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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

L' Autre Pied

The day: December 12th 2008, Lunch.
The place: 5-7 Blandford Street, Marylebone Village, London W1U 3DB
The venue: L’ Autre Pied
The food: French
The drinks: Nice, well priced and ranged selection, also in smaller sizes (glasses, 460ml pot).

(Note: Chef Marcus Eaves has moved to Pied a Terre since this review)
Let's check this sister operation of bi-starred Pied a Terre, with Chef Marcus Eaves in command of the kitchen, before the crazed praises of the critics, the powerful patrons and public relation machine behind it, and the inevitable Michelin star bring it into the price stratosphere.
As you can see, we come in pretty cynical and disenchanted - we have learned enough by now of how things work in the restaurant business. Will we come out equally disenchated? Let's see.
The interior is Arbutus style, minimalistic, stark, with unclothed tables (there are however pseudomats (rubber?) encased in the tables), and floral, modernist (apparently handmade) decorations on a glass partition and on the wall adding some curvy lines to the linear interior.
The menu offers several possibilities. There's Sunday menu affording a four course lunch at £34.50. A la carte choices for the starters are in the £9-14 range and for mains in the £16-20 range. The seven course tasting menu is at £52. But there is a temptingly well priced menu du jour (lunch) and pre-theater at £21 for three course. We take advantage of another very reasonable looking three course Sunday Lunch menu for £26.50 (it also includes a complimentary Bellini
on arrival).
When we order our courses we ask the Italian waiter to take our wine order too, and we’ll be punished by the sommelier/waiter who will just place the bottle on the table without making us try it – this is a first.
The bread arrives:
Served warm and with nice butter, but really they won't win a star for this.
For starters we had chosen:
- Caramelised onion veloute’, cannellini beans, smoked olive oil
- Lasagna of game, chanterelle mushrooms, chestnut foam

Man takes the first sip the veloute’ and Woman the first dig into the lasagna. They look at each other, and they instantly realize, without exchanging a word but just a delighted expression, that they agree: this is not an ordinary place. This instant recognition is a rare experience (so different, for example from the highly acclaimed and already starred One Lombard Street).
The layered flavours emanating so clearly from both dishes are striking. The veloute’ has a sweet acidic background, perfect thickness, balance, charme, with the cannelloni slightly ‘al dente’ (let’s say), and the olive oil, as always, making the dish soar.
The lasagna is ever so fine, packing concentrated, moist, soft, beautiful game. The dish is nicely presented on a slate tile (quite fashionable of late, but not very comfortable, though), the various components integrating very well in terms of texture and flavour.
We are looking forward to our mains:
- Aged (how much?) sirloin of Angus beef, caramelized cauliflower puree’, shallot fondant, roasting juices (£3 supplement)
- Roasted breast of pheasant, Savoy cabbage, Puy lentils, and red wine sauce

The beef has a reasonably deep flavour and a great texture. In our book this is cooked longer, and so is drier, than the 'rare' we had asked for. The roasting juices are nice and sharp, and can be soaked up by an admirable, floury side puree,

but the shallot fondant... the shallot fondant is an explosion of goodness from another world (the caramelised cauliflower puree was there, fine and beautiful and surely adding moisture and richness of flavour –Eaves likes caramelized stuff, obviously- but in a dish already so rewarding it did not register a deep impression on us).
The pheasant, too, while its meat was very pleasant on the palate, could have been cooked more sympathetically – it was slightly drier than the best samples we’ve had (recently here for example), and with some bitterness on the outside. We think there’s some scope for improvement in the cooking here. The sweet wine sauce was extremely apt, and so was the Savoy cabbage, with a tangy push coming from somewhere (citrus fruit?). The lentils, the baby onion and the beetroot created a full vegetable taste spectrum which we appreciated.
We are already happy, but here are are the desserts:
- Apple and blackberry crumble, bayleaf custard, blackberry sorbet
- Warm custard of Valrhona chocolate, Passion fruit icecream

The apple crumble is superb, the volatile bayleaf delicately permeating the whole dish and our nostrils and providing an unmistakable background character, integrating absolutely smoothly with the rest, the delightful pistachios, the sorbet, the crumble in a feast of assorted zingness and sweetness.
We were initially skeptical about the chocolate and passion fruit combination, but we were completely won over by the idea and the execution. The ‘custard’ is a sort of divinely airy liquid mousse (if this renders the idea) with apple bits. The ice cream is just as creamy as we like it (you know we are fussy about icecream), perfect and tangy, enriched by a crunchy help from the hazelnuts. With such delicate yet intense flavours, this dessert was frighteningly good.
A bottle of Syrah Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes Jean Luc Jamet 2006 at £29.60, the water at £3.50 (you won’t be frowned upon if you ask tap water), the £3.00 supplement for the beef, and the usual 12.5% service charge, brought the total to £96.30, truly great value for this level of cuisine.
The service was cheerful and friendly and chatty, though not yet at a level matching the food. The waiter described the dishes wrongly, somehow defeating the purpose of this usual litany you are subjected to in 'high-end' restaurants while the dish cools off. The sommelier or wine waiter was forever offended and distant. It being Sunday, however, the big manager wasn't there to keep a look on things.
We had a most impressive lunch. Marcus Eaves is clearly a young chef of superior talent who prepares interesting, expressive and controlled dishes. It's not bistro cusine, by a long strech, but rather a form of haute cusine firmly and pleasantly anchored on the ground: no foamy bullshit here. Not that everything was perfect: the cooking precision in both our mains left something to be desired, for example (to be fair, being Sunday the kitchen boss wasn’t there either – so things may be different on weekdays). But this is definitely cuisine that comfortably passes the one star level (and one day maybe even more) . So, we came in cycnical and we came out mollified. We are glad we went in the first year of its opening, and we suggest you hurry up, too!
(Added on 18 January 2009: of course we were right: L'AP has just got its Michelin star).

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


The day: 8th December 2008, Dinner.
The place: Pilmour Links Saint Andrews, KY16 (tel: 0870 400 8128)
The venue: Rusacks Hotel and restaurant
The food: Modern British/French
The drinks: Quite well stocked on French wines, good range of prices


We did not come to St. Andrews, Fife, to play golf, a sport (a sport?) about which we know nothing. But we must admit that, overlooking the green with one of the most famous golf ‘holes’ in the world, and then the ravishingly beautiful beaches and sea beyond, the Rusacks Hotel dining room, with its slightly retro elegance

makes us feel comfortable and relaxed,
notwithstanding the golf types surrounding us :-)

The short, well-designed menu offers a few choices in each category. We note a Crotin of goat cheese, Caramelised red onion, Pithiver (£6.25) among the starters, and the Slow cooked pork belly, Granny Smith apple puree, Boulangere potato, Winter vegetables, Cider sauce (£15.95) among the mains.

While we examine the menu, some bread arrives.

A choice of four varieties from a tray (granary brown, ciabatta, tomato, olive). Here’s our selection:
More than passable, it’s accompanied not only by butter, but also –a pleasant surprise for us- by olive oil. We confine ourselves to a mere tasting (for dietary reasons), and we are even more pleasantly surprised to discover it’s of good quality. We’d like to tell them that it would be better to serve the balsamic vinegar separately, and not already mixed (forming an emulsion) with the oil, but never mind…we’re in Scotland, not in the Mediterranean, so do as the Scots do.

No amuse bouche arrives.

Here are our starters:

- Pickled red mullet, fennel salad, sauce grabiche (£6.50)

- Classic moules mariniere (£6.95)
The mullet portion is ridiculous, basically an amuse bouche. But we appreciate the prettiness, and especialy the pickling which provides sweet and sour notes at the same time decisive and balanced, as well as the freshness of the sauce. Pleasant.

The moules are not as tender and meaty and sea-infused as they can be and as we expected in a place like St. Andrews, but are not too bad either, immersed as they are in a competently made sauce.

And next here are our mains:

- Panfried cod fillet, smoked bacon and Puy lentils, sage veloute (£16.95)

- Grilled Scottish Ribeye steak (8oz) (£19.00)
The beef offers some depth of flavour and an agreeable texture, coming from it being of good quality and having been hung properly (21 days). The chips are real, thick cut chips, another level compared to what we endured recently here, and assembled in the plate with solid Northern grace. What are the cherry tomatoes doing in here? It’s December, for godsake. Anyway, how persuasive, luscious, tasty is the sauce, providing a good peppery background for the beef (this is Man speaking: it’s a bit TOO peppery for Woman). And even the mushroom offers full flavour. Another enjoyable dish, though we made the mistake of accepting the waiter’s insistent recommendation that we have it medium rare (instead of rare as we like it: but we are always wary of contradicting the waiter, he may know things we don’t…), with the result that in the end it was drier than we savage carnivores like.

The cod is a bit muted, but it’s cooked sympathetically. The puy lentils, also cooked well and with the velvety sauce which carries the flavours delicately and far, complete this simple looking but perfectly satisfying dish.

To conclude, here are our desserts:

- Chocolate three ways (£5.95)

- Apple Bavaroise, Cinnamom ice cream (£5.50)
The three ways of the chocolate are an ice-cream (intense), a white chocolate ‘cheese cake’ (very good), and a tarte au chocolate (buttery, pleasant, brownie-like). The combination of flavours and textures is well judged, the whole rather satisfying (expecially if you consider that by this time we were worried about death by starvation...).

In the bavaroise, the cinnamon ice cream was delightful, playing nicely texture-wise with the bavaroise (note also the dried apple splice), which in fact was verging on a mousse. This and the previous desserts bordered on the seriously good territory.

With a bottle of 0.75 litres of water at a ludicrous £5 (ok, we insisted on bottled water because we know restaurants need the markup, but there is a limit to everything: next time we’re getting tap water), and an unremarkable Pinot Noir Robert Skalli 2006 at £24.50, the total came to a reasonable £89.00, good value also in comparison with the local prices for this level of cuisine. No service charge is added.

The service was polite and formal, even with some smiles and human touches, very nice but lacking a bit of agility when multitasking (there was a looong wait when they had to serve a large table).

While this is by no means a destination restaurant which you should travel many miles to go to, it is a good hotel restaurant to exploit once you are there; a venue with a very competent if unspectacular cuisine, produced by a chef who knows his way very well around French technique, decent materials, and an extremely pleasant physical environment. (We also tried their breakfast and came out happy).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bocca di Lupo: good news for ice-cream lovers

Love ice cream but are worried about the consequences for your waist line? We have some good news for you...

In our recent post on Bocca di Lupo, we commented on their gelati that 'The ice-creams were of the rich, fat variety, which we like less than the leaner one, but very smooth and gratifying on the palate'.

Well, we have now discovered with pleasure (from the horse's mouth) the we were completely wrong on fatness (but not on goodness!).

Their gelato base is only 7% fat! This is about as low as you can get (by comparison, we believe Haagen Dazs vanilla is a whopping 18%.)

The total fat content of course will vary according to the flavour. For example, other things being equal, chestnut is lower fat than the base while pistachio and hazelnut are slightly higher.

The chef conjectures that 'the perceived richness [of the gelato at Bocca di Lupo] comes from the lack of air in the ice cream (we take extreme measures to reduce over-run and obtain a dense product'. And we now recall the room manager mentioning to us, during our dinner, the rare machinery used in the kitchen to produce the gelato.

We are happy to have learned something - and even about a topic we thought we knew inside out...This is the spirit in which we write this blog, offering what we hope are constructive criticism, but always open to gaining knowledge from the true professionals.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bocca di Lupo

The day: 11th December 2008, Dinner.
The place: 12 Archer Street, London W1D 7BB (tel: 77342223)
The venue: Ristorante Bocca di Lupo
The food: (Multi)Regional Italian
The drinks: Various Italian wines with a tiny smattering of others, many by the glass and the carafe, good range of prices and choices.

We aren’t great fans of Soho. So having to wait for forty minutes perched on a bar stool, watching other people eat, after arriving, at our booked time, at this new Italian restaurant in a Soho dingy backwater put us in the worst of moods. New computer system…problems…we hear the manager mumbling. Oh, we don't care, just give us the table.

We are ready to be very critical…Chef Jacob Kenedy (yes, it is spelled with one 'n')…beware!

As you enter, there is a slick bar with a loooong marble top

after which lies a cooking area (main kitchen downstairs), and then the dining area proper (you can also eat sitting at the bar, Arbutus style).

We are given the menu to pass our time while we wait. The peculiarity is that most dishes come in a small and large version. And there are quite a few, offering samples from all Italian regions. Prices are in the range £4-£12 for the small portions and they double for the large ones.

We were thoroughly pissed off with the manager by the time he led us to our table, so our mood sank even further when we saw what a table it was: a small, stained, dirty, unclothed piece of wood.

Here we go, we thought, here’s another hole serving pseudo Italian trattoria fare catering for the uncomprehending Soho-types and Brit-crits happy to eat substandard food on a greasy table and pay fine dining prices for that. Is this a new Sardo? Ohmygod. And while we are mulling such dark thoughts…

The bread arrives:

Well, we must admit...this is not bad at all: focaccia, sourdough ‘casareccio’ and walnut bread, accompanied by good green and black olives and good olive oil. Our mood moves up one notch. And we are mindful that such items are always a tell-tale sign in an Italian restaurant.

We begin to notice the warm d├ęcor, with large paintings on the walls in brown and orange tones. And the attentive friendliness of the service staff. Mmmh.

And then, the beginning of a full charm attack. Unexpectedly, something arrives with the compliments of the chef, the apologies of the manager for our wait, and the news that wine will be on the house:

‘Fritto misto di mare’ (£8.50 on the menu)

In the plate, squids, soft-shell crabs, prawns and even the lemon slices are battered and fried. Man is already giving in, but don't you worry, there is no way Woman, who just had to concede that the sourdough bread actually qualified as "good", is going to be softened this easily: surely it is going to be a pathetic fry up. And yet... the raw materials are of high quality, as well as very fresh, and after all the bad expectations the perfect frying (light, no dripping, the right amount of batter) is a truly pleasant surprise. The squids can be and often are a rubbery inconvenience (not only in our adolescent memories of meals in cheap seaside trattorias, but even in far upper scale venues), but here they are soft and light. The prawns do bring that whiff of the sea, and the crab is a delicacy.

Our ordered starters appear:

- Chestnut and porcini soup with rosemary (£6 for the small portion)

- Tortelli di ricotta with burnt walnut pesto (£5 for the small portion)

- Spaghettini with lobster, mussels and ginger (£12 for the small portion)

The chestnut and mushroom soup introduces us to some very bold, strong, flavours. Almost too bold and unsubtle for balance that of the porcini, and with a little excess of seasoning, which anyway contrasted well the chestnut sweetness. But they are very good flavours indeed, generous, clear, and the porcini and chestnuts marry very well in the dense, creamy consistency of this rewarding soup.

The spaghettini are delightfully fine, and precision in cooking is again on display: a study of ‘al dente’. We would have wanted to taste the olive oil more prominently, and would have wished the ginger –which sounded like a nice addition- to be more in the foreground, but the chilly was a little overpowering. This said, the sauce was intensely good, and the mussels and lobster of very great quality – the mussels’ in particular was emphasised by our experience in Scotland the previous week (stay tuned): these are no ordinary raw materials, this is no ordinary trattoria.

The tortelli were Man’s favourite starter, though he agrees with Woman that the pasta itself (made on the premises), while good, wasn’t at very top level, lacking elasticity. But what a nice ensemble, the combined sweetness and acidity of the butter, parmesan and ricotta beautifully standing up against the bitter burnt note of the walnuts. Not a timid dish, but extremely ‘gluttony’ and this time seasoned to perfection.

In all three dishes, the generosity of the portions is heart warming.

And now for our mains plus side dish:

- Swordfish a la Palermitana (£7 for the small portion)

- Grilled porcini and polenta (£10.50 for the small portion)

- Artichoke ‘a la Giudia’ (£5.00, side dish)

The swordfish was a really Sicilian dish. The fish itself perhaps was the least impressive raw material of the evening (we do not know where the beast came from, and we did not have the courage to ask the staff for fear of embarrassing them – already from previous exchanges we did not have the impression this is the type of place where you can ask too detailed questions, and get a satisfactory aswer). But the excellent ricotta salata and capers, the thick chunk of fish with its crispy bread coating (frying precision once again) made for a rich, assertive combination of contrasts.

The artichoke was not bad but a little more oily than the previous frying exhibitions, there was a little too much bitterness in the burned parts with nothing else to contrast it, and to be fair it was not really ‘alla Giudia’: the shape was not right, lacking the characteristic ‘squashing’ (two nice pictures are here, while here you can get the full story) In summary, not what you’d eat in the ‘ghetto’ in Rome, while still OK.

The thickly cut mushrooms (good) also had a slightly bitter edge from the cooking (a theme emerging), but this time it matched very pleasingly the sweet, soft polenta (standard restaurant practices might be behind the softness, but let’s not investigate). This dish, which lacked no fat, also comes in a version with ‘Lardo di Colonnata’, which would make it even richer and more luscious. Apart from the dietary preoccupations, the trio porcini-polenta-lardo sounds like a winner.

We are almost at the end of this gastronomic tour of Italy. Here are our desserts:

- Cassata Siciliana (£7.00)

- Brioche sandwich of hazelnut, pistachio and chestnut gelati (£7.00)

The brioche (a sample from Neapolitan cusine), let’s admit it, was not very successful, lacking moisture and airiness. The ice-creams were of the rich, fat variety (added 21/12/08: no, we are wrong on this, see here), which we like less than the leaner one, but very smooth and gratifying on the palate (mainly that of Man). The kaleidoscope of flavours was impressive and original.

The cassata was surprisingly restrained compared to the aggressive sugary assault it could be. We liked it this way. All the notes from ricotta (it should be from ewe milk in the original version, but this might have been cow or mixed), orange, chocolate and marzipan blended with balance and elegance.

We had tap water and a bottle of Pinot Noir Colterenzio Classico (2007), a basic but nicely made wine for this producer (£26). Without the front of house generous ‘reparation’ offer our orders would have cost about £95 for a still substantial amount of food.

The service was lovely. Perhaps due to our long faces in the beginning, the waiters were really charming and ready to accommodate with a smile any of our grumpy requests… and after all how many times is grumpiness just met with grumpiness (we chatted with another couple next to us –not really difficult given the proximity of the tables :-) - and even they were ravished by the quality of service). The (Scottish) manager, after an initial period of, how shall we call it, ‘uncertainty’, could not have gone more out of his way to make up for the screw up. We were impressed by him and by the way he must train his staff.

Chef Jacob Kenedy, his second David Cook and general manager Victor Hugo are to be congratulated for having set up a really nice little Italian joint (as you know, coming from us this is not a light judgement!). It’s not and it aims not to be ‘fine dining’, in structure, presentation and subtlety: it’s more rustic than that, as is the physical environment in the room. But there is clearly much thought about flavours, much striving for cooking precision, in those dishes. The menu is very well designed and appealing. If we really have to make a criticism (OK we don't have to, but we will), it’s about the occasional slight lack of balance and sense of proportion, almost as if there was too much striving for ‘authentic’ heartiness. Perhaps some slight retuning in flavour combinations and some smoothing of edges would bring the level even higher. But even so, the passion and the skill and the great materials were all shining on our plates. This is cuisine that for its simplicity still moves and strikes. Our meal compared very favourably with the likes, for example, of the more expensive Theo Randall and the more directly comparable (and still more expensive) Osteria dell’Arancio. We think this is not far from being the perfect, high level Italian trattoria in London (and we had given up!), capturing the true spirit of Italian regional dishes, with a personal touch thrown in, and a very apt and unusual sense of hospitality and generosity.

PS: (we have later discovered that the tables are made from reclaimed school laboratory worktops (teak), which explains their (desired) scarred appearance).


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Life is beautiful


is a Zuppa di ceci con prezzemolo and riccioli di merluzzo nero (Chick pea soup with parsley and curls of black cod).

And we should add, extra-virgin olive oil from outer space… (seriously, it is in fact from our planet, more precisely from Latina). This is an off-menu item we recently enjoyed at Latium. The ensemble was just so balanced, with flavours so clear and so intense, to make you want to shout: this is great! this is the essence of Italian cuisine!

We need to remember this the next time we end up in a pretentious venue – sadly no scarcity, it will surely happen- where we look in vain for a spark on the palate beyond the technique and the smokes and mirrors: eating well is about flavour is about flavour is about flavour.

Well, since we are at it… our dinner continued with some other delights. For example this:

Maltagliati with pheasant ragout and girolles mushrooms

What makes this ragout so damn good –we just can’t get enough of its captivating sweetness- is (beside the great mushrooms) the ‘fond’ (this one of chicken), something which you won’t find in many Italian restaurants in the UK (or even in Italy, for that matter). This is technique not at the service of itself or of the show, but at the service of the dish, just of the dish.

We also had the:

Chicken tortellini in broth

The theme of this dish is delicacy: not your regular in-yer-face Bolognese tortellini, here we have something frankly more refined. But the broth carries enough personality that it alone could be a dish in itself.

And finally just look at this:

Tagliata di manzo with wild mushrooms and potato puree

And this:

Pheasant with cime di rapa (broccoli tips), cauliflower cream and roast potatoes.

You could frame these dishes and hang them on the wall, so beautiful they look. But we ate them instead. They were hearty, they were delicate, and our palates were grateful for that. Admittedly the splendid colour of the beef comes from it being cooked between raw and rare: but isn’t that the best way to taste it? Man and Woman think so.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008


The day: November 29th 2009, Dinner.
The place: Mile End Road,
237 Mile End Road Stepney LONDON E1 4AA (Tel : 020 7702 7051).
The venue: L’ Oasis
The food: Gastropub
The drinks: good selection of well-priced wines and beers.

Gastropub, what a passion! Ever in search of the UK analogue of the good Italian trattoria, this time we focus on another East End place (after this and this and, in a sense, this), which has the dubious distinction of a raving review by the distinguished gastrocritic Fay Maschler.

As expected, the interior of the (long, spacious) room with the pub area at the end is casual, rustic, lively

And some interesting entertainers on the mezzanine:

There is also an upstairs room.

On the menu, starters go for £4.50-6.50 (e.g. whitebait at 4.50), with a mediterranean ‘meze’ tray to share at £12.50. Mains offer, for example, hearty choices such as Smoked haddock, spinach mash, poached egg, wholegrain mustard sauce at £11.50, or more delicate ones such as Pan Fried Seabass, new potatoes and sorrel sauce at £13.50. The most precious item is the New York strip at £16.50, the cheapest the pan-fried goat cheese with Portobello mushrooms and pine-nut salad at £8.50.

The bread does not arrive. You have to earn it.

Our selection of starters is

- Guinea fowl ballotine, salad, hazelnut dressing, bread (thank God, there is the bread!) (£5.50)

- Ham hock terrine, red onion marmalade, salad and bread (OK, we won’t starve) (£5.50)

These are both appealing dishes. The guinea fowl is palatable, well-made, with a buttery, sweet impression which is well-matched by the garnish, especially the pine-nuts. The bread, though essential for our survival, is forgettable, of the 'spineless' variety.

The terrine has a more decisive flavour, it is drier and more acidic, all in a pleasant way, and is very nicely contrasted by the excellent, sweet onion marmalade. A perfect dish for this type of venue. Mmh, this is looking good, might become a regular spot...

While we sip our beers (more on this story later), our mains arrive:

- Home-made fish cake, salad and fries (£9.50).

- Confit guinea fowl leg, braised red cabbage, fondant potato, thyme jus (£12.50)

The guinea fowl has been cooked too much and is much too salty, and is therefore also dry. Not TOO bad but disappointing after the good starters. The cabbage, in a heavy-handed sort of way, provides rustic pleasure on the palate, but the potato is rather dull.

In the fish cake once again we encounter a very unwelcome excess of salt. The chips are really pathetic: defrosted and tasteless, if you discount the abundant salt, that is. The salad has a condiment in it which is unsuitable for Italians, but we think also for French people (and yet we are told the chef is French), and surely for you Brits too! And the fish cake itself? It comes spreading a very pleasant smell, but the flavour doesn’t match the expectation thus created, and it is not moist, it is not hanging together as it should: the crust is rock solid, the interior limp and mushy. A poor dish, memories of the one we had at Creeler' longingly emerge.

Dear readers, we love you all but there is only so much we are willing to do for the blog…so prudence suggests we share a dessert.

- Banoffee pie with dark chocolate sauce (£4)

This was the last banoffee pie left, and we regret it hadn’t been eaten by somebody else. The portion is slightly ridiculous, the banana mousse (which in practice feels like a whipped cream with some banana flavour) is substandard, and the dough is seriously substandard, heavy and cardboard style (maybe bought in from a low quality outlet).

We drank some very interesting beers: a pint of Kolner (£4.00), a 330mls bottle of Meantime chocolate beer (£3.50) and a half pint of London stout (£?). For people like us who don't know much about beer, this in itself made the visit worthwhile. All in all, the experience for two cost just £44.85.

The service was cheerful and helpful, really an asset of L’Oasis. The culinary experience started really really well for a gastropub. A real pity, then, that it went progressively down the drain. Given that there was some skill and sensitivity on display in the starters, we are inclined to hope that the rest was due to an off night. For £44 one cannot ask for fine dining, but for some passion, care, and honest flavours, yes. They were not available on this occasion, but we feel we should be willing to give l’Oasis another try. Or maybe just for starters and a drink...


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

cold, flu and memories

Both Man and Woman have had the flu, forcing a little pause with restaurant tastings. So, waiting for the next experience, we live on memories…

Among the outstanding recent dinners one was at our London fave Latium, which unfortunately we did not record for posterity.

(but those ‘barzotte’ eggs with truffles and chanterelles mushrooms, mmmh!).

The other outstanding dinner was at Locanda Margon. We present it here with no comments, even the photos alone tell you what superior kind of experience this was.

We will omit some extras, but not the bread, of course:

And here we go: Sea fish ravioli in clam water with garlic foam

Potato ‘zuppa’ with wild mushrooms

(not what you expected for a zuppa, admit it!)

Sebass fillet (and much more)

Suckling pig fillet (and even more)

Carrot ‘tortino’, apples and beetoroot

Pears cooked in Chardonnay grappa

This year Locanda Margon retained its Michelin star. Its great location, consistency and excellence of cuisine with raw materials of absolute excellence deserve more – but for us maybe better not: we might never again afford such dinners for €140 – wine inclusive (Pinot Nero Pisoni 2003) and treated like royalty!! (Bizarrely, one well-known Italian guide has lowered the value-for-money rating of the Locanda. Dear friends, you know very well that we are always sternly, almost obsessively, mindful of the pecuniary implications of our adventures: but if this is not value for money, we don’t know what is. People passing certain judgments probably focus on money alone without looking at value.).

Analogous observations go for
Latium in London: though its standards are both more consistent and superior to any starred Italian restaurant we have tried in the city, the lack of a star so far probably has allowed us to preserve the tumescence of our wallets while at the same time delighting our gustative souls. Anyway, for this year the star game is still on….

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