Hand and Flowers

What’s better after a five hour country walk than to sit down for a nice long pub lunch? That’s what we thought too and after the long Henley to Marlow walk, what better pub lunch than the Michelin-starred Hand and Flowers that I remember being so good (and popular) when I worked in Marlow.

Making a reservation is definitely recommended for any weekend visit and I counted ourselves lucky for getting a table outside. The dark and storm weather threatened to cause further trouble to our dining experience although nothing multiple golf-sized umbrellas and our waterproof jackets couldn’t handle. Our walking gear prepared us better than the outdoor table of four nearby, whose shrieks indicated ineffective umbrella coverage.

After ordering, the waitresses brought out warm bread from the oven and some of the largest white bait fish I’ve ever seen. My favourite was the warm soda bread with its super crisp crunch and delicious crumb the perfect start to our meal.

The umbrellas above helped keep us dry (when we expanded them of course).

The special dish for the day was prepared for the Great British Menu and represented a take on the classic Scotch Egg though made with much finer ingredients including a quails egg and then surrounded by crayfish meat instead of standard sausage meat.

We definitely needed rehydrating after our long walk, and there’s nothing that Pimms can’t fix on a “summer” day like this.

Here’s the beautifully presented Crayfish Scotch Egg on a bed of, what I think was, watercress made to look like a golf ball lost on a golf course. They served the egg with a tiny bucket filled with mayonnaise.

Above is the picture of the interior to the scotch egg.

I ordered the fish as my main, and served with a brown butter sauce was delicious, if not a little bit heavily seasoned.

Fortunately the amazingly green pea soup helped add some warmth and vibrancy to the entire meal.

Name: Hand and Flowers
Found at: 126 West Street, Marlow, SL7 2BP
Website: http://www.thehandandflowers.co.uk/

Tom Aikens

I managed to get a really great deal which effectively meant paying almost half price for dining at Tom Aikens well respected restaurant.

Located in South Kensington down a quiet street, the interior is stark and modern. Unlike many other places in London, tables aren’t jam-packed together and perhaps that’s really in anticipation of the enjoyable meal to come.

The bread serving was quite impressive with a selection of six or seven different types – not that we tried all of them. I particularly enjoyed the olive bread although they had a polenta bread, buttermilk bread, sesame bread, and sundried tomato. I think they came around two or three times to offer us the wonderous little rolls.

The amuse was a trio of different things including a little cheese croquette, shot of basil and tomato soup and a gel filled with something I cannot remember.

The starter, effectively a ceviche, yet labelled as Marinated Scallops, lemon oil, lardo crudo was lovely. All very thin delicate wisps of food, and despite not being a fan of lardo, its creaminess really worked well with the delicate scallop flavours.

Next up, Cured Foie Gras, pickled mushrooms, foie gras mousse, Sauternes jelly was a wonderous combination of many earthy flavours. I particularly liked the mushroom jelly that was so small yet really strong flavoured.

The next course, John Dory Fillet, roast cauliflower purée, brown butter, smoked eel came impeccably cooked. The fish flaking lightly as a just-cooked fish should be and, me, always a sucker for smoked eel enjoying every single last bite.

My sister enjoyed the Sea Bass poached in black olive oil, pickled fennel and artichoke, black olive crumb although I don’t think it was impressive as it could have been.

My main, Loin of Rhug Estate Lamb marinated in ewes cheese, aligot potato, dried green olive was perfect. Nicely cooked, pink and tender with a really enjoyable plate of food.

Although offered a cheese course, we started noticing how full we were from the richness of the food. So we moved on to dessert, the first being Fresh Coconut, coconut crème, watermelon, mint syrup. It was a refreshing dish, with a subtle coconut flavour and summery flavours and textures.

The final dessert, a Passion Fruit Jelly, vanilla pannacotta, passion fruit granité was definitely my favourite. Creamy panna cotta, tangy passionfruit flavours and a final refreshing granité.

It’s definitely worthwhile enjoying their petite fours. As you can see there were so many different pastries and combinations to enjoy.

They were just as decadent with their chocolate selection as well. I was surprised at how empty the restaurant was for a Tuesday evening but our meal and accompanying service made us not even take notice.

Name: Tom Aikens
Found at: 43 Elystan Street, London SW3 3NT
Website: http://www.tomaikens.co.uk/


It’s a long time ago (late June) since I ate at Hibiscus, but seeing as we had a great meal and it’s a Michelin starred restaurant, it’s definitely worth a write up. Hibiscus is a gem of a restaurant, tucked away down a side street off the hustle and bustle of Regent Street. In fact it’s right just down the road from the Goodman steakhouse which I must visit one day.

Asked first for an aperitif, I asked for a gin and tonic and was then asked to choose what sort of gin (out of four) and what sort of decoration (lemon, etc) I wanted. My dining companions asked for a classic martini of which they then had a bombardment of questions (gin versus vodka, type of vodka, shaken/stirred, olive, etc). Impressive but surprising to be asked all of these. I’m not quite sure it was that necessary.

Before we decided, they brought a selection of small appetisers to the table – including fried polenta balls and some cheesy puffs, but really delicious since they were warmed through.

Next up we had a palette cleanser which tasted like a pineapple juice shot mixed with fresh soda. I can’t quite remember what it was but it sure was tasty. The texture felt like it was slightly jellified with a bit of fizz.

Opting for the summer seasonal menu, our first dish, surprisingly was a fresh pea soup with a pea puree centred around it. They poured the soup around at the table and it’s nice to see such a rich green colour.

Next up was a small piece of pork, served with some fresh green beans and a nice jus.

I remember the next dish amazingly since they brought some amazing looking knives to the table, all with distinctive pearl-like handles all opulently coloured differently. It wasn’t really needed though because the beef with stewed tomatoes and a potato cake literally melted away into your mouth. All you really needed was a fork in the end.

There’s the knife above. Lethal looking huh?

Finally we started on the round of desserts – this first one was a light fruit salad topped with custard.

Our final dessert was a deconstructed tiramisu and the highlight of the desserts so much I wanted seconds but it was far too rich for that.

And of course there was the obligatory petite fours with the tea and coffee. With a bottle of wine and 12.5% service, our meal ended up costing £125.06. A fairly expensive but reasonable deal given the quality of the food we had.

Name: Hibiscus
Found at: 29 Maddox Street, London, W1S 2PA, United Kingdom
Website: http://www.hibiscusrestaurant.co.uk/

Chez Bruce

For my sister’s birthday, we joined her friends, Nate and Caro for dinner at the Michelin-starred Chez Bruce. I took this as a bit of a surprise, particularly considering that French’s isn’t exactly my sister’s favourite and Chez Bruce is quite far from where we both live, but I guess a special occasion to dine at this well accomplished restaurant is still a good reason.

We’d booked ourselves in for a 7pm dinner, and due to unpredictable baby arrangements, our other fellow diners ended up slightly late. This was the first test of the restaurant, to see whether or not they would push us to hurry (which they didn’t) and if they took care of us in the meantime (which they did).

Chez Bruce isn’t a very large restaurant. On first guesses, it would hold about forty of fifty covers excluding the private dining room upstairs. It reminded me much more of Cambridge’s Restaurant 22 that appeared more like a family home that a restaurant, and I mean this in a good way. This could be changing soon since they’re undergoing some sort of refurbishment as I write this.

Whilst we waited, we were served a deliciously light and crumbly parmesan cracker dotted around the edges with black and white sesame seeds. I think we also had some bread served with butter although I don’t remember the selection being particularly snazzy. I guess my lack of pictures is one indicator of it.

I started with the brandade fritters with vegetable escabeche, chorizo and aioli. Although tempted by a number of the other appetisers, I’m really glad I ordered this dish. The batter was light and crisp and the brandade (effectively a salt cod mix) worked perfectly without needing any additional seasoning on top. Perfectly formed aioli brought a richness to the dish with the escabeche brining that slight heat.

As far as French dishes go, the blanquette of pig’s cheek with boudin blac, roast fillet, choucroute and crackling looked a bit of a mess on a plate. However as far as taste and variety went, this dish went in all sorts of directions with the boudin blanc (white pudding) a soft, slightly oily texture contrasting with perfectly crisp pork crackling. The meaty pork fillet providing heart to the dish only to be compared to the softest part and tenderest part of the pig – the pork cheek. Each of the spring vegetables brought even more flavours and complexity to the dish and did well to stick to classic French ingredients.

Strangely enough they brought out our truffles before our dessert although perhaps that might be because we ask for our tea and coffees at the same time. Verging on the point of being full, I skipped tasting any of them, despite there being enough for almost two each.

My dessert, hot chocolate pudding with praline parfait was abnormally large, for what I’d consider a French style dessert. Wickedly deep in flavour and excessively rich, I savoured every mouthful with the warm contrast of the pudding against the icy coolness of the parfait and then surprised by the crunch provided by the praline scattered about.

I’ve got some great pictures of the other dishes as well, but can’t really comment on the flavours. Here they are for completeness sake:

Appetiser: Roast calf’s sweetbreads with truffle velouté, mushrooms, spätzle and peas (+£5.00)

Appetiser: Gazpacho Andaluz with buffalo mozzarella and basil oil

Appetiser: Foie gras and chicken liver parfait with toasted brioche

Main: Sea bream with provençale vegetable relish, grilled baby squid, sauce nero, gnocchi and almonds

Main: Duck magret with borlotti beans, raviolo, foie gras, tarragon and sherry vinegar

Main: Lamb rump with Sicilian stuffed courgette, meatballs, artichokes and cherry tomatoes

Dessert: Dark chocolate delice with salted caramel sauce and clotted cream

Dessert: Pimm’s jelly with strawberries, cucumber and mint

Dessert: Crème brûlée

As far as service goes, I wasn’t as pleased with them as a number of other Michelin starred restaurants. We had to ask twice for our tap water jug to be filled and although they brought dishes and whisked them away in a timely manner, the attendants didn’t seem to be around, even for catching they eye when we needed to (like getting the bill).

Still, I really enjoyed the food there and given it’s a great value £42.50 for three courses (excluding service and drinks), I would definitely head all the way out there for another great evening meal.

Name: Chez Bruce
Found at: 2 Bellevue Road, London SW17 7EG, United Kingdom
Website: http://www.chezbruce.co.uk/

Cambridge’s Midsummer House

To celebrate the end of our project, a number of us decided to take the plunge and book in a dinner at Midsummer House. Located in the middle of Midsummer Commons’ park and right next to the river, I can imagine that it would be particularly lovely eating al fresco in the outdoors. Fortunately in winter when it’s much colder and particularly damp, the bright indoor eating area does just fine. We were one of the first tables to be seated at 7pm, although I think we were also one of the last remaining tables at the end of the night, obviously enjoying the food and wine that was soon to come.

When we arrived, they took our coats and led us to our table – a plain white table clothed round table right next to their bay windows where we could see fairy lights dotting their outdoor garden. We had an apertif to start (a number of gin and tonics and champagne for the table) where we then got a look at the menu. Midsummer House does do a number of dishes for vegetarians but their tasting menu is predominantly mixtures of meats and seafood that probably wouldn’t be that appealing. We ended up with the tasting menu (a number of courses for £85). Here’s a picture of Midsummer House from the outside before dinner:

To begin with, we had a number of small amuse bouche. I don’t remember exactly what this dish was, but it was some sort of foam dish with a light fruit. It was a nice way to start the palatte as it had sharp citrus flavours that stimulated the taste buds.

Whilst we perused the menu, we were then offered a number of other canapes including a whitebait fritter (the fried things in the left side of the picture below), and a bread puff filled with a savoury mixture. I remember both were light crisp and almost too easy on the way down.

After deciding on the tasting menu, a small cart arrived by the tableside, where they prepared a palette cleanser. With small round bowls that looked like mini balloons, they dispensed a canister including yet another type of foam.

It was a pink grapefruit and champagne foam! Hurrah. The flavours of the grapefruit were particularly sublime although you could taste the fizz from the champagne and was a lovely way to cut through the savoury tone of our canapes. I’m a little bit over the whole foam thing, but at least it was guaranteed to be a light way of starting.

Our first real course on the tasting menu was a White Onion, Apple and Scallion bisque. The apple was cut into small chunks, providing the texture to, an otherwise, monotonic but creamy soup. It was served in an impressive pleated bowl.

After being warmed up slightly by the soup, we then moved onto a Beetroot cannelloni, filled with small bits of goats cheese served with a horseradish sorbet, and a celery side salad. The cannelloni was really light and wasn’t too overpowering with the beetroot flavour. Its crispness as you cut into a small chunk then led you to a perfect pairing of salty goats cheese, without being overwhelming. Adding in the heat of the horseradish and surprising cold from the sorbet, was an amazing mouthfeel to last. I was a huge fan of this particular dish that was also vegetarian friendly.

Our next dish was definitely less vegetarian friendly, being Sautéed scallops topped with iberico ham, some fresh sage, and then a creme fraiche topped with green olives. The scallops were delightfully cooked – browned on the outside yet soft and perfectly cooked flesh. The iberico ham wasn’t overpowering, being shaved extremely thin and it worked really well with the other elements. Interestingly they didn’t actually describe all the elements on the plate when they put the dish down although we had great guess as a group picking all the remaining ingredients.

The next course soon arrived, Sweetbreads, pistachio, maple syrup and mouli. I remember thinking how the maple syrup could have dominated the lighter flavours of sweetbread, but was pleasantly surprised when you had the strange sweetness but not in the concentrated burst I’d feared. The mouli provided a nice contrast to the dish as well.

The next dish was Langoustine and Cuttlefish Risotto. As you can probably tell from the picture below, the risotto wasn’t a true risotto – instead made up of a cuttlefish cut into perfectly small cubes resembling the white firmness one would expect from a well made risotto. The langoustine was perfectly cooked, super sweet and went down almost too fast.

Our next dish was a “Pousse Cafe” meant to be drunk as a single shot. I remember it being fairly warm, and made up of a number of different savoury soups of different textures. It was brilliant how they layered the different flavours that when it was tipped into your mouth, then turned into a wonderful experience, further warming the belly as it made its way down. Yum!

After this enjoyable experience, we had the Pigeon, sweet potato and cocoa nibs. As you can the pigeon was pistachio-crusted which I thought was going to overpower the pigeon but simply added an interesting texture dimension to the dish. Pigeon, being slightly more gamey was much more tougher than what I was expecting but we still managed to have no problems cutting into it with a butter knife.

The cheese cart arrives – hurrah! With a huge selection of many different types of cheeses. It is actually an additional course (£5 for the small plate, and £12 for the large). Interestingly, the small plate ended up with four cheeses, the large five cheeses although I wasn’t sure if you could pick many many more for the large plate. The sizes of the cuts weren’t noticeably different.

After the cheese course, our desserts started arriving, the first being a Lemon grass topped with lady grey mousse. I thought it was a very interesting concoction and cleverly put together – the citrus tones working well to complement each other. It was a nice, light creamy dessert that was actually a pretty significant size.

Our next dessert was Warm kumquats served with lemon thyme ice cream that did well to continue the citrus-based themes of desserts. The kumquats looked like they had been caramelised with some sugar, being very potent on their own. I felt the pressure to down this one as the warmth from the fruits started to turn the ice cream to cream and it was definitely great to have that hot and cold contrast again with complementary flavours.

Our final “dessert” of the evening was this spectacular Tiramisu that was a much more deconstructed version of any tiramisu you’d likely ever see. You have the marscapone element as a cold ice cream, a dark chocolate truffle sitting to the side, and a chocolate tube containing the coffee cream with amazing cotton candy sitting on top. They brought each to the table before pouring the shot of espresso right through the cotton candy and in the middle of the tube that then spilled on to the rest of the plate. This was definitely one of the many desserts you wanted to keep lasting.

We then had some coffees and tea with the petite fours (which I didn’t try because I was so full and chocolate was definitely too rich after that series of desserts).

Amazingly that wasn’t the last of it when they brought out the final dish, Freshly sugared Beignets (AKA Donuts) with a lemon marmalade and freshly made creme anglaise (i.e. custard). Despite being particularly full I couldn’t stop myself from trying this. The custard was absolutely divine and the donuts light and not sickeningly sweet. A great surprise at the end of the meal.

Service was very good throughout the evening – not even noticing when they took plates away. One thing they could improve on is if their sommelier talked about the various wines as we went through the evening with the dish – rather than simply pouring them and then walking away. The wine tasting menu looked like this:

  • Touraine Sauvignon Blanc, Francois Chidaine, Loire Valley, France, 2008
  • Vin de Pays d’Oc, One Block Muscat, Domain de Treloar, Roussillon, France, 2006
  • Chenin Blanc, Rudera, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2008
  • Albarino, Valminor, O Rosal, Rias Baixas, Spain, 2008
  • Shiraz, Oliver’s Taranga Vineyard, McLaren Vale, South Australia, 2003
  • Tokaji Aszu, 4 Puttonyos, Disnoko, Tokaji, Hungary, 2004
  • Pedro Ximenes Viejo, Noe, Gonzales Byass, Jerez, Spain, NV

Rhodes 24

I’d promised to take my sister to Rhodes 24 for her birthday in July. Unfortunately being in Copenhagen and commuting combined with typical London airport traffic meant that I got stuck somewhere I didn’t really want to be for about five hours. In the end we cancelled.


Rhodes 24 is a fairly popular restaurant, so it’s pretty hard to get bookings at this Michelin-starred restaurant. We finally got a date that worked for the both of us and one that happened to have a free table. You find Rhodes 24 located in the Tower 42 building, the tallest building in the city of London (yes, slightly taller than the gherkin). Rhodes is located on the 24th floor, hence the name. It also has an impressive exclusive elevator which is maybe why it’s quite expensive and so popular.

Walking in you’re greeted by the concierge where you walk through the bar, an outstanding view perfectly opposite the Gherkin. It makes me think that the interesting but expensive cocktails might be worth coming up there simply just to indulge. Being one of the earlier tables and only couple dining, we got one of the round tables seated against the inner core of the circular restaurant both facing out towards other tables and the rest of the city.

Service at the start of the evening without too many tables are very prompt, noticeably degrading as the evening went on. I played the game of how long would my tap water remain empty before being filled up with a few times towards the end of dinner and dessert empty for at least five minutes and me having to ask once that I remember.


Their bread basket was lovely although nothing particularly special including both brown and white rolls and a pat of butter. Light but not flavoursome. After ordering our starters and mains, we were presented shortly with the chef’s amuse bouche, a small cup of cauliflower soup served in a small upright mug and saucer. Very well seasoned and a great way to start the meal.


My started, a scallop soup with leeks and pork belly was divine. I thought that the pork belly might overpower the delicate flavour of the scallop, but they chose well with only a few strands of pork belly, crispy up as decoration and the scallop sitting on the lightly softened leeks and the soup poured at the table all round.


The main dish impressed me less being a monkfish dish served with a smoked bacon hash, white asparagus and green spinach. As deliciously smoky and crisp the hash tasted, I think it overpowered the monkfish even then. Everything was well cooked and complimentary but it’s a shame the dish wasn’t as balanced out as they could have made it.


Starting to feel slightly bloated, we thought we’d try going for the dessert and I’m glad that we did. I tried the trio of desserts that were the house special. On this night it was made up of a trio including bread and butter, a home made giant jaffa cake and a strawberry parfait served between two crisp crackers instead of the imagined cup. All three definitely pleased me although the jaffa cake definitely has to have special mention being light, delicate capturing the dark chocolate and tanginess and the bread and butter pudding definitely outlasting the three with a strongly vanilla scented custard and the bread and butter bruleed to add a caramelised dimension. I think the bread also seemed to be some sort of brioche, light without being cloyingly sweet.


I had a peppermint tea after dessert at which they also served the petite fours (or trios?) that included a white chocolate raspberry jam creation, pistachio chocolate block and a lightly scented orange butter cake.

Overall Rhodes 24 certainly made for a great evening out and we didn’t even realise we’d spent over three and a bit hours by the time that we’d walked out of there. Service was friendly though not as prompt as it could have been and although the main didn’t impress, the rest of the dishes definitely made up for it. I’d definitely return at least for the bar and the view on a clear evening night.

Name: Rhodes 24
Found at: Tower 42, 25 Old Broad Street, London EC2N 1HQ
Website: http://www.rhodes24.co.uk/

Tasting menu at Restaurant Martin Wishart

I recently spent a weekend in Edinburgh with some friends to enjoy some fine food and some fine whiskey. We didn’t end up going to The Kitchin, as originally planned but we did end up at another wonderful place, Restaurant Martin Wishart. Booked in for lunch, we went for the tasting menu, that covered five main courses. When we arrived, they also offered the truffle menu since the chef apparently sources some great truffles and wanted to create a whole experience around it. We decided to stick with our original one.


We sat down and some small snacks found their way to our table, courtesy of a waiter, including haggis bon bons and some fresh Spanish olives. Like all good Scottish traditions the haggis bon bons arrived lightly breaded, crisp on the outside with that hearty meat and oat mixture on the inside.


Soon after confirming what we wanted to eat, the waiters appeared with a plate of small appetisers. We started off with squid in, what looked like, black ink sauce. It sat next to a small piece of pork belly on a toothpick, covered in a rich dark sauce and lightly covered with crispy rice puffs. The pork belly seemed like just the fat without any of the meaty parts. I don’t mind having a bit of fat but it was a bit too much grease in the mouth that its sauce didn’t do anything to change. Next to it sat a lavishly rich chicken pate parfait sitting on the end of a wooden stick much like a lollipop. The chicken liver parfait was smooth but I think excessively overwhelming in size given all the other components. The other two parts, a bite of veal tongue with salad cream and a hake fishcake were my more favourite components, flavoursome without being overly rich.


We followed this with a presse of Foie Gras and Blaeberry Cured Orkney Beef accompanied by beetroot nad horseraidsh cannelloni. Complaints of richness definitely held back with the sweetness of the beetroot bringing a freshness and sweetness to the plate that cut through the piece of pate. The cannelloni, delicately crisp brought yet another texture to the plate although I didn’t even notice the accompanying bite I’d expect from a horseradish cream, however light it might have been. Nice little touch with the dehydrated beetroot specks that reminded me very much of the … pollen Noma served with one of their dishes.


This was a ceviche of Halibut, mango and passionfruit and a light meringue made with strong passionfruit or citrus note. Not too salty but meaty chunks of halibut cut through by the tropical flavours of passionfruit and mango. I loved the light passionfruit meringue perched atop the entire dish. Easily cut through, it tasted like yuzu and each slice really enhanced the ceviche. Definitely one of my favourites of the set.


Ravioli of Kilbannan Langoustine with winter cabbage and truffle sauce. The ravioli was definitely large and meaty, reminding me of a heart chinese dumpling but with a generous amount of filling. The pasta was delicate although the most impressive part was the truffle sauce that surrounded the entire dish, adding depth and flavour to it all. I almost wanted some more bread to soak it all up.


Roast orkney scallop and bellota ham served with pumpkin puree, parmesan veloute. The scallop was arrived in a small bowl, looking like an island floating amidst a sea of cream. The parmesan worried me that it would be overpowering but it didn’t prove to be.


Roast culzen partridge with creamed brussels sprouts, salsifi, confit potatoes and armagnac jus. The partridge finished off our main courses, and was a great way to finish off the meal. It was perfectly cooked – still juicy and firm, and the other components helped accentuate instead of overpower the natural flavours of the bird. The brussel sprouts were particularly impressive as well, firm and tasty without its usually strong flavours.


Cheese course. We had two plates giving us twelve different cheeses to try each, everything from strong goats cheese and blue cheese types, through to the softer cheeses that seemed closer to double cream than anything else. Served with some sweet balsamic and some truffle


Pink grapefruit terrine with passionfruit foam, charentais melon sorbet – A light and refreshing way to finish off the meal. The foam sat within a light shell that cracked and melted as you placed it on your tongue. The terrine was more like a jelly but firm and tasty. The melon sorbet hidden underneath the passionfruit foam brought sweetness to balance out the tartness of the passionfruit. Cleansed the palate indeed.


We then finished off the meal with petite fours including a small lemon tart, a chocolate ganache lollipop, chocolate truffle and a passionfruit marshmallow on a chocolate crisp. An amazing way to finish off the meal.

Name: Martin Wishart
Found at: 54 The Shore, Edinburgh, Scotland
Website: http://www.martin-wishart.co.uk/restaurant-martin-wishart/home.aspx

Gordon Ramsey’s Maze

I think there’s a good reason why Gordan Ramsey’s empire is starting to crumble, with our visit to Maze a testament to what you pay for a brand instead of the quality that you get. I remember seeing Maze when I first moved to London, thinking about how reasonable everything seemed on the menu only finding out later that they were for tapas-sized portions, not mains. Whoops!

Cutlery Stand and Table Engraving

Everything on the inside is definitely decadent and looks like it certainly deserves a Michelin star from the intimate detail with cutlery, the tableware and the interior wide and spacious considering how central its location is near Oxford Street.


The bread selection was lovely decent with a mini baguette and some bread sticks. The butter was so-so, not particularly flavoursome but okay nevertheless. As you can see, presentation was nice as well.


We came here on the three course lunch deal, which is probably the best value rather than ordering ala carte. Of course, you suffer a limited selection but you get a good enough idea of the quality of the food. Unfortunately I only took pictures of the starters, a beetroot and goats cheese salad which was delicious and a great way to start. I remember having fish for the main meal and though it was a much better serving than the pork belly, I don’t remember it being particularly special.


At the end of the meal, you also got some, not quite, petite fours (chocolate ginger and turkish delight here).


Out of all things considering, ambience and the brand are probably the two things you pay the most for. I remember service being particularly sloppy (we had to ask for top ups of our water) and no one seemed to really take notice of when we finished our meal and wanted the bill. I don’t even remember it being particularly busy.

Gordon’s empire may be built on something, but I can tell you that if this is what it was built on, he’s got many better places to compete with.

Name: Maze
Found at: 13-15 Grosvenor Square, London, W1K 6
Contactable on: http://www.gordonramsay.com/maze
TheKua.com rating: 6 out of 10

Restaurant Paustian v. Bo Bech

Copenhagen definitely wins my heart as one of the best places to dine out (especially taking into account the relatively small number of people living there.) So before leaving Copenhagen I thought it’d be a great opportunity to visit yet another one of the many Michelin-starred places in Copenhagen, Restaurant Paustian v Bo Bech. Located much further north than I’d ever been before, this restaurant is found near the harbour in a strangely industrial-looking area yet perfectly charming on the warm sunny summer evening we went. The best way to get here is definitely by taxi and it cost something like DKK90 to get there from near Tivoli or the main central station in Copenhagen.

Service was very nice with a very warm welcome as we entered the building with lots of smiles. We were invited to have an apertif, choosing to go with their house recommendation of champagne mixed with freshly pressed apple juice, perfect for the summery feel. They even brought a little stool to place my camera on so that I didn’t have to hang it over my chair or leave it on the floor.

Before getting into the real meal, they brought out a selection of appetisers, the first being described as Mini cucumbers marinated with lime. Perfectly bite sized I was amazed by how strong the cucumber taste cut through the zesty lime flavour. It looked elegant atop what almost looked like a glass petri dish.

Here’s a picture of the very elegant ring surrounding our table napkin. Weirdly enough whenever someone left the table, they never bothered to re-fold the napkin, instead choosing to take it away and replace it with a newly folded one served with silver tongs and off a silver platter. A little bit wasteful but a nice touch for service nevertheless.

Here’s the second part of our appetisers, fried onion rings topped with a salty paste, a perfect compliment for the sweet onion ring. We think that it was some sort of onion reduction but whatever it was, I found it extremely tasty.

This brightly coloured dish was Carrot with passionfruit and flowers picked from the garden. The carrot was gently cooked, still retaining some of its crunchiness with the other flowers enhancing the sweetness in slightly different ways.

Intentionally served without a spoon (encouraged to eat it how we’d like), the next dish was a mushroom soup. Even without picking up the dish, you could smell the strong earthy tones from the strong flavours contained in the broth. Perfectly seasoned and fun to drink!

Our next dish was Steamed Celeriac on a truffle reduction, a perfect follow on from the previous dish. The strong flavours of the truffle carrying on where the mushroom picked up but with the contrast of the celeriac bringing fresher and sharper contrast to the meal.

Five appetisers was a great start to the meal, with the next dishes to follow part of the Alchemist Menu, or as described on the menu, “Surprise menu – Forward mindset with respect for the classic kitchen”. In the meantime the waiters brought out three different types of bread to nibble on with two different types of butter (organic Danish butter, and a deliciously nutty Beurre Noisette).

The bread was certainly spectacular and had a lot of flair. As you can see from the picture above, the malt crisp bread was a hollowed out crisp bread that provided the lighter contrast to the other two breads – one a sourdough bread made from the Bo Bech Bakery, and the other a licorice-topped buttermilk roll. Strange certainly but it’s obviously a favourite flavour for many Scandinavians.

The first dish in the surprise menu arrived, named Danish oysters, oyster cabbage, pumpkin puree, mustard powder, fried vegetables (cauliflower, corn). Visually it seemed like there were many different things going on although what surprised me was the mellowness of the mustard powder (the white stuff) when eaten with the other ingredients on the plate.


Next to arrive was the Flaked atlantic cod with a tomato reduction, a hearty serve of fish perfectly cooked and the tomato strong yet not overpowering the delicate fish flavour. A great pairing of the two different flavours as one could easily have outweighed the other given different choices of species or methods of preparation.

The next dish, Poached Pouisson with heated egg yolk, ash, herbs (mint, sage), new potatoes also had a lot going for it but was certainly spectacular. I found it interesting how the combination of different herbs provided so many different flavours in surprising combinations. It could have been disastrous with one not quite properly mixing with another one yet was perfectly balanced so you never ended up with too many herbs in the mouth at the same time. Once again, a perfectly cooked egg yolk (firm whites and soft runny yolk) added a level of decadence to this dish that really helped boost it beyond just a plain and simple dish.

Yet another round of meat ensued with Pigs cheeks with fried onion, mustard oil . Out of all the meat dishes I think I really enjoyed this dish the most despite a comment from someone else at the table about the cheeks having an intensely strong flavour. I think the mustard provided that contrast needed from the pork being overwhelming and I found it delightful to have such small portions have so much impact.

Okay, so the cheese wasn’t officially on the menu (it was an additional cost) yet it was intriguing as they had the two cheese rounds sitting in the middle of the dining room where they would shave it live for everyone. The concept behind this was to have two cheeses from the same region, made from the same milk, and to enhance the comparison by experiencing the results of different preparation methods. One cheese was aged up to 36 months, the other only around 18 months yet both still weighing approximately the same. This was served with a light bread made with rye and a splash of sugar beet syrup on the side.

The first of the desserts arrived after the cheese, the first being a Milk crust ice cream, oxidised rye bread and ale, and a light creamy centre . It was a really delicate dish and a very nice way to start desserts.

The final dish was spectacular being described as Raspberries with raspberries. As you can see, it arrived with a scoop of raspberry sorbet sitting atop what looks like a puff of snow moulded into a circular bed.


It wasn’t until they poured the raspberry soup did the ice melt away to unveil a bed of other raspberries that the scoop of sorbet fell perfectly into the middle of the bed.

Our final dish for the evening, and a strangely rich yet very light dessert was unripe raspberries, burnt butter foam with a buttermilk sorbet. You can’t really see the raspberries as they were nested in the foam but they did add a needed freshness to the dish.

Restaurant Paustian certainly deserves its Michelin star and I highly recommend watching their “Alchemist” video on their website to understand what some of the experience is like.


Last week, three of us took advantage of being in Copenhagen and had a dinner at Noma, recently voted as the third best restaurant in the world only after Ferran Adria’s El Bulli (Spain) and Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck (England). Unlike the other two restaurants, Noma focuses less on using strange ingredients and cooking methods, instead focusing on the fresh and seasonal foods surrounding Copenhagen.

We sat down for our booking at 8pm, when most of the other tables had already been seated. It’s a short taxi ride over from the main island, as it’s located in a converted warehouse along the river in Christianhavn. The long sunlight hours helped turn the warehouse interior into a farmhouse-like appearance, complete with a rustic and warm family feeling.

From memory, there is a good reason they seem to have a three month waiting list with something like only 12 covers. I still count myself lucky for being able to find a booking in only a three week waiting period.


Shortly after we sat down, we were asked if we would like an aperitif, my fellow diners choosing a Gin and Tonic, and myself ending up with a glass of champange before dinner. They served a series of Amuse Bouches (that’s right, a series of them), all amazingly tasty.

Our first came in a playful container, a speckled egg shape with wafts of smoke coming out. Placing the egg on the table, the waiter opened the egg in half to unveil two smaller eggs, quails eggs in fact nestled in bed of slightly smoking dry grass. Each of the eggs had been perfectly poached and, as instructed, we took one each and placed it into our mouths to find an explosion of wonderfully soft yolk, with the slightly smoked egg white. Divine!

Quails Eggs

The waiter presented our second amuse bouche on a flat plate, this time, a play on the typical Danish smorrebrod (open sandwich). Using the very same dark rye bread-like seeds to form a crispier finger-sized portion that was filled with a mixture of roe, and a cream cheese-like filling. Each bite brought with it the amazing contrast of textures, the crispiness of the cracker, the softness of the creamy filling and the popping of the roe.

Rye Bread

What arrived next looked like something straight out a garden – two small cermaic pot plants, complete with the plants they had been growing. The waiter presented this as a set of fresh radishes set into some green-coloured mousse (we never worked out what it was), and then topped a mix made with toasted hazelnuts that gave the appearance of dirt on top of the green.


Not only was this dish visually spectacular, but the crisp and fresh flavours of the radishes were a great contrast to the sweeter mousse, which naturally picked up the toasted hazelnut “dirt”. Had I had a spoon at the time, I would have been tempted to finish off what was left in each pot of mousse and hazelnuts – it was really that good!


Our final amuse bouche arrived – small wavy crisp breads this time dotted with freshly made mayonnaise and then covered in fresh herbs, as they put it, “Picked freshly by our foragers” and then dusted with a vinegar powder. Just like many of the other dishes, this was light and fresh and packed full of natural flavours. I’d never had anything with vinegar powder before, and the tart sourness it brought was the perfect complement to the sweeter mayonnaise and flowers.

Crisp Bread Vinegar Powder

Noma offers a choice of ala carte, a seven course or a twelve course tasting menu for dinner. We decided a good compromise was the seven course selection, a combination of a good variety yet not an excess of foods (all things considering). Almost all of the menu was an amazingly comprehensive wine list, almost rivalling what I remembered the tome of wines at the Fat Duck. We decided against the matching wine pairings and asked for a recommended bottle of wine. Tom described what we’d like in a bottle, as well as our budget and amazingly the sommelier immediately responded, “I think I have exactly the wine you would like.”


Bread and two butters arrived. These breads were much more memorable than the ones at the Fat Duck. Presented warmed and what seemed like freshly cooked, they had two different breads (a rye, and white bread), and two different “fats” for spreading on each of them. One of the fats had a creamier texture, apparently mixed with some light cheese, and then the other was a mix of nuts.


I can’t remember exactly what the next dish was, an appetiser I think as it wasn’t listed on the menu, and it was presented after all the amuse bouche dishes. You can see a beetroot-like sauce surrounding fresh flowers dotted with cubes of some sort of pink flavoured jelly, almost rhubarb like. I honestly can’t remember it as part of the blur of food yet I’m glad I took photos of it.

Bonus Dish

Our first official dish in the seven to follow was listed as Razor clams and parsley, dill and mussel juice. Cleverly, they had the razor clam wrapped in a jelly-like skin made with the parsley and on the side, a dusting of horseradish snow and then, poured at the table, the parsley dill and mussel juice. Just as you’d expect, the razor clam had been perfectly cooked, and soft enough to slice up. The snow had enough zing considering its cold temperature and went well complementing the rest of the dish.

Razor Clam

As you can see from the interior picture here (a small break between all the food), it really conjures up images of a farmhouse despite being located in a warehouse by the river.

Noma Inside

The next dish, Ashes and hazelnuts, caramelised chicken broth and leeks, was actually strips of slightly poaches leeks, and then covered in two different ways, one with ashes, and the other with toasted hazelnuts. The caramelised chicken broth I remember them describing as chicken skin actually reminded me of the texture you have in those melt-on-your-tounge breath mints. The ash and hazelnuts brought a different dimesion of flavour to the dish, a crispier and more subdued hazelnut with the fiery smoke from the ash.


Our next dish really amazed me, described as Asparagus and woodruff, salad root and shoots of hops and pine. They also had a perfectly cooked egg yolk, dotted with perfectly cooked egg white, and with only the skin barely holding back the tidal flow of yolk. Tom was describing how they could only do this if they were cooking it with a bain marie, a device that allows them to cook something at the perfect temperatures where egg white cook at one particular temperature, only 2 degrees Celsius away from the the cooking temperature of the white. Whatever it was, I really liked the crunchiness mixing in with two different textured liquids and flavours.


The next dish, Marrow and picked vegetables, herbs and bouillon really stood out as a great dish. Not only was it spectacular on the eyes with brightly picked flowers and herbs, but the pickled vegetables, still slightly firm in texture and circular discs of Marrow just had an amazing combination of flavours. The bouillon they poured on also added a deep flavour complemented by the other fresh flavours in the dish.

Marrow and Pickled Vegetables

Before the next dish, the waiters placed what looked like a large leather-shielded dagger at the table. This was actually intended as the knife for Pork and wild ramson leaves, grilled cucumber dish. The grilled cucumber is that blackened item at the bottom of the plate. The pork was flecked with crispy onions. With so many dishes already, the two pieces of pork was actually a very generous serve.


The first of two desserts finally arrived after the many main courses, more local ingredients in play. The title on the menu was Birch juice and birch syrup, Spanish chervil and honey, instead actually better translated as they described it, “Birch sorbet and birch meringue, made out of soaking birch bark in water, and then served with honey jelly collected from a beehive just three miles from here”. Describing birch is quite difficult, maybe closer to herbs.

Birch Tree

Finally came the last dish, on the menu described as “Beet and garden sorrel, Crème Fraiche and pickled rose hip”. Once again I defer to the way they described it in person, “Beetroot and picked rose hip granita, a tuile and a coriander ice cream). The coriander came through amazingly and although I would not order it again quickly, provided an interesting contrast to the sweeter beetroot granita.

Granita Sorbet Tuile

We took a herbal tea in the lounge room after our massive meal, served with a raspberry mousse on a homemade biscuit and then covered in chocolate. Considering that it was about quarter to midnight by the time we sat down (and with the last vestiges of the sun glimmering in the distant horizon) I didn’t want to risk having a coffee that would only serve to keep me from any sleep.


Noma was an amazing dining experience with friendly hosts and everyone, including what looked like some of the chefs, coming out to present some of the dishes. I really appreciated the focus on fresh, regional and seasonal food, giving you great reason to want to come back, if only you could get a booking in the normal three-month waiting list. Service was the impeccable kind that you want, with water constantly being topped up and timely interruptions.

Noma Inside

The insides have a wonderful warm feeling and hospitable to family and smaller groups alike. Given the strength of the Danish Kroner and the weakness of the British Pound, it’s not a meal that comes with a cheap price, but definitely worth the experience.