Food & Drink

Top Dishes of the Year

I’ve never given anything ten out of ten. Not food, not sex, not a book, not a film, not an album, and certainly not a restaurant. Imagine the existential impasse, the cultural cul-de-sac of grading things immaculately.  What would be left, except to die the perfect death? To me, nine out of ten is the highest possible accolade. If you get a nine, that’s an idiot’s ten. But don’t be fooled – it’s still not perfect. Perfection can only be judged once you’ve tried everything else. When I’m on my deathbed, only then will I go back and revise all the eights and nines, because only then will I have…

Coq D’Argent

Some years ago, when I was a mere slip of a lad, I met up with an old friend outside the city-slicker terminal that is Bank Station. Pinstripe suit and Hermes tie-clad financial aficionados shuffled past me in neat rows, no doubt heading for a lazy lunch at one of the usual suspects. When my friend Darren arrived, he was sporting his usual trader attire and informed me that there was a great restaurant nearby with London’s best view. It was a massive understatement. In the internal columns of the No.1 Poultry building is a small and unassuming glass elevator that takes you up the seven floors to Coq d’Argent,…

The Back bar

The history of whisky production in Japan is pretty short, and can be attributed to two men: Shinjiro Torii and Masataka Taketsuru. Torii was a pharmaceutical merchant who embarked on a mission to create Japan’s first whisky distillery, which was to become his life’s work. He hired Taketsuru in the 1920s. Taketsuru had studied organic chemistry in Glasgow, and learned the secrets of scotch production whilst working in a number of distilleries. He was instrumental in helping Torii set up the Yamazaki distillery for his company, which would later become Nikka, establishing the Yoichi distillery. As you’d expect, the style of Japanese whisky follows that of the Scottish, as does…

Weinsinn Restaurant

Weinsinn, with its Michelin star and quaint, impossibly French setting amongst the concrete and cash of Frankfurt is a restaurant doing dining so perfectly well, this might make for quite a boring piece…. if Paul was writing it, but it won’t be, as lucky for you, I drew the long straw. And fortunately so, as that very evening we were meant to be flying to the Dolomites for a weekends skiing, but as Paul’s recompense I was instead ushered into Weinsinn, one of the most highly acclaimed restaurants in Frankfurt. Perhaps explaining its wine list 4 times the thickness of the food menu, Weinsinn initially opened as a wine bar…

Palm, SW1

I was looking forward to Palm, mainly because of its ethnicity: an American steakhouse in London. Steak is properly Yankee. Where the French do poncey fillet mignon, America serves cuts of beef that are bigger than a trucker’s steering wheel. I’d recently been eating pokey bits of meat with dribbles of sauce, so was ready to tuck a table cloth into my shirt collar and tackle an animal in gravy; something I’d have to dislocate my jaw to eat. The menu is definitely, definitively American. Everything is bigger and better, like Toys ‘R’ Us on a plate. To start, we shared jumbo shrimp and calamari fritti. The portions were perfect….

Apsleys, SW1

There’s a certain pretension that comes with food critique. When starting out, it’s a marvel. I appreciated every opportunity to travel, eat and write. I was putting odder things in my mouth than most Dutch prostitutes — although sea cucumber (a giant slug, not a fruit) could be mistaken for a flaccid businessman. But that’s the deal: digest food, regurgitate words, by any means necessary.  It doesn’t last. Soon enough you find yourself skipping dinner with friends because the restaurant doesn’t bake its own bread or clean its vegetables in holy water. Critics get snobbish and bloated with expectation, like foodie traffic wardens, ready to slap tickets on the slightest gastronomic…

Le Jardin

There are few settings more beautiful than the banks of Lake Geneva, a place where time stands still. So, there could be no better view to gaze over from than the terrace at Le Jardin. Dining out at the Dorchester Collection’s, Le Richemond is, of course, an experience. Head Chef Sylvain Bailly has a certain culinary finesse. He trained for six years with Alain Ducasse and his collaborators. Le Jardin is a Gault et Milau winning restaurant and is listed in the Swiss guide. The menu is local and uses seasonal produce with a focus on fine Italian fare. The dining room was beautiful: crimson and crystal detailed. But with…

The Back Bar

This issue, we look under the carpet at the Tomatin Distillery, located in the Monadhliath Mountains, just south of Inverness. Established in 1897, the distillery is one of the highest in Scotland, at 315 meters above sea level. We get it: you look down on us. Tomatin 14 year old port wood finish single malt. Described as ‘soft and smooth’, the 14-year-old whisky has spent 13 years aging in Bourbon casks and a further one year finishing in Portuguese port pipes, which held Tawny port for between 30 and 40 years. “In recent years we have really started to make our mark in the single malt market with recognition for…

The Back Bar

In the first of a four-part series, the team at the fabled Rummer Hotel in Bristol will be reviewing a selection of whiskys from The Whisky Exchange. This issue, Chelsie Bailey leads Dan Vidowsky and Borbala Csorvasi in a tasting of the historic Glenfarclas 15 and 20 year old. “I should never have switched from Scotch to martinis”. Bogie was only 57 when he died. When he was sick, he was frequently visited by Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy who heard him speak the immortal words the night before his death. Obviously smoking killed him, not the sauce. Livers were issued during the 1900s, made only from carbon fibre, so…

Healthy Spirits

So now, did you see it? Huh? Did you? I hope you threw yourself underneath it, limbs outstretched. I did. I was cautious at first. I mean, it’s been a while, you know. This weekend, however, my pasty flesh remembered what’s like to feel it. When delicious and delicate butterfly kisses of warmth flickered over my skin for the first time in months, my brainbox became awash with thoughts of beer gardens. Many a summer afternoon is whiled away slumped on wicker furniture, pint in hand. The scent of charred meat wafts across a courtyard of punters, tickles my nostrils and, before I know it, I’m wolfing down a burger….

Hartmann’s

I am not a restaurant critic. But my fiancé, Paul, is. I am a scientific researcher (hence my rather straight-to-the-point prose) in the fish biology discipline (specifically trout — important later). In return for agreeing to marry Paul, I often come to be his chosen review date, a treat that just about makes the forthcoming contract worth it. And the reason you are reading my review is because, during our meal at Hartmann’s, Berlin, I felt so compelled by the food (or the too-much wine?) I grabbed the voice memo, snapped plates with my iPhone and duty-bound myself to the task of fluffy food talk. I think I’ll start by getting the…

Jumeirah

When you park your marque in the Jumeirah Carlton Tower’s underground bunker, you pass Phantom nestled next to Ferrari, tucked in beside Aston. It might as well be a private car club. In hindsight, we probably should have let the concierge park our pool car though. However, at the time, a white Ferrari FF was arriving with the usual pomp and ceremony from a well-honed door staff. This is Kensington at its most seductive. The gold gilt and mahogany lobby is refined and unassuming, the staff polite and courteous, with personality too. This makes a change from the usual robotic gofers you find at many London hotels. Having checked in,…

2013 Gift Guide

It can be a chore we know, Christmas shopping is a bore at the best of times, unless you are working to a one for me one for you program. This year we hope to simplify with a little guidance from the team on what works.

Winery Finery

Anna von Bertele Move over, Sauvignon. Try New Zealand Riesling Last weekend I was flicking through a second-hand wine encyclopaedia that was published in 1994. My attention was grabbed by the section on New Zealand. I couldn’t believe that all it contained was one map, two pages of text and no differentiation of regions, just a simple description of the country and emphasis on the fact that their main grape of production is Sauvignon Blanc. This made me start thinking about the change that New Zealand has seen in the past ten years. Ever since Cloudy Bay came in to the spotlight, people fell in love with the fresh, crisp,…

A Mouthful of Madrid

I’d been to the Spanish capital before. It was the summer I graduated, I was twenty-one and me and my group of gal pals tagged it on the end of a honey rum-swigging, cheap, paella-munching trip to music festival Benicassim. Madrid was essentially the last stop on a ten-day blow out before we all went back to our parents’ houses with decent degrees but without jobs. Naturally, the city didn’t hold the most brilliant of memories for me. Amy McNichol tells you where to spend your euros in the Spanish capital Six years on and with meaningful employment, I was back. My word, how differently I felt this time around. Myself and…

Gaucho Tower Bridge

I think that, sadly, it might be time to get off my soapbox. I have pontificated over the health benefits of red meat for some months now and perhaps my electoral candidate sermonising is becoming tiresome to our weary readership. Well, tough I say to the honourable gentleman (waves countryside alliance membership card in the air). Firstly, let’s clear something up: I do not have membership to the CA, not because I don’t support what they stand for, but because I don’t live in the countryside. Having returned some months ago from a central London restaurant review, I decided to do the unthinkable; I posted some snaps of my meal…

The Mark of Excellence

Champagne – has the bubble burst? Mimi Avery of the British wine dynasty that is Averys wine merchants, reviews the current market favourites. Getting bubbles in the first place is an interesting story in itself. The method of producing a secondary fermentation in bottle was, often questionably, discovered by the English in the mid 1500s, when Charles Merret (who now has a Ridgeview English aparkling wine named after him, Merret) added sugar to create the second fermentation. The Methode Champenois for volume production was then perfected by the French: Dom Perignon, a monk, started at the monastery six years after Merret’s work and took forty years to complete the process….

The Dining Room

At last! It’s in vogue to be British! Hoorah (in the non marine sense) to all Henries, let’s all dress head-to-toe in Harris Tweed and celebrate massively, in an incredibly understated miniature fashion, don our best stiff upper lips and swap all Chihuahuas for sizeable hounds immediately. I was reluctantly persuaded to leave the pipe at home and do my very best to behave tonight.  Alright, perhaps I’m a little over excited – but I’m off to The Goring. Once upon a time, not too long ago, The Goring Hotel was born into the blue-blooded heart of Belgravia, a mere brogue’s throw from Buckingham Palace. Like all things regally British,…

Wilks

If you ask the local folks around Bristol, you will find a host of people and the old rags pontificating about the “way things were”. James Wilkins and Christine Vayssade bought the lease on a property on Chandos Road to set up their dream restaurant. It just so happens that the space was previously owned by another couple who ran a highly successful restaurant there for over 30 years. But as I never went to its predecessor, I would be able to dine at Wilks, unabated and untainted. I will fast forward to mid-meal. As I saunter toward the amenities, I notice numerous pictures of James with multiple Asian chefs….

Bangkok: A Culinary Mecca

From street stalls to hipster bars, from single plate meals to exquisite sharing menus, Bangkok will thrill your palate. Former Bangkok dweller Amy McNichol finds out where to dine. Mmm, Thai food! Delicious, right? What could be better than dunking a fistful full of prawn crackers into a polystyrene tub of acidic orange gloop and shovelling them into your trap while they fizz? For mains, it’s a vat of watery, green curry and a brick of tooth-decayingly sweet coconut rice that has been packed in to, and moulded by, its plastic takeaway box. As it flops out onto the plate and smashes like a poorly made sand castle, remember, Thai…