I'm half way through this 4.5 week eating extravaganza and I've finally gotten around to doing this blog post.
Where have I been and what have I done?
Well, I've taken almost 3000 photos, I have fine dined at some of the most stunning restaurants including Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and Le Cinq and I have discovered some local favourites. In between all of that, I have caught up with a few friends including, fellow food blogger, Helen, who runs World Foodie Guide. We had some superb dumplings and noodle soups at Ba Shan which seemed outrageously priced in comparison to that available in Sydney's Chinatown, but once you stop converting everything back to Aussie dollars, you realise that the food was indeed delicious and executed with fine detail. I will be doing a blog post on Ba Shan later on.
This week, I've started craving home cooking and have found it almost impossible to find a quality Chinese or Vietnamese restaurant around France. Paris Hanoi was pretty good but missed the little things such as sate sauce or hoisin sauce for the Pho soupe de boeuf (beef noodle soup) or variety of mints for my Tom Bun Nem, vermicelles de riz, crudites avec crevettes sautees et nems (vermicelli with sauteed prawns and spring rolls).
Back to the beginning, one of the first restaurants I dined at was 1 Michelin starred, The Ledbury. The chef is Brett Graham, an Aussie who has been trained by the very best at The Square. With so many deletable flavours in the a la carte menu, Zen and I opted for the tasting menu so we can devour a bit of everything. It was 9 courses for £70 and £108 with wine. We started with a beetroot meringue with foie gras and gingerbread crumb -a combination which melts in your mouth. It was strangely similar to something I've had at Centennial Parklands Dining which was offered at the Taste Of Sydney launch party. Who copied who, I wonder.
We were then offered a choice of the bacon and onion broiche which was flavoursome and fluffy or white sourdough, a favourite stable. Below was the first course, a softly poached pheasant egg with jerusalem artichoke veloute. Standout dish was the celeriac which was baked in ash with hazelnuts and wood sorrel for 45 minutes and served with a kromeski of wild boar -tender and fragrant with aniseed and crisply fried with breadcrumbs on the outside. The gorgeous aromas of the celeraic were exposed when the waitor sliced open the crust before taking it back to the kitchen for its final touches.
Other courses included a generous serve of roast foie gras with glazed endive, blood orange and toasted grains, flame grilled mackerel with cured mackerel, avocado and shiso, shoulder of Pyrenean milk fed lamb cooked for twenty four hours with truffle creamed potato and buttered celery, roast monkfish with peas, morels and marjoram, warm minature churros, creme brulee, pressed gariguette strawberries with hisbiscus and petit fours of macaroons, chocolates and marshmallow.
Softly poached pheasant egg with jerusalem artichoke veloute at The Ledbury
When asked if we needed a cab after dinner, I didn't hesitate to say yes. Afterall, we had eaten for over 4 hours and I was so full, I had to waddle my way out. But one does not expect the restaurant to order a chauffeur with a glitzy Mercedes Benz S320 -although now having seen more of Notting Hill, a fashionable suburb where every second car is a Porsche, I can understand why. It was definitely a luxurious and memorable ride back to the serviced apartment. The chauffeur told tales of his two wives as I fell in and out of a snooze. No celebrities spotted in Notting Hill unfortunately.
I also checked out the food halls at Harrods and Selfridges. As I wandered from department display to another display, I remember telling Zen that I was in Heaven time after time. Of course, I had said the same thing when shoe shopping or patisserie hunting. Europe has so far proven to be a girl's playground... the more money you have, the more fun it is!
Patisserie display of fruit tarts at Harrods
New fruits and vegetables which I have discovered include beef tomatoes and physalis.
Grocery display of beef tomatoes
The next fine dining experience was at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay -a place where I had made a reservation 2 months in advance for 9:30pm. Howver, still adjusting to jet lag, we slept in, called to apologise for our delay and arrived at 10:30pm. If only Gordon Ramsay was there himself, I am sure he would have turned us away furiously!
But our 3 course for £90 meal was marvelous. I loved the inbetween surprises, such as the sherbet and pop rocks in the mango soup with coconut cream which was served before dessert and tasted like a Weis bar, only better.
Below is my scrumptious starter, ravioli of lobster, langoustine, and salmon poached in a light bisque with lemongrass and chervil veloute.
I am puzzled as to why Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, formerly 13th, has crashed out of the Top 50 Restaurants list this year, as the service was perfect and the food, divine -it has sure impressed me.
Lobster ravioli at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay
Mango soup with coconut cream with surprise of space rocks (sherbet and pop rocks) at the bottom
I couldn't leave London without having done high tea -afternoon tea as they call it. Thank goodness for my obsession with planning because Claridge's turned out to be extremely busy and we probably wouldn't have gotten a table without a booking.
Zen almost fell off his chair when he saw that it was £33 for a selection of sandwiches including Scottish Oak smoked salmon on rye sourdough, Dorrington Gammon ham on milk bread, organic egg mayonnaise on brown bread and organic cucumber and rocket on onion bread, freshly baked raison and apple scones with Devonshire clotted cream and Marco Polo jelly, a selection of French pastries and tea.
Afternoon tea at Claridge's was such an enjoyable experience. There was live music performed by a pianist and violinist, massive glistening chandeliers and comfy royal armchairs in a room which was dressed as one of those posh ballrooms. There was even a butler in the ladies' room which was gorgeous enough to be a bedroom. But before you get the wrong impression, it was not at all pretentious.
One thing I haven't yet mentioned is the discretionary 12.5% service charge which restaurants add to the final bill. This has slightly hiked up my budget so be warned!
Me at afternoon tea at Claridge's
Scones at Claridges afternoon tea in London
On another night, I had dinner with some ex-colleagues. What is more exciting than seeing familiar faces on the other side of the world? I chose Le Cafe Anglais at the recommendation of Helen. I started with amazing oyster fritters which were served with a herb vinaigrette and their renouned parmesan custard and anchovy toast. Below is my sublime fish soup served with shredded Gruyere cheese and spicy aioli which prepared me for the wonderful world of France, to which i travelled to a week later.
Fish soup at Le Cafe Anglais
Because we didn't have time to eat at any gastropubs, I had to squeeze in this local favourite. My deep-fried cod with chips was the best there is. Our accompanying Greek Salad was scrumptious too, but what I really loved was the clean, crisp batter and the beautiful flaky fish.
Fish and chips at The Golden Hind
Then stepping out as tourists, we went to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards. If you don't mind getting your feet trampled on, then this is for you.
Guards at Buckingham Palace
I had 3 days in Barcelona and all I really did was eat. Barceloneta was great for that: fantastic seafood and well priced desserts. I ate my fair share of razor clams which are meatier and tastier than the typical clam, drank up on sangria and fresh juices from Boqueria Markets, and ate plentiful paellas, pintxos (toothpicked tapas on bread) and tapas -pan tomaca con Jamón (tomato bread with Serrano ham), Patatas a la Brava (fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce and aioli) and Croquetas de Bacalao (cod fish croquettes) are some to name.
Sangria at La Gavina
Creme Brulee at La Gavina
Me at a Boqueria Markets fruit stall
Freshly squeezed juices at Barcelona's Boqueria Markets
Pintxos at Sagardi bar
Fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce and aoili
Razor clams at Taller de Tapas
Seafood paella at Taller de Tapas
127 Ledbury Road
Notting Hill, London, W11 2AQ
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7792 9090
Restaurant Gordon Ramsay
68 Royal Hospital Road
London SW3 4HP
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7352 4441
Le Cafe Anglais
8 Porchester Gardens, London W2 4DB
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7221 1415
The Golden Hind
73 Marylebone Lane, London
A short walk from metro stations: Bond Street or Marble Arch
Brook Street, Mayfair
London W1K 4HR
Phone: +44 (0)20 7629 8860
La Gavina Restaurant
Placa Pau Villa, 1
Palau de Mar -Port Vell
A short walk from metro station: Barceloneta
Taller de Tapas
Plaza Sant Josep Oriol, 9
Stay tuned for the next post on Paris, Cannes and Nice! In the meantime, happy eating :)