Saturday, 26 February 2011

Helene Darroze at The Connaught - 23rd February 2011

The Helene Darroze restaurant is located in the Connaught Hotel in Central London. The restaurant serves French cuisine and has just received its second Michelin star. Since we have already experienced a few two Michelin star restaurants, we were expecting this one to be on a par with those that we have already been to.

As we entered the restaurant during a busy lunch service, we could tell immediately that this establishment was not going to be children friendly. Nearly every single person in the room was clad in suits and ties, making it hard to distinguish the waiters from the customers. The restaurant itself seemed to take inspiration from nature. Each piece of cutlery was designed like fish scales, the central light was shaded by a leaf pattern and a huge painting of butterflies and flowers was hung on the wall. The walls did look a little dull, as they were made of dark, ornate wood.

After around half an hour of sitting patiently at our table, we had still not been offered drinks or menus. It became clear to us that efficient service was not this restaurant’s forte and I had finished my glass of Coke by the time they came round to taking our food orders. We had been in the restaurant for an hour and a half by the time our starters arrived along with our bread. The bread was cold and rock hard. My dad and I had ordered the foie gras in mulled wine and wine jelly. This was in fact a foie gras pate, and although it was beautifully presented, it was unspectacular. The so-called mulled wine was in fact a cluster of fruits next to a cylindrical brandy snap with mincemeat inside it. My brother had chosen venison parcels with a Stilton emulsion. He said that whilst it was not incredible, the balance of flavours was very impressive. Despite two waiters passing our table at least three times each, neither of them even noticed my empty glass. Almost two hours into our meal and a waiter finally spots the empty glass. We heard one of the people sitting at our neighbouring table complain about the sluggish service. I was really infuriated and bored by the painfully slow service.

Venison parcels
Foie gras

Our main courses finally arrived. My dad and brother had both chosen what we took to be an exotic take on scallops. Whilst my brother thought that the fusion of endives, radicchio, macadamia nuts, teriyaki jus and Stilton emulsion worked, my dad was unsure and thought that it was pretty average. My wild turbot with Iberico ham, coco beans and intense piperade jus seemed to be the better choice. The waiter filleted the fish on a wooden preparation board in front of me and I thought this was a nice touch. The fish was well cooked, went well with the ham and the jus gave it a subtle tangy flavour. However, in the middle of eating a piece of the turbot, I felt a sharp pain just behind my front teeth. Shockingly, the waiter had not filleted the turbot properly and had left a bone. This was a huge blow to the dish and the whole experience. Disappointing. 

Our desserts arrived after another long wait. My dad had chosen not to have any dessert and asked instead for the bill. My brother had chosen a chocolate dessert with citrus fruits. Chocolate and any tangy flavoured food generally go quite well together and according to my brother, this was no exception. I had chosen champagne rhubarb, with citric meringue and citric cream. Finally, something extraordinary; the meringue was brittle and tasted fantastic, the cream was gorgeous, the rhubarb was delicious and it was all presented brilliantly. When the bill did not arrive for another twenty minutes or so, we asked for it again. The bill eventually arrived at the 4th time of asking. It seemed a shame to end the experience on a low, since the desserts were incredible. 

Chocolate dessert with citrus fruits
Champagne rhubarb

Food quality 7/10
Presentation 9/10
Service 5/10
Ambience 8/10
Value for money 5/10

Overall 34/50

For a two Michelin Starred restaurant, this was extremely disappointing. Service was painfully slow and the waiters were unfriendly and unhelpful. The food was unspectacular (for a 2 Michelin starred restaurant) and since it was more expensive than The Ledbury, value for money was extremely poor. A very disappointing experience and I would probably not go again.

Author - CT (aged 12)

Photography - LT (aged 14) & DT (aged 39)

Hélène Darroze at the Connaught on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Arsenal v Stoke 23rd February 2011

On paper, a clean sheet and a win that brings us to within one point of Man United seems like a perfect day for the Gunners. However, in life, Sod’s law dictates that nothing is perfect and something will ruin a seemingly perfect situation. So, during a very important match against The Violent Scumbags (some people call them Stoke), we lost two important players to injury.
Firstly, Cesc limped off after just 14 minutes. Later, at 70 minutes, Theo went off on a stretcher. The damage has been assessed and while Cesc is still a possibility for the Carling Cup final on Sunday, Theo is definitely out. Arsenal fans were troubled – after all, it was only a year ago when Aaron Ramsey was the victim of a career threatening tackle by Ryan Shawcross, who suffered an incredible amount of abuse from the fans, who booed his every touch.
To use the old footballing cliché, it was a game of two halves. In the first half we completely dominated them, as they threw every player save Carew behind the ball. The only times they got the ball in our half was when their goalkeeper kicked it upfield, and he took his time doing so. When they did win those aerial balls, their passing was dismal, and we broke down their attacks. We played our usual fluent, attacking football to our usual standard, but it is very difficult to play against a team whose only intention is to defend. We found it a Herculean task to break them down with our passing. Despite this, a goal came very quickly, in the 8th minute. Oddly (for an Arsenal team) it came from a corner, and from a defender who can barely head the ball out of his own box, let alone into the opponent’s net.
I’m rather sceptical of Wenger’s signing of Sebastien Squillaci. In my opinion, he’s simply a rather average defender. While Koscielny proved himself with some outstanding performances, most recently against the Catalans, Squillaci has yet to do so. He has been rather shaky in almost every game he has played. So imagine the astonishment in the stadium when Wilshire’s corner was sent back across the box by Bendtner, and the person to head it home was none other than old Seb. The stadium was soon alive with chants of ‘One nil to the football team’.
Yet, in the second half the only team that looked like scoring were the rugby team. Delap’s 'lineouts' were, as always, a worry. They actually managed to string some passes together and turned them into half-chances. Pennant came close with a free-kick in the dying minutes of the game. While we  maintained possession fairly well and created some chances, our attacking edge seemed very blunt without the whetstone of van Persie. However, the defence played well, not to mention Song and Wilshere doing some fine work protecting the back four, and another brilliant performance by Szczesny. He has proved time and again this season that he is the real deal. He did so again last night, pulling off an incredible save from a speculative Carew half-volley, and neutralising dangerous balls. He’s also fantastically built for a goalie – tall and imposing. Let’s just hope he can maintain his fantastic form.
Following the final whistle that put a stop to every Arsenal fan's nerves, I wanted to see all the players rejecting Shawcross. Unfortunately, I then saw Djourou shaking his hand. I’m sorry, but if almost ruining a player’s career (and by extension his life) does not deserve a bit of hostility, I’m not sure what does. Shawcross will now forever be hated by Arsenal – he must accept that, and stop whinging about Wenger having a vendetta against him. His challenge on Ramsey was unforgiveable –the players need to show it.
Now we can look ahead to the next few games. We’ve got the Carling Cup final and the replay against Orient. The Carling Cup final is a must win in order to put an end to this ‘you haven’t won a trophy in five years’ crap. So what if it’s a rubbish competition? It’s a trophy all the same.  As for Orient, we’re at the Emirates. We’ll play them off the park; show them how the professionals really play (Bendtner doesn’t count). An important few matches for keeping the quadruple hopes alive.

Author - LT

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay 24th February 2011

We all know Gordon Ramsay for several things; his television programmes, his constantly foul mouth and his incredible cooking talents. So with three Michelin stars, our expectations for Restaurant Gordon Ramsay were extremely high. The restaurant is just a ten-minute walk from Sloane Square tube station.  The exterior of the restaurant is rather unremarkable except for the little black sign, which bore Gordon Ramsay’s signature.  Once inside, we were slightly surprised by the size of the restaurant, as it was much smaller than we had first expected. We were promptly offered drinks and given menus. Already service looked very good. The waiters were cheery and helpful and generally efficient. A very impressive start, although we had not yet tried the food.

We were given an amuse bouche of a ball of confit duck, Parmesan cheese and wild mushrooms on a bed of ricotta cheese with a chestnut veloute. It was beautifully presented and tasted gorgeous. The duck was so tender and soft that it fell apart at the slightest touch. I am usually repulsed by cheese but the chestnut veloute blended the salty flavour of the cheese with a slightly sweet, nutty flavour. Incredible. 

Amuse bouche

Our starters came and they looked absolutely stunning. My brother had chosen the sautéed foie gras with veal sweetbreads. My dad had chosen braised pied de cochon (pig trotters), which was then fried with ham knuckle and served with quail eggs. I had chosen the Scottish lobster with chicken, black truffles and chestnut lasagne. My brother said that his foie gras was incredible in texture and flavour. I had a try of my dad’s wonderfully presented pig's trotter, which reminded him slightly of Chinese style pork. The flavour was similar, but the texture was different, with a beautiful contrast of tender meat, silky fat and the slight coarseness of the ham knuckle. My lobster was perfectly cooked and went well with the chicken and pasta. Much to my surprise, the truffle did add something to the dish. Its slight crunch made the dish feel fresher and added another dimension to the starter. Fabulous. 

Braised pied de cochon with ham knuckle and quails egg
Foie gras

Scottish lobster with chicken, black truffles and chestnut lasagne

Not too long after we finished our starters, our main courses arrived. My brother had chosen roasted pigeon with grilled polenta and date sauce. Impressed by the pigeon at The Ledbury, my brother had high hopes for this dish. As he took his first bite, it was apparent that he was not disappointed. The pidgeon was beautifully tender and just melted in the mouth. This pigeon dish also came with tiny confit legs, similar to The Ledbury. My dad had turbot with linguine and wild mushrooms, which was apparently outstanding. My venison with truffle braised celery, roasted pears and smoked pork belly was gorgeous. The venison was a dark pink colour and went extremely well with the smoky flavour of the thin sheet of pork belly. The truffle once again added texture to the dish but this time also added taste, since the celery had absorbed its nutty flavour. The pear was sweet, soft and sharp while still retaining the slight crunch of the skin. The pear augmented the flavour of the venison extremely well.

Pidgeon (apologies - photo slightly out of focus)

Wild Highland Venison

Roast line caught turbot with linguine

We were offered a pre dessert immediately after our main courses. This was a mango and passion fruit soup with a yogurt foam. The soup was cool and refreshing with the tang of the viscous liquid going well with the frothy yogurt. It was a delicious concoction and an excellent palate cleanser. 


For dessert we ordered the Assiete de l’Aubergine. This was a plate of every single dessert on the menu and was to be shared between the three of us. First we ate the prune and vanilla crème brulee. The crystalline sheet at the top was perfect and the inside was silky smooth, with the prune giving a sweet and faintly sharp flavour. Next was the caramelized tarte Tatin of apple. The sweetness and sharpness of the apple contrasted and freshened the buttery flavour and texture of the pastry. Next was the Granny Smith parfait, blackberry foam, honeycomb and cider sorbet. The sorbet was stunning and had the faintest trace of alcoholic flavour. The foam was delicious and the honeycomb was a fabulous addition, making the entire dessert look and taste divine. The bitter chocolate cylinder with coffee granite and ginger mousse bombarded the mouth with wonderful flavours and textures.  Then our banoffee pie soufflé arrived. The soufflé was rimmed with coffee dusting and the flavours and textures were gorgeous especially once the centre was revealed. Here, at the heart of the dessert lay a mass of salted caramel crumble, sticky toffee and soft banana. It was delightful. Then we got to the marinated pineapple ravioli with mango and kiwi. We were all slightly surprised to find that the ravioli was not pineapple flavoured pasta, but in fact a thin piece of pineapple shaped like ravioli and carrying in it mango and kiwi. Interesting and extremely enjoyable. 

Pineapple ravioli with mango and kiwi

From left to right, Granny Smith parfait, chocolate cylinder and tarte tartin

Banoffee pie souffle

Creme brulee

Just after our desserts, we were offered a tiny silver plate. Protruding out of this plate were several silver tendrils. On the end of each of these was what appeared to be a large, misty pearl. These were in fact white chocolate truffles and were simply delicious. After finishing the truffles, a waiter placed bowl with a lid on it onto our table. A strange mist seemed to be leaking out of the bowl. Once the lid was taken off by one of the waiters, there was an eruption of mist. It crept onto the table, speeding and sliding off it. At last the flow calmed down and six white orbs were revealed. As I went to take one, I realized they were freezing cold and the mist had in fact been dry ice. Biting into the thin, white chocolate carapace revealed strawberry ice cream inside. Ingenius and delicious. We were then offered coffee, which rounded up a fantastic meal.

White chocolate truffles

Strawberry ice cream in a white chocolate shell (presented with dry ice)

Food quality 10/10
Presentation 10/10
Service 10/10
Ambience 9/10
Value for money 9/10

Overall 48/50

Absolutely incredible. Inventive and imaginative cooking mixed with a wonderful atmosphere, kind, humorous waiters and very good value for money. This was an outstanding meal. It is difficult to give something full marks, but it was even harder to flaw this experience. Brilliant.

Author - CT (aged 12)
Photography - LT (aged 14) and DT (a youthful 39) 

Gordon Ramsay on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The Ledbury (22nd February 2011)

When the cat is away, the mice will play. And so with my mother away in Malaysia, the three boys went off to The Ledbury. The Ledbury is a two Michelin Starred restaurant in Notting Hill. Due to the myriad of large and glamorous buildings, The Ledbury seemed a little discrete, despite its rather stand-out appearance. The restaurant is easy to get to, being only a ten minute walk from Notting Hill Gate station on the Central Line.

Once we entered, we were pleasantly greeted by the front door receptionists, who immediately offered to take our coats. We were led to a table in the corner of the restaurant. The interior was pleasing to the eye, with the faint luster of the central chandelier casting a mellow light onto the beige walls. The seats were extremely comfortable and we were offered drinks as soon as we sat down. Just after the drinks arrived, we were given a small plate of canapes. This was a foie gras parfait on a ginger nut biscuit. Though it sounded like a strange combination, it worked extremely well, with the crunch of the biscuit complimenting the smoothness of the foie gras. A good first impression and first impressions can sometimes be lasting ones.

We were then offered bread by a quiet but pleasant waitress. We were all seduced by the sound of onion and bacon bread and so all chose it. It was quite unique, a swirl of soft, warm bread with sweet, dark caramelized onions and a small piece of bacon would tantalize your taste buds with every bite. We then ordered our starters and main courses. Both my dad and brother ordered the foie gras terrine with cooked apple sauce and raw apple, while I chose a ceviche of scallops with frozen horseradish, seaweed and herb oil. We didn't have to wait long for our starters and we were all impressed by the elegance of the dishes. My scallop dish was delicious and seemed to be a deconstruction of a sushi. The scallops gave a fishy flavour, the horseradish replicated the taste of wasabi, the seaweed sauce also resembled the flavour of the seaweed used in some sushi and there were tiny translucent spheres concealed under the scallops. These burst in the mouth, giving the whole dish an entirely new texture, and showed similarities to caviar. The terrine was perfectly cooked with a delightful, silky texture and lovely flavour. I usually assosciate foie gras with grape chutney.  However, to my surprise, the apple sauce went extremely well with the terrine.

Ceviche of scallops

Foie gras terrine

Our main courses followed shortly afterwards. My dad and I had both chosen Sika deer with beetroot, crisp potatoes, bone marrow and malt. My brother chose the roast breast and confit leg of pigeon with an onion tart and liquorice. The deer was cooked to perfection and the beetroot went very well with it. The crisp potatoes were arranged in an almost perfectly straight line and thoughout the line, they became crispier and crispier, forming a spectrum of colour and texture. The dish also came with a venison sausage, which was fabulous. Unexpectedly, the two chunks of beetroot were topped with two small globules of fat from the deer, which made the dish even more exciting. My only criticism of the dish was that the small amount of bone marrow and malt in the form of a puree added nothing whatsoever to this incredible dish. As the main courses came in, we were suddenly greeted by a splendid smoky aroma. This turned out to be my brother's pigeon dish. The dish was well presented and, according to my brother, tasted divine. He was especially impressed by the confit legs, which came on a separate plate to the breast and had been smoked on a bed of fennel.

Sika deer


The coup de grace was definitely the dessert. We were disappointed to see that the dessert that attracted us most, the caramelized clementine souffle with clementine leaf ice cream, was only available to those who had chosen the set lunch menu, which we had not. However, the waitress was kind enough to take our request to have the souffle to the kitchen and our order was accepted. As the souffles arrived, a divine scent drifted through the air. The waitress took a scoop of ice cream and plunged it gently into each souffle. The souffle was simply delicious. It was not too sweet and the ice cream not only gave it a faint tangy flavour, but also gave the whole dish a smoother texture. As well as this, the caramelized edge contrasted with the ice cream and the souffle, giving it a slightly crystalline feel.

Souffle with clementine leaf ice cream

We then ordered coffee and petit fours. We were rather surprised by the rustic appearance of the petit fours. Instead of being served on a pristine plate, they were presented in what appeared to be a decrepit biscuit tin, and lay on a bed of crushed cocoa beans. The tin lid had smudges all over it and we were all slightly put off. Unlike the rest of the meal, the petit fours were unspectacular, which was a minor drawback to a fantastic meal.

Food quality 9/10
Food presentation 8/10
Service 9/10
Ambience 9/10
Value for money 9/10

Overall 44/50: Outstanding

An absolutely incredible meal and a wonderful day out. The staff were polite, cheery and helpful, the food was stunning, the entire restaurant had a mellow aura and the presentation niggles of the petit fours was the only thing stopping The Ledbury from getting a higher score. This restaurant is amazing and it should be considered ludicrous not to dine there at least once. Other two Michelin Star restaurants should be warned; the bar has been set extremely high.

The Ledbury
127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, London
W11 2AQ

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7792 9090
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7792 9191

Author - CT
Photographer - DT

The Ledbury on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Original Tangines 12th February 2011

Arsenal 2 Wolves 0

I know that football is just a game.  Nevertheless, I seem rather impuissant to prevent my mood from being affected by the somewhat capricious nature of Arsenal's performances this season.  The squandering of last week's four goal lead against Newcastle left me feeling as flat as a pancake.  Many Arsenal fans may have drawn some comfort from Man Utd's defeat at Wolves but I did not.  Man Utd's loss made the result at Newcastle even harder to bear.

Another week and another Premier League game.  Which Arsenal would we see today?  Would we see the Arsenal that comprehensively beat Chelsea in December or the Arsenal that lost to the Spuds at the Emirates despite leading 2-0 at half time?  In the end, the match turned out to be a rather one sided affair with Arsenal dominating from start to finish.  Mick McCarthy was as erudite as ever in his post match interview when he proclaimed that Wolves had been 'completely spanked' by Arsenal.  Only a wonder strike by Shrek ensured that the Man United scum maintained their 4 point advantage at the top of the table.

The Original Tangines

The game was followed by dinner at Original Tangines, a Moroccan restaurant not far from Baker's Street.  The restaurant is small and there is not much wriggle room as the tables are packed so tightly next to each other.  However, the main problem I have with this establishment is that it lacks character and the atmosphere for a Saturday night was rather dour.  Our experience was made worse by the rather sour-faced waiter and waitress on duty that evening who gave the impression that they had just returned from a funeral and their attitude to customer service was poor.  We were disappointed to be seated at a table right next to the front door and asked if we could be given one further in the restaurant.  The waiter apprised us that he could not do so as the restaurant was fully booked that evening and we accepted this explanation.  You can imagine our annoyance when we noticed that the tables further in the restaurant were still unoccupied when we asked for the bill at the end of the evening (approximately 22:00-22:30).

The food itself did not live up to much either.  The starters of harira soup, grilled hallumi cheese, aubergine zalook and grilled kidney served with mustard sauce were rather plain, both to the eye and to the palate.

Harira Soup

Grilled kidneys with mustard sauce
Aubergine zalook

Grilled hallumi cheese

The main courses did not fare any better.  The tangines that we ordered were pretty poor.

Prawn tangine

Tangine lamb prunes

Tangine lamb pear

Tangine lamb souss

For me, I expect dessert to be the highlight of the meal whenever I dine out.  The desserts at Original Tangines were frankly uninspiring.

Brioates almonds fried in honey

Selection of Moroccan pastries

Flambe caramelised pear

We finished off the meal with fresh mint tea.

The final bill was around £85 (four people, soft drinks and mineral water only, 50% off food with Tastecard).  I have eaten better elsewhere for less.

Food quality 2/10
Presentation 2/10
Service 2/10
Ambience 1/10
Value for money 2/10

Overall 9/50 - Very, very poor.

Original Tangines
7a Dorset Street
London W1U6QN
Open every day
11am - 12pm

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Latium Restaurant, 8th January 2011

I have always been fascinated by Ancient Egypt.  My childhood ambition was to study archaeology at university but my mother said that I would only do so over her dead body, which is why I have ended up as a doctor.  However, my interest in Ancient Egypt has never waned and it was therefore with great excitement that I took my family to see the 'Journey through the afterlife' exhibition at the British Museum.  Sadly, my teenage sons do not share my love of history and so it was not long before they started complaining that they were bored, tired and hungry.

I took them (and the wife, of course) to Latium for an evening meal.  It was the first time that we have dined at this restaurant but it will certainly not be our last.  Latium is an attractive restaurant that serves Italian cuisine and its main specialty is ravioli.  For most of us, ravoli evokes memories of the rather soggy and unappetising pasta parcels that were once served at school.  A visit to Latium certainly help to banish those memories.

We ordered a starter each and none of us were disappointed by the choices that we made.  My eldest son, L, is a foie gras connoisseur and he thoroughly enjoyed his foie gras terrine.

The grilled Cornish squid that my youngest son, C, and I had was competently cooked rather than outstanding.


The wife had pasta with baby octopus, which she felt was slightly over seasoned.

I don't like risotto myself but L is a fan.

Next came the two fantastic ravioli dishes.

A selection of fish ravioli
Mushroom and snail ravioli
The venison was superb.

Delightful and imaginative desserts rounded off a wonderful evening.

Selection of sweet ravioli
Lime parfait wrapped with fresh pineapple, balsamic vinegar and mint sauce

Food quality 8/10
Presentation 8/10
Service 8/10
Ambience 8/10
Value for money 9/10

Total 41/50 - Well worth a visit

21 Berners Street
London W1T 3LP
T: +44 (0)20 7323 9123
F: +44 (0)20 7323 3205

Latium on Urbanspoon