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Showing posts from April, 2006

Baltic, London

Baltic is a Polish restaurant serving middle European food. And if you like alcohol, the varieties offered at the Baltic are quite astonishing (Sorbetska - mango sorbet with champagne and vodka). Airy room with good natural light - especially in the summer months.
What was enjoyable? The marinated herring with blinis and the beef and sausage goulash. Good attentive staff explaining some of the more unusual dishes.
What was not enjoyable? No bread plate. They could have made smaller plates of blinis as canapes. We thought we ordered a plate of blinis with a combination of salmon, mushrooms and herring; three LARGE plates turned up instead...

Modernism, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

What is it? Ever wondered what the word "Modern" really means (in the context of design and culture), pop down to the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington. The current exhibition "Modernism 1914-1939" gives quite a broad and fascinating look at the whole moment then.

What was memorable? An early London Underground map and one of the first fitted kitchens.

The Wolseley, London

The Wolseley (some people pronounce Wolsey) is an elegant brasserie serving delectable classics with a heavy Viennese influence (Wiener Schnitzel, Kaiserschmarren, coffee served with a gulp of water). It's a great place for breakfast, lunch and supper. The clientele varies considerably, from hedge fund managers doing power breakfast to tourist having afternoon tea cakes. Lunch today (day before Good Friday) was a really mix of business people, lady shoppers (before they hit Old Bond Street), tourists (round the corner from Green Park) and locals!

What was enjoyable?
The ambiance - an airy, spacious and expansive hall. All the dishes are prepared well with good quality ingredients. Attentive service without overly fussy. Ah, there does not seem to be a time limit on tables.

What was not enjoyable?
No bread plate. And smoky if you are unlucky to have sat next to a bunch of smokers.

Being dislodged from your dinner table

Some restaurants will say at the time of booking "Oh, we need the table back by 9PM." That's the less-than-polite warning to say there is a time limit. At this point, I will be thinking "I am going to spend a reasonable amount of money at a top restaurant and you are telling me I only have 120 minutes to eat my meal?"

It is ridiculous and I have only experienced this in London - not anywhere else. Don't get me started on "why" restaurants do this. Typically, a sweet looking waiter / waitress will approach your table after dessert and ask whether you would like to take "coffee in the lounge". This is the code word for "your time is up!" Recently, I came across the phrase: "Gentlemen, I have arranged your coffee at the lounge, would you like to retire there now?" at Gordan Ramsay at Claridge's in London.  So what could you do in such situations?

Excuses to hang around:
"Sorry, I don't drink coffee."

Moro, London

What is it?Moro is a restaurant serving food with heavy influence from the Iberian peninsula and North Africa. I was going to say "Spanish cum Moroccan" yet it does not sound quite right. Good honest food and an interesting Spanish wine list - at dinner last night, my friends from New York were quite perplexed by such an unfamiliar wine list!

What was enjoyable? The food - it's always well executed with a lot of wholesome flavour. The service is attentive without being overbearing. And no smoking!!!

What was not enjoyable? No bread plate.

Top Floor of Smiths of Smithfield, London

What is it?Top Floor at Smith of Smithfield is one of the four eating places in this gastro-complex. It is a restaurant, as opposed to the brasserie on the floor below, though I can't really tell the difference as neither have bread plates. Eating in Clerkenwell is always an interesting experience - because it is such a transient place: as my friend and I arrived in the evening, there were still loads of people wondering around the area moving from pub to pub, but by the time we left, the queue for Fabric (dance club that attracts a young-ish crowd) had already formed. Yet during the week, it's a business district where many marketing and design agencies are located. Of course, at 4AM we have all the huge lorries turning up with meat for the London meat and poultry market.

What was enjoyable? A laid back restaurant with a half decent view of the dome of St Paul's Cathedral. Well cooked food without being too gimmicky.
What was not enjoyable? While the Top Floor has a door th…

Patara on Greek Street, London

What is it? A well appointed Thai restaurant with modern deco in the middle of Soho. The quality of cooking at Patara is much higher than the surrounding Thai outfits.
What was enjoyable? It is tucked away from the maddening Soho crowd. Good food with a zing. Good ambiance with background music staying in the background. No rush.
What was not so enjoyable? The staff are slightly clueless about wine.

Where is the "new" luxury?

Where is luxury today? In the old days, luxury could only be had by the few powered / moneyed people - think Darcey in Jane Austen. So the poor and those lower down the social hierarchy had always wanted some of this luxury - a form of transcendental emancipation I guess.

Not so long ago, buying your first Rolex watch meant you have left the lower echelon in society - because you have the money for the physical good and the power to earn the money. But now, luxury goods and services have become cheap (in real economic terms) and anyone could have a slice of it (e.g. Chavs buying Burberry's, Chinese tourists in Louis Vuitton stores in Hong Kong). If we follow the power-emancipation line of argument, then the new luxury will continue to be power-based and perhaps more transient rather than physical and static. Owning a Vertu phone is not a luxury (because it does not free you from anything!), but having the power over a three-star restaurant is - "I want my table tonight and I …

Godron Ramsay at Claridge's, London

What is it? Gordon Ramsay's "diffusion" restaurant at Claridge's Hotel in Central London. The restaurant oozes Art Deco opulence.

What was enjoyable? The pre-dinner snacks - white truffle mousse and taramasalata (no, not together!) served with french toast and italian flat bread. The waiters and waitresses were laid back and not too bossy. Good "Menu Prestige" tasting menu - just the right quantity.

What was not enjoyable? Being asked to take coffee and petit fours at the lounge because our allocated 150 minutes was up! For a dinner at nearly £100 a head, it's a bit of a shock to get that kind of treatment and it's very sad that this situation is endemic in London. Can somebody do something about this?

Nahm at Halkin Hotel, London

What is it? A Thai restaurant set in one of the more secluded and exclusive hotels in London.
What was enjoyable? The Nahm traditional dinner menu where you can enjoy a selection of delectable starters, main dishes and desserts coupled with good service.
What was not enjoyable?
The waiters / waitresses over explain the menu and how you should eat.