Archive for the 'Eating out in Europe' Category

Gordon Ramsay – the best meal of my LIFE (so far!)

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Has anyone noticed how high the Aussie dollar is at the moment?  Never before has it been so cheap to go to Europe, and actually be able to do things like eat and see things without feeling like you are bleeding money.  On my recent trip to London, I noticed a stark contrast in the price of fine dining compared to home, partly due to the strong Aussie dollar but also due to the still subdued business market making the long client lunches a bit less lavish and showy compared to the investment banking hey-day.  But not one to complain, I set myself the task of eating ten Michelin stars.  My first was at Pied-A-Terre  - a fine two Michelin star establishment where I thoroughly enjoyed my 30 pound 3 course meal.  And now I must gush about Gordon Ramsay.   When I tell people that this was the best dining experience of my life so far and one of the top 3 highlights of my Europe trip (along with Santorini, and the Vienna opera), people react with surprise, thinking the Gordon Ramsay shown on TV is transpired to his restaurants.  Far be it from the truth.  Gordon Ramsay’s flagship restaurant in Chelsea is one of only two restaurants in Central London with three Michelin stars.   To sum it up – I felt like absolute royalty there.  The service could not have been better if I was indeed of royal blood, and it felt like the entire team was there to attend to your every need.

It is a very small restaurant.  So intimate, and formal without pretence.  We were seated at a table for two – each table for two is positioned around the outside of the room, with the chairs turned into the centre, great for people watching, but mostly so that the waiters may attend to you easily.  The Maitre’d made it seem like he remembered my friend whom I went with, and when she remarked that I had come from Australia, this piece of information made its way to ALL the staff (no joke), as even the servers would ask me how my experience was so far and whether it lived up to expectations.  Each PERSON has their own waiter AND their own server.  The server brings the food on a silver platter with your plate under a ciloche for your gloved waiter to serve you your plate.  Then, your waiter with a flourish pours sauce onto your dish – it is all so symphonic in its execution and inside, I was squealing with delight at every little detail.  But – compose yourself FoodieChat, this IS a three star restaurant, so look cool like you always do this ;)

Did I mention the price? A mere 45 pounds (plus tax) gets you THREE courses for lunch.  In aussie dollars, that’s less than $100!!  There is no such thing as a three MICHELIN star restaurant in Australia, but I can tell you that lunch at most three HAT restaurants would set you back more.  What a bargain.  Even without the “name” the value for money is unsurpassable.  To make it more discreet, only the host of the table gets the menu with the prices. Which set me into a moment of panic thinking “What if the lunch special menu is not available!” because the usual degustation is priced more realistically at 120 pounds.

Guess what this is?  Amuse bouche? No.  In fact, it is the whipped salted butter. Sprinkled with gold leaf and piped onto a granic disc on silver.  *die* of pleasure!!

Now here is the amuse bouche.  My companion is pescatarian, and the kitchen ever so kindly even adapted the amuse bouche, using a tiny poached quails egg sitting in the pea broth.

I am not vegetarian, which means I got the unmodified version. Any guesses about what it is?

My first frogs leg!!  The tiny bone (Slightly offputting hehehe), stuck into a lightly crumbed ball of the flesh which sat on top of a cured speck (I think) and in the pea broth.  OK, if I’m ever going to try a frog’s leg, it’s gotta be at Gordon Ramsay.  It was kinda like flaked chickeny-tuna actually.  Quite seafood-y.    For my first course, I ordered the crab and scallop raviolo.  It was served with the bisque poured by my waiter, and only now in reveiwing my photos had I noticed the painstaking detail – the dots of oil on the dish, the perfectly cubed tomato – but look closely – a tiny herb placed on each tomato – spring onion, chive, coriander. WOW.

The filling was so generous and flavoursome.  And served on a piece of trimmed cabbage. (more…)

The Hummingbird Bakery, London

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Last year, I bought the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, based purely on the beautiful traditional home baked goodies that filled its pages.  A year later, I was lucky enough to get to visit London, and purely by coincidence, managed to pass the actual store whilst exploring trendy Soho!  You can’t miss it, as the book is so true to the store – the pink bird sitting on top of the painted font (a hummingbird dare I say? ;) ) and the striking red shelves with its wares on display.

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Inside the store, it’s even cuter, with pink cupboards, pink and brown checkered floor and rows and rows of perfect cupcakes behind glass display cabinets. (I didn’t notice this lovey dovey couple on the left until I got home, the guy blended so well with the decor ;) ).  The restaurant has a row of benches where you can eat it (it costs more though) and enjoy a coffee.

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All the treats from the book are on display here.  The most popular is the red velvet, and of course the traditional vanilla cupcake, each is adorned with a lick of pastel cream.  New flavour of the day was the earl grey tea flavour.

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These mounds of calories and goodness were in fact rocky roads, rather than rocky road topped cupcakes as I had imagined.

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Apart from the cupcakes, Hummingbird Bakery also has large cakes. Sadly, I didn’t realise you could buy these by the slice, until too late :(

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Despite the fact that I was still full from lunch, I decided I did not want to carry around a cupcake whilst shopping. So I had to eat one there. Eating in costs just slightly more – but at least it allowed me to dissect what’s so good about these cupcakes :) After much agonising deliberation, I decided on a chocolate cupcake for something different, swathed in a gorgeous lemon coloured vanilla frosting. (more…)

Kobenhavner Cafeen

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

We Aussies feel a sense of connection with Denmark, after all, we gave them their Crown Princess Mary!  Thinking of Denmark, the images that come to mind are beautiful people, blonde hair blue eyed babies, fresh air, water, canals, and danish pastries!!  Well all these things Denmark does have.  But one thing I did not expect it to be was so expensive :( The Danish Kroner exchange rate with the Aussie has resulted in coffees costing no less than $6 to have in or take away, same price for soft drinks too.  And whilst Croatia and Greece average meal price was 10 euros and an expensive meal being 20 euros, it was more like an average meal in Copenhagen being 20 euros :(   Anyway….. What is Danish food like?  Traditional food includes herrings, lots of meats and stews as it’s such a cold country, meatballs, and the open sandwich. Which is exactly as it sounds.  Slices of bread topped with all manner of condiments, meats and flavours eaten on a plate with a knife and fork with no bread on top.    We went in search of traditional Danish food, and found the Kovenhavner Cafeen.   At approx DKK190 per meal it was a little on the expensive side to us (you can find meals for DKK160), but it looked full of Danish people so it must be good right?   My first upset was that they refused to serve tap water.  Bottled water only.  Imagine if they opened in Sydney, there would be a huge revolt!  And I must admit when I walked in the restaurant, I thought “yuck”.  It was so old and a bit musty.  You can imagine old people playing cards and smoking in here as it was dark and the carpet ugly and old, with very outdated furniture.  So in conjunction with the limited menu, i wasn’t that enthused about this place.  Well after looking at the menu for a while, thinking “what’s the least bad thing I could eat”, I settled on the Copenhagen casserole.  Pork loin casserole which must be ordered in at least 2 serves.  The waiter brought this huge cast iron pot which was approx only 1/4 full of food.  But woooaaahhhh what it lacked in volume it made up for in flavour.  I was proved wrong again – appearances deceptive as this was the most delicious thing I had eaten in Copenhagen!!

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It came with freshly deep fried (And very oily) but crispy french fries.

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Jamie’s Italian, Canary Wharf

Monday, July 5th, 2010

The Nked Chef’s empire just keeps on growing.  I don’t know how this guy runs restaurants across the world, trains up new chefs, runs a charity, writes cookbooks, goes on roadtrips for TV documentaries and be a dad to three kids!  You’d think that one of these would have to suffer, but so far I think the man has done some great delegation whilst still retaining the quality of his brand.  My first experience of Jme’s restaurants was Jamie’s Italian, newly opened at the financial hub of London in Canary Wharf.  It has a no bookings policy, but at 7pm on a Sunday night, we had no issues getting a table.

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The room’s focal point is the antipasti bar, where the platters of cured meats are shaved to order and ornately presented on beautiful platters.  The produce is hung from the ceiling, and the platters are served on wooden boards, balanced on cans of chopped tomatoes from Italy – a cute touch.

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Whole legs of proscuitto hang invitingly from the ceiling.

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The fresh made pasta is put out to display, with the pastas occupying one third of the menu.

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The dining room is very Jamie too, an eclectic mix of old style furniure (pardon me but I talk food, not furniture :) ) and more akin to a diner than a fine dining experience. Simple but tasty goes hand in hand with the no-nonsense approach to furnishings.

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The kitchen is also open plan for all to see and to give you a sneak peek of the menu before you committ! And boy are there choices galore. (more…)