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Category Archives: Restaurants

Laurent-Perrier Gourmet Odyssey

Last year, I got information about a dining event called the Gourmet Odyssey that was occurring during the London Restaurant Festival. The concept is that you start at a venue for drinks, then go to another restaurant for your starter, a second restaurant for your main and a final restaurant for dessert. At each location, there is a different Laurent-Perrier champagne to drink with your food. Last year, the restaurants were in the Soho/Fitzrovia area, and we had such a great time, I picked up tickets for another one occurring this year.

This year, the odyssey I chose had locations in Shoreditch. It looked the best of the three, with one location being at The Clove Club which we had dined at earlier this year. It was so good, I was willing to go back again. The champagne reception was at The Ace Hotel. There is a bar on the seventh floor that had a balcony overlooking “beautiful” Shoreditch. The non-vintage Brut champagne here was quite free-flowing (as it was at all the locations), and we had a great time sipping the champagne and watching the other people who chose to spend their day with us. We got split into three groups, so we could round-robin the restaurants.

From what I saw, we definitely ended up with the best route. Of the three starters (a pheasant dumpling with truffle and chestnut, tuna ceviche and prawns with chili and yogurt), ours was the one that looked the best: The dumpling. We hopped on a bus and headed to The Clove Club to have our first course. Since I had been here before, I new what to expect. And they had us seating in communal dining tables. Unfortunately, I ended up sitting next to some people that thought a bit highly of themselves, and ended up talking with both Tom and the people on the other end of the table more. The bread: delicious. The dumpling: Fantastic! I mopped up as much sauce as I could with the bread while enjoying more Laurent-Perrier champagne (this time the non-vintage Ultra Brut). Upon leaving, I chatted with the chef, who remembered me from the last time we came, and mentioned the review I made of his restaurant and the story about my mother telling me about the restaurant. That was a nice surprise.

We got back on the bus and after a massively long detour that had too many closed roads and directions from everyone on the bus that wasn’t the bus driver, we finally made it to the second location: Merchants Tavern. This venue is absolutely gorgeous with an amazing open kitchen and a great bar area. Here we had the 2004 vintage Brut champagne with a main course of venison with cabbage. The venison was cooked amazingly and everything on the plate went really well together. There was a deliciously rich ragu that they put over the venison as well. My favorite part was the juniper berry crumb. I liked it so much, I even asked the server how the venison was prepared, and she went to ask the chef. After this course, I was ready to come back here to try the full dining experience.

Our last stop was 8 Hoxton Square. This time we opted to walk because the venue was incredibly close, and we didn’t want to get stuck in endless loops on the bus. That worked out okay for us because they gave us a bit of champagne while we were waiting, so we got a bit more than some of the other people. It was also our favorite Laurent-Perrier variety: The Rose Cuvee. Dessert was a rich, chocolate torte with amaretti biscuits and vanilla cream. It was the perfect ending to the meal. You can never go wrong with chocolate. The venue itself is really laid back and has that hipster decoration vibe, but I’m kind of used to that now from Shoreditch restaurants so it wasn’t really off-putting.

All in all, even though we often got seated with people we weren’t completely fond of, we had an amazing time and had some amazing food and drink. It’ll definitely be on my list to do again during the restaurant festival next year.

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Posted by on October 21, 2014 in Restaurants

 

Masterchef Pop-up Restaurant

A few months ago, I received an email about the one month Masterchef Pop-up Restaurant and Bar happening in London. Basically, several Masterchef winners and contestants were going to be cooking food every week over the course of a month (Mostly October 2014). Each week was featuring different chefs, and Tom and I decided to go and check it out. We do watch pretty much every iteration of Masterchef in the UK (some of the ones in other countries are a bit over-dramatic), so I chose a group of chefs that I remembered being really good: The 2012 winner (Tim) and runner-ups (Sara and Tom). I also opted to get the tasting menu that consisted of two courses from each of them.

So we arrived. The venue was the 10th and 11th floor of the Blue Fin Building near the Tate Modern. The bar was on an outside terrace with a few drink selections available. We started with Bloody Marys, but unfortunately, they were a bit lack-luster and the celery was a bit wilted. We also had some Pimms and I had a G&T. They drinks were okay, but nothing great. Also because the terrace is outside on the 10th floor, it got quite cold quite quickly, and it soon became obvious we weren’t dressed well enough. We tried to see if there was an indoor bar in the restaurant, but we were turned away. Luckily, they told us about some indoor seating someplace, so we got a drink to bring there where we could be slightly warmer.

At 7:30 we could get seated, and they presented us with a complimentary glass of champagne which was a nice touch. We were told that there’s an open kitchen area were we could look into the kitchen, so we decided to take a look before dinner. We did get to see a glimpse of Sara and Tom working, but Tim seemed to be missing that night. The venue itself is quite simple, but they did try a bit to make it a bit nicer than just a standard cafeteria-style area. We ordered some wine to go with the first two courses (champagne) and settled in for our meal.

We opted to get a bottle of champagne to go with the starters. They were serving Laurent Perrier, and while it’s not the best champagne available, it is always tasty and enjoyable. The first starter was a confit salmon with micro greens and lemon. And the flavor was really nice, but the salmon was a bit overcooked. The second starter was rabbit. And the rabbit was probably the best course. The tureen is really delicious, and I really enjoyed it, so with the first two courses down, I was really looking forward to what else there was to come. Although the fish was overcooked, the flavors seemed nice. We also managed to get quite a few bread refills. There was a white roll and a rye roll. Both were really great. Apparently other tables were offered a rosemary potato roll, but I think those ran out quite early on.

We now switched to a barolo for the mains. The wine was quite nice, so we were happy about that. The first main was fish again, and unfortunately, it was quite disappointing. The broth it was served in was really tasty, but the fish itself was incredibly overcooked. The mussel that came with it was also really terrible. The only saving grace was that the scallop was cooked well, but overall the course really lacked quite a bit. The fourth course of pork belly was tasty, but again wasn’t amazing.

For dessert, we got a half-bottle of the Tokaji. Again the wine was really tasty, but the two desserts were a bit disappointing. The first one of mango and passionfruit with candied olives isn’t an original flavor combination for me (we had something similar last year at Pollen Street Social), but the red sorbet it was served with was really tasty. The S’mores was also really disappointing. I was hoping for something really gooey and delicious, but it was just kind of boring. Since Tim is an American, I was hoping he’d get this course right, but it really wasn’t very exciting. The gold popping candy that came with it was really good though.

The service was a bit spotty as well. Even though our server Amber was really nice, she didn’t seem to know what she was doing. Even though she claimed we were her top priority table, it really didn’t feel that way. We also talked to one of the organizers of the event when she came by our table and when we were leaving. She asked us how it was, and given how much wine I had been drinking, I wasn’t shy in telling her that it was quite disappointing. The food was nice, but not great, and the execution of the dishes was really lacking as several courses were overcooked. Given there were 100+ diners there for tasting menus, it’s clear that it was just too many people to handle. Maybe a lot of them aren’t experienced with that kind of food, but I was expecting a lot more. So when we were asked if we’d come back if they did it again, I had to tell them no. That I enjoyed the experience of having food cooked by Masterchef contestants, but the execution and the set-up really let them down. It’s all a learning experience I’m sure, and maybe they can improve, but for £65 a head, there are far better places in London I could be eating dinner.

So overall the experience was interesting. I’m glad I went to try something new and experience some previous Masterchef contestants’ food. (Although the meal we had in Cornwall at a restaurant of another contestant was far superior to this.) I can’t say it was the best food I’ve had, but it was fun. So, for me it was a definite three star experience. I hope that they manage to improve things over the next few weeks, and maybe it will improve quite a bit if they decide to do it again.

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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Restaurants, Travel