Review: Baita Piè Tofana, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy

Dining whilst skiing is hit and miss – mountain restaurants worth merit are often hard to come by with many milking the tourist trade. However, many of the rifugios (huts) lining the pistes of Cortina d’Ampezzo offer some truly exceptional Northern Italian cuisine, allowing you to indulge in the afternoon sunshine in your grubby ski clothes!

Much has been written about Baita Piè Tofana in travel guides and blogs and its modern take on mountain cuisine is highly regarded. Situated at Rumerlo the restaurant is easily accessed by car or from the slopes.

Baita Piè Tofana is exceptional. Eating there twice during our stay confirmed the food was not only the best in the mountains but perhaps the best in Cortina. Service was friendly and professional and the atmosphere sublime – nothing quite compares to enjoying elegant cuisine at the side of a mountain, basking in the sunshine in your bulky ski clothes. Be sure to sit on the terrace outside: if it does start to get a little chilly waiters are quickly dispatched with blankets and patio heaters.

Baita Piè Tofana - Scallops

 

Little fault could be picked with any of the food. A special of Scallops was no exception. Simply baked in the shell with a little rosemary and panko breadcrumbs, the crunchy breadcrumbs were a great counterpoint to the soft scallop and a hint of crisp rosemary lurking at the bottom of each shell was an aromatic wonder.

Foie Gras terrine was served with a crunchy but not too sweet walnut and caramelised pear salad and brioche-like bread which tasted exactly like monster munch (much more delicious than it sounds). Rich and comforting – perfect for undoing all that good skiing exercise!

Baita Piè Tofana - Oxtail Ravioli

 

Homemade ravioli of oxtail with caramelised onions is one of the most glorious things I have ever eaten. Perfectly thin pasta surrounding sticky, sweet braised oxtail capped off with caramelised onions which were neither too sweet nor bitter. This was the food I had come to Italy to experience.

Baita Piè Tofana - Beetroot Ravioli

 

The local speciality is beetroot ravioli and various variations can be found at the majority of restaurants in town. At Baita Piè Tofana the sweet, earthy morsels bathed in a poppy seed and butter sauce finished with parmesan and black pepper. The poppy seeds and parmesan stopping the ravioli from being overly sweet.

Baita Piè Tofana - Rabbit

 

Ordering rabbit was met with responses of “rodger…rodger the rabbit” from the waiters – thankfully this did not put me off. Leg rolled and stuffed with liver was tender with the liver irony fresh. Roasted rack and foreleg was equally as soft and the accompanying sauce gamey and sweet. Served with some of the most butter laden mash I have eaten, this was a delicious plate.

Fillet steak with speck was perfectly cooked with a nice charred exterior, the speck not too salty or overpowering as can often be the case.

Suckling pig loin, with a strong porky flavour was served with beautifully crisp roast potatoes and fried red onions. Osso Bucco with saffron risotto was very good – a huge chunk of veal shin braised so long its fibres were strewn throughout the rich sauce.

Baita Piè Tofana - Ginger Dessert

 

Dessert of ginger ice cream in an amazingly thin basket with dried crisps of fruit may have been too fiery for some, but was a soothing accompaniment to the baking afternoon sun.

Mousse of passionfruit and raspberry was ridiculously light, the lightest mousse imaginable. Served in a tall martini glass, the sharpness of passionfruit and raspberry was curtailed by a sweet yogurty top layer.

Baita Piè Tofana  - Chocolate Fondue

 

Chocolate fondue was the ultimate finish to a decadent lunch – the fresh fruit making me feel slightly less guilty about the three rich preceding courses!

Baita Piè Tofana is the ultimate mountain restaurant. Beautiful food in comforting surroundings which succeed in making you feel warm and welcome – I only wish this level of cooking adorned the side of every piste!

Baita Piè Tofana, Cortina d’Ampezzo

www.baitapietofana.it

Food (For Four): €200

Dress Code: Casual

Reservations: Recommended, Essential during Peak Season

Recommended: Yes

Review: Restaurant Tivoli, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy

Restaurant Tivoli

 

Cortina d’Ampezzo is not your typical ski resort. Whilst the skiing is good and plentiful, this small town in the centre of the Dolomites is famed for its reputation as a culinary hotspot – where the skis are left behind in favour of wining and dining.

Tivoli, the only michelin-starred restaurant in town, is prized for its creative take on classic mountain dishes. The quaint and intimate dining room, adorned with wood and chintzy charm is a short 10 minute drive from the centre of town – just next to Socrepes. Visiting off-season meant a table was easy to secure and the dining room was only half-full – I am assured this is not the case during the height of season.

Service was good – a meet and greet from the chef and well-informed and personable front of house. The acting Sommelier was great and carried the waiting staff when the language barrier raised issues. Praise must be given for the choice of red wine glasses – their fluted tops and bulging middles were glorious!

Too much mountain eating meant the six course tasting menu was off the cards – four courses from the extensive à la carte proved more than sufficient.

Restaurant Tivoli - Foie Gras

 

A selection of foie gras to start would easily have fed all four of us. A light foie gras mousse with raspberry gel was perfectly balanced – sharp and sweet and was delicious spread across the accompanying sweet bread which had the faintest whiff of pickled onion. This alone would have made a great dish. Foie Gras terrine with bitter mandarin was good as were the accompanying berry compotes. The hot liver on toast was a little uninspiring although perfectly cooked and the sliced, cold liver seemed superfluous. Although well executed and tasty, the dish was too indulgent even for me (a foie gras fiend with an overly-healthy appetite).

Deep fried egg with spinach, dried tomatoes and cream sauce was good. Perhaps a little too much spinach and not enough sauce, the perfectly cooked egg was the predominant flavour.

Restaurant Tivoli - Risotto

 

Risotto of morel mushrooms, truffles and black pepper was very light. Despite a plentiful topping of morels and truffle sauce, the risotto tasted incredibly light and was well cooked although failed to pack enough of a mushroom and truffle punch.

Homemade spaghettini with crab was good. The crab fresh and the pasta bound with a rich shellfish stock – perfectly seasoned. Although a few stray pieces of shell did put me off a little.

Restaurant Tivoli - Lobster

 

Lobster with rice was the least favourite dish of the evening. The rice was a little undercooked and the lobster a little over and under-seasoned. The lobster jus was good but there was too little on the plate. The rice failed to deliver flavour and was not befitting of the mighty crustacean.

Restaurant Tivoli - Venison

 

Mountain Deer was the finest piece of venison we had ever eaten. Cooked sous vide – the fillet was perfectly rare and incredibly tender. The accompanying celeriac purée was very well made but overpowered the venison, as did the mustard sauce which proved too pungent. The quality of venison could have made for a magnificent dish had it been allowed to shine through.

Veal Loin was served with cured and slow-cooked cheek and shin. The loin very tender and flavoursome, the cheek and shin could have done with more cooking and less curing. Veal jus was light and flavoursome and the Robuchon-esque mashed potato delightful.

Pork belly with beetroot was very simple. The pork was well-cooked but the skin would have benefitted from extra crisping. With only a little beetroot, light jus and two roast potatoes to accompany the dish was too simple and unexciting.

Dinner at Tivoli was a rewarding experience and made a pleasing change to numerous dinners of hearty mountain cuisine. Whilst some dishes failed to inspire, others outshone dishes served at other top restaurants in the area. The origin of the restaurant’s dishes are most definitely in the mountain and you will see similar dishes at other restaurants. However, few others execute these dishes with the lightness of touch that is achieved at Tivoli. Whether visiting Cortina for ski or après-ski be sure to visit.

Restaurant Tivoli, Cortina d’Ampezzo

www.ristorantetivolicortina.it

Food (For Four): €350

Dress Code: Smart Casual

Reservations: Recommended, Essential during Peak Season

Recommended: Yes

Review: La Favorita Delivered, Edinburgh

It has never crossed my mind to review a takeaway, but after ordering from La Favorita I had to share. Mounting deadlines and an increasing workload are my usual excuses to order takeaway – more often than not something I regret! This time was different.

La Favorita (part of the family owned Vittoria Group) is a famed log-fired pizza restaurant which is very popular in the capital. Although I have never dined in the restaurant (at Leith Walk) I sampled their delicious pizzas at a music festival – freshly prepared and cooked in their converted van! When I heard they were doing home delivery I jumped at the chance!

A scaled down ‘courier friendly’ version of their restaurant menu offers a great selection of starters (hot and cold), pizza, pasta and homemade desserts. Their fantastic website offers a pre-order facility – which I would recommend using as I hear things can get pretty busy.

Pizza Zia Rosa

Pizza Zia Rosa. A beautifully crisp base, impossibly thin in the middle with a slight chew – just as it should be. A classic topping of tomato, mozzarella, roasted chicken, sweet italian peppers and cherry tomatoes. The pizza was delicious – just as I remembered it. Fresh and surprisingly light.

Arancini di Rosa

Arancini di Rosa – crisp risotto balls filled with mincemeat, mozzarella and tomato. Crispy and delicious with a deep, rich flavour. A serving of two is a meal in itself, but perfect for two as a starter.

La Favorita has changed my opinion of takeaways. Deliciously fresh food delivered straight to your door (and on time) – there is little more you could wish for! For those lazy nights, La Favorita is my new takeaway of choice.

La Favorita Delivered

lafavoritadelivered.com

Food (For two): £18.90 (Inc £2 Delivery)

Recommended: Yes

Review: Jamie’s Italian, Edinburgh

I have long been a fan of Jamie Oliver and admire what he has done for the home cook. Many young cooks owe a great debt to Oliver for introducing them to the world of cooking. His chain of casual italian diners, Jamie’s Italian, has been a runaway success – with 30 restaurants in the UK and 5 further afield.

Jamie’s Italian has recently opened a branch in Edinburgh. Located in the historic Assembly Rooms, a recent refit has turned what was once wasted space into a chintzy, rustic dining space with a suitable smattering of bistro marble and tiles. Split over three levels, the large restaurant features open antipasti and finishing kitchens. The space was packed to the rafters on a Friday lunchtime, so be sure to make a reservation or get in early.

Service was well-informed and friendly, if a little cliché. In line with Jamie Oliver’s style of cooking the menu was rustic with a myriad of options. The food ethos was most definitely modern italian – sharing planks to start, homemade pastas and italian classics.

Crispy Squid

Crispy Squid was good. The batter was light and crisp and the accompanying sauce had a nice kick of mustard. Sliced chilli and fresh lemon helped to liven things up.

Chestnut Mushrooms

Baked Chestnut Mushrooms were served in a thin bread dough – crisp on the out, soft underneath. A great idea for a vessel to hold the mushrooms whilst giving it more body. The cheese scattered and melted on top could have been a little stronger and more mushrooms wouldn’t have gone a miss. This needed a big crack of black pepper to bring it alive.

Turkey Milanese

Turkey Milanese stuffed with Prosciutto with Fried Egg, Shaved Truffle and Pea Shoots. I adore traditional Veal Milanese – it is one of my favourite dishes. Unfortunately, this Milanese failed to live up to expectations. Despite being mammoth, the turkey escalope was a tad tough and the dubbed prosciutto failed to shine through. The fried egg was a pleasant addition as was the truffle – which did not overpower. More pea shoots and fresh lemon would not have gone amiss. My biggest gripe, however, was the lack of seasoning. The dish (apart from the truffle) was bland – which is a great shame because the pairing of the egg and truffle with the escalope is a fantastic idea.

Polenta Chips

‘Famous’ Polenta Chips were adorned with rosemary and parmesan. Beautifully crisp, the interior was nice and fluffy. Unfortunately someone had been too stingy with the salt.

Burger

The Jamie’s Italian Burger contained a mixture of chuck and flank steak – served with smoked mozzarella, mortadella, onions and chillies. The burger itself was well-flavoured and nicely chargrilled. The texture was dry but passable when combined with the other ingredients – some form of sauce or mayonnaise would have helped.

‘Posh’ Chips

A side of Posh Chips were ordered for the burger. Served with parmesan and truffle oil – the latter ingredient was mysteriously absent. The chips were a big letdown. Undercooked and soggy, they had managed to soak up much of the cooking fat without turning remotely crisp.

The style of food served at Jamie’s Italian is sure to please the majority of palates. Rustic and comforting, the dishes sound fantastic on paper but unfortunately fail to truly deliver on flavour. Under seasoning was the primary culprit for blandness on my visit – as the quality and combination of ingredients were good. A lively atmosphere and pleasing food is great for a quick lunch. However, I am unsure I would trust Jamie’s Italian for supper just yet.

Jamie’s Italian, Edinburgh

www.jamieoliver.com/italian/edinburgh

Food (For Two): £40

Dress Code: Casual

Reservations: Recommended

Recommended: For a casual lunch

Review: Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Royal Hospital Road, London

Ten Michelin Stars, Four Days – Part Four (of Four!)

Ask me what my favourite restaurant is and you will be met with a dumbfounded look. This straight-forward question is a minefield of broken expectations and countless forkfuls for the true foodie. Until now, I would have stared at you in disbelief – unable to comprehend how you could have asked such a painful question.

I have now seen the light. No more subconscious wrangling of heart over mind. No more digging to the deep recesses of my brain desperately searching for a missing flavour. The response is automatic, I no longer have to think.

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay is my favourite restaurant.

I first visited Royal Hospital Road four years ago. The small restaurant left a big impression – absolutely faultless, show-stopping cooking matched by the finest service you will ever receive, anywhere. I subsequently dined last year and again last month.

The conservative dining room, small and intimate, is a wonder. Koffman-era mirrors adorn the beige walls and tables appear generously spaced. Atmosphere is delivered in spades. Before jumping to the food, I must take time to praise front of house. Headed by the marvelous Jean-Claude, the team are perhaps the most passionate you will ever have the pleasure of dining with. Service is discrete and professional yet admirably friendly. Service of this standard truly makes a meal and plays a fundamental role in determining a restaurant’s caliber.

The food? Incredible. Classic technique and, for the main, classic flavour combinations. Attention to detail is exemplary. The à la carte and prestige (7 course) menus showcase the best of these classical dishes, including the Restaurant’s signatures. The newly introduced ‘Seasonal Inspiration’ menu (7 course) is fabulous – using the best of seasonal produce to create impeccable dishes with under-used ingredients and flavour combinations.

I sampled the menu prestige on my first visit (I just had to) and the à la carte on my second. This visit I ate from the seasonal inspiration menu – the best of all three. The food was, as expected, faultless. I detail the most memorable dishes.

Amuse-Bouche

Amuse-Bouche of tomato essence was incredibly pure and refreshing. Beautifully presented.

Scottish Lobster Tail with lardo, vegetables à la grecque and coral vinaigrette was also refreshing. Lobster not quite as well cooked as at Alain Ducasse; however, the overall dish was far better executed. Good acidity was balanced by the rich lardo.

Trotter, Sweetbread, Apple

Pig’s Trotter stuffed with Veal Sweetbread, Parsley, Dijon Mustard, Warm Apple Sauce and ‘Waldorf Salad’. A standout dish. The pigs trotter meltingly tender and packed full of flavour. The skin had a texture similar to a Koffmann preparation and was perfect. Sweetbread mixture was well cooked – the flavour not lost amongst the other strong ingredients. Apple sauce had a good amount of acidity and the Dijon mustard gave richness and a little heat without overpowering.

Grouse, Liver, Bacon, Chestnut

Roasted Grouse with Trompette de la Mort, Livers on Toast, Alsace Bacon, Muscat Grapes and Smoked Chestnut Purée. Grouse was beautifully tender and expertly cooked. Liver threw a strong punch of iron which was curtailed by the grape. Bacon wasn’t too salty. Game chips were perfectly crisp. A beautiful, seasonal dish. Grouse is fast becoming my favourite game and was star of the show – the best grouse dish I have tasted. The perfect accompaniment to a 2004 Chateau Margaux!

Pork Belly, Loin, Shoulder

Suckling Pig – Crispy Belly, Roasted Loin, Spiced Shoulder Sausage, Chou Farci with Crushed Potatoes and Spring Onions. This was a substitution dish from the menu prestige. Quality of the pork was incredible – sweet and tender. The belly was most impressive. Apple (raw and roasted) offered good texture. A very comforting, classic dish, expertly executed.

Black Fig, Stilton, Cobnut, Verjus

‘Cheese Course’ of Black Fig, Colstone Basset Stilton, Cobnut Granola and Ice Verjus. Brilliant. Black fig was sticky sweet and contrasted well with the salty stilton (which was fresh, rather than strong). Granola was super crunchy with real earthiness. Verjus was not overly acidic. A great alternative to the traditional cheese option.

Smoked Chocolate, Blood Orange, Cardamom

Smoked Chocolate Cigar, Blood Orange, Cardamom Ice Cream. A perfect end to the meal. Rich with incredible attention to detail. The chocolate perfectly tempered. The smoked element did not show too much, but was evident. Cardamom ice cream was glorious.

Petit fours were amazing, the standout being small balls of super-sweet strawberry ice cream encased in white chocolate.

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay is delightful. The food, the service, the atmosphere – you could not hope nor wish to experience better. Alongside The Waterside Inn, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay is flying the flag for British Gastronomy. The food may not break too many boundaries, but if impeccable cooking is what you desire, you could not find a more suited restaurant. It will take a restaurant of mighty caliber to knock Restaurant Gordon Ramsay off my top spot. If there is one place you should dine – it is Royal Hospital Road.

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

www.gordonramsay.com/royalhospitalroad/

Food (For Five): £775

Dress Code: Smart (Jackets for men)

Reservations: Essential

Recommended: Yes

Review: Ochiltree’s Dining, Abbotsford Visitors Centre, Scottish Borders

The famous home of Sir Walter Scott, Abbotsford House, has recently constructed an impressive, modern visitors centre adjacent to the main house. Opened in August, the centre houses a shop, exhibition and restaurant. The restaurant, Ochiltree’s Dining, is currently open for brunch and lunch but plans to open for supper in the near future.

A large, modern space with café style seating, light streams through the full height windows – the space is impressive. Service is informal but of a high restaurant standard. Ochiltrees operates both a café and lunch menu. Great emphasis is placed on provenance and seasonality, with an elegantly simple menu. Hoping for a relaxing sunday lunch, I was delighted when a separate Sunday menu was offered.

Goats Cheese, Apple, Walnut

Goats Cheese Bon Bons were paired with apple and walnut salad and apple purée. The Bon Bons were great – soft and creamy goats cheese which did not overpower the apple and walnut. Apple purée was stunning – a hint of acidity and perfectly smooth. Beautifully presented and equally as delicious.

Ham Hock Terrine, Beetroot, Raisin

Ham Hock terrine was good. The accompanying beetroot relish sweet and sticky, working in harmony with the slightly smoky terrine. The ham hock was very tender and full of flavour. A big hunk of brioche on the side was just what was needed to mop up the raisin purée. Again, this was a beautiful dish – great pride had been taken in layering the terrine.

Sunday Roast Rib Eye

Traditional Sunday lunch – glorious! Rare Rib-Eye of local Borders beef was exquisite – tender and full of flavour. The Yorkshire pudding was ginormous and fluffy and the vegetables perfectly cooked. Beef jus was sweet and rich, much better than gravy which can be a little heavy at lunchtime.

Pineapple Mousse, Coconut Sorbet, Pina Colada

Pineapple Mousse, Coconut Sorbet and Pina Colada. Nicely refreshing after such a filling main course. The mousse was good but contained a little too much gelatin. The coconut sorbet was incredibly smooth and packed a punch. The ‘Pina Colada’ was delicious (but then it always was my favorite!). The dish was a touch too sweet – some extra acidity would have been welcomed. Nevertheless it was a good finish to a cracking sunday lunch.

Ochiltree’s Dining is a super restaurant (to call it a café is belittling). A short, simple menu is perfectly suited to the fresh surroundings. The quality of cooking is impressive and modern. I will be sure to return for a lazy Sunday lunch and will be keeping my fingers crossed it opens for supper!

Ochiltree’s Dining

www.scottsabbotsford.co.uk/eating-and-shopping

Food (For Three): £70

Dress Code: Casual

Reservations: Not Essential

Recommend: Yes

Review: The Caddy Mann, Jedburgh, Scottish Borders

The Caddy Mann has long been favored for its great, honest cooking and homely atmosphere. Given that it is only a 20 minute drive from home, it is surprising I had never been! Featured in the Good Food Guide 2013, the small restaurant is situated in a quaint cottage near Jedburgh, in the heart of the Scottish Borders.

Surrounded by antiques and local art work, sitting next to a roaring wood fired stove – you can’t help but feel at home. The informal service matches the surroundings perfectly and puts you instantly at ease.

Chef Ross Horrocks showcases the best of local produce in a menu which changes daily. The food is hearty, with a strong emphasis on game and meat. A choice of 10 starters and 10 main courses (all of which sounded delicious) left us stuck for choice.

Pigeon & Hare

Well cooked pigeon was sliced expertly thin and served atop a Hare Ragù. The hare packed a big punch – poached in red wine with a hint of rosemary. The pigeon still held its own, tasting wonderfully rich. Little dices of swede added to the autumnal feel!

Roe Deer Liver, Homemade Sausage

Roe Deer Liver was delightful. The liver was perfectly cooked, blackened on the outside, rare in the middle. The homemade sausage had the taste of a great traditional chipolata and when paired with the accompanying black pudding mash, made for a very comforting dish.

Lamb Loin and Shoulder

The Lamb Loin was perhaps the most tender I have eaten in a very long time. Well cooked and clearly rested for a suitably long time, the lamb had been treated with respect. The slow cooked shoulder still retained its cannon like shape but fell apart at the merest sight of a fork. The roasted baby onions added great sweetness, balancing the savory sauce. Perhaps the sauce could have been a little richer to help it stand up against the lamb. A simple but delicious dish.

Pork Four Ways

Pork Four Ways was inventive and well executed. All four pieces of pig were cooked to perfection – the fillet blushing pink, the cheek beautifully gelatinous, the belly meltingly tender and the crackling incredibly moreish! Apple and cinnamon purée was perfectly sweet yet acidic. The jus was a little cold but tasted great.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

The sight of Sticky Toffee Pudding on any menu takes me straight back to my childhood – where I would order it everywhere I went. When the pudding was dubbed as ‘Our Famous’ and served with homemade ice cream, I got a little over-excited! The pudding was perfect. Beautifully light and fluffy yet deep and rich. The toffee sauce was on the cusp of bitterness – just as it should be, balancing the sweetness of the ice cream and pudding perfectly. This was a big portion – but I had no problem in polishing off the lot! Only a strong sense of self-restraint stopped me asking for seconds.

Lemon Posset with meringue and lemon mousse/set custard and ice cream was also delectable. The meringue was delicious, if a little too chewy and the posset sweet and suitably rich!

The Caddy Mann is a charming little place. Great, honest, traditional food served in homely surroundings. Everything was delicious and comforting. I am ashamed that it has taken me this long to visit this gem – but rest assured it will not take me as long to return.

The Caddy Mann Restaurant

www.caddymann.com

Food (For Two): £60

Dress Code: Casual

Reservations: Recommended for end of week

Recommend: Yes

Review: Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, London

Four days, 10 Michelin stars – Part 3!

Supper at Marcus Wareing has been on my to-do list ever since he left Petrus and set up on his own at The Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge. With an abundance of restaurants from which to choose in London, staying at The Berkeley provided the impetus to visit for dinner on a Monday evening.

Access to the opulent dining room is through the hotel’s caramel room (not ideal). The restaurant is warm and inviting, decorated with deep reds and chrome accents. Tables are well spaced; however, there is a long walk to the hotel toilets. Service was formal but friendly. Most diners are offered the opportunity to visit the kitchen once finished their meal – I urge you to do so, it is a wonderful environment and the sight of the chef’s table made me green with envy!

After a week of fine-dining our waistbands were at breaking point and it was doubtful if we could have given a two star tasting menu the justice it deserves. We opted instead for the seasonal À La Carte, but still managed to sneak in an optional cheese course! The food was delightful. Classic technique and beautiful marriage of flavours.

Portland Crab Salad

Portland Crab Salad with Radish and Cucumber was deliciously light and sweet. Accompanying ‘toast’ provided good texture against the soft crab. The crab was definitely the star of the show, the cucumber surprisingly did not wash away any flavour. The only negative was a little bit of shell which had slipped through the net, an excusable mistake.

Mackerel with Greengage and Onion

Charred Mackerel with Greengages and Onions was an outstanding dish – most definitely the dish of the evening. The mackerel skin was beautifully blackened yet the flesh perfectly cooked. Long forgotten greengages were an inspired addition maintaining a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. The accompanying onions were sweet and moreish, putting me in mind of a summer barbecue. A little cream which was slightly soured rounded off a stunning plate of food. We should all eat more mackerel.

Grouse with Blackberry and Apple

Grouse with Blackberry and Apple was well executed. The grouse was well cooked and the skin on the leg deliciously crisp. The blackberries and apples offset the rich, sweet jus well – the apples maintaining their bite. The accompanying bread sauce with chives was a triumph – a real kick of oniony chive and deliciously smooth, perfect. This dish was very satisfying and I have since recreated at home with Venison.

Lamb was also well executed – the lamb evenly pink. Perhaps the jus was a little strong for the sweet lamb, but this was somewhat curtailed by the accompanying vegetables and cubes of bacon.

Lemon, Meringue and Ice Tea

Lemon, Meringue and Ice Tea – three of my favorite things, all in one dish! Lemon curd was sandwiched between two impossibly thin sheets of pastry. Two large slices of curd was a little rich but was delicious. Crisp meringue was very sweet, which helped dampen the lemon a little. The ice tea granita (sprinkled over table-side) was very good – a delicate floral flavour.

Petit Fours (Round Two!)

The first round of petit fours were amazing – you must try Marcus’ egg custard tart at least once! After visiting the kitchen I was given a little birthday treat! Although I was at bursting point, I had managed to save a little room – the hazelnut ice cream was delicious as were the little cakes!

Marcus Wareing most definitely deserves two stars. The service and surroundings were professional and welcoming and the food was faultless. Beautifully precise cooking and perfect marriage of flavours old and new. Most definitely worth a visit, I only wish I had room for the tasting menu!

Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley

www.marcus-wareing.com

Food (For Four): £345

Dress Code: Smart

Reservations: Essential

Recommend: Yes

Review: The Gardener’s Cottage, Edinburgh

 

I have been itching to visit The Gardener’s Cottage since its opening in June. My less than subtle hints finally paid off – my friends kindly treated me to birthday brunch this afternoon!

Nestled in Royal Terrace Gardens, the cottage is co-owned by chefs Dale Mailley and Edward Murray, who both have  commendable and illustrious backgrounds. First impressions don’t get much better – the quaint listed cottage is flanked by rows of fresh herbs and vegetables. Inside is a true treasure – diners are communally seated at great wooden tables in two small dining rooms, the room on the left commanding a front row view of the small kitchen. Decor is simple and charming.

Great emphasis is placed on integrity and quality of ingredients – the simple but satisfying cooking reflecting this ethos. The restaurant operates a daily changing set menu for lunch and dinner, with a limited choice for brunch.

Homemade Tagliatelle with Black Pudding and Walnuts was delicious. The pasta beautifully light (no mean feat) and the crumbled black pudding not overpowering. The wonderful flavour of charred walnuts was joined by the faintest whiff of leek.

 

Dressed crab was traditional and simple but satisfying – save for the few pieces of shell astray in the fresh meat. The quality of crab was second to none, gloriously sweet. Perhaps this would have benefitted from a big chunk of the lovely bread I spied in the kitchen. Mutton stew was equally as good.

Pear tartlet with cinnamon custard was light – the pastry perfectly thin and crisp. A touch more cinnamon wouldn’t have gone a miss.

The Gardener’s Cottage is refreshingly simple. The service informal and the food satisfying. Expert sourcing of the best ingredients is commendable and should be highlighted on the menus. Communal dining may not be for everyone but it is perfectly suited to the small and relaxed space. The Gardener’s Cottage is a welcome addition to a city with a glut of pretentious restaurants. For a comforting lunch or supper, you would be hard pressed to find much better in the Capital.

The Gardener’s Cottage

www.thegardenerscottage.co

Dress Code: Casual

Reservations: Recommended

Recommend: Yes

Review: L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Covent Garden, London

Four days, 10 Michelin stars – Part 2!

I first ate at Joel Robuchon around two years ago and vowed to return. The two Michelin starred restaurant is spread over three floors – operating two dining rooms and a bar/lounge.

We dined in ‘La Cuisine’ on our first visit – a beautifully appointed room on the first floor, decked out like the kitchen from your dreams, diners sit at traditional tables and have a clear view of the small finishing kitchen. This visit; however, saw us dining in ‘L’Atelier’ – a red and black japanese inspired wonder with a choice of counter or high table seating which backs on to an open kitchen full of busy craftsmen. We had a fantastic visit first time round so expectations were high.

Firstly, praise must be given to front of house. You are made to feel instantly welcome, as if dining in your local. Service is professional and attentive yet relaxed – the perfect balance. The sommelier is a character and offers some excellent recommendations.

In addition to the usual A La Carte and Tasting menus, we were offered a ‘Potato’ Tasting menu – showcasing the versatile tuber at the height of its season. Three opted for the traditional tasting, one for the potato. The food was, as expected, fantastic. A beautiful mix of classic preparations and modern flavour combinations with an asian influence. I truthfully struggled to find any fault – the food more than lived up to expectations. I could write all day about the beautiful food we ate so memorable dishes follow.

Lobster Salad, Artichokes, Citrus Vinaigrette

Scottish Lobster Salad, Artichokes and Citrus Vinaigrette was delightful. Perfectly cooked and seasoned lobster tail and braised artichokes. The citrus vinaigrette was very tart but did not overpower. Chicory helped offer texture. The lobster was not quite as well cooked as that at Alain Ducasse, but this is nit-picking.

Cherry Gazpacho, Ewes Milk Ice Cream, Pistachio

Cherry Gazpacho with Ewe’s Milk Ice Cream and Pistachio was a substitution course on the Potato Tasting Menu (one of our party has a poultry allergy). Decadently covered in gold leaf, the ewe’s milk ice cream was beautifully smooth and fresh, tempering the prevalent cherry flavour. A well-balanced and refreshing dish.

Sea bass, Lemongrass & Fondue Leeks

Sea bass, Lemongrass and Fondue Leeks was perhaps a little on the salty side for some – but perfect for me. Beautifully cooked fish which held up against the strong sauce.

Gnocchi with a Fricassée of Mushrooms

Another dish from the Potato Tasting Menu, Gnocchi with Fricassée of Mushrooms. Perhaps the lightest and most flavoursome gnocchi we had ever tasted. The fricassée not overpowering with a subtle aroma of wild mushrooms. The accompanying ‘tuile’ was so light it all but dissolved on the tongue.

Quail stuffed with Foie Gras, Truffle Potatoes

Free Range Quail Stuffed with Foie Gras and Truffle Mashed Potatoes was decadent. The quail perfectly cooked, remaining moist from the chunk of pink foie gras nestled in the centre. The truffle mash was strong with truffle. As the dish was so simple, these three flavours (with the help of a little jus) were matched to perfection, not one outshone the other and the quail was rightfully the star of the show.

Confit Veal Cheek, Spiced Thai Jus, Crunchy Vegetables

Saving the best until last – Confit Veal Cheek, Spiced Thai Jus, Crunchy Vegetables. Quite possibly the best plate of food I have ever had the good fortune of eating. The veal cheek was meltingly tender, but still retained its structure – real depth of flavour without overpowering, somewhere between pork shoulder and beef shin. The spiced thai jus was to die for – a big punch of chilli but with subtle undertones of lemongrass and ginger. The crunchy vegetables had been perfectly julienned and gave fantastic contrast against the soft veal. It is not possible to sum up in words how truly delicious this dish was.

Joel Robuchon was an amazing experience and I feel I will extol its virtues forever more! They have hit the nail on the head – perfect service matched with perfect food in wonderfully eclectic surroundings. Words cannot do the quality of food justice. It is refreshing to dine in a restaurant once every so often that raises your expectations of dining out and forces you to question food you have eaten in the past. I cannot recommend enough.

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon

http://www.joelrobuchon.co.uk

Food (For Four): £470

Dress Code: Smart Casual (Jackets not required for gentlemen)

Reservations: Essential

Recommend: Yes