Showing posts with label London. Show all posts
Showing posts with label London. Show all posts

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester (London)

Location: London, England
Address: 53 Park Lane (in the Dorchester Hotel)
Website: http://www.alainducasse-dorchester.com/
Type of Meal: Lunch



Alain Ducasse embodies luxury with beautifully set tables (complete with a private one behind a curtain of gemstones), attentive service (someone greets you in the lobby and guides you to the washrooms to ensure you find them) and the mountain of warm gougères brought out as soon as you sit down.  After all, you wouldn’t want your guests going hungry between ordering and getting bread!  We couldn’t stop ourselves from gorging on these delicious light-as-air cheese puffs while browsing through the menu and admiring the beautiful place settings.



A special lunch menu (£55) is offered Tuesday to Friday that includes three courses, two glasses of wine (chosen from 2012 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre Blanc, 2010 Laurent Tribut Chablis, 2007 Domaine Montirius Vacqueyras Les Closes or 2008 Château Bernadotte Haut- Médoc), ½ bottle of mineral water and coffee or tea.
Aside from the gougères, you’re offered a selection from a brimming bread basket including mini baguettes, olive bread, bacon brioche, twists and many others I can’t remember.  The trend of excess continues on – would you like salted butter, unsalted butter or cream cheese blended with whipped cream for your bread?
Afterwards, a metallic egg shaped dish arrives filled with a cold tomato gelee topped with a chive and sour cream sorbet and bits of shallots (?).  It was simple yet refreshing and invigorated the taste buds from the previous carbs. 

My starter was on the heavier side with the deconstructed croque-madame. Slices of toasted brioche topped with finely diced ham and aged cheese were the perfect size to dip into the warm, creamy, cheesy, runny scrambled egg mixture served in cute eggshells.  The dish was a cheese extravaganza; even the small dish of salad had a generous serving of it! Alain Ducasse certainly took this comfort food classic and added a touch of elegance and flair to it.    

My husband loved his chestnut velouté with snails, which is essentially a thicker soup. It was the sweet and salty combination that I’m not a fan of.  Even so, I had a taste and the creamy chowder consistency chestnut soup along with plump snails was decent.   

His main of beef made and served in a cookpot, a signature cooking method of Mr. Ducasse, was absolutely delicious with the delicate slices of tender beef layered with various root vegetables.  Having been braised slowly, all the juices condensed down to a flavourful sauce that was absolutely wonderful.  I wouldn’t have expected a “fancy” restaurant to serve such a hearty dish (and such a large portion as well).

For my main, I could not pass up the lobster and crab squid ink cannelloni; anything that has lobster in it immediately gets my attention!  The pasta was a thin tube containing tons of the lobster and crab mixture within.  The filling was smooth but still held up its shape and had noticeable bits of the lobster strewn throughout.  Overall, although not the most memorable dish, was still delectable.  Honestly, it’s really hard for it to stand out compared to all the strongly flavoured dishes previously served. But, sometimes your taste buds need a bit of a break and enjoy the naturalness of the seafood essence.

By now I’m absolutely stuffed and thankful that there’s only one more dish to go.  Thinking the contemporary vacherin may be the lightest option, I go with it.  Scoops of strawberry and champagne sorbet appear in a vibrant green bowl with medallions of meringues, thinly sliced dried strawberries and raspberry puree.  The dessert was a well-balanced dessert of sweetness & tartness and smoothness & crunch.


 
Despite not being able to finish my own dessert, I had to try a spoon of my husband’s passion fruit rice pudding.  It was an interesting combination of the traditional rich and creamy pudding with the tartness of the fruit. After the copious amount of food ingested earlier, I found the rice to be a bit heavy. 


To finish off the meal, I ordered a green tea in hopes of aiding in digestion.  But then, with our tea & coffee arrived a bowl of macarons, a dish of cocoa powder covered almonds, candies of caramels & nougats and a platter of chocolates!  Most restaurants offer a selection of petit fours, but Alain Ducasse’s offering brought it to a whole new level.  I had a small bite of the macarons (delicate and moist but a bit sweet), an almond (a good contrast of bitterness) and nougat (so soft and delicious).  There was no way I could taste them all (sorry chocolates and caramels), but was wonderful that so many choices were offered.

The lunch hour menu at Alain Ducasse is the embodiment of extravagance and overindulgence and perfect for a special occasion.  Indeed, their location is ideal with the beautiful Hyde Park beside it and set in a luxury hotel; after all, right after this meal all you want to do is have a lazy stroll and then take a nap.  

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Alain Ducasse At The Dorchester on Urbanspoon


Restaurant Gordon Ramsay (London)

Location: London, England
Address: 68 Royal Hospital Road
Website: http://www.gordonramsay.com/royalhospitalroad/
Type of Meal: Lunch



Since Hell’s Kitchen aired in 2005, I’ve wanted to eat at one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants.  The show portrays a chef that’s committed to excellence with kitchens churning out traditional but delicious looking dishes.  Hence, during our visit to London, I knew I had to visit his namesake restaurant – Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.  It’s no easy feat to earn a Michelin star accolade, let alone receive three of them and hold the standing for over ten years (started in 2001). If there was ever a place to experience Mr. Ramsay, his Royal Hospital Road establishment would be it. Of course, with his busy celebrity life, he doesn’t actually cook there anymore; rather, he’s left Chef Clare Smyth in charge.  But, he must have some hand in designing the menu and this would be my chance to try his brilliance.


So, as quickly as I could, I signed up online for a reservation at this 45 seat restaurant months in advance. Although I wouldn’t have dreamt of missing the sitting, you’re required to provide them with a credit card to secure the spot and be charged a hefty fine if you don’t show up.

On the day of the meal, we show up 15 minutes early and found the door locked with several other patrons waiting outside.  For a restaurant that specifies we must be ready to be seated at the time of our reservation, it’s a bit strange that they wouldn’t open up a little earlier to let people in.  About five minutes from our reservation time, the door finally unlocks and we’re greeted warmly and whisked in the intimate dining room. 

The dining area is small with all the tables situated in a square room and fairly close together - to the point that the staff need to move tables for some guests to get in and out which is unexpected for fine dining.  The chairs were plush and cozy but I could only imagine if a heavier set person were to sit in them they may find it fairly snug.

Not long after being seated, the manager arrives asking our table who is hosting.  Finding this to be a strange question, we offered up my husband’s father nonetheless.  It wasn’t until reading other blogger experiences that I realized they only print prices in the host’s menu, with the thought of allowing the other guests to order without apprehension.  The manager also came by later to speak to us and brief us on a bit about the restaurant’s history and answer any questions we may have, a great personal touch.

Gordon Ramsay’s lunch menu offers two three-course options – a set lunch (£55) or an a la carte (£95).  The set lunch’s choices are more limited, but our waiter advised that we could mix and match as we wanted with a slight supplement if we ordered the set lunch and wanted to substitute with something off the a la carte. This freedom is certainly appreciated with one guest substituting his dessert (no extra charge) and another substituting the main for the truffle pasta special of the day (supplement of £35).  The extra charge for pasta may seem steep, but Gordon Ramsay did provide a generous portion of the white truffle, which arrived in a box and freshly shaved on top of the creamy linguine with mushrooms.  Although I didn’t try the dish, my mother-in-law noted that the pasta was great with the truffle blending deliciously into the decadent creamy sauce.

We were first offered a selection of breads so I selected the sourdough and bacon brioche which other reviewers seem to rave about. Honestly, it was pretty run-of-the-mill bread, for a delicious bread basket Scarpetta is by far still my favourite.

Our amuse for the day was a cold refreshing tomato consommé laced with delicate pieces of tomatoes, frozen nitrogen cream and little dots of dill oil. It was a simple but invigorating way to wake up the taste buds.

My husband and I ordered off of the different menus with me getting the lunch (£55) and him the a la carte (£95) to allow us the ability to compare.  Mine began with the tartlet of confit salmon. Upon its arrival, the dish looked anything but a tartlet with it being so big.  The crust was wonderfully delicate and crispy made from phyllo dough rather than pastry. Cool shavings of fennel lined the base adding a fresh salad to the dish.  Numerous pieces of perfectly poached salmon sat on top along with sweet grilled peppers, thinly slice radishes and a soft boiled quail egg. Dots of basil dressing decorated the dish and added further flavour to the lightly seasoned tart. This was my favourite dish from my menu and this easily can be offered as a standalone main at any of Gordon Ramsay’s other restaurants.

After such a flawless start the miso glazed cod was a bit of a let-down. Don’t get me wrong, all the individual ingredients were cooked perfectly – the fish flakey, squid tender, shitake mushrooms meaty and Shanghai bok choy crispy. Rather, the black quinoa and lapsang souchong broth were throwing me off.  I didn’t realize that black quinoa isn’t fluffy but rather harder, more granular and has a nutty flavour; in the end, resembling sesame seeds.  Somehow, I just didn’t like the grainy texture with the cod. Lapsang souchong is essentially a Chinese smoked black tea which in itself doesn’t have much flavour – in Chinese cooking it’s often mixed with soy sauce or other ingredients rather than being by itself.  The dish did have some miso with it, but I didn’t find it pronounce enough so the fish just seemed like it was sitting in a strong tea broth which was slightly bland.

On the other hand, my husband’s experience with his menu was the complete opposite. His appetizer of seafood ravioli certainly looked promising when it was presented - a single oversized plump ravioli sitting in a sorrel velouté and bisque sauce with a dollop of expensive oscietra caviar on top. The ravioli was wonderful with its thin pasta dough barely containing a hefty mixture of lobster, langoustine (aka prawns/shrimp) and salmon. But the sorrel sauce, a leafy herb, has an acquired taste and personally we found the acidic tang slightly off putting.  I know Michelin star chefs need to be inventive and use little known ingredients, but really, I would have much rather the ravioli just be paired with a simple cream sauce, maybe laced with some truffle oil.

But, his main of pig done five ways more than made up for the lackluster starter.  Distinct portions of each are laid out on a white plate with a simple jus connecting everything.  Starting from left to right was a roasted loin/chop? very tender and went well with the smooth, thick and caramel like apple sauce.  The cute cabbage roll was another traditional but tasty portion to the offerings.  Where the dish shone was suckling pig, so crispy yet light it can certainly stand up to the Chinese and Catalonian versions I’ve had in my life.  Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten much about the next style other than it having a squashed potato underneath it. Lastly, was a sausage which was plump and juicy having just a hint of spice (this also went well with the smashed potato).

Before dessert was brought out, we were treated to slim glasses of passion fruit milk shake to cleanse the palate. I especially enjoyed the glass straws sitting within the thick liquid.

My dessert, a take on the classic banana, peanut butter and chocolate mixture, was delicious.  Each part of the dish was unassuming but went well together and allowed you to mix and match the sweetness of the caramelized bananas with the paper thin dark chocolate sheets.  The middle log appeared to be a banana and vanilla ice cream rolled into a nutty toffee mixture.  Lastly, a scoop of rich peanut butter mousse rounds out everything having a slight saltiness to it.  

The apple tarte tatin my husband and father-in-law shared was much more impressive arriving table side still warm in the pan.  It’s cut in half and then placed onto a caramel drizzle decorated plate with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.  The flakey pastry was soaked with butter and sweet thin caramel with a generous portion of soft apples in the middle. This was my first taste of the dessert and I love this indulgent take on the apple tart / upside down cake.

Before we moved onto coffee, a silver dish was brought out and when the dome lifted truffles of white chocolate strawberry ice cream sat amongst billowing dry ice. The sweet in itself really isn’t anything spectacular – cold strawberry ice cream encased in a crisp white chocolate crust – but the presentation is certainly exhilarating.  Gordon Ramsay was nice enough to bring another dome just so the one guest who away from the table when the first was brought out could experience it for themselves.

Rosewater Turkish delights and chocolate truffle squares were the petit fours accompanying our coffee and tea. Since I was stuffed by this point, I only tried the Turkish delight which was delicate yet had such a powerful rosewater taste… it’s an acquired taste that I liked.  Thankfully, they weren’t too sugary and were a great last bite.

 

Visiting Restaurant Gordon Ramsay was one of the most anticipated parts of my trip. So much so that I planned this restaurant last so that its magnificence wouldn’t overshadow everything else we tried. Regrettably, I really didn’t need to worry about this happening; overall, Gordon Ramsay was good but really not as magical as I had built it up to be in my mind. But, at least a foodie dream has been satisfied! Although, if anyone can tell me how to get a reservation for the one of Hell’s Kitchen’s final episodes, I can be enticed to try Mr. Ramsay’s creations again.     

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay on Urbanspoon





Masala Zone (London)

Location: London, England
Address: 48 Floral Street
Website: www.masalazone.com
Type of Meal: Dinner 
 



Having heard that Britain is one of the best places to experience Indian food outside of India, I couldn’t leave without eating some. Originally, my husband and I were planning on visiting Dishroom, based on a suggestion from a friend.  But, upon arriving we were advised it’d be over an hour wait, so we walked a block to Masala Zone instead. Being a chain restaurant, we went to the Covenant Garden location on a Thursday and also found a line (albeit much shorter and inside the restaurant).  It moved fairly quickly and the plethora of dolls and trinkets decorating the restaurant provided entertainment; we were seated within 15 minutes.

Marsala Zone is known for their thali, a platter of little dishes that makes up an entire meal (minus dessert). The combination of items provides a variety of tastes and textures and is supposed to encompass all the food groups to provide a healthy balanced meal. We decided to get a chicken mangalore grand thali (£12.30), a single order of chilli paneer (£8.10) and some garlic naan (£2.65) to share.

The grand thali is made up of:

·       A canapé – I think we received an onion bhajee that night.  Essentially, it’s an onion and lentil fritter with various spices in it (cumin and coriander).  It was good enough, although could have been better if they were quickly refried and served hot & crispy.

·       Choice of curry off their menu - The chicken mangalore was tender being made from thigh meat. The sauce was pleasant and rich, with strong fragrant spices and hint of coconut without being overly creamy.

·       Two vegetables (one green and one root) – Surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed the cubes of curried potatoes and peas.  It’s so simple but went well with everything when I could take a piece of chicken, potato and wrap.  I don’t recall the other vegetable but have a recollection it was slightly pickled and not something I enjoyed.

·       Dal – The lentil stew was great!  I’ve only ever had it in the drier form in West Indian cooking when it’s added to a roti.  This creamier thick saucy version is so much better and could easily be eaten on its own with rice.

·       Raita – watery cucumber yoghurt that helped calm the spices from our two chili dishes. 

·       Indian salad – I honestly can’t remember what made it Indian, perhaps the dressing.  But, it was like any other garden salad with slivers of carrots.

·       Papadum and chutney – My first experience having a papadum, these are amazing! In Toronto, we don’t normally get these with our meals so I will be on the lookout for them. It’s thin, crispy (without being fried) and made from some sort of flavoured flour so that there’s some savouriness to it. I didn’t really care for the chutney so ended eating it topped with rice, dal and curry instead.   

·       A whole wheat chapatti – thin Indian bread that reminded me of flour tortillas but had more of an elastic chewiness to it.

·       Rice – really wasn’t the best quality but just fine when smothered with sauce.

Normally, my husband and I always order a spinach paneer; Marsala Zone didn’t have this so we opted for the chilli rendition instead. There were generous chunks of paneer in it, texture much like the versions I normally have and akin to a firm tofu. The sauce definitely had heat to it and reached my upper limit – I had to rely on water and raita to calm my tongue. Interestingly, it was topped with crispy onion slivers, which didn’t really add much to the dish but was good on its own.

Sadly, the garlic naan was the least impressive item for the meal.  I generally love naan but found Marsala Zone’s too oily, not hot enough and too dense. Perhaps it’s a matter of taste, but I enjoy mine left in the tandoori oven longer so that there are slightly charred bits on the edges and large bubbles throughout.

Although I can’t comment on whether Marsala Zone was as good as Dishroom, I have to admit that it was one of the best tasting Indian meals I’ve had. I love the idea of the grand thali; it’s a great option for those who want to try a lot of things at once and is great value for only £12.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


Like the blog? You can now follow me on twitter for notifications - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog

____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Masala Zone Covent Garden on Urbanspoon