Thursday, 11 September 2014

zucca, bermondsey - review

Pardon me for doing so, but I can’t help but make an instant judgement of a restaurant if it chooses to furnish its floor with - carpet. 

Carpet. In a restaurant. In this decade? It just doesn't sit right with me.

I thought carpets in drinking and dining establishments were exclusive to pubs from the set of Coronation Street that hit you with a face full of eau de stale-beer, and godawful clubs like Infernos in Clapham where the carpet smells of VK Apple and bears the stains and odours of years worth of desperate grinding. 

Like bathrooms, carpet does not belong in a restaurant. Why on earth would one choose to have carpet? Ok, for noise absorption. But there must be another way. I’ll make the assumption most restaurants mop their floors at the end of each day. So what happens at Zucca - a daily shampoo?

No doubt this is the clean-freak germ-phobe in me, but as I walked over the threshold and noticed the floor, my nose curled up in a micro expression of ‘ick’.



Let’s raise the eye level and look at the rest of the room. It’s almost identical to the lobby area of my old office building, just with the addition of water glasses, cutlery and the open kitchen. Muted greys and blues, plastic white office-type tables, office-type blinds, grey office-like chairs with the same black mesh at the back we used to have, and of course that carpet. 

And as it was a Thursday lunch time, it was full of men in pastel shirts with suit blazers slung on the back of their chair, and women in smart work attire - so, people from offices. 

I suppose it makes sense. A restaurant that looks like an office is the perfect setting for a lunch meeting, but if I wanted to eat in a corporate environment I would have dined in The City.

I'll stop myself now before I get too sidetracked with something that will always be secondary to the food. Questionable interiors can be overlooked, even entirely disregarded, if what’s coming from the kitchen is very good (poshed-up-prison-canteen
Lyle’s is a great example of this). Except, I’d probably remove the word ‘very’ here.



I like the fact the menu changes frequently in line with what is available and seasonal from Borough Market, and that there are works from featured artists adorning the walls. I also very much favoured the bread which was particularly good - made on site and from scratch, a couple of cubes of pillowy focaccia, a thin slice of something brown, a slice of something white, and a grissini. Perhaps a little meagre for two; I only wish there were more.

‘Zucca’ fritti was a generous pile of deep-fried butternut squash batons which, if were not shared with my dining partner, would be too much of the same thing for one person to clear. The salt crystals were appreciated, but it needed a lick of dip for some lubrication (£6).

Vitello tonnato saw three slices of veal and tuna, both expertly cooked, each nestled atop a mound of mayonnaise featuring the other meat. The tuna mayonnaise was like the fish paste found in those little bottles in Sainsbury’s that I tried in my sandwiches when I was 11, because I felt I needed an alternative for my lunchbox rotation. That's no criticism; I rather liked those sandwiches (£10).



Duck came pink and in long slithers, bisected by an arrangement of pine nuts and parsley - a light and zippy plate (£9). Well-textured pappardelle with bite was coated in the ragu of sweet veal meat (£11 / £16) and the lumache (lumaca is the word for snail in Italian, and so these pasta shapes resemble their shells) with cuttlefish and tomatoes was ok, if not a little ‘fishy’ for want of a better word (£11 / £16).

The remaining gut space was reserved for dolci over secondi, and the chocolate semifreddo with pecan ice cream and caramel sauce was all kinds of right. Parting the slab of frozen mousse with the fork, scooping from the pool of poured-over sauce and finishing with ice cream and a crunchy pecan half was hugely pleasurable on the palate.


There was also a passion fruit cheesecake in a cup which was fine, but it was no semifreddo.


My lunch at Zucca was perfectly adequate, just not especially noteworthy. I felt little of the warmth I associate with the cuisine from both the food and the space. Although, I do feel I need to eat more of their dishes to fully determine if it gets ostracised to the ‘perhaps, if I happen to be in the area’ list.

The restaurant has been a successful stalwart on the Bermondsey Street scene since 2010 and I know a lot of people whose opinion I respect, who wax lyrical about the place. So perhaps, I missed something.


It’s worth noting, the main problem Zucca has is no fault of theirs. They can thank the lofty benchmark for casual Italian dining set by Café Murano, which fed me one of the best lunches I’ve had in forever. Comparison to this unattainable ideal that is now etched in my mind is probably unfair, but I can't help it. I left Café Murano in protest (let me stay until the evening service?) and with a severe case of mentionitis - I couldn’t stop telling everyone about my meal and their blinding cacciuccio. 

So, will I eat at Zucca again any time soon? Perhaps, if I happen to be in the area.

Liked lots: cracking bread, great semifreddo dessert, service
Likes less: the office interior design theme
Good for: business lunches, I suspect

My rating: 3/5


Afiyet olsun.


Zucca on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 7 September 2014

FRANCE: a postcard from brittany

A few pictures from a weekend spent in Brittany, including the towns of Dinan and Plouagat.

And a lot of rather fabulous food.


Sunday, 24 August 2014

ICELAND: mountain and hot spring hiking


If you've always fancied hiking through an active volcanic system, bathing in geothermally heated rivers in the valleys between great mountain ranges, and marvelling at the alien landscape of lava fields covered in nothing but vibrant green bouncy moss, then doing so in Innstidalur Hengill could be for you. 

Hengill is a volcanic system in the southwest of Iceland containing three active volcanoes, extending for over 100km, and located a fifty minute drive from Reykjavik. We went on a hiking tour with Iceland Activities which took us up and through this spectacular landscape, covering 17km in around eight hours. 

The tour includes a pick up and drop off from your hotel in Reykjavik, a very substantial lunch you'll be carrying with you, a private guide, and any kit you might not already have such as rain pants, ruck sacks, gloves, waterproof coats, hiking poles (if you need them). The price is 16,900 ISK per person (around £88). What's particularly appealing about these guys, is it's a family run business based on outdoor adventures parents Andrés and Steinunn would take their kids on when they were younger.

They also do bike, driving, surf and overnight camping tours. Getting out and about with Iceland Activities is available all year round. As our excellent guide Úlfar (the son) informed us, 'there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad preparation.'

Get your hiking boots on, take a deep breath of that pristine air, and embrace the great outdoors.

(And here's a little about what to eat in Reykjavik.)


And here's a video of me with a face full of sulphuric steam - basically very hot boiled-egg gas.
'Breathe it in!', says Úlfar..

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

le restaurant de PAUL, covent garden - review

World domination can be achieved by the simple and time honoured act of baking, it turns out. Just take a look at PAUL bakery; few other brands are so synonymous with quality bread at such an international scale. 

From humble beginnings in 1889 as a small boulangerie in Croix near Lille, the business-turned-global-empire remains family-run, having passed through five generations in its 125 years, and can now be found in over 25 countries. I’ve witnessed first hand in Tokyo how the Japanese go mad for a crusty pain de campagne. But then, who doesn’t.


It is therefore probably safe to say the people behind PAUL know a thing or two about what goes with their daily-baked loaves. And so, at the back of the Covent Garden branch on Bedford Street, le restaurant de PAUL opened in July, serving traditional French cooking to compliment these breads. 

The space is a continuation of the bakery, styled with the theme of 'French antiques' complete with velvet chairs, marble-topped tables, ornate lighting fixtures and murals adorning the walls. You’ll find the classics that would be nothing less than sacrilege to omit on a menu traditionnel, including saucisses de Toulouse, soupe à l'oignon, baked Camembert, pâté de campagne, and andouillette for the adventurous. 

Then there are the likes of tomatoes stuffed with sausage and peppers stuffed with vegetables and rice, two weights of entrecôte, calves flank, roast chicken with tarragon, and baked salmon with vegetables.


No-cook plates such as the charcuterie ride on the success of the quality of ingredients. Here you’ll find a board laden with saucisson, jambon cru, coppa, rosette, terrine, pickled baby onions, cornichons and of course, PAUL bread. A joyous assembly. And the Camembert, relinquishing its molten innards at the de-robing of the milky white jacket, was as good as it always is straight from the oven (£5.95).

A cast-iron pot presented the coq au vin; fishing in its murky depths will reveal tender chicken and pancetta, served with a chunky buttery mash (£10.50). Confit de canard, with its crisp skin on the leg, had meat that was easy to shred, and came with more buttery potatoes, a red wine sauce with piquant black olives (£10.50).

For desserts, there are all manner of delights from their patisserie that are equally at home with a coffee in the pitstop between one shop and the next during a West End splurge. Think tartelettes, macarons, millefeuille, and éclairs.

The dark chocolate cake is made on site, like a great indulgent slice of very good brownie (£3.55). You can also get a decadent slice of brioche French bread (coated in sugared egg and fried), doused with a creme anglaise, apricot coulis or warm chocolate sauce. Bit hard to ignore, that one (£3.95).


Breakfast is served from 7am - noon and is essentially a list of oeufs every which way possible; brioche oeuf cocotte (baked with yoghurt), a la coque (boiled with soldiers), Bénédicte (bacon and hollandaise), Royale (smoked salmon and hollandaise), Florentine (spinach and hollandaise), pochés ou au plat (poached with tomatoes and bread), brouillés (scrambled), omelette. Along with entries from Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame, naturellement.
Le restaurant de PAUL is a new dining offering worthy of attention. When the hankering is for traditional French food and some vin rouge, at a reasonable price point in the thick of London’s tourist district, it’s good to know there’s a familiar name you can turn to.

Liked lots: the execution of French classics with un-fussed competence; the all French wine list

Liked less: there's little not to like when there's good bread around
Good for: relying on a familiar household name; solid and satisfying French food

My rating: 3.5/5


Afiyet olsun.


Note: I was invited as a guest to this restaurant.

Le Restaurant de Paul on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 14 August 2014

lyle's, shoreditch - review

It’s been a while since a maiden trip to a restaurant has greatly surpassed what I anticipated from it. Maybe I should set expectations around the same pegging as a Friday night in Church Street Croydon KFC, so as to always guarantee feeling thoroughly impressed with my dinner. But that seems a bit cynical. Regardless, I’m not sure quite what I was expecting from lunch at Lyle’s, but I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it was.

Not that I had set my expectations low for it, mind. It was chosen thanks to the usual social media buzz that so often dictates where I should try next, so I had an idea it might be good. But in my experience, these aren’t always to be trusted (think Chiltern Firehouse, Kurobuta). 

And I’m never quite sure what to expect from east London. I sometimes wonder if the Shoreditch creatives are simply riding the wave of their location association, facial fuzz and sockless feet, rather than truly being measured on their skill. This is really just a symptom of me being quite ignorant to this part of town and needing to get better acquainted. So, shame on me.


The man behind it is Chef James Lowe who made a name for himself as one of The Young Turks at supperclubs and pop-ups around town, and Lyle’s is his first solo foray, found in Shoreditch High Street’s Tea Building.

First impressions were mixed, leaning towards unimpressed. We had an early booking, so the whole room was empty when we arrived (it filled to full capacity shortly after). “You know what this reminds me of,” I queried my dining companion. “A prison,” came the instant and assertive response, echoing my exact thoughts.

The welcome was exemplary as was the service throughout, but to put it bluntly, the space looks like a poshed up prison canteen. I get the whole pared down, clean-lined Scandi look that so many restaurants go for these days and often execute well, but it doesn’t seem to work here. My interior designer companion - who knows her load bearing walls from her butt joints - thinks it’s the light wood beech against the bare steel of the open kitchen and the polished concrete floor. It’s a harsh look. 

Mercifully, they haven’t entertained those long communal tables otherwise I would have had to ask if this was in fact a social enterprise employing those on temporary release and did I need a CRB check before eating here. And to add to the penitentiary theme, whilst the staff were all glorious, the uniforms of dark blue trousers with tucked in light blue shirts made them look like extras from The Shawshank Redemption. 

But who really cares about any of that when what’s coming from the kitchen is this good.


I’ll start with the least striking dish, and there was one, of beetroot, walnuts and Ticklemore cheese. Order it for the cheese-name novelty, by all means. But the root veg had the same texture as the ones you can buy vac packed, and the cheese was a little too inoffensive for my palate (£7.50).

Onwards with the rest of the spread, which was all effortlessly splendid. Scottish chanterelles sat in a little pool of thin savoury broth, scattered over and concealing a gooey egg, with onions and wild fennel blossom. A spectacular umami bowl I’d scoff any time of day (£7.30).

Then there was a ‘blood cake’, essentially the glorious soft innards of a high-end black pudding, gently spiced, an exquisite texture, with a smattering of pork scratching nuggets, dark purple pickled chicory and blackcurrants. It was stellar (£6.30). 

A great hunk of Dexter rump with a beautiful crust, the flesh surrendering its juices with a little pressure, was a complete joy between the teeth. I have found myself wondering why the hell I ordered the beef whilst masticating one mouthful for a full five minutes many times before, even at high end restaurants. But not here; it was the nicest bit of bovine I’ve had in ages (£16.50).


Then there was the grouse liver, sweetcorn and hazelnuts. Despite it looking exactly like something a cleaner would throw sawdust over on Platform 4 of Leicester Square station on a Friday night, it was sensational, and not at all what I was expecting. 

A sort of liquidised liver, distinct with the unique flavour of game but not yet too strong as it was just the start of the grouse season, with crisp sweet kernels of corn and crunchy nuts. There are few things that please me more then when something reads scary and looks worse, but tastes incredible. Fortune favours the brave; always try to order at least one thing you think you won’t like - you might be just as pleasantly surprised (£5.90).

Treacle tart was a neat cuboid of sublimely spiced pleasure, with a big ginger hit and a neutral and delicate milk ice cream (£5.90). Then there were cherries with a cherry granita, crumble and an ice cream made from cherry stones (who even knew you could do such a thing), which lent some nuttiness to the dessert. It was totally great (£6.50).

A point to note, the wine list focuses on natural tipples which seems to translate to them being a bit pricier than I’m use to seeing so close to the start of the list. But there’s plenty available by the glass and carafe, so do gambol through it by all means. 

Lyle’s was a surprise and a revelation. Things aren’t quite as they seem here, but what they turn out to be are all the superior for it. There’s a sense of excitement around what you’ll get presented in front of you, as the menu gives little away and the kitchen is clearly bursting with creativity. There isn’t a better opportunity to experience this than in the evenings with their set eight course daily-changing menu that offers no freedom of choice; I bloody love being told what to eat. 

I’ve already secured my return visit for dinner. I might don some bright orange overalls.

Liked lots: kitchen innovation; exciting dishes; exemplary service from our Antipodean waitress - she was great; the no-choice evening menus - I know it's a divisive topic but I really like them (when the cooking is this good)
Liked less: those staff uniforms..
Good for: interesting Scandi-influenced dishes big on British ingredients

My rating: 4.5/5

Afiyet olsun.

Lyle's on Urbanspoon
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Tuesday, 12 August 2014

brasserie chavot, mayfair - review

I love a good brasserie. Particularly the ones of my mind, which play to the romantic idyll of how I envisage dining in France to be everywhere, all of the time.

In them, waiting staff in white shirts and black waistcoats glide around guests taking languorous lunches longer than the morning they spent in the office. The evenings host a convivial atmosphere with rotund diners wallowing in the digestive juices that follow rich French classics, lots of vin rouge and not quite enough l’eu du minerale. 

There should be a lot of French gesticulating and arm throwing, along with great gorgeous bowls and plates piled high with all the things you would expect to find in a good brasserie. And let’s throw in a bit of Édith Piaf on the wireless for good measure.


We’re lucky to have some good brasseries in London. Bistrot Bruno Loubet I’m yet to try, but I hear good things. Brasserie Zedel ticks a lot of the above, although I suspect it’s the very splendid setting (typical to a Corbin and King enterprise) and the competitive double-take prices that draw in the clientele more than the food. 

A great leap up from this and you’ll find Brasserie Chavot, a Mayfair restaurant only recently wandering into my London dining periphery, despite being open since March 2013 and gaining a Michelin star just a few months later.

The classic interiors are chic and elegant without feeling dated; how you might have expected Coco Chanel to design a commercial dining space if doing so were part of her repertoire. Glinting tear-drop chandeliers and intricate coving adorn the high ceilings. There’s red leather, dark wood, stately structural columns, and an open kitchen. The whole room is adjoined to the Westbury Hotel, whilst maintaining its own street entrance.


Eric Chavot – the gregarious Executive Chef with his name above the door – hails from Bordeaux in France. The back catalogue of his culinary career include stints with a host of highly acclaimed kitchens including Le Manoir au Quat’ Saisons, Michelin star-studded London-based solo ventures, and holding two stars as Head Chef of The Capital Restaurant for a laudable ten years. 

He is a chef to the core, with unbridled passion for his craft. Eric revelled in the opportunity to cook a group of us some dishes off menu, landing heavily laden wooden boards and brimming steel pots at the centre of our tables with the flamboyant gesture of a showman proud of his work. And rightly so.

The heirloom tomato salad with Parmesan and pesto was as fragrant as it was a pure pleasure to eat. There was a zippy Strasbourgeoise salad with soft potatoes, the heat of mustard and slices of sausage, as well as a dish of flaking sea bream fillets with raita. Tender octopus with the last of the summer pea and broad bean bounty was especially wonderful with the glass of Portuguese Vinho Verde "Mica". As was the acclaimed signature dish of deep fried soft shell crab with whipped aioli, the crisp and light white cutting through the fattiness of the crab; a continuation of the superb starter theme.

Then there was a fish soup with crab claws, octopus, olives, a deep burnt-orange bisque, hunks of chorizo with smoky heat, and saturated but still well textured crusts of bread. Lamb cutlets with Merguez sausages were unveiled from under the cone lid of a tagine, whilst tender pork and duck arrived with fat and creamy butter beans and exceptionally garlicky - and therefore fantastic - bread.


It all wrapped up with an impeccably boozy rum baba with chantilly cream, a lemon tart and Eric’s take on an Eton mess. And a glass of Pink Moscato; like drinking fizzy fresh raspberries. 

“This one is only 5%” Head Sommelier, Andreas, informed us as he filled our flutes with a knowing smile. It takes one of experience to recognise that dessert for this lot requires a toned down alcohol content, considering the copious glasses of Torrontéz, Crozes-Hermitage and more that went before it.

The dishes seemed to taste elevated from what you would expect based on the look and descriptions alone, which meant a stream of coo-ing from one to the next. The whole meal – food, wine and service - was a series of small thrills, which together made for a fabulous experience. And despite some dishes often associated with the heaviness of rich French food and the onset of gout, there was a lightness running throughout.


Eric and his kitchen are turning out refined yet generous and hearty plates of French abundance that feel like a glimpse into what his mamma might have cooked him. It’s not prissy and doesn’t feel contrived, yet is set in impressive surroundings at a very reasonable price point for this part of town. 


Despite the accolade, this isn’t typical Michelin fine-dining. That expression ‘cooked with love’ seems to fit here; there’s a side of Eric’s personality with every plate. And a combination like that in London feels quite special.

Liked lots: Eric's showmanship and love for his trade, opulent interiors with accessible and beautiful food, appealing price point for this part of town
Liked less: I'll get back to you..
Good for: impressing dining companions without the need to break the bank; French food that doesn't require a digestion nap after

My rating: 4.5/5

Afiyet olsun.

Note: I was invited as a guest to this restaurant.

Brasserie Chavot on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 2 August 2014

belmond le manoir aux quat'saisons, oxford - review


There are some restaurants that need little introduction. In the UK, in my mind, these are The Fat Duck and Le Manoir. Part of the reason for these two is because I’ve had a glimpse into both of these kitchens through TV shows; a Masterchef episode where contestants got to cook in Bray, and Raymond Blanc’s: How to Cook Well respectively, the latter of which I tuned into religiously. There’s nothing quite like seeing a restaurant’s behind-the-scenes engine room at work to make you want to eat there.

Since long before then, Le Manoir has been high on my restaurant list. I bumped into Blanc himself at London Cocktail Club a while back (he mentored the two barmen who launched it), and experienced first hand his energy and zeal as we chatted about food and cooking over a couple of pisco sours. Granted, the French accent got thicker and more indecipherable as the drinks flowed, but I more than got the jist of what was being said.


There are two other reasons Le Manoir always stood out for me. One is it’s highly commendable longevity; Les Quat’Saisons opened in 1977 and has maintained two Michelin stars for a staggering 29 years - only a handful of other restaurants can boast a similar achievement. The second, which more than appeals to me as a big advocate of growing-your-own, are the vast kitchen gardens. Seventy traditional and exotic herbs call it home, there's a two-acre plot producing over 90 types of vegetables, an orchard with pears, apples and quinces, even whole greenhouses dedicated to micro herbs. It’s top-shelf allotment pornography of the highest caliber. 

Le Manoir is as grand and stately as you expect it to be. A handsome and stylish manor that despite its size, manages to feel comfortable and familiar. What’s particularly pleasing about the whole experience - the building, food, service and atmosphere - is that it’s not at all stuffy. Despite its formidable reputation, and the level of dining you experience (with the prices to match), the haughty air you might expect with that is not present at all, which is great. 


Everyone is relaxed and at ease, with the babble of convivial chatter and laughter coming from all the tables. You’ll even find (well behaved) children amongst the guests, who are welcomed with their own menu rather than shunned. Diners are well turned out but not to the point of jackets and pearls. The room we were seated in - I believe a newer extension in the expansion a while back - was like a very smartly furnished conservatory with walls and ceilings of glass letting in lots of light and creating space. 

Service is impeccable, nay, faultless. Just the right amount of attention whilst remaining mostly invisible. There is a copy of the days menu on your table in order to negate the need for those lengthy descriptions of every course on delivery, if you don’t want it. I quite like that though, so allowed them to indulge me. 

There’s a lot of ‘madame et monsieur’ which is all fine, lay it on as thick as you like. And you don’t order at the table, you decide what you want to eat in the foyer as you peruse over the menu with your hors d'oeuvres and a glass of champagne if you’re feeling extravagant. So once you’re seated, service is a series of flowing movements by the staff with little to no questioning or interruption.

I quietly sneezed at one point. Before I could reach into my handbag for a tissue, an outstretched arm with a box of them at the end of it appeared from the side of me. Exactly what I needed the moment I needed it - I was duly impressed.



The food was very good and in terms of value, the only real option is the seven course tasting menu. There was a little salad of Devonshire crab with grapefruit, mango and celery, then a confit of cod cooked to the exact point it just turns opaque, with limpid globules of pale green olive oil jelly sliding intact across the plate, the very youngest of basil leaves, firm white cocoa beans, smoky potatoes and tiny cubes of salty chorizo.

A take on green eggs had a spinach and watercress puree, the crunch of hazelnuts and crisped-up posh Spanish ham - that was very good. Then a picture perfect plate of different parts of a piglet - shoulder, succulent slices of leg, sensational black pudding, a Catherine Wheel spiral of crisp bacon (but without the sparks), and a neat cube of scored and browned belly. With it, cabbage, spinach, green beans, apple and onion pureé - a plate full of oink and joy.

Then there was a Comté served at three stages of maturation, 12, 24 and 36 months. A gradual increase in tang and crystallised saltiness, served with a complimentary glass of Vin Jaune 2006 (for those of you who can’t recall your GCSE French, that’s ‘yellow wine’), like a dry Fino sherry. The whole course was entirely typical of Blanc’s native region in the east of France, I loved it. 


Dessert began as an espresso cup housing a mousse with tart soft raspberries and cubes of what was a sort of spongy coconut meringue, the latter of which had little flavour or point. But it was topped with a kimono silk thin disk of chocolate with a speck of gold leaf which was fun to break through with the spoon. It ended with a sensational and intensely tart blackberry sorbet with disintegrating meringue, and a violet mousseux. Oh, and a birthday candle. A triumphant plate.

My partner swapped the final course in exchange for the cheese platter (for a charge of £15), and so we revelled in the theatre of one of the most handsome cheese trolleys I’ve seen wheeled out to us, the glorious honk of all that sweating dairy assaulting our noses before it made it round the corner. The cheese man (pardon me for not knowing the correct term for this member of staff - I’m sure there is one), was great and full of love for this magnificent spread. 

What you need to know is that the portion is huge - he will put a lot of cheese onto your plate. There’s even a tub of Stilton from which quenelles of the stuff are scraped up and shaped for your pleasure. I asked him to write down the ones we had, so as to identify them and purchase next time I’m at a posh cheese counter. For your knowledge too, they were: Blue - Colston Basset Stilton and Fourme d'Ambert; goat - Charolais and Sharpham Cremet; soft and ripened - Coulommiers; washed rind - Moelleux du Revard; hard - tommette de Savoie. We couldn’t finish it between the two of us, but what we did manage was nothing short of sublime.


It was at this point we walked about the estate before retiring to the lounge for coffee. We were at Le Manoir for a total of five hours and it was a glorious, languorous, lavish lunch.

My one point, and there really is only one, is that it is expensive. It’s in fact one of the most expensive restaurants in the UK, particularly when dining from the a la carte, with starters coming in at a hefty £40. The seven course tasting menu was £125. Add to that wine and coffee, and the bill soon mounts up. 

The focus of Le Manoir is on seasonality, expertly executed dishes, impeccable service and glorious surroundings. There are restaurants in London that can tick at least three of those four criteria with some confidence, and do so at a more agreeable price point. Whilst the food was all very good, it didn’t feel overly innovative or ‘current’ for use of a better term, something you might associate with such price tags. What it does do are classic dishes that aren’t too complicated, very well. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

What’s particularly unusual, is they do not add service to the bill; Blanc’s note on the menu states they don’t want diners to feel as though they need to leave anything, but they can if they wish. I’m almost certain most do, and I do wonder if prices are a little inflated to compensate for this. 

Yes, you will pay handsomely for this dream ticket for out-of-town extravagance, as it remains the blueprint for the perfect luxury restaurant. I’m pleased I’ve ticked it off my bucket list, and I enjoyed the whole day immensely, but the price point will probably prevent me from passing through those grand gates again.

Liked lots: it's all rather faultless really; they give those active with them on Twitter a gift of a cookery book which is a nice touch
Likes less: it is pricey
Good for: very special occasions; experiencing cooking from a kitchen that has remained consistently excellent for years; a good reason to get out of London for the day

My rating: 4.5/5


Afiyet olsun.

Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons on Urbanspoon

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