Monday, 28 May 2012

Tom Aikens


The last time we ate here was about four years ago.
We dined one sunny lunchtime as a table of four, expecting good food. What followed was much of a disaster. The service was ghastly, scandalously sloppy and irritatingly slow. To cap it all Tom Aikens love of beetroot resulted in a plate of food ( venison with textures of beetroot) that David Cronenberg would have been proud of. The only thing that was missing was the scary music.
We vowed never to return.

When I told my wife where we were going she said "Oh no, your joking, not the beetroot place".


After reading a couple of good reviews outlining a full makeover I decided to give it another go. Not really knowing what to expect.
The room is still the same shape as it always was. Except now its a lot less formal, and exactly in keeping with what is happening more and more on the London dining scene. That casual style runs through to the staff uniforms, there are none as such, or at least anything recognisable, they are all on trend but different.

The amuse that arrived table side was a great teaser whilst we decided what to eat.
King Edward, ratte and violet potato crisps with smoked herring mayonnaise topped with paprika and chopped egg. Far better than my favourite Kettle chips. If this was the start, roll on the rest.


It took a while for the freshly baked bread to arrive, but it was easily worth the wait.
Four rolls in a hessian sack served with three flavoured butters. The bread first, cep, buttermilk, polenta, and I forget. Butters were a fantastic cep, bacon and onion, and plain.
A cracking selection.


The lunch menu is tempting, a two, two, two, choice at £24 for two or £29 for three. The carte has a terrific choice two courses for £40 and three for £50, very reasonable for anywhere in London never mind a SW3 postcode.
Two tasting menus an eight course for £75 or six at £55. This is the one we chose. Applause to the kitchen also because both tasting menus are different making choice more difficult.

Raw turnip salad does not sound very exciting but I guessed basic it would not be.


In keeping with the feel of the place the rough hewn plates showed off the food to a tee.
The chestnut consomme that was poured around the dish was a bit lost on me. The truffled chestnuts were interesting, as was the hazelnut mayonnaise that was smeared around the rim of the plate. Turnip tops and sliced turnip finished it off. Refreshing and quite a surprising combination. Good.

A signature dish next, and one that we were looking forward to.Roast Foie Gras. which was pan fried with a cider glaze. A cracking dish this, needless to say we could have wallowed in a larger lump of foie but that's just us being greedy.


The slow roasted charred onions were a revelation. Sweet, smokey, yummy and  melting, and interesting enough in there own right, also note a thyme sabayon. The waiter told us one of the onions had been burnt on purpose just to cut through the acidity. The whole plate of food worked really really well.

Smoked Venison tartare cured with juniper berries was plated with horseradish granite, hazelnut mayonnaise and wild sorrel. Good textures, nice mouth feel, perhaps a dish that I personally would not normally choose but we were both glad it was included in this menu.


The next dish did not really excite at first mouthful, but it gained stature with every single bite Roast John Dory. sweet cauliflower, poached and roasted, cumin seeds, brown butter and a selection of milk skin. I found out that the milk skin was made by poaching the cauliflower in milk then dehydrating the milk to end up with a skin. Next time we cook cauliflower, cumin will make an appearance with it, it really worked well.


Romney Lamb next and this was fighting toe to toe for
the best dish of the meal with the foie gras.
Big, big briny flavours. Tender tasty nugget of lamb cooked sous vide, a bed of very finely diced green olives, goats curd, sliced confit garlic and a wonderful wafer thin battered deep fried anchovy. Our type of dish a real winner.


We worried about the dessert, would it work, or would it spoil the meal?
Candied Beetroot you would not credit it. The stuff of our dreams (not).


I have to say we thought the presentation to be visually exciting, but would it deliver on flavour?
Jelly, meringue, and beetroot sorbet, and a selection of yogurts and a granite made up the plate. Hand on heart it was far better than we thought it could deliver. Truth be told it did exceeded our expectations. An excellent dessert.

The petit four showed thoughtful presentation too. Quite an elaborate and generous offering, one of the best we have seen. There were a couple of choccies that we nibbled on before I remembered to take the photo. Witness cinnamon garnache, ricotta dumpling, armangnac truffle, carrot cake, and three tuille with, hazelnuts, dark chocolate with pistachio and ?


So that was it really. Verdict?

Well, I'm not going to mince my words. This is some of the best food that we have eaten this year, and equal to quite a few meals, if not better, than we we ate last year. We both thoroughly enjoyed this food. In fact I would go so far to say that if this was one of the young guns on the London dining scene like Ben Spalding, James Knappet and  Ollie Dabbous, critics would be raving about Tom Aikens. That is the sole reason why we wanted to try his food again, just to see whether he could still cut the mustard, and in my humble opinion he most certainly can.

Our visit four years ago has now disappeared from the memory . We now embrace the new Tom Aikens and we are more than happy to share our opinion with you all. 

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Saturday, 26 May 2012

Restaurant Fraiche

Well, today we have been mostly been eating Marc Wilkinson's food. In fact I think apart from a very lite snack, that is all we will be eating.
A long overdue return considering its perhaps just an hour fifteen, thirty minutes (subject to traffic) up the road. Trouble is we rarely book too far in advance and getting a table here at short notice is nigh on impossible, except this time we got a cancellation. Having said that however, it still took us four perhaps five weeks.

Not sure how many days lunch is served, perhaps just Friday, Saturday, Sunday. More and more we prefer lunch service, late nights do not do it for us anymore especially if I am driving a long distance after a big meal. On the plus side of course some of the best bargains are to be had at lunch just to get bums on seats.

Some tasty spiced pecans were placed on the table for our pleasure whilst the kitchen cooked our food.

A bit of fun next, which was on the menu as The kiss The lips reminded me of something off a Rolling Stones album and they were in fact part of a bloody mary cocktail especially when our server sprayed some Grey Goose vodka over them. Fun.

Reading like a five courser on the menu, with The kiss as an extra header the first course was entitled Potato cream. coffee/ montgomery.

Montgomery is of course cheddar cheese and this dinky little pot of goodness came with some extremely addictive crispy poppy seed bites, and squid ink crisps.

One thing I really look forward to at Fraiche is the very excellent bread, and four little buns arrived as follows. Granary and treacle, five nuts, cheese, and mixed seed. Butters were unsalted Goats butter, and slightly salted Cows butter with Hawaiian sea salt.

Cauliflower cheese, Beaufort/ mint was plated similarly, and reminded me of a dish that we ate at Tom Aikens a couple of weeks ago. This rendition was roasted, pickled, raw, and poached cauliflower with mustard and mint dressing, rocket, olive oil powder and a beaufort cheese crisp. A simple vegetable given the royal treatment by a good chef.

We were looking forward to the next course, at least I was, perhaps not so very much for the Wild Cornish brill fillet but more the briney cockles, dashi broth, and oyster leaf.

Beautifully plated and eating rather well, subtle but complex we really liked this.

Second serving of bread next. Mushroom, tomato and olive oil, black olive, and organic oat. My, My.

I think Marc must know that quail is one of my favourite eats, I would like to think that this was why it was on the menu, although then again,perhaps not. This one was from all the way from France. Loire quail, parsley root/beetroot.

Now I'm fairly certain our waiter said that the quail was roasted? It was so tender I could have sworn it would be sous vide, but what do I know. Perhaps it was and then finished off in the oven. Whatever, it was cooked to perfection, truly excellent flavour. Did it have a glaze of some sort, not sure?
The dainty little legs were confit and by golly did that work.
Also on the plate were roasted shallots, parsley root puree, pak choi, poached beetroot, potato crisp and truffle. Excellent.

Another fun little diversion, and one that we have had before were the Fizzy grapes)

There was a choice of cheese (at no extra charge) or dessert. I tried the cheese which looked fabulous on the chariot.

Whilst the cheese choice was being explained to me, a surprise dessert arrived for my wife. Having the feel of a superior bath sponge, a feathery lite Chocolate cake with cherry toothpaste. 

We shared the cheese and in tune with the extreme generosity of the restaurant the normal four choice turned into six. Really spoilt for choice I chose bleu de basques, an artisan sheeps milk cheese. Some chabichou, Calvados camembert, A cheese washed in champagne? Plus? 

A cracker selection was served along with some jelly and various fruit. vis apricot, apple. 

Surprise, surprise Cilla (well we are close to Liverpool) a cracking dessert arrived next. Simply listed as Chocolate textures this did indeed look the part. Arriving in three pots for full effect, I could not wait to try a spoonful,(or three).
Witness, chocolate mousse, milk crumb, ? brittle and chocolate foam. Fresh cherry, chocolate clafoutis and a cherry ice lolly. Yum, yum 

Well, well, what a fantastic lunch. from start to finish not one hiccup and incredible value. Lots of extra bits and bobs, as good as any evening tasting menu currently on offer.

As it would happen, it was unbeknown to me until this morning that this was our wedding anniversary. OK, its a man thing I,m ashamed to admit forgetting. So we had a glass of champers each, three glasses of wine and a glass of port between us, no coffees, tap water.
All of the above food and with a tip the bill only came to £110. Incredible value.

Be prepared for a couple of months wait for a table, or do as we did and ask for a cancellation, but whatever you do . Go. 


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Friday, 25 May 2012


So, following the departure of Ben Spalding, the kitchen is firmly back in the hands of Simon Rogan.
Andy Tomlinson has been promoted to head chef and Simon has, in a very short space of time, changed the menus with perhaps up to twenty new dishes to choose from.
Our recent lunch had three menus to choose from. The three course lunch at £29 with an option of two glasses of wine for an extra £6, extremely good value and most tempting.
A six course at £55, and the one that we tried, the ten course at £80. Of course we all know that with Simon's generosity its always more than the stated, so even the lunch menu will have an extra course or two.

My apologies in advance. It would take me too long to describe all the dishes in detail, I shall show the photos and summarize later.

Amuse was an Onion biscuit and nettle cream.

Next up Smoked Pork and eel croquettes.

Bread, was a choice of three rolls each, Wholemeal and Ale, pumpernickel. amd onion and thyme. They were served with butter from Netherend farm in Gloucestershire whipped with Maldon sea salt

Grown up egg yolk from the golden egg, celeriac, sorrel and garlic cream.


The "egg" has chicken puree inside of it. Its a similar dish to one at L'enclume. It was explained the chicken puree is placed into moulds to set, then the egg is coated in a type of jelly. Hope I have that correct. This sat on a celeriac mash. Some celeriac crisps, and garlic mayo on top.

Spring Broth with carrot dumplings, sea kale shoots and pearl barley.

Raw Venison in coal oil, mustard, scurvy grass and onions.

Crispy seaweed mashed potatoes, wild leek and fennel.

Cornish Lobster, oyster, apple, pickled kohlrabi, and coastal herbs.

Five flavoured Monkfish, razor clams, vinegar and hazelnut.

Herdwick Lamb flank, sweetbread, salsify, hedge garlic and velvet caps.

Sweet cheese, water celery, artichoke and malt.

Rhubarb with meadowsweet, cream cake, sweet cicely.

And finally to end, White Chocolate bourbon ice cream.

Yes a bit of a marathon, but the type of marathon that we prefer these days.
So very much going on throughout the meal, many different tastes, textures, aromas.
The standout aroma of the meal was the lamb. The table next to us ate it after we did and the smell was just divine I wanted to eat the dish all over again. Apart from the aroma, taste wise it was also a stand out dish.

Needless to say we enjoyed all of Simon's food, no duff dishes here. Stand outs were (apart from the lamb) The Lobster, and the Venison. The crispy briney seaweed mashed potatoes were much relished, as was the monkfish.

Service here is very good indeed, assured, but relaxed and informed. Nothing is too much trouble. Sandia Chang was at her very best and will be missed, but the team will carry on reinforced with good spirit. It was nice to speak with Sandia's husband James Knappet who popped in at the end of service. We wish them all the very best with their new Bubbledogs venture.

We popped our heads into the kitchen to speak briefly with Simon, who's work ethic is much to be admired. Leading from the front, his team are pushing to maintain his very high standards.

So all in all for us a great way to spend a Friday lunch. Not cheap by any stretch of the imagination but we enjoyed the food here as much as, if not more than some other higher rated restaurants.
On the subject of value, the lunch menu with the wine is exceptionally good and whats more currently it consists of three of the dishes that we ate., the spring broth, the fabulous lamb and the pretty plated Rhubarb dish.

So yes this meal for us ticked all of the boxes

Team Rogan


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