Archives for posts with tag: Noma

We are definitely spoilt for choice in London for new restaurants. A new opening is a weekly occurrence. Sadly there are many more failures than successes and my list of potential places to visit gets edited down somewhat frequently. It used to be that I would bound along with fresh enthusiasm but years of disappointment makes me far more cynical these days.

Last year it was Dabbous that caught my eye but I got bored trying to get a table so it is still on the list, but could be there for some time. The reviews can’t all be wrong, so I will get there at some point. Mind you, I also fancied Dach & Sons – a hotdog and cocktails place that opened less than a year ago near me. When I finally found a suitably young & hip companion to take there, it had shut! They put it down to failure to generate the right volume of trade…a sad reality of starting up in this highly competitive city.

This year, I had two front runners on my ever expanding list: Ametsa and Restaurant Story.

Ametsa restaurant

Ametsa appealed because I also have San Sebastian, and of course Arzak, well up on my travel list (I know – all these lists!). So when the mountain and chef mohammed were coming to London it seemed too good to be true. I researched and chased and hung on in the phone queue as is normally required in these circumstances, and secured a table soon after opening. Experience tells me never to go week one as it is generally being bedded in and you can also catch up on the restaurant critics and reviewers before you go. In Ametsa’s case, it kind of dived: pretentious name (Ametsa with Arzak Instruction); the room was over designed with no sense of warmth or reality and the set menu at £105 or £145 with wine just seemed extortionate when you consider what wonderfulness you can get in these frugal days for a quarter of that. My friends and I declined. So it’s on the list, but I would, as Marina O’Loughlin says, rather spend the money on going to San Sebastian.

Restaurant Story

Restaurant Story is at the other Dabbous-end of the new restaurant scale. Tom Sellers is one of those new chefs, like Ollie Dabbous, who has risen through the teachings of great chefs and restaurants. In Tom’s case, he worked with Tom Aikens and Adam Byatt here in the UK as well as at Noma and Per Se abroad. Not a bad resume for a boy from Nottingham who started out aged 16 as a pot wash in a pub. Now aged 26 he has opened his first stand alone restaurant in an old Bermondsey toilet block, near Tower Bridge. I followed chef Tom on Twitter and subscribed to his website to try and get in on the table bookings, knowing how these things go. Even though subscribers were allowed to ring a day in advance of the official opening for bookings, it still took me 4 hours to get through. Still, a table was booked and this weekend we embarked on the tale.

restaurant story

I fear that when a place has the kind of hype that this one does, it can only fail to deliver and the concept was already feeling a little over-worked culminating in their request for you to bring a book to the place. Thankfully all remnants of the toilet block are well and truly gone and the designers have taken the whole Story idea into all elements with leather bound banisters, a bespoke bookcase for said books and an old copy of a Dickens classic centre table when you arrive.  My fear of pretension was only accentuated when our rather over-keen waiter announced as we sat down: “welcome …I hope you are ready to have the best meal of your life”. Hmm. These guys needed a chill pill.

Thankfully the skill of a good chef can’t be put down and the meal was interesting and enjoyable. There have been reviews on a poor and overpriced wine list, but my Spanish friend Pilar found a lovely Galician white which was reasonable and the perfect accompaniment to the first six of our ten course taster. And the food was really well made. There were ingredients and flavours which I have never had which seemed to nod to the Noma influence and there were dishes that I really loved.

The signature beef dripping candle

The signature beef dripping candle

Right up there was the rye bread served with the now well documented beef dripping candle but more importantly with a beautiful sharp/sweet side of perfectly cut veal tongue chunks, with celery, spring onion and jellied cubes of chicken consomme which we demolished. We also loved the pre dinner snack of polenta coated rabbit croquettes with the most wonderful depth of tarragon.

crispy cod skin appetiser

crispy cod skin pre dinner amuse bouche

More pre dinner tasters: radish with seaweed butter and stuffed nasturtium flower

more pre dinner tasters: radish with seaweed butter and stuffed nasturtium flower

the lovely rabbit croquettes

the lovely rabbit croquettes

Burnt onions in gin, apple and thyme jus

burnt onions in gin, apple and thyme jus

Scallop ceviche with cucumber balls, some covered in dill ash

scallop ‘ceviche’ with cucumber balls, some covered in dill ash, horseradish cream and nasturtium leaves

Mackerel with mermaid's hair (seaweed) and slices of almost raw strawberry

mackerel with mermaid’s hair (seaweed) and slices of almost raw strawberry

Buttery buttery mash with asparagus, grass and coal emulsion

buttery buttery mash with asparagus, grass and coal emulsion

sweet rich beetroot and raspberry with a subtle horseradish snow

sweet rich beetroot and raspberry with a subtle horseradish snow

My least favourite lamb with wild garlic, salad leaves and sheep yogurt

my least favourite lamb with wild garlic, salad leaves and sheep yogurt

Finally the desserts. ‘Lemon’ really was a celebration of this wonderful citrus and an overwhelming favourite of the table. Tea infused prunes with lovage ice cream was interesting and the signature three bear’s porridge … well we loved the serving dishes, got confused because the too salty, too sweet and just right on the card didn’t match the order served but generally would have preferred something more classically desserty. I always feel cheated if there isn’t something with chocolate or caramel in my desserts.

our favourite 'lemon'

our favourite ‘lemon’

Earl Grey infused prunes with lovage ice cream and milk skin

Earl Grey infused prunes with lovage ice cream and milk skin

three bear's porridge: too salty, too sweet and just right (actually I preferred the too sweet, but hey ho)

three bear’s porridge: too salty, too sweet and just right (actually I preferred the too sweet, but hey ho)

Overall we enjoyed, savoured and at times kind of wondered about some things but we were all glad we went. There is no doubt that each plate, carefully chosen in its own right, was truly beautiful and really well made.

Was it memorable? It wasn’t in the league of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Koffmann’s, Pot Luck Club or Bazaar at the SLS, but it was a lovely evening and a restaurant that I am sure will grow and grow as it matures.

The new list of the top 50 restaurants in the world was released yesterday and really there were no surprises.

Organised by Restaurant magazine and judged by 800 industry specialists, this list is not only the most anticipated, but the most lucrative of lists to head up as a restaurant. For many years El Bulli topped the bill and now Noma has taken over as the one to beat.

Whilst I haven’t been to many on there, I am told that getting on this list makes a big difference to the bookings. Once you have made it here you are guaranteed full tables and thus commercial success for your restaurant. So I always try and see who it is that makes the list and what I can conclude about the restaurant world as a result.

Obviously I look at the UK first and was delighted to see Heston’s Dinner charge into 9th spot as the highest new entry, with the Fat Duck falling back out of the top ten to number 13 (lucky for some!). There is no doubt that the Fat Duck experience is one that I shall remember for a long time but the truth is that the Dinner meal was much easier to relish. The food was outstanding and yes, you absolutely have to have the Meat Fruit, but I suggest you half and half with someone having the Rice & Flesh.

Meat Fruit: stunning

I am also kicking myself for not forcing my friends to join me at The Ledbury before it achieved the highest climber award rising 20 spots to number 14. Now it will be impossible to get a table. Ever since the team fought off the onslaught of unruly rebels during the London riots, I have had a desire to support the Ledbury lot.

In terms of other observations much is the same as last year with USA, France and Spain dominating. The US now boast eight restaurants in the top 50 just beating the French who have 7, although it must be said that France do not have any listed in the top 10. The contenders to the US for top ten position goes to Spain and that is no surprise to me. This is my top choice for places to eat and I was especially glad to see Elena Arzak awarded world’s best female chef after her Dad got the lifetime achievement award in 2011. Incidentally this went to Thomas Keller this year. His record speaks for itself.

Other observations are the continued presence of the South American countries with Brazil, Mexico and Peru in the top 50 along with a spotlight on Peru for the Regional spotlight article. On the other hand Finland, South Africa and Russia all fell out of the top 50. I am particularly sad about South Africa as a big supporter of theirs, although I was pleased for The Test Kitchen which came in at number 74 and is fully deserved (see my earlier blog for more details).

A drizzly day couldn't dampen our spirits at Stone Barns farm

It is incredible what these Blue Hill guys are doing with the good old vegetable.

I also want to make special mention of Blue Hill at Stone Barns which is at number 77. We went there at the end of last year and it was possibly the best meal I have ever had. I think it was the overall experience that makes me say that. Robert the concierge was our charming host touring us through the drizzle around the farm for a couple of hours. We were mesmerised by the whole operation. Nothing was left to chance with vegetable varieties being developed with amazing integrity and passion. I have never before been taken through the ins and outs of the composting system or indeed the charcoal process before a meal but having done that, we really appreciated the whole meal on a much broader level. Never has a raw vegetable tasted so good and never has a table been so well served.

Course one of 27 having chosen the 12 course menu! Never has a carrot tasted so good

The top restaurant list is indeed fascinating and a chance to fantasise about where I might like to eat this year. But the truth is that this sort of food is such a special treat that it is a rare thing for me to be able to indulge in. I still desire a trip to Spain and the Asador Etxebarri food. Maybe this year I can pull it off.

In the meantime, let me know what you think and where you want to go. I am always up for a great meal.