2 June 2014

Fera At Claridges

We had a wonderful meal at Simon Rogan's Roganic last year, and when it closed without any confirmation of a follow up London venture I was disappointed that we would not be able to sample his cooking again without a long journey up to Cumbria. So, to my delight, when Claridges announced he would be taking over the restaurant from Gordon Ramsay, I knew we would be heading for lunch as soon as we could.

You can't help but feel a bit special when heading into Claridges, and as we arrived a little early we soaked up the ambiance in the lobby before heading in. The room is impressive, with Claridges stunning art deco architecture, but a natural, organic feel, with pebble stones on wooden tables with a comfortable ambiance.

We were sat and Jack, joining Fera from our Fitzrovia haunt Kitchen Table, came over for a chat and took our drinks orders. Nice to see a familiar face. Throughout the meal the service from all was top class, just the type of consummate professionals I would expect at venue like Claridges, and not a hint of stuffiness.

Starting with some cocktails, pea shoot, apple marigold and vermouth for my wife, and a lovage and herb rye whiskey for me.  Both were unusual, and quite different to anything I've had before, and as I'm a fan of lovage it was great to taste it in such a different way. However, note to self: Don't have whiskey cocktail instead of breakfast.

The first dish was brought out by Simon himself, a rather impressive start. A crisp barley wafer with smoked eel, lovely, light and flavoursome. The canapes were all equally lovely, a mouthful of the sea in the form of a mackerel wafer, a fabulous bite of rabbit, crisp, warm and rich, and an absolute peach of a dish, a bowl with potato mousse and winslade cheese dish, including duck heart for myself, being particularly memorable. The last amuse bouche was clever, an almost ice cold salad of crab with rhubarb acting as a perfect palate cleanser before the bread course, a hunk of bread with butter and unusually a cup of sweet onion broth.

The main dishes were all very much what I would expect from Simon, very light, bags of flavour, highly technical, unusual herbs and foraged ingredients. The cabbage/beef course had an amazing smoked broccoli cream I will remember for a long time but the star was a dish brought out by Simon himself, a grilled salad. This was amazing, a barrage of crunchy and crispy textures from the grilled leaves, underneath a gorgeous truffle custard redolent with strong truffle flavours served in a wooden bowl and with a large wooden spoon, which i used to scrape the bowl clean of every last trace of that custard. I've seen some of the opening reviews where some found they weren't so keen on some courses, but I couldn't fault a single dish, and every element from the shellfish butter with the prawn to some delightful discs of pickled tongue with the hogget an absolute treat.

Desserts were similar, light, fresh with perfect balance. I loved the cherries that came with the yoghurt, and the celery pieces at the bottom of the ice cream dish were a touch of unexpected genius, I now know that if you do it right, celery can go in a dessert.  This was finished with a blackcurrant wafer and a fizzy blackberry concoction, which was excellent, and I think a much better choice than the chamomile milkshake I've seen described elsewhere.

The petit fours were again something out of the ordinary, especially the sweet cicely cake, a ghost of a sponge so light it barely seemed real. We ended the meal with a fancy filter coffee poured at the table, in a rather cool Japanese filter kit, the coffee a fabulous Kenyan blend that we took without milk and clearly a cut above most coffees I've had.

Our wine, recommended by the sommelier on my vague instructions for something sweet, fruity and fragrant was a bottle of Patrimonio ‘Grotte di Sole’, Antoine Arena 2010 (£75) and was perfect with the food, lasting us right to the petit fours.

The bill came to around £420, our most expensive London meal, but with the surroundings, food, service, booze and a 15 quid (!) coffee it wasn't too much of a shocker. We enjoyed a memorable lunch, Simons food is exciting, unique and every bite a joy. Vegetarians are equally catered for, with Simons food naturally being more vegetarian friendly, especially with so much being sourced from the farm in Cartmel.

Puffed barley, onion, watercress. Puffed barley, smoked eel, watercress.

Berkswell cheese, pickled plum. Mackerel, seawater cream, caviar.

Stewed rabbit and lovage.

Chicken skin, thyme, roasted garlic.

Scallops in buttermilk.

Peas in buttermilk.

Winslade and potato.

Crab, rhubarb, goats cheese.

Kohlrabi, rhubarb, goats cheese.

Malt bread, onion broth.

Raw beef, smoked broccoli cream, scallop roe, acidic apple juice.

Sweetheart cabbage, smoked broccoli cream, fresh curd, acidic apple juice.

Oxalis, smoked yolk, carrot, juniper.

Prawns from Gairloch, picked alexander, asparagus, shellfish butter.

Asparagus, picked alexander and sunflower.

Grilled Salad, Isle of Mull, truffle custard and sunflower seeds.

Cods cheeks poached in dulse stock, artichoke, beetroot and sea orache.

Artichokes with dulse, beetroot and sea campion.

Herdwick hogget, pickled tongue, mushroms, turnips.

Celeriac baked in hay, crispy skin, hen of the woods, turnips and hazelnut.

Chamomile, butterscotch, celery.

Sheep's yoghurt, cherries, Douglas fir.

Hampshire Strawberries,woodruff and elder flower.

Blackberry and lemon verbena.

Sweet cicely cake.

Banana mint drops.

Smoked meringue.

Fera At Claridges

Fera At Claridge's on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

9 March 2014

Pied a Terre

We recently enjoyed a lunch at Pied a Terre in Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia.  As my wifes birthday fell on a Monday this year, it required a little more research to find somewhere open on Mondays. Luckily Pied a Terre, somewhere we have passed numerous times and have been meaning to visit, was not only open on Monday lunch time, but also had a 6 course tasting menu available for £49 a head.

We started with a selection of canapes, with stand outs being a battered mussel, a salty crunchy delight of a bite, and a wonderful flavour rich celeriac panna cotta for my wife. We tried a few breads including an excellent brioche and ok baguette, but the star of the show was a treacle bread which was simply one of the best breads I've had in a long time, a perfect crisp crust with soft, chewy crumb with a definite hit of treacle.

We both started with a chestnut and juniper gnocchi, a golden fried pillow with a brown caramelised surface and a generous slice of truffle on top. Into the bowl was poured a chestnut and truffle veloute. This was a fine start to the meal, with a deep truffle flavour in the smooth veloute.

The next course was a carrot dish, the carrot coated with blackened spices and with accompanying vegetables, the spices were intense and well flavoured, a fine way to treat a humble carrot. I had a fantastic dish of cod with really lovely mussel sauce and some flavourful little new potatoes, the dish as delicious as it was pretty on the plate.

Our mains were both excellent, for me guinea fowl, morel mushrooms and shallot and liquorice puree. The guinea fowl had good flavour, a superior bird to chicken for me, but the morel mushrooms, my first of the year, were absolutely top class, some of the nicest I've ever had. My wife had a onion squash ravioli, topped with cavelo nero and a pine nut butter. She really liked this dish, especially the textures added by the pine nuts.

Pre-dessert was a glass with some lemon posset and orange mousse, a lovely little palate cleanser topped with some awesome white chocolate and freeze dried blood orange pieces on top, very nice indeed. Dessert proper show cased some very high end patisserie, a Valrhona chocolate creme, with dots of caramel sauce, cubes of chocolate jelly, some lovely peanut brittle pieces. The accompanying salted peanut ice cream was gorgeous, and the salty notes balanced against the sweetness of the chocolate perfectly.

We had some nice wine to match, 2 glasses of rose champagne to start, a couple of excellent whites with the food, the 2 dessert wines recommended were really good. My Spanish red, a Dolc Mataro was unlike anything I've had before, sweet with many fruity notes, and just my type of drink.

Petit four came with coffee, first up 3 on a dish, including a fantastic mandarin filled bowl, followed by some coconut ice cream truffles, and finally a bowl of hot doughnuts, each one as fluffy as a cloud, exceedingly fine examples of their kind.

I was really impressed with Pied a Terre, not only was every aspect of the meal absolutely first rate, a tasting menu with an especially generous selection of goodies to accompany the coffee for £49 felt very good value. The restaurant team, with Marcus Eaves and his crew providing the best London's fine dining has to offer, with a really charming front of house to back them up.


Chestnut and Juniper Gnocchi with Chanterelles, Chestnut and Truffle Velouté

Cod with Poached Baby Potatoes, Fennel Puree and Cornish Mussels.

Carrots Cooked in Blackened Spices with Squash Purée, Cracked Wheat, Chilli, Coriander and Mint

Guinea Fowl with Morel Mushrooms, Braised Leek, Shallot and Liquorice Puree, Rosemary Jus.

Onion Squash and Sage Ravioli with Chanterelles, Cavelo Nero and Pine Nut Beurre Noisette

Lemon posset & blood orange

Valrhona Chocolate Crème with Caramel Sauce, Salted Peanut Ice Cream and Chocolate Jelly

Petits Fours

Dessert Wines.

Pied à Terre on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Return to The Ledbury

My brother was over for his annual trade expo in London, but as I had plenty of notice I managed to get a table at The Ledbury on a Friday night, no small feat. On Friday and Saturday you have a choice of 2 tasting menu's, and we opted for the  one with an extra course with a few substitutions.

We spent some time choosing a bottle of white, and the sommelier had it spot on with his selection,  a demi-sec perfectly sweet enough for my taste, a Vouvray Le Mont, Domaine Huët from 2009.

There was a good selection of bread, with a small seeded loaf placed on the table and a choice of breads from a basket, including their excellent bacon and onion brioche.

Our first course was an artichoke and grape salad, with desiccated foie gras, a nice fresh start to the meal, with particulary nice Sauternes grapes.  Next up, a really fine dish of baked crapaudine beetroot, beetroot crisp, black olives with a slither of smoked eel. Crapaudine are particularly fragrant beetroots with a delicate flavour, and were fantastic combined with the smokey rich eel.

Following this was one of The Ledbury classics, flame torched mackerel with shiso, celtic mustard and cucumber. I love this dish, and was just as good as previously. We followed this with another classic, the buffalo curd and onion broth with the awesome bechamel and truffle cheese on toast. This is so good I really wanted my brother to try it and they were more than willing to substitute a quail egg and truffle dish for this so we could. The cheese on toast was fabulous, i could eat a whole plate of it alone, it's as perfect as anything could be.

We followed this with a fantastic scallop dish, the scallop served with seaweed slices, cauliflower and a beautiful buttery foam. Soon after we were presented with the whole pork jowl, slow cooked for hour and finished with a selection of spices. When plated, the crackling was turned into a crumb and sprinkled on top of the pork and served with slices of apple and hazelnuts. The crackling and pork were a fabulous combination, soft, rich and unctuous.

The best was saved until last, a fillet of beef, served with smoked bone marrow, crispy potato and salt baked ash covered celeriac. This was seriously good, every element in harmony and packed with flavour. My brother finished his off in seconds, and spent the rest of the time jealously eyeing up my plate, drooling and trying to persuade me to share the rest. Not a chance.

Pre-dessert was a blood orange granita and clove yoghurt, with the balance of clove just right as its an ingredient that can overpower so easily. Dessert itself was a replacement for the chocolate and banana tart, as my brother is avoiding gluten (yeah, yeah, yeah I know). A citrus brulee was topped with a quenelle of apple and a lovage puree, a deceptively simple dish that worked really well, especially the citrus flavours in the brulee, which managed to be flavourful without being acidic. I'm a big fan of lovage too, an aromatic kick that blended with the sugary crisp and brulee so well.

We finished with coffees and petit fours and left with the knowledge that this time, we certainly made the right choice on choosing the some of best food London has to offer. A perfect meal.

Salad of Violet and Chinese Artichokes with Hazelnuts, Grapes and Grated Foie Gras.

Crapaudine Beetroot Baked in Clay with Smoked Eel and Dried Olives.

Flame Grilled Mackerel with Pickled Cucumber, Celtic Mustard and Shiso.

Hampshire Buffalo Milk Curd with Aged Comte, Truffle Toast and a Broth of Grilled Onions.

Scallop with Seaweed and Cauliflower.

Jowl of Pork with Apple, Hazelnuts.

Fillet of Belted Galloway Beef with Celeriac Baked in Juniper, Bone Marrow and Crisp Potato

Clove Yoghurt with Blood Orange Granita.

Citrus Brulee with Apple and Lovage.

The Ledbury