The Wapping Project – Hardens Reporter evening

Attended the Hardens Reporter evening at the Wapping Project, one of my favorite venues.

The atmosphere was very relaxed and informal. We were in excellent company, indeed I think I talked more than I ate.

The evenings  program included :-

Canapés prepared by Philippe Saint Romas (former pastry chef to Jacques Chirac and from the world renowned kitchens Les Ambassadeurs, Le Crillon and L’Ambroisie ) accompanied by an apéritif of Rémy Martin Coeur de Cognac

A two course ‘eat together’ menu of fresh seasonal food and wine from Wapping’s head chef Cameron Emirali.  The starter, an Octopus salad was particularly delicious.

Dessert by Philippe Saint Romas served with a digestif of Rémy Martin Coeur de Cognac. The dessert (pictured) was very interesting, like a deconstructed key lime pie.  I also had far more than my share of the lovely chewy nougat served with the coffee.

An opportunity to meet Philippe Saint Romas – he sat at the head of table and happily answered questions throughout the evening with the help of his translator.

An opportunity to view the current Wapping Project installation ‘A French Picture Show’, introduced by Dr. Jules Wright (curator/director of The Wapping Project) – who also explained the Wapping Projects relationship with Rémy Martin.

For more on the Wapping Project, see our earlier post:-

Wapping Project at the Hydraulic Power Station

UPDATE : Restaurant Closed


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Number One at the Balmoral – Well Bread

So can the top restaurants north of the border hold their own against the top London restaurants? Based on our experience at Number One Restaurant at The Balmoral Hotel, the answer is a resounding YES. Indeed they could teach some other Michelin establishments a thing or two about service and the importance of good bread. Bread is normally something we have found that a lot of the very best restaurants tend to dismiss. Not so at Number One, they have a “loaf trolley” and serve up world class bread baked on the premises by their Pastry Chef a former French Baker.

We really liked the dining room, the décor is warm and certainly in the evening very effective for a basement restaurant. There is a large bar area and two larger rooms with well spaced tables and curved booths that allowed everyone a good view of the room.

We went for the tasting menu with matching wines, which was all of a very high standard. The standout course being the Monkfish. The New Zealand wines were also very good indeed. I also really enjoyed the fois gras course with pineapple relish and pineapple bread. At the end of the meal the sommelier discreetly slipped us a small present in the shape of a full loaf of the wonderful walnut and raisin bread.

We also had pre dinner champagne cocktails in the lively Bollinger Bar at the Palm Court,  which is a popular new venue for afternoon tea.



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Michelin Stars v AA Rosettes – Ding Ding!

No Expert has just hit the 100th post mark, so for that milestone rather than single out a restaurant, this post focuses on an issue that impacted on a number of our restaurant choices and that is can we trust Michelin Star and AA Rosette ratings alone.

I know there is a lot of debate over how accurate the Michelin star rating system is. I believe we have been to enough Michelin starred restaurants to give an opinion on the subject. Basically the  problems seem to be inconsistency and big name restaurants hanging on to stars they no longer merit. The Michelin star rating seems to be about as reliable as the S.Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants list, i.e., not reliable at all.

The rating system definition for Michelin stars is:-

  • 1 star – A very good restaurant in its category
  • 2 stars – Excellent cooking, worth a detour
  • 3 stars – Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey

For more information see Michelin Guide

We have been to some 3 star and 2 star Michelin restaurants that are not in the same class as 1 star restaurants.  Compare Tom Aikens to The Waterside Inn for example.

The 5 AA Rosettes award however does seem to match our tastes. The ones on the list in England for example are among our all time favorite restaurants.

The rating system definition for 5 AA Rosettes :-

  • The supreme accolade awarded only when the cooking is at the pinnacle of achievement. Flavours, combinations and textures show a faultless sense of balance, giving each dish an extra dimension.

The rating system definition for 4 AA Rosettes :-

  • At this level, not only should all technical skills be exemplary, but there should also be daring ideas, and they must work. There is no room for disappointment. Flavours should be accurate and vibrant.

Then just when I thought I could maybe rely on the AA Rosettes I find out that one of our worst of the worst restaurants Harveys of Ramsgate has just been awarded one AA Rosette, and that another of our least favorite places Abode in Canterbury has 2.

The rating system definition for 1 AA Rosette :-

  • Chefs should display a mastery of basic techniques and be able to produce dishes of sound quality and clarity of flavours, using good, fresh ingredients.

The rating system definition for 2 AA Rosettes :-

  • Innovation, greater technical skill and more consistency and judgement in combining and balancing ingredients are all needed at this level

Our experience of Harveys of Ramsgate and Abode indicated that they were sadly lacking in several of the areas associated with the definitions.

For more information see:-

The conclusion is that research is essential before you  commit to the really expensive dining experiences in the high end restaurants.

  • Check out the food blogs.
  • Check out Hardens and Zagat.
  • Look for real customer reviews via Google Maps.
  • Be really wary of the hype.
  • Be wary of Celebrity Chef endorsements.

Click here to access our prefered Food Blog/Site list.

  • It is also worth trying one of the restaurants deals first, e.g., a pre-theatre or set lunch deal.  It is surprising just how many of the top restaurants do offer less expensive options. The toptable web site is a good place to start to find these deals.