Monkey´s West, Düsseldorf – 26th March 2013

“They prosecuted some poor sucker in these United States
For teaching that man descended from the apes
They coulda settled that case without a fuss or fight
If they’d seen me chasin’ you, sugar, through the jungle last night
They’da called in that jury and a one two three said
Part man, part monkey, definitely”

Part Man Part Monkey – Bruce Springsteen 1990

Celebrating the end of 3 succesful tasting days at Prowein 2013 – my first but not last showing here – the two Akkermans and I thought we needed to spoil ourselves.

Akkermans discussing the wines of the last 72 hours - and there were a few.

Akkermans discussing the wines of the last 72 hours – and there were a few.

Most of the pictures in this review have a red shine, most of that shines comes from the bar, and secondly because the lights were dimmed romantically low. Well with this crowd romance was not the first thing on my mind, but good food was.

Having heard many good things about the Monkey West it was a natural choice. The Chef here – Christian Penzhorn –  has last year been awarded with the first michelin star – and I am quite sure to predict – it is not gonna be his last.

The restaurant is build together with a cosy bar with funky lights and a huge wine refrigerator, showing (off) many nice drops if money is not a problem. The wine list is indeed ok, if not out of this world.

The menus let you swap around and starts with 4 courses for 80 eur. A bargain.

Here are 2 more shots from the funky bar.

Showing off ;-)

Showing off 😉

Pre-dinner toast in Domaine Gauby

Pre-dinner toast in Domaine Gauby

19.00 – and we were ready to hit our table….

GREAT selection of GREAT bread.

GREAT selection of GREAT bread.

Amuses first round - 3 different tastings.

Amuses first round – 3 different tastings.

Amuses - round two - Diffrent preparations of rabbit.

Amuses – round two – Different preparations of rabbit.

The rabbit being wonderful, and all in all I think this is what you can and should expect from a 1 star michelin restaurant. Nothing outstanding, but meaningful presentations. The bread came with a marmelade (!) and a fresh cheese creme, but no butter – which we asked for ourselves. I think I speak for all when I say the bread really impressed us.

Fois Gras

Fois Gras

We all had this one, I loved it. Clearly with an eye for detail on the plate but not too much. Just about how I like a dish to look. 9p

Quail with truffles

Quail with truffles

Again a great presentation, but all in all I think this for me was the weakest of the dishes tonight. 7p

Langoustine

Langoustine

And right here and then…back on track. This was probably the best dish of the evening. Everything perfect here. 9.5p

Loup de Mer with Artichoke

Loup de Mer with Artichoke

Gijs and I chose this one – and just as the dish before, the fish cooked to perfection the arrangement wonderful and the different texures of the artichoke a great companion. Now wait…this was probably the best dish of the evening lol 9.5p

Veal for Chris...

Veal for Chris…

Guess a solid dish is the right word. It looks a bit heavy when the large piece of the filet is served like that. Two smaller pieces would have made it a nicer presentation. I did not taste it, but I heard no complaints and also no wauw´s from Chris. Maybe he was just tired at this point. I know I was.

A little something as pre-dessert - with rhubarb.

A little something as pre-dessert – with rhubarb.

Loved this one, would have liked for the rhubarb pieces to be more prominent. I love rhubarb. 7p

Chocolate and Mango

Chocolate and Mango

I am a sucker for mango – and with chocolate, what more can you ask for. The details on this dessert send memories to some 2 or 3 star restaurants – and any 1 star michelin restaurant in the world should be proud if they can present a dessert like this. In my humble opinion. 9.5p

So where we done…not quite….after the pre-dessert, and dessert first little arrangement was presented…

Say chocolate...

Say chocolate…

My selection

My selection

and finally the last serving of tonight arrived

Over and out...

Over and out…

Conclusion:

I was actually amazed about the quality of food, the service, all the pretty waitresses walked gracefully through the room. Especially Kathleen (?) was a wonderful head-waitress (I presume). Tobias Kühne was a great maitre – all of the staff un-pretentious, which I like. Some of the male waiters had a more “monkey” way of walking, but I guess it fitted the room or concept. But all staff was on their toes on a busy night and with very few flaws and nothing worth of mentioning here.

The ambience, the bread, some of the food, the service – all that actually was at least 1 star menu tonight. Some dishes showed that there is room for more development in that respect. Meaning we have had less good experiences in both 2 and 3 michelin star restaurants. Respect.

The wines we chose tonight were a white Puligny-Montrachet from J. Prieur – did it have a flaw ? I was not sure, but a bit disappointed with its flatness – and a wonderful Arlaud village wine from Chambolle-Musigny. Tobias threw in a blind glass – a light Riesling Auslese for the dessert, and that too was a perfect match. And guessing it made it taste even better.

One complain only would be the list of digestives, which we found very simple and not up to par with the rest. But – having a London Blue Gin in the selection is on the other hand always a plus….

Mr. Akkerman and Mr. Akkerman – it was great fun – I have never walked so much in my life in 3 days. I have never tasted so many good wines. Gijs, – I cannot wait till we get some of these wines to Luxembourg – our clients will be amazed – but I guess the Prowein story is worth another post in its own right, so I shall get back to that. Chris and Gijs, thanks for your friendship. Rock on.

It was time for these 3 monkeys to leave the herd and hit the road and go back to Luxembourg.

IMG_5230

Thanks to all the staff at Monkey´s West for a wonderful time spent. Be sure to find us back.

My rating for this visit: Food 9p (10), service 4.5p (5), ambience 5p (5), Total Score  18.5p (20)

*

“Well did God make man in a breath of holy fire
Or did he crawl on up out of the muck and mire
Well the man on the street believes what the bible tells him so
Well you can ask me, mister, because I know
Tell them soul-suckin’ preachers to come on down and see
Part man, part monkey, baby that’s me”

Part Man Part Monkey – Bruce Springsteen 1990

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Marbella Club Hotel (Restaurant Club de Playa), Marbella – September 3, 2012

I really had been looking forward to re-visiting this place. Ever since our last visit a year ago I have corresponded a bit with the great waiter – Francisco Javier Doncel – in Spanish !!!  – Unfortunately he had other duties this day – it would have been great to see him again – hasta luego Javier, see you hopefully next time.

We were spoiled with a clear blue sky and 26 degrees celcius.

A few shots from the restaurant and surroundings.

The location, as good as it gets

The beach below

Our table, front row tickets you may say…

Now the 5 star hotel looks like a hotel, where I could survive a few days without a problem, and I can only wish that I will one day be able to afford a stay here. Beside a gastronomic restaurant inside, the attration is the beach club, which has a buffet second to none. Everything is so fresh with an eye for detail and with a great presentation. Beside the cold buffet you have a barbeque where fish of all kinds and meat are prepared to your liking.

Great olives and roasted almonds and a bottle of Rueda…while the boys took a swim

Oscar where he likes to be the most

Emil preferred the slighly smaller version

Back to the other reason for our visit. The incredible lunch that was waiting for us. I greeted the chef, who at least seemed to remember me, and he was on his toes as soon as I – por favour – asked for a plate of Pata Negra and some grilled lenguados for the boys.

A proud chef

At your service…

Freshly cut pata negra.

What to choose…

The quality is really outstanding. I dont even know where to start, – only by saying that I only tried a fraction of it. The artichokes amazing, as the lobster and langoustines. The chef asked me if he could propose a little plate of something for us – I did not understand what he meant, but I was pretty confident we were gonna like it. And man did we like it. We loved it. Simply the most perfectly cooked langoustines of a kind. Grilled around 1 minute only, just enough to leave the colour – but still ever so moist and tender. Best plate I have had in a long long time. All you need is actully good produce and a chef who knows his techniques.

If that doesn´t make you happy…

Oscar loving his sole, not so much the spinach..

Round two from the buffet

This time I actually also tried the paella, which was very nice. I did not manage any grilled fish or meat – my belly was full. The kids had been looking forward to the desserts. As Oscar had informed us…Im going to have my favourite dessert again. Strawberries, raspberries and whipped cream. As it turned out the strawberries were the only flaw of the day, being a bit boring, tired…but the raspberries…have never tasted sweeter or better.

Oscar was a happy chappy

Emil opted for chocolate…

I do think that Emil had three rounds of desserts (!) These two, and two pieces more….

A look at the beach and the Jetty, and it was time to ask for the bill. After 4 hours in Paradise.

End of season, quiet beach

The bar is extended onto the jetty.

Conclusion:

Our visit this time was even better foodwise than last time. We were graced with the visit to our table by Uncle Rudi, previous director and co-founder of the hotel. He was celebrating the birthday of his wife at the table next to us and he came over to congratulate us on our choice of restaurant and me of my beautiful wife. What a nice person and gentleman he was. I bet he had a story or two to tell. Next time maybe Uncle Rudi.

The service is impecable, the settings pure holiday feeling with a classic luxury touch. I thank you again Torben for showing me this spot in the first place.

I shall re-post the great shot I took of our dear friend Javier last year

We missed Javier this time as I mentioned, but if money allows it Javier, please be sure to find us back next year.

My rating for this visit: Food 8p (10), service 5p (5), ambience 5p (5), 1 extra happiness point for a day in Paradise – Total Score 19p (20)

Marbella Club (Club de Playa), Marbella – February 2011

Coming back to Spain for the first time in what seemed like a hundred years, I was invited to a lunch at this little pearl on the Costa del Sol. Its a beautiful hotel, with a small road leading down to the restaurant a few stairs above the beach.

Spain showed its beautiful side, granting us 20 degrees celcius and clear blue sky. Somewhat different from the frosty Luxembourg I had left the evening before.

The lunch buffet is prized at 70 eur which I guess is pretty damn high for Spanish standard. But let me just start by saying that every eur is truly justified. EVERYTHING on the large buffet is fresh. EVERYTHING. Any request is met with a smile and an effort to please.

We ordered pata negra, grilled langoustines and grilled sole. We were invited to have a look at the buffet while waiting for the fish….and soon covered our plates with freshly grilled vegetables, salads, artichokes etc. etc. etc.. It was simply not possible to resist this.

A chilled Marquis de Riscal, Sauvignon Blanc at around 30 eur was the perfect companion.

It later turned out that the 70 EUR did indeed cover the whole meal, the buffet, the pata negra, the grilled langoustines, the grilled scampis, the perfectly cooked sole (which came with freshly steamed spinach and potatoes on the side.

We never ever got a chance to taste the “postres”, – it was “nada mas” but they looked just as fresh and deli as the rest.

The service was outstanding, the meal a blast, the weather as good as one could hope for. Dining in the sun in February, a chilled wind, blue sky, ocean view, chilled wine. What more do you want in life. A small walk down the stairs and you are at the beach…

Conclusion

If you need a great meal for lunch in Marbella, a little bit of heaven. Go there….but be sure to book on week-ends and during the high season. Indulge in the fresh produce and great service while your children swim  in the pool or play at the beach.

It was easily one of the best lunches I have ever had in Spain, and for sure the best buffet I have ever seen in my life. I cant wait to bring the family here, knowing it will take a while, I wish it was tomorrow. On another note the lunch we had was even surpassed by one – a few days later – at a small club in Sotogrande, but thats another story. But that only makes the yearning tougher.

The service was flawless, the lunch outstanding and way beyond any expectations I could have ever had.

My rating for this visit: Food 8p (10), service 5p (5), ambience 5p (5), total score for this visit  18p (20)

Restaurant Babette, Denmark – 20 August 2010

Coming back to Babette is like coming home. Its the closest gastronomic restaurant to our summerhouse, and since the culinary possibilities is very limited on Lolland we are always craving good food towards the end of the holiday. Off course the extraordinary visit to Jan at Sölleröd Kro was still in our minds. We did not expect the same level here, but we knew from prior visits that they can surprice and that this little gem on a good night is among the best in Denmark.

To our big disappointment Henrik Pedersen, the owner and “Maitre” was not in the house, but Vivi his wife was running the kitchen and a well-know face Brian greeted us warmly. From a selection of white Burgundies which he gladly presented we chose the Macon-Uchizy 2006 from “Les Heritiers du Compte Lafon”. I think this wine was also one of the four Jan has suggested us the week before, and it was a good one. Easy to drink, not really challenging your senses, but as my Australian friend would say…a pearler.

The white and some very tasty olives smoked almonds etc.

Pickled Langoustine

A beauty on the plate, marvellous colours, but I prefer cooked langoustines to pickled ones.

Smoked cod (lys-sej actually) - with fennel and mussels/butter sauce

Again, very light, no surprices here – but perfectly cooked fish.

We started to talk about a bottle of red a little earlier in the meal, and asked Brian to present some not too old Burgundy wines. He said…oh, normally people ask for not too young and even though his cellar was well stocked he would have to arrange something from one of the external store rooms. At this point, since he had still not presented us any, he had to admit that he had called Henrik and that he was on his way…..it should have been a surprice. Anyway Henrik – Mr. One Big Smile – entered the room, greeted us warmly, chatted a bit and then settled for one of his suggestions which he brought – a 2007 Nuits-Saint-Georges, 1.cru from J.F. Mugnier. A throughly great wine.

A good drop....

Potato creme, olive oil, water cresse, bio egg yolk at first....

Potato "liquid" was added - and voila -

The perfect potato soup

First serving of guineafowl...

which was paired with this beauty

And that was the most stunning dish of the day, and one of the best I have had this year. The sensation and detail of all the engredients on these two plates made it a dish I will not forget so easily if ever.

After this there were no room for cheeses or dessert, but a small plate of sweets were handed (and eaten)…..

Conclusion:

Babette continue to deliver honest and good food, on the light side with not too much of a fuss. In Henrik´s absence, Brian is a very competent waiter and very passionate about his job. He has got his own more quiet style (in compare to Henrik) – and he is confident with his job, and right so, because he does not flatter a second. He knows the dishes in every little detail, even when I questioned what he said, he sticked by his point, asked in the kitchen, and came back, smilingly “admitting” that he was right. I wish there more of his caliber around. I am sure Henrik is proud of him.

As for the menu, I dont think it was quite as interesting as the one we had there last year, but the explosions in the main dish made up for it, and I do think the craftmanship was as good as always. I think the potato lacked salt, but that was the only flaw of the evening. The bread and service on top.

Brian....you are one hell of a waiter/sommelier...rock on.

Roses...

On the way out we passed Vivi and happily thanked for the beautiful dinner.  Looking forward to come back next year and hopefully Henrik will be back in form. We thank you again Henrik, for coming in – more or less just to say hi – and for the great bottle you brought.

My rating for this visit: Ambience 4p (5) Service 4,5p (5) Food/Wine 8.5p (10) : Score 17p out of 20.

Becker´s – Trier – 17 October 2009

Chef: Wolfgang Becker, Michelin rating: 2 stars, Millaud rating: 17 points

This review will be without photos…..I forgot the camera.

Nevertheless, I have to make the review since the evening was filled with so many ups and downs.

The restaurant was awarded it second star this year, and since my earlier visits they have renovated the place, established a wine bar, and divided the restaurant into a gastronomic part and a wine-stub brasserie. Furthermore a modern hotel has arisen and the overall impression when you arrive is “wauw – stunning” -especially since the establishment is placed in a small dull street on the outskirts of  Trier.

The reservation was made a good 6 weeks before and having recently read an article about how a good dining experience starts with the phone booking, I was somewhat let down by the cool way that was handled by the daugther of the house – (who is also the maitre (it seems) and maybe also the sommelier). This never became clear to us.

They have one 8 course menu at 105 euro (a bargain) – which you may reduce to 5 courses at 85 euro. The menu changes weekly.

We were the first to arrive at 6 pm and asked for the wine bar…a modern interior with the same wine list as the restaurant. We started with a glass of local Riesling, continued with a bottle of Knipser Sauvignon Blanc – a pleasant wine and a bargain at around 25 euro.

The wine list was good on Bordeaux reds and low on Burgundy wines. Nevertheless we settled for the large menu and a Chablis Grand Cru from a good producer and a 1999 Chateau Palmer.

During our 1 hour stay at the bar we were served roasted almonds….and later more roasted almonds.

When shown to our table the beautiful room gave us high expectations. Modern, raw walls, indeed very pretty.

Ms. Christine Becker emerged, I think she greeted us and we finished the bottle of Knipser with the amuses. She then came back to tell us that she had been through the whole cellar, but had not succeeded in finding the Chablis we ordered but only the 1. cru which she would suggest to us. Now my companion and good friend Jerome is a sommelier, and the reason we went for the Chablis was that it had been a long time since he had tried a Grand Cru from this apparently top producer. So we swifted to a Meursault 1. cru from a less well-know producer. I think the Meursault came around 65 eur and was a good but not stunning wine.

The Chateau Palmer was placed in the back of the room, I dont recall it beeing shown to us but I was already irritated by the coolness and un-inspiring ways of Ms. Becker. The wine was going to be decanted without asking us before. I was ready to obstruct because I normally prefer the wine to develop in the glass. However, my friend said that should the wine prove to have suffered from the treatment rather than the opposite we were in our good right to obstruct, but at this pont we should leave it. As it turned out the wine was perfect. And I mean perfect. A red Bordeaux does not need to be better than this, and we both agreed the dacanting had indeed improved the wine. But what I still dont understand, why make way for a possible conflict instead of simply telling us her ideas about doing it and then let us the paying clients decide what we wanted. You can always decante the wine after the initail tasting, but certainly not undo the decanting.

As it turned out the wine had sparkled our interest. Jerome asked Ms. Becker if she had tried the wine, which was met by a yes – and her leaving again.  No room for chit chat there. But we didnt give up…so we ordered a Chateau Montrose same year, half the price to see how it would compare. Again the wine was decanted but of course did not stand as long in the caraffel. When served it was somewhat slimmer and a bit more closed that the Palmer. It developed during the next hour..but never reached the Palmer in fullness and perfection.

As for the menu here you go – we started with a few tastings then the official amuses….Törtchen von Räucherfischen and Karotten/Ingwer süppchen mit Kalbsbries.

The Menu

Delice von Bretonischen Langoustinen

Gegrillte Sankt Jakobsmuschel, Ricotta, Lauch und Herbsttrüffel

Tranche vom Atlantik-Steinbutt, Artischocken, Tomaten und Kapern

Gebackene Entenstopfleber, Apfel-Kartoffelstampf mit Kraut

Variation vom Landschwein, herbstlich inspiriert

Dreierlei Bergkäse

Granité “After Eight”

Variation von Zitrusfrüchten

Chocolats & Friandises

At some pont in the beginning of the menu a large bread/baguette cut into slices was served – it looked great but was too soft and seemed half baked. An hour later a waiter emerged with 4 different kind of bread rolls, of which we tried 2 or three and they were all soft and again – seemed half-baked. Even after finishing our bread no “re-fill” was offered which seemed peculiar given the large menu.

So what does one make of all this.

First let me say that the food was more or less flawless, especially the delice was stunning, the roasted fois gras as well as the pork variation was clearly the high-lights for me. The plates are beautiful, simple and not to large servings. Meaning we could leave after 5 hours of dining (and drinking) without feeling overly full.

So – GREAT GREAT food but no “wauww” moments, just simple good produce presented beautifully in nice settings. The dishes ranged from 7,5 to 10 for me. I was not too crazy about the desserts. The After Eight beeing a nogo in my book. But lets say a good 8-8,5 for the food.

The wines – well we had close to a 10 on the reds, but the list itself is heavy on German whites, naturally. Very good priced Bordeaux´s.

The service – I would give the kind and attentive waiter Nadine Permantier a good 4 out of 5 – we never missed water and wine. And she was as the only woman in the house smiling. Now what to think of Ms. Becker – I dont know. Had she been a waiter I would say a 3 but she was the maitre (I think – and sommelier) and never once did she entertain in any kind of conversation, hardly a smile, -she did however follow us to the door when we left and wished us a good night and for that I will give her a 1. She was just not inspired enough. Like she had been planted in a water bottling production and had to pee.

Well – conclusion, we loved the food, loved the room – hated the coolness of most of the staff. They work in a beautiful restaurant with beautiful food. If they are not more inspired than the waitress at your local McDonalds they have chosen the wrong line of business – the exception being Ms. Permantier. If you read this Mr. Becker – she’s a keeper – improve the rest.

Will we be back – I honestly dont know – but for the final prices I have had greater evenings elsewhere, and it seems that my feelings/expectations these days are rather high on the service factor – and here they lacked for sure. When that is said….have you less expectations in that respect or maybe better luck than we had, a menu at this level for around 100 euro, add a bottle of Knipser for 25 euro, and you will find it hard to find a better price/quality level around these neck of the woods.

Rating for this visit: Food 8p (10) – Service 2p (5), Ambience 5p (5) – Total score 15

http://www.beckers-trier.de/