Restaurant Reviews

These are synopses of my past postings involving restaurant reviews. Click on the links for the posts.

March 07, 2010Koy Shunka - Barcelona's Hidden TreasureAlmost invisible down an alleyway off Barcelona's Via Laietana is one of the best Japanese restaurants to be found in Europe. It's a kappo-style counter restaurant in which customers sit around a square counter with chefs in the centre. Whenever I could scrape up the money to eat at Koy Shunka, it was my eating house of preference. And after Hideki had sliced my sashimi and poured me a sake, I would often wander down to the pool hall for a game or two with his business partner Sam.
February 10, 2010Spanish Roundup - Two Great RestaurantsI never did get round to writing up Arrop, the bistronomic eaterie in Gandía which I thought offered great value for money. But at last I've managed to publish a roundup of my experiences at Torrijos in Valencia and Espai Sucre in Barcelona. Two restaurants with very different philosophies leading to totally different menus, but both of them a real treat for anyone who enjoys fine dining. Both places left lasting impressions on me.
January 12, 2010Monks To The Left Of Me, Jockeys To The Right, Here I Am... (For Lunch)My reviews of Torrijos, Arrop and Espai Sucre will have to wait for another day, because I simply have to pay L'Enclume the credits it deserves. I was pretty skeptical about fine dining on the Cumbrian coast, but what I experienced there when the family paid a post-Christmas visit was one of my best ever British dining experiences. Utterly exceptional.
December 02, 2009Dinner In DéniaI'm still sitting on a couple of reviews from earlier in the year, but I just had to post my review of El Poblet, now renamed Quique Dacosta Restaurante. This was a joint family birthday celebration for my parents and myself and what an experience it proved to be. OK, so I could make a few minor criticisms here and there, but make no mistake this is the best restaurant in the southern half of Spain and guaranteed to win its third Michelin star one of these days.
May 10, 2009Can Paixano - The Perfect Last MealNot so much a restaurant - more an iconic symbol of working class Catalan culture. No tourists, no foodies, no Michelin inspectors - just local people, good cheap sandwiches and wine and all the hustle and bustle that you associate with the industrious, creative and gregarious people of Barcelona. It was the perfect venue for my last meal in the Catalan capital before moving on to València.
January 31, 2009Dining Out In BarcelonaNot so much a restaurant review - more an overall review of eating out in my adopted city based on my understanding of the development of Barcelona's restaurant industry over the past few decades and some examples of restaurants - good, excellent and brilliant - that fall into different categories. As little as €20 can buy you a great meal in this city, but it's also not difficult to rack up a bill of over €200 for dinner. You pays yer money...
December 15, 2008Taken ÀBaCI wasn't taken aback so much by the food as by the décor as depicted on the website. I visualised several classic movies that matched the different surroundings. The food was mostly well executed, but I was very confused by the concept behind several dishes and the inconsistency of flow as the menu varied from classic Catalan to French nouvelle cuisine to classic Castilian to modern European eclectic. A bit of a roller-coaster of a gastronomic ride.
December 03, 2008Roca 'N' Roll!Well - I certainly wasn't disappointed. I ate an extended tasting menu and every one of the snacks and the twelve dishes proper was flawlessly executed. The service was impeccably professional and the whole experience was simply a delight. The dishes were all well-conceived - some of them creative and some more traditional - but all perfect. Josep Roca selected my wines and the experience was capped off by a guided tour of the kitchens with brother and Head Chef Joan Roca. I walked into this place and floated out.
November 26, 2008Out To LunchNot since Mugaritz have I been so excited about the prospect of a meal that I've blogged about a place before I've been there to eat. But tomorrow I'm taking the Catalunya Express to Girona and having lunch at El Celler de Can Roca - a restaurant universally agreed to be one of the world's very best. I hope I'm not disappointed and this will be one of my best ever dining experiences.
November 13, 2008Lasarte - A Different Class Of DiningA few weeks ago I took my friend and erstwhile fellow Comerç 24 chef de partie Michael to a hotel restaurant to celebrate his birthday. It wasn't just any hotel restaurant. This was Lasarte - Martín Berasategui's new Barcelona restaurant that won its first Michelin star within a year of opening. Martín's Head Chef Alex Gares also trained with Carme Ruscalleda at Sant Pau and Ferran Adrià at El Bulli. Was I impressed? I was blown away. The overall dining experience was in a totally different league to anything I've ever experienced before.
October 24, 2008Gresca - A Rumpus Of A DinnerAfter I read about the bistronomic movement in reviews of Madrid Fusión 2008, I was determined to try one or two of these new haute cuisine bistros springing up around Barcelona. And when I read Ingo's review of Gresca in High-End Food, I knew this was the place to go. To find out what I thought of Rafael Peña's cooking, click on the link. I was surprised - and I think you may be too.
October 04, 2008Experiencing El BulliNo - don't get too excited - I haven't been to the world's most celebrated restaurant. Not yet, anyway. What triggered me to write a piece about the extraordinary experience that is El Bulli was the visit today by my friend Professor Paulina Mata and her chef friend Luis. Also, the time for next year's bookings is rapidly approaching and I was impressed by a review in The Times by AA Gill, who clearly enjoyed his experience in Cala Montjoi.
August 18, 2008The Sixth SenseWhen you first experience restaurant cooking at the very highest level, it's inevitable that you'll have quite a few "best ever" moments. I'll never forget that meal at Morgan M, for instance. I was thrilled to sample Fergus Henderson's wares and blown away when I first ate with Nuno Mendes at Bacchus. Only last month, the bar was raised for me when I dined at Guggenheim Bilbao and received perfect service and flawlessly executed food. But this week it was Olympic Gold. The best meal I've ever eaten - here in Barcelona at Cinc Sentits.
August 03, 2008The End Of An Era... But "Rodney Trotter's El Bulli" Will Rise AgainHow I never came to eat at Bacchus until three days before I left for Spain I will never know. But I've more than made up for it since. The quote is from a review with which I very definitely don't agree. The recent announcement that Bacchus is to close down as a fine dining restaurant doesn't come as a surprise to me, given various factors mitigating against it in its present form, but it certainly saddens me. I've learnt so much from Nuno Mendes - amazing considering that he's a chef for whom I've never worked. Maybe one day.
July 14, 2008The Guggenheim - Art You Can EatAfter my disappointing experience at Mugaritz, I checked into the Guggenheim Bilbao for lunch with no more than modest expectations. But I was quite wrong. This was simply one of the best dining experiences of my life. Service was perfect and the food, never over-elaborated, was flawlessly executed. I can't praise the place highly enough.
July 09, 2008Mugaritz - A Bad Day At The OfficeEating at Mugaritz was a great experience and one that I don't regret for one minute. But, unfortunately, it failed to live up to my high expectations. With a ratio of one chef per customer, there should have been no excuse for the many service issues I encountered and the failure to achieve perfect execution of the food. I put it down to a bad day at the office.
July 03, 2008It Was Tough - But Someone Had To Do ItAs I revealed in my previous post in this section, I decided to pay a visit to the Basque Country (Euskadi) on my way home to London. The clue I set wasn't hard enough - everyone guessed that I was stopping to eat at Mugaritz. But I also sampled the fare in Bilbao at the Restaurante Guggenheim and, last but not least, in some typical pintxos bars in San Sebastián. Reviews coming soon.
June 26, 2008Restaurant QuizI'm about to start my summer holiday, but I thought I'd stop in somewhere for a meal on my way back to London. This particular meal requires a 12-hour detour via taxi, train and bus to reach a place that looks like a typical rustic farmhouse eaterie (both from the outside and the inside). Actually, it's one of the world's finest restaurants. Can you guess which one?
April 24, 2008A Chance To Eat Out (A Few Times)Meals out are like buses - you don't get one for ages and then suddenly six come along at once. Well, they do if you're a professional chef with no spare time to go out and sample other chef's menus. But I was on holiday for a fortnight recently and this is my write-up of the six very different meals out I experienced in London.
December 03, 2007Lunch With An AlchemistOne of my 20th birthday presents was lunch at one of Barcelona's New Catalan restaurants - Jordi Vilà's Alkimia. Jordi trained with two giants of the kitchen - Jean-Louis Neichel and Jean Luc Figueras, before opening Alkimia four years ago and winning a Michelin star 18 months later. The best of the tasting menu was sheer genius. But I thought there were also some problems with both food and service, which was a shame.
November 25, 2007The Family Visits La FamiliaMy dad wrote up the review of Comerç 24 because I didn't sit down to eat there. That's my mum in the picture, my dad's taking the photo and I'm in the kitchen (right background) helping to make their dinner. From my discussions with the family after their visit to Barcelona, I know they all really enjoyed the food. So, apparently, did an anonymous inspector. Because five days later the restaurant was awarded its first Michelin star.
September 27, 2007Saving The Best For Last (And About Time, Too!)Within walking distance of my London home is a restaurant where they cook nothing short of the best food I've ever eaten. I've had an idea that this might be the case for quite some time, but for one reason or another I've never been to Bacchus before. Chef/Proprietor Nuno Mendes is Portuguese and trained in Catalunya before coming to Hackney. So it was more than fitting for this Portuguese-speaking Hackney boy to dine with him before heading to Catalunya to train. It was an experience that I will never forget, and one that has made a significant impact on my own development as a chef.
September 19, 2007Laid Back On The King's RoadThursday night was my final opportunity to meet food blogging acquaintances and new people over a dinner. This time it was a relaxed meal and wine/rice tasting at Osteria dell'Arancio on the King's Road. So it doubled as my farewell to Chelsea, as well. Organised by Sara Maternini of Italian food company San Lorenzo, the evening was focused on tasting lesser known varieties of Italian rice in the form of arancini, risotto, rice pie and rice pudding. Helped down by some excellent Barolo, it was a fine feast.
September 07, 2007Dining And WiningIt's been a really busy time for me recently and I haven't managed to get out to a good restaurant for a few months now. Having achieved my Diploma and arranged my first post-college placement in a restaurant, I thought it time to invite some of my blogging and food writing friends out for a meal. Saturday night at The Providores, with great food and plenty of New Zealand wines.
May 12, 2007The Gospel According To...At last I've been to St. John, the restaurant in Smithfield so beloved of UK food bloggers. Taken for lunch by one of my lecturers, the experience did not disappoint. Fergus Henderson cooks unpretentious but exquisite food with a strong accent on offal. Recently voted the world's 34th best restaurant, St. John represents a real challenge to the culinary establishment.
April 26, 2007The Steaks Are HighSanta Maria del Buen Ayre is an Argentinean restaurant within walking distance of my home that has won critical acclaim for its steaks - so it was time for me to try it for myself. No fine dining, this, but they served the most flavoursome fillet steak I have ever eaten.
March 12, 2007NamastéOne of my most enjoyable work experiences was at Café Spice in Aldgate, where Cyrus Todiwala not only produces fantastic modern Indian cuisine but has been praised and rewarded for his work in vocational training. The family had a great meal there on Saturday night and we were made to feel so welcome (namasté).
January 31, 2007Come Dine With MeMost of us at some time have been too tired to cook and go for a takeaway instead. My dinner was from Noodle King, a Cantonese restaurant in Bethnal Green that serves healthy, nutritious, good-tasting food in massive bowls at less than £4 a course. It's great value for money.
January 21, 2007Pub Grub Without Highway RobberyThe family paid a Sunday lunch visit to the Spaniards Inn in Hampstead, a pub once home to notorious highwayman Dick Turpin. It's not fine dining and nor does it pretend to be. But for a kitchen that must turn out a couple of hundred lunches on a busy day and doesn't keep customers waiting ages to be served, the quality of food is extraordinary.
December 31, 2006This Way For An Explosion Of FlavoursI took my restauranteur friend Jafoor away from his Bangladeshi restaurant for lunch at East London's much talked-about Pakistani restaurant "New Tayyabs". Their food combines intrinsically bitter and sour produce, using spices brilliantly to create a flavour explosion in your mouth.
November 25, 2006Oh Yes, This Frenchman Can Cook!On Sunday we paid our family visit to Morgan M, to celebrate my birthday and my mum's. We all thoroughly enjoyed our meals. Their food is, without doubt, deserving of a Michelin star. If you are in North London and looking for somewhere quiet for a great meal, I thoroughly recommend that you visit Morgan Meunier's.
November 14, 2006Morgan M This WeekendWe are going to Morgan M for a family meal this weekend. Head Chef/Proprieter Morgan Meunier, recently voted London's third best chef by readers of Harden's, did his apprenticeship with Michel Guérard at Les Prés de Eugénie. I will report back.
November 01, 2006Bacchanalian Pleasures?Bacchus is a molecular gastronomy gastropub less than a mile from my house. Apart from being one of the few "experimental" restaurants in the country, Bacchus is of special attraction to me because head chef Nuno Mendes is Portuguese and he trained with Ferran Adrià at El Bulli.
September 27, 2006Whirling DervishVoted "Hackney's best Turkish restaurant" by readers of the Hackney Gazette, The Dervish is a relaxed and friendly bistro with a "traditional" Turkish restaurant menu.
September 27, 2006London's First Eco-Friendly RestaurantImagine the amount of wasted energy and materials involved in running a typical restaurant. London will soon be host to its first "eco-friendly" restaurant, aiming "to be environmentally aware in all aspects of its trade". This new concept could revolutionise eating out in the capital.
September 15, 2006
Morgan Who?Harden's restaurant-goers voted Morgan Meunier third best chef in London, behind Gordon Ramsay and Bruce Poole. His restaurant Morgan M is just two miles from my home in North-East London. I shall pay a visit shortly to see for myself.
September 11, 2006Lunch At TamarindToday my family and I had a fabulous lunch at Tamarind in Mayfair. Tamarind is Michelin starred and winner of the Indian Restaurant Of The Year award. I was pleasantly surprised. Executive Chef Alfred Prasad even had time to come out from the kitchens to receive our compliments.