D4D

Improving sarcasm for thirty years

Archive for the category “Solo Dining”

Reburgered

Last weekend, I went to one of my favourite food places in London, Mac and Wild. (OK, I went to a couple of my favourite places, but that’s a different story) They had a special burger on, which was only happening ’til yesterday, and I wanted to try it.

I ordered it (along with their cocktail of the month) and everything arrived and was lovely. As expected.

But then I saw other people’s photos of their Murray burgers, and mine was… different.  I had assumed that the black pudding was mixed into the patty, which gave it a really deep meaty taste without being a dollop of black pudding – but all the photos had a layer of black pudding on them.

So I mentioned this to Mac and Wild on Twitter, along with the above photo.  And within a couple of hours they’d come back to me, saying “Oops, looks like you had the Highlander instead of the Murray Mound. We’re really sorry – if you can make it in before the 15th, we’ll do you one for free“.  Note, I hadn’t asked for this, nor expected anything at all.  So already I’m pretty impressed.

As I was already planning to be back in London on Saturday, I took them up on that offer.

And bloody marvellous it was, too.

Now, I did pay for the burger – because I insisted on doing so.  Mistakes happen, and I’m fine with that. And I don’t feel like it was fair to get a freebie for a simple mistake – I love Mac and Wild anyway, so it was actually the simple offer, and the speed of it, that impressed me, rather than getting free food.

It’s that service (well, and the excellent food!) that keeps me going to places like Mac and Wild – they always give the impression that they give a damn. To have gone straight to “Oops, sorry” rather than arguing the toss, to accept and own the mistake and make amends for it, that’s impressive.

And long may that continue.

London (2)

Following on from last week’s post, I was in London a lot last week.

On Thursday and Friday I was at the always-excellent Lead Developer conference, at the QEII Conference Centre, near Westminster Abbey and Houses of Parliament.  I could have chosen to stay in London overnight on the Wednesday and Thursday nights instead of travelling each day, but honestly, I couldn’t be bothered. So instead I ended up with longer days, travelling each day down to London and then walking (because I’m a lunatic) from Euston to Westminster, and back afterwards – roughly three miles each way, and yet still preferable to taking the tube.

It made for long days – particularly as I also chose to eat in London both nights, with a friend at Iberica on Thursday, which I’d not been to before (but will be go back to) and on my own on Friday at Monica Galetti’s Mere Restaurant, which I love. (And apparently I’m the person who’s been back the most since they opened in March – an achievement of which I’m simultaneously ridiculously proud, and somewhat ashamed)

And then on Saturday, having seen a recommendation from a friend, I had been lucky enough to get the last available ticket for the matinee performance of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, at the Donmar Warehouse. I’m going to write more about that in a separate post, which’ll be done for later this week. (Just in time for the production to finish on the 17th. Helpful, eh?)

Sunday was allegedly calmer, but still busy – and involved catching rather more sun than I perhaps should have, although not to any point of danger or ill-health.

And now, I’m back for a new week of work, which is going to require some brain-power at some point early on.  Bugger…

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…

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.

Birthday Weekend – Le Manoir

As I said earlier this week, for my actual birthday I took myself to Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons for lunch, partly for birthday purposes, partly for the whole solo-dining project.

I grew up close to Le Manoir, and my parents are still close by, so I’ve never been able to justify going there (and particularly staying, which is the best way to book a table well ahead of time) but I did get lucky when it came to booking myself for lunch. They open the bookings for non-residents three months in advance, and I’d called them before lunchtime on August 5th. (That was more about lucky ‘why the hell not’ thoughts and decisions on that day, rather than anything I can claim to be planned)

So it’s fair to say I was looking forward to this one quite a bit. Happily, it lived up to the expectations.

Le Manoir is well known for its garden, where they grow a lot of their own vegetables, fruit and herbs. It’s an impressive setting, and guests are free to have a wander round the garden, either before or after their meal.

I had the November tasting menu, and it was bloody good. It included…

  • Roasted Pumpkin and Butternut Squash soup, with a biscotti loaded with pumpkin puree, cashew nuts and Cashel Blue cheese
  • Beetroot Terrine (which I’d been recommended to ask for, and managed to get as a complimentary extra course, because Birthday)
  • Confit Salmon with Lemon Verbena, Apple Pieces and Apple Puree
  • Free-range Hen’s Egg, watercress, ham and toasted hazelnuts
  • Quail, beetroot gratin, bulgur wheat and “leaves”
  • Comté Cheese, aged 12, 24 and 36 months
  • Ravioli of exotic fruits (a mix of exotic fruits under a shell of apricot) with a coconut foam/jus
  • Millionaire Shortbread to finish, a soft toffee with bitter chocolate on shortbread, and salted butter ice-cream

It was a fantastic meal, and one I thoroughly enjoyed.  Admittedly, it wasn’t in the top three meals I’ve had this year – but some of that is because I’ve massively spoiled myself this year with other places. In any normal year, it would definitely have been one of the best.

 

Post Navigation