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Archive for the category “Food”

Varied

So, this week is somewhat varied in its activities.

Yesterday was John Wick Chapter 2.

This evening I’m off to see Neil Gaiman at the Southbank Centre, talking about his newest book, “Norse Mythology“, his latest book. (And collecting a signed copy into the bargain)

Tomorrow, I’m off for a meal at the Fat Duck with friends, and driving them all there and back.

There’s stuff lined up for the weekend too, but that little lot should keep me going for a while anyway…

Surf vs Turf, Blues Kitchen

Last night, I went with a friend to one of my favourite places, Blues Kitchen in Shoreditch.  I’ve been going there fairly regularly over the last eighteen months or so, but usually on a weekend. This time was different though – they had organised a three day “Surf vs Turf” event, bringing in the chef team from Extra Fancy in the US to ‘do battle’ with the team from Blues Kitchen, with a special menu (including cocktails)  to play with.

And it was epic.

Once it had been announced on Twitter, I had booked in straight away. For me, it was a no-brainer, I wanted to try it. And I am so glad I did.

As well as the food and drinks, it meant we got to spend time with some of the people we’ve been talking to on most of the visits, talked about what was good on the menu, what they should be keeping, and even got introduced to one of the owners of the group that owns Blues Kitchen. For me, that’s what makes Blues Kitchen stand out from every other place in a similar vein – the people make it, even more than the food.

Between the two of us, we had everything on the menu – including the cocktails. Plus a couple of things that were so good we had two…

I’m hard-pressed to even decide what the best things were – it was all good, and most of it was great. Hell, even the cocktails were awesome.

All told, a great night, and a type of event I hope Blues Kitchen repeat – there’s plenty of opportunity, with lots of different kitchens and teams that would be up for it, I’m sure.

Eating Out – The 2016 Summary

In all over this year, I’ve had 22 Michelin-starred meals in 18 places, for a total of 36 stars all told.  I’ve tried to keep a wide range through the year, from pubs-with-stars through to some of the most spectacular-looking dining destinations in the UK.  In no particular order, I’ve been to…

  • Three-star
    • Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester Hotel, London
    • Waterside Inn, Bray, Berkshire
  • Two-star
    • Hélène Darroze at the Connaught Hotel, London (three times, including tonight)
    • Champignon Sauvage, Cheltenham (twice)
    • Midsummer House, Cambridge
    • Hibiscus, London (now closed)
    • Hand and Flowers, Marlow
    • Manoir aux Quat Saison, Great Missenden, Oxon (for my Birthday, no less!)
    • Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental, London
    • The Ledbury, London
    • Marcus at the Berkeley Hotel, London
  • One star
    • House of Tides, Newcastle (twice)
    • Raby Hunt, Summerhouses, Darlington
    • Pony & Trap, Chew Magna, Bristol
    • Paris House, Woburn, Beds
    • Benares, London
    • Alimentum, Cambridge
    • Wild Rabbit, Kingham, Oxon

Interestingly, neither of the three-starred places count anywhere notable on my favourites.  In my opinion the best restaurants of the year have been

  • 1st= Hélène Darroze
  • 1st= Midsummer House
  • 3rd= Hibiscus
  • 3rd= House of Tides

The best meals, on the other hand, is a smaller list – the top three would be…

  • Hélène Darroze – the second visit
  • Hélène Darroze – the first visit
  • Midsummer House

Yes, Darroze really is that good (in my opinion, of course – others may vary)

Alongside that, honorable mentions go to

  • Wild Rabbit – any other year, it would certainly have been in the top three, and indeed I’d say it’s probably number four/five in the list
  • Marcus – much as I dislike the man himself, I can’t deny that the meal was bloody marvellous

There are other places I still want to go (and I’m considering another Scotland visit at some point in 2017) but I won’t be going to anywhere like as many as this year.  I’ve massively enjoyed it, and I truly don’t want to become blase about the entire thing.

The Last Bits, and The Next Bits

It’s hard to believe that it’s only a week to Christmas Day, and two to the end of 2016.

This week we’ve had temperatures up around 10-13° C – which is ridiculous for mid-December – and I’ve been wandering around in shirt-sleeves.  (While also wondering just how people are walking about fully clad in coat, gloves, and even furry hats. What the bollocks are they going to do when it gets cold, for fuck’s sake?)

Yesterday was my penultimate Michelin-starred restaurant visit of the year, so it’s all coasting down to the end of year. Which is no bad thing, to be honest.

I’ve got some plans and ideas for 2017, but really I think the theme is “do less”.  I’ll still be doing all the stuff I’ve been doing in 2016, just less of it.  That’s the idea, anyway. Whether it’ll work out that way, well, only time will tell.

Final Weeks

We’re coming to the end of 2016, and things are (kind of) calming down a bit here.

Mind you, in the next month the main events are

  • Seeing Glenda Jackson in King Lear at the Old Vic in London
  • Seeing The Tempest in Stratford-upon-Avon
  • A Festive BurgerCrawl in London – only Christmas Special burgers allowed. (That’s pretty much planned already)
  • Meals at five Michelin-starred restaurants, including one for New Year’s Eve

and alongside that there’s also

  • at least one techie meetup/socialisation night
  • two social things with other friends and contacts
  • a minimum of three films (that’re already booked) including Rogue One and Passengers, plus any others I choose to see

That’s about it – except for the standard stuff around the Festering Season as well.

And yet still, that’s a lot quieter and calmer than a lot of the year has been. Which just goes to show, sometimes I can be a spectacularly busy idiot…

Damage, Stupidity, and Repair. (And food)

Just before the weekend, either Thursday or Friday, I twisted my ankle. Nothing major, nothing broken – but painful, and a joyous shade of purple by the Saturday morning.  I’ve no idea what I actually did to it – there was no noteworthy twist, trip, or knock, but I’d obviously done something stupid to it.

However, because I’m a massive idiot, I wasn’t going to let something like that stop me from doing the stuff I had planned for the weekend.

So on Saturday I took the train down to London in order to go to Taste London‘s Festive Edition, down at Tobacco Dock. I went earlier than usual, because – again, despite that slightly twatted ankle – I was planning to walk from Euston to Tobacco Dock, meet friends, go round the event, and then decide what I’d do from there.

The walk went surprisingly well, made a decent time – albeit a bit slower than usual, for obvious reasons.

route map and timingI got there hugely early, which meant I was at the front of the queue, but that’s fine. Met up with friends, covered the whole of the Taste Festival, and had a good time.

And then, because I’m still a massive idiot, we walked back from Tobacco Dock, first to The Alchemist on Bevis Marks, near the Gherkin, for a couple of cocktails (they’re brilliant, hugely creative, and decently priced – for anywhere, rather than ‘reasonable for London’) and then on to Honest Burgers at Tottenham Court Road before getting back to Euston. All told, somewhere around 13 miles of walking on a still-stuffed ankle.  By the end of it, my leg was extremely sore, but it was well worth it.

On the Sunday, I had a quieter day planned – out in the evening, but nothing planned for the day. So I took it a bit easier, did a load of domestic stuff, but without doing a lot of walking. The leg and ankle were still sore, so I didn’t want to exacerbate the damage any further.

Then in the late afternoon/early evening, over to friends, and thence to Northampton for food at a place they’d recommended and like (Sol Y Luna in Northampton) for epic tapas and then a couple of drinks at The Olde England pub before heading to their and then home.

So it was a pretty epic weekend of food, with added twattery and pain.

And this morning, when I no longer need to do a load of walking, of course the ankle is now pretty much back to normal. Of course…

Birthday Weekend – Dinner

For the birthday weekend, once I’d done Le Manoir on Saturday, I was in London on Sunday for two things – the first of which was lunch at Heston Blumenthal’s “Dinner” restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental hotel.

I can’t claim to be a huge fan of Blumenthal, but Dinner is an interesting concept, resurrecting and reinventing meals from previous times/eras, ranging from the 1300s through to early 1940s.

It’s also one of the few places I’ve been to this year that doesn’t do a tasting menu, opting instead for three larger courses.

I had a great meal consisting of

  • Roast Scallops (c. 1830) – with cucumber ketchup, roasted cucumber, bergamot and borage
  • Chicken cooked with Lettuces (c. 1670) – Grilled onion emulsion, spiced celeriac sauce and oyster leaf, with a side of some of the best mashed potato ever (as recommended by the waiter)
  • Tipsy Cake (c. 1810) – fresh-made brioche on a beautiful sauce, with spit-roasted pineapple.
  • And finished off with Liquid-Nitrogen ice cream, made at the table, which was a great finale.

There’s also a lot more stuff on the menu that I now really want to try, so I’ll be aiming to return in 2017.

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