May 7
Tribe Tribe, Cardiff
posted by: Gomez in Dinner, Restaurant Reviews on May 7th, 2011 | | No Comments »

I don't know when I first came across Tribe Tribe. I know it was sometime last year, but whether it was pointed out to me or I discovered it's website by chance I cannot recall. What I do know is that immediately I saw the web site I thought it could be interesting and I wanted to try it. So I added it to my list of places to eat in the near future.

Recently, one of the other local food bloggers posted a good review which refreshed my curiosity. So, as my student niece was in need of sustenance paid for by aunty and uncle, I booked a table for the three of us for 7pm on a Friday night.

We arrived about five minutes seven and were shown to a table by a gentleman who asked if we had been there before. When we said no we hadn't, he told us we were in for a fantastic time. Now I spoke about expectation in my last review of The Hardwick and again this time I was looking forward to and expecting some really interesting, different and good food. I was prepared to take him at his word.

If after a short period of time, the waitress came to take our drink order. I didn't take much notice of the fact that she had to keep going back to look at the fridge in order to tell us what they sold, but maybe I should have. She returned very quickly with our drinks and proceeded to ask for our food order; but we were in no way ready, as most of the menu was completely unfamiliar especially to the niece and I. MrsA has traveled quite a bit in Africa, but couldn't remember the names for things, so we were all struggling.

MrsA asked for some explanations of the dishes. Unfortunately, it appeared that the waitress was only slightly better informed we were. A typical exchange was along these lines;
"What's Akara?" we asked.
"Okra," she said.
"No! Akara," we said.
"Okra," again she said.
"Akara is Okra?" we asked.
"Yes!" she said.
"Well if Akara is Okra why do you have Okra Stew on the menu as well? Why isn't it Akara Stew?"
She looked confused.

After five minutes of this kind of thing, all I really knew was that it was possible to substitute Yam for Plantain in any dish. We asked her to give us a few minutes to decide and then when she had left MrsA and I resorted to Google'ing the menu items, on our smartphones.

Having finally managed to decipher the dishes and having decided what we wanted; we waited patiently for her to come back, but to no avail. Eventually she returned from the kitchen and we were able to attract her attention and place our order. The first thing she told us was that they were out of yams. This was, I thought, a bit of a problem. There are 26 dishes and eight sides on the menu and at least eight of them are based around Yam, so with a minimum of 25% of the menu being "off", the choice was now severely reduced and I did feel that this might have been better brought to our attention before we had chosen and not after. Anyways, after some hasty rearranging, we managed to place our order.

MrsA opted to start with the Akara. Magically the waitress had now realised that Akara wasn't Okra after all and told us so. "We know", we said. "We looked it up on the Internet." If this ingenious use of technology impressed her in any way she didn't show it. (For anyone interested Akara is a kind of fritter made from black eyed peas.) I chose the Moi Moi, a steamed bean pudding. The niece didn't want a starter, but went straight to main course with an order of Shola fish. MrsA ordered Efo Ri Ro stew, a creamy palm oil stew and vegetables made with traditional herbs and spices, I opted for the grill route with African Mixed Meat, described as grilled beef, goat and chicken in cayenne pepper served with plantain and salad. Order taken we sat back…..

And then we waited and we waited and we waited. While we waited a couple of people came in, stood by the door, then they sat at the table, then they read the menu, then they asked us if it was self-service, then they waited along with us and eventually, they ran out of patience got up and left. All without been approached, or maybe even noticed, by any staff.

By this time there were three other parties in the restaurant. A group of three who had arrived before us, another party of four who had come in just after us and a group of guys sitting on one of the couches who appeared to just want to drink beer, chat and go outside every few minutes to smoke. All had drinks but no one had any food I noticed.

Then suddenly, just as I was beginning to wonder what was going on our starters arrived. Well that's what we thought was happening but no, it wasn't the starters!  It was just a bowl containing about a dozen or so peanuts and an empty plate for the shells. Well we thought that must mean the starters are imminent but, apart from the wait, that was all we had.

Eventually, after doing yet more waiting, MrsA managed to gain the attention of the waitress by shaking her empty beer bottle in the universal 'bring me some more' gesture. Now that we had the waitress at our table we were able to enquire as to the whereabouts of our food. Bearing in mind we had now been in the restaurant for an hour, I was not pleased when she told us that she thought it would be another twenty minutes. "Another 20 minutes" I exclaimed. "Are you sure it's going to take that long? It can't possibly!" She said that she would go and make sure. Well she certainly went, but she never came back with an answer, in fact she give us the distinct impression that she was staying around the kitchen to avoid us.

I had had enough. I got up from the table and walked to the kitchen door and asked her politely a) why she had not come back with an answer and b) where our food was. She didn't answer directly but looked pleadingly into the kitchen until the chef, who was the person who had shown us to our table originally, came to the doorway and told me, "we have a few problems". I explained that we had now been there for over an hour and I really wanted to know if we were ever going to get fed. He told me it would be "a few minutes" more. I told him that the waitress had just told me it would be 20 minutes, so would it be "a few minutes" or "20 minutes".
"Please tell me the truth," I said. "It will be better that way."
"It will be at least 20 minutes" he said.
"At least?" I said.
"Yes" he said.
"So let me get this straight. I have been here over an hour, my starters are going to be at least another 20 minutes maybe more and you didn't think that you needed to come and explain that to me?" "
"We have some problems in the kitchen," he said.
"I think you have problems in more areas than just the kitchen," I replied. "We are hungry and we need to eat. I have no intention of sitting here for some undetermined period of time in the hope that you may be able to produce food at some point this evening. I am very disappointed and very unimpressed. So I think I'll call it quits and go somewhere else. Let me have the bill for the drinks and we will be off."

At this point Tribe Tribe might just have been able to save the day with a profuse apology and an insistence that my drinks were free or an offer of a discount/free starter next time. Instead they put the nail in the coffin by presenting me with a bill for £6.50. I paid and vowed never to set foot in there, out of choice, again.

I opened door, turned left and walked the hundred yards to The Bangkok Cafe.
"Table for three?" I asked.
"Have you booked?"
"Sorry, no!"
"No problem, show these people to table 10."

Thank God somebody knows what service is about!

The meal, at Bangkok Cafe, was superb as usual. The staff pleasant and helpful, the food wonderful and tasty, the bill more than reasonable. As far as Cardiff is concerned then give me Asia over Africa any day.

Tribe Tribe
169 Cowbridge Rd East
Canton, Cardiff, CF11 9AH
Tel: 029 2066 6111

The Bangkok Cafe
207 Cowbridge Rd East
Canton, Cardiff, CF11 9AJ
Tel: 029 2034 0455
You can read my full review of The Bangkok Cafe here.

Apr 22
The Hardwick, Abergavenny
posted by: Gomez in Dinner, Restaurant Reviews on Apr 22nd, 2011 | | No Comments »
I've been to The Hardwick about 5 times before, ate food cooked by Stephen Terry at a banquet at the National Botanical Garden of Wales and also at a Chef's demo evening at The Tithe Barn in Abergavenny. You could say I'm a fan.
 
So when MrsA suggested we help celebrate the Bank Holiday with a nice lunch we looked at the available options and happily chose to book a table for 2 at 2pm at The Hardwick.
 
We arrived at 1.50pm to find a very full car park and on entry, chose to go directly to our table rather than take a drink in the bar. This is where it all started to go wrong as 20 minutes later we were still sitting there despite having been told by the person who brought our drinks after 10 minutes that she would send someone to take our order. We eventually found someone to take our order. Choosing from the fixed price Lunch Menu I ordered the 'Rare Breed Middle White Pork Terrine with Red Onion Marmalade, Cornichons and Toasted Beer Bread' to start whilst MrsA went for the 'Pan Fried Smoked Haddock Risotto Cake with a Poached Egg, Spinach and a Mild Curry Sauce'. We also ordered some bread for the table.
 
Disappointingly, for us, the table next to us who had arrived after we did and whose order was taken after ours was, had their bread delivered first, a pattern that was to be repeated for every subsequent course. The bread, when it did arrive, came with a bowl of olive oil that was just nasty and by nasty I mean bitter and vile! We stuck to the butter.
 
Finally 50 minutes after we arrived at the restaurant and 30 minutes after we placed our order, our starters arrived at the table. To be fair my Terrine was excellent and generously portioned. The only downside was that it could have done with an equally generous portion of Toasted Beer Bread to spread it on. However, MrsA's Risotto Cake came with a poached egg that could have easily been mistaken for a hard boiled one. Any thought of an unctuous yoke oozing over the Risotto Cakes was quickly dispelled. After such a long wait though, and the inability to catch the eye of any of the most inattentive wait staff, hunger dispelled any enthusiasm for sending it back.  MrsA felt that the starter was good but would have been much better if the egg was poached as promised on the menu.   
 
We did bring the matter to the attention of the waitress who came to clear the plates, as no one had come during the course to check if everything was okay and she said that she would pass our comments, firstly about the wait and secondly the egg, on but if she did then we didn't get any feedback.
 
After yet another 30 minutes, during which even the people at the table who had overtaken us complained about waiting, we eventually got our main course. We had both ordered the 'Wild Usk Venison Pie with Wild Garlic Mash'. I enjoyed this course. The Pie filling was rich and flavoursome, there was plenty of tender meat and the encased vegetables brought a nice sweetness to help cut through the sauce. MrsA however though the Venison was a little dry.
 
We felt service was now starting to improve, probably as it was getting late and people were leaving, so we decided to have a dessert. Again we were in unison as we both opted for the 'Chilled Coconut Rice Pudding, New Season Alphonso Mango and Chilli, Mint & Coriander Syrup'. Both MrsA and I had a problem with this dessert, namely the rice wasn't cooked properly, in fact Crunchy Chilled Coconut Rice Pudding was what it should have been called. We just couldn't eat it and so reluctantly sent it back with our reasons as to why. 
 
The manageress came to our table to tell us that they would either give us a different dessert or take that one from our bill, but that she had spoken to the Chef who had said that due to the fact that the pudding was served cold then the rice couldn't be cooked any more and that was how it was supposed to be.  Well I'm fully prepared to accept that "that was how it was supposed to be" i.e that's how Chef wanted it, crunchy; but I've eaten chilled rice puddings before and they've never had to be made of undercooked rice just because they weren't hot.
 
We didn't fancy any of the other desserts so just stuck with our coffee and had the rice pudding taken off the bill.
 
For most of the time we were there Chef/Owner Stephen Terry was in one of the restaurant rooms or the bar chatting to diners. I few times MrsA and I commented to each other that he might have been better off at the pass overseeing what was coming out of the kitchen. 
 
On our journey home MrsA posed the question "Do we have the right to expect perfection whenever we go out to eat?". My answer was that it's all about expectation. Our own expectation based on our experiences and the price point of where we are dining, for example we would have a different expectation of a roadside burger van, a greasy spoon cafe and a fine dining restaurant. Then there is also the expectation created by the establishment we are visiting. When it proudly displays its awards for all to see, has it's newspaper clipping framed on its walls and makes great store of the experience of its Chef then it is creating an expectation on which it needs to deliver.
 
Today The Hardwick simply did not live up to expectations! 
 
Old Ragan Road, Abergavenny,
Monmouthshire, NP7 9AA.
Tel: 01873 854220

Hardwick on Urbanspoon

Mar 17
The Charthouse, Abergavenny.
posted by: Gomez in Dinner, Restaurant Reviews on Mar 17th, 2011 | | No Comments »

The Charthouse RestaurantThe first time I went to the Charthouse it had been open about 6 weeks and quite frankly, it showed.  Not that there was anything really wrong with the food, it was just that you could tell that front of house wasn’t quite a well oiled machine yet.  I almost reviewed it at the time but held back feeling that I really should give them the chance to settle in and iron out the wrinkles before making another visit.

Checking my notes I see that on my first visit I liked the ambience, the décor and the friendly staff. To eat I started with a rich, creamy pate while MrsA had  linguine with crab sauce which she felt was sumptuous. For main MrsA had Venison Wellington; the venison was beautifully cooked but the pastry was undercooked. I had a steak that was okay, a bit sinewy and needing its fat to be more rendered. Not the best steak I’ve ever eaten but far from the worst. My dessert was a nice, light Tiramisu that just lacked a little bit of something. MrsA’s had a brulee that hadn’t quite caramelised properly.

Overall, we felt that the Charthouse showed promise. It was nice to see a new place so busy and we were aware that they appeared to be pitching a price point a little lower than some of the other, more well know, places in the area. The final words I wrote on my notes of that night were “go support them”.

So let’s wind forward six months or so, from that sunny summer Saturday evening to a cold winter Friday. It’s my friend T’s birthday and my previous experience has led me to believe that the Charthouse menu is going to be pretty well suited to his preference for meat and not a lot else. So as I’ve been looking for an opportunity to re-visit, a table is duly booked.

Tonight it is a bit quieter than last time, which is a shame, but probably just as well; as front of house is being looked after by only one member of staff as the rest are off sick.  I’m pleased to see a new menu since last time which backs up their claim of being seasonal.

With only one member of staff on duty it’s hard to tell if front of house has gelled but my impressions are that the kitchen certainly has.  I also have the impression that there has been a slight increase in the cost of the courses, although I didn’t keep a copy of the previous menu to compare.  If there has, then it is certainly a price worth paying and if there hasn’t then Chef/Owner Wesley Harris has done a splendid job of knocking his suppliers into shape; as the quality of the ingredients certainly seems to be a cut above what was on offer last time.

OK let’s get down to dinner. T who doesn’t eat fish or offal of any kind chose the Baked Saint Marcellin cheese & salsify chips. The cheese arrived very, very runny. In fact it was almost drinkable but T assured me that this didn’t distract from the flavour in anyway.  MrsA had Trealy Farm cured meats, warm toast, pickles. Well you can’t really go wrong with anything from the multi award winning Trealy Farm and she didn’t.  I chose the Wood Pigeon, pork & pistachio terrine, warm toast, apple & artichoke puree and very good it was too, with a good depth of flavour and a nice textural crunch from the pistachio.

Baked Saint Marcellin cheeseWood Pigeon, pork & pistachio terrine

Moving on to the main course T opted for the Local fillet of beef, potato rosti, spinach puree, red onion marmalade & glazed carrots. This was certainly a cut above my previous steak both in terms of quality and presentation. A lovely thick piece of meat but perfectly cooked, exactly as ordered. MrsA plumped for the Wild Cornish Sea bass, chicory tart tatin, buttery mash potato, Champagne sauce. The bass was ever so slightly overcooked and I mean ever so slightly, but the stand out part of the dish was the chicory tart tartin. MrsA thought it was “absolutely lovely”. In fact she would have preferred more tart and less mash. I chose the Roast loin of local pork, pan fried bubble & squeak, braised red cabbage, grain mustard sauce. When it arrived I thought for a moment that such a sizeable piece of meat might be a little dry, but I need not have worried. It was sweet, juicy, tender and very flavourful. Nicely complemented by the bubble and squeak and with the sauce bringing both a touch of richness and texture to the dish it was frankly a delight.

fillet of beefWild Cornish Sea bassRoast loin of local pork

Well we’ve certainly been riding on a high up to this point, but alas all good things must come to an end and at the Charthouse it’s desserts that appear to be the Achilles heel. T opted for the Peanut butter parfait, with dark chocolate sauce. This was a sizeable piece, rich in the extreme and really needed something more than the chocolate sauce to help cut through it’s richness. MrsA chose the Vanilla & rum poached pineapple, ginger ice-cream, almond & white chocolate cookies. Although that day there were no cookies and so it was served, on our agreement, with a kind of pistachio biscotti instead.  Whilst there was nothing really wrong with it, it was just a plain ordinary dessert with no highlights. I decided on the Warm Seville orange & almond tart, with creme fraiche. There isn’t much I can say about this dish other than it just wasn’t very nice. In fact I left most of it uneaten on the plate and I can’t remember when I last did that. Credit to the waiter who noticed and asked if there was a problem, but all I could really say was that it wasn’t to my taste.

Peanut butter parfait Vanilla & rum poached pineapple Warm Seville orange & almond tart

So to summarise it all, I think that a few months have made all the difference to the Charthouse. Desserts apart, the quality of the food has definitely improved noticeably and I would think this is down to a combination of better produce and everyone and everything having had time to bed themselves in. Whilst they have been very happy to promote themselves as “the No. 1 Restaurant in Abergavenny” due to their showing on Tripadvisor I would personally doubt that Chefs Hill, Terry and Tebutt of the Walnut Tree, Hardwick and Foxhunter respectively are losing too much sleep right now.

To my mind the Charthouse is a welcome addition to the Monmouth Foodie Triangle and I am hoping that Mr Harris probably has enough drive and ambition to keep improving. Time will tell! I’ll be giving it another few months and re-visiting as for the most part I really enjoyed my meal and am sure I will again, although next time I’ll probably just go for cheese and biscuits and not a sweet dessert.

Wesley Harris has taken a big risk in opening a restaurant in this economic climate and is to be applauded for it. I think the best advice I can give you is probably the same advice I would have given you had I written my original review all those months ago – “Go support them” but if you’re a so called Food Tourist you might want to try the others first.

The Charthouse Restaurant
Llanvihangel Gobion, Abergavenny, NP7 9AY.
Telephone 01873 840 414
http://www.thecharthouse-abergavenny.co.uk/

Jan 29
The Bangkok Cafe, Cardiff
posted by: Gomez in Dinner, Restaurant Reviews on Jan 29th, 2011 | | 3 Comments »

I’ve always had a bit of a love hate relationship with the Thai House in Cardiff. I’ve never had an issue with the food, but I have with the service and attitude of the staff. However, when my Bahamian niece, decided that it was time for Aunty and Uncle to take her out for some oriental food before she returned home for a visit, I decided that maybe the Thai house was worth another try.

On checking the menu on the website, I was horrified to discover that they impose a minimum charge of £17.50 per person. Now I know full well that I am going to spend more than £17.50 there but we have all been out to dinner in large groups where somebody wants nothing more than a main course. With available noodle dishes at £8.50 then I think this £17.50 minimum charge is just simply extortion and something that I refuse to buy into. It’ll be a cold day in hell before I go there again whilst they are operating that policy.

With the Thai House off the list there was little alternative but to ask the Twitterverse to recommend a decent Thai restaurant in Cardiff. The normal Twitter foodies were strangely silent but then up popped @BangkokCafé . “A little cheeky” they said, “but why not try us”. Well why not indeed? I couldn’t book via Twitter but a simple phone call the next day secured a table for three at 7:30 PM.

Situated on Cowbridge Road East, the Bangkok Café, Cardiff is a bright and inviting space.  Its vibrant colour scheme making it stand out from some of the more dark and grotty establishments in the neighbourhood.

Inside the staff are friendly, efficient and more than happy to explain the intricacies of some of the less familiar dishes.

Bor Bia Sot Dom Yam Hed
The niece and I start with Bor Bia Sot, Fresh wraps of Thai herbs and vegetables with tamarind sauce. This is exactly how I expect Thai food to taste; clean, fresh yet aromatic and flavoursome. MrsA chooses Dom Yam Hed, Spicy mixed mushroom soup with lemon grass, galingale and coriander. I’m a little unsure of her choice, as although lemon grass is so synonymous with Thai cooking I have eaten at so many poor Thai restaurants where it becomes the dominant flavour to the detriment of all else.  No such problems here though as the flavours are excellently balanced and there is just the right amount of spicy punch.

Pad Thai Ner Nam Dok Gai Tord

For main course we each choose our own path.  The niece goes for Pad Thai the Classic Thai Noodles, soft ribbon noodles, stir fried with prawns, bean sprouts and ground peanuts.  MrsA  heads to the grill and opts for Ner Nam Dok, Slices of rib eye beef marinated in a typically north-eastern dressing with steamed rice and crispy vegetables. I had been contemplating this too but am draw away to the Gai Tord, Crispy chicken breast with two sauces, fresh green vegetables with a coconut dressing and Thai steamed rice.

All three dishes were excellent; well cooked, well presented and extremely tasty. The Pad Thai was exactly what you would expect of a classic Thai dish and a very well executed one at that. MrsA was, I thought, the one amongst us running the highest risk by ordering a beef dish. Again I should not have had cause for concern.  The beef was well marinated, tender and well complimented by the accompanying sauce. My Gai Tord too was simply delicious, all components working together harmoniously.

This is by far the best Thai food I have had in a very long time and I doubt you’d find better anywhere in South Wales, with the exception maybe of the branch they have recently opened in Swansea.

Oh and it’s very reasonably priced too. In fact, discounting drinks, all three of us would have had to pay the £17.50 minimum charge had it been the Thai House.

The only down side? They don’t serve desserts. I totally understand why they don’t, better to not serve any than bring out those awful pre-made things, in fake coconut shells and the like, that you frequently run into (or run from) in other Asian/Oriental restaurants. But, hey guys, you could do a scoop of ice-cream to help cool the mouth after some of that chilli heat.  You could even skip the normal flavours and do something like a ginger ice-cream to stay with the theme. For us the answer was easy, we slipped up the road to the Chapter and had coffee and a cake.

Desserts (or the lack of) notwithstanding, this is a truly excellent place and if you are looking for Thai food in and around Cardiff (and I guess Swansea although I haven’t been to that branch – yet!) you won’t find a better place than the Bangkok Café.  Highly recommended!

Bangkok Cafe Cardiff, 207 Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff, CF11 9AJ.
Tel: 029 2034 0455. http://www.bangkokcafe.co.uk

Oct 17
The Crown at Whitebrook
posted by: Gomez in Dinner, Restaurant Reviews on Oct 17th, 2010 | | No Comments »

crownSo I have a confession to make. It's a big one so you'd better prepare yourselves, deep breath, sit down, stiff drink and all that. OK, ready? Here we go…

James Sommerin took my virginity!

Yes, in a hot, steamy kitchen and with a backing track of roaring gas burners, clanging pans and shouts of "Service!" James Sommerin, in nine relentless, courses took away my cherry but gave me a taste of the stars, Michelin stars!

That was two years ago and as they say, you never forget your first!

In the intervening time I've been fortunate enough to eat at a few more Michelin starred establishments but I've never felt I was able to make any comparisons with The Crown as, for my first time, I'd opted for a bit of extra excitement by going for the blind tasting menu. So I headed back with MrsA to try out the normal a la carte menu.

The Crown is set in a tranquil spot, not quite in the middle of nowhere, but somewhere that feels pretty close. It's a 'restaurant with rooms' and we were indeed booked in for the night. We arrived early enough to chill, rest and shower before we dressed for dinner. The Crown doesn't have a formal dress code but you are likely to see more jackets and ties than in a lot of places and so I felt that it was time to get the cravat out. Sometimes it's just nice to dress up a little.

IMAG0050Having made our way down from our nicely appointed room we sat ourselves down in the lounge. Whilst perusing the menu we were served a little Amuse Bouche of Carrot Velute, Chicken Liver Lollipop, Chopped Tomato Salsa, Baked Parmesan Scone. Just enough to awaken the palate in readiness of what is to come.

Kipper Benjay and Toast Ice Cream

Menu studied, questions asked and order taken, we were shown to our table. First up we were served a  pre starter of Kipper Benjay & Toast Ice Cream. In interesting combination but this was toast in name only, however it did provide a good balance to offset the salt of the kipper.

Red Mullet and Seared ScallopButter Poached LobsterFor starters MrsA chose Butter poached lobster, ham hock and parsnip whilst I opted for the Red mullet and seared scallop, macaroni, lime, ginger and cocoa. MrsA really like her lobster dish, but I had a few issues with mine. Although the mullet was excellently cooked, I didn't like the contrast of warm mullet and a cold salad. I also felt that the combination of unfamiliar flavours didn't really work well with the mullet. Not a bad start but for me nothing to write home about.

Anjou Squab PidgeonVenison LoinFor main I chose Welsh venison loin, spiced carrot, coffee, sorrel and wild mushroom, while MrsA plumped for the Anjou squab pigeon, muscade pumpkin, chilli, ginger, cinnamon. The venison was cooked sous-vide and in a declared homage to the purity of the meat came almost straight from waterbath to plate. Whilst that no doubt ensured that it was as tender and succulent as it was; I really felt that it suffered from not having paid a visit to a hot pan on it's way to my plate. Yes, a touch of caramelisation would have done wonders for it and me! The spiced carrot however was fantastic and a riot on the palate. MrsA, on the other hand, thought the Pigeon was packed with traditional flavours and that the whole dish was just great cooking. All in all two very good dishes with the pigeon just a little more complete than the venison.

IMAG0060We decided that a cheese course was in order before dessert and our slightly sullen waitress brought us what really was a superbly stocked cheese trolley. We chose an interesting selection of Welsh and English cheeses and I was pleased to find a few that were new to me.

Summer PuddingAfter cheese we were delivered a pre-dessert of Summer Pudding, Strawberry Sorbet, Blackcurrant Mousse, Fruit Soup, Lavender Espuma. This did a nice little job of freshening up the palate although it was the ruin of MrsA who decided that there was no way she could manage a dessert proper after it and so would simple share some of mine.

Agen PruneAfter a quick peruse of the menu I opted for the Agen prune, vanilla, nutmeg and tangarine. After what seemed like an interminably long period of time it arrived and frankly it wasn't worth the wait. When you look at the ingredients on a packet they are always listed in order of most to least and by this rule dessert should have listed the vanilla way up front and in capital letters. This dish really was all about the vanilla, there just wasn't enough prune. I'll say that again, there just wasn't enough prune! As for the freeze dried tangerine, well there was just no point. Disappointing!

We tottered off to the lounge where there was petit four, coffee and truffles awaiting.

All in all I was a touch disappointed by my second visit to The Crown. When the best course is the cheese board then something isn't quite right. MrsA enjoyed her dinner more than I did mine, which isn't to say that anything I had wasn't very good but just that most of it either didn't quite work for me or it lacked a little something that kept it from being perfect. I am being very critical here but hey, it has a star and so I feel I can and should be. I also spend the whole meal with this niggling feeling that our waitress disapproved of us in someway and that certainly affected my enjoyment of the evening and persisted through breakfast the next morning.

The Crown, Whitebrook, Nr Monmouth, NP25 4TX.
Tel: 01600 860254. http://www.crownatwhitebrook.co.uk/

Crown at Whitebrook on Urbanspoon

Aug 22
The Felin Fach Griffin
posted by: Gomez in Lunch, Restaurant Reviews on Aug 22nd, 2010 | | No Comments »

griffin inn Brecon

I generally go to Brecon about once a month, usually on the second Saturday, to coincide with the Farmers Market. After a hard morning buying the finest local produce, lunch at the local hostelry is normally called for. Occasionally MrsA will demand a lunch upgrade and just to be sure her wish was granted, she'd booked us a table at the Felin Fach Griffin.

Now I've been to the Griffin quite a few times, both for dinner and lunch, which should already tell you something; so I had no problem with MrsA's choice. After stocking up on stuff for the larder and the freezer, we jumped in the car and headed for the large pink building on the side of the A470 that proclaims "Eat, Drink, Sleep".

After a quick perusal of the menu, we both decided to go for the Summer Set Lunch which is a bit of a bargain at £18.90 for three courses.

Chicken Liver SaladFor starters I chose the Salad of Chicken Livers & Endive with Black Pudding & Pancetta, while MrsA had the Brown Shrimp Cocktail with Melba Toast. My salad was excellent, with the chicken livers cooked to perfection, rich in flavour whilst still being soft, moist and pink on the inside. The endive providing a nice texture contrast along with the pancetta whilst counterbalancing the richness of the livers and black pudding.

Brown Shrimp CocktailMrsA's shrimp was good but by far not the best starter that she has had at the Griffin. The shrimp were too delicate for that Marie Rose cocktail sauce; the sauce was way too big for those tiny shrimp.

Slow Roast LambFor mains we both chose the Slow Roasted Shoulder of Welsh Lamb, Sharpe's Express Potatoes, Garden Peas, Fine Beans & Feta Cheese. Let me get the worst of this dish over with first, the Feta Cheese. It was a really nice Feta and I totally get why it was there, it was bringing some saltiness into the dish and worked well with the potatoes and veg. The trouble was that it totally overpowered the delicate flavour of the lamb, killed it stone dead in fact. The dish really needed a much milder version to work. Employing a little ingenuity we came up with a simple solution to the problem; we both just ate all the cheese first!

With the cheese gone, we could concentrate on the rest of the dish and this was a dish that demanded full concentration. The lamb was juicy and succulent with a lovely delicate flavour, the potatoes expertly seasoned and the peas and beans super fresh. Top notch!

Dark Chocolate NemesisFor dessert MrsA went for the Dark Chocolate Nemesis with Mango Sorbet, whilst I opted for the New Season Plum "Crumble" with Mascapone Ice Cream. The plums, cooked halved, were a little too "new season" for my taste; still a little too acidic and not quite soft enough. The crumble and the ice cream were right on the money though and almost managed to rescue things. Almost but not quite. MrsA was in a chocolate craving mood and loved her very intense chocolate dessert balanced by the lightness of the tropical sorbet.Plum Crumble

Despite the few minor niggles I've outlined above, you'll be hard pressed to find a better lunch for the money. The Griffin uses the finest of Welsh ingredients and for the most part, combines them in innovative ways that are delectable. With good food, friendly and helpful staff and plenty of atmosphere; if you're anywhere near Brecon you really should pay a visit.

The Felin Fach Griffin, Felin Fach, Brecon, Powys. Tel: 01874 620111. Web: www.eatdrinksleep.ltd.uk

Felin Fach Griffin on Urbanspoon

 

Aug 10
Llansantffraed Court Hotel
posted by: Gomez in Dinner, Restaurant Reviews on Aug 10th, 2010 | | 1 Comment »

Have you read Anthony Bourdain’s book Kitchen Confidential? Right at theLlansantffraed Court Hotel start he describes how as a child he’d eat anything. By anything I’m not talking about lumps of coal or bits of wood but anything edible that nearly all children and most adults would shy away from, you know things like raw oysters or roasted yak gizzard. As a child I, on the other hand, would only eat beans on toast and only then if the beans were made by someone with 57 varieties. I never quite realised what a nightmare this must have been for my parents when we were out and about and although I grew out of it after a year or so there were still a few other food taboos; I was well into my teens before I could put the white of an egg in my mouth without gagging, for instance.

I can’t remember when things changed but thanks to parents, who had grown up with rationing, today’s “eating nose to tail” movement is old hat to someone who fondly remembers the joys of fried liver, devilled kidneys, stuffed hearts and the like. So by the time I was able to drive myself to restaurants I had conquered my food phobia’s and was pretty much up for trying anything once. There are still things I don’t eat but these days that’s either because I simply don’t like the taste (celery, liquorice, celeriac) or it just doesn’t do it for me (prawns, welks and the like).

Now my friend T is different, he didn’t manage to break away from those early hangups so the list of don’t eats is still long. Basically he doesn’t eat fish (of any kind), venison, duck, offal, páte, vegetables, wait let me stop there and come at this from the other side it’ll be quicker. T eats beef, lamb, pork and occasionally chicken, these meats need to come in the regular cuts like fillet, sirloin, rack etc. He eats potatoes and he eats peas. That’s about it really, until you get to desserts, which are pretty much all good, especially if they contain chocolate. A man of simple tastes you might say, but a man of simple tastes that likes dinning out.

So, why am I telling you all this? Well because dinner with T requires advance notice of the menu. You see as I’ve said T likes dining out, as do I, but there’s no point going to places where the menu is going to be a cross between a sushi bar and a “creative uses of innards” competition. So when T called and offered to take myself and MrsA out for belated birthday celebrations in her honour, I found myself in that dilemma of wanting to try something new but knowing I needed, if not a more traditional menu, then at least one with plenty of choice. Where to go?

Until recently I’d always thought of Llansantffraed Court Hotel as primarily a wedding venue as opposed to somewhere to go for dinner, but then I’d run into @chefbennett01 on Twitter and discovered they were just as happy to feed two as two hundred. So after one phone call, a few quick tweets and a hasty rearranging of his schedule we were booked in and chef was in the kitchen.

The first thing you notice about the place is the absolutely stunning location. Set in 20 acres of private park land with it’s own lake and fountains, this Grade 2 Listed building has been a hotel since the 1920’s and boasts 21 rooms all with excellent views, says its website. “Enough!”, I hear you cry. “Get back to the food and the point of that long, rambling introduction.”

OK back to the plot! So my heart sank a little when, sitting on the terrace enjoying an aperitif, Chef appeared to tell us that, seeing as it was a bit of a special occasion (MrsA’s belated birthday remember?), as well as the normal dinner menu he’d put together a little tasting menu for us, if we were so inclined. We were of course under no obligation but if we did, it would obviously work better if we all had the same thing. Hence my dismay! One quick look at this menu told me there was no way T was going to be happy eating most of the courses. An opinion that was reinforced by the expression on T’s face! However Chef promised he could provide one set of plates that contained no fish and T magnanimously agreed to come along for the ride. A big thank you for that T, as I know there was a lot more on that menu that you wouldn’t have ordered in a million years given the choice!

We started with Madgetts farm duck ‘jambon, squash and rillettes cannelloni. The surprise here was the complete lack of pasta, it’s place in the cannelloni actually being taken by the squash, which was cut thin and served raw, introducing an interesting crunch of texture.

Seared MackrelThe next course was seared mackerel, mirin pickled cucumber, mackerel mousse, truffle and honey and soy dressing. I was a little worried about this dish, because I felt the mousse had the potential for disaster and I was also concerned how the honey was going to work with such an oily fish. I needn’t have been either worried or concerned. The mousse was light and delicate and the dressing had just enough acidity to cut through the oiliness of the fish, producing a wonderfully balanced dish.

48hr Pork BellyForty eight hour pork belly, anchovy beignet, bread sauce, beer cured onions came next. Now belly pork, in my opinion, needs the crunch of good salty crackling and cooking sous-vide does not for crackling make. So maybe you could ‘cheat’ and prepare your crackling separately or maybe you could serve anchovies instead? Yes anchovies! “Don’t they go with lamb and not pork” you ask? Well I thought so too, but not in Chef Bennett’s kitchen! There they are turned in anchovy beignet and if you were expecting that to be a bit like the topping on a deep fried pizza you couldn’t be further from the truth. Surprisingly they work very well with the pork and in beignet form they provide a nice salty crunch that makes up for the lack of traditional crackling. The skill of course is in ensuring that they don’t overpower the pork and here they managed only to enhance the flavour and not kill it.

Caramelised ScallopWe moved on to caramelized scallop, pickled calf’s tongue, soubise. Consider your average surf and turf, this will usually be steak and lobster. Even if you subscribe to the philosophy that the concept is purely to put the two most expensive things on the same plate then at least those things can hold their own in the flavour stakes. It takes a brave man to take something as delicate as a scallop and consider putting beef with it. It takes a very brave man to take a part of the cow where the flavour is intensified and put that with a scallop. I’m not sure I want to describe what sort of man pickles that part of the cow first and then puts it with a scallop! The description of the man that does that and pulls it off is Steve Bennett!

Twice Cooked Bryn Derw ChickenNext up twice cooked Bryn Derw farm free range chicken, confit celeriac, girolles, asparagus, tarragon. There are two things on this plate I would never order in a restaurant. The first is the celeriac. I hate celeriac! The second the chicken, but now only because I know that MrsA can and does cook up a fine chicken so what’s the point in paying for it in a restaurant? So I asked MrsA what she thought of the dish. She thought the quality of the chicken was outstanding. The cooking technique enhanced the quality of the chicken as it was moist and very tasty, the confit and girolles complementing the delicate flavour of the chicken. An excellent dish she said and who am I to argue, I even ate the celeriac!

Rhubarb CheescakeFirst of the desert selection was rhubarb ‘cheesecake’, sorbet, pistachios. A nice balance between the tang of the rhubarb and the smooth creaminess of the cheesecake. The pistachios cleverly re-introducing the crunch normally provided by the biscuit base and the sorbet cleansing the palate with every mouthful.

Bitter Chocolate Mousse with Popcorn JellyLast of the sweet courses was bitter chocolate mousse, popcorn jelly, gold, Baileys ‘shake’. The popcorn jelly was the surprise here, not what was expected. The texture was definitely jelly but instead of a traditional sweet jelly, here we we had a salty one. This might have sent me running for the hills if it were not for the fact that it worked so well with the bitter chocolate mousse. This was a great fun dessert and it was nice to see our chef has a sense of humour.

We closed our evening off with a cheese board with a good selection of welsh cheeses followed by coffee and homemade petit fours.

There is some debate amongst my friends about “Tasting Menus”. Some feel they are an over indulgence that should be avoided. I, on the other hand, find them intriguing. Especially when I’m eating some where for the first time. I like the Tasting Menu because the chef is basically saying “I’m going off on a journey, do you want to come along for the ride and see what I can do?”

Tonight @chefbennett01 took us on a journey and it was a bit of a magical mystery tour around the ingredient cupboard. Combining flavours in unusual and interesting ways is something he obviously excels at. I was impressed by his ability to balance flavours and how he recreated the traditional elements of dishes by highlighting the tastes and textures of non-traditional combinations.

There are not many places where I would be happy to eat anything made of celeriac, but this is one. Even T, who it must be said took a few fish free detours to get to his destination, discovered that there were a few more parts of an animal that were edible, a few more taste combinations that were palatable and also that there were a few tasty vegetables besides the pea.

The Abergavenny Food Triangle has become a bit of a foodie destination due to a few well know eateries and their equally well known chefs. I think Llansandffraed Court Hotel with Steve Bennet in the kitchen can hold it’s own with the rest of them. ‘Nuff said!

Apr 8
The Clytha Arms
posted by: Gomez in Dinner, Restaurant Reviews on Apr 8th, 2010 | | No Comments »

Picture of The Clytha ArmsWhere are we going Saturday?” is a familiar phrase in Corpulent Towers. “Time for somewhere new”, I said reaching for the phone. Both of the places I had in mind were already fully booked and so I headed to Google for some inspiration. Out of my results I picked “The Clytha Arms” on the old Abergavenny to Raglan Road. Previously mentioned in a few ‘guides’ I was pleased to find that a reservation for two at 7.00pm was no problem.

When we arrived the place was buzzing. There were at least 20 people standing outside and being a mild evening not all of them were smokers. Inside was packed, the bar was full as was the lounge, but we fought through to the lounge bar closely followed by a young lady who turned out to be the barmaid come waitress. She seemed very surprised to find the place as busy as it was. As there was no seating available we opted to go straight to our table in the restaurant.

It was at this point that we realised that the majority of the customers were there to attend a private party in the rear dinning room.  Either they were early or the party was late as the staff were running around at high speed trying to organise everything. Even after the party were seated the staff remained stretched all night and service was at best patchy.

Picture of chorizo and lentil soup I decided to start with chorizo and lentil soup, whilst MrsA went for the crab rissoles. I was expecting a hearty soup with lentils and chunks of chorizo but what I got was certainly not that.  Firstly the lentils were of the very small variety and there were no meaty chunks of chorizo, instead it appeared as if the chorizo had been put through a blender as the only thing that remained that could remotely be reminiscent of that fine Iberian sausage were a few flecks of orange in the muddyPicture of Crab Rissoles brown contents of my bowl.  In fact the only solid matter other the lentils was a single solitary piece of what I can only describe as a 1/2 mm thick slice of a certain product that labels itself “a bit of an animal”!  The flavour was as poor as the appearance being slightly reminiscent of a watery brown windsor as opposed to the hearty and tasty dish I was expecting. Very unimpressive! MrsA’s starter of crab rissoles with chilli and coriander sauce, not only looked better but tasted nicer too. Unfortunately ‘tasted nicer’ pretty much equates to tasted OK in this instance with a distinct lack of crab in the crab rissoles..

Picture of Braised GoatFor main course I had chosen goat, not something you often find on a menu in South Wales.  “How is it cooked?” I had asked. Apparently it was braised, and served in a red wine sauce. Sounded good so I had gone with it. MrsA had chosen the skate wings with prawns. Well braised it may have been but certainly not for long enough, so instead of falling apart it clung together with the resistance of blocks of rubber. The red wine sauce hadn’t been reduced enough and so had remained thin and bitter.

I asked MrsA, a fishaholic, what she thought of the skate wings. “I’ve never had skate before,” she said. “So I don’t know if I don’t like skate or if they didn’t cook it well, but as I pretty much like every other fish there is……..”

MrsA decided to cut her losses and skip dessert, whilst I opted for a simple meringue with ice cream and sauce. It wasn’t fantastic but it was the best thing I ate all evening. After a herbal tea, a coffee and a long wait for the bill we paid up and left.

During our time in the restaurant I noticed that at another table one main course didn’t turn up and by the time the kitchen had rustled it up the other diners had almost finished. A third table needed to send a plate back for some reason.

A poor show all round I’m afraid from a place that has the very best of Welsh produce almost on its doorstep and I certainly won’t be rushing back.

The Clytha Arms http://www.clytha-arms.com/

Aug 31
The Nantyffin Cider Mill
posted by: Gomez in Restaurant Reviews on Aug 31st, 2009 | | No Comments »
Nantyffin Cider Mill

Nantyffin Cider Mill

It’s not the first time I’ve been to the Nantyffin Cider Mill, a shocking pink structure on the A40 just outside Crickhowell that can trace its history back to the 16th century. It is, however, the first time I’ve had Sunday lunch there, but Mrs A had declared the kitchen a no go zone that weekend so off we went.

We chose to eat in the restaurant, an old converted apple store, over the cosier bar as it’s such a nice room. Split over two levels, the lower with its large central mill wheel,  it benefits from exposed beams and a high ceiling that give it an airier feel than one might expect.  Settling down to the menu, I chose the Greek Mezze Plate as a starter – Lamb kebabs with just a nice “bite” to them accompanied by a lovely fresh tasting Greek Salad and pitta bread. Mrs A loved the Grilled Goats Cheese and Caramelised Onions served on a toasted crumpet.

We both opted for the Roast Rump of Welsh Beef for main, served pink with roast potatoes and a light but crispy Yorkshire pudding. We split a side of Cauliflower florets in tempura batter with grated parmesan.   The beef was excellent with bags of taste, nothing like those wafer thin slivers of overcooked leather you can so often find on your Sunday pub lunch plate.  No, this was prime locally sourced beef and proud of it.

After a suitable period of “umming and ahhing”, fooling no one but ourselves we did what we always knew we would and ordered dessert, or as the menu traditionally puts it “pudding”.

Mrs A, not normally a lover of such things, decided that the whole lunch had been “so British” that she had no Triflechoice but to continue the theme with a Fruits of the Forest Trifle.  I on the other hand was drawn to the Homemade apple and cinnamon oat top crumble.  Mrs A’s trifle lifted itself way above the sherry flavouring and soggy angel fingers of the supermarket trifle to deliver a lovely combination of summer flavours.

How I wish I could say the same of the Crumble. If was, for me, a disappointment.  I had ordered it with cream although my first mouthful was without.  It was certainly “oaty” but the consistency of the oats made it more of a ‘chew’ than a crunchy topped crumble. A generous pouring of cream failed to improve matters and I simply gave up as it was so not to my taste.  The staff were most upset that I didn’t like it and offered to exchange it for something else without any prompting from me, but I decided to do my waistline a favour and we just settled for a coffee.

CrumbleOverall this was a very good lunch. We will certainly go back again; I just won’t order the crumble next time!  Some I’m sure would appreciate its oatiness, I’m just not one of them and it would probably work better with the custard for those that want to try.

For the quality of the food I thought it was very reasonably priced at 1 course for £11.00, 2 courses for £15.50 or 3 courses for £19.50. http://www.cidermill.co.uk

Aug 24

It’s 25 miles from Aberdare to Cardiff and nearly 20 of that is dual-carriageway. So leaving home at 1.45pm to catch the 2.55pm to London Paddington should have been a breeze.  The atmosphere inside of my car however turned from breezy to ice fields of Antartica when I arrived in Cardiff to discover the Kingsway had more holes than a Emmental and more cones than a pine forest.  With the clock ticking Mrs A was becoming less and less impressed with my pre-planning.

Eventually we got through and sped down Westgate St to find the Station car park full.  The drive to the Penarth Road Car Park was probably the longest of my life as Mrs A quietly fumed beside me.  We pretty much abandoned the car and ran (no mean feat as those of you that know me will appreciate. For those that don’t well let’s just say I was built for comfort and not for speed) for the platform.  I made the top of platform stairs just as the guard was closing the door and fortunately still had enough breath left to scream “STOP!”.

I don’t think we’d got two steps into the carriage before the train lurched off and it was fully Newport before I’d got my breath back enough to use British Rails clever pay for parking by mobile phone to save myself a ticket.

The rest of the journey was pretty uneventful and Mrs A had even started to see the funny side by the time we got to London. Our Kensington hotel room had a few issues with the A/C which meant 2 room changes but eventually we were sorted, showered and changed ready to hit the town.

We had travelled up to meet Mrs A’s friend Nagmeh, from Chile, who was in London for 2 weeks with her work. However, tonight it was just the two of us and I had booked a table at ‘Theo Randall’s at the InterContinental’, Park Lane.

Theo Randall

Theo Randall

We had seen him cook on Saturday Kitchen and then mentor on Masterchef so a trip to his restaurant was on our must do list.

The hotel arranged a taxi, it was an owner/driver operation just set up to service the local hotels and provide a service that was 25% cheaper than a black cab. We were their first ever passengers and I would have felt honoured except for the fact that they ended up charging us about 25% MORE than a black cab would have and did on the way home.

So I arrived at the InterContinental feeling a little apprehensive. We’ve all had one of those days that go from bad to worse, right?  Would we end the day on a catastrophic note or could Theo pull us back from the brink?

The foyer of the InterContinental is all you’d expect being a homage to marble and gilt.  Down a few steps from the doors is the main area and on the right is a short passage way, discreetly lettered with ‘Theo Randall’.

Arriving at the other side we were met by the friendly Maître d’ who offered us the choice of straight to table or drink at the bar.  We chose the latter  as it gave us a little extra time to study the menu, which is divided into Antipasti, Primi and Secondi.

This is Italian food at its finest, as Theo says ‘unfussy yet utterly delicious, a million miles away from the complicated fancy fare you would normally expect to eat in Park Lane.’

The Maître d’ was happy to answer our questions about the menu and told us that whatever we wanted them to do if they could they would.  Even to the extent that if we wanted ½ of our main course on each plate that wasn’t a problem.

Feeling more relaxed we decided to split an Antipasti of Carpaccio di manzo – thinly sliced Aberdeen Angus beef fillet with rocket, aged balsamic  vinegar, parmesan and pinenuts. Mrs A them moved to a Primi of Tagliatelle al pescatore – fresh pasta with squid, sea bass, vongole. Mussles, tomato and parsely; whilst I opted for Cappelletti di vitello – fresh pasta stuffed with slow cooked veal and pancetta with summer truffles from Umbria. Both were delightful!

For Secondi I plumped for Piccione al forna – Anjo pigeon marinated with marsala, wood roasted and served on pagnotta bruschetta with fresh cannellini beans, ox-heart tomatoes and pancetta. Mrs A chose Taglio di vitello – chargrilled Limousin veal chop with Chanterelle mushrooms, Italian spinach and salsa verde.  These were both full of flavours to die for, with every taste being defined yet cohesive.  You can tell that this is seasonal cooking at its best, and that chef and staff go to the markets every morning in search of fresh produce you believe them not only because you trust them but because you can taste it.

Decor

Decor

The restaurant itself is larger than I expected and there is an area at the rear that is not normally open as it is too hard to service properly. I guess this becomes the area for private dining when the rich and famous are in town.  An average Friday sees 140 covers according to the wait staff with 185 possible with the rear open.  Despite this and the lack of windows it manages to achieve and interesting ambiance, it has the feel of a hotel dining room about it with its brown on brown colour scheme but also manages to bring in the relaxed atmosphere that Randall says he is striving for. During the evening we saw everyone from Italian suited high flyers to jean clad fathers with sleeping babies swaddled to them.

Taking a short rest before dessert we were approached by the Maître d’. After the usual enquiry as to our enjoyment and satisfaction he, quite out of the blue said, “Chef Randall is in the house this evening and was wondering if you would like come and meet him and take a tour of the kitchen?” Well what do you say to an invitation like that?  Handing him back the arm I had just ripped off I sort of nodded in agreement and was told that someone would be along shortly to act as escort.

A few minutes later she arrived and whisked off to the kitchen were Chef Randall was waiting, pink of face, no doubt due to the heat of his prized wood-fired oven, to greet us at the ‘pass’. He was welcoming, engaging and not at all pretentious. We discussed dinner, kitchen size and Masterchef before moving on to chat to some of his staff, confirming to me at least that life in a top kitchen was nothing if not hard, hard work.

Back at our table, Mrs A wondered if Chef would sign a menu for us. “He’d love to!” Not only did we get the signed menu we got the fancy little monogrammed stainless steel clip as well.

All that talking and touring had revived our appetites and dessert was called for. Me, I have a love/hate relationship with the lemon. I love it if it is strong and tart; hate it if it is just a hint. Don’t put a single slice in my drink but do give me a whole one to squeeze over my fish or chicken! I felt I could trust my new friend Theo with a lemon and so ordered the Amalfi Lemon Tart. Mrs A felt a more delicate Peach Sorbet was called for.


Amalfi Lemon Tart

Amalfi Lemon Tart

The peach sorbet was everything a sorbet should be she said. The lemon tart wasn’t! It was much, much more; the standard by which all lemon tarts will now be judged. I will probably never taste another one like it until I go back again.

Before coffee I slipped to the little boys’ room. If you are fortunate enough to dine here then you have to visit the loos, to see the designer sinks where the water runs off plates of frosted glass into the wall. Mrs A was despatched to the ladies to confirm the same arrangement.

A rich, mellow Espresso rounded off a great evening.

To sum up, this was without a doubt one of the best meals I have ever eaten. Certainly not the most complicated or constructed using the finest techniques but in terms of taste and enjoyment certainly a culinary high spot. Frankly I can live without the foams and the spun sugar creations that look wonderful but often leave your taste buds flaccid and un-excited. Cost – Hugely Expensive! It’s Park Lane after all.   Read any review, they’ll all mention how expensive it is, but everyone will also tell you what a great meal they had and how it was worth nearly every penny.  Me? I’m saving up to go again.

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