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Critics' lists for London

hot-dinners.com is a very good resource since it's London specific and aggregates all reviews by the critics.

It also spreads its net broadly and isn't Michelin obsessed.

Sep 11, 2014
marcusj in U.K./Ireland
1

[Baslow, Derbyshire] Baslow Hall

Regarding Scotland, I always use the train; first to Edinburgh to have a day or two there and then onward to Gleneagles. The journey's only an hour or so and they have their own station (as you do) with transport waiting. A great little break with no car required that does take the schlep out of it somewhat.

Obviously, I'll be giving the forthcoming Ryder Cup period a very wide berth though!

Aug 20, 2014
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

[Baslow, Derbyshire] Baslow Hall

Not to hijack the thread, but have you tried the Michelin package at Gleneagles yet? Even at peak periods it's fab value (relatively). Upgraded room, plus champagne and ALC at Fairlie.

One thing I would say about Baslow is I found their rooms expensive for what they were compared to other places you'd consider peers. Still, I guess you can get away with it when your pretty much at the gates of Chatsworth with a healthy stream of overseas interest.

Aug 19, 2014
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

[Baslow, Derbyshire] Baslow Hall

How was the service Harters? I've not been for a couple of years, but did go quite frequently between 2010 and 12 when I lived Nottinghamward.

I thought the service, although it could be a tad obsequious, was never less than generous. Their wine pairings were of really good quality for the money and they always topped up without question. Obviously, with me that meant frequently, but it was pleasing to see. I know restaurants have GP's to hit, but the current wine pairing trend of 100ml or less 'sniffs' in a glass is annoying. The wine's often gone before the course arrives.

I also discovered the Taste of Britain lunch menu to be belting value; so much cheaper than the dinner equivalent. OK, dinners are always the time restaurants make their money (which they need to), but that TOB menu really does go above and beyond for its £50, which does kind of make you a bit more forgiving in terms of expectency.

Speaking of the food, it can be a case of highs and lows, but when it does hit highs, they really sing. I still recall a brilliant riff on a piccalilli and pork assiette done as a terrine. A lot of work, visually stunning and, most importantly, tasted terrific.

Aug 19, 2014
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

Looking for one fancy lunch, one pub night, and plenty of cheap eats in Edinburgh

If you can't get into The Kitchin try Castle Terrace, which is again part of Tom's empire and starred, albeit with his friend and partner Dominic Jack behind the stoves. I went to both on a recent Edinburgh trip and still can't decide whether CT edged it or not.

The other special occasion places are Martin Wishart, which is very good (many wonder how he has eluded a second star for so many years now), although I'd recommend going a la carte over the degustation; his portion sizes seem to be tiny for some reason, even by usual degustation standards. And then there's Number One at Balmoral, but this does seem to be the culinary dark horse and is rather over shadowed by those already listed here and the aforementioned 21212. I love 21212's dining room BTW, it has to be one of the best looking dining spaces in the country, let alone Edinburgh. For that reason alone it's also worth considering.

I haven't been but if you love seafood Ondine has a stellar reputation and legion of admirers. I'm sure other 'Hounders can elaborate on this.

Jul 19, 2014
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

[Fleetwood, Lancashire] Richardson's/Fish House

You're right, there are only two wholesalers working out of Fleetwood Docks these days, although all their produce comes from Hull on a 24 hour turnaround, ie day 1 land at Hull and shipped to Fleetwood, which is then filleted / mongered (for want of a better word) over night for dispatch in the early hours, arriving at destinations for the start of the business day.

That being said, The Inn at Whitewell state they have a day boat supplier in Fleetwood so there could well be one or two lone fishermen still operating. It's a bit sad though. Shame that the whole fishing industry has basically disappeared from the Fylde.

Do try Gt. Ecc, apparently they used to win awards all the time (before I discovered them), but stopped because they simply don't need the added business or recognition any more. It is phenomenally busy all the time and don't take bookings so avoid peak hours. We always get there for midday when the doors open.

Jun 01, 2014
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

[Fleetwood, Lancashire] Richardson's/Fish House

Harters, have you tried the chippy in Great Eccleston yet? Worth a journey if you haven't. I've been to all the chippy's in the area and Gt. Ecc is probably the best in my opinion, though Thornton Fisheries can give it a run for its money on its day. My mum lives in Poulton and I make a b-line for the F&C shops round there as they kick most, if not all London offerings, arse!

The Cartford Inn is also worth visiting when in the area again. A good gastropub that's very pleasant inside, especially in winter when the fire is roaring.

Jun 01, 2014
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

'Special' Japanese - not Sushi

I keep banging on about Koya, but since they've opened the noodle bar next door the restaurant itself is getting loads more creative. It does quite a bit of grilled meat, veg, fish and tempura but no sushi so is bang on brief for the most part. Downside is the restaurant itself is far from special occasion and has more of a casual, everyday feel. It's Bib Gourmand with Michelin and although miles from the typical preconceptions, I wouldn't be surprised if it's elevated in the next few years.

HKK in Liverpoool St is very good and, if you go at lunch, within budget.

I've not been but there's a lot of love, both on this board and through industry word of mouth, for Min Jiang atop the Royal Kensington Hotel.

May 04, 2014
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

Hedone Kitchen Counter? [London]

I thought Surrey and Chiswick were on equal footing when it comes to jolly hockey sticks, rugby shirts and sizeable bank balances? ;-)

Apr 30, 2014
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

Hedone Kitchen Counter? [London]

Hands-up I haven't been to Five Fields yet, but I'd be gobsmacked if it's on a par with Hedone.

Also, my experience of the Hedone counter was quite the opposite to most of the above. It was social, chatty and, on my most recent visits, a great opportunity to speak with Mikael himself, who seemed happy to hold court and share his enthusiasm, passion and (pretty much) unsurpassed knowledge to everyone on the row. I think that if you go there with a certain degree of enthusiasm and desire to be fed they'll respond in spades. It is also worth noting that it's as much a local neighbourhood restaurant as fine dining and, as such, seems to get more relaxed as they come to know you. Not that the initial experience is duff mind, the food is simply spectacular full-stop.

Apr 30, 2014
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

Restaurants in Shoreditch

Not been to 100 Hoxton, but the Hawksmoor Bar just down from Shoreditch High St in Spitafields comes recommended. Unlike the restaurant proper upstairs it's based around smaller plates and a more dirty / junk food theme, albeit very highly elevated. Fab cocktails and a great atmosphere, although it does get rammed so try to book (I'm not sure of they take bookings you see) or avoid peak times.

I's also suggest you have a look at Eyre Bros and The Tramshed in Shoreditch, the latter not being small plates as such, but does encourage sharing. Plus Duck & Waffle in the Heron Tower, not least for the fab design, view and versatile menu.

Do go to Koya, it's ace, but be aware there's Koya proper now and the new noodle bar next door. Koya still does noodles, but the specials plates, which are often only offered in small sizes, are getting better and better. The restaurant is basically dividing itself into noodles one side so it can focus on more inventive cookery on the other. Whilst in Soho you could also do worse than check out Duck Soup, which does a brilliant small plate menu based around seasonal British produce. Small plates, small restaurant though, so try to avoid peak times again.

Apr 17, 2014
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

Please critique our dinner itinerary

Rasoi is great, but like a lot of Michelin restaurants there's a huge disparity in pricing between lunch and dinner. My advice would be to skip the latter and lunch there where you can get 4 courses (plus the usual Michelin fripperies and extras) for around £30. Trishna, another starred peer, or its brand new rave reviewed sister Gymkhana, come recommended and both do a similar deal that is even cheaper. And the tiffin lunch at Moti Mahal in Covent Garden is fantastic at approx £17; it's not starred but every bit as good and considered highly. Their 'make your own salad' at the start of the meal is worth the price of admission alone. Note, with the possible exception of Moti Mahal (it blurs the lines a bit), the above are fine dining examples of curry and are not 'traditional' in the sense of rice and a bowl of spiced, braised meat by the side. If you want that you may wish to consider the likes of Zing or Potli, both in Hammersmith or Veeraswamay in Piccadilly, which is absolutely beautiful inside.

Ledbury and RHR are both on the top of their game, Ramsey because Clare Smyth is arguably London's best female chef right now (he's never there these days). She's transformed the food there. However, I'd echo Zuriga's shout of Hedone, which is simply sensational. Sit at the counter over looking the kitchen and let them take care of you, Mikael Jonsson is perhaps the most passionate and knowledgeable foodie chef in the world (try and converse if he has the time) and serves the best sourced produce in the country. Don't miss scallops, beef or millefuille if they're on, the dessert's basically the same as Passard's version in L'Arpege. Amazing.

At the fine dining end I'm also a fan of Ducasse at The Dorchester. Avoid the tasting menus and plump for the 4 course a la carte, which at £105 is a relative bargain for a 3 star restaurant - note use of the word relative! Again sourcing is top drawer, there's luxury to be had in spades and the portion's are generous to say the least. Service positively purrs too.

It's not open yet, but will be by the time of your arrival, so I can happily suggest Simon Rogan of L'Enclume in Cumbria's arrival at Claridges. If you don't know L'Enclume Google it and all will become clear. The hype is very much justified. Booking now would be essential I expect!

Another scorching hot new opening from one of Britian's most cutting edge chefs that may not have hit your radar is Nuno Mendes at the Chiltern Firehouse. I've not been yet, but all are raving about it from critics to bloggers alike and I've eaten enough of the man's food to know he can cook the balls off anything.

Finally, Harwood is fab, but to break things up how about a short train ride out to Marlowe to the Hand & Flowers, Britian's only 2 star gastropub? A) Marlowe's worth a look as a quintessential British town in it's own right and makes for a lovely day, plus B) Tom Kerridge's food is worth the pilgrimage. It's a proper old pub too and when I say old I mean old, it's Tudor with all the low ceilings, exposed beams and wonky walls you'd expect and want. A delightful experience. Again, this one's booked months in advance so get on it if you do decide to add it to the itinerary.

Happy munching!

Mar 25, 2014
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

Meal of the Year, 2013 - what's yours?

L'Enclume
Eleven Madison Park
Hedone
Hand & Flowers

And then it's a fifth place tie between Le Gavroche, Trishna and the Princess Victoria (Uxbridge Rd), the latter being a seriously under-rated gastropub with amazing sourcing and execution.

Dec 03, 2013
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

Another NYC addition to London - Shake Shack coming to town....

Kavey, I don't know what process they use for the custard but it is soft, rich and of very good consistency. There wasn't an ice crystal in sight on my last tasting. I actually consider this a much stronger offering to their burger if I'm honest.

With regard to those said burgers, I think we really need to distinguish between the different types. Brits may be shocked by how thin the In'n'Out / SS style is. If you don't have a double at either I think the overall bun balance falls apart. Personally, I much prefer a thicker patty which can be served a little pink , which is why I rate the other British providers I mentioned earlier. Each to their own though.

Nov 24, 2013
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

Another NYC addition to London - Shake Shack coming to town....

Apparently Shake Shack are using British meat.

However, I don't think it's all that, not least because it's really expensive here. It seems to be bang on a £ for $ equivalent. The burgers are very much in the style of In N Out, ie a thin patty, so you have to order a double to get the full - or rather, any - impact, which is £7. Fries £3. Frozen custard (which is very good I admit) another £3. Drink £2-odd, thus £15 is well and truly gone for very little.

I know burgers are a very subjective thing and there are many variables, but personally I think the Meatmarket/Liquor/Mission group / Tommi's and Patty & Bun all have these new US imports beaten hands down. I am sure many American's will be up in arms at this statement, but you're being owned right now.

Nov 14, 2013
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

solo bar dining in London

L'Atelier Joel Rubuchon is very good if you're on your own (and is open Sundays). Similarly try the 'bar' around the kitchen at Hedone. Bit of a trek out to Chiswick, but worth it none the less.

You could also consider Kitchen Table out back at Bubbledogs.

Sep 14, 2013
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

[Bray, Berkshire] Waterside Inn

There are a lot of intern chefs at The Fat Duck who assist with the intricate mise en place, rather than the cooking, but not so much the front of house where the direct customer contact demands professionals who know what they're doing at 3 star level.

Sep 14, 2013
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

[Bray, Berkshire] Waterside Inn

I'm not entirely sure service is the issue here. Whether you add 12-15% on, even if it's done automatically, what people seem to forget, or get blinkered about is these UK restaurants source the same ingredients as their peers in France, yet charge 50-75% of the price.

The Waterside and Fat Duck, whatever you think of their styles of food, also have some of the highest levels of staffing in the UK, equivalent to that of their over-the-channel peers. We actually should be thankful that all our UK 3-stars haven't yet caught up with their European cousins. Consequently, I think the service is actually relatively trivial in context.

And here's another, almost all 3 stars in France charge you for one bottle of water and gratis the rest. No so here. If you're a table of 4 you can therefore drink you're difference in service charge.

The bottom line is just pay close attention to all the possibilities, but ultimately thank your stars about the kinder UK price points.

Sep 13, 2013
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

Little Social/Social Eating House/Galvin la Chapelle/Alyn Williams at the Westbury/Murano thoughts or other options? [London]

If it isn't too expensive Ducasse at The Dorchester usually has tables and has really come into it's own after a shakey launch. And it would provide that special occasion feel. The pastry chef who has been there from the start has to be amongst the best in London, the soufflés are incredible.

Sep 03, 2013
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

Laguiole knives in London

I know this may sound crazy, but have a look around TK Maxx or their Home Sense subsidiary. It's a gamble but they frequently have Laguiole knives in and you'll get a bargain to boot.

Aug 29, 2013
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

Dog friendly Edinburgh?

OK, I know there are countless Edinburgh threads, and I've been there umpteen times myself and wouldn't normally ask as would head straight for the usual suspects, however...

I'm passing through on the way to the Highlands on a Sunday and Monday in November, but will have the dog with me this time. I've ascertained Scan & Scallie, Maison Bleue and Bon Vivant are all pet-freindly, but are there any other gastro pub or restaurant doggy sympathisers of note to consider? I know a few Edinburgh residents post here regularly and am wanting to be sure I've left no stone unturned.

Thanks in advance for any advice.

Aug 29, 2013
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

Little Social/Social Eating House/Galvin la Chapelle/Alyn Williams at the Westbury/Murano thoughts or other options? [London]

I know you mention your lunches are sorted, but have you considered Ducasse or Le Gavroche? Their £55 / 60 set lunches (which inc wine) are phenomenal and you still get all the amuse, mignardises, petit four knobs and whistles that set them apart. Same is true of Wareing and The Square as it goes.

I've not done Social Eating yet, but I did do Pollen St the other day on a la carte and it was great. Stylish and clever theatrics with every course that made for a really great experience.

Murano is also fab. Beautiful food that isn't overworked or fiddly and would undoubtedly please your mum by the sounds of it.

Aug 29, 2013
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

Ledbury or Hedone???? [London]

This is sooooooooo true Phil. Was totally underwhelmed by Hedone not long after it first opened, the execution was undoubtedly questionable. I've got to take it all back; I returned for the first time last month and it blew my mind. Was it on this board someone reported there's isn't a chef in the kitchen from anything less than a 2 star now? Either way, it's brilliant. Am still dreaming about the whole king scallop (the biggest I've ever seen) with the orach spinach.

It's also developed a really relaxed neighbourhood feel befitting it's Chiswick location. I hope it stays that way when the inevitable bubble bursts and demand far out strips supply.

Aug 23, 2013
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

FT's "Five of the best: dry gin martinis in London"

I'm sure Rules is as good as ever, although it should be noted their former head barman (I forget his name), who was widely credited with the recent re-vamp of their cocktail menu, has just moved over to Balthazar, so assume the booze there to be rather splendid as well!

Jul 25, 2013
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

London- How would you have handled this?

Yes, Harters has this exactly right. Standard practice in good restaurants is to apologise profusely, offer some form of discount and then ask the guest to submit their dry-cleaning bill afterwards, either by post, email or in person.

Jul 12, 2013
marcusj in Not About Food

In London for 4 nights this weekend - pls review our food itinerary!

I know you're going to PSS, but their newly opened Soho outpost of Social Eating House has an upstairs bar doing some VERY innovative cocktails. Def worth considering for Sat evening. I believe there's some interesting bar food if you fancy a nibble too. I'd also suggest popping round the corner to Yauatcha, where not many know you can sit at the bar and sample their ace concoctions; all are on that Asian influenced tip so can make a nice alternative when you're mixing-up the mix-up if you get my drift.

I'd echo brokentelephone and def do Trishna over Providores, especially at lunch where they do a fantastic multi-course offering at a very, very reasonable price. I've been on a bit of an Indian jaunt lately and this is one of, possibly, the best in London. I really like the interior too, it's a bit like an Asian Noma.

Oh, and it's prob worth adding that Borough is also at the base of The Shard. I've not been but both Hutong and Obelix have bars that are open all day and - assuming you don't want to eat there - worthy of itinerary consideration. It also gets you half-way up The Shard for free!

Jul 11, 2013
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

Interesting London eating

I just did lunch at Cinnamon Soho and can't recommend the £7.50 thali lunch enough. Very impressive. Prices go up quite a bit outside of the lunch set, but well worth considering. The cooking and spicing was spot on.

Jul 09, 2013
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

Interesting London eating

I'm sure others can elaborate, but my central London pound for pound favourites are:

Koya or Tonkotsu in Soho for home made soba and ramen respectively.

Bar Shu off Shaftesbury for spicy, hot Szechuan.

Dumpling Legends in China Town for dim sum (the Michelin starred Yauatcha in Soho is also good but slightly more expensive). And if you haven't done it yet, getting abused by the waiters over a £5 plate of noodles at the infamous Wong Kei is a student / young person must.

Meatmarket or the just opened Shake Shack in Covent Garden for burgers and the like.

Finally, staying in Cov Gdn, it's a wee bit posh but Moti Mahal does a fantastic £16 Indian tiffin lunch. The unadvertised 'make your own' salad at the start is worth the price of admission alone. Otherwise head down Long Acre to Dishoom for affordable curry in a very funky setting.

Jul 05, 2013
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

Birmingham - Alternatives to Purnell's

Bugger, massive pressure now! I hope Mr. Turner delivers. Enjoy!

Jun 19, 2013
marcusj in U.K./Ireland

Conde Nast's Take on Best New London Restaurants

It's a surprisingly good list. Nice mix of cutting-edge with comforting food you may want to eat.

Conde Nast was always related to paying for listing though. It would be interesting to know if that's the case here...

Jun 19, 2013
marcusj in U.K./Ireland