Sitting in the bar at the Marylebone Hotel, we noticed a long line of people lining up in front of a restaurant. Now this wouldn’t be unexpected but the time was 930pm. The next night we were in the bar again, same scenario, long line, 930pm. This got us intrigued. As I needed to get some washing done I decided see what the fuss was about on my way back to the hotel. The restaurant was called Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecote, a little Googling on the Ipad got us some more information on it so we decided to go.
Despite having a good lunch at Bread Street Kitchen we decided to go out for dinner. Thinking the restaurant would open at 600pm we walked over at 610 to find they were closed and the queue had started and we were the the fourth group along. Just before opening we found out that some of the groups ahead of us rotate who stands in line while others go to the pub across the road.
Le Relais de Venise – L’Entrecote is based on a Parisian restaurant started in the late ’50’s by Paul Gineste de Saurs, who bought an Italian restaurant that was called Le Relais de Venise,ostensibly as a venue to sell his familiy’s wines. Already fitted out with a Venetian theme and with no restaurant training M. de Saurs decided to keep the operation simple, added a ‘L’Entrecôte’ sign outside and offered customers a no-choice menu of French bistrot favourites: a green salad with walnuts dressed with mustard vinaigrette, followed by classic steak frites with their secret sauce. The only choice you have is how you want your steak cooked. The children of M. de Saurs all run their own chains of restaurants under similar names but offering the same menu. If a recipe works why change it. The origianal restaurant in Paris’s 17th Arrondisemont and the chain in the UK and USA is run by Mme Helen Godillot.
The decorative windows with lacy half curtains, the red awnings create an old school feeling. Upon entering we are greeted by predominantly French staff, smartly dressed in classic black with white crisply starched collar and apron. The room is a delightful soft sandy yellow, a large vase of bright yellow lilies sits on the back of the brown leather banquettes, dark wood chairs and panelling complate the decor. Bright Venetian themed paintings and antiqued mirrors line the walls and sparkly brass fittings and marble adorn the bar area. Light sconces with shades painted with images of gondolas and gondoliers are all around the room. Tables are topped with coloured cloths and then with butchers paper on which your desired doneness of steak is written.
The salad is light and tasty and the vinaigrette has a nice zing to it.
The steak is bought out on a platter and sliced with half being plated then bought to the table along with some nicely salted crisp french fries. The other half is held back on a warming plate until you are ready for it and fresh fries are bought out. The sauce is still a mystery, but very tasty. There appear to be several attempts online to give a definitive recipe for the sauce but apparently they don’t quite get it right. The chips are cut daily in the tradition of the original, using Bintje potatoes and the beef is English with a minimum of 4 weeks aging. There is a short wine list of mainly Bordeaux at extremely reasonable prices and very good quality.
Desserts are another matter as there choice of 18, four of which are fruit sorbets, three types of ice cream and a cheese plate. The other desserts are a range of French classics. R settled on a Mont Blanc and I went for Vacherin de Relais. OMG can I tell you they were HUGE and delicious.
After a fabulous dinner we left the restaurant to see the queue going around the corner. Is it worth the wait? You bet.
Having worked with a lot of English chefs over the years, I have always heard them say how great Indian food is in England. Before we left Sydney, we contacted one of R’s watch friends, Gush in London to get some recommendations from him. As we didn’t want to go far, he recommended Tamarind in Mayfair a short walk from our hotel. So on a drizzly evening we caught up with not only Gush but another watch collector, Kovacs. Watch collectors seem to not only have a thing for watches, but good food is another passion for them. When you look at some of the watch forums every second post seems to have food in it, especially a watch and food shot. This saves us a little time getting recommendations when we travel.LOL
Located in Mayfair, Tamarind is located in the basement of the building but is anything but basement like. A beautiful metal staircase curves down to a soothing room in colours of sand and gold, with dark wood highlights. At one side of the room sits the brilliantly lit, sparkly bar and across the room is a window with a view in to the kitchen. Taking centre stage in the window is the large Tandoor oven. The space is quite large but is in no way barn like, being broken with pillars and strategically placed huge vases of flowers. Lots of business and embassy types soon filled the room. You can always tell a restaurant with ethnic food is good when a lot of people from the specific ethnicity are dining there.
The dishes at Tamarind are derived from traditional Moghul cuisine from North West India, where breads, fish and meats are cooked in a traditional tandoor oven.
We ordered several dishes to share, well actually we left it to Gush to order, which was good thing as there were dishes we have never seen here in Australia.
First up Papdi Chaat, Spiced chickpeas, whole-wheat crisps, mint chutney and sweetened yoghurt topped with blueberries and tamarind chutney. Surprisingly very delicious, the blue berries make it look like a dessert but it was a great combination of flavours.
We also had a selection of items from the tandoor, lamb cutlet in tandoori spices, marinated chicken and Aloo Tikki (Potato cakes with a sago crust and a filling of spinach, garlic and dried fenugreek leaves; tamarind chutney).
Gosht Dum Biryani AKA Lamb Biryani. Topped with a pastry lid and served in a gorgeous copper kadai.
Along with the Biryani we had Murgh Mahkni(Chicken tikka in puréed fresh tomatoes flavoured with ginger, green chillies and crushed fenugreek leaves) and Kadai Subzi. Rice and breads were also on the table.
Of course we needed something to drink with our meal. We don’t really know a lot about matching wines to Indian foods and left it to Gush to choose. A bottle of Les Granieres de la Nerthe Chateuneuf du Pape 2009. I would not have thought to put a red wine up against the spices of an Indian meal, but it went really well.
In the end I personally thought the English Indian food was a little ahead of Australian Indian food. Will definitely be trying another Indian restaurant when we go next time.
For our final Gordon Ramsay experience we decided to try Maze in Grosvenor Square. We arrived rather early so left our name for a booking and returned later. What had started as a drizzly morning soon saw the sun coming out and brightening Grosvenor Square. Maze is located in a lovely old sandstone building which backs on to the Marriott London Grosvenor Square and has lots of embassies as neighbours.
The interior is quite modern and refined, medium woods, neutral colours, enhanced with the odd splash of colour make for a relaxing room. The tables had a maze like design in metal embeded in the top and I really liked the cutlery stands.
We opted for the £25 four course set menu which, surprisingly, we were able to pick which four dishes we wanted. R and I both had the same starter and main but had different second and fourth courses. We also opted for the matching flight of three wines which was an additional £20. This worked out to be around AUD$70 each. I tell you lunch is the best time to eat in London!!
First course was delicious terrine of chicken and foie gras. There you go foie gras again, I told you we had a lot!!
As my second course I chose a hash brown. Originally I chose it for the novelty but when it arrived at the table I was very happy to have ordered it. The hash brown was nice and crispy on the outside and slightly creamy internally. The bacon was lovely and crisp while the egg component was a dollop of yolk.
R had the pork dumplings with radish and aromatic mushroom broth. This was a dish I contemplated but didn’t want to double up with R. Well filled dumplings with very finely shaved radish and shallots, the mushroom broth was really nice and well flavoured.
Our third course we both had the same, a feather steak with potato puree and a sprinkling of Togarashi spice. Feather steak is a cut of meat that needs to be braised and this was really well done and delicious. The sprinkle of Togarishi spice over the steak and puree added a nice spicy highlight to the dish. Togarashi spice is a Japanese chili pepper mix that is usually used for ramen and udon soups. There are several kinds of togarashi: Ichimi is just the chili/red pepper while Nanami/Shichimi togarashi is a blend of red peppers, sansho pepper, roasted orange peel, black and white sesame seeds, seaweed, and ginger.
Dessert was amazing. I had a very light apple terrine with rhubarb and a custard ice cream. It had a lovely rosy coloured ‘soup’ with finely diced rhubarb and apple. R went for the banana and date parfait with butterscotch and walnuts. The presentation on both was fantastic.
Now I know you will be wanting to know which was our favourite Gordon Ramsay dining experience but they were all great. Each had its own feel and style. Service was fantastic, ambience in each was wonderful. When we go back we will be checking out a few of Gordon’s other restaurants.
As we were wanting to find some where in London that did a good burger, one of the chef’s at Gordon Ramsay @ Claridge’s told us about one of Gordon Ramsay’s latest offerings in London, Bread Street Kitchen. Located within the recently developed One New Change, a stones throw from St Paul’s Cathedral in The City of London, Bread Street Kitchen is a large modern bistro.
The decor is industrial chic with lots of retro touches. Huge glass windows allow plenty of light in, dotted here and there along the back of the banquettes are op shop find lamps(so cool, some bought back memories of ones Nan had). The space is divided into several ‘rooms’ of banquettes each with there own colour theme. The steel beams and open ceiling are very cool and juxtapose nicely with the classic bistro black and white tile floor.
The menu has a good selection of dishes from the raw bar items, grill, wood fired oven right through to scrumptious puddings. I decided to have a burger while R tried the yellow fin tuna with a salad of green leaves and shaved fennel, with a salsa verde. A glass of Chablis went down well too.
The bar downstairs also does a great trade in coffees and breakfast for the local business people.
After our lunch here we strolled all the way along the Thames back to Westminster then through Green Park back to the hotel. The walk helped burn off the calories and got us ready for dinner. Stay tuned for my report on Relais de Venise l’Entrecote a gem of a restaurant in Marylebone and our lunch at Maze.
During our visit to London we ate at 3 of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants.
Number one on our list was Gordon Ramsay @ Claridges. Located, obviously, in Claridges Hotel on the corner of Davies and Brook Streets, a short stroll from Oxford Street and New Bond Street. On Thursday we decided we would go for lunch and booked for Friday lunch. We had the option of a la carte or 3 set menus for our lunch, we ended up choosing the 5 course lunch for £40 with matching wines for an additional £17 (around A$88 total).
The dining room is in a classic, glamourous Art Deco style with colours of light creams and peaches, silver gilding and mirrors galore. Staff are all in pristine black and white and their service standards were exceptional. As R and I were trying not to have any Australian or New Zealand wine on our trip, upon noticing one antipodean wine on the matching wine list, we asked if they would mind swapping it for something else, which they did with no problems.
First to come out was a canape, followed by the first course an amuse bouche of pea soup, light and refreshing….
Second course was some Scottish salmon. I am not much of a fish eater(unless it is sushi and sashimi) but I had to try some Scottish salmon, mainly because I used to love reading about the Queen Mother still salmon fishing in the Scottish rivers in her 80’s.
Third course was a very luscious and rich terrine. This was the start of a trip that contained a LOT of foie gras.
Fourth course was a lovely slow cooked veal breast with celeriac and watercress. It is lovely to see an under utilised cut of meat being done in really well.
Then our scrumptious pre-dessert which would make a wonderful dessert in it’s own right.
And finally the dessert. We saw a couple of these come out to other tables while we were having our lunch. All we saw though was the chocolate dome as it went past. When we were served ours, the dome looked huge, about the size of an inverted, medium mixing bowl. The waiters place the bowl in front of you and then they pour warm chocolate sauce in the centre of the dome which subsequently melts to reveal the hidden surprise of chocolate mousse, ice cream and house made honeycomb. OMG it was amazing. Dark chocolate in a dessert is a winner every time.
After dessert we had a glass of champagne and then were asked if we would like to tour the kitchens and finish our champagne in the lounge, a subtle way of moving us from our table so they could reset it. Of course we ran in to an Aussie chef while being shown the kitchen. An amazing coincidence was that he used to drink at the club where I currently work. We asked where we could get a good burger and he pointed us in the direction of Gordon Ramsay’s latest restaurant Bread Street Kitchen(more later). I was quite amazed at the number of chefs in the kitchen. I think there were about 8-10 on the cold side, 8-10 on the hot side and maybe 5 on the dessert section.
So should you happen to be feeling like a great lunch in one of London’s classic hotels don’t pass up Gordon Ramsay @ Claridge’s. Well worth having a meal at.
Be aware that the best time to dine at any of the big name restaurants in London or for that matter anywhere in the world is lunch time. You will usually find set lunches at great prices and much cheaper than if you go for dinner.
Neeew Yooork, concrete jungle where dreams are made from….OK you know the rest of the song.
In June we headed off for our round the world trip. First stop The Big Apple, New York, New York. So nice they named it twice. This was my first time out of the Asia Pacific region and I was really excited. Four weeks of travel meant four weeks away from the cold of Australia’s winter. R and I left Sydney a day apart from each other but arrived in New York the same day. I refused to take a flight that had too many stops. R’s flight went from Sydney to New York through Hong Kong and Vancouver. I just wanted to get straight there( well almost, I had a stop over of 90 minutes in LAX where I went through customs) and start enjoying the holiday.
The day we arrived was apparently the hottest that NYC had experienced so far this summer. Although 36C felt like heaven to me, New Yorkers seemed to have wilted and there were several crashes on the freeways that meant my cab driver had to detour through the streets of Brooklyn and Queens. I didn’t mind more sightseeing!
Our base for our time in New York was the Waldorf Astoria Towers. A hotel that both R and I have dreamt of staying at. Located on Park Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets, it was a quick walk to the shopping mecca that is the area of Fifth Avenue, Madison Avenue, Park Avenue and all the streets between.
We were fortunate after booking a room to be sent an email with upgrades at special prices. We had originally booked to stay in the Astoria part of the hotel, but decided to take advantage of the upgrades option and ended up with a suite. And what a suite it was, located on the 39th floor, we could see the Chrysler building from our bedroom and the formal dining and lounge. We had a beautiful wooden table and chairs, chandeliers, huge bed, antiques, a dressing room as big as our bedroom, with closets that were big enough for the huge ballgowns of the past(I knew I forgot to pack something LOL).
The first night was a bit of a loss as I got to the hotel around 8pm, R had the whole day to go and look at some watches and get his bearings again. Friday dawned bright and sunny. Breakfast was a buffet in Oscar’s Brasserie, and what a buffet it was! So much choice, but I stuck to my cereal, coffee and juice. When we travel I usually make the last breakfast of my stay a blow out where I go for the good stuff.
On our first full day we headed out and downtown. We walked across to Broadway via the Diamond district( I swear R had us go through there at Supersonic speed), had a look around Times Square before the crowds hit. We then headed down Broadway to 12th Street. Along the way we passed Union Square where we found the market in full swing, past Mario Batali’s Eataly(must visit next time), the Flatiron Building and too many shops. We were on the hunt for the location of a well regarded steakhouse called Striphouse that R wanted to try. Alas they weren’t open for lunch. Across the road from Striphouse was Gotham Bar and Grill, another restaurant we had heard about but will have to get back to next time. The afternoon found us wandering the shops and exercising the credit cards.
For dinner we headed to the iconic Bull and Bear Steakhouse in the Waldorf Astoria. A chance to dress up.
The Bull and Bear Bar has been a New York institution since it opened in 1931 at the current Waldorf=Astoria and prior to that at the Waldorf=Astoria’s original locatation where the Empire State Building now stands. Dark woods, sumptuous decor, clubby atmosphere and truly professional and helpful service are a hall mark of a restaurant and bar that has been favoured by astute businessmen, burgeoning industrialists, Wall Street types and the financial elite for many decades. The restaurant was added in 1960 and soon became a favoured place for dining. Well we aren’t quite the Wall Street and financial elite but we had to go. I love a restaurant that is true to its roots and the Bull and Bear fits the bill perfectly. Tables are nicely spaced the menu tradional with a few modern twists. The Bar comes with requisite stockmarket ticker above the door way…
R loves his surf and turfs which on this occassion was a petite filet with Maine Lobster. I had a delightful dish called Steak on Steaks, which was steakhouse tomatoes with a petite filet mignon and Maytag cheese. Wine started with a glass of Perrier Jouet and was follwed by a bottle of Opus One 2007 from California. Of course we had to cross something off our list of typical New York foods to try so New York cheesecake it was. We returned on the Sunday night for dinner and while we both had the same mains we changed our wine to a Stag’s Leap Karia Chardonnay 2008 from California’s Napa Valley.
We kept busy during the day time by exploring as many shops as possible within walking distance of the hotel. Sunday was our museum day and after catching a cab up Park Avenue to 90th street we started with The Solomon R Guggenheim Museum. I am not much of a modern art lover but being in this iconic museum was fantastic. Of course having done some reading we knew to start at the top and work our way down the ramp. The last time R was in New York the Guggenheim was undergoing some paint work and was covered up in hoardings, he was very happy to get inside this time around.
After the Guggenheim we headed down 5th Avenue to the Metropolitan Museum. OMG it is HUUUGGE. In the interest of my sanity I will only post a couple of photos showing some highlights…
There was so much more to see. We did get to the Impossible Conversations: Schiaparelli and Prada exhibition, and I got within 20cm of a Mary Lee Hu necklace. I even think R was impressed by the Schiaparelli/Prada exhibit, so many of Elsa Schiaparelli’s gorgeous, witty and unique outfits on display. We have to go back to the Met as it is mind bogglingly big, you could spend 2 days there exploring.
After the Met it was time for lunch. Located on 5th Avenue just outside the Met were a bevy of food vans. Hotdogs, tacos, burritos, pretzels and more. This gave us an opportunity to cross off some more food items from our must try, iconic New York food, chilli dogs and pretzels. Yum and very enjoyable sitting on the steps of the Met eatting and watching the world go by. The great thing about the vans is that they are run by family of fallen servicemen and women, and each one has the name of the fallen person on it. Great way to remember the service they provided their country and to provide an income for the family.
Of course we saw all the usual Midtown sights, Empire State Building, Rockefeller Centre, Radio City Music Hall, NY City Library, Chrysler Building, Tiffany’s etc. It is amazing how even though Manhattan doesn’t seem big, everything about it is huge.
Our last night in New York found us meeting some friends for dinner. We took the long way down to 21st Street and Lexington Avenue and Gramercy Park. This gave us a chance for a last look around the city as well as seeing a couple of streets we hadn’t done. Maialino is located in the Gramercy Park Hotel and is part of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group. Serving food based on classic dishes from Rome, it has a casual Roman trattoria atmosphere and style, and utilises food sourced from the Greenmarket and local farms. Bustling and noisy when we arrived but still relaxed and enjoyable. After a quick catch up we decided to just order a few dishes and share. We did have some pastas to share but they were so good we forgot to take photos, oops.
After dinner we asked how safe it was to walk back to our hotel and were reassured it would be fine. Bidding our friends good bye, we trekked from 21st Street back up Lexington Avenue to the Waldorf. On our way passing the Chrysler building and Grand Central Station.
Our final day we had a leisurely breakfast, packed (should I say squeezed our luggage back together?) and then went window shopping. Four o’clock saw us heading for the airport and the next leg of our trip to Ol’ Blighty.
Look out for my next post about our surprisingly sunny and warm week in London!
There is a little problem I have when shopping for measuring cups and spoons. In Australia we have standard sizes for our measuring utensils, elsewhere in the world they vary from ours. I have often been looking through the kitchen shops and stumbled upon some really nice measuring cups or measuring spoons only to find that they are not Australian standard sizes. I must say there have been many nice sets out there that I have had to sadly leave in the shop.
So on the subject of Australian standard measures here they are:
1/4 teaspoon = 1.25ml
1/2 teaspoon = 2.5ml
1 teaspoon = 5ml
1 dessertspoon = 10ml
1 tablespoon = 20ml
1/4 cup = 60ml
1/3 cup = 80ml
1/2 cup = 125ml
1 cup = 250ml
But wait there is more confusion ahead. The above weights are for liquid measures, what if you need a cup of flour, sugar or other dry ingredient? Recipes in modern cookbooks now use weight rather than a volume measurement for things like flour, sugar, breadcrumbs.
Here are a few samples:
1 cup of:
Flour (plain or SR) = 125g
Sugar (white or caster) = 220g
Brown sugar (lightly packed) = 155g
Honey = 350g
So even though the volume is the same the weight differs by ingredient. Perhaps the easy way out is to have a set of measuring spoons and cups that are Australian standard and then a second set for measuring recipes from books that weren’t written for the Australian market. Also a good set of scales is a worthwhile investment. Some chefs and cooks now even go so far as to weigh their liquids.
There are many websites that will do conversions for you and some helpful cooking ones that have charts with the different measurements as well. Below are a couple of favourites:
In May we had our second wine dinner for the year featuring 6 wines from Jim Barry Wines. Jim Barry wines were established by Jim Barry and his wife Nancy in 1959, in the Clare Valley in South Australia. They feature a range of wines sourced from fruit in the Clare Valley and their Cabernet Sauvignon fruit is sourced from the well regarded Coonawarra district.
When I was planning the menu I realised we would be nearing the end of Autumn so planned the menu around what would be available at the time. Wtih the help of Dearne fro Samuel Smith and Sons we chose wines that matched with our menu. The one surprise being that the Lavender Hill Riesling that we had chosen to go with the dessert actually clashed with the dish and upon trying the drier Watervale Riesling we found our match.
The diners of course enjoyed canapes with a glass of Dunes sparkling before being shown to their seats. Our dishes for the evening consisted of:
Cream of cauliflower soup, chive oil with a blue cheese sphere, paired with Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Riesling.
Sashimi of Kingfish with pickled ginger and wasabi ‘caviars’, paired with Jim Barry Silly Mid On Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon.
Sausage of duck and pistachios, braised savoy cabbage with speck, paired with Jm Barry Three Little Pigs Shiraz Cabenet Merlot.
Braised beef cheek Parmentier with a baby herb salad, paired with Jim Barry The Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon.
Honey roasted corella pears, warm citrus madeleines almond ice cream, paired with Jim Barry Watervale Riesling.
Of course we always have a mystery wine and this time around it was Jim Barry The McRae Wood SHiraz 2007.
Favourites for the night were the dessert and the sausage. Our executive chef bought us a sausage stuffer 24 months prior to this and this was the first time we had actually used it. Worked a treat and will be making more sausages in the future. The almond icecream was SO delicious, made with a base that included almond paste and essence it was a hit.
In two weeks time we have our next dinner featuring the wines from Croser, Petaluma and Bridgewater Mill. We are especially excited for this dinner as we have the head winemaker from the group, Andrew Hardy, coming to talk about his wines.
Today in Sydney we have a fog. A foggy morning always brings back memories of when I was a teenager. We had a great bakery in my home town and before breakfast I would usually ride around to get some freahly baked bread and sometimes a boston bun.
My favourite days to do the trip were in winter when a thick fog would be happening. A fog so thick you could only see 5 metres in front of you. Not like the fog we are having today which is a bit too thin for my liking. It was only a 5 minute ride to the bakery, but it was a cold 5 minutes of cycling. But when you got to the bakery, the ride through the cold was quickly forgotten in the warmth of the bakery with the aromas of freshly baked bread wafting around. Then it was a quick decision of which loaf to get (high top, tank, normal, etc) get it sliced, and then pedal back home again and help Mum make our sandwiches.
Mr Ledger was the baker and Mrs Ledger sold the wares from his ovens. Breads were layed out on long tables which were later replaced with basket shelves. Bread was sliced when you bought it. Sometimes if I was early enough I would be able to watch Mr Ledger mixing his final batch of bread.
My favourite breads were the tank and high top, mainly because they were a little different to the plain sandwich loaf. The boston buns had real jam and a good lot of nuts, finger buns had fruit and THE best icing, and the hot cross buns were out of this world and only available in the two weeks before Easter.
As much as I appreciate Baker’s Delight, I miss a good country bakery. I also miss a good, thick country fog.