NO EXPERT ANNUAL AWARDS FOR 2009 – Other Categories

Best Service

1. The Foliage – London.

2. Number One at The Balmoral – Edinburgh.

3. du Parc des Eaux Vives – Geneva.

Worst Service

1. Craft – New York. Choking man at next table ignored.

2. Abobe – Canterbury. Dinning room empty of staff on more than one occasion, forgetful waiter, customer repeatly having to shut the door to keep out the draft.

3. Benares – London. Guests having to  make a real  effort to attract the waiters attention.

Funniest excuse for bad service

“I am so sorry, but your wine order did not get to me” from the waiter who took the order : Abobe – Canterbury.

Fastest Napkin folding time

1. Craft – New York.  All they were good at, unfortunately.

2. The Foliage – London.

3. San Pau – Spain. They don’t fold them they bring you a new one on a silver tray!.

Best Bread

1. Number One at The Balmoral – Edinburgh

2. Tom Aikens – London.

3. du Parc des Eaux Vives – Geneva.  Formally number 1, but they no longer do the seaweed bread.

Best Dessert

1. Tom Aikens – London. Prune delight.

2. Semproniana –  Barcelona. White chocolate infantile.

3. RSJ – London.  Poached pear and Perkin ice cream.

The Portrait Restaurants Peanut Butter Cheese Cake would have been up here too, if they had not taken it off the menu.  Hate when that happens 🙁

Worst Dessert

1. Harveys – Ramsgate.

2. Abobe – Canterbury.

3. Alkima – Barcelona.

Most disappointing – Places where the hype was  really out of step with our experience.

1. Hibiscus – London.

2. Harveys – Ramsgate.

3. Alfie’s – London.

4. Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley – London.

Best value for money

1. Bistro de I’Hotel de Ville – Vevey.

2. The Foliage – London. Fixed price lunch.

3. Tram Tram – Barcelona.

Worst value for money

1. Hibiscus – London.

2. Abobe – Canterbury.

3. Harveys – Ramsgate.

Best View

30|40 at the Gerkin – London.

Best for Afternoon Tea

1. The Berkeley, Pret a Portea – London.

2. The Athenaeum – London.

Best Advertizing Video

Eleven Madison Park – New York.

Best Web site for a Restaurant

1. Eleven Madison Park – New York. Simple to navigate, easy to book, stylish with very appetising pictures.

2. Cinc Sentits – Barcelona. Stylish, easy to find key information, good on-line booking facilities.

3. Per Se – New York. Provides a lot of information, uses a simple format.

Worse Web site for a Restaurant

1. Sketch – London. A complete nightmare to navigate. What were they thinking when they choose this?.  A good design is one that is both stylish and practical, this one is just downright silly.

2. El Celler De Can Roca – Girona. Another navigational nightmare, although not in the same class as Sketch.

3. Mugaritz – San Sebastian. You have to put your cursor over flying images to see tooltips and access key parts of the site. Not very practical at all.

For an interesting artical on this subject see:-

Most pretentious, but in a bad way!

1. Beau Rivage Palace (La Rotonde) – Lausanne.  This restaurant fortunately is gone, its been replaced by Anne-Sophie Pic’s new restaurant.

2. La Dama – Barcelona. See also the La Dama entry in the post :-  Worst of the Worst .

See also :-

The Kitchin – Sunshine (& Snow) on Leith

We had watched Tom Kitchin on BBC’s  Great British Menu and admired his ability to follow the brief and not merely repeat his normal repertoire.  So it was with some anticipation that we made our way to a beautiful snowy yet sunny Leith. After our visit to Number One at The Balmoral the ambience was disappointing in comparison but then again not every restaurant can be located in a 5 star hotel.  The Kitchin is a more modern colder affair located in a converted warehouse. However all was not lost, as course after course we were treated to some of the best food we had experienced this year with perfectly matched wine.

Again the highlight of this meal was the Monkfish, specifically Monkfish tail wrapped in pancetta with an amazing broccoli puree and pumpkin gnocchi.

The service was excellent and if we were ever in Edinburgh this would be one restaurant that we would happily visit regularly. If was also nice to see that even on a day so close to the Xmas holiday Tom was busy in the kitchen.


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Comerç 24 – we want you to be happy!

Comerç 24 will never win awards for its service I suspect, based on our experience (the exception being the sommelier, who is one of the best). I know it must be boring to repeat the same menu options and descriptions of food all day long but most good restaurants manage it. It was bewildering to watch the waiter describe in detail the food on our plates for every course while gazing out the window.

On the food front however its exceptional. It began as before with a selection of olive oils of varying strengths and bread, an olive stuffed with anchovy, golden macadamia nuts and a Parmesan cheese straw. If anything these were the weaker elements in the meal before it really got started.

The Cod ice-cream and Tuna tartare being real standouts.

We had just finished commenting on Comerc 24 food – stating that it was never just good, it was always either “very good” or “sublime”, then came a course I did not enjoy (the steak and strawberries). I left most of it, and got a reaction that really showed just how much Comerc 24 do care about the customer experience.  When the waiter saw I had not finished the course he asked if there was any problems, when I said I had not really enjoyed it, he immediately insisted that I have a replacement, as quote “we want you to be happy”. The replacement course was delicious and delivered with apologies from the waiter, the sommelier and the restaurant manager!

For all its small flaws this is one restaurant we hope to return to.

Marks out of 10

Food 8.7

Service 7.5

Ambience 7


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Farewell to Chris Staines @ the Foliage

Had my last meal at my favourite London restaurant the Foliage with Chris Staines as Head Chef. Chris was in the last week of his 3 months notice before he moves onto pastures new. Heston Blumenthal will open up his first London restaurant in its place in the Mandarin Oriental in a  years time.

What amazed me was that even in his last week Chris was producing simply breathtakingly stunning dishes…Respect.

Over the years I’ve  had some fantastic meals at the Foliage. In fact I use it as a benchmark to judge every other restaurant I visit. The service there is exceptional and the way Chris uses flavour and texture is the mark of a true artist. I suspect that the much larger replacement restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental will not live up to the high standard set by Chris or indeed Heston at the Fat Duck.

So many celebrity chefs are going down the “franchise” route, with disastrous results. The Abode chain (Micheal Caines) being a prime example and don’t get me started on how awful Harveys is (John Burton Race).

I’d like to thank Chris and his team at the Foliage for giving us many memorable meals (It was my experience of eating at the Foliage that got me interested in food) and to wish him the very best for the future. I just wish he was staying in London as his talent will be sorely missed.

Marks out of 10

Food 8

Service 9

Ambience 7

UPDATE : Chris Staines is now Head Chef at the Allium Brasserie in Bath

Comerç 24 – restoring faith in Molecular gastronomy

This 1 star Michelin is something of a Barcelona gem. Its much more experimental and adventurous in its cooking than most. At the beginning of the meal we were presented with a rack of 4 olive oil bottles to try with the bread. Gold leaf coated Macadamia nuts inside a Sardine tin prepare you for a meal that is not traditional by any measure. One particularly memorable course was the soup. Six tiny flavoured  egg yokes suspended in the soup. When eaten they pop and melt over your tongue. A wonderful effect.

I was going off the idea of going to elBulli in this life time, considering it seems impossible to get a reservation, thinking that perhaps its a bit too out there, but my experience at Comerç 24 made me think there might be something to this Molecular gastronomy after all, so if you can not get to elBulli, Comerç 24 might be a more acceptable alternative.

Marks out of 10

Food 8.5

Service 6 – ( Sommelier 8 )

Ambience 5


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