jrrugby's Profile

Title Last Reply

The Hinds Head, Bray - report

I too agree with you; the problem with the Hinds Head in the past was the lack of seasonal dishes - is it the same now? Same of course with the Fat Duck - no use of local or seasonal ingredients - how could he with virtually the same menu for the past 7 or so years...

Jun 01, 2010
jrrugby in U.K./Ireland

Good food for an anniversary in Oxford

No hidden gems at all! Oxford is a culinary wasteland. Chang Mai is okay, but nothing special. Try the Nut Tree Inn in Murcot - 14 miles away - Michelin star, and excellent value. Otherwise you are wasting your money IMO with chains and frozen ingredients.

Sep 14, 2009
jrrugby in U.K./Ireland

Bordeaux

Totally agree re Chapon Fin - a dud restaurant. Thumbs up for the - Brasserie Bordelais -its relativly new, but a great wine list and perfect steak.

Sep 07, 2009
jrrugby in France

Sunday Roast, Oxford Center Pub

I should also say that you will struggle to get a good pub lunch in Oxford on Sunday. I wish it wasn't the case, but you will need to venture out of town to get any fresh, decently cooked food.

Jul 03, 2009
jrrugby in U.K./Ireland

Sunday Roast, Oxford Center Pub

I find it sad that the Head of the River is mentioned in this forum. All the food is Brakes (frozen, pre-made food - I see the truck delivering the food every day!) . If you want frozen burgers and chips, this is the place to go but I am assuming you would like something a bit better than this.

Jul 03, 2009
jrrugby in U.K./Ireland

[London] How swanky can I get for ~£50 pp?

It its lunch, your options are endless. A favourite of mine is The Ledbury in Notting Hill. About £25 for lunch and a good extensive wine list which is reasonably priced. Dinner will blow your budget however.

Jul 03, 2009
jrrugby in U.K./Ireland

Oxford?

As I sit working from Summertown I can assure you that there is no Waitrose here!!!!

Jul 03, 2009
jrrugby in U.K./Ireland

A basque tour

I think 135 per person

May 02, 2009
jrrugby in Spain/Portugal

A basque tour

Unfortunately, it wasn't yummy. I'm a big fan of sweetbread, and this was not lush nor with an elegant texture

May 02, 2009
jrrugby in Spain/Portugal

A basque tour

I am shortly back from a week's culinary tour of the Basque Country, well San Sebastian really...

Here are the results of the big swinging meals:

First stop was Martin Berasategui for Easter lunch. We had never been there before, and actually reading some of the posts on Chow, I was looking forward to this the least. (at one stage thought of cancelling) To be clear, this was at his flagship restaurant in Lasarte (not Lasarte in Barca or any of his other restaurants. Yes he was there, cooking and sweating - and this is reassuring.

Anyway, this was a fantastic meal - every course stunning in its own way while sticking to the traditions of Basque cooking. Lots of seafood - few gimmicks, refreshingly light desserts - all perfectly balanced. Only one slight criticism was the wine list, which wasn't as elaborate as expected. Minor detail really, as you can drink well there.

With the trip culminating at Arzak, I knew that this meal would be hard to beat. I wasn't wrong.

Next meal was at Alemeda in Hondarriba - a family run one star restaurant. These people are passionate about food. I didn't book lunch, just walked in and got a table for four. The food was stunning - again opting for the tasting menu, the food was Basque - cod, squid dishes to die for using local ingredients and flair. Its a lovely restaurant in a beautiful town, well worth the trip. For 33euros, its got to be the best value lunch around.

Next was a trip to Rioja country, to pick up a few cases of the region's finest, the day broken up with a meal at Hector Oribe. This is where the locals in the know go - no glitz, no fuss - but blockbuster food and a very reasonably priced wine list. Again, regional food with a creative twist.

Last up (after a few days of me cooking fantastic local seafood in our house) was an evening at Arzak. From my previous experience 5 years ago, we couldn't wait to go back. However, this ended up being the trip's biggest disappointment with not one stunning course, an over-inflated bill and some entirely inedible food.

Lots of deep-fried amuse bouche which were horrid; a bean soup which tasted like dishwater. With the tasting menu, you have a choice of two for each course. the blonde opted for fresh asparagus - and that is what it was - a plate of asparagus. Nice, but I could have done that too. There was a "Bronze" course, which tasted like cardboard - didn't get that at all.

The worst however was my beef course. There were three rectangles on my plate - one was pure fat (I joke not), one was potatoes which was flavourless and with a red wine foam which again tasted like soap. Truly disgusting. The blond had pigeon which had little bubbles that were filled with artificial items. I won't go into the deserts, but they were unremarkable.

I have been to many 3 star restaurants - I think all 6 in Spain now, but this was with out doubt the worst meal I have ever had at this level. Yes Juan Marie and Elena were there, doing the meet and greets, but this meal was memorable for all the wrong reasons. I will be writing a complaining letter to them as well.

But on the whole, its a great place to go for food, for wine and the craic!

I

Apr 30, 2009
jrrugby in Spain/Portugal

Restaurant Arzak - San Sebastian

I too have just come back from a VERY DISAPPOINTING meal at Arzak. This was our second visit - the first one about 5 years ago, where we had one of the best meals of our lives.

This time however, there was not one dish I could honestly say I even liked. For one, the tasting menu was not described very well - in English or Spanish, and the complexity levels were very low IMO. Certain dishes, like a beef dish, was inedible.

I will write up my full Basque tour in a separate posting soon, however the meal was overpriced, ordinary and in fact the worst 3star meal I have ever experienced. Both Juan Mari and Elena were there on the day, great to see, however they should be embarrassed by the slipping standards and lack of creativity.

Can't complain about the service however, that was perfect.

Its a bit embarrassing to read other posts complaining that staff are unable to speak English or that English menus are not available. Why should they? This attitude gives English-speaking diners a bad reputation IMO.

Apr 30, 2009
jrrugby in Spain/Portugal

El bulli in June - need help planning trip

I have been to El Bulli twice and stayed at the Hotel Port Salins both times, in Empuriabrava. Its a really nice hotel, in a horrible tourist town dominated by Dutch and German holiday makers/campers. Full of cheap German bars and restaurants. However the hotel is an oasis among this, and it also has a very nice restaurant - most likely the best in the town (I am not brave enough to try anywhere else) We were told we could eat well in the hotel, and they were right.

Its about a 20 minute taxi ride to El Bulli - about 40euro fare.

Enjoy

Apr 30, 2009
jrrugby in Spain/Portugal

the clerkenwell kitchen

I go there most days for lunch - good honest food, but not worth the special trip. However Clerkenwell has fantastic restaurants - St John, Moro, Club Gascon etc - so the area is worth going to for the food. new places pop up all the time.

Mar 31, 2009
jrrugby in U.K./Ireland

Oxford recommendations?

I have posted before on this.

No one comes to Oxford for the food - it's not the best.

I have to disagree with the above and STRONGLY advise not to go to Browns - it is awful, terrible service, and overpriced. You will thank me for this recommendation.

The only restaurant in the city worth going to is Chang Mai off the high street.
Most others are chains which master microwaved food (including Browns)

Going out of town is your best option:
- Nut Tree in Murcot - gastro pub
- Kingham Plow in Kingham - gastro pub
- Mole Inn - Toot Baldon - pub with good food and nice atmosphere
- Crazy Bear - okay food, but a place to be seen - great farm shop though

Good luck

Mar 31, 2009
jrrugby in U.K./Ireland

Cal pep

You should look into Comerc24 or Coure - I have had excellent meals there in the past. The former is a very cool place indeed, whereas Coure is a little more formal, and it's in the basement - so no windows. Food is great value however.

I agree with the above and think that two big meals in one day is crazy.

Mar 24, 2009
jrrugby in Spain/Portugal

Madrid / San Sebastian / Barcelona - help me pare down

One thing to possibly sway you is that Akelarre is an absolutly stunning restaurant on a hill overlooking SS. While at night, you can't see anything (esp in Winter) it is fabulous for lunch. Food's not bad either.

Mar 02, 2009
jrrugby in Spain/Portugal

Oxford?

It's a chain, they are all the same. And don't be fooled, Jamie really has no running of the restaurant.

Mar 02, 2009
jrrugby in U.K./Ireland

Oxford?

As a native I can offer you this:
- Oxford is barren of good restaurants
- Chang Mai is about the best, but in reality it is a bog-standard thai - there is nothing special about the place
- Avoid Jamies like the plague - most of the food is frozen and I have heard numerous reports of shoddy food (including wood chips in meat!) - it is after all, a chain and I thought Chow readers would be above this style of restaurant
- Go no where else - if you like food, Oxford city centre is not the place to go

On the positive, get a cab to a good country gastro pub - The Nut Tree in Murcot is good; of course there is Le Manoir....

Feb 28, 2009
jrrugby in U.K./Ireland

Senderens last night

The bar is nice and good value - great for a buzzy lunch.

Feb 23, 2009
jrrugby in France

Martin Berasategui - opinions wanted!

Thanks for sorting out the confusion. I'll keep the reservation and report back the experience of MB's restaurant IN Lasarte!

Thanks all

Feb 07, 2009
jrrugby in Spain/Portugal

Martin Berasategui - opinions wanted!

Thanks for the very elaborate report. It has been most useful.

I have read a few mixed reviews, and when the standards in the region are so high, there's no point in taking risks. As with many big name chefs, they are spread too thinly across many business ventures. That's why I have no interest in going back to Gordon Ramsey, for instance. I like the name above the door in the kitchen as well.

I have Arzak planned, have been to Akalarre a few times before - so where else to go?

Also read mixed reviews of Mugaritz....

Any experience with Zuberoa?

Feb 05, 2009
jrrugby in Spain/Portugal

Martin Berasategui - opinions wanted!

I have a reservation for Martin Berasategui in Lasarte in April. I'd value any opinions as I haven't seen any reviews on this forum or reviews in the UK in a long time.

Thanks in advance

Jan 30, 2009
jrrugby in Spain/Portugal

[Bray, U.K.] The Fat Duck (2008)

You really don't want to rush a £122+ meal ... nor do you want to be there at 7 when it is relativly empty - it starts getting buzzy (well, for the Fat Duck that is) around 8.30/9 pm

I would say 2.5/3 hrs for the a la carte; 4 hrs for the tasting..

Jan 30, 2009
jrrugby in U.K./Ireland

[Bray, U.K.] The Fat Duck (2008)

Apologies, didn't mean to alude that the Kingham Plough is anywhere near Bray - I was referring actually to Newbury!

Jan 30, 2009
jrrugby in U.K./Ireland

[Bray, U.K.] The Fat Duck (2008)

Thanks for the tip - next time I'm around Surbiton I'll look it up. I'm Oxfordshire based BTW but work in London - best of both worlds!

Jan 30, 2009
jrrugby in U.K./Ireland

[Bray, U.K.] The Fat Duck (2008)

Yes, its a place for a special occasion - also worth trying if you haven't already is The Kingham Plough in Gloucester and The Nut Tree in Murcot - near Oxford. Both gastro pubs with a bit of an edge.

Jan 29, 2009
jrrugby in U.K./Ireland

Barcelona this Saturday - Cinc Sentits or Comerc 24??

Both are great, however Comerc 24 is slightly more special, has much more of a buzz and has a great wine list (and one of the best sommeliers I have ever come across). Went in September and there were no foamy dishes, and is a lot more down to earth than people realise.

Not to put you off CS - which keeps getting better and better!

Jan 28, 2009
jrrugby in Spain/Portugal

[Bray, U.K.] The Fat Duck (2008)

Yes, even The Hinds Head ignores seasonal ingredients - and I had a very disappointing meal there last summer.

However there are some great restaurants in the UK - try the Vineyard in Newbury - its worth going to, although the wines are rather over priced.

Jan 28, 2009
jrrugby in U.K./Ireland

[Bray, U.K.] The Fat Duck (2008)

I agree that the staff could be more personable. I have been to the Fat Duck four times, and really that was three times too many. It has become a "theme park" for tourists and those that believe the hype around the Restaurant magazine list and gimmicky dishes. Thus it attracts posers who go for the name rather than the food, and the staff's attitude has changed accordingly. After all, few people go back to the Fat Duck.... Why, you may ask?

The menu has not changed (significantly) in five years. Now, I know of no other top restaurant in the world that never changes its menu and has NO seasonal adjustments. Why Heston is still considered to be creative is beyond me (and keeps his 3 stars) when he is clearly not trying to attract regular customers.

Jan 28, 2009
jrrugby in U.K./Ireland

4 Days in Paris in Feb for 1st Anniversary - restaurant help please

Just don't go to Helene Darroze - a waste of time. Overhyped, over priced and zero wow factor...

Jan 28, 2009
jrrugby in France