Gravadlax and beetroot club sandwich with herring salade lyonaise and horseradish : Chez Bruce
Best Main Course of the Year
Skate Poached in Brown Butter with Truffle Puree, Cauliflower, Parmesan Gnocchi and Sea Vegetables : The Ledbury.
Best Dessert – 2 winners
Passion Fruit Souffle with Sauterne Ice cream : The Ledbury.
Raspberries/vinegar and quark Ice cream/vinaigrette – or RED as it was called on the menu : Moments in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel (Barcelona).
Worst Dessert- 2 winners
Peanut butter crumble with caramelized bananas – Muranos : A boring, unattractive dessert (one of these occasions where it would help to have a peanut allergy, so as to avoid accidentally ordering it).
Strawberry shortcake at the Blueprint Cafe : Not my idea of shortcake. It was more like oatcake, with cream and strawberries, basically rather dull.
Foliage, Mandarin Oriental Hotel (London)– closely followed by Moments in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel (Barcelona).
Tetsuya’s (Sydney) – more for the handling of an incident rather than overall service.Saying sorry always helps.SeeTetsuya’s – It’s a knockout for details.
The Landmark : Champagne brunch in the Winter Garden – SERIOUSLY. I know it is expensive but you more than get your money’s worth, fabulous selection of food and unlimited champagne.
Coq d’Argent : A Top Table deal of £19 for 3 courses that included escargot and venison.
The Atheneaum : Another Top Table deal, a Christmas menu providing 2 substantial courses for £24.50 or 3 for £29.50 – with coffee and mince pies and a glass of “really good” champagne.
Worst value for money
The Blueprint Cafe – even with a couple of courses free (using Top Table points), it was still far too expensive for the food quality delivered.
The £21 Fish & Chips at The Mayflower Inn, might have won this award, but since the price stopped us even trying that dish, I can not judge. However I still do not believe any Pub should get away with charging £21 for Fish & Chips.
Lunch at The Ledbury was always going to be an occasion. The food is superb. I simply could not fault any of the dishes I chose from their Sunday Lunch menu. Indeed it was one of these occasions where I really wanted to try nearly all the dishes on the menu. Fortunately I was part of a large enough group to ensure that collectively we were able to order a range of different dishes. There were no dissenting voices at all, everyone loved the food. Only one thing went wrong during the lunch, which impacted on the table next to ours. Water started coming through the ceiling from the room above, I guess a burst pipe due to the cold weather. Nothing much the restaurant could do except, put a bowl on the table, call the plumber and move the guests to another table. However it must have been very embarrassing for the staff, as the guests concerned included Martin Scorsese, Sacha Baron Cohen and Isla Fisher who certainly did not seem to particularly want to draw attention to themselves. Something that is hard to do when you have to stand up to avoid being splashed!
However when the food is this good, you do not let little things like plumbing problems get in the way, so back to the food.
My starter was the Flamed Grilled Mackerel with Smoked Eel, Tokyo Turnips and Celtic Mustard, it was a great choice. The Mackerel had so much flavour, it was really fresh and just melted in my mouth. The portion was quite substantial for a starter, but despite that I could easily have had seconds.
I was also tempted by the Ceviche of Hand Dived Scallops with Seaweed and Herb Dill Kohlrabi and Frozen Horseradish which one of my companions ordered. Visually it did not look as good, but I was told it was delicious, if a little light and summery for a winter menu.
For my main course I choose fish again. The Skate Poached in Brown Butter with Truffle Puree, Cauliflower, Parmesan Gnocchi and Sea Vegetables. This has to be my dish of the year. It was just so moreish. The Skate was perfect and the Parmesan Gnocchi reminded me so much of another favourite, the Gnocchi dish I had at The Foliage.
For dessert I ordered the Brown Sugar Tart with Muscat Grapes and Stem Ginger Ice Cream, which was matched with a surprisingly fruity Pedro Ximenez sherry from Barossa Valley in Australia, it was very different from the Spanish ones I have had in the past. The tart was very light and the ice cream was very subtle. The dessert highlight however had to be the Passion Fruit Souffle with Sauterne Ice cream, which was large enough for us all to try – a perfect Souffle.
I have to confess Tetsuya’s has been very high on my list of restaurants to visit since our move down under. Despite losing a “hat” recently, it remains the most notoriously difficult restaurant in Sydney to bag a table at. Think Fat Duck, at the height of it’s fame and you’ll be getting close! Waiting lists currently exceed 3 months.
The restaurant itself is tucked away on Kent St, behind an extremely industrial looking grey wall and electronic gates. On entry, however one is greeted by a beautiful Japanese Garden and Villa. The steps up to the entrance are pretty intimidating, and one could be forgiven for thinking one was braving the domain of a noble Samurai Lord. Entrance to this exclusive domain is the privilege of few.
Our entry, on this occasion, was to attend The New South Wales Wine Awards Dinner, part of the Sydney International Food Festival, hosted by “Tets” himself (why do the Aussies have to shorten everything?) and Huon Hooke, the Sydney Morning Herald’s wine critic. We were certainly in for a treat. Hosted in the Private Dining Room, we were a little disappointed that we would miss the views of the garden that diners downstairs enjoy, however we were not to be disappointed in the food! We were greeted with a Glass of Centennial Sparkling and settled in to meet and chat to our fellow diners.
Our 13 course dinner was absolutely incredible, and I am at a complete loss as to where to start. Chilled Cucumber soup with sheep’s curd ice cream was deliciously refreshing, somewhat overwhelming the poor Pokolbin Estate Riesling that really didn’t have a chance. Sashimi of Kingfish with Black Bean and orange, was an exquisite dish, the citrus from the orange beautifully counter balancing the black bean. Our surprise dish of “Just like Oysters”, turned out to be a shaving of scallop, with seaweed and foie gras, which with the metallic zinc seaweed tasted “just like oysters” but finished with an amazing rich finish from the foie gras! Delicious!
The NSW wine of the year, Tempus Two’s Copper Zenith Semillon From 2003 turned out to be a revelation. It had a kerosene like nose typical of Semillon, but with layers and layers of complexity. It went surprisingly well with Marinated Scampi, Avocado, and caviar. Having been to this winery on a visit to the Hunter Valley, I was extremely unimpressed with their wines, and the poor knowledge of the staff at the Cellar door. The winery is located in one of the most stunning winery buildings I have ever seen, but all style and no substance does not impress me! Earlier in the evening I had been fairly vocal about my disbelief that Tempus Two could actually produce a decent wine, only to discover that Scott Comyns the wine maker was at the table next to us! Oops! My embarrassing moment didn’t last long, and Scott proved to be a nice guy, who was delighted to have proved that his winery can produce a decent drop!
Tetsuya’s signature dish of Confit Ocean Trout followed. The accompaniments to this dish are varied by season, and while the apple complemented the fish superbly, I found the flavours of the celery a little bitter. Every dish was brilliant, and it is almost impossible to pick fault. The nuttiness of the grilled artichoke with the barramundi matched well with our wooded Chardonnay. Braised oxtail just melted in the mouth, the sea cucumber that accompanied this dish was an interesting experience for someone who had never before tasted this delicacy. I found it rather bland, although the texture contrasted nicely with the softness of the Braised oxtail, making this one of my favourite dishes of the night.
I could wax lyrical for hours on how wonderfully exquisite and beautifully delicate each dish was. However I am conscious that a blow by blow account of 13 courses will probably have your eye’s glazing over! The food at Tetsuya’s is simply world class. So how indeed did they lose a GFG Hat? I was absolutely perplexed as to how this amazing restaurant could possibly be deemed unworthy of 3 GFG Hats? The answer lay half way through this meal, when I was elbowed in the temple by a waitress. No apologies at all from this young lady! In response to my discomfort, she retorted with a sarcastic “would you like an ice pack for that madam?” An hour later, with my head still ringing from the blow I’d received, I was beginning to wish I’d accepted that offer! Quite shocking in a restaurant where other than this one incident, the service was superbly courteous and friendly.
In summary then, the food at Tetsuya’s is an absolute knock out, that is providing the staff don’t knock you out first. Despite my bad experience with one waitress, I would not hesitate to return. Simply, despite the blow to the head, this probably is the top dining experience of my life. If there’s one restaurant that’s worth flying across the world for, then Tetsuya’s is it.