Category Archives: Europe


Le Relais Bernard Loiseau, Saulieu
Le Mirazur, Menton
La Grenouillere, Montreuil sur Mer


Schwarzwaldstube, Baiersbronn


Ristorante Bovio, La Morra, Alba
La Pergola, Rome


De Librije, Zwolle


Vila Joya, Albufeira


Tickets, Barcelona
El Celler de Can Roca, Girona
Compartir, Cadaques


Frantzén, Stockholm (Previously Frantzén Lindeberg)

United Kingdom

Sushi Tetsu, London (2nd visit – June)
Hedone, London
Clove Club, London

Tickets, Barcelona

P1170791Chef: Albert Adrià      Website:     Cuisine: Molecular

elBulli’s closure in 2011 marked an end of an era. There was a shift in the global culinary direction away from molecular gastronomy and towards foraging – thank you Rene Redzepi. It was therefore reasonable, in my view, to be skeptical about the longevity of the Adrià brothers molecular tapas venture in Barcelona, Tickets. After all, people are fickle. Of course, there were a few thousand people who had missed out year after year on a reservation at elBulli (I was one of the fortunate ones but only just), but surely the hype would have died four years on? Is molecular gastronomy a thing of the past?P1170705I was initially intending to go to 41 degrees but unfortunately it had closed before I could come back to Europe, but don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t disappointed when I managed to secure a table at Tickets. I had only visited elBulli once (4 years ago, just prior to its closure) so I saw this as my chance to try some of the other elBulli classics that had evaded me over the years of unsuccessful reservation attempts; Tickets, I understood, also had some of the classic elBulli dishes so my chances were good.

So, after flying 32 hours from Australia, I was finally here outside waiting eagerly to reignite that magical meal from four years ago. This time however, there was one difference… I was with my 11 month old daughter…P1170704I was surprised (but also relieved) to find that a child seat was an option when making a reservation. Of course it was music to my ears, and if anything it highlighted the cultural difference between Australia and Europe when it came to dining out (cough, cough, Vue de Monde). My daughter was even given a very colourful bib for her meal. I was initially worried about inconveniencing other diners if she cried but the festive atmosphere in the restaurant muffled any noise. Much to our relief, this was not one of those quiet Michelin starred establishments.

P11706991st Course – Tickets’ Olive-S: I wasn’t surprised to find the reverse spherified olive at Tickets given Ferran Adria was the pioneer who invented the technique.

P1170702They were very delicate spheres that had to be scooped delicately to avoid breaking the membrane. The flavour was… well… not too dissimilar to that of a high quality virgin olive oil. Left to our own device to serve them, it was inevitable that there were a few casualties. However, the ones successfully devoured were delicious and fun when they popped in your mouth.

P11707122nd Course – Spicy corn tentacles: Crunchy corn crackers with a mild level of heat from spices. Airy and crispy. I could easily have had a bag of these with a cold glass of beer.

P11707143rd Course – Crunchy pizza which came with…

P1170716Bufala Straciatella to dip into. The pizza base was wafer thin and crispy, topped with a dust of dehydrated tomatoes, microbasil and spherified basil oil. The creamy bufala was a much needed component that was cleverly added last minute to avoid the pizza base losing its crunchiness. Delicious.

P11707184th Course – Nigiri of Tuna: A slice of the akami (red lean meat) of the tuna served on a puffed up lemon meringue made to look like a ball of rice. The combination surprisingly worked well with the lemon meringue providing a sharp contrast to the cold slice of tuna. Certainly not a traditional “sushi” course but enjoyable nonetheless and a bit of fun.

P11707205th Course – Basil Air Waffle: Light and fluffy waffle with melted cheese inside. The basil worked very well with the cheese, not too strong but clearly present.

P11707236th Course – Mini Airbag with Manchego cheese foam: It was an incredibly delicate dish that packed a bag of flavours. The mini airbag was exceptionally thin and the manchego foam had an intense flavour of matured cheese. The dehydrated line of iberian ham and hazlnut oil added some extra dimensions in flavours.

P11707298th Course – Ceviche crunchy with shrimps: Crunchy wholly edible shrimps on a paper thin toast served with…P1170731… a citrus sauce typically used for ceviche. It wasn’t a particularly memorable course and I found the citrus sauce slightly too sharp. P11707359th Course – Nordic Landscape with smoked cheese: A bed of crispy rye bread with a layer of veal tartare, lingonberry, slice of shallots, soft smoked cheese and some carefully scattered typical Nordic greens. It was finally dusted with a powdered vinegar ‘snow’ to cut through the rich meat. Perhaps a pointed reference to the foraging trends…?P117074010th Course – Mini mussels with beurre blanc air: A generous portion of tiny mussels dressed with a thick and creamy beurre blanc foam with a hint of yuzu. They were delicious, impressive considering I prefer my mussels to have as little intervention as possible. We could have eaten many more.P117074211th Course – Trip to Tokyo, oyster with ponzu sauce: Top quality Gillardeau oyster with a splash of ponzu and dashi sauce and salmon roe. Whilst I normally prefer my oysters naturally served, this was not a bad dish. The balance of the ponzu sauce and the natural saltiness of the oyster and salmon roes was spot on. I could see why the waiter recommended this oyster amongst the many other choices we had.

P117074912th Course – Crunchy Octopus with pickled Piparra: La piece de la resistance and by far the best dish that evening. The octopus grilled octopus was served on a bed of slightly hot kimchi butter and some crispy panko bread crumbs that worked ever so well for textural contrast. This was a very rich dish and the portion was just right for three adults. It went ever so well with the occasional bite of…

P1170747… traditional Basque long half pickled green chili’s called Piparra. Any Basque Pintxo aficionado will know how addictive these chili’s can be. The vinegar cut through the rich octopus beautifully to occasionally clean the palate.

P1170760Some bread to go with the next course of…

P117076113th Course – Surf and Turf with baby squids and Iberian sausages: A typical Catalan dish which requires one to know the region to truly appreciate it. I loved the fact that this humble dish had a place on Adria’s menu. Each of the elements were cooked well from the baby squid and white butifarra sausages to the beans. It was, however, an odd dish to have in a molecular cuisine restaurant and felt slightly visually ‘ordinary’.

P117076414th Course – Mini ciabatta with crunchy suckling pig: We felt we could order a few extra dishes so proceeded with some additional recommendations. The suckling pig sandwich was fatty, spicy and quite filling. Though the ciabatta was a bit thick it didn’t detract the flavour of the pig.P117077015th Course – Cannibal chicken with Chinese barbecue: Chicken thighs were served with a ‘bone’ made from yuca (cassava) chips over smoking coals. The Chinese barbeque sauce was nothing out of the ordinary but the chicken was tender and juicy.

P117077316th Course – Gunkan with trout roe: The dashi foam formed the base of the ‘rice’ element, dressed with some trout roes and shiso leaves. I didn’t enjoy the texture as it felt quite mushy and the nori was rather soggy. The flavour was however quite enjoyable, especially as each roe burst with its sticky juicy content.P117077817th Course: Foie gras tapa with its “palo cortado”: A rich disc of foie gras resting on top of a glass of semi-dry sherry. Loved the combination and a perfect transition into dessert.

P117078018th Course – Carrot cone, cardamom yoghurt, sugared sesame, and mango and carrot ice cream: A pre-dessert of all things orange. Refreshing and a great palate cleanser. I couldn’t decide whether I liked the texture of the raw carrot shavings but I thought the dish was overall well executed and different.

P1170781Course 19 – Air pancake, caramelised wafer, yoghurt foam, maple syrup and blackcurrant compote: Crispy pancake filled with yoghurt foam served with…P1170784… a jar of blackcurrant preserves. We were then instructed to smear the preserve over the pancake

P1170786I wasn’t quite sold on this dish and felt it missed the mark. Sure, it was a deceivingly light dish but the flavour became one-dimensional after a couple of bites. I’m not a big fan of preserves generally and this sadly was not an exception.P1170789Course 20 – Chocolate eclaire with hazelnut and royaltine: The hazelnut cream core and the crunchy chocolate royaltine were enjoyable, making this one classy ice cream sandwich. Overall however the dessert courses felt weak and lackluster in performance compared to the savory courses. Had it not been for my 11 month old daughter waking up and showing her discontent that she was not in her bed, I would perhaps have ordered a couple more dessert dishes but alas I had pushed the friendship far enough and it was time to get the bill.P1170756Tickets was a whole lot of fun and the chaotic atmosphere surprisingly played to our advantage with a little person in tow. Jokes aside, the food here was well thought out, perfectly executed but never too serious and almost always delicious. It was the type of place you’d want to randomly rock up to with a few friends after work or bring your family after a day out. This also highlighted my main criticism of Tickets, it wasn’t the type of place I wanted to book three months in advance, exhaustively fighting other people for a reservation. There is no sense of occasion that comes with the venue or the experience other than the connection to elBulli. Perhaps the latter explains why it remains one of the most difficult places to get a table in Barcelona four years on. Don’t get me wrong though. If you are in Barcelona you must give this place a try at least once.

El Celler de Can Roca, Girona

P1070991Chef: Joan, Jordi and Josep Roca         Website:

Cuisine: Modern Catalan

Little introduction is needed for the Roca brothers who brought back, since the closure of elBulli, the title of best restaurant in the world (well, at least according to San Pellegrino’s panel in 2013) to the region of Catalunya. However, their rise to fame wasn’t done overnight and required patience as they competed against the likes of Noma over a few years before knocking them off the crown, even if it was for just one year. But what makes Can Roca so special? Seldom does one establishment have such a recipe for success where each brother has excelled in their own field starting with Joan’s culinary direction as the executive chef, Josep’s impeccable choice and collection of wine as the sommelier and Jordi’s creativity as the pastry chef that is as whacky as Willy Wonka. Separately, they produce brilliance. What they bring together as a team is a gastronomic experience that is difficult to match.

P1080010I wasn’t ready to repeat my dinner experience in 2010 when we ended up leaving the restaurant around 2.30am so we opted for a lunch service on this occasion. We arrived a bit early as we tried to check out their gelateria, Rocambolesc, but unfortunately they were closed for a full refurbishment! So instead we decided to cheekily rock up a little early at Can Roca to enjoy their courtyard and were fortunate enough to get a glass of cava as the staff scoffed their lunch before opening for service.

P1080033I absolutely loved the interior space in Can Roca. Generous amount of space between the table allowing you for some privacy amongst your party, yet aesthetically modern and open, allowing you to see through the entire dining room. Yet again, we didn’t need much convincing to go for their extensive Festival menu.

P1080043The World, according to Joan Roca’s latest travels, was expressed through various bite-size morsels presented in a paper lantern representing the earth. The waiter proceeded by opening up the globe to reveal the contents. If there was one thing Can Roca does well it is their playful presentation. Creativity is not something that is lacking here.

P1080045A guacamole and grapfruit sphere represented Mexico, a liquid spherified ceviche ball for Peru (which came with a warning to have in one bite), hummus for Lebanon, honey and crumbled almonds for Morocco and kimchi for South Korea. They were good fun with distinct flavours depicting the countries from which Joan had been inspired. He even makes his own kimchi now. Impressive!

P1080050The Can Roca classic of the Caramelised Olives then made its appearance. A miniature olive tree was served like a bonzai in a pot. At closer inspection you could find green olives stuffed with anchovies with a caramelised coating hanging amongst its leaves. Sweet, brittle, sticky, juicy – all the sensations from each olive that was dangling off the branches. Sensational.

P1080065More amuse bouche followed with the Campari and grapefruit bonbon. This was a perfectly thin brittle cocoa butter sphere encasing a liquid mixture of the elegant bitters. A word of caution though, please eat this in one go.

P1080071Next was Joan Roca’s play on a Spanish classic of Calamares a la Romana. A welcome adaptation! The squid had been mashed up and reshaped into a thick circular disc and blow-torched before being topped with crispy balls of batter drenched with lemon juice. A finely balanced dish with a very intense flavour of squid and deliciously contrasting textures.

P1080072 Marinated mussels in a ceviche sauce served on long mother of pearl spoons. A soft juicy mussel with a citrus note. This was quite a bit more simple than the other amuse bouche and perhaps my least favourite.

P1080079The last set of amuse bouche was a celebration of the St George’s mushroom, served in two parts. A thin cocoa butter shell encased a liquid concentrated with the flavour of the mushroom, served in beautiful stoneware.

P1080083A bowl with a metal lid was then presented to each of us. Our waiter proceeded by lifting the lid to reveal…

P1080087… a St George’s mushroom brioche and a separate escudella (Catalan broth / stew) underneath in a bowl. We were advised to dunk the brioche into the broth before eating it.

Perhaps it was the choice of mushroom but I felt, for the amount of preparation that went into the mushroom, the intensity of the flavour was not at the level I expected. Some white truffle could have excited my olfactory senses better perhaps?P1080092On to our first course of the day with the Oyster with black pearl served in its own juice with melon juice, dots of cucumber, celery, apple, lime jelly, wood sorrel, melon flower and heartleaf iceplant. Whilst I consider myself to be a purist when it comes to the matter of oysters, I was pleasantly surprised as to how all the component worked here without distracting from the essence of the oyster. It was an elegant and finely balanced dish that could have easily gone wrong, but it didn’t.P1080094A beautiful dish then appeared before us which required a double-take. A dessert dish already? No, of course not, I was mistaken. It was instead Elderflower infusion, cherries with amaretto, gingered cherries and smoked sardine. Of course, how could I have mistaken? I wasn’t sure what to expect here as elderflower infusion, cherries and sardine sounded like a recipe for disaster. However, it was surprisingly memorable…. but for positive reasons. The smoked sardines transformed the dish from what could have been a dessert course into unique savoury dish. Floral, fruity and light – the elderflower infusion effectively removing the fishiness of the silky sardine leaving only the delicate flavour of the fish.

P1080102The next course was a celebration of the local staple, olives. A modern take on a classic with the Black olive gazpacho. This involved a spicy gordal olive mousse, black olive fritter, ice cream made from manzanilla and olives, toasted bread with oil, fennel jelly, winter savory jelly and picual olive. I was amazed to be able to distinctly pick out each flavour of the variety of olives. From the sweet black olive gazpacho to the contrasting bitter and salty gordal olive mousse and slices of picual olives. We needed more bread to mop this beauty up.

P1080109Another savoury dish appeared again mimicking a classic dessert (also known as Viennetta for the non-Spanish), the White asparagus comtessa and black truffle powder. I thought the white asparagus on the side was unnecessary but it did allow me to greater appreciate the intensity of the creamy and velvety ice cream which was full of asparagus flavour such as I had never tasted before. The icing on the cake, literally and figuratively, was that earthy black truffle powder. If only Vienetta came in this flavour…

P1080122 Joan Roca made sure to make full use of the King prawn (I am often frustrated when other establishments have failed to serve the whole crustacean) served charcoal grilled with king prawn sand, ink rocks, fried legs, head juice and king prawn essence. Admittedly, this did not come anywhere near the prawns I had at Asador Etxebarri but I did enjoy the extremely intense and rich essence made from the brain and the smokey flesh of the prawn. My favourite bit, however, was the crispy fried head and legs. Crunchy.

P1080128A slightly smoked fillet of Red sea bream, yuzu, capers and crunchy pickled vegetables was next. This was a nicely cooked piece of fish, tender and moist but nothing extraordinary and perhaps slightly disappointing when compared against the other dishes.

P1080134A much stronger fish course was the Salty cod brandade with salt cod tripe, salt cod foam, olive oil soup, shallots, honey, thyme and chilli pepper. Great interplay of flavours from the creamy and salty brandade balanced against the sweet honey and slightly citrusy thyme. The slight kick from the red chilli was again spot on. Despite the strong flavours, it was a surprisingly light dish.

P1080146Whilst there had been no disaster courses, I felt there had been a lackluster performance in the main segment of the meal compared to the amuse bouches. That was however rectified with the tender and suckling Iberian suckling pig blanquette that had been cooked at 63°C over 30 hours, retaining a beautifully crispy crackling coating. Joan Roca went further to match his take on the cochinillo (suckling pig) with a deconstructed aroma of riesling wine using sweet mango terrine, melon, beetroot, beetroot purée, black garlic, onion and slightly tart orange concentrate. This was much more like it. Clever piece of cooking indeed.

P1080148Next was a minimalist interpretation of the traditional Catalan fishermen’s soup (Suquet); essentially Red mullet cooked sous-vide at a low temperature, served on top of a concentrated fish soup with shredded cabbage and three towers of purée; orange, fennel and saffron. The depth of the fish soup was remarkable and the fish was unbelievably flavoursome. Personally I still prefered the traditional rustic soup but this wasn’t bad.

P1080156A glass cloche filled with smoke was then presented to us. The waiter then proceeded by revealing what laid hidden underneath…

P1080165… which was a smokey Charcoal grilled lamb breast fillet and sweetbreads with spring mushrooms.  Tender piece of lamb, crispy skin and silky sweetbread, served over a concentrated lamb jus which had also been soaked up by some of the earthy morel mushrooms. I wondered what they had done with the rest of the lamb because I wanted more.

P1080168The finale of the savoury segment was a rather brave dish of Pigeon liver and onion, curry-caramelised walnuts, juniper, orange peel and herbs. I absolutely loved the marriage of flavours between the rich gamey pigeon liver mousse, the curry and walnut caramel layer and the classic orange. A sliver of pigeon liver was also served pink but that didn’t phase me. This was a solid dish which also appeared on my first visit and I could see why. Earthy, gamey, rich and intense. I could however appreciate that if game and liver was not your thing then you would have been less enthused.

P1080179On to the dessert and the best course of the evening. The Caramelised apricot: blown sugar apricot with vanilla and caramelised apricot cream was not only a work of art but divine. Visually this is one of the best dishes I have encountered with unbelievable craftsmanship. The sugar work was filled with an apricot foam and presented on a bed of vanilla. The intensity of the apricot flavour was unbelievable and stood out next to the slice of fresh apricot. It was one hell of a dessert particulalry considering I was not the biggest apricot fan… until that day.

P1080185Another modern interpretation by Jordi Roca with Strawberries and cream which was perhaps the weakest dessert dish. It was essentially just a rod of strawberry sorbet, wrapped in a cylinder of cream and more strawberry sorbet, ringed by a spiral of delicate sugar work. Mind you, fresas con nata (strawberry with cream) is a very popular dish in Spain so perhaps the significance may have been slightly lost on some.

P1080190Our final dessert dish was a Mocha mille-feuille, anise mille-feuille with mocha foam and coffee granita. A comforting dish with a lovely contrast of texture, between the gooey mocha and brittle sugar sheets, and flavour, between the sweet foam and bitter coffee granita. It was however the not the most visually appealing dessert, resembling perhaps closer to a half chewed snicker bar. Looks can be deceiving, indeed.

P1080175An addition to the dining room was the Sweets trolley designed by local artist Andreu Carulla (who also designed the lantern from the amuse bouche, equipments in Rocambolesc and many other tableware at Can Roca). The trolley was filled with macarons, chocolates, fruit jellies and other sweets. To be honest, I was too full by this point.

P1080213My second visit to Can Roca was thoroughly impressive as my first one and also confirmed a few things. First and foremost, it was a great opportunity to be able to recalibrate essentially what was my fine dining benchmark. Suffice to say, the bar had been raised again. A secondary observation confirmed my thoughts from my first meal; the creativity and fautless execution of the amuse bouche and desserts are what makes Can Roca one of my all time favourite restaurant. Last but not least, I love the fact that behind all the modern techniques and interpretations, the cuisine at heart is undeniably Catalan and has deep roots to the region. Having grown up with this region as a reference all my life, the food felt familiar yet refreshingly new. What more could I ask for? Well, perhaps a shorter waiting list.

Compartir, Cadaques

P1080252 ChefM. CasañasO. Castro & E. Xatruch   Website:

Cuisine: Catalan / Seafood

The closure of elBulli in 2011 marked the advent of a new culinary movement that had been inspired by Ferran Adria’s molecular cuisine. Interestingly, whilst many of these chefs had at some stage worked in elBulli under Adria, many of them subsequently made a conscious decision to part either partially or entirely from the molecular discipline. Foraging, ethical sourcing and quality of the produce and ingredients was the new thing. Many of them, like Rene Redzepi from Noma, catapulted into the culinary spotlight, but others had resorted to keeping an equally talented but low profile. The restaurant Compartir, opened by three of the elBulli chefs, is exactly the latter. Located in the picturesque coastal town of Cadaques it’s fair to say that the three chef’s didn’t get far from elBulli to start their new venture.

P1080254We couldn’t really predict what our meal going to be. Some of my friends who missed out on a meal at elBulli had secretly hoped for a molecular feast but the food here couldn’t have been more different. Having had a holiday house in the region for the last twenty years, I knew what amazing produce the Emporda region and the Costa Brava had to offer but I didn’t quite expect to be amazed by the quality of the seafood we were about to have.

P1080259The name Compartir literally means ‘to share’ in Spanish. Suffice to say, majority of the dishes were designed with that concept at the heart. We commenced our meal with some delicious prawn crackers to whet our appetite. Light, airy and void of oiliness, this prawn cracker didn’t scream out amazingness but was certainly the best of its kind I’ve had. I particularly loved the deep flavour of prawn that came through despite its light airy texture.

P1080265The reminiscence of elBulli was seen in the aperitif of the Peach mousse cocktail which had a viscous froth and unbelievably fruity flavour. I could have easily had ten more!

P1080267Decadence is an appropriate word to describe the first plate of nibbles, a wooden board covered with the glorious Iberico ham “Joselito”. Maybe it was the salty air blowing off the nearby coast that exacerbated our thirst, but this ham was going down like a treat with our cold Estrella Damm Inedit, (aka the elBulli beer), which is perhaps one of the better lagers Spain has produced.

P1080268And when there’s ham, there’s Pa amb tomaquet or simply bread with tomato, a truly iconic catalan dish. Crusty home made bread rubbed with garlic, drenched with grated tomato and its juice and a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil.

P1080271 As a rule, the one thing my wife generally tries to avoid is tomato (I know, she’s clearly crazy) so I am not entirely sure what possessed her to order this. However, I certainly was glad she decided to order the Tomato and strawberries with parmesan and basil, even she admits this is one of the best balanced salads flavour wise that she has tasted. Classic flavours which worked unbelievably well together.

P1080274On to our first seafood dish of the Warm razor clams from Langosteira beach with a lemon touch. A simply beautiful dish and the quality of the razor clams from the colder atlantic coast was just stunning. Full of natural sweetness from the high content of glycogen, what amazed me the most was the size of the meaty molusc even after slightly cooking it. Lemon was all this needed to give it that zing.

P1080278The amazing seafood continued…..Luck had it that I finally had the opportunity to try the highly sought after gooseneck barnacles (percebes) from the coast of Galicia. These bad boys have the nickname of ‘fortune on the rocks’ and can fetch as much as 300 euros a kilogram. The downside to this is the danger that comes as the waves violently try to throw about the men that scavenge for them on jagged rocks. The Galicians claim that when cooked they set the palate on ecstasy. They were not far off for I had never tasted something that had such an intense flavour of the ocean. As you bit off the tip and sucked the inside, you could taste a combination of rich crab meat, oyster and prawn simultaneously. All this from just boiling them in water!

P1080282More elBulli moments with this clever dish of the Cod buñuelo (crouquettes) with honey espuma. The deep-fried cod was lighty and airy yet retained an amazing concentration of cod flavour. The clever piece of cooking here was the use of the honey foam. I find the classic combination of honey and cod sometimes too sweet for my liking, but the foam introduced the aromatic honey without tipping the balance of flavours.

P1080285The Iberico rice casserole with wild mushrooms was as rustic as a dish got here. I recognised many of the mushrooms as I often foraged for them when I visited my parents who live in the region. There were trumpets of death, yellow foots (camagrocs) and girolles that added that earthy undertone to the rice. The addition of the iberico chorizo to the dish was sacrilegious but worked well with the saltiness and distinct flavour it brought.

P1080288We couldn’t finish the meal without opting for the Sea bass with mushrooms and seaweed that had been strongly recommended by the waiter. You could definitely see the Asian influence here with the citrusy yuzu flavour, sesame seeds and the seaweed like mushroom. The rich and sticky sauce, which still remains a mystery, had a surprisingly smokey note to it. I did however find the fish on the small size and wished that we had ordered another plate given we were nine people!

P1080291The dessert dishes were neither Catalan nor rustic but a deconstructed Cheesecake and cherry ice cream. Nothing special to note here other than a good level of tartness from the cherry ice cream balanced against the crème anglaise and sweet crumbs of cookie.

P1080294Some Liquid chocolate bon bon with mango sorbet to finish the meal and that was it. Admittedly this wasn’t a destination restaurant in the same league as elBulli. It was however honest, without pretension and offered some of the freshest and most delicious seafood I have had to date in the region. Rather than concentrating on crazy molecular theatrics at the table, these three chefs made the conscious choice to apply their vast experience and skills in drawing out the natural flavours of the high quality ingredients and produce they had at their disposal. This restaurants was established with the customer in mind. It was a place to catch up with family and friends over good honest food without having to fork out a fortune. This is exactly the kind of place I could visit every month.

Le Relais Bernard Loiseau, Saulieu

P1070268Chef: Patrick Bertron   Website:   Cuisine: Modern French

The culinary world lost a legend in 2003 when one of France’s most respected chefs took his own life, possibly influenced by rumours that he was about to lose his third Michelin star. Setting aside this controversial matter, Loiseau’s contribution to the culinary world is echoed through the practices still observed today at most fine dining restaurants. Ahead of his time, he departed from the french standard of using butter and cream, instead substituting fish and meat stock to provide flavour. He even thickened his sauce through reduction, something inconceivable in the 1970’s. He was only the second person in the culinary world after Paul Bocuse to be awarded the Légion d’Honneur by the French President, François Mitterrand. Quite an honour indeed!

P1070254From humble beginnings of a rundown 18th century coaching inn, the building transformed into a culinary destination and luxury accommodation that is now part of the Relais and Chateaux network. Now under the management of Loiseau’s wife Dominique Brunet and the culinary direction of Loiseau’s second in command, Patrick Bertron, the restaurant has managed to maintain their third Michelin star to date. As we were driving through the region en route to Italy, we thought we’d make the most by stopping by for their unbelievably well priced four-course Nationale 6 Lunch (70 euro).

P1070186The menu, rightly for the price, did not have any options so it was a very easy choice. Our starter was a rather classic Œuf cassé et pointes d’asperges gourmandes au coulis saveur tonka (poached egg with a gourmand asparagus and a tonka flavoured coulis). A simple dish but executed perfectly; runny yolk, asparagus with a bite, salty ham for seasoning the dish and a rather interestingly intense and spicy tonka infused sauce that brought a new dimension to the dish.

P1070194For our fish courses we had the Filet de Féra du lac Léman cuit façon meunière, champignon rosé de Paris en royale et beurre blanc à l’origan. A fillet of the Broad Whitefish (Féra) from Lake Léman was prepared with a buttery meuniere sauce, accompanied by three preparations of mushrooms including a tower of sautéed and puréed mushrooms encased in a thin layer of toasted bread. This highly prized fish, which is a close relative to salmon and trout, is particularly sought after from this lake. It was very fresh, subtle and absent of any less favourable ‘fishiness flavours’ you can occasionally get with fish.

P1070204We had some mixed feelings on our meat course of the Pavé de porc du Limousin, cannelloni de légumes à la moutarde d’estragon et rognonnade à la bourguignonne, jus infusé au boldo. The vegetable cannelloni with the tarragon infused mustard was the star component of the dish with a lovely crispy exterior texture and soft juicy flesh of the vegetable. Unfortunately, I found the pork fillets a touch on the dry side, though the kidney cooked in Burgundy style was delicious and absent from any of that pungent smell and aftertaste one can sometimes encounter with kidney.

P1070213Dessert was perhaps the least imaginative with the Fraicheur de fruits rouges et melon à l’estragon, but then again what could we expect for such a bargain price? The melon sorbet was remarkably creamy and had some zing from the hints of tarragon that had been blended in. The strawberry purée and watermelon foam complemented to the dish with their natural sweetness.

P1070220Some pastries to finish the meal starting with apple, followed by lemon, and finished with rhubarb. If there’s one thing the French did well it was their pastry. I was hoping to have some coffee with it but the waiter indicated there would be a separate plate of petit fours to go with that and made the suggestion to have it in their garden. An excellent suggestion!

P1070246Perhaps the menu we opted for was not a fair representation of what Bertran was capable of delivering. As expected from a three-Michelin starred restaurant, the execution here was flawless and there were no slip ups from the front of house. I did however feel that the food had not entirely departed from the era of ‘nouvelle cuisine’ despite some futile attempts in introducing some modern elements. Fundamentally, I felt there was a lack of excitement and creativity in the dishes. At a time where new generations of chefs continue to push the culinary boundary, I suspect, without continued innovation, it will probably be a matter of time before they lose that third twinkle.

Le Mirazur, Menton

P1070776Chef: Mauro Colagreco    Website:    Cuisine: Modern French

Perched on the hillside of the Franco-Italian border overlooking the glittering Mediterranean sea and the Côte d’Azur is Mirazur, a two-Michelin starred restaurant headed by the charismatic chef Mauro Colagreco. Colagreco left his native Argentina in 2001 to work under the notable Bernard Loiseau, Alain Passard and Alain Ducasse before opening his restaurant in Menton in 2006. Further to his impressive CV, Colagreco has defied the odds by becoming one of only a handful of foreign chefs on French soil that has more than one star to his name and become the first foreign chef to win the coveted title of Gault Millau ‘chef of the year’.

P1070614The restaurant occupied a 1950’s modernist building, redesigned by the architect Rick Mather, with the main dining room located on the top floor. Whilst the interior space was comfortable with ample space, I was glad to have requested the window table…

P1070632… which had a jaw-dropping view over Menton and afar. Unfortunately, the sun had disappeared for the rest of the afternoon but that did not dampen our spirit. The menu at Mirazur was entirely dependent on the fresh local produce available on the given day. Other than for allergies and dislikes, the kitchen had full control over the menu and all we could do was wait eagerly at our table as each course was brought out. We sipped our glasses of Billecart-Salmon Rosé as our amuse bouches were brought out starting with…

P1070621… Langoustine bonbon which was a crispy deep fried shell that contained a concentrated langoustine broth. It had to be eaten in one bite or you otherwise risked wearing the content. Delicate crustacean flavours which could have benefited perhaps from a bit more reduction to concentrate the flavour.

P1070623A sweet and tangy Beetroot chip with goats cheese and variety of beetroot balls which was very simple but delicious.

P1070629The ultimate amuse bouche of the Seaweed cracker with Norwegian salmon with a herbal mixture of mascarpone was an absolute delight. The slightly salty cracker with umami from the seaweed enhanced the fresh sweet flavour of the salmon. Wow. I was amazed to see how much flavour Colagreco managed to draw out from just a handful of ingredients.

P1070636Next came a wooden board with a large loaf of sourdough pain de partage, literally breaking bread for sharing, as a gesture of welcome to Mirazur following the Argentinian tradition. It came with a generous amount of Menton lemon and ginger infused olive oil and butter. The bread had a lovely crusty exterior and fluffy interior, perfect for soaking up the aromatic and peppery olive oil.

P1070637The first course of the Huitres au concombre set an extremely high standard and expectation for the meal to come. It was a beautiful marriage of flavours between the fresh oysters high in minerality, seaweed and cucumber served two ways – a refreshingly cool purée and slices rolled up. 

P1070645A good selection of bread was on offer including a cinnamon and almond roll, a sourdough rye, baguette and a flat and cracker-like textures pane carasau that had been seasoned in aromatic rosemary and sea salt. I went for… all of them!

P1070647Our second course was a further impressive Carpaccio de Gamberoni de San Remo, et pêche et basilic. Freshly caught prawns from San Remo were carefully sliced and prepared as a carpaccio, served with little balls of peaches and peach jus as well as basil leaves. There were different layers of sweetness from the natural sweetness of the prawns to the fruity one of the peach and its jus. The finishing touches of the peppery basil completed this dish, making it one of the highlights from the meal.

P1070659The Salades d’haricots, cerises et vinaigrette à la pistache was no ordinary salad. There were butter beans, green beans, shavings of zucchini, all cooked to perfection with a bite, served with pistachios, shallots, red onion, red and white cherries and ginger. The salad had then been dressed with herbs from Colagreco’s garden, lemon infused oil and white balsamic vinegar. I admire a chef who has the confidence to serve a salad dish and make it this good. Despite its unassuming appearance this was one of the most memorable dishes of the day.

P1070662More flavours of the ocean with the Navet et palourdes au bouillon de coquillage (turnip and clams in a broth made from shells). The turnip had absorbed the broth made from shells providing a sweet and mineral component to the dish, drawing out the sweetness of the clams. The only thing that didn’t belong on this dish were the nasturtiums.

P1070670A beautifully presented Oeuf canne, crème de choux fleur et anguille fumée, effectively a duck shell that had been emptied and refilled with its yolk, cauliflower purée and smoked eel with a piece of hazelnut hiding inside. It was a very rich dish despite it’s simplistic look, making the small portion ideal. I was almost tempted to dunk a solider (how decadent would that be?) but sadly had already finished my bread.

P1070685Colagreco was a magician with an ability to really transform simple vegetables into a stunning dish like the Ragout de courgettes du jardin, boulots et bouillon de légumes grillés. The star of this dish was the deep smokey flavour of the stock made from grilled vegetables which was also used to cook the courgettes and squash from his garden and the sea snails. What was unbelievable was that the best was yet to come…

P1070691… which was the Risotto de quinoa, cepes, mousserons, charbonniers, girolles et crème de parmesan. A large slate weighing around 5kg was presented to us as a sharing course. On it were generous portions of ceps, oyster, mousseron, charbonnier and girolle mushrooms on a bed of quinoa risotto and a creamy sauce made from parmesan. The morsels of parsley brioche were perfect to mop up the cream. This was funghi heaven and despite the ridiculously large portion, we mopped it all up. I still dream about this dish…

P1070697The catch of the day was Turbot au jus d’oignon (with an onion juice). The fillet of the turbot was utterly delightful with a firm texture. Although the surprising star of this dish was the buttery onion jus that left you wanting more. The fish was more a conduit to canvas the flavour of the sweet jus.

P1070701The only meat course of the day was the Cochon de lait, polenta aux noix et jus corsé; milk fed suckling pig served with a bed of polenta with nuts, onions and champignon mushroom. Perfect crackling and tender meat but we were stuffed. The risotto dish had KO’d us. A sound dish, although admittedly, I thought his vegetable and seafood dishes were much more interesting.

P1070712At my wife’s insistence, we decided to share a platter of cheese, including some comté and argui to go with a glass of port.

P1070721The Soupe de camomille, sorbet pomme verte et feuille de lait served as a palate cleanser, transitioning to the dessert segment. The aromatic and flowery camomile soup was very soothing on the palate and the touch of acidity from the green apple sorbet cleansed what was lingering from the cheese course. The milky cream downed the tartness of the green apple, making this a very balanced dish.

P1070730Dessert was by no mean inferior to the savoury dishes. The Crème de safran, espuma d’amandes, sorbet orange was exactly what I needed after the epic meal. The orange brioche was perfect in soaking up the sweet nutty almond foam, slightly bitter saffron cream and cold orange sorbet. But wait… Colagreco had one more dish!

P1070733If we were not before, then we certainly became gluttons after this meal. Mind you, we didn’t mind either! Our grand finale was the Brioche maison caramelisée, purée de fraises et fleurs de sureau, a fluffy and light caramelised brioche with a wild strawberry purée and elderberry flowers. The natural sweetness of the strawberries was unbelievable! I could have had a bowl of them on their own.

P1070751We decided to get some fresh air and make most of the intermittent sunny spells we had. I have a rule that where the opportunity arises I would light my favourite Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2 cigar after a memorable meal and this was one of them. But before puffing away on the deck over looking Mauro’s gardern and the Mediterranean, I savoured the Menton lemon macaron, citrus jelly and blown rice pudding, followed by a shot of Argentinian grappa to go with my cigar. Perfect recommendation I must say!

P1070609I couldn’t quite put my finger at describing Colagreco’s cuisine for it wasn’t constricted to a region or nation. If anything, Colagreco’s focus was really on drawing out big flavours from a handful of ingredients and produce, keeping the flavours harmonious. The dishes appeared deceptively simple, yet every component down to the wild flowers and herbs picked from his garden added a new dimension and impact to each dish. And then there was also the spectacular view, the friendly service and Colagreco’s passion that was evidently contagious to his team. We couldn’t help but smile throughout our five hour experience that felt like it ended all too soon. This undoubtedly is one of the best restaurants in the world right now.

La Grenouillere, Montreuil sur Mer


Chef: Alexandre Gauthier      Website:     Cuisine: Modern French

I think it’s a fair assumption to say that the French in general have a relatively low tolerance for modern cuisine and, to a certain extent, I can see their point; why fix something when it’s right? Challenging this concept however, there has been a growing number of chefs over the last decade that have been daring enough to embrace the modern aesthetic. Alexandre Gauthier is one such individual. Since taking over the reins from his father in 2003, Gauthier has come a long way to regain the Michelin star the restaurant lost in 2001. In addition, he has established a hotel that fully encompasses his unique vision and reflects his ethos of working with nature.

P1090555The auberge and restaurant are situated in an idyllic location right by the river Canche, outside the village of Montreuil. This picturesque site is further enhanced by what appears to be a completely wild and rugged garden, full of wild flowers and grasses. On closer inspection however, it is clear that every detail has been carefully considered, highlighting Gauthier’s respect of the natural environment.

P1090503In usual fashion, we commenced the evening with a glass of champagne and an array of amuse bouches in the sitting room located in the old farmhouse that previously served as the main dining room during Gauthier’s fathers time. The imposing fireplace added character to the rustic room that had wooden beams across the ceiling and polished stone floors. Gauthier has thoughtfully and lovingly conserved the room in its former style, respecting the roots and rich history of the auberge.

P1090573The restaurant, on the other hand, went through a serious transformation in 2011 when Gauthier discovered Patrick Bouchain (the architect behind the contemporary gites, Les Cadoles, Maison Troisgros) and employed him to help “reinvent” the restaurant. The result has been a giant theatrical space allowing curious patrons to observe the chefs working methodically in the modern and open kitchen during their meal.

P1090531The new minimalist dining room equipped with tanned leather chairs and tables was elegant but simple, and did not distract diners from the beautiful garden surrounding the entire room visible through floor to ceiling windows.

P1090572We managed to try all the bread that was on offer throughout the evening. Suffice to say, bread making is a religious affair in France that even the avant garde chefs are simply not willing to do without. Great textures, crust and flavours.

P1090583The first course of the evening was a light and delicate egg white curd that had been stuffed with grey shrimps (Blanc d’oeuf caillé, crevettes grises). Interesting texture not too dissimilar to that of cottage cheese.

P1090584An extra course of razor clam was placed on the edge of our bowl (Ensin, blanc d’oeuf…). The raw clam, served in its shell on a bed of fluffy egg white foam dusted with corn powder, had a very clean and mineral flavour. Nice crunchiness from the fine crouton crumbs.

Green strawberry, seaweed, fresh cockles and sea waterI must admit tonight was a first for many things but I had not expected to try green strawberry (Fraise verte…), nor combined it with cockles, seaweed and homemade seawater. The acidity of the unripe strawberry added freshness to the dish and was amazingly balanced by the sweetness of the slightly cooked cockles. The seaweed provided a textural element and the “seawater” was the perfect seasoning to bring the dish altogether. A highly unique and delicious dish!

P1090595I similarly enjoyed the octopus and petit pois (Petits pois, seiche…), particularly how Gauthier played with the texture. The octopus was soft and mushy (as one would usually expect from cooked peas) whereas the giant petit pois were cooked with extreme precision to provide a delicious crunch. The concentrated petit pois juice served at the table rounded off this naturally sweet dish. Admittedly, what impressed me most with this dish was how much flavour of the octopus I could taste as they are quite often served with sauces that dominate the flavour of the dish.

P1090600A gigantic 000 oyster, hiding under a long tagliatelle of zucchini (Huître grillée, courgette…). The oyster perfumed with smoke went particularly well with the peppery rocket and sweet zucchini.

P1090604Another surprise course appeared containing cockles with slices of raw yellow squash and lemon zest (Courges jeunes, coques, fleur). The squash was the perfect canvas to amplify the flavour of the clams whilst giving a meaty texture.

P1090607The surprise courses kept on coming including this John Dory course (Saint-Pierre, épinard fumé…). The delicately salted fillet of fish arrived perched atop a bed of silky smoked spinach and crunchy spring onion.

P1090613I had to do a double take when the little cushions made from wheat were presented amongst an entangled rope (Coussin de blé…). The cushions were filled with a very seductive white truffle emulsion that engulfed our table with its aroma for the next five minutes. Delicious.

P1090618An example of Gauthier’s obsession in respecting and maintaining the purity of ingredient was the delicate lobster tail, slightly poached, and infused lightly with the smoke from the burning juniper branch it was served in (Homard, genièvre…). Putting aside the theatrical spectacle of the dish, the buttery flavour and succulent texture of the lobster was stunning and the aroma of the burning juniper enhanced the taste without necessarily complicating the “essence” of the dish.

P1090626The globe artichoke served on a bed of thistle seeds (Chardon, grainés) was probably the least favourite dish of the evening. Don’t get me wrong, the dish wasn’t terrible but neither was it interesting. There was something missing on the plate which I couldn’t put my finger on. Possibly some kind of a sauce or something that bound the elements together. It was rather dry.

P1090632Another surprise course of the grilled frogs legs served on a bed of basil leaves (Grenouilles grillées, basilic), dressed with a caramel flavoured mousse made from butter and lemon. Tender and delicious, but most interestingly you could really taste the meat and it was divine. I don’t think I’ve ever taste the flavour so distinctly before as most restaurants have tended to deep-fry them to a crisp. Brave move but the risk paid off.

P1090636Our penultimate savoury course had me wondering for a while as I couldn’t see any girolles mushroom at first sight (girolle, peau de lait, amandes…). Rather, the girolles that had been lightly pan fried in garlic butter were nestling below a thin skin of slightly sour goats milk with some almonds. Complex flavours with the sour note working well in contrast to the peppery mushroom.Vachette with courgette despite it hav ing the crunch texture exactly like celery. Great flavours from such a cheap cutOur only meat course consisted of a smokey thin cut of steak which was served with garlic scapes / stems (vachettes, tiges…). Gauthier came out himself to serve this course to explain why he chose a cheap cut as he firmly believed that mundane ingredients properly prepared could be phenomenal. Granted, it was a bit chewy but it was packed with flavour. What amazed me most and remains a mystery was how he managed to infuse such an intense smokey flavour into the meat, given it was served blue?

P1090652Dessert was by no means inferior to the impressive dishes that had preceded it. I certainly would not have thought that presenting a block of honeycomb at our table would have aroused as much excitement as some of the spectacles I experienced in places like el Bulli; but it did. The waitress prepared the piece of honeycomb on a small spoon and dressed it with the juice from a fresh lemon. It was so simple yet ingenious and truly refreshing!


To top it off, the waitress prepared us some home made mead, that incorporated local honey, yeast and water, by using what appeared to be an industrial sized mouth pump pipette contraption. A beautiful combination with the piece of honey; a light floral tone and refreshing citrus aftertaste.P1090663The first dessert course had the overall effect of grazing over a green field (Herbes grasses…). The bottom layer revealed thin slices of creamy avocado on which sat a piece of avocado and pistachio sponge cake, topped with a herb ice cream. The combination of creamy avocado, nutty sweet cake and cold tangy ice cream was unbelievable. Certainly not something I would have chosen off menu but I was glad to have had it. Chocolate in many texturesAny equally odd combination followed with chocolate and French parsley (Cacao, cerfeuil…). The French parsley were carefully scattered across the chocolate cookie-wafer body, held together using smooth chocolate cream. The chocolate was delicate and luxurious but perhaps the French parsley was rather more visually appeasing, and less so on the palate.

P1090668Our last course tasted was colourful as it looked (Framboise, coquelicot…). Elegantly balanced on a bed of goats yoghurt was a tower of square raspberry jelly and black liquorice biscuits, topped with poppy petals. A perfect way to finish the evening.

P1090565I was generally impressed with the avant-garde cuisine that Gauthier had developed. Contrary to many of his peers in France, his cooking was expressed through his eccentricity in combining mundane ingredients and products to create something new and unusual. By experiencing the whole tasting menu one could only get a glimpse of his vision, but what was obvious was his appreciation and respect for natural flavours. I liked the fact that he enjoyed challenging the palate of the discerning diners without compromising on his philosophy. Just as how Bocuse had led a culinary revolution many decades ago with ‘nouvelle cuisine’, it’s encouraging to see the next generations of chef doing the same by challenging the norm. La Grenouillere may perhaps be one of the most exciting restaurant in France right now.

Ledoyen, Paris

P1060886Chef: Christian LeSquer      Website:      Cuisine: Modern French

Ledoyen is one of Paris’ oldest restaurants situated in the quiet gardens off the Champs Elysées. The restaurant dates as far back as 1779 when it operated as an inn in the outskirt of Paris before it transformed into a restaurant under Pierre-Michel Ledoyen twelve years later. As one of Paris’ oldest restaurant it has catered for some high profile individuals including Monet, Picasso, Cezanne, Degas and Flaubert, and was reportedly where Napoleon and Joséphine first met. As a restaurant that has been far more secretive about their success, I was very curious to try Head Chef Christian LeSquer’s cooking. After all, he was instrumental in gaining the third Michelin star after joining the restaurant in 2002.

P1060879The neoclassical influenced two storey building, which extended to the interior, evidenced by the luxurious and elegant curtain and coordinating wall papers. This must be one of the most majestic dining space in Paris and surprisingly very comfortable too from the generously large tables to the plush armchairs. All three sides of the dining room looked out on the tranquil garden and almost made you forget you were in the middle of a large city.

P1060798Unlike many of the other three Michelin starred establishments in Paris, Ledoyen also has an amazing offer during the weekday for lunch. For only 128 euros you can get an amazing three-course meal, which also includes a few tasty surprises before, between and after the courses. What’s more, cheese is a given and not even considered to be a course. Bargain! I noticed the Maitre’D conversing in Japanese with the diners sitting next to us before coming to take our order in fluent English. Very impressive given we were in Paris where the language of fine dining is dictated by French.

P1060794Some nibbles to kick off starting with a parcel that was filled with a delicious and aromatically inviting white truffle velouté, followed by a savoury pastry dusted with an intense mushroom powder and finishing with an onion and leek pastry served on a spoon. Classic flavours with a modern presentation; what a lovely surprise!

P1060796A variety of horseradish and squid ink crackers to go with our glass of Duval Leroy, Femme de Champagne, 2000.

P1060800A choice of three bread starting with a sesame roll that had a texture and moisture of a buttery brioche, a crusty and flavoursome baguette and finally a light flavoured olive oil bread. Suffice to say, the French take their bread very seriously and this was no exception.

P1060803Just when we thought our first course was being served, our waiter surprised us with one final mise en bouche of the smoked eel accompanied with a blue and red concentrated cabbage jus. The eel was handled very delicately and had a good amount of smokiness to it. A great balance of acidity from the red cabbage jus as well. Thoroughly impressive stuff and we had not even had our starter!

P1060807Foie Gras des Landes au vin de Médoc, Meringue citron / framboise. A very elegant dish combining a base made from rich foie gras that had been poached in red wine with a layer of a lemon and raspberry meringue sitting on top with a caramelised surface, finished with a thin crisp for textural variation. The sweetness and acidity from the meringue was just superb to cut through the foie gras, making this a very light starter. Possibly the best foie gras dish I’ve ever had to date.

P1060815We all have one of those bad decisions we would regret for a long time and the Aiguillette de Saint-Pierre à l’infusion d’Estragon was it. It was basically John Dory cooked in a water bath, served over a bed of lemon and tarragon cream and topped with some grapefruit pulps. Don’t get me wrong. It was not a bad dish but did not come close to my wife’s….

P1060823Pièce de boeuf “Hereford”, sauce ketchup. To put it simply, this was possibly the best cut of steak I have ever had outside Japan and the benchmark against which I now compare all meat dishes. A beautiful sirloin sourced from the high sought-after breed of Hereford. It had all the hallmarks of an amazing steak – juicy, soft and bags of flavour – and hardly needed anything else, including the bastardised “le ketchup” sauce. Mind you, the olive tapenade encrusted bone marrow and blown potato crisps were delicious in their own right.

P1060825And of course, when in France, one must do what a French man does, eat cheese! Superb selection from the Fromages frais et affinés (fancy way of saying fresh and matured cheese), sourced from none other than the masters of cheese, Bernard Antony and Quatre Hommes. Did I also forget to mention that the cheese course was included in the three-course option? Amazing.

P1060847Some pre-dessert nibbles to prepare our palate served on a giant meringue. A very fruity and sweet wild strawberry tart, an airy and crunchy orange brioche with raspberry jam, a ball of black and white sesame seeds and ginger, and a basil and almond crème brûlée ball.

P1060853Our meal got even better when LeSquer decided to make a special appearance and prepare specially for us a bonus course of the their signature dish, Croquant de Pamplemousse cuit et cru. A celebration of grapefruit prepared in five ways starting from the bottom with a layer of sweet confit grapefruit, grapefruit marinated in lime for that lovely citrus flavour and acidity, a refreshingly cool layer of grapefruit sorbet, a grapefruit croquant and finally grapefruit marmalade dotted across the dish. It was refreshing, cool and surprisingly well balanced as I expected the dish to be very tart. It definitely overshadowed our subsequent dessert dishes.

P1060864I opted for the Fraisier Contemporin which was, surprise surprise, all about strawberries. The naturally sweet strawberries formed the base and was also used to make the cream and foam. There was a cold layer of vanilla custard inside and some extra servings on the side just in case you wanted a bit more. Contrary to our expectation, it was a delicate course with a light flavour of strawberries despite the overwhelming pink. A contemporary take on strawberry and cream.

P1060868The other option was the Rémoulade printanière de carottes aux épices (a spring remoulade from spiced carrots). A couple of slices of fresh orange and cream formed the based to be crowned with shavings of carrot, a carrot sponge cake and some sugar work incorporating concentrated carrot juice. Beautiful vivid colours and a work of art, but more importantly it worked well. The carrot gave the depth and body to the sweet and refreshing flavours of the orange.

P1060872Just in case dessert wasn’t enough, we were also presented with some Kouign-amann avec noisette caramelisee. A traditional cake from Brittany made with bread dough containing a generous portion of butter and sugar folded in and baked slowly, served with caramelised nuts. This was like a croissant on steroid; it was much thicker and much sweeter. Delicieux!

P1060875Some caramel and chocolate mignardises to go with our coffee. We were absolutely stuffed!

P1060843From our discussion with LeSquer at the end of our meal it became apparent as to why there was so little publicity for Ledoyen; after all the website only contained a number and address. He wanted people like us to come with a sense of curiosity, not knowing what to expect. We came, we ate, and we left enchanted. From a first class front of house and comfortable dining space to a flawlessly executed meal at a bargain price, Ledoyen for me was far more enjoyable than Guy Savoy or Epicure. If you truly want an unforgettable experience in Paris, just follow the steps of Napoleon. You won’t regret it.

Frantzén, Stockholm (Previously Frantzén Lindeberg)

P1100610Chef: Björn Frantzén Website: Cuisine: Modern Scandinavian

At a very young age, Björn Frantzén and Daniel Lindeberg caused a massive stir in the Scandinavia when they received their second Michelin stars within two years of opening their restaurant in 2008. Their success followed immediately as they jumped from “One to Watch” to a staggering 12th place in San Pellegrino’s 50 Best Restaurant Award in 2013. Having had some mixed experience in Stockholm between an extremely successful meal at Oaxen Krog the year before, and subsequently a rather disappointing yet expensive dinner only the night before at Matthias Dahlgren’s Matsalen, I wasn’t qute sure what to expect. I was however assured by the local food blogger Enfoodie that I had nothing to worry about, leaving me with his final words – prepare to be amazed.

Update Note: Daniel unfortunately parted a little while ago to pursue other dreams of opening a bakery, hence the name change, but Björn on the other hand has further expanded his portfolio to also include a wine bar (Gaston) and gastropub (Flying Elk).

P1100772In a very bold move, the restaurant had just finished their renovation work in order to expand the kitchen space at the cost of the dining room! Suffice to say, with a capacity for less than 20 diners, getting a table here was no easy feat but not only did we manage to get a reservation, we also got to sit at the kitchen table allowing us to interact with Björn and Daniel, and observe everything that was going in the kitchen. The menu comprised of a prologue, followed by four chapters that ended with an epilogue.

P1100778Following a quick introduction and briefing of our meal, Björn wasted no time in putting the final touches to our Prologue which consisted of six beautiful bite size amuse bouches with sensational flavours and textural contrasts starting with a Carrot macaron with liver and tarragon, followed by Blood pancake with liver and compote of with lingonberry and beetroot, Spelt brioche with roasted garlic, dried butter and crispy chicken skin and a rather delectable airy Beef from the bullock “Chubai” aged 46 months on lichens. The Pig’s head with shellfish emulsion served on pork rind with vendance roe from the Persson Brothers and Vichyssoise with truffle and ash both sounded like bizarre combinations but they worked extremely well. What a phenomenal start.

P1100793Chapter 1 began with an Oyster that had been sealed and poached at 62 degrees, served with some creamy jersey cream, crunchy frozen buckthorn and fragrant dried seaweed. The intense flavour of the oyster was outstanding with a perfect touch of acidity from the juniper berries. A very clean taste of the ocean.

P1100776Björn then brought out a few live langoustines to really show off the quality and freshness of their produce. To his point, they needed to be kept alive until the very last minute to retain the moisture and natural sweetness of the langoustines.

P1100796After taking away of live crustaceans, he wasted no time in plating up the next course incorporating the langoustine… but where was the langoustine?

P1100800The Langoustine had been prepared as a tartare and topped with fennel oil, caviar and diced granny smith apple. Good seasoning and a light fruity acidity to cut through the sweet crustacean. I was particularly impressed by the fact that this dish was even more amazing than the set of amuse bouche.

P1100807Another bold and confident move in serving Bone marrow topped with Osetra caviar and a smoked parsley purée on the side. You could see the rays of confidence shining from Björn when he served this to us, and he was right to be confident. It was bloody good.

P1100805The bone marrow was delicately soft and rich and it’s flavours extracted with the salty black caviar that was the seasoning component on the dish. The parsley purée added that crucial herbaceous freshness to lift the dish from being too oily. This was seductive food and I was in love.

P1100808Our 2nd Chapter commenced with some manual labour. Björn had churned out some butter for our crackers. He added milk fat that had been prepared under vacuum, sucking out the milky water and proceeded by churning it. Very clever!

P1100812He served the creamy butter with Björn‘s take on Knäckebröd which were traditional Swedish crackers that date as far back as the vikings!

P1100821The kitchen continued to produce stunning dishes one after another including the King crab legs  soaked in beer and crab shell broth and small cubes of pike, garnished with some dill. The buttery crab was packed with flavours and handled with respect and care. Could this get any better?

P1100824The Show of the season (Satio Tempestas) was Björn‘s way of showcasing all his seasonal produce and ingredients which changed every day depending on the harvest, but was always on the menu.

P1100829With 45 ingredients being used, it reminded me of Michel Bras’ famous Gargouillou. You could also see some Japanese influence with scales from fried bream being scattered across. This was perhaps also the closest dish to Bras with many incredible flavours exciting my taste buds with every bite.

P1100830Chapter 3 was all about the main dishes and we were beside ourselves with excitement when a grilled monkfish fillet was presented straight off the grill, exerting a waft of inviting smell.

P1100846Björn momentarily took the monkfish away and returned five minutes later with another knock out dish. The moist and juicy Grilled Monkfish melted in my mouth with the sweet caramelised quenelle of roasted onions with a lingering flavour of goats cheese perfumed ever so slightly with liquorice. Every component on this plate had a purpose, and amazingly worked together in achieving the goal of a perfect dish.

P1100842Half way through the dish we were presented with a jar of smoked brown butter and ash flavoured goats butter. We were instructed to spread the two butters on the fish. I thought at the time that this was a bit odd. Contrary to our expectation, they worked really well and in particular the smoked butter. It was so good we ate it with the remaining crackers.

P1100848Björn then cut a couple of slices of the Beef that had been hung for 72 days and dressed it simply with a few shavings of Alba white truffle. The meat was cooked medium in order to render and melt the fat. Silence had befallen on the kitchen table as he glanced at us. The tsunami of flavours swirling around my mouth from this meat was astounding. This was on par with the beef I previously had at Ledoyen. Simply amazing.

P1100851Björn then explained that the next course of the Frozen carrots and grapefruit with pink pepper and olive oil was a palate cleanser for the finale of the savoury course. It certainly cleaned up any lingering flavours with the acidic and tart sorbet followed by the heat from the cracked pink pepper and bitterness from the olive oil.

P1100836Björn then took out a his blow torch and binchotan to smoke the outer layer of this lamb as a final preparation for the Two servings of lamb from our own breed.

P1100855The first of the two servings was a bed of Lamb tartare with salted goast cheese, sheep yogurt with dried lamb brisket shavings. This was another winner. Having never had lamb tartare before I found the meat extremely delicious with a good level of fat, and the dried lamb brisket was packed with concentrated flavours. Simply stunning.

P1100859A shot of Cabbage consommé before the next serving.

P1100864The second serving was Seared lamb served with roasted cabbage and onion, finished with a butter sauce and shavings of white truffle again. Simple, flavoursome and the bonus was of course the truffle. Seldom have I had a flawless meal where everything had been executed perfectly whilst delivering sensational flavours that were truly concocted by a culinary master.

P1100867It was now Daniel’s turn to deliver the final Chapter and Epilogue. 

P1100874The first dessert was a perfect transition from savoury to sweet with the very well balanced Oxidised pear granita, hazelnut emulsion, sea salt, braggot mead and Welsh honey wine.

P1100876Daniel then went on to explain that a coherent menu was cyclical, tying back the flavours to the beginning. Dessert should not be all about sugar and sweetness but rather the ingredients and flavours. Interesting!

P1100879The second dessert was a celebration of Cloudberries. A quenelle of cloudberry and vanilla ice cream was served on a pancake made from cloudberry seeds, served with a compote of cloudberries on the side. The finish was a drizzle of maple syrup and roasted white chocolate. Guess what? Sure enough, you could taste cloudberries and it was surprisingly not too sweet.

P1100885One of my top three favourite dessert ever was the Sea buckthorn sorbet resting on oolong tea mousse with matcha green tea meringues and brittle crystalised sea lettuce. The salty sea lettuce magnified the marriage of flavours between the acidic sea buckthorn and the aromatic mousse. Just when you thought the tartness of the sea buckthorn was too much, the sweetness from the mousse hit your taste buds. The cycle continued with every spoon. It was as if my tastebuds had died and gone to heaven.

P1100888Two types of macaons as petit fours. One was salted caramel with tar and hay ash, and the second one was bitter manjari chocolate with arctic raspberry ganache.

P1100891Fondant of glazed apricot and girolles biscuit garnished with rapeseed oil powder.

P1100895Dried pig’s blood disc with a cream made from pig’s blood, blackberry, and bitter chocolate.

P1100908I have no doubt that the cooking here was on par with some of the best restaurants in the world in the last five years, making Michelin’s two star rating rather a mockery and an insult. Björn and Daniel clearly belonged in the three star rating and could certainly hold their own with other big hitters like El Celler de Can Roca. The bonus here was also that it was affordable when you compared to other places like Matthias Dahlgren (where I dined the night before and left underwhelmed) and Oaxen Krog. After all, who can throw in mushrooms and pig’s blood into their petit four and make them tasty?

Sushi Tetsu, London (2nd visit – June)

P1140269Chef: Toru Takahashi   Website:  Cuisine: Sushi

Following a memorable meal on my first visit to Sushi Tetsu a couple of months ago, I was desperate to go there one last time before my imminent departure to Melbourne. My track record in getting a reservation here had been very poor but that was about to change. I jumped at the news of a last minute cancellation for a Friday lunch and here I was, yet again, immersing myself with more amazing sushi. On this occasion I decided I wanted a bit more freedom to choose from the menu so I opted for the “moon” sushi set (£28) and added four additional sushi’s. Some of the sushi that day was even better than that on my first visit, proving my point that the quality of fish can drastically affect the final product.

P1140435I was the last person to arrive for the lunch service and things were already in full swing. As always the greeting was very warm and I felt very much at ease despite dining on my own. I spent most of my time chatting with Harumi-san getting some tips on great Japanese restaurants in the Barcelona and the Asia Pacific region.

P1140429First course for lunch was Sea bass (鱸). The sweetness of the fish was brought out with the touch of home made soy sauce concoction and the green shiso leaf tucked underneath dispelled the fishiness, only leaving the delicious flavour of the fish.

P1140432Next up was Razor clam (まて貝). The quality of the razor clam was superior to the one I tried on my first visit, evidenced by the additional sweetness oozing out from each bite. I also thought Takahashi-san had really nailed the amount of lemon juice and sea salt to complement the dish.

P1140434I was excited to see Amberjack (カンパチ) which I had not previously tried at Sushi tetsu. Takahashi-san had imported this luxurious fish fresh from Japan where it was currently in season (summer). Compared to its cousin of the yellow tail, it was much softer and less oily. It was served again with the right amount of wasab and soy sauce.

P1140436The Prawn (海老) was similar to my previous visit with a slight hint of smokiness from the blow torch and zestiness from the lemon juice.

P1140437The Salmon (鮪) was similarly equally as good as the previous visit, served again with slight incisions to plump up the texture of this oily fish. I still reckon it is one of the most understated fish in Japan within the world of sushi. If only more places served them to this quality!

P1140441I was very glad to see that Akami (赤身) was on the menu again. For those of you who read my previous entry on Sushi Tetsu, I had a tragic moment wolfing down this delicious morsel before realising that I had forgotten to take a photo. Not this time. I could never live this down if it happened again. The cold cut of the akami only had a thin coating of soy sauce, releasing bursts of flavours on each bite. Delicious, refreshing and simple. The tuna Takahashi-san sourced was consistently of high quality.

P1140442Another improved dish of the Mackerel (鯖) which contained sansho (Sichuan pepper) giving the fish an earthy flavour. Along with the natural juiciness of the fish with a tanginess from a hint of lemon, it was delicious. To finish off, su-konbu (seaweed marinated in vinegar) was wrapped around it to give it additional texture and remove the fishy aftertaste of this delicate fish. I was in heaven. I should have ordered another one…

P1140444It was at this point when I had the chance to deviate from the set menu and try something different. Following Takahashi-san’s recommendation I opted first for the Scallop (帆立貝). I was amazed to see the size of the scallop he had carefully laid out. They were hand dived scallops from Scotland which were meaty on their own but Takahashi-san had added some incisions at an angle to further enhance that plump texture. I couldn’t remember the last time I had a scallop sushi this good. It was very sweet and fragrant, just the way a scallop should be.

P1140447Next up was my childhood favourite of Salmon roe (イクラ). Takahashi-san had taken the salt away from the salmon roe which had been used to preserve it. He then marinated it in a sauce made from a carefully balanced mixture of mirin and soy sauce. He carefully spooned a few out to place on top of the rice and grated some lime zest. I savoured this moment and tasted each bursting bubble in my mouth as they oozed out the intense and delicious sticky fishy juice inside, perfectly balanced with the lime zest. It was so good my cheeks just swelled up and I couldn’t stop smiling.

P1140439 After savouring my salmon roe sushi which seemed to take an eternity (and I started getting some weird looks from other diners), I saw Takahashi-san preparing my hosomaki… but surely this couldn’t be the end? I still had one more sushi! Seeing how nervous I looked, he reassured me that he had not forgotten my last sushi but that this special hosomaki needed to be consumed before the last sushi due to the richness of the last dish.

P1140449 During the course of the meal, Takahashi-san found out that this was my last meal in London and offered me a special leaving gift of the Toro no Oshinko (とろ沢庵巻). Essentially it was the fattiest part of the tuna (o-toro) that had been minced with spring onion and then wrapped with sesame seed and shinko (pickled radish). It was crunchy and delicious, and I was very touched. I did however wish I had ordered the nigiri of o-toro as well but luckily the next course more than made up for my mistake.

P1140451I saw the group of four diners next to me order Eel (鰻) earlier on and there was no way I would be leaving the restaurant having caught my olfactory attention with its sweet and seductive smell. The eel was blow torched before the sticky sweet soy based kabayaki (蒲焼) sauce was generously pasted over it with a pinch of sansho. The art of preparing an eel kabayaki requires years of experience as it is technically quite difficult. It involves gutting, de-boning, butterflying and filleting the delicate eel, followed by skewering and dipping it into the kabayaki sauce before broiling it on a grill at a temperature which needs to be precise and controlled. I asked Takahashi-san how he had prepared the eel but he only smiled and told me it was a secret… d’oh!

P1140454Alas, all good things must come to an end (again) and in this case with a Japanese sweet omlette (厚焼き玉子). At first sight it looked like an ordinary puffed up omlette but this one contained prawns, sea bass paste and yam. It had an interesting flavour and texture not too dissimilar to that of datemaki (伊達巻き) which contains similar ingredients and is prepared typically for Japanese New Years as part of the Osechi cuisine.

My second visit to Sushi Tetsu proved my point that the quality of fish can dramatically affect the end product of the sushi itself. A couple of sushi’s I had on the second visit were noticeably better despite the same level of care and preparation by Takahashi-san. The only difference was the fish. Don’t get me wrong, the quality on both occasion were very good but on one particular day it was even better. I was slightly disappointed that he didn’t have any sea urchin that day but I guess that demonstrated that Takahashi-san only handled ingredients that were in season and superior in quality that day. He teased me that he was getting some the following day but that was just cruel. I was thinking of just turning up next day but then again I didn’t want to inconvenience Harumi-san. Nevertheless, I couldn’t have asked for a better send off from London. I swear I will be back again…

Hedone, London

P1140365Chef: Mikael Jonsson   Website:   Cuisine: Modern French

Mikael Jonsson is a man on a mission. A man with an obsession for sourcing top quality ingredients. After quitting his job as a lawyer, the influential food blogger behind Gastroville took a long journey around the United Kingdom and neighbouring countries to discover the best ingredients in europe before realising his dream in the restaurant, Hedone. How appropriate then to name his restaurant after his quest for maximising pleasure to the palate. His motto is simple – perfect dishes can only be created by using the best ingredients handled with minimal interference. P1140368It is an impressive feat that despite only openning the restaurant in July 2011 Jonsson has already achieved a prestigious Michelin star to his name and jumped straight on to the San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurant List at a very respectable 70th position. Fortunately, unlike many of the eye-wateringly expensive restaurants on that list that end up being for “special occasion only”, Jonsson has concentrated on attracting a more stable clientele. Somewhere that diners could return frequently; offering a reasonably priced three course options that changes everyday. Jonsson was happy to tell me that there was even one guy who had dined more than 130 times to date! The chef had even awarded him a plaque on the highstool my friend was sitting on. Now that’s an impressive record for anyone!

P1140370This was my first meal here. Therefore, I opted for his ultimate carte blanche menu coming in at £85 for lunch (£95 for dinner). Sure, it’s not a cheap menu but when you consider the quality of ingredients incorporated in the dishes you soon realise that it’s a bloody good deal. The only down side in the whole affair was the location of the restaurant. Chiswick, on the complete oposite side of London from where I was staying, is situated on the district line which is notorious for being unreliable, particularly on weekends. My visit was no exception; planned engineering works all weekend. Thank you TFL. Taxi it was then.

P1140374My friend and I were the first ones to arrive at the restaurant so we decided to occupy the kitchen counter seats, a definite recommendation if you want to see all the action in the kitchen. It didn’t take long for our amuse bouches to arrive after taking our orders. Starting from the left was a Smoked haddock tartlet with lemon rind, followed by an intensley cheesy Parmesan sablé biscuit with a morello cherry jelly and finally a Foie gras marinated in quince & balsamic vinegar sandwiched between sourdough crisps with sweet spices. A lovely progression in strength of flavours across the three morsels. Simple but elegant, and most importantly tasty.

P1140377I had heard countless praises sung by many bloggers and food critics alike on the quality of the house made bread at Hedone. Jonsson had spent some time with Alex Croquet in France in the art of bread making. Sure enough, the sourdough bread with unpasteurised butter was faultless and possibly the best I’ve ever had. It had the perfect crust, alluring smell and airy texture. Good bread is the most satisfying of all foods, and when served with butter I would go as far as sayng it is a feast on its own. Only on my fourth slice did my friend have to intervene and point out the obvious, we haven’t even started the meal yet. Reluctantly I put the bread down… slowly.

P1140380First course on the menu were Poached Cornish rock oysters, granny smith, shallots. The one on the right which had been poached for 45 mins and smoked lightly in juniper berries was sublime. The meaty oyster had soaked up the beautiful smokiness and dissolved gradually in my mouth with little effort. This was one of my favourite oyster dish that was almost on par with Richard Ekkebus’ one at Amber. What a great start!

P1140383Up next was a new course that was being served for the first time – Dorset crab sandwich. A buckwheat crisp was garnished with Dorset white crab meat, confit marinda tomato, fresh dill and a transparent tomato essence jelly. It had a lovely crispy texture and the sweetness from the crab meat was complemented by the lovely fresh tomato flavour from the jelly. The last hit of flavour was the slightly bitter dill that provided a good contrast to the sweetness, finishing off with a refreshing note. Very good indeed.

P1140387Simplicity at its best was the Foie gras and cepes. The raw cepes of the season sandwiched the delicious foie gras and a dollop of apricot jam was served on the side. The mushroom was very meaty and the apricot jam added a sweet fragrance that cut through the rich foie gras. The seasoning, just of a pinch of salt, was spot on. This was without a shadow of a doubt one of the best dish that lunch.

P1140391Photos could not do any justice to the Umami flan which, although one dimensional in texture, was bursting with flavour. The flan, which I believe had been made with dashi or something similar, was topped with a nori (seaweed) coulis. For me it resembled closer to a “chawanmushi” rather than a flan but I was impressed with the depth of flavour and tongue coating savouriness that made me salivate the more I ate.

P1140393After wolfing down another morsel of that delicious bread (I blame the umami flan!), a succulent dish of the Loire Valley green asparagus, Dorset wild garlic, pistachio mayonnaise was presented. There was a sweet nuttiness in the eggwhite mayonnaise that went ever so well with the juicy asparagus and garlic stalk.

P1140396The Scottish langoustine tail, crustaceans jus, herbs and flowers was definitely fresh as I saw a little green insect crawling on my langoustine. I assume the little fella had come from the box containing the herbs and flowers. I didn’t mind him and flicked him aside. At least I knew the garnishes were fresh! The sweet langoustine was served at the right temperature, warm but not scorching hot, and perfectly accompanied by the shellfish bouillon which gave it that depth of the “flavour of the sea”.

P1140400First of the fish courses was the Dorset Wild turbot, red orach, spinach, fresh almonds.
The rainbow like sheen on the turbot fillet was due to the natural gelatin from the fish and reflected yet again on the quality of the fish. The white spinach sauce mixed well with the red orach jus reduction which has a more pleasant and less bitter taste than spinach. I did however find several small bits of bones in the fish which was slightly disappointing.

P1140401 I did find it rather odd to have another fish fillet course but I admit I was glad to have tried the Dorset line caught wild seabass, artichokes, piattoni beans, confit Marinda tomato as it was better than the turbot in my opinion. The smokiness from the tomato pulp purée was appetising to say the least. I know I sound like a broken record but the quality of this seabass was sensational and I never knew artichokes worked so well with it, both in a purée form and in its entirety.

P1140404I was surprised to find a pasta course (Liquid ravioli, roscott onion consommé, mild horseradish) given Jonsson’s cuisine otherwise was undeniably French. The salty smoked pancetta swam harmoniously in the sweet onion consommé and creamy parmesan cheese, with a slight kick from the horseradish emulsion.

P1140407It was at this point that I found Jonsson looking around to see what he was going to serve next. He approached us and explained that he had just received some top quality sweetbread which he occasionally got from his only trusted supplier in Paris. With a unanimous nod from both of us he quickly prepared the Veal sweetbread, baby carrot, basil, jerusalem artichoke. The earthy morrels were clean with no trace of sand unlike my last experience at Les Cols. Phew! It was a sweet dish with contrasting textures from the crunchy carrot, meaty morrels and the creamy sweetbreads. Unfortunately for me, the latter was too thick, with the wrong ratio of the caramelised surface to the creamy texture. I do like sweetbreads but I found it rather too much after a few mouthfuls.

P1140413I recently had a phenomenal pigeon dish at Azurmendi and the next course of the Roasted leg and breast squab pigeon, beetroot five ways came pretty close. The beetroot came smoked, pickeled, puréed, in a coulis and also incorporated in the offal sauce. The remarkable part about this dish was that the offal sauce was in complete harmony with the pigeon and by no means dominated the palate, no easy feat! Jonsson later explained that the pigeon had been strangled (I hoped humanely) to retain the blood to keep the meat juicy. It certainly was that and more. Delicious.

P1140417Alright, I admit it. You’re probably wondering how I managed to eat so much after helping myself to five slices of bread? The truth was that I was stuffed and therefore glad to see our palate cleanser of Granite, hibiscus, and campari jelly before the final two segments of our dessert. The palate cleanser was refreshing and the combination of mint, thyme, tarragon, parsley and cordiander made it very zingy yet retaining a right amount of sweetness. It was as if someone had smacked my jaws and brought me back to life. I was back in the game. Bring on the desserts!

P1140420The Braeburn apple Millefeuille, caramel ice cream was my favourite dish of the day, and this was quite a statement. Given the consistently high quality dishes that kept on coming out of the kitchen that lunch, I didn’t expect the dessert to be such a knock out course. The pastry was light and flakey, reflecting the masterful skills of the pastry chef. The amount of the crème patissiere was spot on, marrying really well with the acidity from the green apple. The trifecta to complete this dish was a milky caramel ice cream which was not too sweet. Take a bit of each element and imagine the flavours coming altogether in one go – bang! Delicious.

P1140410We were finally down to our last course and we could see them being prepared right in front of us.

P1140423And here it was. Warm chocolate, powdered raspberry, passion fruit jelly, madagascar vanilla ice cream. It consisted of a warm gooey chocolate mousse sealed with a crispy chocolate disc that had been sprinkled with powdered dried raspberry. The passion fruit jelly hidden inside was a clever and vital component to cut through the rich chocolate goodness. To finish off a quenelle of Madagascar vanilla ice cream was carefully laid on top.

P1140366From my one meal at Hedone it was obvious that Mikael Jonssons cooking style was to let the ingredients speak for themselves. What sets him apart from other chefs who make similar claims was his ability in maximising pleasure by drawing out and showcasing the key qualities of his superb ingredients. He is undoubtedly not just an ingredient nut but also a chef, and a very good one at that. His deceptively simple looking dishes were some of the best I’ve had in London and his bread perhaps in the world. Despite the slight hiccough with the turbot and the insect, there’s no doubt that this was one of my most memorable meals in London. If Hedone was located on my high street I would undoubtedly be there every week but for now I would just need to relive my experience through my memory and photographs.


Clove Club, London

P1140302Chef: Isaac McHale    Website:   Cuisine: Modern British

After a rather sub par Vietnamese-Thai meal at Monsieur M two years ago, I was glad to finally see the back of it. With the financial backing of a pool of investors, Chef Isaac McHale, who previously worked at the Ledbury and formed part of the Young Turks, was in turn replacing the mediocre restaurant with an exciting Modern British restaurant called the Clove Club. The restaurant had  only been open since March 2013 and already attracted a lot of attention including food enthusiasts from overseas. I was meant to catch up with Enfoodie for lunch here a few weeks ago but unfortunately work commitments got in the way. I finally got an opportunity early June and must admit I was positively surprised with my meal.

P1140306As I entered the restaurant I was immediately hit with a waft of delicious charcuterie. As it turns out, the cupboard to the left of the entrance was where McHale smoked, aged and preserved an assortment of meats including two types of katsuobushi – one in the traditional style and one experimental. I was already salivating just by the smell and sight of these delicious looking meats and hoped that we would be able to sample some of them during the course of the meal.

P1140304I was glad to see that the horribly bright red painted walls from the previous restaurant had been neutralised with a fresh coat of white paint, and the floor had been stripped to expose the beautiful old wooden floorboards. The decor was no longer tacky but much simpler now and the room flooded with natural light from the big windows. This looked much more inviting and promising to say the least.

P1140310There was an option of going à la carte or a fixed five course tasting menu with an array of amuse bouche for £49, excluding alcohol. We opted for the latter as the dishes all looked very appetising (Note: we ordered three extra courses for additional price coming in at £75). As I had a heavy week full of leaving dos, I opted for water to accompany my meal. Saying that, I did notice that they had a nice array of cocktails and wines that looked reasonably priced.

P1140312We started with a selection of McHale’s home made salami and cured pork. Two types of salami were presented – one flavoured with nutmeg and the other with white wine and garlic. My favourite was the third cut which was cured pork from a rare breed called the British Lop, currently being reintroduced after near extinction by the Duchy College close to Launceston in Cornwall. It had a superb taste to it. Shame I couldn’t buy some to bring home!

P1140313First course was an English asparagus, black sesame and Gochuchang mayonnaise. The asparagus was fresh and cooked spot on, giving it a firmness yet succulence. I did find the mayonnaise lovely in flavour although the spiciness from the Korean chili paste slightly overwhelming the delicate vegetable.

P1140315Goat Haggis croquettes and Tewkesbury mustard sauce which was crispy and packed with flavour inside. Slight hint of heat from the mustard to cut through the rich haggis. Lovely.

P1140317Buttermilk fried chicken presented on a bed of pine cones and needles. A pinch of pine salt was dusted on top to give it the right level of seasoning. It reminded me of the pine salt that was made and used in the Schwarzwaldstube in Germany. The batter which was made with gluten-free tapioca was light and crispy. The chicken inside was moist and surprisingly flavoursome. It was clear that the chicken was of high quality. I wondered whether they did buckets of these…

P1140321Next up was a plate of brined Sand eel with mint vinegar jelly. McHale explained that the sand eel season was very short, typically between two to three weeks each year, which explains why I’d never had them before. It had a similar texture and flavour to whitebait so it didn’t feel like much of a novelty. I’m not personally a big fan of mint sauce and found it rather too strong with the delicate fish. Perhaps some sea salt would have been sufficient.

P1140322Much better was the Wood pigeon sausage which contained its liver, giving it a very soft texture and depth in flavour. A drop of spicy ketchup on top added some heat to the dish, although I probably could have done with a tiny bit more heat this time. Nevertheless, this was a good dish.

P1140325One of the big surprises that lunch was their homemade Brown sourdough bread with oat berries. It had a good crust and airy texture, and was definitely better than many bread I’ve tried in some of the best restaurants in Europe, let alone London. It didn’t take long to finish them.

P1140328Hand dived Razor Clams with smoked butter emulsion and a sorrel and apple sauce. The razor clams from Cornwall which had been baked in hay had the right amount of smokiness. The sauce worked in harmony with the tender razor clams making this one of my favourite dishes in the menu. Unlike the emulsion from Vue de Monde, I thought this one was more refined and did not dominate the overall flavour of the dish with its butteriness.

P1140330Salad of spring vegetables, pheasant egg, fresh ricotta and lardo. I thought the texture of the vegetables were very good as they were cooked perfectly. However, the dish overall was let down by the quality of the produce as there was not much flavour coming through. The almond oil and balsamic dressing unfortunately could not bridge this gap and personally I felt the egg could have been cooked a tiny bit less as I prefer my egg yolks completely runny.

P1140333Flame grilled mackerel with smashed cucumber, served with last years elderflower vinegar and fresh dill. Mackerel is one of my favourite fish but I somehow felt that the quality again was rather disappointing here despite the flawless execution. The fragrant cucumber was very enjoyable and I thought the accompanying sauce worked really well. I just couldn’t get much flavour from the fish.

P1140337The restaurant had just received their first batch of summer truffles which we were fortunate enough to try in the Chicken, truffles, girolles, baked leek and cheddar sauce. Again, the quality of the French chicken was superb with a good level of crispiness to the skin and the amazing flavour from the breast meat and testicles. The aged Montgomery cheddar sauce worked in harmony with the leek but my favourite ingredient on the dish must have been the earthy girolles. This course proved the point that dishes don’t need to be complicated when you have top quality ingredients and produce, although admittedly my recent experience in Les Cols has reminded me that the chef does need to know what he or she is doing. He did in this case without a shadow of a doubt.

P1140343We had to do a double take on the next course of Lobster, courgette purée, almonds and spices as we were told that they had just been delivered from Christchurch… Dorset, not New Zealand. Phew! The lobster was juicy and the almond provided a contrasting crunchy texture but I was rather disappointed with the curry like flavour dominating the whole dish. I would have preferred less distraction to the sweet flavour of the lobster.

P1140348Last of the savoury courses was the Slow cooked loin of lamb from Yorkshire, old spinach and anchovy emulsion with spinach dust and kelp. Whilst the lamb had good flavours with a nice caramelised coating and cooked just the way I like it – pink. Admittedly it was not on par with the Sportsman but then again the lamb at the Sportsman was extraordinary and the best I’ve ever had. I really liked the anchovy emulsion but I thought it didn’t belong on this dish. The idea of using it as an element to season the lamb was good but the fishiness was difficult to ignore.

P1140350First dessert course was Strawberries, ewe milk mousse and almond crumble. The strawberries from Brittany were sweet and far superior to the ones I’ve had this year to date. The almond crumble added some textural contrast to the meaty strawberries and soft mousse. Delicious.

P1140354The finale was a Prune ice cream, kernel and rosemary sorbet with walnut cake crumbs.  The flavour of the prune was very strong but worked well with the sweet sorbet and bed of crumbly goodness. It was a very refreshing end to the meal that left my palate cleansed.

P1140358I didn’t quite know what to expect from the Clove Club but I was positively surprised with the overall standard of the dishes that were served that day. Other than a couple of inconsistencies with the quality of the vegetable dish and mackerel, I was impressed with the diverse choice of ingredients from the United Kingdom and cooking skills that went into each dish. The service was very good and friendly throughout the meal. I did find it occasionally a bit noisy in the dining room and at times had some difficulties hearing my companion. I would definitely come back here frequently if I lived in London as I think the price of £49 per person for a tasting menu is reasonable for such an accomplished level of dining. I honestly think this is the next big thing in London and eagerly look forward to my next meal when I’m back.

Sushi Tetsu, London

P1140269Chef: Toru Takahashi   Website:   Cuisine: Sushi

I’ve pretty much come to the realisation that if you want amazing sushi you’ll have to go to Japan, or otherwise settle with mediocrity. For this reason I’ve almost abstained in eating sushi outside Japan because all that awaited me after a disappointing meal was a hefty bill, typically fuelled by the copious amounts of beer and sake to soften the blow. It was therefore a stroke of luck when a friend of mine who just returned from a honeymoon in Japan insisted that I should come along to a sushi-ya which she claimed was outstanding. Had it not been for the fact that she had been to some of the best restaurants in Japan recently, I probably would have turned down her offer. Unbeknownst to me, she had become a regular of Sushi Tetsu over the last six months and she assured I wouldn’t be disappointed. Sure enough, she was right.

P1140272As it turns out, getting a reservation at Sushi Tetsu is ridiculously difficult. Chef Toru Takahashi who is supported by his wife Harumi in this cosy sushi-ya in the backstreets of Farringdon caters for only seven people during each sitting. Luckily there is the option of filling in last minute cancellations through Harumi-san’s tweets but you’d have to be quick because it goes like gold dust. Having picked up the nickname “Tetsu” during his training in Kobe, Takahashi-san trained for five years in Nobu London before going solo on this new venture to concentrate in the perfection of sushi making. I was amazed to find out that Takahashi-san spoke fluent Spanish having lived in Marbella for a year during his chef training years.


If you want an elaborate “omakase” menu (chef’s recommendation) ranging up to a reasonable £70, you need to let them know a few in days in advance as it requires a bit of preparation. As I was approaching this cautiously, I decided to opt for just the “Flower” omakase sushi set at £38 to test the water. When we entered, Takahashi-san was busy preparing the wasabi for the service. The root was sourced from Shizuoka, a place renown for the best quality wasabi and where the oldest wasabi farm can be found. Harumi-san first brought out some wet towels whilst her husband laid out the bamboo leaves in front of us where he would serve the sushi one by one. It took only one sushi to realise my mistake in not ordering the omakase menu. I immediately knew I had to come back… soon.


The fish here is sourced through a trustworthy Japanese distributor who picks out the best fresh fish from Billingsgate market every morning. The first course of the meal was Sea bream (鯛), sourced most likely from the northern European seas. The firmness of the flesh was unbelievable yet it retained a good level of moisture. It had the right amount of the Takahashi-san’s home made soy concoction brushed on to complement the natural sweetness of the fish for which it is prized for, ending with a refreshing note of mintiness from the discretely hidden shiso leaf. The rice was spot on at body temperature and the right amount of pressure applied to form the pellet, firm but not too compact; something which requires years of training and the first hurdle for all trainees to becoming an “itamae” (板前), i.e. the chef.


Takahashi-san smiled back as I couldn’t contain my joy. He then moved on to wipe the bamboo leaf and began preparing our next course, Spear squid (槍烏賊). It was soft and sweet, although it did have a slight bit of chewiness. The chef uses two types of nori, including Maruyama Nori which has been produced since 1854 during the Edo period and coincidentally also used by the ever so famous Sukibayashi Jiro. P1140278

After another wipe down of the bamboo sheet, Takahashi-san was on to the next nigiri of Salmon (鮪). It’s perhaps not construed to be the most exciting cut of fish but I can assure you that when you get it right, it can be very good. The superior quality was evident and combined with the chef’s masterful skill this piece of oily silky fish simply melted in your mouth.P1140280

The delicious morsels of sushi kept on coming and the next nigiri of Prawn (海老) was no exception. The prawn was boiled very slightly and subsequently blow-torched on the butterfly-cut side to enhance the flavour and texture. It was sweet with a small hint of smokiness, but most importantly juicy and flavoursome. P1140284

Next up was one of my favourite of all times, Yellow Tail (ハマチ). Judging by the oiliness, softness and time of the year, I believe this particular cut was from a farmed fish in Japan as the natural ones are more firm, lighter in oil content and typically caught in winter. As far as I’m aware I don’t think they are native to the European seas but I’m more than happy to be corrected. It’s really a personal taste as some people, like myself, prefer the oily farmed ones. I thought this particular one prepared by Takahashi-san was very good with a lovely sweetness coming through, thereby requiring less soy sauce than similar white fleshed fish.P1140285

Razor clam (まて貝). After blanching the clam and cleaning it thoroughly, very shallow incisions were made across to give it a plumper texture. It was then glazed lightly with some more homemade soy sauce, dressed with an ever so tiny pinch of sea salt, and I could also pick up a hint of citrus note, possibly from the use of sudachi or ponzu which are the traditional choice.


There is a Japanese saying in that if you want to really test the quality of the tuna of a sushi-ya, the best part to first have is the lean cut, Akami (赤身), i.e. the red meat. There is much less distraction in flavour from the oiliness found in the more expensive fatty parts of the tuna. Provided the red meat passes muster, you can proceed to order the more expensive cuts as chances are it would be of supreme quality. What happened to me here was tragic and slightly embarrassing. The akami looked so good I forgot to take a photo and just gulped it, ending with a mixed emotion of happiness and remorse. Setting my stupidity aside, the akami was very good. It was soft and released so much flavour on each bite. It was evident that the tuna was wild as opposed to farmed. I can’t remember the last time I had such a good akami. I could hardly contain myself thinking about how the o-toro would taste! (special thanks to Fine Dining Explorer for supplying the photo).


The next course of Black Amberjack (黒カンパチ) was rather a surprise as it’s not a very common fish, at least in Japan. Given the similarity in name, texture and appearance to amberjack (kampachi), this fish has recently had to have its name changed in Japan to Sugi (スギ) due to people being tricked after thinking they bought the more expensive kampachi. Whilst a cheaper substitute, the taste is not inferior and it is much more fatty than the kampachi. I quite enjoyed it, particularly given this was my first time trying it.P1140293

Finally on to the much anticipated Aburi o-toro (炙り大トロ), the fattiest part of the tuna. After tasting the akami, I knew this was going to be something extraordinary and sure enough it was. The piece of fish was again lightly slashed and then brushed with the soy sauce concoction before being seared with a blow torch. To finish off, more soy sauce was brushed and it was ready to be devoured. It was a beautifully smoky morsel with an intense flavour that followed as the fish melted like butter in your mouth. Phenomenal.


The last of the nigiri was a marinated Mackerel (鯖), which had a sheet of thinly sliced su-konbu (seaweed marinated in vinegar). Umami, which is the savoury flavour found in konbu, is regarded as one of the five basic tastes of Japanese cuisine. The konbu gave the oily fish a meaty depth and the vinegar removed the fishiness typically found in the aftertaste. It’s a very delicate fish that requires quite a bit of skill to fillet and is one of my all time favourite fish despite it being relatively unpopular. P1140300

Last on the menu was a hoso-maki (細巻き) of Yellow tail with spring onion and shichimi (seven spices), salmon and razor clam with shiso. I particularly liked the yellow tail with the heat coming from the shichimi.

So there you go. You can actually get top quality sushi outside Japan and Takahashi-san is the living proof. But in order to get a successful sushi-ya you need some fundamental elements which most sushi-ya’s outside Japan lack. First and foremost, you need to have or rely on someone who has the skill of “mekiki” (目利き), which is the ability and knowledge to pick out good quality fish. Without good “sushi neta” (寿司ネタ), i.e. the toppings such as fish, even the most skilled itamae will struggle to make something decent. After that comes the extremely important skill in the preparation of the sushi rice (temperature and perfect balance of vinegar, sugar and salt), and its application where too much or little will affect the balance of flavour, and most importantly the right level of pressure needs to be applied; too little and the pelet falls apart, too much and it becomes hard. Then comes the matter of sourcing good quality nori, wasabi, knives and getting your homemade sauces right. Finally, you need someone with years of experience to bring all the elements together. It’s an art that requires discipline and unwavering determination, two qualities I believe Takahashi-san has and rewarded him in my opinion with the best sushi-ya in Europe. The road to perfection in the art of sushi is endless and no doubt Takahashi-san will go far as he continues to polish his skills. I can’t wait to go back!

Les Cols, Olot

P1140086Chef: Fina Puigdevall         Cuisine: Regional Catalan

Following the recent success of el Celler de Can Roca and Ferran Adria’s legendary el Bulli, Catalunya has rapidly emerged as a serious contender to the culinary Mecca of Spain, the Basque region. Having slowly worked my way through the region’s top restaurant over the past few years including el Bulli, Can Roca, Sant Pau, Compartir and Comerç 24, my attention turned to a two Michelin starred restaurant located in the capital of the volcanic region of la Garrotxa that had managed to keep a very low profile. I couldn’t find much public information nor knew anyone who had personally been there so I was slightly suspicious. However, I was yet to be let down by a bad experience from a starred restaurant in the region so I decided to bite the bullet and organised a table with a friend who writes for the Lonely Planet’s food segments. After all, Can Roca in my opinion was the best in the world when they only had two Michelin stars so what could go wrong?

P1140109The restaurant of Les Cols is located on a quiet shaded street at the edge of the city of Olot. The restaurant itself occupies the ground floor of a 13th century masia (traditional stone house) where the top two floors currently serve as the private residence of the mother of Fina Puigdevall, the head  chef. I absolutely loved the juxtaposition of modern interior decor and the rustic exterior which had been beautifully restored to retain the history and its charm. We were given a quick tour around the restaurant before being sat down at our ultra modern table. I found the chair rather cumbersome to get around but I got there in the end. Outside, I could see the resident hens roaming around enjoying the last couple of hours before the sunset. It was a lovely setting and we thought we hit the jackpot but little did we know of what was waiting for us that evening…

P1140103Alright, I appreciate that when you’re in a foreign country you can’t expect people to speak fluently in a language foreign to them. But when you’re at a two Michelin starred restaurant where half the clientele that evening consisted of English speakers, you’d expect the front of house to have rehearsed the presentation in the prevailing language, particularly when you have a simplified menu in that language. Unfortunately that was not the case here. Lucky for me I spoke a decent level of Spanish and Catalan. On the topic of other diners though, perhaps the fact that the two English couples next to our table were dressed like clowns in hippie clothes should have been the first sign of warning that evening. So sue me, but I think some effort should be made by diners if you’re going to a nice restaurant. I don’t necessarily mean a tie and suit, but tie-dyed shirts and sandals are hardly appropriate for this setting. P1140127We had two choices on the menu that evening which were a vegetarian or standard tasting menu that reflected the seasonality of this mountainous region. We naturally went with the standard tasting menu. The Garrotxa is famous for buckwheat so we were advised that they would be using it frequently throughout the menu. Fine by me as long as it tastes good.

P1140119We were offered a glass of cava from Penedes to start the evening. First up was an appetizer of Crujiente de fajol de la Garrotxa. It was essentially a crispy sheet of buckwheat from the Garrotxa which had a few slice of llonganissa, a Catalan cured sausage, hiding underneath. It was hardly anything gastronomic but one of the better courses that evening. You have been warned.

P1140122This was followed by a plate of Buckwheat blinis with Sant Pau beans on the right and Cornbread sandwich on the left which had a warm polenta filling. The sandwich, dough and beans, which had a similar consistency to porridge, had no flavour whatsoever. Maybe the chef had forgotten to season it or perhaps I was missing a point?

P1140124This was followed by a warm Buckwheat spaghetti in smoked broth which tasted of gizzards. My heart sank. This was possibly the worst start to a meal I’ve ever had. Sure, the ingredients were fresh and of good quality but I felt as if my taste buds had gone on holiday.

P1140132A trolley containing local Garrotxa bread with a choice of five local olive oils, ranging in aromas and taste. As everything so far lacked in flavour I asked for the strongest flavoured oil to compensate my palate which was rapidly losing interest in anything that was being offered. I had a feeling this was going to be one of those meals where I may need to rely on the bread for survival. Sure enough, I was right. Damn. I hate being right in these circumstances.

P1140134As I was driving that evening I could only take a limited amount of alcohol so I opted for a glass of local white and a red to match the relevant segments of the meal. First up was a white garnatxcha from the Garrotxa’s terra alta.

P1140143A slight improvement with our first course of the evening with the Wild asparagus in a charcoal tempura that was served with a beetroot romesco sauce. The tempura was not too oily but had hardly any crispiness to it. What’s more, other than the flavour of the romesco sauce there was no seasoning at all. What did they have against salt?

P1140148One of the reason why I chose this tasting menu was because of a couple of mushroom dishes that looked delicious, well at least on paper. The Wild mushroom raw & cooked had some great textures including thin and meaty mushrooms as well as crunchy croutons made from the local bread, Tortell d’Olot. But guess what? Yup, you got it right. No seasoning again.

P1140149Our night continued with further disappointment with the Fresh egg, mayonnaise and tuna. Granted, it was interesting because the tuna had been infused into the mayonnaise but the only texture in this dish was liquid. It was just sauce and runny egg, and worst of all it tasted like the tuna mayo filling from a sandwich. Yet again there was no seasoning but this course made me frustrated because the quality of their home reared hen’s egg was superb. What a waste of good ingredient again!

P1140153I was scared of trying the most anticipated dish on the menu, Morels, wild asparagus and stew sauce by this point. Things actually looked surprisingly positive initially. The creamy sauce had a bit of seasoning and depth in flavour, and the ingredients were again fresh. However, a fundamental error ruined this dish. It was gritty. The morels had not been cleaned properly. How could this happen in a two starred restaurant?P1140157Grilled peas, bacon and blood sausage. The texture of the beans were amazing and just exploded each time I took a bite. I also enjoyed the smokiness until it rather became overwhelming and one dimensional. The bacon and blood sausage hardly added any seasoning to the dish and it was screaming for some salt. P1140159Our second glass of wine was poured to go with the next segment of the meal. It was a Viladellops, Garnatxa 2012.

P1140162Rice with squids. Slightly sloppy presentation on a plate and probably would have been better served in a bowl. It was very again one dimensional where the seafood jus dominated the palate and the aioli was utterly lost.

P1140164My friend’s favourite course of the evening was the Salt cod brandade served with white grapes and spinach. The texture was very interesting again as the cod brandade had been salted and reformed to resemble a fillet. We finally had some seasoning but this time it was just too much. I had to wash this down with a couple of glasses of water and half my glass of red wine.P1140171Thank god it was the final segment of the savory courses. Duck, salsifies, pear and smashed biscuit. Duck and pear is a tried and tested combination that is difficult to fail but they somehow managed to screw that up as well. This dish was offensive in that the pear and biscuits were far too sweet and belonged in a dessert. The only decent thing was the texture of the duck. It was pretty clear by now that this restaurant was all about ingredients and texture, neglecting the most important thing called flavour.P1140172Three hours into our meal and it became clear that there were other significant issues as well. For one, my friend had to refuse her glass of wine and water being topped up countless times. No one in the front of house communicated with each other and it became rather irritating. If it was any consolation, at least the dozens of mosquitoes in the dining room were having a great time at our expense as we were scratching ourselves all night. We decided to rush through the rest of the meal starting with the Catalan cheeses. At least they had my favourite regional goat’s cheese, the Petit Nevat.P1140178We were slightly relieved in that we thought having taken salt out of the equation, dessert would have been much better starting with the Strawberries and rouleau de crème. Our relief was short lived. It was just strawberries and cream. Surely you can’t serve something like this in a fine dining establishment!P1140181Iced cottage cheese, creme caramel and basil. This was the best dish tonight. I loved the basil flavoured milky sorbet that cut through the cottage cheese. The creme caramel added a subtle sweetness keeping this a very refreshing course. I did think this could have worked better straight after the cheese course though.

P1140185Frozen cake, preserved fruits and burnt egg yolk. A rather uninspired finale that tasted like something that had been pre-made in a package. A dull ending to an extremely disappointing meal.

P1140187Crusty sugar bread and dark chocolate was served as petit fours although I didn’t want to stay here any longer and even skipped my coffee. The staff encouraged us to have a coffee and a tour of the kitchen but I refused politely. I wanted to get out. Fast.P1140104Needless to say, this was a terribly underwhelming meal. I’m not sure if other people around us were enjoying it but you certainly didn’t get the “oh’s” and “ah’s” from any table when the courses were being presented. The food was not only lacking in flavour but also imagination and depth. Granted, the quality of the ingredient was good and the textures were interesting but it felt tired and I couldn’t sense any passion from the front of house working there. For one, the Maitre’D looked like he was just dragging himself around the dining room utterly lifeless. My friend was much less critical saying she would come back just for the architecture but I thought 240 euros for two people with hardly any wine was absurd. This place has so much potential and the location is magnificent, even if a bit isolated. However, there are fundamental errors that cannot be forgiven and nothing makes me angrier than ruining good produce and ingredients. If you want to let the ingredient shine then treat it with respect and draw the qualities out.