February 2004
February News

Restaurant news round up

What's happening in Restaurant land this February? We had a quick skim through all the press releases, rumours and, frankly, near libellous scuttlebutt and boiled it down to a few facts we're fairly confident about.

Museum munchies

Museum restaurants eh? What a joke. Institutional tables, peeling walls, raucous clattering and astronomically priced horrible food served on chipped plates. If that's what you think then perhaps you haven't been to one recently. Invited to Café Bagatelle restaurant in the Wallace Collection in Manchester Square , we were shown into a beautiful rear courtyard glassed over to let the light in and to keep the cold out. Food is excellent, for example roast monkfish with warm couscous and light curried mussel broth and the ambiance superb. A dining oasis, the only caveat being it's not open in the evenings, except for functions. The parent company, Eliance, run similar restaurants, bars and brasseries in galleries and museums up and down the country giving a whole new meaning to being stuffed and in a museum.

Big Beer

Forget wine snobs, beer bores can be more frightening than Jilly Goolden on a roll about horses' saddles and girls' changing rooms. That said, though, it would be nice to have a decent beer with your meal occasionally and the Beer Academy exists to promote the good stuff and fight back against the yellow tide of 'session lagers'. The academy runs courses, with subjects including 'You're my best mate, you are', 'You spilled my pint', and 'Are you looking at my bird?'. Ha, ha ha. No seriously folks it's a good idea and its founder patrons are already trialing new course formats including the 2.5 hour Introduction course, the one day Foundation course and the three day Advanced course. The results will be incorporated into a full launch of the scheme in the Spring.

On the Frontline

No, we're not buying drugs in Brixton. Frontline is a new private members' club and public restaurant in Paddington from Vaughan Smith, founder of Frontline Television News. Here you can somewhat ironically view iconic and tragic pictures of blasted warscapes while tucking in to rather fancy food. The restaurant itself is not located in the blasted landscape of Paddington proper, but in the village area around St Mary's Hospital. It's also not too far from london-eating offices so it may yet save us from our stultifying lunchtime diet of Sainsbury's sandwiches.

Bagatelle restaurant
Turning to the screw top

Wine buffs sniffed at it, saying the screw top was only for wines of the lower orders. But New Zealand fine quality winemakers Villa Maria have now canned the cork completely.

Villa Maria has now bottled over 12.5 million bottles of wine under the new Stelvin screw cap closure and they estimate that this has resulted in a staggering 1 million bottles being saved from the detrimental effects of cork taint.

George Fistonich, MD and founder of Villa Maria says " Cork is traditional and has all sorts of romance associated with it; but we are dedicated to producing top quality wines and it is clear that cork is preventing us from achieving this consistently".

Nothing beats the plop of a cork coming out, but I suppose we could learn to love the rattle of a screw top even if it takes some of the drama out of dining.

Michelin Stars

That time has come again sending the chefs into spasms, the restaurateurs into shock and us public into salivating fiends. Yes it's time to announce those who have received Michelin Stars in 2003. Whether you save an excursion to one of these fine restaurants for that special occasion, or plan to put them all to the test as soon as is humanly possible, they all deserve a round of applause, a slap on the back and a thank you for providing us with the such stunning food. And here they are...(in alphabetical order as we don't like to play favourites).

Gordon Ramsay at Claridges
Locanda Locatelli
Pied à Terre

Abbey Restaurant , Abbey St , Penzance, Cornwall .
Drakes on the Pond , Abinger Hammer, Surrey . Roux
Edmunds , Henley-in-Arden, Warks.
L'Ortolan , Reading , Berks.
Mallory Court , Leamington Spa, Warks.
Restaurant Sat Bains , Hotel des Clos, Old Lenton Lane , Nottingham .
Ripley's , Padstow, Cornwall .
Thackeray's , Tunbridge Wells , Kent .
The Devonshire Arms , Bolton Abbey, N Yorks .
Yorke Arms , Pateley Bridge , N Yorks .

Number One , Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh.

Curry set to inflame passions in Shaftesbury Avenue

Mela Restaurant will be hosting the Ambari Ayurveda Food Festival, February 10 th to March 10 th .

Chef Raminder Singh Malhorra, Chef Uday and Chef Kuldeep Singh have been working for months as a team researching this healthy style of Indian Cuisine and at a press launch they were happy to talk as we ate.

This cuisine focuses on the balancing of spices and herbs to enhance health and well-being. As Chef Raminder explained, this is not 'medicine' but the natural way to maintain a body's balance. By blending Ayurveda, the ancient system of holistic healing, with the art of Awadhi cooking the chefs promise to reach the parts other curries cannot reach.

The food, and there are vegetarian options, is delicious and as Chef Raminder pointed out, is suitable for anyone whether or not they believe in the theory.

Some of the spices used in the Ambari Ayurveda Food Festival will include Ajwain (a shrub whose seeds have aphrodisiac qualities when crushed and fried in ghee), Saffron (one of the most expensive spices in the world prized for its colour, fragrance and ability to stimulate the erogenous zones), Cloves (aromatic dried flower buds which can freshen breath and fight pain) and Ginger (offers a warming action for internal organs and can also help with impotence, chaps).

The festival will also be supported by special Acharya (Dr) Mukesh Sharma of the Jiva Ayurvedic Health Centre in Haryana , India where Ayurvedic Medicine is his speciality. Every diner will receive a commissioned book by Dr Sharma detailing the medical properties of the food used and remedies to try at home.

This modern and stylish restaurant is a definite cut above the average Indian restaurant and the festival promises to set a whole new level of Indian cuisine. Prices reflect the style and location but are still very reasonable.

Mela 152-156 Shaftesbury Avenue WC2H 8HL

Friday 13th Lucky for some

Trisaidekaphobes are people with an unnatural fear of Friday 13th. Inspired by her recent introduction to this word and in recognition of her own longstanding mistrust of this fear-filled date on the calendar, Morfudd Richards the owner of Lolas in achingly trendy Upper St N1 has dreamt up a good incentive to take a risk and leave your house: a 13 course degustation menu, cooked by their up and coming head chef Elisha Carter.

Go on, take a chance.

  • Spicy cheese and anchovy straws
  • Amuse bouche of onion soup with herb crust
  • Spanish charcuterie plate
  • Parmesan 'brulee'
  • Cauliflower soup
  • Duck terrine
  • Pumpkin and wild mushroom risotto
  • Poached sole
  • Roast saddle of Snowdonia lamb
  • Fig tart
  • Blackberry 'soup'
  • Selection of Artisan cheeses, raisin and walnut bread
  • Coffee and Petit fours

Triskaidekaphobia menu is available for the whole table only and costs £45 per person.  Lola's Restaurant ( 359 Upper Street N1, Tel: 020 7359 1932)

Elisha Carter

Benares introduces regional gourmand menus

This March sees the beginning of Atul Kochhar's tasting journey around India.  Each month the Benares tasting menu will explore a different region of the sub continent, something currently under explored in this country with its traditional focus on just a few regional cuisines.   Forthcoming regional menus will include Manglorean menu (South India), Travancore menu (a region in Kerala) and Sonar Gaon ( East India ).

The first region to be visited will be Lucknowi - located East of Delhi in North India and dishes will include:

  • Assorted mushroom and peas in crisp pastry parcel
  • Lamb kebabs scented with rose petals and cloves
  • Raspberry sorbet spiked with toasted cumin
  • Supreme of chicken simmered in a yoghurt and saffron sauce
  • Carrot pudding with caramelised figs

The menu will cost £55 per person with wine to match or £37 per person excluding wine. (12 Berkeley Square W1, Tel: 020 7629 8886)

A sweet finish

Throughout February Noble Rot ( 33 Mill Street W1, Tel:020 7629 8877) are offering a complimentary glass of sweet wine to match your dessert. This gives diners the opportunity to sample a choice of nine sweet wines including renowned vintages such as Elysium black Muscat 2002.

New for 2004

Building on the massive success of Zuma, Rainer Becker and business partner, Arjun Waney have acquired an exciting new site for their second restaurant, which will be called 'Roka'. Located at 37 Charlotte Street it is due to open in May.