Food & Drink

Celeste, SW1

I haven’t been eating out much lately. I’ve been hiding, avoiding terrorism on public transport, and preparing for global economic meltdown and the third world war. You think I’m pulling your bratwurst, but I’ve never penned a more unsmiling opening paragraph to a food review. Except that one about the maître d’, the chambermaid, and the hair in my soup. Actually, that’s not the reason I haven’t been eating out – but it’s more believable than the truth. You see, I took my brother to Pollen Street Social for his birthday, and it fundamentally changed me. It’s frayed the fabric of my being. It’s left me ashamed, victimised, confused, unsure…

Chef Profile: Pierre Koffmann

Pierre Koffmann was born in Tarbes, France, in 1948. After working the kitchens in Strasbourg and Toulon, he relocated to London in 1970, working with Michel Roux and Albert Roux at Le Gavroche. He soon took the role of head chef at the Roux’s Waterside Inn in Bray, in 1972, before finally opening his own restaurant, La Tante Claire, in 1977. Koffmann won much acclaim and many accolades during this time, not least three Michelin stars. After a brief hiatus, Koffmann returned to cooking in 2010, opening the eponymous Koffmann’s at The Berkeley – a far more informal affair, focusing less on Michelin stars and more on the chef’s culinary…

Up amongst the stars at Kozue, Park Hyatt

Amy McNichol My knowledge of Japanese cuisine was only a smidgen above zero when I touched down in Tokyo in October. Despite the popularity of machine-rolled sushi flogged in supermarkets and the flurry of ramen houses that have popped up in recent years, the mass market (me included) is only familiar with a narrow cross section of Japanese cuisine in the UK. With this in mind, I tried to widen my horizons and see what the heck else I could trough during my time there. On my first night in the capital I washed barbecued beef, onions and bean sprouts down with Asahi. That was at a street stall with…

Hawksmoor – SW3

As someone that spent almost a year living in central London, I don’t consider myself an insider or an outsider. I sort of declare guerrilla warfare on London once a month, opting for a skirmish campaign of fast cars, drinking and debauchery all crammed into one night. Then, having enacted my raucous campaign of lavish and salacious behaviour, I retreat with the spoils of war, back to sleepy and secluded Somerset. Usually with a weighty hangover in tow and a dent in the Dunhill wallet. London, for me, is a good time girl, a fille de joie, enjoyed that much more due to my fleeting relationship in her gin-soaked bosom….

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…

Gillrays Steakhouse, London, SE1

It’s a paradox that, during a recession, high-end restaurants thrive and less expensive restaurants fail. And, in moments of hardship, there’s one plate of food that out-eats any other. Steak is a sign of the times – very us, very double-dip. It’s the most a man can get for his money without feeling shafted by the system. Hard times should theoretically be punctuated by frugality and abstinence – soup, vegetables, grain and off-cuts. Yet, in practice, there’s nothing better than chowing down on the perfectly-pink pomposity of a steak. It’s adversity with bone marrow and mustard. Gillray’s, the new offering at London’s Marriot County Hall, epitomises everything about recessional appetite…

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….

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…