Friday July 28, 2017
When? Monday July 24, 2017
Food Style? Three Michelin Star
This is by far the fanciest restaurant I've ever been to in my life, and at three Michelin stars, it is probably going to be quite the culinary experience. Gordon Ramsay is one of my favourite chefs, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to dine at his flagship restaurant in Chelsea, London.
I'm wearing my suit like a boss because of the strict dress code, and I'm here with Alice, who has moved heaven and earth to be here. We booked this back in March - that's how insanely popular the restaurant is. There are three different menus to choose from: the a la carte is a three course menu at £110, the menu prestige is a seven course degustation at £145, and the seasonal inspirational menu is an experimental degustation menu with seasonal produce at £175. We've gone for the menu prestige and a wine pairing for the main course.
While we're perusing our menu options, we're served three canapés. The white one is a light fluffy bao, quite tasty - surprising, because it's wild mushroom! The red one is Iberican ham sprinkled on a cream cheese tart, that was bursting with that lovely smokey flavour that Iberican ham is so well known for. The last one on the left was my favourite; roe and fish wrapped with seaweed. It had such an appetising flavour, full of that wonderful seafood aroma.
A simple but refreshing course to whet the appetite. It's an assortment of fresh fruit and vegetables like grapes, cherry tomatoes and coriander swimming in basil oil. It has a nice summery feel to it. Yum!
Pressed foie gras with green apples, turnips, watercress and smoked duck
Foie gras is such an iconic dish in French cuisine, and having been to France and tried it for myself, I can say that this is by far the best foie gras I've ever had. The texture is incredibly smooth and buttery, there's almost no imperfection in its consistency. It's an elegant dish, beautifully presented, with lots of complementary textures and flavours. The sweetness of the apple really pops out.
Ravioli with lobster, langoustine, salmon, oxalis and wood sorrel
This dish is perhaps the restaurant's most famous; it has been a staple on the menu since it opened at this location in 1999. And for good reason - it's bloody delicious. Silky smooth outside, and a nice, chunky inside, stuffed with seafood of the highest quality. I'm soaking up the spinach and cream sauce gleefully with the house sourdough.
Poached Isle of Gigha halibut with Atlantic King crab, finger lime and ras el hanout infused broth
The halibut is beautifully presented - I really like the colour that all those edible flowers provide. It is clear that it is the centrepiece of this dish. Its smooth, delicate texture is the first thing I notice. The aroma of the Moroccan Ras el hanout broth is intoxicatingly good. There's a few pine nuts in the couscous, I love them. As a bonus, there's a little slice of crab on the top, and it has soaked up a bit of the lime juice coming out of the pulp.
Fourth Course #1
Roast pigeon with sweetcorn, lavender, honey and apricot
I chose the pigeon for my course. I thought pigeon would taste closer to chicken, and that it was a white meat, but it is more like duck, especially with a small layer of fat under that perfectly rendered skin. When no one is looking, I grab the bones with my hands and gnaw the remaining flesh off like an unsophisticated peasant. I do not care. It is delicious. Special mention of the grilled corn on the side - yummo! My wine pairing with this was a 2009 Nuit Saint George Pinot Noir.
Fourth Course #2
Braised, confit and roasted Herdwick lamb with summer vegetable 'navarin'
Alice chose the lamb for the main course. There are five different parts presented on the plate, each with their own flavours and textures. My favourite is the rack, with its crispy finish and succulent meat. The pinkness of the lamb shows through nicely in the photograph, a sign that it has been cooked perfectly. Alice's wine pairing was a 2003 Italian Barolo. She leaves a little bit of meat on the lamb bone and I politely point it out to her. As she attempts to pick it up with her hands to finish it off, she is hilariously caught mid-act by the head of house, who offers us lemongrass-scented hand towels to wash our filthy hands.
Pineapple, coconut and kaffir lime 'soup'
It's more like a cocktail than a soup - Alice says it's very reminiscent of a lassi, and I completely agree. You're supposed to suck the concoction through the glass straw in the centre. The kafir lime comes through beautifully and gives acidity to the sweet pineapple and toasted coconut mix. I really want to lick the inside of the flute, but this is definitely not the kind of place to do that.
English breakfast tea sorbet with mint
A mortar and pestle is presented to us, with a smattering of mint leaves chilled by dry ice sitting at the bottom of the mortar. We're instructed to grind the herb ourselves, then take the sorbet and coat it in the herb powder. Mine doesn't look very good, but it's refreshing, with the mint really helping bring that sensation home.
Lemonade parfait with honey, bergamot and sheep's milk yoghurt
Wow. It tastes like citrus and happiness. Parfait means ‘perfect' in French, and true to its name, this dessert is flawless. The combination of flavours is spot on. I'm so impressed by the translucent crystallised honey, it makes the dessert look spectacular. What an amazing way to end the meal.
Bonus Dessert Course
English breakfast tea sorbet with mint
Or not, we're served with three delectable sweets. The one in the centre is white chocolate and strawberry ice cream balls, chilled with dry ice for theatrics. To the left, coffee chocolate and macadamia brittle, which is delightfully rich and nutty. The coffee flavour is subtle and doesn't overpower the rest of the ingredients. To the right, elderflower jelly, which is my favourite of the three. The head of house sneaks us some more chocolate and I can't contain my excitement.
Alice and I finish the meal in the most British way possible: with a spot of (very expensive) tea. It has been three hours since we sat down, and it's time to go.
As we leave, the head of house offers to show us through the kitchen, where all the magic is taking place. Though we're nearing the end of service for the night, the chefs are still in action, finishing off the last few plates for the diners still in the restaurant.
There is a section for vegetables, meats, and pastries, and it is spotlessly clean. The atmosphere is quite calm, it feels extremely disciplined and surprisingly quiet - nothing like the TV shows, the head of house jokes.
We exit the kitchen and are presented with the bill. I grimace slightly. Let's not dwell on that one too much.
As we leave, we take a quick photo with the logo outside the restaurant. What a memorable night! I rarely mention the quality of the service in my blog, but tonight, it has been impeccable. I'm not used to that much attention! They have a dedicated food specialist, as well as a sommelier on site to help with your decision making; the head of house was extremely hospitable and I could not thank him enough for letting us into the kitchen. The restaurant is so fancy that they decrumb the table after each course, and they even brought a fresh white sheet to hide the shameful spot of sauce I dropped as I was transferring food to Alice's plate. Alice is also incredibly impressed with how soft the tablecloth is, and wants me to mention it in my writeup. I roll my eyes.
What qualities does a Michelin star restaurant have, then?
The food here does not just taste amazing, but its presentation is immaculate, the aromas are tantalising and the textures are all perfect - it is an experience for taste, sight, smell and touch. Each dish has been carefully constructed; the ingredients are purposefully picked to suit their role in their flavour profile, and the produce used is only of the highest quality. These things, to me, are what distinguish Michelin star restaurants from the rest: the perfect execution of a well-thought out meal designed to tingle the senses.
Friday July 28, 2017
When? Sunday July 23, 2017
Food Style? Scottish
There's three things that immediately come to mind when I think about Scottish cuisine. One is Irn Bru, the orange cream soda, which I had a can of in Loch Ness today. The other two I am hitting with a single stone in Arcade Bar, which serves haggis and over 100 kinds of whisky - that's whisky without an 'e' in Scotland!
Mortlach 15 years old
This whisky quite suits my palate. It's not very smokey and tends towards the sweet side. I can feel the burn sliding down my throat as I swallow, perhaps I should add a bit more water. There's a definite caramel aftertaste, which I find quite pleasant.
Robert Burn's famous haggis with whisky sauce, with a layer of mashed turnip, potato and haggis
The haggis comes out and the aroma is amazing. It's definitely one of those hearty winter meals, and with potatoes, turnips and a rich whisky sauce, it's food that warms the body and soul. The haggis is spiced nicely, and has that nice oaty texture. The whisky sauce provides a bit of pepper, making it truly warming. It's very filling and I'm well satisfied at the end.
Friday July 28, 2017
When? Saturday July 22, 2017
Food Style? Scottish Pub
The Scottish weather is meeting all expectation at the moment - it's pouring with rain and it's the middle of summer. On the way back to my accommodation from the Edinburgh Castle is this gastro pub. With a warm, cosy atmosphere and classic 80s beats, let's see how their food fares.
Bacon, BBQ, applewood and red onion beef burger
The burger looks quite basic without any greens. The patty is over done but the bacon and barbecue sauce are excellent, as are the red onions. The bun should have been toasted to bring out that beautiful aroma of nuts embedded in the dough. It annoys me when buns are too large for the party. It's not too bad, but far from perfection. They get points for giving me a bottle of sriracha for my fries.
Friday July 28, 2017
When? Tuesday July 18, 2017
Food Style? Norwegian
After a long day full of adrenaline, it's time for a hearty dinner. Since I had so much seafood yesterday, I want something a bit meatier, and of course, while I'm here in Norway, what better way to satisfy my red meat needs than with reindeer. This restaurant is quite the institution and has been around since 1910, and holy moly it is bloody expensive, but I don't have the time or energy to search for something else.
Whale carpaccio with horseradish sauce
To help me transition from seafood to red meat, I've ordered something that is both - whale! How elegantly presented it is, helping disguise how small of a helping I've been given. It tastes beefy and smokey, but delicious with all the condiments on the plate; cream from the sauce, sourness from the pickled onion, nuttiness from the crackers - it's not like the carpaccio that you'd find in an Italian restaurant, but it's as enjoyable as any I've had.
Reindeer fillet with asparagus, red onion chutney and game sauce
The reindeer comes out and immediately I think about how pleased I am that there is so much sauce. It doesn't taste as gamey as I expected it to be, but it definitely has that blood taste, almost like liver. Which is great, because I love liver. It's perfectly cooked, beautifully pink on the inside and slightly charred and crispy on the outside. The potatoes are doing a great job of soaking up that sauce, and there's enough that it will hopefully fill me up.
All in all, a great meal with interesting ingredients that you won't find many places in the world. These two dishes came to a whopping 524 Norwegian krona, which is almost $90NZD!! I will be picking up dessert from the supermarket.
Friday July 28, 2017
When? Monday July 17, 2017
Food Style? Asian Fusion
Right across from the seafood market is Zupperia. Their menu is a mix of European and Asian fusion flavours, with elements from Thailand, Hungary, Vietnam, Japan and Norway all listed. I'm pining for seafood again, and since we're so close to the market, I hope it's good quality and fresh. They're also known for their soups, so I went for the triple tester. Their reindeer soup sounds very interesting, but unfortunately has mushrooms.
Trio of soup
Three soups arrive: creamy fish soup, a tomato soup called Alentejo, and the reindeer soup, with mushrooms, that are definitely visible. I love the fish soup, it reminds me of the seafood chowder you get from Fishermans Wharf in San Francisco. Thick, creamy and sweet with seafood, it's the perfect winter warmer - it may be summer, but it's only 11C outside. The Alentejo is nice too, but definitely doesn't pack the flavour that the dish soup has. Finally, I try the reindeer soup. The mushroom isn't too strong, but it is noticeable behind the red meat taste. It's not too bad, but I just have to avoid the little floaters. I do wish there was more bread though!
Selection of local seafood in white wine, chili and garlic sauce
A massive plate of mostly mussels arrives. I was not expecting something like this, but it smells heavenly. Apart from the mussels, which are of course the smaller, inferior species to the New Zealand green lipped kind, there's squid, prawns and scallops, all cooked perfectly and swimming with plenty of coriander in a very appetising garlic, onion and white wine broth. A squirt of the lemon and I'm ready to go - delicious! I will say that it is quite the effort to remove all the mussels from their shells; perhaps there should be fewer or they should be deshelled.