Restaurant Review: Stem, London

My husband and I have been waiting for this restaurant to open. We’ve been tracking Mark Jarvis’ journey for years now, and every time he opens a new restaurant we’re there. We had high hopes for Stem, based on what we know of Mark and his food in the past. This restaurant is good for those wanting to take that step into fine dining world, but are not yet used to the formal setting. The atmosphere and setting is casual, but neat. On flavour, however, we were sad to conclude that the restaurant did not deliver, leaving us somewhat underwhelmed.

I’m hoping that this more due to being the first week of opening, and once things get to full swing this improves.

The appetizer was nice enough, flavour was like minted peas, with nice mousse on top. It might have been potato mousse, but don’t quote me on that. The pastry shell was thin and worked well, the peas seemed a little bit too hard for me.

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The sourdough bread was excellent, and I would even say one of the best things of the whole meal. The butter tests was passed, the butter being soft and easy to spread.

I enjoyed the asparagus with lemon oil and tarragon cream. The dish did leave you wanting more of it however. My husband felt there should’ve been more of the cream, as you were left eating the last bits of asparagus without any sauce. The flavours worked well for me, and the asparagus was cooked well, with still crunchy bite to it. The dish was paired with 2016 Ciu Ciu ‘Falerio’, Trebbiano / Pecorino / Passerina, Marche, Italy. White wine, with a lovely floral note.

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The next dish of fermented radicchio and blood orange was a bit of a weird one. On the drinks pairing, this was served with Wild Beer, ‘Ninkasi’, Somerset, UK, which actually complemented the food extremely well. We felt that without the drink the food wouldn’t have been as enjoyable. The fermented leaves and blood orange flavor actually went well together, however without the beer wouldn’t perhaps had been very nice.

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At this stage we were feeling somewhat disappointed, and were really looking forward to the smoked chicken tortellini with leek hearts cooked in truffle oil. Unfortunately, the general trend of being underwhelming in terms of flavour continued. We were in fact getting very frustrated, because Mark is so much better than this! The tortellini itself was nicely thin, however too al dente for me. The chicken filling seemed quite dry, and not delivering much on flavor. I thought the leek hearts were very nice, the best thing on the dish, however I didn’t get the truffle flavor coming through at any point on this plate of food. For me, the jus was a little bit salty, however my husband didn’t agree with me on this aspect. Wine pairing for this dish was 2016 Pierre Frick, Riesling, Alsace, France. Slightly floral with a little bit of sweetness, but not from the sweet end of the Riesling spectrum. Very enjoyable.

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Before the cod baked in lemon verbena, grelot onion, nasturtium and pear came, we thought that was going to be the ‘make or break’ plate of food, whether the restaurant could redeem themselves. The fish itself was cooked very well, being translucent and not overcooked, still quite firm. On flavor, we thought the plate was lacking again. The pear brought nice flavor and sweetness to the fish, and I thought the mini onions were the best thing on the plate. I tend to find cod quite a tasteless fish in general. I felt something on the plate was a bit too salty for me. As a drink pairing we had 2015 Sokol Blosser, Pinot Gris, Williamette Valley, California.

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The next main dish of beef was nice and pink. We were looking forward to cutting into a succulent, melt-in-the-mouth piece of meat. Unfortunately, we both found the piece of meat somewhat tougher and chewier that we were expecting. The dish also came with beef tartare, which unfortunately was very bland. I think it’s very important to have great flavours going on when serving raw beef, and I have in my time had some excellent tartares. This dish was served with 2016 Vigneureuse, ‘CroiZADe’, Syrah / Duras, Gaillac, Rhone, France.

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Cheese course came with thin, crispy crackers that I thoroughly liked. I’m not usually a fan of crackers, end up eating my cheese on it’s own, however I did like these ones. My husband thought completely opposite to me about this. The cheese was served with tomato chutney, which in our mind didn’t work, and was quite unpleasant. Of, course, we had this this with some Fonseca, 20 YearTawny Port, Portugal.

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The best part of the dessert of strawberry, tomato and rosemary, was the red strawberries, which were excellent with full of  flavour and sweetness. The white strawberries left me thinking they were just raw strawberries, I didn’t enjoy them very much. There was a subtle flavour of rosenmary coming through, which worked quite well. Dessert wine pairing was 2017 Landon Chartier, ‘Naturlich’, Folle Blanche / Gamay, Loire, France. Slightly sparkling, in between white and rose wine, it was very pleasant with a hint of strawberry.

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Our main feeling was that the drinks stole the show. We would go back to Stem for drinks more than the food, at this stage. I wish them all the best, and hopefully they will develop and grow as time goes by.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Restaurant review: Aquavit, NYC

How this restaurant has managed to get two Michelin stars is beyond me. Now, before anyone says that perhaps I just don’t get Scandinavian food, A) I am Scandinavian and B) I’ve had Scandinavian food that has been very good in other restaurants, so that’s not it. Also, I’ve been to around 40 Michelin star restaurants, so I do have plenty to use as comparison. The step from one to two stars is big, and a two-star-restaurant really should excel in many aspects. Unfortunately, Aquavit disappointed in all aspects, and I don’t think it’s worthy of any stars. Perhaps the inspectors were on too much (free) champagne when inspecting Aquavit?

From staff to the food, everything just seemed a bit ‘off’. Now, there we couple of members of staff who were friendly and good, but the rest just gave a bad vibe, like they didn’t want to be there, as well as giving a scruffy impression. The sommeliers knew their stuff about what they were talking about, however the actual wine pairing to our Seasonal Tasting Menu didn’t impress either. Overall impression was that service was sloppy. I had wine poured to a wrong glass (old, used one instead of the new, clean one), and the cutlery was always placed in completely wrong angles etc. It’s these kind of little things that should not be happening in a place of this calibre.

My prediction is that Aquavit will be losing it’s stars, they most certainly are not worthy of them. For me, they are amongst one of the three worst Michelin star restaurants I’ve been to, my husband thought the are in fact the worst.

For the first Amuse Bouche we were served a Swedish pancake and smoked salmon. It was ok enough in flavour, however not amazing, and was a little bit difficult to eat by hand, as it was quite a floppy pancake. We thought they’ll need to improve to be the required standard.

Second appetiser and ‘palate cleanser’ was mussel with seaweed broth. The broth was ok, but tasted quite bland. The taste of the mussel wasn’t great, and it had some sort of dry crumbly topping, which made it dry. It tasted somewhat weird and unpleasant. We didn’t understand how this was called a palate cleanser, which are usually fresh, light and sharp on the palate, as this was not that. My husband thought the mussel was awful.

The butter test was passed nicely, as the butter was fluffy and very soft. The bread however didn’t impress.

The first actual course of scallop and sea urchin had a really weird, terrible taste to it. My husband thought it was the worst scallop dish he’s ever had, and I wouldn’t be far behind him.

I got my hopes up when the Arctic char and kavring dish came. It was ok for me, however my husband didn’t like this one either. The dish was edible, however not worthy of two stars. A common nominator for all the dishes during the meal seemed to be a weird taste throughout, and there were too many pickled things that weren’t even pickled in a nice way. This dish was also lacking some attention to detail. I love a dish of salmon or fish from the same family, with some dill and wonderfully pickled cucumbers. The lack of attention to detail was that the cucumber had the skin on. Now, I can easily name places where the cucumber balls have been pickled better, are fully round balls and have no skin on them. Not impressed.

The Spanish turbot and sunchoke dish was the best of the meal at that point, however still not the greatest of flavours. The fish was cooked fine, it was nice and juicy.

Next up was a mini slider isterband and apple. It was ok, however bland, and didn’t really bring anything to the meal.

I was hoping the duck and honeynut squash dish was going to rectify the so far bad experience, but again left you wondering where the two stars have come from. The duck did have a crispy skin, which was positive. The squash disk was too undercooked and therefore unpleasant. Overall, again, the flavour of the whole dish was disappointing.

The palate cleanser of lingonberry and ginger was the best part of the dish. Lingonberries can be very sour, however their taste had been sweetened just right, and surprisingly the ginger went quite well with the lingonberry.

The wild strawberry and pistachio cake was unfortunately again somewhat bland. I was excited about the wild strawberries, as their taste is truly magnificent and sweet (I have picked these straight from the bushes in the past), but sadly they didn’t have any of the flavour I know these strawberries should have. And see from the picture yourself if you can spot why I would once again say they need to up their game when it comes to attention to detail.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Restaurant review: Pétrus

This delightful restaurant in the heart of Knightsbridge in London is a place I would like to visit more frequently, but as my husband and I tend to often decide on the day we’d like to go out for a meal, it’s not possible because Pétrus is most of the time fully booked. We have visited several times however (we can occasionally also be more organized), and it is one of my favourite places. The place exudes sophistication, and even in a full restaurant you feel like you have privacy. You are well looked after, and for ladies; your handbag will get it’s own stool too. Pétrus is very worthy of it’s one Michelin star with their consistently good cooking, however it’s not the best restaurant I’ve recently been. The staff were very friendly and attentive, and The Head Chef spared us a generous amount of  time in the kitchen, which was very nice.

The Head Chef Larry Jayasekara has an impressive background, having worked at several three Michelin star restaurants. Having started his career at Pétrus back in 2004, he re-joined in 2015. He was also awarded with National Chef of the Year in 2016, amongst other accolades he’s achieved.

I hadn’t decided at first whether I was going to review our dining experience or not, and decided to do it after our Amuse Bouche, so I don’t have a picture of them. They were however nice and tasty.

The Tasting Menu itself started with lime, sour cream, olive oil and sherry. This was like a palate cleanser, very fresh and light.

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The scallop dish with cauliflower, capers and raisins that came next was very tasty, and the scallop was cooked well, however we thought perhaps just on the borderline whether it was cooked enough. We also thought it would’ve been useful to have a small spoon to eat the cauliflower foam. The capers and raisins were somehow incorporated to the dish in a way that you didn’t notice them (there were no physical bits of these), so the flavours, saltiness of capers and sweetness of raisins, had been managed really well.

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The next dish of chicken, foie gras and black truffle was a clever,  playful dish of a mini chicken pie. My husband loved it. I thought I couldn’t really taste the black truffle much. The dish was eaten by hand, which wasn’t a problem to us, however I could imagine some people might not like it.

The butter test was passed without problems. If you’ve not read any of my previous reviews, there are not many things I hate more than hard butter that’s really difficult to spread, in a nice restaurant. The butter should be nice a fluffy, and most of all, soft. The butter sets the tone from then forward to the whole meal. The bread had an interesting sour taste to it – and I don’t mean a sourdough. My husband said it reminded him of Guinness. He is a Guinness lover, and also loved the bread. I don’t drink Guinness, and thought the bread was nice, but didn’t love it as much.

Next dish of crab agnolotti (stuffed pasta, like ravioli) with sweetcorn puree and red wine jus was very tasty. For me the pasta might have been just a tad too al dente, however for my husband, it was perfect. The red wine jus had perfect balance, and didn’t overpower the other flavours.

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I’ve tried sweetbread a couple of times in the past, and I was yet to come across a nice one. I don’t think it’s necessarily that I don’t like the sweetbread itself, but it just haven’t been cooked in a way that would’ve sold it to me. So I was really looking forward to trying it in a place like this. The flavour combinations on the menu for this dish looked interesting: curried sweetbread, almond, black tea. The sweetbread gets poached in milk first, then pan fried and served with almond gazpacho. The dish itself was hiding behind a lettuce leaf. My husband loved the dish. I also liked the sweetbread, I only found something on the plate a little bit too salty (my husband didn’t). The texture of the sweetbread was firmer than of those I’ve had in the past, which made me conclude my biggest issue in the past has been the texture. The black tea wasn’t really coming through on the dish.

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The next dish of Skrei cod with Oscietra caviar and yuzu (Japanese / Korean citrus fruit) was lovely, the fish was perfectly cooked.

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Pigeon is one of my favourite fine dining foods, so I was pleased to see the Anjou pigeon with avocado, pistachio and Madeira jus coming up on the menu next. The whole dish was wonderful. The turnip, onion and avocado were lovely and very tasty accompaniments to the perfectly cooked, rich dark, pink coloured pigeon, and the pistachio crumb worked well.

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This dessert, jelly and ice cream, is a kind of a ‘blast from the past’ kind of dessert. I believe it was a very British, and popular, dessert back in the 80’s. I have seen the revival for the dish recently, as it  seems to have appeared on the menu in a few places. Of course, this comeback version has seen a refined makeover. The ginger bread ice cream tasted amazing, really lovely. In fact, my husband said it was the best ice cream he’s ever had. We didn’t really notice the jelly element, and in fact thought first this was an additional palate cleanser dish. There was caramelised pineapple and basil, and the ice cream. Because of the style of the plate, you had to use your finger to assist getting things on the spoon.

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I thought the execution of the coconut parfait was very clever. It looked like you were being served a half a coconut, however the white inside was the coconut parfait, and the brown outer shell was dark chocolate, with additional small chocolate pieces on the outside of the shell, making it look like a real, hairy coconut. It was served with rice pudding and a coconut and lime sorbet. My husband came up with a very good description: the dish was like a really nice Bounty.

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Rating: ★★★★☆

Restaurant review: Roganic

When my husband and I heard Simon Rogan had left Fera to go and add another restaurant to his growing empire, we were excited to go and see his new place. This Michelin starred chef (who needs to split his time between a few high level restaurants) has appointed Oliver Marlow, for sure a future star in the foodie scene, as his Head Chef. Oliver has an impressive background of very high level restaurants, from Eleven Madison Park in New York and Maaemo in Oslo, to Fat Duck in Bray and now Roganic. He was also part of the crew of Roganic pop-up restaurant.

We went to Roganic after one week of opening. The atmosphere as soon as you step in is welcoming and relaxed, and the decor reflects this, being very minimalistic and bare. The staff were very friendly. The General Manager was a character, in a positive way, which we liked. I can already see some Michelin stars in the horizon for this place as soon as the next ones are given. Those who are familiar with my restaurant reviews know that I don’t give the top five stars easily at all and only reserve them to the best (in fact I’ve not yet given any), and even four is not given to all nice restaurants. I think Roganic is so good that I’ve been contemplating between four and five stars. See the end to find out what I decided in the end.

We decided to go for the full Tasting Menu experience with wine pairing.

First we had an appetiser of raspberry tart with beetroot and buttermilk. First taste was sweetness from the raspberry, after that the earthiness of the beetroot. The tart pastry was very light, thin and crispy.

Second came a trio of appetisers.

The seaweed custard with caviar was absolutely devine. It actually reminded me of a food from my background, a kind of salmon meatloaf, but with a nicer texture and even nicer flavour. It didn’t seem to have any fish, so the fishy flavour must’ve all come from the seaweed.

The pork, eel and hay cream ball, again was absolutely delicious. My husband said the flavour reminded him of smoky bacon crisps (potato chips), and after he said it I could taste it too. Both the texture and taste were just simply wonderful.

The raw mackerel with lovage in pickled kohlrabi had nice, charred smoky flavour to it.

Next came scallop with gooseberry, apple and oyster. It was nice and fresh, however I do find raw scallop usually very mild in flavour. All the flavours went very well together.

Once the bread came it was time for the usual butter test. We were delighted that Roganic passed this test with flying colours. Both the bread and the butter are made in-house. The bread was one of the best, most flavoursome sourdough I’ve ever had, and butter was extremely fluffy and soft, almost mousse-like, simply perfect.

First warm dish was artichoke broth with smoked yolk and winter leaves. This was really good, very flavoursome. The yolk was perfectly gooey, the thicker kind you get when slow cooked. Beforehand, I had reservations about the broth, but it was in fact top notch.

Next up was salt baked celeriac with enoki and whey. This was very nice. I often find celeriac very bland and tasteless, but miraculously Simon and his team have managed to bring out the celeriac flavour. I also thought the crispy enoki brought great texture as well as subtle mushroom flavour, which all worked very well together with all the other ingredients. The whole dish had lovely earthiness to it.

The next course of millet pudding with stichelton, pear and bone marrow was a dish that ‘grew on you’ as you were eating it. And when you remembered that the caramelised pear was at the bottom of the bowl, and tasted all elements together, it all all of a sudden made sense. The wine pairing for this was also perfect.

For the fish dish we had butter poached halibut with brassicas and tarragon. The fish was very well cooked, soft and juicy. I was slightly nervous about the tarragon sauce as it can be an overpowering herb, but I should’ve remembered where I was and not be nervous. The sauce complimented the halibut very well. It was only at this stage that we were able to think of any, first bit of criticism, for something being somewhat too salty. We thought it might have been the brassicas.

For the meat we had duck. The dish was served on three separate plates, and I would say was quite generous. The breast was cooked really well, pink as it should be. The skin also had crispiness to it. In many places the skin isn’t crispy, and I think it absolutely must be. Heart was served with cheese ‘mousse’, which was superbly tasty, almost like a garlicky flavour. I loved this. The leg meat was served cold, and again was very tasty. We found it a little bit awkward to eat from the three different plates, but in terms of flavour it was all very good.

Next we had a palate cleanser of yellow beetroot sorbet with mint oil, buttermilk and oxalis. The taste was earthy, but fresh at the same time. Sorbets are often either quite sharp or sweet, this was neither, but earthy instead. A very nice dish.

For the first dessert we had burnt milk crisp with blackcurrant and yoghurt. This was very good, I loved the burnt milk crisp. Everything worked well together.

The dessert of caramelised apple was an absolute triumph. I’m not usually one to pick apple dessert, and I thought this was fantastic. The apple was cut in thin layers, then rolled together, and was wonderfully caramelised and sweet. Also the pastry at the bottom was light and delightful. The sour milk ice-cream had a very interesting flavour of fir.

For Petit Fours we were served juniper fudge, rhubarb jelly and dandelion seed snap. The fudge had a very interesting flavour from the juniper. The rhubarb was nice, and the dandelion seed snap had an interesting, earthy flavour, which my husband loved.

Finally, as we were leaving, we were given a little ‘gift’ of a mini brioche loaf, orange marmalade and two tea bags, for next morning. What a wonderful way to make the experience last even longer.

Rating: ★★★★★

Restaurant Review: Fera

This restaurant is most of the time fully booked, and it’s easy to see why. As you step into the luxurious Claridge’s Hotel in Mayfair, in Central London, you can already get an idea what décor and ambience is waiting for you at the actual Fera restaurant. The food is worthy of their 1 Michelin star, with great attention to detail applied. For each course, before actually placing anything in your mouth, the food has already visually satisfied your tastebuds.

The overall experience was as great as we remembered from our last visit, however there were few things that appeared a little too salty to our taste. The new Head Chef Matt Starling has done a great job at maintaining the standards this restaurant had under Simon Rogan. Not to mention, we went on a Saturday between Christmas and New Year, and I was so pleased that our Tasting Menu didn’t have ingredients that were leftovers from Christmas meals, but something completely different.

Another thing to mention, that is a good example of the quality of the place, is that from on our booking we had had an offer for free glasses of champagne. The champagne itself wasn’t any cheap version, but Laurent Perrier (our favourite brand we often buy). The kitchen tour we had afterwards was really interesting, it was great to get some insight to their preparation process. The service at Fera was really good. The staff were very skilled at reading us, being formal, but also informal.

For bread we had rye and stout bread (my husband particularly loved this), as well sourdough bread, which I thought very tasty, more than at most places. And our first test of a place of the softness of the butter was passed by flying colours, however it was too salty for us.

For appetisers we had a wonderful chickpea and rosemary wafer with cream cheese and mustard vinaigrette (that brought nice sharpness) with edible flowers. Everything worked very well together, and was extremely pleasing to the eye.

The starters of stewed rabbit with lovage, and scallop with John Dory and smoked roe were served a little bit like appetisers. The rabbit was very juicy. It was coated with dried onion, and served with lovage purée. It was a little messy to eat as you ate it by hand and it was bigger than one bite, but the flavour was really good. I also loved the smokiness of the seafood ‘tart’.

 

The second starter was beef tartare. It was very mild in flavour, but very enjoyable nevertheless. The whole dish was executed well, and all the flavours went really well together. We were also having the wine pairing for our menu, and were originally surprised to be served white wine with this course. The unexpected sharpness of the wine actually complimented the food extremely well.

For the fish course we had brill. It was juicy, but for me perhaps slightly overcooked. Something on the plate was too salty for us. We came to a conclusion it was the broccoli purée.

The main meat dish presented us with deer. I think this might be the best cooked deer I’ve ever had. As the meat of this animal is very lean, it can very easily become dry. Ours, however, were melt-in-the-mouth soft, tender and juicy. The blackberry element on the dish was powder, and it was also incorporated in the jus, however we felt it would’ve been nice to have couple of the actual berries on the plate, too. When the dish was served, all the other ingredients were hiding inside a king lettuce parcel. When you revealed what was inside the sight filled you with joy. Again, this dish, too, had something that was too salty. On this dish it was the mushroom purée.

 

The first dessert, a little bit like palate cleanser but with less sharpness and freshness, was bergamot foam, parsley cream and honey cake. On it’s own, I wasn’t a big fan of the parsley cream, but when you ate everything together all of the flavours complemented each other really well. The cake was like the currently trendy dehydrated cake, with nice crunch to it.

The main dessert of chocolate custard ganache, earl grey ice-cream, aerated milk cake and lemon granita was nice, however something didn’t entirely work for me. I think it might have been the ice-cream. Overall the dish was still nice enough.

Petit Fours were nice, my husband in fact couldn’t even wait for me to take the picture until he’d already had one.

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Rating: ★★★★☆

Restaurant Review: Gauthier Soho

I’m sad to be writing a review of this charming old townhouse, located right in the heart of buzzing Central London, Soho. Sad because it unfortunately cannot be as good as I wanted it to be. We have been here several times, and always think it as one of the nice places we go back to. They do a fantastic value reduced Tasting Menu for lunch, which has been getting us going back for more over and over again. This time we went for dinner, and for some reason the overall experience seemed underwhelming, and I remembered thinking the same last time we visited. You couldn’t really pinpoint why you were left feeling like this, but the meal somehow left you wanting more, as if something hadn’t been satisfied (we were completely full after the meal, so the quantity wasn’t it). As a fine dining restaurant, it felt like the attention to detail wasn’t present (this is important part of a fine dining experience), from dressing of the plates to service. New cutlery wasn’t laid down neatly, but very messily. Messy / sloppy was also the word for some of the plating. And when it comes to wine pairing, we very rarely have any criticism to say, however with this meal also some of the pairings didn’t work. We arrived 5 minutes early for our first seating slot, and were asked to wait outside on the street, in the cold (luckily it wasn’t raining). I have in the past successfully predicted some restaurants to lose their Michelin stars, and would also have predicted it for Gauthier Soho. On closer inspection, they in fact have already lost it.

There was a good selection of fresh bread, I had white roll which was light and fluffy, and flavoursome. My husband had beetroot brioche roll. Again, soft, light and fluffy, but the beetroot didn’t really bring any additional flavour. One of the first things we assess a restaurant by is softness of the butter. I don’t hate many things more than hard butter you can’t spread when in a restaurant. In a lot of nice places the butter is amazingly soft and fluffy. Unfortunately, at Gauthier Soho, the butter was hard.

I was glad to get the appetisers, as I was really hungry. The parmesan crisp was nice, thin and crispy. The quinoa crisp with beetroot hummus was nice and tasty. The last thing, which remained unknown to what it was, was ok, I couldn’t taste the wasabi that was promised.

First course was a carrot tartare. We loved the theatrics that followed. What appeared to be a meat mincer was brought to the table. Condiments were placed in front of you (guacamole, finely chopped shallots, ginger and something else we weren’t sure of what it was. On a plate in front of you, you had plum jam. The waiter then brought carrots, holding them on the green stalks, and proceed to mince the carrots in the mincer in front of you. The mince was then placed on your plate, on top of the plum jam. You then added the condiments of your liking, and mixed everything together, to be enjoyed with lovely thin and crisp Melba toast. I added everything to mine, however not all of the ginger. I found the taste of this all a bit weird, and wouldn’t rush to have it again. The carrot itself was soft and juicy.

Next course was scallop with cauliflower, roe crisp and romanesco. The scallop was nicely cooked, however the star of this dish without a doubt was the crustacean sauce. Full of flavour, this was one of the best elements of the entire meal. The wine had quite a floral taste, and perhaps not something I would pare with this kind of dish.

Next up was truffle risotto. This has been one of my favourite dishes of this restaurant for as long as I can remember. I thought the risotto was cooked well, just a bit al dente as it should be, however my husband thought it was a little too cooked. Risotto was nice an creamy, and had a generous amount of black truffle.

The meal then continued with a fish dish of halibut. This was the best dish of the meal. The fish was cooked well, however I’m still trying to decide if mine could’ve been cooked slightly less. My husband thought the fish was cooked perfect. It was moist and soft. There was pickled beetroot with the fish, which was nice on its own, however I’m not sure if it was the best accomplishment for the fish, as the sharpness overpowered the delicate flavour of the fish. We were also served quite sharp red wine with this dish, which we didn’t think suited the dish, as this too overpowered the fish.

I’m not entirely sure what to say about the next dish of Barbary duck. It wasn’t bad by any means, but it wasn’t magnificent either. It just left you a bit underwhelmed I guess. The duck itself was cooked well (medium), and one of the accompaniments of what seemed to be swede purée went really well with it. I did enjoy the slow cooked meat ‘cake’.

Next came Gruyere cheese with fennel and chestnut. The cheese was very nice. I’m not usually a great fan of fennel (same with my husband), it can sometimes be quite pungent, however this was very thinly sliced and brought great freshness to the dish, and what you wanted at this stage of the meal. The chestnut was ok, the apple balls were a bit hard.

The first dessert was a palate cleanser. The light, airy shell was meringue-like, but completely vegan, made of chickpea water. It was filled with sharp pear sorbet, and also served with pear purée and lemongrass purée, as well as pear bits. Overall quite sour (perhaps a bit too sour), but refreshing.

The main dessert was Golden Louis XV. This decadent, very sweet dessert would satisfy the most demanding chocolate lovers, I’m sure. Light, but crunchy base, topped up with two different layers of chocolate, with a rich chocolate glazing and edible gold decoration, this is a wonderful dessert, however after a big meal you may struggle to eat it, however you won’t be able to stop trying!

The whole meal was finished with petit fours.

Rating:★★★☆☆

Restaurant Review: The Bingham

I’ve been wanting to do this review for some time now. This place is very dear to my husband and I, and we frequent it a lot. From cosy, dark winter’s nights in the luxurious dining room to bright summer’s days of sipping champagne on the balcony overlooking the River Thames, as well as being the place where my husband seeked for my father’s permission (unknown to me at the time) to propose to me, we often find ourselves in this hidden, off the beaten track, true gem of Richmond, London, whether it’s for lunch, dinner, afternoon tea or just drinks or a snack at the bar.

The history and relationship we share with this place brings me to my dilemma, and the reason why only now have I decided to write this. I’m very conscious of being biased, and think I might be overcompensating this by being extra harsh, trying to find criticism. I have decided to write the review based on our most recent experience, as it just truly was too good not to shout about. As I wasn’t originally planning on writing this, I didn’t take pictures of the two first things, however it’s a good reason to go back to have them again to get the pictures, and will update them on this review as soon as possible.

We had a Tasting Menu, which was magnificent. We thought the standards were between 1-2 Michelin star level.

The meal started with appetisers of choux buns filled with parmesan custard, with chestnut and truffle shavings on top. The taste was absolutely perfect, however the pastry for me could’ve been a little bit more light and airy.

Next we had beef tartare, which again I absolutely loved. The egg yolk was mushy and beautiful. You may be used to often having mustard with beef tartare. Well, this one didn’t have mustard, and it still worked perfectly well because all the other elements and flavours complimented the beef so well, including the burnt onion ketchup. It was at this stage I decided I must do my review, and started taking pictures and making notes.

Next up was scallop. It was perfectly cooked, not overcooked which can easily be done. I could not fault this dish at all even if I tried. The scallop was served with chicken jus, yeast puree and salsify. What I also really loved was the very refined bacon crumb. All the elements were singing together in perfect harmony.

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The scallop was followed by a mackerel dish. For me, the mackerel was slightly overcooked, however I still loved it because of all the flavours that again went perfectly together. The fish was served with smoked eel, celeriac puree and pieces and grape. I can’t remember ever having been served grapes with mackerel before, and would like to ask all the other restaurants ‘why not?’, as it was a perfect accompaniment, in fact vital to the whole dish. Smokiness of the eel and sweetness of the grapes were a great change to the usual friend of mackerel, beetroot (which of course works well too, but it was nice to see something different). The celeriac itself I often find quite bland wherever I’m eating it, but I can see it’s probably required for certain texture.

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After the mackerel it was time for venison. Perfectly pink and soft, this lean meat was accompanied by red gabbage, blackberry, parsnips, parsnip puree and Parisian potatoes. My husband thought these were one the best potato ‘things’ he’s ever had.

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After the venison it was time for a palate cleanser of granny smith apple sorbet, and honey and spice granita, with apple ball. The dish was refreshing and tasty, however the apple ball was a little bit hard.

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For dessert we had a deconstructed clementine trifle. I don’t mind deconstructed desserts, but my husband isn’t usually a big fan. This time, however, he loved it. You had sweetness from the clementines, mascarpone mousse, ginger bread foam and aerated sponge. The proportions, as well as all the individual elements were executed very well. I think if the aerated sponge pieces were too big the dish could seem too dry (regardless of all the wet elements), but the dish had been thought out very well. I’m not generally a great fan of fruity desserts, but I thoroughly enjoyed this. I think the flavours went excellently together.

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Finally, it was the petit fours: mint discs and chocolate brownies. What a heaven these brownies would be to anyone! They were extremely soft and gooey inside, absolutely perfect.

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Rating: ★★★★☆