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London’s 10 Most Important Restaurants for Visitors- Richard Vines (Bloomberg)

OK, I looked it up: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07...

"What makes a restaurant important?

Some serve outstanding food. Some are game-changers that start trends and spawn imitators. Others are just fashionable." </quote>

I'll buy in for "outstanding food" and skip the trendy and fashionable ones I guess.

Jul 26, 2014
willyum in U.K./Ireland

5 days in Chicago - Lots of tasting menus, want advice.

>> "I think you are the only one on this forum this year who believes that Alinea is as good as ever."

I went to Alinea twice last year (and other times dating back to 2010) and I also thought it was a good as ever, so Nsxtasy is definitely not alone. Not to mention the voters at Elite Traveler magazine, who voted it # 1 in the world again, or the Pellegrino/Restaurant magazine voters who placed it in the top 10. I've been to 8 of the top 11 restaurants on the ET list and half of Pellegrino's top 10 and while there are some real head-shakers on both lists I think they got it right with places like Alinea, Ledbury, Le Bernardin, Azurmendi and Mugaritz. Grace is nowhere to be found on either list's top 100.

You keep praising Grace but my one meal there was a bit disappointing in several ways. I wrote a review of it for Chowhound last summer (several others agreed with me) but don't bring it up every time someone mentions Grace, unlike you with your constant criticism of Alinea. I could bring it up again every time someone mentions Grace, but then I'd be as annoying as you.

Jul 26, 2014
willyum in Chicago Area

London’s 10 Most Important Restaurants for Visitors- Richard Vines (Bloomberg)

"Important" in what sense?

Just curious.

Jul 26, 2014
willyum in U.K./Ireland

Ledbury, or something else?

Ledbury was our favorite out of the 4 high end places we dined at when visiting London. Always full so perhaps not inclined to take a single.

Maybe read up on Hedone ... It's not as hard to get in to and has counter seating overlooking the kitchen, so easy to fit in as a single.

Jul 16, 2014
willyum in U.K./Ireland

Suggestion for a late dinner @ Paris CDG Airport Terminal 2

We were at the Sheraton 3 nights ago and had a light meal at a branch of Frenchy' Bistro, a short walk from the hotel near the McDonalds. Pretty average but OK. Not sure of the hours.

Jul 13, 2014
willyum in France


From the Miro Hotel (across from the Guggenheim) it was 15 minutes drive. Maybe a few minutes more from old town but not much.

The concierge got us a private driver (Mercedes with a tie-wearing driver :) and it was 30 euros each way. Since a cab to the airport was 25 euros and Azurmendi is about 8 km past the airport turn-off on the same highway I'm guessing a street cab would be maybe 27-28 euros, but I don't know for sure. Just be certain the cab driver knows where the restaurant is since some diners have reported having problems finding it.

If you want to save 35-40 euros you could catch the bus to the airport (1.4 euros) and grab a cab there to the restaurant, which I'm guessing would be 6-8 euros.

Jul 08, 2014
willyum in Spain/Portugal

Manresa fire

Really enjoyed our meal there last February. Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Chef Kinch and all his staff.

Thanks for posting the link.

The Farmer and the Fox, St. Helena

>>> "they also have a NO CORKAGE FEE policy on wine brought in at all times which is quite nice for those with a nice celler."

Also great for those of us who chance upon a great bottle while doing wine tastings in the area during the day and buy one for the evening meal ...

"NO CORKAGE FEE" -- bless their hearts ... still SMH about the French Laundry raising their corkage fee to a cool $150 per bottle.

Alinea Confirmation E-mail - "Our dress code would ask that gentlemen wear a jacket in the dining room"

>> "IE 8 still is the most popular version in use with 21.25%"

Wow, that is sad and rather pathetic. IE 8 supports fewer than 10% of the HTML5 features that Chrome and FF supported back in the day when IE 8 ruled, and an even lower % compared to newer versions (or to IE 11).

Jul 03, 2014
willyum in Chicago Area

Alinea Confirmation E-mail - "Our dress code would ask that gentlemen wear a jacket in the dining room"

Here's a site showing HTML 5 support for different browsers ... Explorer is actually catching up, now to about 80% the capability of Chrome/FF for those few who actually upgrade their browser.

I was on the staff of a Coursera class in computer programming when IE 9 was prime last year (it had about 25% the capability of C/FF in HTML5) and students with IE browsers could not even load their code and run it because of so many unsupported features.


Jul 03, 2014
willyum in Chicago Area

Alinea Confirmation E-mail - "Our dress code would ask that gentlemen wear a jacket in the dining room"

Probably because their site makes heavy use of HTML5 and Explorer is pretty weak with HTML5.

Try Firefox or Chrome. Much better browsers.

Jul 03, 2014
willyum in Chicago Area

Barcelona Restaurant recommendations

> Thoughts on Montiel and Gresca?

We dined at Montiel in mid-May and really liked it. Good inexpensive wine pairing, excellent tuna belly, interesting "Spanish waygu" ('not as tender as Japanese but very flavorful' said the server ... he was right). I think it's close to the Michelin 1* level.

Might not fit your husband's "can't leave hungry" dictum since it's more of a gastronomic small-plates place.

>> Any recommendations for restaurants that would be about $100 pp?

Lot of tapas places, a lot of 'lunch specials' at some well-known restaurants like Alkimia.

We asked our Montiel server about beach-area seafood restaurants, specifically for paella but seafood in general, and he recommended these four -- Chiringuito Escriba, Kaiku, Cheriff and La Mar Salada. We dined at Escriba for Sunday lunch and really liked it ... you can check their menu for prices, but I'm pretty sure you can do these ALC for under $100/pp.

You'll probably want reservations for these for Sunday lunch (they turned away dozens of people) but I'm guessing it's not as busy during the week.

Jul 03, 2014
willyum in Spain/Portugal

Alinea Confirmation E-mail - "Our dress code would ask that gentlemen wear a jacket in the dining room"

I'm guessing if you show up in a nice leather jacket and brazen it out you'll be OK. If they bug you just lie and say the airline lost your luggage.

I asked once if I could wear a dress shirt and a tie with no jacket and they said "Most people wear a suit". So I wore a jacket but no tie.

I've dined at several fine Michelin 3* and 2* restaurants in Spain and England whose dress code is "We do not have a dress code policy at the restaurant - please come along however you feel comfortable" [actual quote from Fat Duck, but could be Ledbury or Azurmendi or Mugaritz or (almost) EMP or Meadowood or Manresa or many others].

I guess I can see requiring a coat in Manhattan at Le Bernardin or Per Se, and I'm pulling my one and only Brooks Brothers suit out for L'Ambroisie in Paris this fall (SMH) but it does seem silly at a modernist restaurant like Alinea.

Jul 03, 2014
willyum in Chicago Area

Trip Report in May 2014 (Fat Duck, and Hedone)

>> "On Hedone: found it pretentious and not as good as it thinks it is."

After reading Andy Hayler's lavish praise we were a bit underwhelmed too. We liked it fine but not as much as we thought we would going in.

>> "Nobody has mentioned the accents of the servers, that made them often impossible to understand"

We had mainly a middle-aged British guy (Matthew?) who was easily understandable (even to a Yank), but our # 2 was a young Frenchman who spoke softly with an accent and was hard to understand. We often asked him to repeat things until we 'got' it and sometimes it took a couple of passes, but eventually we understood. If he was your main guy then I understand what you mean.

Didn't really detract from the meal though. I was more struck by how gloomy the chef was, which seemed to have everyone speaking in low voices and definitely lowered the room's energy level.

>> "or the lack of variety in the wines that went with the 6 course menu."

We had the 'enhanced pairing', which I think was another 10 pounds or so. On consecutive days we had wine pairings at Ledbury, Fat Duck and here at Hedone and felt these at Hedone were the best match to the food (by a narrow margin over Ledbury), so can't really agree with you on this one. Plus they were about half the cost of the FD pairings of even younger wines ...

Jul 02, 2014
willyum in U.K./Ireland

Gun-carrying waitresses ... I'll bet they don't get stiffed on tips!

In a restaurant called Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado all nine waitresses are packing heat in the form of holstered firearms. Now that word has gotten out business is picking up as the curious stop by to check it out.

My guess is nobody complains much about the food or forgets to leave a tip.


Jul 01, 2014
willyum in Mountain States

Alinea: Guidance requested in making reservations for a specific date and time.

>>> "How can I ask the server for a quicker pace for the meal (3-3.5 hours for 16 courses)?"

I've dined at Alinea several times, including twice last year. If you take a quick photo and eat the course then they'll bring the next one pretty quick. We're (a couple) usually done in 2:30 - 2:45 or so, the exception coming last spring when we brought a friend who was a restaurant manager/sommelier who asked a lot of questions. We had a lot of wine and talked a lot about each course while we ate. That meal took 3.5 hours or maybe a bit more, but not four hours. I have to think 5 hours is rare unless you have a large group.

Even back when they still had the 23 course option we took less than 3 hours. They'll pick up on your pace and bring the next course accordingly, or at least that's my experience.

Jun 30, 2014
willyum in Chicago Area

Trip Report in May 2014 (Fat Duck, and Hedone)

LOL ... the night WE were there the lamb was also excellent (per my wife; I had squab) and the scallop was not quite up to par, a bit leathery on the outside and undercooked inside.

You never know ...

Jun 29, 2014
willyum in U.K./Ireland

Alinea: Guidance requested in making reservations for a specific date and time.

>>> "I just emailed them and they said that despite the pop-up, Alinea will be open in October!"

Anybody know how early they start with the white truffle specials at Alinea?

We had this last year in early November ("white truffles with risotto") and my wife sort of grabbed the table and moaned like Meg Ryan in the fake orgasm scene, announcing that we HAD to come back in a year for that. But I don't want to try to time it for when they're in NYC.

So anyone recall how early in the fall they offer this?

Jun 29, 2014
willyum in Chicago Area

Lunches, mostly on terraces, in and near the Luberon (Provence), early May 2014: La Terrasse (Goult); Le Galoubet (Menerbes); L’Artegal (Gordes), L’Oustalet (Gigondas); Le Petit Café (Saignon); and TGV picnic, courtesy of the Bonnieux Friday marche

Many thanks for the reports ... we are headed to Provence for ten days in two weeks and have a few open meal slots, so these write-ups really help!

Jun 27, 2014
willyum in France

Traveling through Spain this summer

>> "any suggestions on the tapas front that will be open on Sunday night?"

See this thread, especially the comment from PBSF re: tapas on Sunday: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/910642

PBSF mentions Paco Meralgo, which gets a lot of praise here on Chowhound, if you want to do a quick search here to see what others have said. http://www.restaurantpacomeralgo.com/en/

Jun 24, 2014
willyum in Spain/Portugal

Elkano help please

I would just call them, someone will speak English and give you a definitive answer.

They weren't even open on a day they were scheduled to be open when we were in Getaria last month :)

One other tip ... a taxi is I think 35 euros each way but the bus is just 2.35 euros. If you take the bus get the one that uses the 'autopista' A-8 since it skips a couple of towns and is about 25 minutes faster (35 minutes vs 50 minutes).

Jun 22, 2014
willyum in Spain/Portugal

Need advice - pais vasco - Bilbao (mainly)

>> Any suggestions for pintxos in Bilbao?

La Vina del Ensanche if you are in the Ensanche section of town ... lots of places across the river in Casco Viejo.

Sorry I can't offer more help but we ate one big tasting menu meal a day at the "Michelin stars" (Etxanobe, Mina, Azurmendi) and were stuffed.

Jun 21, 2014
willyum in Spain/Portugal

London "Must Eats" ?

>> "For one fine dining meal I would have chose Ledbury."

I would second this one ... 2 months ago we went to Ledbury, Fat Duck, Hedone and Dinner by Blumenthal on consecutive days and felt Ledbury was a clear winner, at least during those four days and for our tastes.

If you can't get in (quite likely unless you reserve early) then Hedone was pretty good as well. I think it was 20-25 minutes from S. Kensington by Tube to Hedone.

Jun 18, 2014
willyum in U.K./Ireland

Mastechef: The Professionals. Marcus takes over.

>> "Sadly, not too many choices for the males to drool over."

Two words ... Helena Rizzo

OK, fourteen more words ... Brazilian, former model, winner of Pellegrino/Restaurant Magazine's "Best Female Chef" for 2014. Yummy.


Jun 17, 2014
willyum in U.K./Ireland

Cork restaurant (Chandler) is closing July 1, reopening as 'Earnest' July 16

Less focus on wine, more on craft beer. More casual.

Is Robert Morris part of the new team?

Didn't see this one coming.


Jun 13, 2014
willyum in Phoenix

Pick 2 of River Cafe, Greenhouse, Harwood Arms, The Square, Hibiscus

>> Did you have the liquid parmesan ravioli?

Yeah, that was good, as were the dessert with the raspberry. My wife said the lamb was exceptional and I thought the bread was the best sourdough we had in England (though I liked the Ledbury onion/ham brioche a bit better overall). Best wine pairing we had (over Ledbury and Fat Duck, at 2x the price :). We generally liked the food, with the 2 exceptions.

>> "the service there just isn't good enough for the prices they charge"

We were maybe the third table to be seated and early on things were fine, with a young French waiter and an older guy named (I think) Matthew taking good care of us. As the place almost filled a couple hours later I noticed the kitchen was uneven in producing plates and the waiters were scrambling to cover all tables. I thought they were maybe one waiter short at the end as we waited for water fillups and had a longish delay waiting to pay the tab.

Also it felt a bit low-energy overall even when it almost filled up, perhaps because the chef seemed to be in a pensive mood. Things like this shouldn't detract from the food but I think subconsciously they do. Or at least from the overall "dining experience".

Jun 13, 2014
willyum in U.K./Ireland

Ferran Adrià fans will love reading this :)

Jun 13, 2014
willyum in Spain/Portugal

barca and the basque, prices of food and wine

Hablo español como una vaca francesa ... enough to pass the CEFR A2 level and read it well, but not enough to understand spoken Spanish unless they really slow down and use short sentences. I take a notebook and ask them to write it out when I hit the wall, but they didn't want to bother with that.

>> So it's a case og just ordering a la carte ?

So you didn't understand what I wrote above? The paragraph starting "One tip: " is about as well as I can explain it ...

Jun 13, 2014
willyum in Spain/Portugal

Pick 2 of River Cafe, Greenhouse, Harwood Arms, The Square, Hibiscus

Marianne is off the board now since she had a private party take over the entire restaurant the one night we had free.

So maybe Five Fields or, a bit of a wild card, maybe Zuma just to so something a bit different. Zuma is close to our hotel and my wife will like not having to endure another tasting menu.

Jun 13, 2014
willyum in U.K./Ireland

Pick 2 of River Cafe, Greenhouse, Harwood Arms, The Square, Hibiscus

>> what didn't you like about Hedone?

We actually liked most of the meal, but the scallop was not quite cooked right (a bit leathery on the surface, not quite finished at the center) and the squab was pretty disappointing compared to recent squab dishes we've had elsewhere, especially in Spain. On the other hand my wife had lamb instead of squab and loved it, so partly luck of the draw.

Probably hurt that we dined there after Ledbury, where the dishes were more complex and where there were no misses at all for a similar number of courses, at least on our night.

Hayler has Hedone rated a high Michelin 2* (18/20, as high as any UK restaurant except Fat Duck) but I think it's no more than a solid 1* myself, maybe 15 or 16 on his scale. I would go back and give it a 2nd chance but it's not a 'must-repeat' restaurant for me.

The standard caveats about small sample size and varying tastes apply to the above :)

Jun 13, 2014
willyum in U.K./Ireland