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

Mas Pou, Palau Sator

P1140192Chef: David Dausa   Website:  Cuisine: Catalan

Mas Pou opened in 1986 in the heart of the sleepy town of Palau Sator and has remained a well kept secret amongst the regulars, locals and expats alike. Despite it’s proximity to Girona, reachable within only 20 mins drive from currently the best restaurant in the world, Mas Pou has remained under the radar serving traditional Catalan food affordable price typically coming in under 40 euros a head including wine. The restaurant is housed in an old traditional Catalan farmhouse which had been lovingly restored by the family who run the place. Evidenced by their success, they’ve even managed to open a museum next door and more recently a few self-serviced accommodations to rent out.


As a patron of the restaurant for the past 15 years, the most impressive thing I’ve found with this restaurant has been the consistency with the quality of the dishes over the years. It is for this reason that I have found myself returning over and over again each time I visit my parents who live nearby in the town of L’Escala. Weather permitted, we typically start with an aperitif in the garden and then slowly make our way into the restaurant, lead by Paco who has been with the restaurant for as long as I could remember.


It’s difficult to choose the starter so as a rule I always go for their “pica pica” selection which gives you a chance to nibble (picar) a variety of Catalan dishes in smaller portions. Saying that, I  personally find the portions to be too big so always order for the number of people at the table minus one headcount. For the linguistically challenged, fear not for they have menus in English, French and even German.


Once our order was taken we were served with a bowl of quail eggs.P1140213

Rather than the usual house red, we opted for something a bit more special as this was my farewell meal with my parents before I moved out to Melbourne permanently. We therefore went with Paco’s recommendation of the Orto, Montsant, 2011 after I asked him to choose one for us from the Priorat region. It was a lovely young crianza, priced really well at just over 20 euros a bottle.


Some Pan tumaca (coca bread with tomato) to go with the meal. Paco brought out some fine extra virgin olive oil from the region to drizzle all over the bread. Simple, yet so good.


It wasn’t long before our starters began arriving at our table. This was my favourite segment of the meal and I could not wait to get stuck in. First up was a Goose liver pâté accompanied with some toast.


A plate of Jamón de Pato (duck ham) which had a good fat-to-meat ratio. Certainly went down like a treat with the red wine.


A simple Goats Cheese and quince jam salad topped with pine nuts and crushed walnuts.


A very refreshing Esqueixada, a traditional Catalan dish. It’s basically a salad of raw shredded salt cod, tomatoes, onions, red and green bell peppers and olives, dressed in olive oil, vinegar and salt. The cod is salted raw and shredded by hand to ensure a good texture.


An Omlette terrine, or essentially a vegetable tortilla, which contained egg, tomato, spinach, caramelised onion, zucchini and potato. It was creamy and delicious, falling apart in your mouth.


We were running out of space as more food kept on arriving on our table. Next up was an Escalivada with anchovies, another traditional Catalan dish made by grilling bell peppers, onions and eggplants until it was burnt outside and soft inside. The charred skin would then be removed and the inside cut up into slithers with garlic, salt and olive oil. In this case it was served on coca bread with a fillet of the best anchovies of Spain from L’Escala. I may be biased but think there’s some truth to that claim, although some of the anchovies I had in the Basque region were delicious too.


A small portion of snails to share. I prefer the Catalan snails to the French ones as they are much smaller and less meatier, but packed with flavour. It was served with…


… a generous amount of home made aioli and tomato sauce. I love their aioli so much I use it each time as a spread over the remaining coca bread. This time was no exception.


The last item from the pica pica which was a plate of Cod and minced meat croquettes. The cod croquette has always been my favourite. Juicy, fresh and not too oily on the batter.


I never learn from my mistakes as my eyes are bigger than my stomach and always end up ordering an equally huge main course. In this case I went for their 500g Rib-eye steak that had been cooked on a charcoal grill. It had a beautiful smokiness to it, perfect amount of seasoning and cooked exactly the way I like my rib-eye; medium-rare. Suffice to say, I left the chips and garnishes untouched. I was stuffed, but very happy.


And of course there was always room for dessert, especially their Cinnamon ice cream and strawberries dusted with more cinnamon powder on top. A very light course to finish a very filling but superb meal. What an improvement from my disastrous meal the night before at Les Cols.


Some post meal entertainment with a Porrón de moscatel never goes amiss. It’s nothing fancy but a social way of consuming moscatel or your sweet wine of choice using a porrón, a traditional Catalan glass wine pitcher which resembles a cross between a wine bottle and a watering can. To drink from a porrón you basically need to start by bringing the spout close to your mouth and tilt it forward, gradually pointing the beak towards the mouth until the liquid stars pouring out in a fine and steady flow. You then slowly pull the porrón away as far as you can whilst maintaining a steady flow into your mouth, bringing it back to the mouth as you finish. It’s pretty fun watching beginners getting the wine all over their face.P1140263Nothing better than some Marc de Champagne as digestif in a cold shot glass to finish the meal.

P1140198Mas Pou is a place that I could return to over and over again. Their produce is fresh, the dishes are truly Catalan and could not get any more authentic in taste. It’s rustic, not fussy and really good value for what you get. Having had a property in the region for the last 30 years, I can honestly say that I can count in one hand all the places which have stood the test of time and maintained a consistently high standard of cooking. They are one of them. I would confidently say that such a high quality authentic Catalan restaurant is almost impossible to find in the bigger cities like Barcelona or Girona. In my honest opinion this is worth the trip if you are really after something traditional rather than fine dining, although you’d also be spoilt for fine dining choices when you have restaurants like Can Roca and Sant Pau nearby. One word of warning though, reservations are highly recommended for weekend meals as it gets ridiculously busy. Sadly for me it will be a while before I get to return here again as it is a bit far from Melbourne.

Schwarzwaldstube, Baiersbronn

IMG_3043Chef: Harald Wohlfahrt   Cuisine: Innovative French

Ask any gastrophile about Paul Bocuse or Alain Chapel and I guaranty you that most of them will know about their legacy as pioneers and founders of Nouvelle cuisine in France. Just like Bocuse, Harald Wohlfahrt in Germany has paved the way in redefining the fine dining scene in Germany over the past three decades. Adding to his impressive accolades of three Michelin stars which he has kept since 1992 and a 19.5 scoring from Gault Millau, he has also single-handedly trained a staggering six of the current ten three-Michelin-starred chefs in the Germany at his highly acclaimed restaurant, Schwarzwaldstube, located in the heart of the Black Forest in the hotel Traube-Tonbach. Given my limited fine dining experience in Germany, albeit very good thus far, I was very excited about my visit to the Black Forest with Fine Dining Explorer and a couple of other friends. IMG_3005

We decided to make the most of our trip by booking a private cooking lesson to make an original and molecular black forest gateau with Pastry Chef Pierre Lingelser, followed by a German wine tasting session with commis Sommelier Peter Zimmermann. After a leisurely paced afternoon we slowly made our way to the restaurant. We were welcomed by the owner of Traube-Tonbach, Heiner Finkbeiner, a true gentleman who makes it his mission to greet every guest of the hotel and restaurant. For a man who has won a national ski jumping competition and retained the second Michelin star when he was working as a chef in the very same restaurant, his humility and modesty was astonishing. I was humbled to be able to engage in a conversation with him over a glass of champagne before we were guided to our table to commence our meal.P1130873The style of cooking in Schwarzwaldstube was innovative as Wohlfahrt took classic French cuisine and refined it with local produce and modern German techniques and precision. They offered a choice of a standard tasting menu and, might I say, a rather daring vegetarian tasting menu, as the latter was still a new concept in Germany. There was the option of going à la carte as well but it would have just been plain rude to turn down the opportunity to taste as many dishes as we could from the legendary German chef. It was pretty much a unanimous decision to go with the tasting menu and we were soon under way…IMG_2563

As we pondered over the choice of wine with the sommelier, an array of amuse bouche arrived at our table. We were advised to start from the left with the chip made from tapioca and skin of soft shell with crab. The crab was very flavoursome although the tapioca very subtle. In the middle was a puff pastry with guinea fowl mousse and truffle, which had a very delicate flavour, although I found the content inside resembling more to that of a liquid than a mousse. Lastly on the right was a rye bread chip with Perigord black truffle butter and foie gras on top. It was the tastiest of the three and certainly had the most distinct flavour. The rye bread was crunchy and the black truffle was of a very good quality, adding earthiness to the delicious foie gras.


We insisted to the sommelier that we only wanted German wine this evening and he pulled out a couple of cracking bottles. The first one was the Laible 2011 Durbacher Plauelrain Riesling, Trocken Achat, which had a lovely mineral character and fruitiness to it and went really well with our first course…

IMG_2578… of a Variation of Char from Oberpfalz, a freshwater fish related to the trout family. We started with the Char with kataifi and salad of carrot, coriander, ras al hanut and caraway seeds in the front, followed by Char with Compté cheese and olive salad with kumquat to the right. On top was the tartare of Char with grains of beans with a crispy potato garnish, which was amazingly fresh and perfectly seasoned with the salty Char roe, finished off with a nice crunch from the potato. Lastly on the left we had the terrine of tomato and mousse of sturgeon surrounding the Char. The creamy mousse and tomato was refreshing and almost tasted like a gazpacho. It was as delicious as it looked beautiful. Good start.

IMG_2590The next wine to match our meal was a bit of a surprise. The sommelier insisted we try the Sauvignon Blanc 500 Von Winning. How could we turn it down after he boldly declared that this was the best German sauvignon blanc? We were indeed surprised with the minerality and juicy aroma of elderberries, ripe gooseberries and roasted hazelnut emanating from this bottle. Touché indeed Mr Sommelier!IMG_2598Another beautiful course of Carpaccio of wild gamba, crispy seafood, tobiko, cucumber and affila cress, served on a bed of sliced radish, decorated with cucumber jelly. The dish was finished with some dried fragrant shiso and young sprouts sprinkled on top. The tobiko egg brought a textural variation to the meaty gamba which released bags of flavour on each bite, and you could pick out a tiny bit of heat from sweet ginger. The warm crispy seafood was made with kataifi wrapped around prawn and fish paste with spices of the Middle East. It was a great dish that truly captured Wohlfahrt’s refined techniques, and more importantly all the elements worked well together in terms of temperature, texture, flavour and fragrance.

P1130887Now I’ve tried foie gras on countless opportunities and thought it would be very difficult to create something as unique as the Magnum from Osteria Francescana but I must admit Wohlfahrt surprised me with his Truffled goose liver raviolo, two kinds of parsley and truffle sauce. It contained two of my favourite ingredients, and before you say anything, no, I’m not talking about parsley!P1130893The raviolo was stuffed with foie gras and oyster mushroom with parsley purée, carefully laid on a bed of parsnip roots dressed with a generous amount of an intense earthy mushroom sauce at the table with shavings of Perigord truffle. The foie gras was cooked to perfection and the pasta was the right thickness. I did however think that the oyster mushroom was the star component of the dish.

IMG_2625Following a long absence, the Soufflé of quails egg, asparagus, morrels, pea puree and green sauce made it back on to the menu since a couple of years due to popularity. We were glad the chef caved in to his diners demand. The quail egg white was beaten separately and the egg yolk was dropped in the middle before making a soufflé which essentially poached the yolk. The fresh parsley sauce melded the sweet pea purée and the soufflé, and what better than asparagus to go with egg? It was fresh, light and refined. The icing on the cake was the slight nuttiness and earthiness from morrels. With skills like this I could see why Wohlfahrt was offering a vegetarian tasting menu. I could easily have had another plate of this!

IMG_2637On to my favourite course of the evening with the Sea bass, brandade, watercress, lemon and champagne butter. This was just one of those cases where the photo couldn’t do justice to the dish. There was so much going on in this dish and one fault could have been fatal – but it was remarkably well executed. Forming the base of the dish was a bed of sweet watercress purée which had been beaten with olive oil. A sea bass mousse was blended with potato to make a brandade, and the fish was coated with a reduction of fish foam with butter, lemon juice and zest. The brittle seabass skin and crispy potato cubes were vital for some textural contrast in the dish. In true classic French cuisine style, the rich creamy sauce made from fish foam, champagne butter and chives was served at the table to ensure the right temperature. What I particularly enjoyed about the dish was the balance of lemon-to-butter in the dish. My previous experience with similar dishes have always resulted in my palate being dominated by the zingy citrus flavour. Suffice to say, the fish was cooked perfectly but I think each element to this dish was as important as the other.P1130902

The next wine which our sommelier decantered for us was one of Bernard Huber’s flagship pinot noir, Bernard Huber Wildenstein Spatburgunder ‘R’ 2007, which had an intense red and black fruit on the palate with a massive structure and very fine tannins.

IMG_2655Our first meat course was the Ballotine of suckling goat, mediterranean vegetable and wild garlic sauce. On the right was a gnocchi and the vegetable used for the garnish on the left was very mediterranean and included fennel. The baby goat ballotine was made from the saddle and fillet, sourced from the nearby region of Burgundy. It was cooked for 35 hours at 76 degrees celsius, resulting in a stunningly soft texture. The sticky jus which contained wild garlic was not too sharp. I did find it a little filling though, especially given the next course was…


… a Medallion of venison, carrot-ginger purée and cardamom jus. We were served the first venison of the season with a duck liver slice, a venison innards mousse made in equal ratio with crème fraîche, and a carrot and ginger purée, with broccoli and polenta on the side. The venison was served pink and innards mousse was delicious as it was not dominant in the overall flavour of the dish. The polenta with a hint of rosemary was great to mop up the venison jus that had a subtle flavour of cardamom. The sweetness of the carrot went well with the gamey meat but I felt extremely full at this point and could not appreciate the last few mouthfuls. Shame!

P1130924I couldn’t look at cheese at this point but as my friend duly pointed out, it would be a crime to turn down a plate of cheese from Bernard Antony. I caved into peer pressure after a couple of minutes of um-ing and resorted to just getting a handful of hard cheeses and nothing too rich and creamy. Suffice to say, they were as good as always.

IMG_2676Thank god it was time for dessert! As usual, we were the last ones in the restaurant at this point as it was fast approaching 1am. The first dessert served was a Rhubarb and elderberry soup, violet, pine resin, thyme and herbal ice. The caramel sugarwork was made from violet and ice cream from Mediterranean herbs. On the side of the plate were raspberry cream, violet, elderflower and aniseed. I liked most of the components on this dish except for the violet. The last time I had violet in my dessert was at Gordon Ramsey’s three starred restaurant in London and the dish made me gag as it tasted like potpourri. In this case, I was able to isolate the violet from the dish and I thought the dish worked well without it. Perhaps some verbena would have worked better as a substitution?IMG_2685Last up was an impressive sphere of Kir imperial: Woodruff-champagne snow and wild strawberry sorbet.

IMG_2688As I cracked open the sugarwork globe I could see the strawberry sorbet, woodruff flavoured champagne mousse and milk chocolate foam. For those who are unfamiliar with woodruff, it is a herbaceous perennial plant that is commonly used in Germany, particularly around spring time and has a very unique fragrance and flavour, the closest being vanilla. Underneath the sphere were some macerated wild strawberries oozing with sweetness. It was exactly what I wanted – a very fresh and light finish to the meal. Bravo.

IMG_2689We made a concerted effort to try one of the petit fours each consisting of a nut biscuit, chocolate brownie with sesame, passion fruit tart with orange and coconut, pistachio macaroon and finally a chocolate dusted with sugar with Armagnac inside.


As expected from a restaurant of this calibre in Germany, the service was slick and impeccable. Each course and wine came with an explanation and no questions remained unanswered. I also noticed that other than our table, all the other diners were regulars who had been returning for many years. And why wouldn’t they? At just under 200 euros for a full tasting menu (drinks excluded although the average price for wine was very modest), the food served here punched well above the weight compared to many other three-Michellin starred restaurants, including a handful of classic restaurants in France. At a time when many young chef’s have looked towards a more modern and minimalist approach to fine dining, Wohlfahrt’s unwavering determination in twisting classic French techniques and incorporating German produces is admirable. Most importantly, it has given Schwarzwaldstube a unique identity that distinguishes itself from the rest of the pack. One word of advice though if you decide to come here – leave plenty of space in your stomach because you will definitely be well fed! I’d definitely come back with my wife on our next trip to Europe to try the vegetarian tasting menu, and trust me, I can’t believe I just said that!

Azurmendi, Larrabetzu

P1120708Chef: Eneko Atxa         Website:         Cuisine: Modern Basque

On my latest visit to the Basque region I visited the legendary Arzak and went on a journey to discover the best pintxo’s of San Sebastian. There were a couple of other places I’d been meaning to re-visit but I decided to go with a wild card on this occasion. Joining the ranks of culinary excellence in the Basque region in 2012 was Eneko Atxa’s Azurmendi, located only 10 minutes drive away from Bilbao airport. Atxa has impressively amassed three Michelin stars within a very short period of time making it one of the hottest establishments in the region right now. I first heard about this place two years ago when I caught up with Dimi from the Fat Duck and after Michelin’s announcement in 2012, I prodded my partner in culinary crime, Fine Dining Explorer, to come with me on a weekend to see what all the fuss was about. As usual it didn’t take much to convince him.


Nestled high up on the hill of the biggest Txakoli winery in the region is a beautifully elongated modern glass cube that is Azurmendi. While it’s a very steep hill to drive up, the view from the top is quite impressive despite the intruding highway that runs parallel to the horizon. At the foot of the hill stands the original winery building that, until the contemporary building was completed in 2012, housed the restaurant. It now is used partly as a wedding venue and a bistro. The weather on this occasion was far more aggressive than the usual rain I am accustomed to in the Basque region – on this occasion it was snowing hard! But this was not going to dampen our spirit.

3A9Q7675Leaving the blizzard behind, we stepped into the vast contemporary space of the restaurant reception to be greeted by the Maitre D, Jon Eguskiza. He immediately joked that Atxa’s unfortunate absence that day meant that we would be even better looked after as he could spoil us rotten. Whilst I have no comparison to make yet, I can certainly guaranty that Eguskiza did a damn fine job in looking after us that afternoon. He carried on to show us around the building explaining that the green house they integrated into the restaurant was not with the intention of moving towards self-reliance as it was far too small, but rather an opportunity to showcase some of the indigenous vegetables and fresh produces the Basque region had to offer to foreign diners.P1120726

I was particularly impressed with the couple of Haiku’s that had been translated from Euskerra to Castellano and English, all whilst maintaining the rules of haiku.

P1120732We returned to the reception to find a couple of waiters laying out a picnic basket on the coffee table. After meticulously putting everything in place they announced that our picnic amuse bouche was ready. Let’s see what was inside…P1120738

First up was a Peanut made from peanut butter with chocolate and dried mushroom dust coating. This was a bizarre dish as I felt as if I was eating a dollop of slightly sweet butter infused with earthy mushroom flavour. Admittedly this was not my cup of tea.

P1120740Much better was the Homemade cheese with basil flowers from our garden. The cheese just melted in your mouth and was not too powerful to distract the flavours from subsequent dishes so early in the meal.


The last item of the picnic was a Purple onion from Zalla skin infusion, which had been prepared by roasting and boiling the onion. There was an intense onion flavour accompanied by the natural sweetness. It was rich and clear with a lasting aftertaste.

3A9Q7730After our picnic we were taken to the vast open kitchen but found only a handful of chef’s preparing the mis-en-place. Eguskiza explained that chefs under Atxa were not segregated to one section in the kitchen in order to avoid monotony. Instead, each chef was responsible for multiple courses. This explained why there were far less chefs here than many other three starred restaurants I had been to. We were curious to see whether this would affect the quality of the dishes so we promptly took our seats and left ourselves in the hand of our friendly Maitre D. Tasting Menu? Of course. Matching wine? Absolutely. Brand new dishes? Why not?

P1120749The restaurant offered two menu’s – Erroak (€135) consisting of classic dishes that formed the foundation of Azurmendi’s identity since inception, and Adarrak (€160) which consisted of more dishes and showcased the flavours and roots of Basque cuisine. We couldn’t make up our mind so Eguskiza suggested we create a customised menu, using Adarrak as the base, adding some dishes from Erroak to get an overall appreciation and understanding of Atxa’s cooking. Splendid! We ordered a bottle of Cava, Oriol Brut Nature as he ran through some of the options and then we were set.

P1120760First up on the menu was Egg from our chickens, cooked inside out and truffled. Part of the slightly cooked egg yolk had been taken out carefully with a syringe leaving the outer membrane intact. A rich black truffle infused broth was then injected back in, finished off with move shavings of black truffles from Zaragoza. I loved the creaminess of the egg yolk which magnified the earthy flavour of the truffle. A simple looking dish but the attention to detail was amazing, particularly given that the temperature had to be spot on and the membrane was so delicate. What’s more, the dish had to be assembled altogether at the last minute. This certainly made up for the somewhat lack luster amuse-bouche. What a superb start!

P1120769In preparation for the next course a bowl containing seaweed and dry ice was presented and water added allowing the smell of the ocean to wash over us.

P1120779Almost simultaneously we were served the Oyster, Salicornia, iodinated tremella, sea weed and small crunchy nettles with natural aroma from the sea. What initially appeared to be seaweed next to the Gillardeau oyster from La Rochelle in the shell was actually gelatinous tremella mushrooms cooked in seawater. It had a contrasting crunchy texture to the meaty oyster with diced seaweed on top. The accompanying seaweed and anemone tempura had the right level of natural seasoning, executed perfectly with a good crispiness and hardly any oil.

P1120783We were then presented with lobster done two ways with the Confited lobster with essential herbs from our garden and pork jowl. On the left was the tartare of lobster that had been infused with oil of essential herbs from their garden, wrapped in a smoky pork jowl. On the right was a beautifully cooked juicy roasted Cantabric lobster. This Cantabric lobster had more of a bite to other lobsters I’ve tried but I personally preferred this texture better.

P1120788We were initially taken back when the next course was being served as we thought our tasting menu was coming to an abrupt end. Luckily Eguskiza smiled and assured us we were only getting started as he prepared The “Earth” Tea service.

P1120791On the right we had a cup containing champignon mushroom with wild edible flowers.

P1120793On the left were some dried champignon mushrooms. We were instructed to take three tea spoonful of the dried mushroom and add it to the teapot containing a concentrated mushroom consommé to brew.

P1120796We then left the mushroom tea to brew for a couple of minutes before proceeding to pour it into the cup on the right.

P1120798The flavour of the broth was just outstanding considering this was just made from the humble champignon mushroom. The meaty mushroom had bags of flavour and the overall flavour lasted a very long time. I was so impressed I went to add a few more spoons of dried mushroom into my teapot to increase the concentration. I was in fungi heaven and this was probably one of my three most favourite mushroom courses I’ve ever had next to the Mai-take brioche in De Librije and the woodland mushroom and quinoa dish at Mirazur.


Next up was Smoked Foie Gras Sandwich with Tapenade, a new dish which had not been served yet to other customers. The foie gras encased in a herby cracker was so delicately poised on the plate it fell on its side a couple of times before it was presented perfectly on the third time. I didn’t really mind but our Maitre D was a perfectionist and I appreciated the attention to detail. We were advised to eat the sandwich with our fingers. The smokey foie gras was nice with the contrasting crunchy cracker. The tapenade on the side, which contained a leaf of sunflower, was nice but I thought the dish could have done with a bit more acidity to cut through the rich foie.

P1120806I absolutely love sweetbreads and I think it’s such a shame that many restaurants are too afraid to use them so I was in for a treat with the next course of Cauliflower, garlic potato and sweetbreads. The potato soufflé was stuffed with a garlic cream inside that oozed out. The cauliflower was served golden and crispy on top. The lamb sweetbread, which we were told was the traditional choice in the region, was beautiful without a strong offal flavour. The components were all assembled on a bed of cauliflower purée.

P1120816One of the two best courses of the day, hands down, without a shadow of a doubt was the “Betizu” ox tail raviolis, wrapped in corn bread with legume broth. The ox tail had been stewed on the bone for hours and the soft meat then taken off the bone. Iberico ham was then mixed into the meat before being wrapped in a thin layer of corn bread like a sushi roll. The rolls were then fried on each side to give the perfect crispiness to the bread coating. The finishing touch was to add this delicious morsel on a bed of sticky vegetable sauce containing chickpeas and basil. Each bite released an explosion of flavours. Whilst based on the taste, I normally would have begged for more, in fact this was exactly the right portion because it was such a rich dish.

P1120820We were surprised to find another rich dish for the next course. We were assured that this was a good progression of flavour and he was right again with the Salted stew: vegetables, anchovies and iberics with “Idiazabal” cream cheese balls. The stew was made of shallots, green asparagus, anchovies, trotters and bacon giving it a hearty and punchy flavour – a real smack in the mouth. The Idiazabal cheese had a strong flavour on its own but worked well in the context of the dish and you could appreciate the flavour of the local cheese.

P1120829I was glad to see that Atxa had incorporated another great dish from the region into his menu, and who wouldn’t? Kokotxas, pil-pil and tender and crunchy artichokes. On this occasion the dish was prepared by using kokotxas from hake in olive oil and a very creamy pil-pil sauce with chilli. The confit artichoke was fried and cut finely to spread the crunchy texture across the dish. Another good dish!

P1120831The second best course of the day following the oxtail dish was the Pigeon, hazelnuts and deuxelles. This was possibly the best pigeon dish I’ve ever had to date. The pigeon was from Arraiz, Navarra. There were some natural hazelnuts as well as “artificial ones” which were made from a mixture of the foie gras of pigeon and reduced stock from the bone, served chilled. The sauce was made from cheese and mushroom. The pigeon was cooked perfectly pink with good seasoning and the mushroom added a lovely earthiness to the dish. The nutty flavour and crunchiness of the hazelnut was the perfect accompaniment to the pigeon. Great use of textures, flavours and temperatures.P1120843I’d never say no to trying some local cheese of course! We were presented with a traditional long wooden palate containing two types of Idiazabal – one half cured and one smoked, some Carranzana, which was made from an ancient Basque sheep breed, and a blue cheese from Artziniega. They were all matched with marmalade made from apple, prune, quince and a most peculiar but delicious carrot.

P1120851Right before our dessert we were presented with a little story

P1120855and a brown paper bag

P1120860which contained Chestnuts with vine shoot scent. As we opened the bag, a waft of smoke came out carrying a lovely smoky smell of roasted chestnut. This took me back to my childhood in Asia. What was unexpected however, was that the chestnuts inside were neither hot nor indeed actual chestnuts. Instead they were chilled chestnut purée’s made from double cream with chocolate milk and natural chestnut powder, resting on a bed of chestnut powder made again from chestnuts that had been roasted until they were burnt before being ground.

P1120863The first dessert of the evening was Coffee Pudding, Rum and Farmhouse Milk, which appeared like a giant egg decorated with caramelised hazelnuts.

P1120868As we cracked open the outer shell there was a coffee purée inside that had a hint of rum. I usually prefer to not have alcohol in my dessert but this was perfect in dose as you could just pick up the flavour. The caramelised hazelnuts added some texture and the little specks of dulce de leche added that sweetness the dish needed. I love coffee so this was right up my alley.

P1120870Up next was Honey. I had seen this dish on various websites prior to coming to the restaurant and had hoped to try it. It is Atxa’s signature dish of honey comb with frozen air of honey with thousand flowers. His inspiration came from a chiffon cake. He wanted to create a light and airy dessert but with a much more intense flavour. This was achieved by whisking honey, glucose and sugar together before adding it to a vacuum bag.  It was then cooked before adding air back into the bag, finally freezing it after it expanded. A pinch of the honey scented sweet alyssum was added as a beautiful garnish on the frozen honey. This was all beautiful presented on a slab of honey comb with more honey drizzled on it! If you love honey, this is one dish you really don’t want to miss and definitely a feast for the eyes.

P1120887To go with our coffees we had an array of petit fours starting with a passion fruit chocolate ball on the right, followed by a rice soufflé in the middle and finishing off with an apple pie.

3A9Q4938With a growing number of young talented chefs like Eneko Atxa, it would seem as if the Basque region’s reputation as a culinary Mecca is safe for a while. Just like the gastronomical revolution led by legendary chefs from Arzak and Akelare a couple of decades ago, new chefs like Atxa appear to be paving a way for a new refined cuisine that continues to embrace their heritage and roots. The cooking here was without doubt very accomplished. I also loved the luxury of having so much space between the tables, allowing us to take in the whole experience without bothering and being bothered by other diners. Also, if it hasn’t been obvious already, the service here led by Jon Eguskiza was flawless. Top that off with amazing views through floor to ceiling windows across the entire dining room and you’ve got yourself a recipe for success. I hope on my next trip I’ll get to see the genius behind everything that is Azurmendi.

The Sportsman, Whitstable

P1130757Chef: Stephen Harris       Cuisine: British

When I’m presented with an opportunity to meet the chef of a restaurant I particularly enjoyed, there is always a question which I end up asking without fail – which is their favourite restaurant in the world? I always find that if I like a particular chef’s cooking style, the chances are that I would most likely like their favourite restaurants too. I appreciate it’s difficult for anyone, including myself, to single out one restaurant but you’d be surprised as to how many times I’d be given one name. It all started over a year ago when a two-Michelin starred chef in Stockholm did exactly that. His response was “the Sportsman, without a shadow of a doubt. They do the most amazing lamb”. Subsequently, I came across that name over a dozen times within a span of a few months so I knew I needed to do something about it. Three months later, I was finally on my way there.

P1130758The Sportsman is essentially a gastropub that is located an hour’s train ride away from London, in the salt marshes near Whitstable. The restaurant has had a michelin star to its name since 2009 although admittedly I think Michelin have got it wrong here as I sincerely believe this place operates at a two-michelin starred standard. Sure, the service was much more informal and the chairs at a few table were higgeldy piggeldy, but then again I liked the casual atmosphere. Furthermore, if you purely based the experience on food then I would probably say that the Sportsman puts many of the two and three starred restaurants in the United Kingdom to shame and the best way to highlight why….. is to keep reading…P1130763We were advised that the menu was seafood heavey at the start so we decided to go with a bottle of a Taittinger brut. The amuse bouche of cheese biscuit made from the award winning Ashmore cheese followed almost immediately after. It was mild, not overly salty and the spring onion was a lovely addition to it.

P1130766This was one of the main reason why I came here. I had heard of everyone talking about the pork scratching with mustard but I didn’t expect it to be so tender and juicy inside and crunchy on the outside. The wholegrain mustard dipping gave it a bit of kick and cut straight through the fat. It was the most extraordinary port scratchings I’ve ever had and I wish I could have had some more!

P1130769Next to the pork scratchings were the pickled herrings on soda bread with cream cheese and Bramley apple jelly. The acidity of the apple cut through the oily herring really well and it tasted very fresh. Overall a good balance of the elements.

P1130772A couple of shellfish courses starting with the scallop with Bramley apple foam and 24 months home cured ham. The ham was surprisingly amazing in quality with a nice creaminess and fattiness, and flavour not too dissimilar to the mighty Spanish Iberico ham. It went really well with the scallop and acidic green apple foam, eaten in one bite it released all the flavours in one go.

P1130779Next up was a baked oyster with rhubarb and seaweed granita. The quality of the oyster was very good. The combination of rhubarb and seaweed granita with the lightly baked oyster was a new one for me but I thought it worked well.

P1130788By now it was clear that simplicity was key to success here. This was particularly true with the first of the two fish courses, Slip Sole grilled in seaweed butter. The sweet flesh was quite dense and succulent compared to that of other sole varieties. The rich butter carried through the delicious flavour of seaweed and that was all this dish needed. Superb execution, brilliantly simple and absolutely delicious.

P1130794As it was in season, the next fish course was Braised Turbot with smoked roe, served with broccoli. The sauce made from smoked turbot roe could have been smokier in my opinion and the meat was slightly overcooked. It wasn’t a terrible dish but I did have to factor in that my opinion was overshadowed by the preceding course. I wanted more slip sole… and seaweed butter…

P1130795I absolutely loved the numerous plates of seafood but thought it was the right time to introduce something different. The waitress hinted us to order a bottle of red wine for the next few courses so we naturally obliged. First up was the Wood pigeon, bread sauce and crisp cabbage. The pigeon was surprisingly not too gamey with a sweet and nutty flavour. Most importantly, it was cooked just the way it should be, rare. The bread sauce was substantial, the cabbage crunchy and the pickled radish and rhubarb added some acidity to the rich dish. Not a bad dish, but this was not what I was waiting for…

P1130798This was more like it! This was what we heard everyone talk about over and over again, local Monkshill Farm lamb. They are reared next door to the pub and graze on the salt marshes, feeding on salt-tolerant plants like sorrel and samphire. We started with the Lamb belly deep fried with mint sauce. This reminded me a bit of tonkatsu – perfect crispiness and melting meat. It also had a bit of heat with mustard spread all over it. My companions appreciated the accompanying mint sauce, although I was happy to eat without it as I’m not generally a big fan of mint sauce.  P1130805Then came the best lamb dish I’ve ever had to date, Roast lamb from Monkshill farm. Precise and beautifully pink again. The cut of the lamb was the shoulder and rump. Two of my favourite cuts as it has so much flavour, particularly the latter, although they can be tough but these were so unbelievably soft they melted in your mouth. They came with some seasonal vegetables but I was less concerned with them. More mint sauce on the side but I was content with the jus which was deep in flavour. I would fly back from Melbourne just to eat this again. Seriously.P1130806After depleting all of the food noise vocabulary, mainly consisting of mmmmm’s and oh’s, we realised our plates were empty. That was it. The meal was over… or was it? The palate cleanser of the Rhubarb lolly ended up being our favourite sweet treat of the evening. It was essentially a rhubarb sorbet on a stick in a cake sauce made from Madeira cake. Does that sound decadent or what? It was delicious and refreshing. I never thought I’d find lumpy cake in a sauce to be delectable but it was.

P1130813The final course of the day was Meringue ice cream, seawater spray, buckthorn and sea lettuce. Sea buckthorn is one of those things you love or hate, and I love it, particularly given one of my favourite dessert all time from Frantzén Lindeberg (now known as Frantzén) has them in the dish. The dish reminded me of a cold pavlova and I thought the saltiness from the seawater and lettuce really brought out the sweetness of the meringue ice cream. It was a good dish to finish on but admittedly not in the same league as their savoury courses.P1130818Some petit fours to finish with our coffee. They included gypsy tart with apple, short bread, Indian tea juncket and warm chocolate mousse with salted caramel. My personal favourite was the gypsy tart.


So did the Sportsman live up to all the hype? Yes, and I could even say it was in my top five restaurants of the United Kingdom, coming respectably just behind L’Enclume. It was a pub and there was no pretense but that was part of the charm, especially given its remote location in the countryside. To me it epitomised British dining at its best. The result on the plate showed a care and obsession for ingredients, and a passion for flavours. The quality of the locally sourced produce was second to none and it was utlised sensibly without complicating the dishes. It was pure and honest. All this for a mere £65 per head for the tasting menu? I can’t remember the last time I paid less than £100 for a meal that was this impressive! Would I be back? Hell yes.

Arzak, San Sebastian


Chef: Juan Mari & Elena Arzak    Website:    Cuisine: Modern Basque

I think it’s fair to say that any food enthusiast or chef would have made a pilgrimage to the city of San Sebastian at least once in their lifetime. The culinary Mecca of Europe has continued to cater for foreigners and locals alike with their abundant numbers of taverns serving delicious morsels of pintxos and, in the last two decades, an array of restaurants whose chefs have stood at the forefront of culinary excellence in the world. It is no surprise that the city has the highest concentration of Michelin stars per capita in the world. Amongst these fine establishments there is one that has stood out as the epitome of the evolution of Basque cuisine. That place is Arzak.

From humble beginnings as the village tavern dating back to 1897, Arzak transformed itself through three talented generations into a world class dining destination. Under the direction of Juan Mari from 1966, the restaurant, in collaboration with Pedro Subijana from Akelare, became synonymous with the New Basque cuisine movement. Juan Mari is also well known for another reason. He was the first, and continues to be, the longest holder of three prestigious Michelin stars in Spain. First awarded three stars in 1989, today he continues to push the culinary boundaries with his daughter and co-head of Arzak, Elena. Elena herself also won the title of Best Female Chef award in 2012, clearly this is an overachieving family.


Since I was making a long journey for this meal, I was curious to meet the chefs but never in my wildest dream did I expect to be able to grab the father and daughter for over an hour before our lunch service! You can appreciate my nervousness facing a legendary chef and the best female chef in the world but their smiles, humour and humility immediately dispelled my unfounded anxiety. 

During the course of our conversation we found ourselves continuously coming back to one fundamental point: the roots and tradition of Basque cuisine was always at the heart of everything they did. It was their identity and soul, a raison d’être, and whilst a chef must have a solid foundation, he needs to be modest, inspired, hard working and above all born to cook. The culmination of these elements are essentially what have made and evolved Arzak into the entity is has become today. After our discussion, Elena arranged for her sous chef Igor Zalakain to show us around the premise before seating down. The impressive wine celler upstairs stocked about 100,000 bottles of wine, the oldest dating back to 1897, the date Arzak was opened!


This was followed by another flight of stairs up to the spice room that contained more than 1,400 varieties – all for the purpose of experimenting to create new dishes and flavours. Right next door was the experimental lab which was in full swing.

Comedor Arzak 4 JLAs we came back downstairs, Elena directed us to our dining table and explained how the menu worked. There was one tasting menu and a few of the courses had two choices. After explaining we had no allergies or dislikes, we left Elena to make the decision of what we should order. After scribbling a few things down, she disappeared for a brief moment to let the sommelier pour us a glass of cava and serve the arrays of delicious amuse bouches.P1120533Elena came back to take us through some of the dishes. I had explained that I was curious to pick up any subtle references to Basque cuisine that may not have been as obvious to foreigners, and she made sure no questions were left unanswered. The first amuse bouche was the Kabrarroka pudding with kataifi which was essentially scorpion fish pudding that had been wrapped in a threaded pastry commonly used in the Middle East. The fish was delicious and creamy, and a lovely contrast to the crispy coating.P1120535Followed by a sweet and salty combination of Beans, bacon and chestnut. It was a good progression of flavours.P1120537A rather refreshing and unique combination of Chorizo and Tonic served on a squashed can of tonic. The chorizo was wrapped in a thin sheet of mango and the oiliness was washed away by the tonic. Simple but spectacular!P1120538Red Codfish on a crispy pastry and brandade. I particularly enjoyed the saltiness from the brandade and the contrasting textures.P1120544The last of the amuse bouche was Sunflower seed with arraitxiki. Arraitxiki is a local bony rock fish and it was my first time trying it. It had a very deep flavour with a long aftertaste and went well with the toasted sunflower seed. It was a great way to set the scene for the main segment of the meal.P1120546

After a brief moment to take in all the flavours from the amuse bouches, we were ready for the first course of the evening, Cromelech, manioc and huitlacoche. The Cromelech (monolithic structure in Welsh) symbolised the relationship and marriage of the land and sea of the region. The crispy manioc (better known as cassava) casing, hydrated with huitlacoche (a corn fungus used in Mexican cuisine with smokey and earthy flavour), puffed up when added into hot oil. The casing was then stuffed with a preparation of poached onion, green tea and foie gras cream. We were advised to flip it upside down and eat it like an ice cream cone. It was fun but more importantly delicious and creamy inside!

P1120551I particularly enjoyed the next course of the Oyster with sea crust, essentially warm oysters with sea urchin and a salty crust. It was a very clever dish as the oyster quickly cooked on one side could be left on the salt plate to suit each customer’s preference of seasoning. I had my second one after another couple of minutes and found it just perfect. To top it off, the sea urchin served fresh and dried complemented the oyster both in texture and flavour, and reminded me a bit of katsuobushi (or bonito flakes).P1120561As my companion enjoyed another fish course, I was served with the Potato cube with fresh truffle, egg yolk and orange zestThe black truffle was sourced from the region and the eggs were fresh from the day. The components altogether almost gave a sensation of eating a creamy tortilla but with black truffles. The orange zest provided some acidity to lift the dish, perfectly matched with a glass of Riesling.P1120566For my main fish course I had the Monkfish green witch. The green sphere itself was made from reduced fish stock and parsley sprayed onto an inflated balloon with several layers of obulato sheets (transparent edible gluten free sheets) in between. The balloon was then popped and removed, and the remaining shell fried before plating up.P1120574The balloon was cracked and then partly removed from the plate, uncovering the monkfish with confit garlic. The lard wrapping of the monkfish kept it moist and juicy. The gooseberry was very subtle. The green fragments were deceivingly tasty so I ate the bits that were removed to a side plate as well!P1120587

Elena came out to serve the next dish to explain that meat on the Longan, deer and roe deer was the side dish, and that the longan and fried grape garnish (below) was the main component. The “garnish” also contained red pepper sauce in the shell of the longan.


Although this was a somewhat unexpected approach to a main dish, the powdered ingredients dusted across the plate were composed of various flavoursome herbs which were very worthy of being the main component of the dish! I really enjoyed the two cuts of meat, served almost rare just the way I like it, but I thought the dish could have done without the longan.


As we ended the main act of the meal I thought the portion sizes were spot on. I was neither too full nor hungry and definitely ready for some sweet treats at this point. I was curious to see what Juan Mari and Elena were going to pull out of the bag given the high calibre of food so far. The first dessert was Roots, fruits and seeds, where a thin layer of white chocolate flavoured with parsley and filled with black chocolate emulsified with kuzu and lime flavour. This was served with Frangelico and Aperol balls. A scoop of pineapple sorbet was presented separately which balanced the sweet dish.


The second dessert and grand finale was the Golden footprint and ladybird. The caramalised fruits served under black sesame bread (the footprint) was delicious and I particularly liked the peach which was extremely sweet and melted in your mouth, almost like a mango purée. Additionally, there was a pepper and liquorice ladybird filled with vanilla yoghurt pannacotta and olive oil cristal. I must admit that whilst it didn’t visually capture me although I did find this humorous, I enjoyed the flavour combination of the components coming together. The accompanying passion fruit and banana ice cream was the icing on the cake.

P1120618At first glance I didn’t know what was being served with our coffee but I soon realised that they were petit fours. A bit more humour to finish the meal with chocolates from the Ferreteria (Spanish word for hardware store), which consisted of keys, bolts and screws!P1120588

My mind drifted back to the earlier conversation I had with Elena and Juan Mari as I reflected on the meal over my coffee. The cooking here was undoubtedly deeply rooted to the Basque heritage and they were rightfully proud of it. Without roots, Arzak could not exist. It was equally true that the quality and choice of ingredients available in the region puts restaurants like Arzak at a head start to produce great dishes like the ones I had for lunch. However, with an inquisitive mind that constantly strives for inspiration from beyond their native land, Juan Mari and Elena are a cut above the rest. It is the application of this curiosity and creativity into the deep roots of the Basque cuisine that make Arzak unique.

The food for me was delicious. Some of the flavours I encountered were completely alien to me, yet I also found some dishes to be familiar and comforting. Dishes like the ladybird brought out Juan Mari and Elena’s humour, but admittedly, without the detailed explanation from Elena, I’m not sure whether I would have captured some of the subtle cultural reference only a local would have picked up. One thing for certain however was that everyone around us, young or old, local or foreign, looked undeniably as happy as a kid in a candy shop. I know it’s selfish of me but a big part of me hopes that Elena will be joined in the kitchen by her kids in the future, just as she did with Juan Mari to maintain the roots and tradition of Arzak.

Amaroz, Tolosa

P1060094Chef: Unknown        Website:     Cuisine: Traditional Basque

Every so often in my food travels I like to avoid the fine dinning scene and see what the locals are enjoying on a daily basis. Invariably, I come across a hidden gem that few outside have ever heard of, and Amaroz in the town of Tolosa is no exception. With a concentration of some of the country’s best restaurants in the nearby city of San Sebastian, I’m not surprised to see why this place has remained the locals well kept secret for the last 40 years.

P1060037When we first arrived there was no one else to be seen (the spanish eat notoriously late), however after a quick manzanilla as an apperitif, there was soon a rapidly growing crowd. The restaurant can cater up to about 50 people and requires booking in advance for the weekends. The decor was simple and plain but the proprietors were very welcoming. We started the meal with a glass of  the local favourite of Txacoli wine while enjoying our appetisers.

P1060043Some nibbles to start of with including chistorra a la sidra. The tender pork meat was pan-fried lightly and then simmered in cider which is slowly added but frequently. Mopped up with some bread, this was a delicious starter to whet your appetite.

P1060053My favourite Basque dish, Kokotxas de Merzula en salsa verde. Kokotxas are essentially delicate pendulums of flesh growing in the throat of cod or hake, in this case the latter. The ones I had here were by far the best I’ve ever had. I found many places either overcooked them and added too much seasoning and parsley. This was delicate but had some texture, and the sauce was buttery with a good amount of seasoning.

P1060056Served together with the kokotxas was a plate of Almejas al ajillo. This was a beautiful simple dish where the clams were cooked in their own juice with some wine and parsley. When you have top quality ingredients, there’s no reason to complicate a dish.

P1060065Last of the starters – chipirones en su tinta. The squid was cooked in its own ink resulting in a black stew-like dish where the squid was tender. The black sauce was deceiving as it contained onion, tomato and herbs. It’s a rich tasting dish that requires some skill to prepare as unlike normal squid dish that takes few minutes to cook to avoid the chewy texture, this one is slow cooked for hours.

P1060071I personally chose the the merluza (hake) en salsa verde con almejas y kokotxas, mainly because I wanted to see how good the fish was given the superb quality of the kokotxas I had for starters. The hake was cooked perfectly and having had this dish a few times before, I particularly liked this dish over the other places I tried because you got a decent piece of fish with little distraction to the main component.

P1060076My partner opted for the Rodaballo al horno, which was turbot cooked in the oven. The fish again was lightly seasoned and stuffed with some crunchy garlic inside. This was definitely one of the best quality of turbot I’d tasted in Europe and could see why the Northern coast of Spain holds the title of the best seafood in Europe.

P1060092A light dessert of Mamia or Cuajada to finish the meal. This was a milk curd made from ewe’s milk, served with sugar in this case or sometimes honey and walnut. The curd is a product resulting from the coagulation of pasteurized milk, after having added a fermenting product called rennet, and was cooled to a temperature of 35 ° C. It was lovely to try one that was properly made from scratch.

I visited this place first time back in 2011 and have been going back whenever in the region. If you are looking for something casual but good honest food, I would recommend this place. It may be a bit out of the way but if you’re in that part of the world I would definitely suggest stopping by. It would be perfect for a casual family meal or a hearty lunch when traveling.



Vila Joya, Albufeira

P1110057Chef: Dieter Koschina    Website:    Cuisine: Modern French/European

Since catapulting to the forefront of the fine dining scene as the 45th Best Restaurant in the World in 2012, I was extremely eager to visit Vila Joya for two reasons. Firstly, I was curious to discover what Portugal had to offer in the fine dining scene given the success their neighbour Spain had enjoyed over the last decade, and, more importantly, I was intrigued with the fact that it took an Austrian chef by the name of Dieter Koschina to bring Portugal into the playing field of culinary excellence.

P1070116We had wondered all day as to what we were going to encounter and it was difficult to have any preconception – an Austrian chef cooking in Portugal with a reputation for French style cuisine? We were naturally intrigued to see the culmination of these components, but before sitting down at our table…

P1100931… we had the opportunity to visit the kitchen where we discovered the “crEATivity table” – a table where four curious diners are able to observe the kitchen in full swing during their meal; a good enough reason to return!

P1070145Back to the table and we started with a glass of Ruinart Blanc de Blanc. The array of snacks certainly set the bar high for the evening ahead. The Beetroot Macaron with eel cream was excellent, where the rich and delicate flavour of the eel was balanced against the tanginess of the beetroot.

P1070147Caviar Tempura – Tempura of salmon roe and bacon. A good flavour combination but I found it slightly salty for my palate.

P1070149Yoghurt Pistachio – Pistacchio wrapped up in yoghurt wrap.

P1070152The Parmesan sandwich was extremely light, airy and cool. A nice contrast to the other snacks so far.

P1070156Green Olive, which was basically el Bulli’s olive oil spherification technique.

P1070159This was swiftly followed by the last snack, a Cornetto Tapenade, which had a fabulous crunchy texture surrounding the concentrated flavour of the sun-dried tomato and olive.

P1070167We enjoyed the progression of flavours of the snacks to the amuse bouche of Duck consommé with sour cream and imperial caviar served in a martini glass. The rich and earthy gelatinous duck consommé added a depth to the classic combination of sour cream and caviar, and the small portion was perfect as the flavour was very intense.

P1070194The opening act to the main courses was the first of three Variations of Scallops. It was an artistic plate of scallop, celeriac and vinaigrette dressing. To go with the three scallop dishes, the sommelier poured us a glass of 2010 Eminencia Loureiro, Minho, which was buttery but delicate, full of acidity and with a good floral note.

P1070191Second scallop installment was Seared scallop on a bed of artichoke puree with a black truffle gel.

P1070188And finally the last scallop dish was prepared as a Carpaccio with cauliflower to complete the trifecta. All three courses showcased Koschina’s creativity and technical skills, as it was impressive to see how unique each dish was despite using the same star ingredient.

P1070198As our visit coincided with the season for the Alba white truffles, we were treated to a freshly delivered batch, arriving only that day. These jewels of the earth were put to good use in the Atlantic lobster, parsley polenta and Alba truffles, a novel combination of two of our favourite ingredients on one plate. The moist lobster magnified the aroma and flavour of the white truffle, and the bed of crunchy ceps and puréed broccoli completed the dish providing additional textural elements to the dish. We were very impressed by the manner in which the ingredients had not compromised, but instead enhanced the taste of either star item. The 2009 Vertice Grande Reserva, Douro had a good acidity and spiciness with a wood element.

P1070202Luckily for us, we had a second white truffle dish of Carbonara agnelotti Alba truffle. It was quite similar to the divine fagotelli from Beck at La Pergola but this one had a slight edge with the white truffle. It was even served with…

P1070204… a truffled brioche to mop up every single morsel of the sauce. We were truly in truffle heaven!


Finally the fish course! Poached turbot, Gillardeau oyster, passe pierre (aka sea green bean). We thought initially it may have been an overkill but the oyster leaf garnish was a great addition to the mouthful of the flavour of the ocean. The glass of a full-bodied 2009 Arrepiado Colection, Alentejo was paired to go with the fish courses. It had a citrus nose with a slight scent of vanilla.


A meal in Portugal of course would not be complete without the nation’s favourite fish, bacalhau (or cod). The Cod fish confit, wild mushrooms and garlic had a lovely silky texture not generally associated with the typically large and flaky cod. The creamy deep fried ball of aioli provided a crunchy texture without overpowering the dish, and the accompanying chanterelles were the perfect touch to marry the ingredients together with its earthiness. Suffice to say, we were impressed with the calibre of the dishes so far.

P1070219Continuing with the theme of novelty, Koschina’s version of the traditional Algarve dish, “Cataplana” Vila Joya, was another triumph.The dish is prepared in a clam-like shaped pressure cooker (the cataplana), which locks in the essence of the ingredients, in this case pork, cockles and lobster with a tomato and onion base. The finishing garnish of the crouton was perfect to soak up the remaining liquor, packed with all the flavours of the ingredients. It was a wonderful reinvention of a traditional regional dish whose roots dates back as far as the 8th century.


Following on was the Young Pork belly, Chorizo sauce and octopus, where the sea and land met. This was a lovely soft pork belly and crispy skin, together with grilled octpus that had a bite. It was slightly salty again but had great flavours.

P1070227 The sauce served on the side of the above dish was made from chorizo, tomato, crouton and onion We enjoyed them both with a matching glass of a decantered 2004 Chryseia, Douro that had a smell and taste of a very fine porto, slight cigar smokiness and overripe currants. Happily, we only had Portuguese wine this evening and I was very impressed with the choices, possibly because my knowledge of Portuguese wine was quite limited.


The finale to the main courses was the Miéral Duck, beetroot and raspberries. A rectangular cut of duck breast with raspberry and beetroot sauce, a duck breast spring roll with beetroot wedge, and an encrusted crispy ball of duck liver. It was a grand finale to the main act of the meal but perhaps was possibly a couple of mouthful too many!P1070239

Luckily we were moving on to the dessert courses. This started with a prelude of Pineapple Carpaccio and white chocolate soup served over a bed of fresh pineapple wedge and pine nut. The acidity from the pineapple and the sweetness of the chocolate made this a fresh and fruity palate cleanser. P1070244The subsequent Pear and cocoa beans ice cream was again a creative and light dish. The milk chocolate ice cream and dark fondant chocolate ball submerged in a cold pear juice was refreshing and clean on the palate, and what appeared to be an ordinary decoration of a thin chocolate stick had a surprising crunch to it. It was a superb introduction to the culmination of this extensive tasting menu, which was…


… a Soufflé of croissant, apple tartare and sorbet of salted caramel, again incorporating a contrast of flavours (salty and sweet) and temperature (cold and hot). The flavour was not dissimilar to that of an apple pie, although the portion size was again spot on as it was a very hearty course.

P1070253It was by now approaching 2am and, as we sipped over a glass of 1964 Krohn Colheita Branco port with our petit fours, we found ourselves content in this little piece of paradise but exhausted from all the excitement. Our taste buds were well stimulated from the various innovative dishes with unique but successful flavour combinations. We had also been introduced to some of the diverse and delicious traditional cuisine that Portugal is famed for, which was complemented well by wine from a region that was previously unfamiliar to us. The adoption of the local produce and cuisine to his Northern European cooking techniques makes Koschina a truly unique chef who we will be expecting many more culinary delights from in the future. Let us hope that his cuisine will inspire other chefs in Portugal to follow suit.

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, London


Chef: Olivier Limousin     Website:    Cuisine: French

Part of the continuously expanding empire of Joel Robuchon, L’Atelier’s concept is based on Japanese counter dining, but serving classic French food instead. As I was celebrating my 30th Birthday, I decided to go with the full tasting menu and matching wine after a couple of lovely cocktails upstairs in the bar.


The decor is consistent with the other Robuchon branches consisting of an open kitchen in the middle of the room, dim lighting and red upholstery. The service was a bit slow to start with but picked up later on. The Head Sommelier was absent that evening and instead we had an apathetic sommelier pouring us our wine.


We started off with an amuse bouche of Parmesan cappucino with port, which was essentially foie gras royale, port wine reduction and parmesan foam. The foie was thick and rich whilst the parmesan added some seasoning and flavour to the dish. It certainly did whet my appetite.


First up on the tasting menu was the Caviar served on a bed of crab meat and lobster jelly. The presentation was immaculate as always.

P1110931The flavour combination of the rich and fine Osetra caviar and crab from Normandy was further enhanced and brought out by the lobster jelly. What a great start to the meal with a taste of the ocean. A glass of 2011 “O Rosal” Bodegas Terras Gauda, Rias Baixas, Spain was poured to go with this course. It had a good balance of acidity and citrus flavour with fresh aromas of honeysuckle and citrus peel.


The Scottish lobster salad with artichokes “barigoule” and citrus vinaigrette was the only hiccough of the meal. Granted, the flavours were light, delicate and the produce fresh, but whilst I could overlook the lack of seasoning, the slightly chewy texture from the lobster was disappointing. It was definitely not on par with some of the other dishes we had that night. Matching wine was 2011 Rivaner Domaine Mathis Bastian, Moselle Luxembourgeoise, Luxembourg.


Unlike the last course, the Soft boiled egg with Japanese aubergine velouté flavoured with cumin was much more enjoyable, so much so that I forgot to take a photo of what was under the thin layer of crispy buckwheat galette! The smokey aubergine reminded me of baba ganoush and the overall texture and flavours of the dish was similar to chawanmushi, a steamed Japanese egg custard dish. Matching wine was from one of the newer wine estate of 2011 Ovilos Biblia Chora, Pangeon Greece. The seductive aromas of vanilla and peach, with the mineral palate, made it ideal for a creamy course like this.


Seared Foie gras with quince and clementine marmalade. The foie was of a decent quality but I found the tartness from the marmalade was slightly overwhelming the balance of the dish, leaving a bitter aftertaste. Matching wine was 2011 Riesling Spatlese, Poulinshoff, Mosel, Germany, which, as expected, had a great balance of sweetness and fruitiness to go with the foie.

P1110957Another favourite dish of the evening was the Black cod with daikon and yuzu mousseline. I particularly enjoyed the dashi-soaked daikon and the sweet and delicate cod. The yuzu added the perfect acidic balance to complete the dish. The dry and soft 2011 Karmis Contini, Sardegna, Italy was a good match for this dish.

P1110964For the meat course I opted for the Free range quail stuffed with foie gras and truffled mashed potatoes, which consisted of the breast and leg of quail and a lovely black truffled mash potatoes. This course showed some great cooking as the foie gras had not overwhelmed the perfectly cooked quail. The matching wine of 2010 Saint Laurent Weingut Heinrich, Burgenland, Austria, was my favourite of the evening. The blackberry and chocolate aroma with the soft creamy tannins was delicious.

P1110967Cheese course including my favourite roquefort.

P1110973First part of Francois’s duo of desserts, which was a mandarin lollipop with white chocolate coating and popping candy. A nice palate cleanser with some vanilla seeds mixed into the mandarin sorbet centre.

P1110978For the second dessert dish we had a much richer chocolate mousse with oreo crumble and a fine chocolate disc. To conclude the evening, I was poured a glass of 2010 Maury Mas Amiel, Languedoc-Roussillon, France to which I remarked it had similarities to a Grenache. The sommelier’s looks of disgust did not go unnoticed and he was quick to put me down as according to him I could not have been more wrong. There’s no need to put down a customer if they’ve made a genuine mistake, but ironically the wine was predominantly of the grenache grape variety – shame I only found out when I got home!

P1110991Some chocolate mignardises to finish the meal.

P1110996The food on the whole was good and I enjoyed the flavour combinations. The matching wines were generally good and on the whole the service was alright, but perhaps too casual and inconsistent for what I would expect from a two michelin star establishment. For example, one of the staff escorted us on the lift to the bar area, but no one came to see us off at the end of the meal. Whilst I could overlook these flaws, the sommelier left me a bad flavour and a dent to otherwise an enjoyable evening. I would consider a return to try some of the other dishes, but I must admit I won’t be returning there in a hurry.


Ristorante Bovio, La Morra, Alba

P1110358Chef: Marco     Website:    Cuisine: Piedmontese/Truffle in season

As part of out first trip to the annual Alba White Truffle Festival, we surely could not leave the region without indulging ourselves in an extravagant white truffle tasting menu!

P1110347Coming in at 200 euros a head, the tasting menu was a bargain, particularly given the quality and quantity received for each course.

P1110250We decided to have a delicious bottle of Italian Spumanti 2005, Alta Langa “Zero” Enrico Serafino which had a complex and elegant fragrance of lime blossom and honey.  It had a good acidity and aroma of flowers and fruit with a long mineral finish.

P1110268We started off with an amuse bouche of deep-fried zucchini flower. It had a lovely crunchy texture whilst trapping all the juice maintaining a moist centre that consisted of veal, spinach, parmesan and egg.  A good start.

P1110277The beauty of Ristorante Bovio is that they give you a generous serving of top quality Alba white truffle with every course and shave the truffle at your table.

P1110272The first course was La battuta di fassone piemontese con tartufo bianco which was essentially a tartare made from a high quality regional veal (fassone), which is only reared in Piedmont, with shavings of white truffle. The meat is prized for it’s tenderness and leanness, making it ideal to consume raw, and the flavour of the truffle really came out. A great first course and certainly one of my favourite dishes of the meal.

P1110289Uovo in pasta alla Bergese con tartufo bianco.

P1110294It was an egg ravioli with a filling of spinach and egg yolk with a small amount of parmesan, and of course a generous shaving of white truffle! It had a lovely creamy texture and a good balance of bitterness and fruitiness from the virgin olive oil. The parmesan overpowered the truffle slightly, but produced a lovely aftertaste.

P1110295How could we continue our meal without having some of the superb local wine of Barolo?  The sommelier recommended a bottle of Elio Altare Barolo 2005, which had a medium ruby red color with a soft floral bouquet of rose with herbal notes. It was fine yet firm, with an intense palate of sweet cherry essence and awash with fine grain tannins.

P1110303Funghi porcini ala rosmarino con fonduta e tartufo bianco. Porcini sauteed with rosemary and garlic, laid on a fonduta base made from Raschera, a local Piedmontese cheese, with milk, butter and egg yolk, with more shavings of white truffle. The earthy flavour of the porcini was amplified by the white truffle and the saltiness of the cheese.

P1110310Tagliolini ai trenta rossi con tartufo bianco.

P1110311This dish was all about the white truffle! A simple thin cut tagliolini pasta made with a high egg-to-flour ratio mixture. The flavour and aroma of the white truffle really came through.

P1110319Filetto di vitella con tartufo bianco. This was perhaps my least favourite dish for a several reasons. Primarily, the cheese on the veal loin dominated the palate and I could hardly taste the white truffle. The veal loin was a little dry and I could only pick up a part of the flavour; overall I thought the addition of the filo pastry and asparagus with bacon was just too much.

P1110326La Panna cotta e miele di acacia con tartufo bianco. After a disappointing end to the main act of the meal, the chef managed to redeem himself with this beautiful simple dessert. The sugar work was very sticky and brittle, providing a nice contrasting texture to the Panna cotta. The Acacia honey added a floral note with a hint of vanilla. What amazed me was how well the white truffle married with the Panna cotta itself. This was the second time I had white truffle for dessert and it was yet again superb!

P1110331My partner opted for the Selexione di robiole con tartufo bianco, which was a selection of soft ripened cheese from the Langhe region made with varying proportions of cow, goat and sheep’s  milk. It was fresh and creamy, and admittedly I wished I could have had both the dessert and the cheese.

P1110339Some local petit fours finished off the meal with a glass of honey grappa. I was quite full at this point but much to my partner’s disapproving sigh, I couldn’t resist having a few of the baci di dama; another great discovery from my trip.


This was by far the best white truffle feast I’ve ever had – both in terms of quantity and quality. The produce was far superior to the other truffle tasting menu we had during our stay. If you are lucky enough or book in advance, I strongly recommend you asking for the window seat as the view from our table was stunning. I’d definitely come back, but next time I will order a la carte and purchase the truffle separately in order to avoid some of the dishes I didn’t particularly like.

La Pergola, Rome

Main outdoor poolChef: Heinz Beck      Website:       Cuisine: Italian

Occupying the top floor of the luxurious art-gallery hotel of Waldorf Astoria, La Pergola is no ordinary restaurant. For one, the interior décor of the restaurant is very bold but elegant.

(Photo courtesy of Roma Cavalieri Hotel)

La Pergola ViewThe view over the city of Rome is nothing but mesmerising, with St Peter’s Basilica lit up as your backdrop in the evening. It’s not hard to understand why Beck decided to stay after first arriving in 1994. It was certainly the most spectacular view of Rome that I have ever seen.

(Photo courtesy of Roma Cavalieri Hotel)


An amuse bouche of Mussels and chickpea puree with pecorino foam. The saltiness and crunchy texture of the parmesan was very appetising and went perfectly with our glass of Dom Perignon 2003.


First course of Amberjack marinated in white balsamic vinegar with pomegranate snow. The subtle sweetness of the pomegranate married well with the aromatic amberjack carpaccio, and slight touch of acidity from the balsamic vinegar, overall resulting in a very well balanced dish. I particularly enjoyed the cold component to the dish and the textural contrast created by the crispy violet potato garnish. Accompanying wine was a Planeta Caricante 2010, a mineral driven acidic wine that was refreshing.

P1110816A plate with three different types of sea salts. The yellow Norwegian salt was by far my favourite with a distinct smoky flavour. In contrast, the pinkish-brown volcanic Alaea salt from Hawaii was much more mellow in flavour whereas the white Italian salt from Trapani was rich in minerals. It was delightful to soak our bread in the light Trentino olive oil before dipping into the salt, allowing us to compare and contrast the dramatically varying flavours.


His Grilled “La Perle Blanche” oyster on pumpkin cream with parsley puff was a much heartier dish. Despite my initial reservation over the parsley “foam”(as many chef’s have tendencies to add them for aesthetic reasons only) I must admit, that in this case, it added a lovely fragrance and freshness to the sweet and smoky pumpkin soup. I particularly enjoyed the natural seasoning from the grilled oyster, bringing all the components of the dish together in harmony.


The Earth flavours consisting of a lovely canvass of mushroom powder, meat mushroom and cream of sweet foie gras. The parsley chlorophyll sponge and asparagus refreshingly lifted the dish, and the crunchy and wafer thing bread was critical in adding texture to what would have been a one dimensional dish. The glass of Marisa Cuomo Fiorduva 2010 revealed a hint of jasmine, orange blossoms, ripe apricots, a hint of fig and subtle toasted oak in a layered, with a smooth finish.


The highlight of the meal, and that which was responsible for leading me here in the first place, undoubtedly was Beck’s signature dish, Fagotelli “La Pergola”. The visual simplicity of this dish was deceptive as the skills required for perfecting the remarkably thin and light parcels of pasta containing carbonara sauce, garnished with specks of crunchy bacon and zucchini, was truly remarkable. I was impressed with Beck’s ability to refine a traditional Roman dish and transform the humble pasta into a sophisticated dish, worthy of a place in a fine dining restaurant.


It was difficult to follow the previous dish and I must admit I found the King prawns in tempura on puree of fried squids a little sweet for my liking. However, the celery did add some sharpness to this rich dish and the deep flavour of the fish and squid consomme cream was enjoyable.


The Black cod with celery sauce and curry crust was the most aromatic fish course I’ve ever had. The delicate cod with perfectly seasoned potatoes had a lovely hint of lime and verbena but interestingly took the fishiness of the fish away, and the sweetness of the celery balanced the dish. Superb!


The Venison in pistachio crust with chestnut puree and persimmon jam was a welcomed progression to a richer dish. The venison was cooked perfectly pink and the chestnut puree added a smoky and earthy flavour to the sweet pistachio, topped off with a thick jus. You could just about pick up the sweetness from the persimmon jam although it was possibly too delicate a component to this rich dish. The woodsmoke chocolate note from the Rivera Il Falcone 2007 was a perfect marriage.


Of course we couldn’t say no to the cheese trolley! Of particular interest was the Bitto cheese from Lombardy that was produced from whole cow milk produced only in the summer months and aged for over 10 years. It was definitely something different and resembled closest to a very matured parmesan.


After a quick napkin change we were served with one of the most memorable dessert from 2012. The Iced sphere of pomegranate on gianduia cream and cannelloni filled with salty pine-seed Chantillywas the best surprise of the night! I thought I had misheard pomegranate for cherry because the depth of sweetness from the sorbet sphere did not resemble that of any pomegranate I knew. Beck later explained that the sweet juice was extracted by delicately squeezing only the outer flesh of each seed, resulting in a concentrated sweet flavour similar but superior to that of cherry in season. It was a superb finish to a memorable meal.


Obviously we thought it would be rude to turn down the lemon and lime macaron, lemon mousse on short biscuit with crunchy chocolate drop, Tiramisu cupcake and raspberry jam as they looked so pretty. The flavours yet again were clean and fresh, and we could have easily managed another round.


Luckily for us there was a final treat of hazelnut & mango ice cream to go with our espressos before partaking in the Cuban delights in their designated cigar tasting room!

HB Toscani

I never thought that classic Italian dishes like a plate of pasta could be elevated to such a sophisticated level. Achieving such feat is no ordinary matter and we could easily overlook the tremendous amount of determination, skills and hard work that went into refining every dish. I also appreciated Beck’s extra attention to detail to his dishes, ensuring his diners have a light and healthy meal whilst delivering high notes on the all-important flavours.

(Photo courtesy of Oliviero Toscani)



De Librije, Zwolle

Interieur-Exterieur-Overige ruimtes-ActieChef: Jonnier Boer       Website:        Cuisine: French/Dutch Experimental

De Librije is housed in a remarkable 15th century library of a Dominican abbey in the small town of Zwolle, located just a little over an hour away from Amsterdam by train.

LibrijeAfter a brief introduction to Jonnie, I was guided to my table where an unexpected contemporary space opened up in front of me. What appeared to be original gothic leaded windows and raftered ceilings juxtaposed the modern dominating glass chandelier and its surrounding art installation, a halo of lights. The modern high-backed black velvet chair was deceivingly comfortable and a sleek addition to a fairly mellow toned room.

P1120043A glass bell-jar containing bread dough made with fermented seeds was presented and left on my table at the start of the evening before it was taken away to be baked. You could see the dough slowly rising…


A “stomach cleanser” before starting the meal with a Tea of red cabbage and dried pepper leaf. I really enjoyed the note of smokiness from the pepperplant and the slight sweetness from the red cabbage.

P1120051Swim fin of halibut with apricot kernel oil with a glass of Ruinart blanc de blanc. The halibut had a beautiful texture and, despite my initial skepticism, the subtle sweetness and fragrance of the apricot and orange oil worked well with the fish. Great start so far!

P1120053Brandade of halibut which was more mellow in flavour but had a lovely crunchy texture.

P1120060A typical local dish of the Tongue of cod with crispy chicken skin. The cod was very delicate in texture but packed with bags of flavours.


Skin of cod with lemon and seaweed served on the fish bone for a unique visual effect. The seaweed was lovely and reminded me of nori powder.

P1120078The next dish helped Jonnie get his first Michelin star and encapsulated Jonnie’s personality in one dish. Tartare of beef with oyster and chives
… which he had tweaked from his original dish by assembling everything on the back of the diners hand using tweezers. Not only was the dish executed flawlessly with a perfect balance of seasoning from the oyster and sweetness from the basil and beef, but more importantly this was a chef who had a sense of humour and was not afraid to mark his own personality in his cuisine.
Just when I thought the amuse bouche could not get any better, I was left stunned by the simple Brioche with Mai-Take, having never tasted such an intense earthy mushroom flavour. It had a deliciously creamy centre that melted in my mouth. What astonished me was that the maitake, which I thought was uniquely indigenous to my native country of Japan, was in fact sourced locally from the region (as were the majority of the other ingredients).
The most beautiful dish of the evening, Goose liver with North Sea crab, almond, black olive and juice of fermented red cabbage leaves. I never thought goose liver and crab would marry so well, and the magnolia in the crab provided a non-intrusive citrus aroma and flavour. The humble red cabbage juice was the star component providing a complex earthy flavour with a clean finish. The 2011 Weingut Stadt Lahr, Kabinett Trocken, Auxerrois was slightly aromatic with a floral note and a good balance of acidity.
Therese poured me a glass of 2011 Domaine Cuhape Jurancon Sec, Courbu Gros and Petit Maseng to go with the Langoustine, distillate of cucumber and Fourme d’Ambert. The langoustine, grilled only one one side keeping the other raw, had a lovely texture and sweetness. The tiny grey balls of blue cheese were perfect to season the dish. The crunch from the pumpkin seed and the vegetable added textural contrast to the dish.

Cod, wet hazelnut, sprat and tea made of jerusalem artichoke flowers. Very light and silky texture of cod and the dried sprat was lovely in the middle. The earthiness from tea and the crunchiness from the hazelnut married well with the cod. Accompanying this was a rather less familiar but beautifully crisp and dry glass of 2011 Kerkaborum, Furmint, Hungary.
I was then presented a jar of the monkfish which they were about to prepare, pickled in baharat, a traditional middle eastern spice. The “maggi” sauce on the side was another play on word by Jonnie and was actually lovage oil. Admittedly there was a bit of “lost in translation” here for the non-Dutch speakers.
The complete dish of Monkfish, rollmops and baharat. The monkfish cooked sous-vide was juicy and tender and the seasoning of the dish from the bacon was spot on. It was, however, the slightly tart pickled gherkin soaked in rollmop juice that added a burst of flavour and life into a dish, which would have been otherwise only good; superb! The exotic herbal lemon, lime and spicy oak aroma with a nice balance of creaminess and a fresh tangy acid finish from the 2011 Chardonnay Stonier was a fine accompaniment.
The baked bread made a reappearance and was served with a delicious goat butter and Rembrandt grape (also known as blue grape) cream to dip in. Therese simultaneously started pouring my next matching wine of the 2010 Mas Polit, Emporda which had an intense fruity and woody aroma with hint of blackberry, plum and powerful tannins.
Jonnie came out himself to serve the next course which was the ‘De Veluwe’ Dairy Cow steaks, mushrooms, lemon geranium and calf marrow. The meat, which was sourced locally, was seared on a rock that was 140°C hot and coated in powdered ceps. Through this method he managed to seal and infused the flavour of mushroom into the steak…
… and proceeded by serving the meat over the calf marrow which melted and added a rich buttery layer on the crispy potatoes underneath. Each bite was an explosion of flavours that I wished would last forever, but as with all good things, they had to come to an end.


Roe, chicory sprouts, picked cornus and emulsion of black pudding. The roe deer was perfectly cooked and served with a lovely jus. The pickled cornus, closely resembling to cranberry and sour cherry, added a lovely acidity to the dish and cut through the rich meat. The accompanying “super tuscan” of 2009 Petra Ebo Val di Cornia Suvereto Rosso, Tuscany, Italy was smooth with flavours of blackberry and a hint of oak and eucalyptus notes.
Jonnie’s choice of cheese was unexpectedly a French Epoisses, served with rabbit kidney and potato juice. The pungent cheese from Burgundy cleverly cleansed the intense flavours of kidney and the creamy potato juice, which resembled to that of a potage, canvassed and prolonged the bursts of flavours. The wine Therese chose to match this was a Macvin du Jura which was rich with flavours of orange zest, prunes and drieds fruits.

P1120129The Roasted white chocolate, bergamot and dill had a good balance of flavours whilst the bergamot cleansed my palate from the preceding cheese course. The 2012 Wirra Wirra, McLaren Vale, Moscato was juicy and bright with a lovely lychee and melon flavour, but….

P1120134…I was far more intrigued with the unusual Sweet Thai “green curry” served on an ice bag. The mango sorbet, fried bananas, basil, meringues, ginger beer and black sesame which had been pureed and passed through liquid nitrogen married well with the spicy curry and ginger. It was an unusual but fun and memorable dish that was a clever interplay of textures, as well as the savoury, spicy and sweet flavours, creating a lovely warm feeling on the palate despite it being refreshingly cold! The accompanying yuzu sake was so refreshing I cheekily asked for a top up.

P1120136Liquid / wet cake with magnolia

P1120138“Kiss from Therese” with mango

P1120145Chocolate with liquorice

P1120142Chocolate with ceps


Dutch liquor with pear

P1120156Edible joint

P1120163There are many reasons why I think De Librije is currently one of the best restaurants in the world. The confidence Jonnie exerts over his cooking skills and palate is apparent from the way in which he daringly combines flavours and textures that are sometimes construed unconventional, yet works magnificently. The frivolity and playfulness underplaying the seriousness and hard work going into every single one of these incredible dishes reiterates Jonnie’s humility. I look very much forward to seeing how his food evolves.