The Ninth – 1 Michelin Star

March 2017

Chef: Jun Tanaka

I was intrigued to try this restaurant because the menu looked a little unusual and because I was amazed by the price of their set lunch at three plates for just £25.

The restaurant, an unassuming little place on Charlotte Street, is small and cafe-like. We were early for our reservation and initially sat at the bar for a drink. The general drinks menu is a little limited with nothing especially exciting but the wine menu is perfectly fine and we did enjoy the wine which we tried, particularly a very drinkable and affordable Beaujolais.

I do like the style of this restaurant which is informal and perfect for lunch. This isn’t a fine dining sort of place but it certainly has charm.

The restaurant describes its cuisine as ‘French Mediterranean sharing food’ but I think it is easier if I were to describe it as more akin to high quality tapas. Wanting to experience both menus we chose three dishes from the set lunch menu and then some further dishes from the main menu.

From the set menu we had king prawn macaroni, marinated mussels with chorizo, and chargrilled lamb, crisp breast and couscous salad. The mussels were nice but not exceptional. The other two dishes were however, very good. The prawn macaroni was wonderfully rich and flavoursome whilst the lamb was absolutely divine; some of the best I have had. I was amazed at the flavour of the crisp breast which worked perfectly with the rest of the lamb which was tender and succulent. The couscous was nice enough… as interesting as couscous ever is.

From the main menu we chose the freshly baked pitta, oxtail croquettes, crispy pigs trotter and the razor clam ceviche. All the dishes were good but the razor clam ceviche stood out, being very fresh and flavoursome, with perfectly balanced flavours. I also very much enjoyed the oxtail croquettes especially the wasabi green sauce which they were served with which complimented them so well.

All the dishes are designed for sharing and we enjoyed this style of eating as we frequently, half-surreptitiously, pass forkfuls of food to each other, even in the most formal of restaurants. This certainly makes for an enjoyable meal but it only suites a relaxed sort of meal probably only with fellow diners who you already know.

The service is fine but not exceptional (expect to pour your own water) and some of the restaurant looks a little tired.

In summary I do like this restaurant, and two of the dishes stood out as being exceptional. The restaurant does not feel like a Michelin starred restaurant so don’t expect fine dining but I would recommend it as a great value place to visit for lunch or an informal supper.

Rating: 7/10

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Seven Park Place (St James Hotel) – 1 Michelin Star

March 2017

Chef: William Drabble

Tucked down a side street leading off Saint James’s Street is the St James Hotel where William Drabble’s Seven Park Place resides. The decor in the restaurant is rather quirky to my mind with a mixture of classic Art Deco and bold patterned wallpaper decorated by pictures. Elsewhere the hotel’s deeply coloured wood panelling makes it feel warm and cosy, not oppressive and dark.Some old London clubs retain an unpleasant antiquated atmosphere, but that is not so here.

To start I chose mackerel which was very good with a small amount of the accompanying pickle and crunchy croutons which added a welcome texture. The pickled vegetables certainly complimented the mackerel however the flavour was very strong and I didn’t need as much pickle as was served.

We paired wine and the white served with the mackerel was excellent. A lovely glass of Ortega from Biddenden Vineyards, Kent. I was very impressed by the flavour which was tropical and surprisingly powerful and was a good match for the highly flavoured dish.

For my main I chose skate. The dish was very classic: skate cooked in butter, with caters, spinach and crushed potatoes. It was delicious. Simple really can be delightful when cooked to perfection as this was. The wine, another white, this time French was also enjoyable.

Mr M chose ox cheek, which was served with heritage carrots. Again I would describe the dish as very classic in style and very well cooked. He too enjoyed the wine paired.

I declined dessert in preference for the cheese board and was not disappointed. The selection of cheeses (all English but very French in style) was interesting and varied. The five I chose were delicious and complimented well by the port recommended by the sommelier.

Overall our visit was very enjoyable. The hotel and restaurant has a relaxed atmosphere and the service was of a very high standard. Seven Park Place has just nine tables which creates a very cosy, personal atmosphere and attentive staff.

In summary Seven Park Place is not the venue to discover a daring new flavour combination or something to challenge your gastronomic boundaries however this is the restaurant to enjoy some perfectly prepared classics and some more than decent wine which sometimes is exactly what is needed.

Rating 8/10

La Chapelle – 1 Michelin Star

January 2017
Chef: Chris and Jeff Galvin
This was my first visit to one of the Galvin brothers restaurants. The restaurant is lovely, I like the decor which is romantic despite the size of the restaurant which must be one of the largest Michelin starred restaurant I have been too. We decided to try the Menu du Chef having heard about how good value it is.

The menu is certainly inexpensive at £34.50 for three courses however the choices on offer did feel a little lacking; we felt the menu was just a selection of the cheapest dishes. To start we had soup which was very tasty including as it did some very nice mash potato at its centre. Sounds a bit strange but it was very good. For the main I considered the gnocchi or liver and bacon. I decided on the liver which was nice and was accompanied by more lovely, buttery mash potato.

The staff were very pleasant and we also enjoyed the wine which the sommelier suggested.

In summary the food was certainly very nice but I wouldn’t particularly recommend this menu; it did feel that we were having the cheap option. Instead I would suggest choosing from the a la carte. As the food and service were both good I look forward to visiting other Galvin brothers restaurants such as Galvin at Windows soon.

Rating: 7/10

Outlaw at The Capital – 1 Michelin Star

January 2017

Chef: Tom Brown/ Nathan Outlaw

Not far from Hyde Park and just round the corner from Harrods nestles The Capital Hotel. The hotel itself is nice enough, if a little dated. I would say I prefer the decor of the bar to that of the restaurant.

We opted for the set lunch menu and I started with cured salmon. The salmon was beautiful in colour and the fish itself was good however but I didn’t feel that the yogurt dressing which it was served with complimented the fish (just my personal taste?) I was also disappointed that I could not detect the whisky notes on the salmon as mentioned on the menu.

Mr M chose lamb strumpet to start which he very much enjoyed and which I was also impressed with. The strumpet was served with ‘Preserved Herring & Mint’ a flavour combination which I was surprised to find was delicious with the soft lamb.

My main, the hake, was also delicious. The roast chicken and mushroom dressing was another revelation – I had not expected roast chicken to compliment hake so perfectly. I was equally impressed when I tried Mr M’s blade of beef which was soft and succulent.

For dessert I couldn’t resist the treacle tart which was also very nice.

The service was pleasant although not faultless (they forgot to bring water to the table when requested) and when fellow diners were seated next to us mid-meal we felt the tables were a little too close together.

Overall I enjoyed lunch at The Capital and I think it was a steal at just £33 a head. As a fish lover I always enjoy a menu where fish is king and of course the fish was all well cooked.

In summary this is a great place to visit for lunch particularly if you are a lover of fish. What I really enjoyed here were the surprising flavour combinations (excluding yogurt with salmon). It is always pleasing to try new flavour combinations that work so perfectly; the chef is clearly very skilled. I would definitely recommend a visit and at such a good price I can’t see why you wouldn’t.

Rating 7.5/10

Opus (Vienna) – 1 Michelin Star

December 2016

Chef: Stefan Speiser

On a recent visit to Vienna (a beautiful city well worth visiting) we chose Opus, at The Hotel Imperial, for dinner.

I think the hotel is lovely grand and luxurious – a great setting for the restaurant. The restaurant itself was perfect and had a calm, elegant atmosphere which I enjoyed.

We chose the five course Opus menu which was excellent. I would describe the majority of the courses as simply (and perfectly) cooked meat or fish but all served with an incredible sauce. By the end of the meal we had privately dubbed the chef: ‘king of the sauces’ because there was an amazing amount of flavour in each and every one. Delightful.

Nearly every course also incorporated some sort of pickled vegetables but of course this isn’t the ‘beetroot in vinegar’ sort of pickled veg which Britons might now be imagining with a grimace. This is delightedly refreshing and varied pickled vegetables which complimented the dishes well.

We chose to have wines paired to each course and were delighted to learn that each wine was Austrian and many were from nearby vineyards. The wines themselves were very enjoyable and a great match for the food.

Another memorable element of the dinner was the butter served with the bread which took the form of a butter candle, lit at the table and which then resulted in warm butter soaking into the fresh herbs waiting the base of the candle-holder. Incorporated with warm bread this was a heavenly start to the meal.

In summary I think this is a great place. If you are in Vienna this is, without doubt, worth a visit. 

Rating 9/10

Murano- 1 Michelin Star

December 2016

Chef: Angela Hartnett

I was excited when Mr M organised dinner at Murano recently. I love Italian food (who doesn’t?) and there are so many Italian restaurants around but the majority of the Michelin starred restaurants I have eaten in have been French. Angela Hartnett worked with Gordon Ramsey but her influences are mainly Italian as a result of her Italian heritage.

I think the restaurant, in Mayfair, has a lovely understated elegance and I liked the setting immediately.

I also appreciated the menu format which is grouped into five sections of four dishes. Diners can then chose between two and five courses. The sections are not headed up as starters, mains etc and so diners can chose a variety of dishes from which ever section they choose. One of my companions wanted two course form one section, no problem. I liked this relaxed inspired way of looking at the menu.

From the a la carte we chose four courses which were all very nice. The pasta was of course perfect and I also enjoyed the rabbit and partridge. My companions all praised their choices too. I feel that this is comfort food, as Italian food so often is, but this is far superior to most other Italain food I have had.

In summary I very much enjoyed visiting Murrano…high quality, skillfully prepared comfort food.  Although I was not blown away by our meal but it was certainly very enjoyable.

Rating 8.5/10

 

Club Gascon – 1 Michelin Star

September 2016

Chef: Pascal Aussignac

Oh what a lovely place! The restaurant is quite unassuming from the outside. Inside you are transported to France and the sort of cosy restaurant you might hope to find on a trip across the Channel.

We started with cocktails and I can recommend their French 75. We were dining in the evening and had the five course taster, paired with wines. Impressed by the choice of wines, I later researched one or two and they were inexpensive but they were excellently paired which is surely the sign of a good sommelier . The sommelier certainly seemed to know her wines although her strong French accent meant we had to confer afterwards to establish what she had told us. Still that isn’t a criticism – this is a French restaurant after all and I can never remember anything a sommelier tells me anyway so this just added to the, already abundant, charm.

Now to the food…what a delight.

The fact that two of Mr M’s favourite courses were the amuse bouche of tomato tartare (he is a reluctant consumer of vegetables of any sort) and the dessert (he really just eats meat given the choice) indicates the quality of the chef. Other highlights were a delicate rose veal tartare and a course of red mullet. The food here is really excellent, and better than I had hoped. I can’t stress enough just how lovely our meal was.

Anything negative? Well I thought the loos were a bit grim. I know, I know… one isn’t dining in there but still it is the sort of thing I do notice. However the restaurant is undergoing a revamp in early-2017 and is due to open again at the end of February I imagine that criticism will no longer apply. Once it does re-open I can see this place getting a second Michelin star.

In summary this is a wonderful place, one of my favourites, and  inexpensive for the quality of the food and wine which are superb. I look forward to visiting again following the re-launch.

Rating 10/10.