melting sensation, amazing value considering it costed only 5.5 euro. Having eaten at a few pintxo bars, Bar Zeruko is a personal favourite of mine, and one I would return for sure if I ever visit the city again.

Txepetxa & La Vina

Txepetxa



Anchovies heaven

Similar to red prawns and Iberico ham. Anchovies is a big deal in San Sebastian, a good plate of anchovies could command serious money and locals treat it as a luxury. Located in Old Town, Txepetxa is all about top quality anchovies pintxos and is one of the most popular pintxos bars in the city. It is amazing to see how well anchovies can work with other ingredients. The "stood out" one for me was the one with foie gras and apple, it was rich, bold with a hint refreshing sweetness at the same time, it was such a flavour harmony. Another fun one was a pairing with blackberries, never could have imagine fruit and fish can work together but somehow Txepetxa got it spot on.  

Launceston Place

New beginning 


Monkfish, banana , onion

I was very hesitant to visit Launceston Place, it was my personal favourite restaurant when Tim Allen was head chef (He has moved to Wild Rabbit in 2015).  The restaurant has given me many exquisite meal and happy memories, but now all the familiar faces are no longer there, it was hard to find a reason to head back. Launceston Place appeared to have a shaky period in 2016 since Tim moved on. Their new head chef that didn't last long before he was replaced with another new chef, in the name of Ben Murphy. His menu seemed ambitious and highly creative, with some good early press reviews, I figured it would be a good reason for me to return to see how things have changed.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Galvin La Chapelle

Jazzy Sunday lunch


Slow cooked duck egg, broad beans and smoked duck


Out of all the Galvin restaurants in London, Galvin La Chapelle is my personal favourite of mine. Beside its Michelin star status, I really enjoy the beautiful decor, built within a former chapel, its interior has such a classic glamour feel to it without being dated. Plus the cooking here are generally pretty strong no matter if you go for the tasting menu or the set menuOn Sunday, the restaurant offer a set menu with relaxing jazz music playing in the background, not a bad way to kick off a lazy Sunday. The menu itself is more or less the same as the weekday lunch menu, with a few more choices to add.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Smokstak

Finest BBQ 



thick-cut pork ribs

It appears starting life as a street food vendor before setting up a proper restaurant is the way to go these days. Smokestak is one of the latest restaurants that has successfully transferred from a hipster street food joint into a popular restaurant in Shoreditch. I had great memories with Smokestak from its street food days, it's pork ribs were really something special and that is one of the few street food items that stood out for me. Smokestak's new home is edgy and bold in design, very dark and it has limited branding, almost like an abandoned torture house from a horror movie.