La Fromagerie, Marylebone, London – 20 July 2013

On a visit to London in 2011 I think, I was happy to stay in the Marylebone area of London. And I loved it. So when the missus said to me, where are we going now, after havng showed Emil, Big Ben, I said – Marylebone !!!

IMG_5840-001

This one is for you my dear Emil

Bridge over troubled water.

Bridge over troubled water.

Marylebone is like a little hideaway, starting 50 meters off the end of Oxford Street, down – opposite of Marble Arch. The first part is STUFFED with all kinds of etnic restaurants, many of those offering water pipes. Emil was fast to claim that he wanted to try one of those. His mother was just as quick in rejecting that request. Later on it turns into a shopping area with shop that looks like shops should look . A book store that reminds one why it is nice to actually visit one instead of ordering via amazon.

I remembered where the cooking book section was...

I remembered where the cooking book section was…

And Emil had fun with this little book.

And Emil had fun with this little book.

As we came further up the road, I remembered having seen a funny little diner/shop last time. So we went down the corner and yup 20 meters of the high street was La Fromagerie.

THE shop !

THE shop !

It was closed last time I was here, but now the shop was full of life. Vegetables, pickled everything, freshly baked bread, cooking books, wines, a cheese department, charcuteri. Everything a man could hope for. And most of this stuff organic. Beside the shop part of the business, there are two rooms with tables and benches. Add to all that a large menu and even a small wine list

What to eat...

What to eat…

Green stuff

Green stuff

Open kitchen

Open kitchen

Cheese Department

Cheese Department

All kinds of stuff

All kinds of stuff

All kinds of people

All kinds of people

Well, we settled for a rillette of mackerel, a cheese plate with Italian cheeses and a fennel / red beet salad. The were 4-5 different cheese selections to choose from, there were all kinds of salads. In general I was releaved when I saw the menu. This was something for the missus. When that is said, we did not find any gluten-free bread, and Emil struggled to find something he wanted. Well blame that on the up-bringing of course, but it was not a child-friendly place anyway, with the small alleys and things to break. But Emil loved the “limonade” that was done on spot for him, and the chips.

Say cheese

Say cheese

Salad

Salad

Happy Emil !

Happy Emil !

Italian Chardonnay

Italian Chardonnay

The kind waitress actually warned us about the wine I chose. It is not your usual easy drinkable Chardonnay she claimed. Its a little full and rich for lunch maybe. Well actually it was nice, the colour very intense, seemed like they had a lot of sun in Piemonte that year. We liked it.

Conclusion:

As I said to the young couple at the table next to us. If I lived in Marylebone, I would be in this shop every second day. Great menu, great vibe, great quality and just about nothing to complain about. If I shall just mention that the salad as fresh and good as it looked could have used more acidity. The cheeses were wonderful so was the rilette. Great service and a smell of freshly baked bread in the air. This is where you wanna lunch in London.

I know my family sometimes have to bear with me – a lot – because of the focus I do seem to give to eating – but this shop, I think it even impressed the missus. I am sorry dear A for all those restaurants and food trips I have dragged you on. I thank you for mostly being a good sport about it. Well, If I had one dream left in my world, not related to my family, – it would be to own a shop like this. .

My rating for this visit: Food 6.5p (10), service 4p (5), ambience 4.5p (5), 15p (20)

Turner´s, Birmingham – 21 June 2013

Being invited to a trip to see a Bruce show in Coventry and spice it up with some gastro adventures by good friend Jörgen, and leaving me in charge of all the details and bookings. It was easy for me to pick Hyatt, Birmingham,  love this hotel, love Birmingham – and the lunch we had before this visit at Pickled Piglet put our hopes up high for this evening. The last time I chose Simpson´s restaurant where I was mostly impressed by the friendly staff and the decent dishes – but where there were also obvious flaws. So, up to something new – well for me – Turner´s also hold 1 star Michelin. I have had this review sitting around, but having visited The Greenhouse in London I thought it would be fun to compare.

Turners - view from the High Street.

Turners – view from the High Street.

And inside looking out.

And inside looking out.

I liked the room, but unfortunately, given the choice I chose the corner table, only to discover later it was half the size of a normal table. My mistake I guess.

Richard Turner is in the kitchen, and the small restaurant (main room holds less than 16 people I would say) – and I am not sure there is any other rooms. It is a funny little wooden barack, I think I remembered the carpet a little worn, and what Jörgen spotted right away was the dust on the liquor shelves behind us. Note to staff. With all the spots on, it does look nicer when the dust is gone.

Well, we are common people, and that should not spoil our dinner.

Tasting menu was ordered and here it goes…

A little fish burger

A little fish burger

Nice, if not very posh presentation. And taste was ok, but not overwhelming – we were starting to wonder.

Tomato consomme

Tomato consomme

Very fresh, very nice amuse – that I nearly spilled.

Amuses – 6p

Our bread selection

Our bread selection

Nice quality bread. Funny thing, after saying no to the second bread I think, no further bread was offered during the whole menu.

Organic (bio) egg yolk

Organic (bio) egg yolk

This was the first dish to hit the michelin level we had expected. 7.5p

Frog legs...

Frog legs…

Not a fan of frog legs, but this was a funny little variation with the tempura 7p

Salmon

Salmon

Slowly cooked at low temperature, this confit of salmon was close to perfect, and again a rather rustique presentation 7.5p

Scallop

Scallop

The worst dish of the evening, the scallop slightly overcooked, the truffle cream totally overpowering everything else on the plate. The onion ring on top I liked. 1p for the onion ring.

Fois Gras

Fois Gras

So after the worst dish, the scallop, we had this little pearler, mango, ananas to go with the delicate pan fried fois gras. Great dish, way up there where you start to smile and remember how happy food can make you. We shook our heads by the up and down in the dishes, but this was definetely a winner. 8.5p

Turbot

Turbot

I do believe it was Turbot, and I do believe it was very nice. Perfectly cooked, nothing here was out of balance. 7.5p

Veal

Veal

Same level as the fish, nothing more nothing less. 7.5p

Say cheese.

Say cheese.

The selection from a larger tray was done outside of our view, but it was all goat cheeses and they were all bloody nice. At this point I always forget to shoot the pictures, thus the half eaten plate. But very nice selection 8p

Pre-dessert

Pre-dessert

This little thing was just brilliant. Delicate, fluffy, berry. We both loved it 9p

The grand finale...

The grand finale…

Another go at a tiramisu – again, high level, great finish 8p

Sweets for my sweet - well for Jörgen actually :-).

Sweets for my sweet – well for Jörgen actually :-).

Conclusion:

The service – the three people – I think – consisted of an eager very friendly maitre/sommelier (?),  a young waitress, who only started to smile after my small mishap where I shook so hard to my dish that it almost fell over. At least it broke the ice. The last waiter looked misplaced – kind of your local bouncer. Now there was nothing really wrong with these people. They were VERY friendly. But they were not very professional. The knowledge, or at least the knowledge that was transported to us when serving the wines was very very poor. Or very very general. And the wines inside the wine menu that we chose did not leave us impressed at all. Actually the female waiter was the best I thought.

The food  – there were some highlights, some of accepted quality and some of below par quality. It was a large menu. We did get a lot of impressions to take with us home. But in compare to the dishes in my post before in London. They did not quite hit that level. But the biggest difference for me was the way the whole evening went down, impressions, table, room, wine selection, wine presentation, dishes presentation, all those things that makes a perfect restaurant. And Turners tonight was a nice little restaurant where we would have had a blast had we expected less. It was just that it has just been rewarded readers choice in Birmingham 2013/2014 – and holds 1 michelin star. Well tonight it might hold that star, but just barely in my humble opinion. And in compare to Greenhouse. Well as I said there really is no compare.

When that it said. A nice evening was spend, and I feel that on any given night Richard Turner might give you some great dishes. I wish he had more professional staff.  Because maybe then he will feel the the whole thing rise to a higher level. But – we had a few words with the friendly maitre, and he was a nice chap. He just did not have the heart in the thing. And that makes the difference.

We left with mixed emotions, happy that the end of the meal was stronger than the shaky start, it is always better than the other way around.

My rating for this visit: Food 7p (10), service 3p (5), ambience 3.5p (5), 13.5p (20)

The Greenhouse, Mayfair, London – 20th July 2013

Going to Cardiff, a stop-over in London was the obvious choice. Emil had wanted to see Big Ben for years and with Big Boy Oscar out of the house he had his parents all for himself for a few days.

Big Ben and a happy Emil.

Big Ben and a happy Emil.

Emil spend the afternoon jumping/running/jumping – and I was amazed he was still awake by 7 pm when we entered the beautiful garden of The Greenhouse. The Chef here – young Arnaud Bignon holds 1 michelin star, and I was curious how 1 star in London holds up against my esperiences at Simpsons and at Turners in Birmingham. I unerstood from the waiter that Arnaud comes from a two star establishment, and there was some hope and aim to achieve that at some point in this restaurant.

Emil and the missus - A unique dining experience begins as you walk down a tree-lined pathway to reach The Greenhouse. London fades away and calm descends.

Emil and the missus !

A unique dining experience begins as you walk down a tree-lined pathway to reach The Greenhouse. London fades away and calm descends” – is how it is described on their own homepage, and actually that description is pretty accurate.

Prior to the visit I had informed the restaurant about bringing a kid and also informed about the gluten issue. So all set to go. Warmly greeted by the staff, and shown to our corner table, – already here consideration was shown, bringing a kid, a corner table is what you want.

The menu consists of 2 larger tasting menu´s and an a-la-carte menu, where you can put together 2-3 dishes as you like. I think the menu ranges from 65-110 GBP. The wine list is HUGE and well-sorted with a large selection of most important french regions as well as overseas and new world wines. We opted for a Meo-Camuzet, his entry level Hautes Cotes de Nuits white 2010. It was crispy and still very fresh and acidic.

Emil opted for Monkfish and we opted for 3 dishes a la carte.

Amuses - round 1

Amuses – round 1

Great tastes here, also a round for Emil who was less impressed than I – and with a gluten-free version for Astrid – we knew that we could sit down and relax knowing the kitchen were well prepared.

Round 2

Round 2

This little foam just about made it the freshest and purest amuse you could wish for – wauw – It was foam of lemon(grass?) covering oh my what – I forgot, but it was GREAT- 10p for the amuses.

Great bread too...

Great bread too…

Some slices of roasted gluten free toast was served to the missus, – my selection was of course much better, and especially the nut “cup-cakes” were GREAT. Loved the silver “basket”.

Tomatoes

Tomato

Mozzarella, Strawberry, Wild anise – Astrid loved two of the three and found the last one not quite up to the high level of the two others. The presentation spectacular, with the three glass bowls arriving as a tower. 8.5p

Cornish Crab

Cornish Crab

The fine crab meat covered with mint jelly, cauliflower, apple and a hint of curry. The best starter I have had this year. I tell you it was a dream. I never wanted it to end. 10p

Orkney Scallop

Orkney Scallop

Served with tandori, green asparagus, ginger and lemon. – the two scallops being very large, – I thought – no way the missus will finish this plate. She did. she loved the Tandori partnership with the scallops, but smaller scallops would have made her even happier 🙂 8.5p

Fois Gras

Fois Gras

My second starter – Panfried fois gras with tomato, raspberry and malabar pepper. The only dish today that really did not work. It was not bad, fois gras cooked perfectly, but the raspberry – which of course is a perfect match to the fois gras was too overpowering. In the end I finished the dish, but then I like raspberry. No, the dominant raspberry here left too little room for anything else. 6p

Torbay John Dory

Torbay John Dory

The fish arranged beautifully on top of a bed of Bomba rice – like a paella with chorizo flavours and all. 8p

Welsh organic lamb

Welsh organic lamb

You know me and lamb, and going to Wales the day after it was great to find a sample of their lamb on the menu. And great it was. Oh my. it came with a little side dish a couscous variation with chickpeas mint and spices.

Couscous

Couscous

This dish again was among the best I have had this year. Had the couscous been a bit more spicy it would have been among my best dishes of lamb ever. So great was the cooking of the lamb and the quality of the products used. 9.5p

No room for desserts, we were offered a round of sweets.

Lovely

Lovely

Great presentation, like a field of mushrooms in the garden….

At this point, or actually an hour before, busy London had taken its toll on Emil, who´s behaviour made some pretty proud parents this evening. And yes he finished his Monkfish, and you can say the Monkfish finished Emil.

Sound-a-sleep

Sound-a-sleep

Conclusion:

I had high espectations for this one. The homepage has a great level, and everything has a sheer touch of quality to it. The service was outstanding, Pierre, Nick, Ben – I salute you all. It was the best service I have ever had in UK, and miles, well light-years away from what I had recently experienced in Birmingham. In Birmingham, I had the impression that they wanted to be professional, but were basically just very friendly and well not up to the par with the food. Here, in The Greenhouse, everything, from the moment you entered, all presentations, all details, the visit to the kitchen and the little chat with Arnaud and his sous-chef was just the finishing touches to a perfect evening. Here you have passionate waiters, as well as a management that know what they should know, and make you feel comfy without too much of a fuss. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for taking good care of us. Your restaurant comes with the highest of recommendations even if I found one dish was not up to par. At least I had the chance to tell the chef himself. And I did. I would not think twice about booking here again. I hope to be back one sweet day. Did I mention the crab/gelly starter I had. Boy oh boy. THAT was to die for. Finally, charging Emil´s amuses and main dish with 1 pound (!) on the total  bill, does show another point of sheer class in my book.

My rating for this visit: Food 8.5p (10), service 5p (5), ambience 5p (5), I shall add one happiness point for the outstanding service: Total Score  19.5p (20)

Le Cinq, Paris – 29 June 2013

It had definetely been too long. I cannot begin to tell you how I anticipated being back in this fab place. The prospect of being invited here for lunch by good friends Jerome and Dragana, and later on having a blast with 60.000 people at Stade de France, watching my 50th Bruce Springsteen or so. Actually Paris is – together with Frankfurt – probably the city I have seen the most Bruce shows., – let me see 1997, two shows, – 1999, 2002, 2005, 2006 and now 2013 – a good 7 shows over the years.

Bruce – is of course also likely to pop up in the lobby or tea room of George V. – but being in a “French” crowd, we were running a bit late – and therefore no time to absorbe the beauty of the tea-room, or to look out for Bruce – but straight into the beautiful arms of Le Cinq. However we did notice that the “crisis” has not have any impact on the flower budget of the hotel. Flowers everywhere.

If there is one thing you do not need to worry about here in the hotel and in the restaurant – it is the service.  It is as good as it gets.

"Le Grand Salle"

“Le Grand Salle”

I remember reading that the architect behind this room strived for making the room look like a dining room more than a restaurant. I do not know if he succeeded. I guess you have to have a monster salary to have a dining room like this. But nevertheless it is a beauty. And the waiters are everywhere. As we noted, it is like watching a ballet. A  ballet with a lot of action, our great sommelier had some work to do – and you could actually se he was stressed every now and then. Just in compare, I have never ever experienced Daniel Kiowski stressed. BUT, a good sommerlier this one was. He came with advice and was close to a perfect sommelier in my humble opinion. A great grande champagne opened the “party”. Comptes from Tattinger. As good as Champagne gets in my eyes.

A Condriue and a white Chateauneuf du pape was ordered to follow. Jerome being my earliest friend to direct me to Rhone whites, after all these years I am happy to admit….those are my favourite whites these days.

Old and new friend, and lovebirds...

Old and new friend, and lovebirds…

Ready to go…

Amuses - round 1

Amuses – round 1

Salmon, parmesan flake and a “flower” with some fish eggs. None of these extraordinary, rather blant, an optimist would say pure.

Amuses - Round two

Amuses – Round 2

The thing on the left I have forgotten – in the middle a redish thing, and to the right a wonderful pea creme. From all these tasters only the pea creme stood out, and the parmesan flake was nice. The rest, well …pure. But a weak start of the menu, and we were beginning to get nervous here.

Great bread selection.

Great bread selection.

Happy to find the same fluffy bread – to the left – as in beloved Lameloise. It did not quite hit that level, but still very nice bread indeed.

Calamares

Calamares

I did not get a copy of the menu, so I cannot give you the full description of the dish. What I can tell you – is that this dish was among the best I ever had. Every variety of Octopussy cooked to perfection. It will be among my dishes of the year for sure, of my life maybe 10p.

Razor mussels / shrimps

Razor mussels / shrimps

We all agreed on the texture of the chopped mussels and the taste as being perfect. The raw or almost raw shrimps we did not like. I did not care for the presentation. Back to shaky. 7.5p

A little in-between

A little in-between

And a great one. With a hidden ravioli inside the “soup”. What a taste of chantarelle. 9p

The butter cover - V

The butter cover – V

Very tempted to ask if I could take one of these with me. Would be a nice memory. I did not. And I did not bring one with me. But I do love an eye for detail.

My main dish.

My main dish.

I have absolutely no idea what kind of fish it was. I did not know the name in French nor in English. It was steamed with a very citrus tasting creme and a poached egg on top of the beautiful fried zucchini  flower leaves. 8p

Pigeon with fois gras and cherries.

Pigeon with fois gras and cherries.

The verdict was not balanced on this one. Jerome found it lacked tasted – especially the reduction he found very weak and was not happy with cherries anyway. Dragana found it the best dish of the day. And it looked stunning – so lets say Jerome, a 7, Dragana a 10 – I guess we would would it somewhere around 8-8,5p

Sorbet of blackened lemon

Sorbet of blackened lemon

A little pre-dessert – might not look like a lot, but we all loved it. It had the wauw factor like the starter had. It was spot on. 10p

3 riders were approaching...

3 riders were approaching…

and the wind began to howl. Strawberry desserts waiting to be served to lucky us. Not a dessert man. Not a strawberry man. But man was this a great dessert. Strawberries never tasted richer or better. 9p

The aftershow. the sweets is a story for itself – you are spoiled with a waggon of goodies.

Make your selection

Make your selection

or let this PERFECT waiter do the trick.

or let this PERFECT waiter do the trick.

Marsh-mellow strawberry.

Marshmallow strawberry.

So – that was the end of a great show. Like any good Bruce Springsteen concert, a show with highlights and never uninteresting. A show that had us entertained a good 3 hours. Almost like a Bruce show lol.

Conclusion:

Of my three visits, I think this was the weakest performance of Le Cinq. Would I like to back. Any day. Like Jerome stated in the beginning. It is like a ballet. I think especially the amuses let us down.  But forget that and minor complaints and you have yourself a ball with stunning food, great presentations, top-notch service – and a wine book to die for. The number of wines to choose from are second to none. I do not have to wonder about the wine cellar nor the storage solutions Le Cinq has chosen. For I have been there. On a previous visit Oscar and I inspired the cellars. Organisation is everything like in all aspects of life. The small alleys in the cellar had all wines beautifully arranged and easy to get hold of. I have good friends who are actually happy with the systems you get here – http://www.loknstore.co.uk/

I thank you Drag and Jerome for this wonderful lunch, more importantly I thank you for your friendship. May your love last forever. And I thank you Bruce for directing me to this pearler in the first place 🙂

Oscar selecting a nice drop...

Oscar selecting a nice drop…

My rating for this visit: Food 8.5p (10), service 5p (5), ambience 5p (5), Total Score  18.5p (20)