Sunday, 8 November 2020

Da Terra

 4 hands dinner


Moqueca

I was super gutted when Greenhouse was shut down for good in early 2020, as chef Alex Dilling's cooking has to be one of the finest in London, I have eaten at Greenhouse when it was headed up by Antonin Bonnet and Arnaud Bignon, and I got to say Alex's offering is far better than both. When I discovered he is doing a one-off dinner with chef Rafael Cagali at Da Terra, I wasted no time to book a table. Da Terra has long been high on my visit list, headed up by Rafael who worked with some top the greatest chefs in the world such as Martin Berasategui and Simon Rogan, Latin style creative fine dining is rare in the UK so I was eager to see what Rafael got in store for the dinner. The meal came in a tasting menu format, with 5 dishes from each chef.

Behind

Seafood modern counter dining


Oyster taco, gentleman’s relish

Kitchen table/counter dining as a concept is somewhat a rising trend in the UK, great if you are a serious foodie wanting to be up close to witnessing all the dishes preparing in front of you. I personally enjoy such a concept so when I hear there is a new counter dining restaurant launching with a focus on seafood, I have added to my to-visit list right away. With 18 seats only surrounding the open kitchen. The chef behind it is Andy Beynon, the former development chef for Jason Atherton. So on paper, you just know the cooking would be of good quality. Behind only serves a tasting menu, which contains 8 courses, and every dish is served by a chef, along with a sommelier who takes care of the drinks. All the table service are done by the chefs too.

Blue Jasmine

 Contemporary Southeast Asian cuisine


Carabineros prawn in royal supreme stock and corn noodle

While I was planning my trip to New Forest, I was out of idea where to find a decent place to eat while I was stopping by at Southampton. Southampton is not known for its high-quality restaurant offering and I was struggling to find anything after extended research online. In the end, I discovered a Pan Asian restaurant called Blue Jasmine. It is a new restaurant which only just launched in early January, and turned out it is headed by an ex-head chef of Duddell's, which is a personal favorite restaurant of mine. Given the pedigree of the chef, I was pretty sure Blue Jasmine standard wouldn't be bad at all. Looking at the menu, it contains elements of Cantonese, Thai and Malaysian cuisine. The decor is very modern and almost as an exclusive club feel to it, located by the waterfront with a beautiful view of the sea.

Daffodil Mulligan

New age Irish cuisine


Hannan’s Sugar Pit Pork Rainbow Chard, Gochujang

Irish chef Richard Corrigan is one of the most respected chefs in the UK, so when he teamed up with 2 other fellow Irish to launch Daffodil Mulligan in Old Street, it was a big deal. Interestingly enough, before Daffodil Mulligan was launched back in 2019, there was another Irish restaurant in its place but lasted just over a year. When COVID-19 came around, I was wondering if Daffodil Mulligan would suffer the same faith. Thankfully, it has since reopened with an Irish theme menu that has plenty of international flavours infusion. The menu has a large selection of small plates that aim for sharing and many of the mains are cooked in its in-house wood oven or open fire grill.

Orient

 King of China Town


Steam crab with rice wine and egg white

Small businesses in China Town are suffering, the damage from COVID 19 was heartbreaking and who knows when China Town can get back to where it was. For many restaurants in China Town, forget about making a profit, surviving is a massive challenge in itself. So I feel to support it, why not go there and enjoy a few meals. I went to the Orient on 2 occasions, one for dim sum, one for a proper dinner treat. I have eaten at Orient a few times before and I found it is the best Cantonese restaurant in China Town, and my latest 2 visits proven to me why once again.

Sunday, 18 October 2020

The Ritz London

Classic hotel fine dining charm


Langoustine, Á La Nage and Bronze Fennel


Ritz is surely the most classy and elegant hotel in London. Since it was first opened in 1906, it has since become the venue for the rich and famous. It is highly popular with royal families, celebrities and wealthy tourists. You will be mistaken if you are in France if you take a step into its stunning dining room. The Louis XVI style decor makes you feel like you are in a royal palace than in a restaurant. In charge of the Michelin 1 starred restaurant is chef John Williams, he has modernized Ritz's Haute cuisine offering while still maintain the traditional charm. You will see classic sharing dishes such as the pressed duck and beef wellington, and John is especially renowned for his seafood cooking. To fully experience what Ritz is all about, I opted for the 8-course epicurean menu.

The Clove Club

Britan's finest?


Spider crab tart


In the latest World's 50 Best restaurant guide, The Clove Club was the highest-ranked UK restaurant, coming at 27, ahead of places like The Ledbury and Core. The first question that came to my mind was, is The Clove Club really the best restaurant in the UK? The Michelin starred restaurant inside the Shoreditch Town Hall champions local ingredients and offers modern British cuisine in a casual setting. I have been there two times before, while I found the place to be enjoyable, it was far from anything that I would consider it to be right up there with the very best. Two years on, I headed back to The Clove Club to see if much has changed, and opted for its longest tasting menu.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Angler

 Seafood fine dining in the City


Newlyn cod Scottish girolles, new season onions, Cornish squid

Since the spread of COVID 19, the City of London has been such an empty zone. With many city workers still working from home, restaurants are clearly struggling in that area. Angler, the seafood specialist restaurant is in the heart of the City and I did wonder if it could survive. I have been to the fine dining hotel restaurant back in 2014 when it was newly awarded a Michelin star, it has since kept it ever since even after a change of head chef in 2018. The restaurant has a big focus on seafood, you will see plenty of local fishes and shellfishes on the menu, such as Cornish mackerels and Scottish scallops. Like many high-end restaurants, it has a short al la carte menu, as well as a good value set menu and a tasting menu.

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Davies and Brook

 US fine dining import


Grilled duck with Kohlrabi, Poppy Seed, and Apple Dumplings


You can not get a name that is so unoriginal than US chef Daniel Humm's London restaurant called Davies and Brook, purely because the restaurant is located by Davies Street and Brook Street in Mayfair. Serious foodies would know Daniel Humm's New York restaurant was once voted the best restaurant in the world by the 'World's 50 Best' guide and held 3 Michelin stars to these days. His London outpost was launched in winter 2019 and quickly become one of the hottest tickets in town. Fast forward to 2020 on the back of COVID 19, the restaurant has reopened with more or less the same menu, which is modern European in principle but with many international influences. Diners can pick either the 4-course alc menu or a long 8-course tasting menu. 

The Grill at The Dorchester

Refined modern British cuisine 


Middle White suckling pig, pumpkin, bitter leaves, sherry sauce

The 5 stars Dorchester hotel is blessed with some excellent restaurants, there is the top-notch classic Cantonese restaurant China Tang, as well as the 3 Michelin starred French restaurant Alain Ducasse. However, the one that got me most excited about is The Grill, a modern British restaurant headed up by chef Tom Booton who was once the head chef at Alyn Williams. The menu is all about transforming British cuisine into something modern, fresh, and exciting, using a range of top-notch British native ingredients. I have eaten at The Grill once already when it was relaunched under Tom back in winter 2019. 1 year later, I headed back to see what new dishes he has in store and was just pleased that it has opened again after the tragic COVD-19 challenge that has made such a horrible impact on the restaurant industry.

Park Chinois

 The peak of Chinese fine dining in the UK


Hida wagyu stir fry rice

Since I have discovered Park Chinois 2 years ago, I have become a massive fan and have since dined there 8 times. I have pretty much eaten its entire menu, from set lunch, dim sum to luxurious dinner dishes such as whole lobster and Peking duck. The beauty about the cooking here is no matter if it is just a basket of classic dim sum or a plate of wagyu, everything is done in such a refined manner, putting classic Chinese cooking in center stage and deliver exceptional Chinese fine dining experience. For my 9th visit, I was lucky enough to be given a bespoke 8-course banquet-style, and I just know it was going to be a really special evening.

The Game Bird

 Still the game champion


The Game Bird pithivier, truffle bordelaise sauce

Located inside The Stafford Hotel, The Game Bird is not your typical hotel restaurant. The elegant yet cozy space offers British fine dining with a focus on cured fishes and game dishes. In game season, you will find many game dishes on offer, all done in a refined, classical manner. This is actually my second visit, I was really surprised by the fine quality of its cooking quality. Thanks to COVID 19, the menu is not as big as it was and all the magic of tableside service has been removed, and I was a little gutted as those classic tableside deliveries are part of the overall dining experience which are rare these days.

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Core

Benchmark of fine dining


Cep tart


I long considered Core one of the finest restaurants in London, right up there with the like of The Ledbury and Greenhouse (both now shut down for good, unfortunately). The 2 Michelin starred restaurant in Nottinghill is owned and headed up by Clare Smyth, the then chef-patron of Gordan Ramsay's 3 stars flagship restaurant in Chelsea. Many in the trade rated Clare as the best female chef in the UK and having eaten her cooking before, I agree. At Core, it offers an alc, as well as a classic and a seasonal tasting menu. I had an amazing experience from my last visit when I had the seasonal tasting menu which centered around prime luxury, seasonal ingredients. For my 3rd visit, I opted for the same again.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

British historical cooking


Meat Fruit


I recalled Dinner by Heston when it was launch in 2013, it was the talk of the town, the first London restaurant by Heston Blumenthal, no less is inside the stunning 5 stars hotel Mandarin Oriental in Knidgebridge. I caught into the hype and dine there in its early days of launching. I found it's British themed cooking, based on historical recipes was playful, creative and produce top-notch flavour, which I would rate is around the 1 Michelin star level. However, the restaurant has become such a hit, and gained 2 Michelin stars in the end and was rated within the top 10 from the World 50 Best Restaurant Guide, which I found was a little overkilled. The cooking was cook, but far anything truly memorable for me.

Monday, 21 September 2020

The Quality Chop House

Chop life 


Mangalitza pork steak

Quality Chop House, the iconic British chophouse and wine bar is a proper institution in Farringdon. The restaurant takes British chops and steaks in a serious manner while retaining the essence of British cuisine. Recently, it also has launched a wine bar next door with more casual small plates offering. Quality Chop House's kitchen is run by Shaun Searley, you can see plenty of steaks on the menu, as well as traditional offerings such as game terrine and black pudding. For my 3rd visit to Quality Chop House, I secured an evening in the private room, which offers a feasting menu with a selection of sharing starters, a main, and a dessert.

Blacklock

The best value meaty joint in London


Meat is good

I am a super fan of Blacklock, the mini-chain is a meat temple for serious chops and steak lovers. Spreading across 3 sites, Blacklock is famous for its core signature offering: All In. The All In offers you a selection of nibbles, followed by a mountain of chops and a side dish, all for just £20 person. On Sunday, it follows a similar manner but switched to serving you a pile of roast meat instead of chops. The Sunday All In roasted dinner has since become such a cult dish, and now you have to book months in advance to try. The below captures my 2 recent visits, one on a regular evening, and another one for its legendary Sunday roast.

Pique Nique

Cozy French cooking in Bermondsey


Raspberry mille feuille


France is not too away from the UK, and there are many French chefs working in London. However, this doesn't mean that London is blessed with many high-quality French restaurants. No doubt, there are a few at the very top end, the contemporary French-themed, Michelin starred restaurants, like Club Gascon and Le Gavroche, but I do found it hard to find classic, mid-range level French restaurants in London. However, Pique Nique in Bermondsey is one of those rare gems, at least according to many foodies and the press. Operate by a team of French with a menu also written in French, it has an open kitchen and the food is all about rustic French cooking, with mains are designed to be shared so best come in a group.

Casse Croûte

 Old school French bistro


Girolle on toast

I would say Cassa Croute is one of the 'better' classic French restaurants in London. The low key tiny French bistro has been around since 2013 and has since become one of the best kept dining hot spot secret for the locals. It is a very 'French' venue with the wine list and food menu written in French only on a blackboard, with an ever-changing daily menu, depending on what is available for the kitchen. The food is in the mood of old school French with items like foie gras terrine. The dining room itself can sit around 20 people, so getting a table is not an easy task, do book ahead and ensure to go on a very empty stomach...

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Imperial Treasure Fine Chinese Cuisine London

 The hallmark of fine Cantonese dining


Dim sum feast


Thanks to Government's Eat out to Help out support, to offer diners 50% off (up to the value of 10 pounds) for any eat-in meal in August, I have taken the advantage to dine more often than usual. In August, I visited Imperial Treasure twice, once for its dinner for its legendary Peking duck, and the second time for a full-on dim sum lunch experience. On the back of COVID 19, I wanted to dine in a restaurant that can ensure safety and enforce social distancing. As much as I love some of the venuses in China Town, it just doesn't seem safe for now with tables so packed to one another, the no booking policy for lunch hours is also a minus for me. I was willing to pay a little more and Imperial Treasure fits my requirement perfectly. Below are some of the highlights from my 2 visits.

China Tang

Old school high-class Cantonese


Wok fry grouper with asparagus


Chinese restaurants are one of the hardest-hit sectors with the COVID 19 virus, and once lockdown has been lifted and many restaurants now reopened, there are a few places high on my revisit list. China Tang is one of those places, the classic Cantonese theme restaurant is located inside the Dorchester Hotel, and it is a timeless fine-dining venue. The menu showcases what the best traditional Cantonese cuisine has to offer and does it in a refined and classy way. You would not find any really creative or fusion dishes on the menu, people come here for the old school cooking and top-rate service.

45 Jermyn St

 Game season time


Grouse Breast, Liver Parfait on Toast with Girolles and Poached Figs

45 Jermyn St is located behind Fortnum & Mason, a modern European style brasserie that offers fine dining style cooking with flavours influenced from around the world. The restaurant is known for its caviar and game dishes, which is perfect as the grouse season has just kicked in. The restaurant has also appointed a new chef in Sam White, who was the ex group head chef of Hix, so I am sure he can take 45 Jermyn St's game offering to the next level. To fully embrace the grouse season, I opted for grouse for both my starter and main. 

Casa do Frango

 Posh Nando's


Casa do Frango

Nandos. the grill chicken restaurant concept is one of the few success stories in the casual dining world. I do enjoy their peri-peri chicken every once a while, but the quality can be very inconsistent, depending on which sites you visit. Casa do Frango is basically a supercharged up version of Nandos, it offers only 1 main course, which is the grilled chicken, along with a range of Portuguese inspired sharing dishes. The sharing dishes are much less mainstream with many uncommon dishes you would find on a high street, such as the Bacalhau fritters and African rice. I have been there once in London Bridge in the past and it has since expanded with a second site in Shoreditch. 

Saturday, 15 August 2020

Helene Darroze at The Connaught

Taste of summer


XXL Scottish scallop, spices, carrot, citrus

2020 has been a crazy year so far, who would have expected a virus that would cause such damage across the world? The UK restaurant trade has been badly hit, with restaurants closing down left and right. My no1, aka The Ledbury has sadly called it a day, along with the fantastic Greenhouse in Mayfair. I am really sad indeed. I have picked the 2 Michelin starred Helene Darroze at The Connaught (HD) as my first restaurant to visit in the post lockdown world, just in time to take advantage of the VAT cut and gosh, I need a proper fine dining treat after more than 3 months of cooking at home. To adapt to Covid 19, HD has reduced to serving only a tasting menu, using a selection of prime summer ingredients. It was my 8th visit to HD but I know it will be nothing like before with social distancing in mind.

Le Gavroche

Classic fine dining temple


Seared Scallop, Fresh Peas, Parma Ham & Kampot Pepper Foam

Lockdown has been a nightmare for me, suddenly, going out to a restaurant is mission impossible for more than 3 months. As someone who treats dining out as a hobby, it was a hard time indeed. At the start of July, restaurants started to reopening but there were many that shut down for good. At the high end, Michelin starred Greenhouse, The Ledbury, Texture, and Umu are no more, this is painful especially I rate Greenhouse and The Ledbury as the finest restaurants in the capital. I returned to Le Gavroche as a celebration of getting to eat out again and I wonder how many more restaurants might not be around this time next year with the second wave of COVID 19 is just a matter of when. At Le Gavroche, there were fewer tables with some plastic screen installed for social distancing reason, with all staff wearing a mask.

The Five Fields

Cozy and elegant Britsih fine dining 


Roe Deer, Courgette and Blueberry

The COVID 19 shitstorm has really impacted the restaurant industry, as many restaurants are still shut and some have already closed for good, I know that I better pay a visit to some of my favorite restaurants in London as I might not have a chance in the near future. The Five Fields is high on my to return list. The 1 Michelin starred restaurant championed British ingredients and present it in a really beautiful and refined way. I have eaten there two times before and I always feel it is one of the prime candidates to be promoted to 2 stars level. For my 3rd visit, the restaurant removed a la carte and reduced to only serving a single tasting menu, just like many other fine dining restaurants across London.

Brat

Basque-style BBQ 


Velvet Crab

I love BBQ, especially BBQing a fine cut of meat or top-grade seafood, it is hard to beat. Unfortunately, not many London restaurants have mastered such techniques, but Brat is one of the few places that fit the bill. The restaurant champions open fires cooking with fine quality meat, as well as fresh wild seafood sourced from around the UK, its whole BBQ turbot has become somewhat legendary and has become an iconic dish from Brat. Less than a year since launched back in 2018, it gained a Michelin star. I have eaten there in the past, while I think is a great fuss-free BBQ restaurant, I don't think it quite reaches that Michelin star standard. Anyway, after lifting of lockdown, I miss eating seafood so I went back to Brat to sample some of its new dishes.

Barrafina

Spanish tapas temple in Soho


Deep fry red mullet

Barrafina has come a long way, what started off as a trendy tapas joint in Soho has now become what many would consider being the best tapas bar in the UK, gaining a Michelin star along the way and getting a table could be a mission even on a Monday night. It is extremely popular that help it turned into a mini restaurant chain empire, with sites spreading across in London. Covid 19 impacted the whole restaurant trade in 2020 which forced many walk-in restaurants switched up to allow booking in advance to help with the government's track and chance policy. Secure a slot at the time I desire is now a reality, as I always wanted to return after I had a remarkable meal there 6 years ago.

Imperial Treasure Fine Chinese Cuisine London

Proper Cantonese fine dining



Peking duck

Imperial Treasure London is the first outpost of the international Imperial Treasure restaurant group in Europe. The group is renowned for its fine dining Cantonese cuisine, and its Peking duck is considered to be one of the finest in the world. I have eaten at Imperial Treasure London a few times already in the past and while they do charge a premium, they do offer proper traditional Cantonese cuisine. Many Chinese restaurants in the UK adapt their offering to make it less 'authentic' in order to make it more appealing to the locals, so I do respect Imperial Treasure sticking to its gun. On the back of Covid 19, I know I need to support the Chinese restaurant community and I picked Imperial Treasure to be my first post-Covild 19 Chinese restaurants as I do miss its legendary Peking duck.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Enigma (Barcelona)

The height of experimental cuisine 


Roasted lobster in aged beef fat

Enigma is part of a mini restaurant empire by Albert Adrià. One of the key players behind the legendary El Bulli. After the closing of El Bulli, Albert has created a number of restaurants which instantly became a hit. The most famous one has to be Tickets. However, Enigma is slowly gathering a reputation. It was launched in 2017, and the concept was highly ambitious. It serves only a blind tasting menu with more than 30 courses. The restaurant is spread into 6 sessions where guests would enjoy a few dishes per station before moving onto the next one. You would kick off the journey from the reception area, followed by a mini-bar station to enjoy some canapes, before moving onto a raw bar, a grill bar then to the main dining room and dessert bar.

Cocina Hermanos Torres (Barcelona)

Iconic restaurant in the making


Suckling pig from Extremadura


Barcelona is one of the top gastronomy destinations in Europe, flooded with so many top restaurants, ranging from classy tapas bars to state of the art fine dinings. Picking a place to visit is not an easy task. I picked Cocina Hermanos Torres based on 1 reason, the double Michelin starred venue has 3 island kitchens taking the central stage inside the main dining area. All the tables are built around the kitchens so, in theory, every single table is a chef table, having the chance to witness chefs in action. The restaurant is also located within a former warehouse but with a contemporary makeover to make it extremely edgy. Like many modern fine dining restaurants in Barcelona, Cocina Hermanos Torres serves a tasting menu with a very limited alc option.

Angle (Barcelona)

Jordi Cruz's rising star


Red prawns on salted rock stone


Angle is located in the heart of Barcelona. Part of the luxury hospitality group Abac, it is the newest Michelin two-starred restaurant in the city, having got promoted in the 2020 guide. The chef behind Angle is a Spanish culinary heavyweight, Jordi Cruz. The talented chef is one of the youngest ever chefs to reach 3 Michelin star status in the world, his flagship restaurant Abac, which is not far away from Angle, is one of the only two 3 starred restaurants in Barcelona. Jordi is renowned for his cutting edge, creative approach in fine dining, taking inspirations from around the world. At Angle, he only offers two tasting menu, just like at Abac.

Mantúa (Jerez)

Jerez's answer to fine dining



Hake poached in cow fat, cavier

When I was traveling across Andalusia in Spain, checking out Jerez was on top of my list. Jerez is famous for its sherry production, and the small city is home to many famous sherry houses. To round off my day trip to Jerez, a top restaurant for lunch was on my agenda and I picked Mantua. It is one of the only two Michelin starred restaurants, run by a local chef Israel Ramos who gathered experience working at other starred restaurants in the Andalusia region. Mantua has only 6 tables in a clean, spacious modern dining room with a high ratio of staff vs dinners. Like many Spanish fine dining restaurants, al la carte is not on the menu with only muti courses tasting menu is on offer.

Monday, 13 April 2020

Abantal (Seville)

The peak of fine dining in Seville


Steamed large red prawn, sauté rice and tomato

There are not great numbers of fine dining restaurants in Seville, I would suspect that is largely down to the fact there are so many high-quality values for money tapas bar and restaurants around the city already, so is there much point of fine dining? Abantal is the only Michelin starred restaurant in the city, located not too far from the city center. Chef-owner Julio Fernández Quintero's cooking style is based on modern Spanish cuisine with a touch of Middle Eastern inspiration, as Seville, along with the whole of Southern Spain, has been occupied by the Arabs in the past which had a big influence to the local cuisine development. The restaurant itself is small, with around 10 tables across the contemporary dining room, and two tasting menus (a standard one or a longer one) to pick from.

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Cañabota (Seville)

Seafood temple



Shrimp tartar, red prawn, langoustine and razor clam

While Seville is flooded with top-notch tapas bars, I was sure there are many great modern, innovative restaurants that are just as good. Canabota is a modern seafood restaurant bar in the old town of the city. It is known for its fresh seafood counter where diners can check out what is available on the day before deciding what to order. White prawns, red shrimps, lobsters, red mullets, etc, the selection is big and I was spoiled with choices. Canabota is a popular restaurant and I had to book weeks in advance, with only 30 covers with a team of 6 chefs, the ratio of chefs vs dinners is high.

El Rinconcillo (Seville)

The house of old school tapas

White prawns from Huelva

El Rinconcillo is perhaps the most iconic tapas bar in Seville. Open since 1670, it is the oldest tapas bar in the city. It does traditional regional tapas but it also has a sit-down restaurant space that serves bigger plates with a bigger menu. It is one of the most popular dining spots and was recommended in the Michelin guide. The menu covers mostly the typical tapas dishes you will see elsewhere, along with a daily blackboard that offers seasonal dishes, based on if El Rinconcillo managed to source any special fresh ingredients on the day.

Bodeguita Romero (Seville)

Montaditos legend



Tuna belly salad

Casual tapas bars are everywhere in Seville, to be stand out, apart from great quality cooking, having a signature dish also help. Casa Morales has the octopus, and at Bodeguita Romero, it is all about the montaditos, a Spanish style sandwich that Bodeguita Romero is famous for and has gained cult status. The classic version contained Iberico pork, black pudding and dressed up with either whisky sauce or mojo picon. Besides the infamous montaditos, the restaurant also has a range of classic tapas offerings, such as grilled meat, cold cuts, and fried items.

Casa Morales (Seville)

Classic tapas 


Octopus and paprika

When you visit Seville, a trip to a traditional tapas bar is a must. There is so many tapas bars around the city so it is not easy to find the right one for sure. Casa Morales appeared on so many websites so it seems like it was no brainer for me to give a try. It is a traditional tapas bar located near the stunning Seville cathedral so it was a great spot for me when I was doing my sightseeing around the city. The menu is big, with a large selection of cold cuts, egg-based dishes to canned food and hot tapas. The cool thing is that you can order most dishes in tapas, standard or main course size, so you can end up trying many dishes if you keep going for the tapas.

Saturday, 21 March 2020

5 Social

The new house of social


Poached Lobster, avocado, artichoke and hazelnut

Jason Atherton's restaurant empire in the UK has its ups and downs in the last few years, from the closure of a few restaurants to gain a Michelin star or 2 at the same time. 5 Social is its latest restaurant launch, which is located opposite of his flagship Pollen Street Social. 5 Social started life as Little Social before it was rebranded with a more upmarket offering in early 2020. It also has a new head chef in the name of Kostas Papathanasiou, who worked at high profile places in the past such as The Fat Duck and The Ledbury. Looking at the menu, it won't look out of place if it was for Pollen Street Social, with a real focus on prime seasonal British ingredients like Cumbrian beef and Orkney scallops.

Kaki

Jiangsu comfort cooking


Sweet and sour Jiangsu style seabass

For Chinese food, Cantonese cuisine will always be my first choice. Having said that, I am also a fan of Jiangsu cuisine, which is hard to come by in London. Kaki in King Cross labeled itself as a Szechuan restaurant and its menu is packed with super spicy and numbing dishes, which I have no love for. However, it now also has a page of Jiangsu (Huaiyang) based dishes, such as braised meatballs and pan-fried pork buns. Kaki generally got some really positive feedback since it was launched, so I was looking forward to seeing if it could deliver some solid Jiangsu cooking which should be packed with delightful rich flavors.

Orient London

Perhaps the best Chinese restaurant in China Town


Steamed egg in soy

I usually stay away from Chinese restaurants in China Town, mostly down to the quality is really not that great. I have been to many that have been highly featured in the top 10 lists from mainstream media such as Dumpling Legend to classic stables such as Pheonix Garden. While they are all pretty solid, none really stood out. Besides, China Town is always busy and packed with tourists with average service at best another reason for me to shy away. Lately, I took the chance to check out Orient which happened in China Town, as I was seeking decent Chinese seafood cooking at a reasonable price, and judging from the menu, Orient stood out as it has an extended list of seafood dishes, with some really classic Cantonese ones like wok fry clams and fried oysters.

Joy King Lau

Good old fashioned Cantonese comfort food


Pei pa duck

Cantonese cuisine is the most popular Chinese cuisine in the UK. While others such as Taiwanese and Northern Chinese food are gaining popularity, it is still miles away from reaching the no 1 status. In China Town, there are many Cantonese restaurants, mostly in the traditional manner. However, due to shortage of skilled chefs, many classic dishes that require long hours of preparation and skills are hard to find even in those traditional venues. Joy King Lau is one of the very few that still commit to cook up some truly old fashioned gems. It has a Chinese only menu that has dishes like pork intestine and red bean curd duck.

Sunday, 1 March 2020

The Goring Dining Room

Refined tradition 


Custard tart, caramelised buckwheat and nutmeg ice cream

The Going happened to be one of the Royal Family's favorite hotels, the luxury 5 stars hotel near Victoria tube station has a long association with the Royals, it was often visited by the Queen Mother and the venue of choice for Kate Middleton before her wedding. The formal dining restaurant within the hotel was awarded a Michelin star in 2017 and still holding such honor in 2020. The cooking is based around British seasonal ingredients, offering refined classic dishes with a smart modern touch. A 3-course dinner would set you back £67, for a Michelin starred restaurant in such a grand setting, this is actually pretty decent for value.

Le Comptoir Robuchon

The legacy


Langoustine raviolis, Foie gras, Savoy cabbage


Since the upscale Michelin starred L'atelier de Joel Robuchon was shut down in Covent Garden last year, everyone expected that would be the end of chef Robuchon's empire in London as the great man himself passed away. However, in winter 2019, the company behind Robuchon's restaurant group launch a brand new restaurant: Le Comptoir Robuchon in Mayfair. It is much more casual in style but still has a luxury feel to it with a contemporary French brasserie mood. The menu is divided into two sessions, seasonal dishes that head chef Jeremy Page come up with based on prime ingredients, as well as a selection of classic Robuchon dishes that got the great Robuchon himself into the legendary status.

Wild Honey St James

The new honey in town


Marseillaise Bouillabaisse

The original Wild Honey in Mayfair was a small cozy fine dining restaurant that full of charm. It offered modern French cuisine without over the top creativity which gained a Michelin star. Fast forward to 2019, it has relocated to St James inside the luxury 5 stars Sofitel hotel. Looking at the menu, not a great deal has changed, a French cuisine based menu that mostly using local British ingredients. Head up by Anthony Demetre, who is one of the top chefs in the UK with Michelin stars following him wherever he goes. I went for dinner and tried out a few of the dishes from the alc menu, to see if much has changed vs the old days.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Hakkasan Hanway Place

New chef, new chapter


Smoked beef ribs with jasmine tea

Hakkasan, the very first Chinese restaurant in London to reach Michelin star status is still going strong after more than a decade. The edgy interior combining with classy Cantonese cooking has created a strong following, and now it has expanded into a mini restaurant empire with sites in the US, Far East, and the Middle East. A big change happened last year with Hakkasan, with the group executive chef Tong left the business and replaced with chef Yeo, who came from Malaysia with a background in hotel fine dining. I headed back to Hakkasan Hanway Place to see if much has changed on the food.

Imperial Treasure Fine Chinese Cuisine London

Classic Cantonese, posh style


Seafood soup dumpling

There are only a few fine-dining Chinese restaurants in London, and Imperial Treasure is perhaps one of the most premium ones while really sticking to its gun, offering traditional food without much western fusion element. I have eaten at Imperial Treasure two times in the past, both enjoyable but found it a little bit too expensive. At lunch hours, Imperial Treasure has a dim sum menu and a set lunch menu so is more affordable. You can see all the classic Cantonese dum sum such as prawn dumpling and pork bun. What caught my eye is the chef specials from the a la carte menu, so I decided to opt for a few of those, with some dim sum in the mix.

Red Farm

Hyped to the max


PAC MAN SHRIMP DUMPLINGS

Red Farm is a Chinese restaurant like no others. It is a brand that came from America, the original Red Farm in New York is a smart hit with the locals. it does creative dim sum, along with a range of Southeast Asian inspired main dishes. It created plenty of noise when it landed in London and it was one of those places I always wanted to check it out. The London outpost is located in the tourist-friendly zone in the name of Covent Garden. The menu has plenty of takeaway classics such as chili beef and sweet & sour, as well as some unusual dishes like the signature Red Farm dish: The Pacman dumpling. Most dishes costs around the £20 mark which means a meal at Red Farm is a pricy affair.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Bridges Amsterdam

Seafood hotel fine dining in Amsterdam


Trout, Pumpkin, Buttermilk, Dill, Pear


There are more than 20 Michelin starred restaurants in Amsterdam, so it is not easy to pick a place when you are not familiar with the city. However, as I am a seafood addict, and the city is pretty much surrounded by water, Bridges stood out to me as it is not too far from my hotel, and has a big focus on seafood. It is located inside a grand hotel and oversees by Ron Blaauw, the famous Duch chef that also runs the Ron Gastropub empire. The Bridges is a proper posh hotel restaurant, it has a modern, stylish decor, with eye-catching bar space and large windows overlooking the canal. It has a 7-course tasting menu on offer, besides the standard alc format where fish play center stage.

The Seafood Bar Amsterdam

Slick seafood chain business in Amsterdam


Fruits de Mer

The seafood is a mini seafood upmarket restaurant chain in Amsterdam, it has 4 restaurants across the city, as well as a seafood market shop. As you can suspect, it is all about fresh seafood, and the collection is pretty impressive. I went to the Spui branch, which is the biggest one out of the 4, located in central Amsterdam. It has an open kitchen, as well as a raw bar for all the cold seafood dishes. The menu is big and beside the usual seafood items such as tiger prawns, lobsters and oysters, there are also some other less mainstream items such as snow crab. You can have most of the seafood items either served cold in a classic way or grilled.

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Le Gavroche

Good to be back



Artichoke filled with foie gras, truffles and chicken moose

Last time I dined at Le Gavroche, it was back in 2015. Out of the Michelin starred restaurants in London, I would say Le Gavroche is the only one that still has the proper old school French charm factor in its setting and cooking. Most high-profile restaurant these days are focusing on cutting edge cooking techniques and creative elements, but Le Gavroche kept its traditional French root, and produce some of the best tasting French food in London. After 5 years, a return was well overdue and I was very excited to be back. From the look of its tasting menu, not a great deal has changed, so I opted for the ALC menu instead.