Monday, 24 September 2012
So eventually we are in. I have tried every combination of dates available and had to settle finally for a Tuesday lunch rather than wait another couple of months for a weekend slot. This simply means a day tripper journey of over three hundred miles instead of a leisurely overnight stay and another restaurant the following day with a chilled out return back home.
To add insult to injury our normal three hour journey turns into four because of an accident which totally blocked off the M1. This was literally a few hundreds of metres in front of us just past the motorway services. Luckily we were fifty metres this side of the turn off so we were able to re-route off the rear of the services to the next motorway junction. I was joyous of the fact we had started earlier than normal.
We arrive late and stressed after a further delay in parking the car because a new company is in charge of parking so I have to re-register which they simply can not do that quickly.
The restaurant is on the ground floor and is smaller than I thought, perhaps seating thirty or so. The basement bar is larger, perhaps twice as large and equally as industrial.
Metal thieves would have a field day in here, its all metal, more metal, concrete and bare brick with a bit of wood thrown in for good measure. The oversize metal front door would not keep them out they would simply nick that too.
Service put us at rest from the off as I was assured that the tasting menu was still on offer even though we were late arriving. The set menu was however very appealing with quite a few dishes crossing over from the a la carte and tasting menu, this from memory was £24 for four courses, excellent value. The carte has five, six and five choices and seems very reasonably priced although having said that you will need four perhaps even five courses to fill you up.
From reading some of the reviews I had a nagging feeling the portion size was going to be an obsticle for us. Indeed the coddled egg dish (which we shall come to later) I viewed as a bit of a micky take at £7.
The homemade nutty Rye bread arrived warm in a date stamped brown paper bag, with some whipped salted butter and a handfull of tasty bulbous green olives.
The bread had a fantastic crust with good flavour and exploded in the mouth to meld with the salty butter.
The tasting menu seemed good value at £49 for seven courses but apart from the egg I could see that one of them was a pre dessert so that would no doubt be tiny. Time would tell if we were sated at the end or not.
Bang in season, English asparagus was presented with a deliciously lush homemade virgin rapeseed oil mayonnaise. Sprinkled on the plate were some chopped hazelnuts and meadowsweet. We were advised to eat this with our fingers which was a bit messy but fun.
Mixed alliums in a chilled pine infusion sounded intriguing. How would it eat, how were the onions cooked, etc.
I thought the dish was a real looker. I had to take multiple photos to make sure that I captured the dish correctly.
What a simple plate of food and really refreshing on a summers day. Floating in the broth btw is an aioli and basil emulsion. You have to be careful cutting the onions as they are served with a good bite to them.
We are spoilt with eggs, my ducks lay fresh ones daily in spring and summer so the Coddled free range hen,s egg had a lot to live up to. Not at all sure what "woodland mushrooms" were in the egg, they were a tiny dice but did their job well along with the smoked butter. Not for me as ethereal as others may decide but nevertheless a simple fun dish nicely presented. I guess it may end up being a signiture dish (if not already).
Charred Salmon with elderflower, spring onions and almonds was again summer on a plate, and boy was the sun shining today.
Top tasty piece of well sourced salmon, sweet distinctive elderflower with a spritz of lemon, whats not to like.
The only meat on the well balanced menu was Barbecued Iberico pork perched atop a mound of savory acorn praline. To the side are turnip tops and somewhere on the plate was homemade apple vinegar, I suspect dressing the turnip tops. I was informed the pork is simply barbecued in the kitchen with no sous vide involved at all.
I have a lovage plant growing in my garden which should be bursting into life very shortly, the pre dessert of Iced lovage has given me an idea as to how to use some of the leaves. I guess not to everyones taste this really is a distinctive herb but for us it worked and freshened the taste buds up no end.
A work of art next and possibly my favourite dish. The forest floor on a plate. No not a plate, my mistake, a slate no less to show it off to better effect. Chocolate and virgin hazelnut oil ganache, basil moss, sheeps milk ice cream.. Witness chocolate ganache, chocolate log, chocolate soil, basil moss, dill cream, and the ice cream.
Too often desserts are oversweet, some are sickly sweet and part way through they can become hard work, this was totally the opposite, visually exciting, we could not wait to get tucked in. Perfect balance of crunch, pitch perfect ganache, slightly sour notes from the ice cream and an excellent "basil moss". A star dish imo.
Now then we skipped coffee as we normally do but were still served the most amazing canneles, sponge cakes baked in beeswax with a cherry on top. Absolutely gorgeous, the cherry on the top was a revelation I can't imagine these being bettered. Fantastic, I wished I had been cheeky and done an Oliver Twist and asked for more.
Now then I never ever go to a restaurant looking for faults, its just not me, why pay good money to be unhappy? Having said that I did think that Dabbous would perhaps not fully live up to the hype. I did expect to nit pick on portion size and I suspected service may not have been perhaps all that, but I was wrong. Everything seemed destined against an enjoyable experience but we immediately fealt relaxed and fully enjoyed the experience.
Special mention to Graham Burton and his staff for looking after not only us but some of the happiest customers that we have seen in a restaurant in recent times.
Considering that he worked last with Agnar Sverrison at Texture for a number of years Ollie Dabbous has not copied his style but developed his own and that is admirable indeed. There is a clarity about his food, its not muddled with lots of different flavours and indeed as we expected we think so far that this has got to be the restaurant opening of the year and a very exciting one at that. Shame again its so far away and booked so far in advance, still, there will be a next time.
After service Ollie came out of the kitchen to spreak with a fair few of his customers whom he seemed to know quite well. Eventually and mindfull not to keep him we had a very brief chat before we hit the chaotic M1. He certainly is humbled by all of the attention he is getting and he seems to be a really focused hard working guy. We wish him all the very best.
We took this photo.
Saturday, 22 September 2012
I first visited Hedone shortly after it opened, just over a year ago. A couple of friends of the chef Mikael Jonsson were singing his praises. One even had the audacity to suggest that his food was worthy of three Michelin stars? I'll have one of what he is drinking please.
During the early months of opening it had very mixed reviews. On one particular food forum which I contributed too, some of the reviews were scathing, citing poor produce, amateurish presentation, and lack of cooking skill. My own opinion was that we enjoyed the food, but it did not have me hop, skipping and jumping down the road.
Much has been made about Jonsson's obsessional desire to find the very best ingredients available, going to extraordinary lengths to source the best. I have been following the progress at Hedone in recent times and noted that the reviews have become stronger, increasing my desire to give it another try.
I am a bit off tasting menus of late much preferring three honest fulfilling courses rather than tiny bits of one bite plates. Having this in mind the latest lunch offering at Hedone is a bargain, at two courses for £19 and three for £25 (plus 12.5% service)
Browsing the menu which has a choice of three, three, three, it looked very interesting indeed. Slip sole, Rock Oysters, Duck egg/ girolles. Tamworth pork, Wild duck, Fillet of Hare. It all looked yummy. There were a couple of specials for a supplement. Razor clams, (£5.5 supplement pp) or Breast and leg of Grouse (£10pp) So that was me sorted then.
From here on in I am going to be brief in my description of the food because I really can't be bothered other than to say it was an improvement over our first visit. Presentation was much improved making the dishes a lot more appealing visually. The grouse and hare were delicious. The oysters were yummy. The delicate slip sole was over powered by the overuse of acidic lime. The crab amuse was not at all special tasting, (so much for the sourcing) Just very average. Bread was enjoyable. Desserts were decent.
So there you have it. Good food, not everything to our taste however, but very mixed service. Our main young lady server was lovely, as was the guy with the bread basket. The sommelier was an ignorant individual who chose to ignore us throughout the meal. This cost his employers lost revenue. He attended the table to offer an aperitif at the beginning of the meal but never came back to the table thereafter to ask if we would like any other drink. I remember him from our last visit as he up sold everything on the list that we looked at, greatly inflating our bill. Not this time though, resulting in a loss of profit for the restaurant.
Amellie was just about ok. She did not seem very friendly and was a bit curt at times.
Jonsson, considering he was once a blogger, does not seem to like or tolerate bloggers at all, with one notable exception that is. I know of two bloggers that he was personally objectionable too. He also seems unable to accept any criticism whatsoever, constructive or otherwise.
As I re-entered the restaurant from the downstairs toilets I took a photo of the fully open kitchen just as he turned towards me. He went ballistic, demanding that I did not take any photos of him and the kitchen. He stated that he did not even like people photographing his food but tolerated it. His staff seemed godsmacked. He displayed a nasty streak that I found particularly offensive. I suspect that he speaks to his staff like this, but paying customers, who does he think he is?
Still we won't be returning. There are thousands of restaurants in London who would love to take our money off us. They will also do it with good grace and a smile at no further cost.
Hedone will never get another chance, and I suggest that you do the same.
Give this place a wide berth. I can think of many more places your hard earned cash will be much more appreciated. A good restaurant is a lot more than just the food. This place failed today big time on the service front , which is totally unacceptable. Three Michelin stars my . . . .
Wednesday, 19 September 2012
There is something extremely exciting about eating on the fortieth floor of a tower block. In this case The Heron Tower in The City. We are not blessed with much high rise in the UK so it is somewhat fascinating to gaze skyward in anticipation.
At the time of our fairly recent visit, no visible signage was evident for the restaurant. So, no doubt like others before us we walked around the building a couple of times before we realised the door to the right of the building was the actual entrance to the glass fronted lift and eventually skyward to the restaurant.
The exhilarating climb up forty floors takes seconds and is breathtaking. In fact the whole place is a bit breathtaking, on a number of levels.
Through a series of corridors, one of the first things on the horizon when you finally arrive is an amazing bar.
We had heard good things about the food, so the location and the views were a real bonus.
The main menu (there is a breakfast one) is split into four sections, Snacks and Breads, Small plates, Brick Oven, and For the Table. In all a compact thirty one items. As we were to find out the "small plates" were fairly large plates. In fact all of the dishes that we chose had a generosity about them, which is to be applauded.
The BBQ-spiced crispy pigs ears (£4) arrived in a grease splattered brown paper bag.
Hand on heart these were fantastic, the best that we have eaten. Crunchy flavour bombs that exploded in the mouth. I did ask our waiter what the spices were, but the recipe is a closely guarded secret.
Chip shop Cod tongues (£4.5) were again in there own way nearly on par with the pigs ears, just a very good eat. Perfectly cooked with crispy coating and the steamy whiff of fresh fish when bitten down on. We resisted the Sarson's malt vinegar as the tartar sauce did its job very well.
Crab on Toast (£10) with lemon aioli and a herb salad was more my wife's choice than mine but it was nevertheless delicious and again brim full of flavour. Both white and the richer tasting brown meat were evident.
Herdwick mutton was on the menu in two guises, cutlets and a slider. So. Much in the mood for lamb we chose both.
First up the Herdwick mutton slider (£5) and this was easily worth its price tag. The sweet charred tomato jam added interest.
The mutton was blended with coriander, mint and harissa paste and some fresh chilli. Its then char grilled.
We were now thinking that we had perhaps ordered too much food because we had another two dishes to go and one of them looked like a trencherman portion.
Spiced Herdwick lamb cutlets (£12) were value for money. No faulting the flavour at all. Great aroma when they arrived table side that just heightened the thrill of eating them. At the base of the chops is smoked aubergine interspersed with yogurt with coriander and mint. The lamb had been marinated with quite a lot of Indian spices, cumin, ground coriander, fennel, fenugreek. They are then char grilled and finished off in the brick oven at 440 degrees.
So finally the signature dish that everyone should try. Duck and Waffle (£13) and that is what you get of course with the addition of a crispy fried duck egg and a pot of mustard seed, star anise, clove, and thyme infused maple syrup.
Ok. So its not going to win any prizes for the prettiest plate of food, but you know what they say about beauty. Its in the eye of the beholder.
I first encountered this savoury/sweet combination in The States a number of years ago now, and initially thought it to be quite odd. It does however work extremely well with this dish. Importantly we both like duck and most things sweet work with it. The crisp outer layer gave way to an altogether melting inner. We thought it best to soak the waffle with the syrup and eat the three components together dipping in to the egg for a bit of welcome distraction. It all went down rather well and we just about managed to polish it off.
Too full for dessert we sat back and enjoyed the stunning views which again is a big part about what this place delivers.
By the time we were ready to leave and excitedly ride the glass fronted lift again, the open kitchen was decidedly quieter,. So, I attempted to pick Head chef Daniel Doherty's brain about those pigs ears.
Wise man that he is. He kept the recipe secret. I did glean however that brown sugar and paprika played a part. Although it has to be said the recipe would have been safe with me. Wink, wink.
So there you have it. Another glowing report about Duck and Waffle. We think its got the lot. Great cooking, bargain basement pricing, good portions, good service, and truly spectacular views. Our bill came to £82 which included a bottle of wine (£25) and service. We tried more dishes than most, but you could easily dine here for quite a lot less money.
Give it a try. You know your worth it
Tuesday, 11 September 2012
Ignore reports of massive queues down the street waiting to get into latest hot ticket Bubbledogs. Here timing is all. As with all of the latest no booking places, if you really must visit at peak times expect a bit of a wait, but do as we did and arrive at 1.30 on a Saturday lunch time or similar and your pretty much guaranteed no wait at all. Another plus though is that if you are in a party of six you can book a table. Still, having said all of that, this being a slick operation, turnover is pretty darn quick, After all this is not (yet) about multi course extravaganzas. Its hot dogs and bubbles essentially.
Cards on the table here, I am proud to admit to knowing the owners from previous visits to Roganic where Sandia Chang did a splendid job front of house. Her husband and highly respected chef James Knappett was introduced during one of our visits there, and yes they are wonderful people who are destined to make a big impact on the London dining scene. Both have impeccable backgrounds in the industry, and for their young age, worked in some of the worlds top eateries.
The no bookings policy means that you may have to share a table with someone that you don.t know, but thats no real problem. On our visit, fun was very much on the menu and everyone was in high spirits, so you never know, you may just strike up a lifelong friendship. The atmosphere is high tempo, busy, buzzy and its sometimes hard to hear the person next to you speak. Background music is good. I enjoyed a couple of tracks from The Cure.
The interior is small but perfectly formed with every inch of spare space taken up with dining option. Prize seats are at the bar or to the rear, right next to the as not yet open "chefs table", which is behind a black curtain. Bare brick walls, rough hewn floorboards on both floor and wall, low hanging globe lights set the scene. Oh and bar stools designed for those with plenty of meat on their bum.
The specially commissioned artwork is by Jose Reis De Matos who's work features in Stephane Reynaud's excellent books Pork and Sons and Ripailles.
The menus at this stage have far greater coverage given over to the grower champagnes than the food, but lets not forget that this is essentially a champagne bar which serves food. Wine is not my forte, but I guess with Sandia's experience the list covers pretty much everything that she wants. Headings include. "A lick of chalk and Stones". "Flowers and Fields". "Toasty and Nutty delights", etc, etc. The short but sweet food menu is a variation on a theme of hot dogs. Beefy ones, Porky ones or Veggie ones, in total an offering of thirteen, plus three side dishes. Not knowing what size they were, and guessing they would be generous English not humongous American size we ordered a couple of each, four different ones to compare.
Size wise and for us, two each was certainly enough. Splitting each one into two gave us four great tastes to try.
Sloppy Joe, (beef) with Bubbledogs chilli, cheese and chopped onions (£7.50)
Horny Dog, (beef) Bubbledogs corn breading with corny bits (£7)
Jose, (pork) with salsa, avocado, sour cream and pickled jalepenos. (£7.5)
Fourth of July, (pork) bacon wrapped with smoky BBQ sauce and coleslaw. (£7)
We tried the three side dishes too. The Tots (£3.5) Sweet potato fries (£3.5) and the Coleslaw (£2.5)
The standout was the sweet potato fries. Totally gorgeous, highly seasoned, great mouth feel, I should have begged for the recipe, excellent.
We tried a couple of glasses of champagne each which just so happened to go particularly well with the dogs. They do however serve a selection of other drinks and I was recommended to try a craft beer.
I guess some folks can't get to stoked up about hot dogs, but we absolutely loved them. There is something very satisfying in chomping down on a meat filled bun. Our favourite was the Sloppy Joe but the others were not far behind, just as you would expect from an superb craftsman like James Knappet. With thirteen dawgs to choose from there is sufficient excuse to revisit regularly to sample each and every one.
For its casual nature this is a very exciting new opening. Drop in for a glass of champagne. Have a sit at the bar and watch the world go by. Gobble a dawg or two its not going to break the bank. Its fun all the way here, happy smiley people are in abundance.
The hand picked staff are also good fun, and the wonderful Jack Settle is an essential part of the team having followed Sandia from Roganic to eventually head up the Chefs Table duo.
Of great importance to the more commited foodie is the Chefs Table. Thats where the serious action will be. We had a sneak preview of what is on offer an believe me you are in for a treat. Inspired by the Chefs table at New York's Brooklyn Fare, this amazing space seats just nineteen guests. I'm looking forward to parking my bum on one of the leather high level armchairs. Five chefs including James of course will cook for a maximum 29 diners per evening. Service starts at six through to nine. A seven thirty sitting, then one additional one. Can't wait.
So there you have. Loved the place to bits. Its a big recommend from us. Say hello to Sandia and James when you visit. They really are lovely people.