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?


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.


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


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


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.

BAO Fitzrovia

Bao expansion 

Classic pork bao

The Bao story was a touching story, it all started off life as a street food store before spotted and fallen in love by a restaurateur. With the financial backing, it opened a restaurant in Soho and gained phenomenal success in no time. The second Bao in Fitzrovia was a touch bigger than its Soho site, span across two floors with more small plates on offer beside the classic Bao dishes. And what made this new site awesome, was you could book in advance which was music to my ears. As both Bao sites right now are still some of the hottest restaurants in London, it is normal wait over an hour before you can get a table.