Archive for the 'Michelin Star Dining' 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…)

Pied a Terre – my first snails!

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

The economic crisis that hit in 2008/2009 was the worst many of us have seen in our lifetime. Banks folded, bankers were on the streets, and restaurants remained empty as client entertainment became as rare as a bonus.  For fear of sounding like a bad economic article, this leads me to the benefit of the GFC.  Credit crunch lunches!  On my recent trip to London, I was absolutely delighted that you could have Michelin rated restaurant meals for 30 pounds!  Not for one course, but for THREE!! The current time is no better time for those of us who can’t normally afford to sample the best of the culinary world to see what we have been missing out on!  First stop, Pied a Terre.  It has held two Michelin stars for some years now.  It says on its website that it offers the best value Michelin meal, with three courses plus canapes for GBP30.50. (excluding 12.5% service charge).  It is located not that far from Oxford Street, near Regent Street.   

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The dining room is very intimate, no more than 4 tables in the front half and approximately 10 tables in the main dining area.  Three of these were set out for solo diners like me that day.  A gorgeous gerbera plate set your place, a dish of salted green olives for nibbling as you select your meal.

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It’s settled, the lunch set menu for me! And out comes the bread basket, which is offered to you throughout your savoury courses without having to be asked, as it should be with Michelin ranked restaurants.  That day, cheese and bacon savoury scone was offered, as was wholemeal slice, french style, poppyseed and star anise flavoured.  The savoury scone was fluffy like a muffin, slightly oily to the touch but delicious and warm.  I have to admit though the star anise flavour was slightly overpowering for me.

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The canapes of the day were a gnocchi, still warm and pan fried, a pumpkin mousse that was cold and served with crumbled blue cheese on top, and a poppyseed wafer filled with foie grois mousse.  The gnocchi was delightful.  Topped with a shaving of parmesan, it had a good al dente texture, not too soft as it was a finger food – more like a savoury potato croquette, but softer.  The mousse was sweet but I would have preferred it slightly warmed, and surprisingly the cheese wasn’t overpowering at all!  The wafer was thin as paper, and crisp, and delicately balanced on a two pronged fork like instrument.  These three canapes were certainly a treat, and rivalled some other Michelin restaurants (to follow in Foodiechat!) in terms of value, as the serving size was more akin to an entree! 

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So the choices for the entree were snails or cured kingfish. Hmm… I must admit, although this blog is called “FoodieChat” and I do adore food, I by no means claim to have a sophisticated palate!  I, like most people, had reservations about trying snails. But where better to try them than at a Michelin restaurant?  Here goes!  The plate came, looking like a work of art.  Six snails were served with mushroom beignets (like mushroom tofu puffs!), lentils, smoked bacon and parsley veloute.  The squeamish thoughts in me thought the foam reminded me of snails frothing when as a child I used to salt them!.  Surprisingly, the snails were very tasty!

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Unfortunately, I could not help but recognise the slug like bit.  I struggled to look at it, instead concentrating on the creaminess of the mushroom beignets, the delicious bacon dice and the lentils contrasting with the crispy parsley and the garlicky snails. 

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Well, just re-lived that memory.  Next came the pork fillet, served on sweet apple puree with roasted baby carrots, pomme souffle (Those crispy pillows on top!), spring greens and sage jus.  Look how gorgeous the plate looked.  It was an absolute work of art.  Print this on a canvas and stick it on your wall, it would not look out of place.  The pork was melt in your mouth tender, pink but not not bloody, lean but not tough.  And those pommes souffles – the best chips ever.  The carrots were deeply caramelised and so sweet, the bed of apple puree sweet but just the right amount of tartness as well.

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As you can see, the servings were very generous at Pied A Terre.  And they also were generous enough to give a pre-dessert.  It was a jasmine tea mousse on top of a custard topped with crumble and a delicate placed mini red petal.  The mousse was so refreshing and cooling and I wanted to dive right in and have it in one spoon.  But Michelin starred food is to be savoured slowly and enjoyed, unravelling the flavours in each lick.

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And finally, the dessert of the day.  The service was friendly, unobtrusive. but my one complaint is that the dessert was served whilst I was at the bathroom :(   Resulting in some ice cream melting.  It was a poached loquat with honey jelly, vanilla bean ice cream and almond tuilte.  It was very refreshing as it wasn’t overly sweet.  And again, very beautiful to look at.

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All in all, I loved this meal.  The price they charge you is a steal – I have no idea how they can make money on this.  Thirty quid for three Michelin starred courses.  I wished I lived in London and could enjoy this calibre of food, the price being the icing on the cake.

34 Charlotte St, London W1T 2NH.