Archive for the 'Special occasion' 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…)

Christmas Lunch – Whole salmon on the barbeque!

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Soooo sorry for the shameful 2 month absence!  Foodiechat had an unexpected whirlwind of a month at work, no fun :(  Well it’s over now, and it’s Christmas Eve – I thought I should share what we’re having!  First Christmas lunch was a couple of weeks ago, and thanks to my friends, I got free reign on the menu – yay! Thanks for trusting me guys! I’ve ALWAYS wanted to cook a whole salmon on the BBQ, and yay, 14 people meant there were enough people for it!

First up, I bought this lovely fella – it was $15 a kg and this guy was 3kgs.  He was really gross to touch though :(

I thought it was great value, as the salmon is already gutted, so you’re really eating pretty much all of it except the head and the spine!  First, wash him and then pat dry with a paper towel.  Next, stuff his belly with fronds of dill and parsley, and some lemon slices.  Then, rub him all over with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Wrap tightly in foil – double layers – and oops, I was lazy and didn’t grease the top layer of foil, thinking the oil on the fish was enough to make it non stick. So, the skin came off, oops :(  Nevermind.  Put the whole wrapped parcel on your barbeque on medium heat.  And cook it for 30 –  40 minutes.  It’s cooked if you stab through it and your skewer or knife goes through easily :)  This is what he looked like when we unwrapped it.

And after we ate the top layer, between 14 of us, we only ate 3/4 of the fish!  It was totally cooked to perfection.  One second more and it wouldn’t have been so perfect. Thumbs up guys! It was soo silky and delicate.  Highly recommend this for your Christmas table!

As if that wasn’t enough, Cecilia also cooked a pork roast.   Salt the skin and leave it overnight in the fridge to dehydrate and you’ll have the most perfect crackling.

Some vegetable is required – and the grilled capsicum and green zucchinis definitely suited the occasion with their very Christmassy colours! :)

My plate – a bit piggy? :) We also had chargrilled prawns and a rocket salad with pear, walnuts and pancetta. (more…)

High Tea at the Dorchester

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

England is the home of high tea – dainty sandwiches, scones and clotted cream and bite sized desserts served on a tiered tea stand.  There are many versions of how high tea came to be.  But a popular version is that one of the ladies in waiting to Queen Victoria was peckish in the afternoon and asked for sandwiches, cake and tea to be brought to her, in ths 17th century as dinner wasn’t served until late.  It certainly isn’t a surprise that it caught on as a trend for her and still continues to be up until its recent popularity worldwide now, not just in England.  In London, ‘the’ place to have it is the Dorchester apparently, in fancy Park Lane.  A beautiful grand hotel with doormen and waiters in coat tails.  You could easily imagine ladies in hooped skirts and hats taking tea in the same place many years ago! 

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The tea is taken in the Promenade lounge in the hotel.  As we went during the week of the Chelsea Flower show, the tea cost £50 per person plus 12.5% service charge, instead of the usual £35.  Effectively A$100.  So expensive :(   Well if they say that that’s where it is, better try it.  I actually don’t know what the extra £15 gets you and it seemed quite like a standard high tea.  If you took the special flower high tea for another £11, you got to take home a small pot plant of flowers as well as a more expensive type of champagne.  Standard high tea for me! 

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I’m not a drinker, so I contemplated substituting the champagne for a softie. But looking at the menu, the champers itself was £15!  It was actually very fruity and sweet and bubbly still, unlike some other venues that have pre-opened bottles without the fizz.   

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I was so ecstatic when the waiters asked if we had any allergies or dislikes.  I actually don’t eat mayonnaise, and the evil white sauce is found in sandwiches the world round, as if there wasn’t such a thing as a sandwich (or sushi in fact!) that could survive without it!  The chefs obliged without any complaint and made them without the sauce for me! And made them vegan for my friend too.  The bread was made fresh and was obviously made in house.  There was a standard cucumber sandwich on caraway seed scented bread, caponata/roast veg on pumpkin bread.  My favourite was the chicken on basil bread, and there was also smoked salmon.  Something I wasn’t accustomed to was the fact that we were asked if we wanted seconds!  Free refills – awesome!  We had both fasted in order to come so we relished another serve of each.

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We were served a pre-dessert then, a white peach jelly with jasmine tea foam.  Wow, the peach was the perfect mix of sweetness with a hint of tartness, and it complemented the jasmine tea foam perfectly.  The foam’s tea flavour was so intense without being overpowering, and the texture – so silky!

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I haven’t actually had clotted cream before, in Australia we often just get double cream or whipped cream.  On the table I actually thought it was butter – wow, now I know why they call it clotted cream – artery clogging perhaps??  We also had some really runny not set strawberry jam (more akin to syrup) and some blueberry jam which was better.

High tea dorchestor 4.jpg (more…)

Guillaume at Bennelong

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

When asked what is my favourite restaurant, there’s so many categories – favourite what – casual? Formal? Quick dinner?  Outdoor? Cheap?  Well, Bennelong is definitely one of my favourites in the fine dining category.  OK, so it’s not the type of restaurant you can go to everyday, but with their pre-theatre menu, you certainly can go more often than otherwise. It’s $75 for 3 courses, or $65 for two.  Well my sister was generous enough to take me for my birthday (well, I kinda asked if she could hehehe ;) ) as I’d only eaten there once before (work paid) and I LOVED it. I’m also a big fan of Guillaume and his classic French, his precision cooking and just general yumminess (that’s a technical blogger’s term ;) ).  OK, so sometimes it’s really embarrassing to take photos at a posh restaurant, so I did my best with my meal.  First of the rank – the scallops with jerusalem artichoke puree and fried garlic.   Pause.  Relishing the memory. AMAZING. Melt in your mouth scallops, creamy rich puree, delicious sauce.  This entree was certainly generous in proportion and even more fabulous in flavour.

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Feeling almost full, I chose the crispy skinned barramundi for my main. It was VERY generous proportion as well (see – the $75 is SO worth it!), and topped with fried leeks, and Guillaume’s famous mash, with fresh peas and exotic mushrooms. 

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Dessert was either sorbets, or warm apple crumble – served in its copper baking dish topped with vanilla bean ice cream,

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or my choice – the trio of creme brulees (I found the coffee one seriously strong though) with 3 petite madelines for dunking.

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One of my most favourite things about Bennelong is the petit fours that come with coffee.  As if you could squeeze in another bite, you get to squeeze in four bites:  Dark chocolate tart, grapefruit jelly, salted caramel and pistachio macaron.  Topped with a sensational harbourview, there really is no better way to enjoy a Sydney evening.


These restaurant deals are one of the best things about the credit crunch. Take advantage of them while they last!