Category Archives: Michelin

Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham – guest post by Andrew Hill

Wow. So this is what 2 Michelin star food is, and my goodness it’s good. But that’s a no brainer; what was incredible, was the whole experience – getting a taste of how you imagine the other half live, being treated like royalty!

Restaurant Sat Bains only offer tasting menus and on Saturdays that means ten courses of rich, heavenly and decadent food. The style is very modern, with each course carefully designed to accentuate the five tastes of salt, sweet, sour, bitter and umami in varying levels to challenge your palette. Often these tastes were also combined in hot and cold quantities on the same plate to mess with my poor little mind, to an extent that I can’t really articulate how good it was.

Things like the chicken muesli – frozen chicken liver parfait hidden underneath a layer of granola were delicious, but also challenging; in my rather limited gastronomic experiences I’d never come across such a combination of tastes in a relentless battering of my senses.

The highlights were actually things that I’d never eaten before, generally raw things, that we’re delicious in the hands of an expert; raw scallops marinated in ponzu; the most intensely lamby (ok I’m making up words now) sweetbreads and Roe deer cooked three ways – fillet, sausage and tartare – the latter being quite frankly the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten. There was also one course that I struggled slightly with – the pear and almond finale which had salted jellied almond cubes; I guess that particular combination of salt and sweet on one plate was a step too far for my taste buds, but one that my dining companion enjoyed immensely.

In addition to the delicious food, we went for the ten wine pairings which were just amazing. A lot of thought obviously goes into these things and each pairing was pretty perfect; but I would have been quite happy to drown in a bath full of the 2011 Tinpot Hut Pinot Noir from Marlborough, New Zealand.

The restaurant had an unpretentious and relaxed atmosphere about it, something I really wasn’t expecting from a 2 star Michelin restaurant; the staff were also wonderfully knowledgeable and keen to speak at length about the dishes, wine and just about everything else. We stayed overnight in a superior room which was wonderfully luxurious with a modern grey decor and Laura Ashley furnishings.

As you might expect, all of this comes at a cost, but I’d argue that when you compare it to others of this ilk (Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons springs to mind) it was actually very good value. This experience was a Christmas treat and whilst you’d never be able to eat here every weekend, as a one off mega treat it was right up there with the nicest weekends away we’ve had.

That’s not to say you can’t grab a bargain either – if you can get away midweek and book at least a month in advance, a seven course taster menu, room and breakfast is only £140 per person.

The most impressive and striking image I’ll remember from the weekend however was at midnight, when the Chef himself (despite looking absolutely knackered) came out from his kitchen to speak to as many guests as possible. You would imagine that after a mammoth shift that it would be the last thing he would want to do, but armed with a glass of white he spoke to everyone. It was a lovely touch, and I guess something I wasn’t expecting. He is obviously a believer in the idea that if it’s your name on the door and people come from far and wide and pay good money to sample your food, you better be the one doing the cooking.

This idea of the chef patron also got me thinking – so often in Leeds I dine at larger, often chain based restaurants rather than the smaller chef patron eateries; I need to do this more as these are quite clearly the most passionate people in the business.

10 course tasting menu: £89
7 Course tasting menu: £79

Chapeau, Monsieur Bains, chapeau.

Restaurant Sat Bains
Lenton Lane
Nottingham
NG7 2SA
http://www.restaurantsatbains.com

Square Meal

Advertisements

Starstruck birthday lunch @ L’Enclume, Cartmel

L’Enclume and Simon Rogan first came onto my radar from being an avid fan of BBC’s Masterchef and The Great British Menu. Since then I’ve been intrigued by the foraging aspect of his food, mixed with a modern technical style of cooking, which play integral parts to L’Enclume’s food. 

For those of you who are unaware of L’Enclume, this multi-award winning restaurant is found in Cartmel, a small historic village in the Lake District. Since it’s opening in 2002, it has has quietly evolved into one of the powerhouse dining experiences in the UK.

Simon Rogan, the mastermind chef seems to have won nearly every plaudit in 2013. Winner of the Best Restaurant 2014 by the Good Food Guide, being rated as a perfect 10, (the only other restaurant to have done that – The Fat Duck), and now they are ranked number 1 restaurant in the UK. It is the Observer Food Monthly Awards Reader’s Favourite of the Year and received a second Michelin Star. He’s taken over The French at The Midland in Manchester, and from spring of 2014, he’ll take over the helm at London’s Claridges. He was awarded Best Chef and Independent Restaurateur at the Food Industry’s Catey Awards, and finally ranked 4th in the National Restaurant Awards. All in all, not a bad year!!

I’d wanted to eat here for so long and experience it for myself, so I thought why not make a weekend of it for my birthday, my 37th. We’d planned to stay in Cartmel to make the most of our trip, so booked rooms in the nearby Cavendish Arms. Originally the plan was for myself and the other half to go, as I always like to celebrate it on the quiet. But I invited one of my best mates to come too, as we’d spoken many a time on how much we’d both like to eat here. 

Even as we drove into Cartmel, my friend and I were getting excited, and even more so when we saw the restaurant itself!! We were like excited little school girls and celebrating because it felt like Christmas had come early.

image image

On entry to L’Enclume I got the feeling of how relaxed and quiet the dining room was, there was a calm ambience to the place which I personally found very reassuring. It was a bit weird, but I think I got a little starstruck for the very first time, when from the main reception desk I saw Simon Rogan in the kitchen. A little squeal of little girl giggles came out, even the other half shook his head in disbelief, but I, unashamedly didn’t care one iota!! The table they gave us was perfect for looking directly into the kitchen and you could see Simon Rogan and his head chef plating up on the pass. We ordered Kir’s to start with as they always go down well, and soon settled down and relaxed into our new surroundings.

image

A few minutes later we were brought the wine list by the Head sommelier. I looked through what was as an extensive list, with plenty of wines from the New World and classic choices as well. Lots of variety to suit every taste and a range of pockets too. I couldn’t settle on a wine, so we thought we’d be better to try match the wine with the food and realised we would need some advice from our Sommelier. After a few minutes of discussion we ordered one of their Biodynamic wines from Chile, a Huasa de Trequilema. The main reason going for a Biodynamic wine was that the other half hadn’t drunk any red wine since it set off a gluten intolerance reaction, but at the same time a red wine was going to complement the food more. He obviously knew his stuff, and the other half was certainly very grateful as he reassured us that these wines had nothing artificial in them whatsoever, we’d soon know about it if it did!! It was lovely; really smokey and medium bodied, a good one if you like reds, but don’t want anything too robust.

Huasa de Trequilemu

We were happily absorbing the atmosphere, watching the staff do their thing, when Sam the Maitre’d introduced himself and said he wanted to talk to us about food. This was music to my ears and when he asked what we’d like to eat, I automatically said ‘EVERYTHING!’ Saying this, we all stuck to being well behaved and ordered the six course lunch. Moments later it REALLY did feel like Christmas had come early, because Sam then handed us two envelopes from his jacket with the menus on. One for the other half which was gluten friendly, and two for my friend and I. He should’ve been dressed like Father Christmas!!

image

image

He asked if there was anything we didn’t like, I said bananas and nuts, so Sam said they could tweek one of the dishes, and instead of the dreaded nuts I would have something I’d like on top of one of my desserts instead, I simply replied ‘oh that would be lovely!!!’ I was thinking to myself, ‘Is this the best place or what???!!!’

So for the six course lunch menu I was really interested about cooking techniques and ingredients, as Simon Rogan is renowned for his technical prowess and sourcing of native produce. All the ingredients they use are local to their environment, such as their homegrown herbs or meat from their connections with local farmers. 

The following photos show every course we had, nine in total including three appetisers:

image

image

The first of our appetisers were Oyster pebbles, little squid ink meringues filled with an oyster mousse and cubed Granny Smith, topped with an oyster leaf. With eyes shut you would be able to tell what the intended flavours were supposed to be. It was melt in the mouth and delicious, the oyster leaf really took me by surprise as it had such an incredible flavour of oyster. I suppose oyster by name, oyster by nature.

image

image

A stunner of a dish, the creamy scallop against the slight saltiness of the caviar was beautiful!

image

image

Oooh, these were very good!! Lovely little golden nuggets of joy, filled with a yummy combination of textures and tastes.

image

image

As you would expect from a restaurant of this quality and standing, their bread is made in-house. Served warm, I really enjoyed them. I tried the white roll with onion jam and thyme and the malt and cracked rye with molasses and cocoa. Both were lovely, soft and tasty. To accompany them some Cumbrian butter and ham fat dripping, both were delicately rich and delicious. They also catered for the other half’s gluten intolerance and made some bread with chickpea flour. 

image

image

The cod mousse was a sphere wrapped up in a saffron gel, well balanced as too much saffron can be bitter, which this certainly wasn’t. I loved the difference in tastes and textures with the smooth mousse and the seasoned puffed rice.

image

image

The beetroot broth was light, and the Westcombe cheddar curd dumplings were smooth, light and not too cheesy.

image

image

The venison loin tartar was served on a caper jam and topped with drops of mustard mayonnaise and onion. The venison was silky and melted in the mouth, while the fennel candy spheres were filled with fennel gin and were incredibly intense and worked brilliantly with the rest of the dish. A great mix of flavours and beautiful to look at.

image

image

The mutton was absolutely delicious, perfectly cooked and tender. I assume it had been cooked in a water bath to get it cooked this accurately, especially with mutton having the tendency to be tough, as it’s from an older animal. It was fantastic!! The additions of the perfectly cooked sweetbreads, the charred cabbage and celeriac puree, which was uber smooth were fantastic.

By this point in the meal, we were well into our lunch but were in need of more wine to accompany our food, so wanted to try some more of the Biodynamic wines. Our Sommelier was once again on hand to advise us and we selected another from the same producer, this time a more fuller bodied Carmenere. It was a lovely wine, but I personally preferred the smokey Huasa de Trequilema as I felt this was more unusual in taste and aroma.

image

Time for desserts:

image

image

This was a lovely dessert to begin the end of our meal with, a frozen meadowsweet mousse, with a hint of vanilla, dots of Granny Smith sauce and baby sorrel leaves. I was very grateful for the alternative crumb on top, instead of walnut was a lovely ginger biscuit crumb. Yummy!!

image

Apologies for the rubbish photo, certainly not one of my best!! The taste was good though, it was quickly polished off in a few spoonfuls, I loved it, the whole thing. 

After we’d finished eating Sam asked us if we’d be interested in coming into the kitchen area, where we could have a sneaky peak and watch the chefs while service was on. I leapt up like a bunny rabbit, trying to hide my eagerness to see where the culinary magic happens. Once again, there was a measured approach to everything, the chefs quietly working away, finely tuning each plate to get it just so. Even though their dishes obviously take a tremendous amount of work, from their conception to the final dish that’s served to the diner, it was fantastic to be so close, to see their food being assembled on the plate by the man who creates the dishes.

image

image

If that wasn’t enough, we were then once again approached by Sam and this time he asked us if we had time for a little surprise, we of course said ‘yes!’ He then duly showed us outside to Aulis, their research and development kitchen. They have recently extended the size of the space with improved facilities and now have a bigger team to develop new dishes.

image

image

image

One of the things they are currently trying to do is to find out what they can do to minimise waste to the nth degree, for example with leftover cheese and even liquid left from cooking split peas!! It was really interesting to get the smallest insight to what they do here, and hear people speak with such passion about their jobs. I was very jealous! I was really excited to hear that another thing in the pipeline is the production of their own wine too!!  

I personally was on such a high when we came back into the dining room, a couple of minutes later Sam brought a trolley with our petit fours, coffees and whiskies, our L’Enclume experience wasn’t quite over yet.

image

image

image

image

I hadn’t eaten Kendall mint cake before, so L’Enclume’s take was always going to be completely new to me. I popped it in my mouth and got an immediate hit of intense mint and I really liked the aerated base. It went great with my espresso and was a wonderful end to what had been a experience to remember.
Hopefully it won’t be my last at L’Enclume. 

L’Enclume restaurant with rooms
Cavendish Street.
Cartmel
Nr Grange over Sands
Cumbria
LA116PZ
http://www.lenclume.co.uk/sr/restaurant.html
http://thecavendisharms.co.uk
Square Meal

L'Enclume on<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Urbanspoon

Anniversary lunch @ Pollen Street Social, London

It was my 5th wedding anniversary on the weekend, so while my husband was on a stag do having fun with the lads, I thought I should be having fun too!!! Some of my favourite things are the arts, food and theatre so months ago I booked to watch The Book of Mormon in the West End. Surprisingly for me, I hadn’t yet booked anywhere for lunch literally till the morning of the show, just before I got the train. This doesn’t mean I hadn’t been thinking about it though, I’d been scouring my Michelin Guide, Good Food Guide and using my other usual methods to find my yummy food fix for weeks. After looking through my ‘where next’ list I remembered a meal that one of my best mates and I had a couple of years ago where we ate at the Pollen Street Social, just before it gained a Michelin star. I knew I wanted to try Jason Atherton’s food after watching him win the starter and main course on the Great British Menu a couple of years before. Having previously worked with culinary heavyweights such as Pierre Koffman, Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsey, and even more notably at the World Famous elBulli working with Ferran Adrià, this was a chef who obviously had skill and an imaginative creativity to his food. That first encounter was memorable for both of us, so I thought a special day deserved a lunch that befitted the occasion.

The Pollen Street Social is found just off Regent Street and a couple of minutes walk from Oxford Street tube station, away from the hustle and bustle of all the shoppers and traffic.

IMG_3758

Today I chose from the set lunch menu, for Michelin starred cooking they provide a short but still an excellent menu of £26 for 2 courses or £29.50 for 3.

IMG_3778

For the starter I chose the slow cooked egg and main course the pork belly. Even though I wasn’t initially going to choose a dessert, I couldn’t help myself and the lemon verbena sorbet was just crying out to be eaten.

The main dining area is very sleek and stylish and from my table I could see into the kitchen where dishes were being finished off on the pass before being sent out.

IMG_3773 IMG_3774 IMG_3775

I was brought over an appetiser to start with – crackling with salt cod brandade and an apple and English mustard dip with some green olives. Wow the crackling was something else, when you snapped it the sound produced reminded me instantly of twisting a sheet of bubble wrap, so all the bubbles pop at the same time, it was that loud. It was quite amusing listening to the dining room, as table after table you would hear this sound repeated across the room. On its own I could have eaten bags of the stuff, but the accompaniments were delicious, both working in harmony with the crackling.

Crackling with salt cod brandade, apple and English mustard dip and green olives
Crackling with salt cod brandade, apple and English mustard dip and green olives

IMG_3786 IMG_3783

I couldn’t decide which one I liked more to be honest, the salt cod brandade was light and delicate, while the apple and mustard was more punchy, with the mustard coming through. I’m not a big olive fan but I did have one, straight away you got hit of umami savouriness and helped to cut through the richness of the crackling.

The starter was brought over by my waiter who described the dish to me, I kept having to ask him to repeat it to me so I could write it down. The egg was cooked superbly and once the yolk had been split its vibrant orange content oozed out acting as a sauce. The delicate mushrooms on the thinnest toast were delicious and underneath the egg there was a mushroom puree (for want of a better word) which was very intense in flavour and provided a very woody note to the dish. The crumb made from chicken skin was lovely, with its crunch gave it another texture and added savouriness.

Slow cooked egg, mushrooms on toast and chicken skin crumb
Slow cooked egg, mushrooms on toast and chicken skin crumb

The main course of pork arrived, the dish looked extremely elegant with each element placed with immaculate precision. If you’ve read my blog before you should know by now how much I love pork belly!!! This was amongst the best I’ve ever eaten, just the slightest amount of pressure and the meat just fell apart. The pork was so tender and moist it really did melt in the mouth and there wasn’t even much need to chew. The pig cheek was also very delicious, lightly spiced so it didn’t overpower the flavour of the meat. For pig cheek to be cooked well, it must be slowly cooked so the gelatinous nature of it melts away leaving a wonderful texture behind. The accompaniments were also superbly cooked and all added to the overall dish. Such as the apple, which everyone knows is a perfect partner with pork, its tartness cutting through the richness of the meat. The black pudding was really tasty, I’m not usually a huge fan of the stuff when the flavour is too concentrated, but this was very tasty and a lot more subtle, it didn’t mask and overpower the star of the show which was definitely the pork. The potato fondant were buttery and soft and the sauce was glossy and deep in flavour, working fantastically well binding all the individual components together. The whole plate was a real winner and I loved each mouthful!!!

Wiltshire pork belly, spiced cheek, fondant potato, roast apple, black pudding and apricot puree
Wiltshire pork belly, spiced cheek, fondant potato, roast apple, black pudding and apricot puree

IMG_3795

The pre-dessert: My waiter then brought over something to help cleanse the pallet, he once again described it to me, and again I had to ask him to repeat it to me as each dish seemed so complex I couldn’t remember everything when I wrote it down!!! At the bottom of the glass there was a canteloupe melon and camomile tea sorbet, covered with a yoghurt foam which had a sprinkling of lime zest on the top. The foam was light and airy and the sorbet was intense and punchy, I loved the combination of the melon with the tea, it really worked.

Pre-dessert - Canteloupe melon and camomile tea sorbet, yoghurt foam and lime zest
Pre-dessert – Canteloupe melon and camomile tea sorbet, yoghurt foam and lime zest

The dessert: The dish looked so pretty it took me a minute to decide how I was going to tackle it, I didn’t want to grab my spoon and start demolishing it. The sorbet was packed with flavour from the lemon verbena, it had a lovely delicate sharpness and the meringue shards made with bergamot had a more intense flavour of orange, the texture of the meringue was wonderful, you could snap the pieces of meringue, but as soon as you put one on your tongue its moisture would help it to dissolve away. It was wonderful. I used to do exactly the same thing when I used to eat a bag of skips, but these were much thinner, lighter and more gorgeous. The olive oil gel was a good accompaniment to the other two components, to me it seemed to hold to other two together, with its own distinct but more savoury flavour that it provided to the dish, balancing out the lemon verbena and bergamot.

Lemon verbena sorbet, bergamot meringue, olive oil gel
Lemon verbena sorbet, bergamot meringue, olive oil gel

IMG_3801

Some gorgeous little financiers were then brought over and the waiter said ‘ooh, these are really good’, just before he walked away. I’m not a baker but I do know that a good financier is supposed to be moist, light, golden in colour and have plenty of almond. The waiter may be biased, but he didn’t exaggerate….. they were spot on, little gems of heaven filled with a very yummy strawberry jam. As I was eating on my own I got to have both of them too, so I was especially pleased about that!!

Almond and strawberry financiers
Almond and strawberry financiers

IMG_3811

Anniversary gift: I remember the first time I came to eat here they gave a little foodie gift to leave the restaurant with, my waiter brought this to my table and I waited till I got back on the train to Leeds to eat it. I’m not a chocolate fan, I’m much more a savoury person but I loved it. When I opened the box there was a large cube of soft sponge, layered with some sort of chocolate mousse which was packed full of air, then covered in a glossy chocolate ganache. It was wonderful, I spent the next ten minutes eating it (I know that’s a long time for most people, but it takes me forever to eat anything with chocolate!!) If all chocolate products were of this quality I could even be converted!!IMG_3808

IMG_3875In my opinion when you go to any restaurant of quality, Michelin starred or not of course the food is important, but it’s also the experience as a whole which is important too. All the staff that came to my table were very friendly, in particular two who served the dishes to me were particularly chatting and made me feel very relaxed. Service was very efficient without being robotic and the dining room had a lovely atmosphere to it, as I watched it seemed that the staff all worked with purpose and were certainly a well-oiled machine. It’s what you would expect in a restaurant of this standing. From the moment I stepped in the front door the service was impeccable, every part from the front of house to the waiters were superb and really made my anniversary lunch very special.

The total cost for my meal was £43.31 including service charge. I know it’s not the cheapest of meals, but for a dining experience of this quality it is well worth every single penny. I couldn’t help but recommend the Pollen Street Social, it definitely gets 10 on all fronts!!!

8/10 Pollen Street Social
Pollen Street
Mayfair
London
W1S1NQ
020 7290 7600
http://www.pollenstreetsocial.com

Pollen Street Social on Urbanspoon

Square Meal