Monday, 25 July 2011

Galoupet, Knightsbridge

Firstly, a public apology: when our waitress told us straight-faced that Galoupet's offering of small plates to share was a 'unique concept', I laughed out loud and reeled off a list of other places where this could be done, like the worst kind of restaurant-collecting tosser. It was an awful, Onanistic thing to do and I wouldn't for a second have blamed her if she'd tipped my (superb) Pink Basiltini cocktail over my head and had me thrown out. That she didn't, and in fact proceeded to provide unfailingly polite and enthusiastic service for the rest of the night, is to her enormous credit. Mea maxima culpa.

Whether it's entirely unique or not, the menu 'concept' (why does everywhere have to have a 'concept' nowadays?) at Galoupet - a new wine bar/restaurant/shop on Beauchamp Place from the Chateau of the same name - is a very appealing one. Fifteen dishes, most available in a small or large size, are offered in a simple list, in the order in which the kitchen thinks they are likely to be most enjoyed - so salads come first, followed by fish, finishing with some meat dishes.

For every dish there's a suggested wine pairing, served in a 125ml measure, this large variety of by-the-glass options made possible by the use of Enomatic wine storage machines. You don't have to have the suggested wine; the intriguing list offers another twenty or so varieties, including (of course) those from the Galoupet estate itself. The flexibility is there to order lots of small plates to share, each with a different wine, or stick to a conventional starter-main-dessert-and-bottle-of-wine-between-us configuration.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Scott's, Mayfair

When a couple of weeks ago my super-posh gal pal Alexandra purred "Let me take you for dinner at Scott's" it was, I can safely say, the most exciting invitation I'd received since 1995, when a particularly stellar pop star I'd met at a party asked me back to his hotel room. I accepted both offers, and each resulted in my having a fabulous tale to tell, but this blog being about restaurants I'm afraid the only episode you'll be hearing about here is the fancy fish supper.

Scott's usually needs no introduction, but just in case you've been asleep under a rock (or perhaps a rock star) since 2006, it is the jewel in Caprice Holdings' crown, widely regarded as one of London's best restaurants and certainly its most famous - even more so these days than its slightly-faded sister The Ivy. A Mayfair institution throughout the twentieth century, Scott's fell out of fashion and favour at the turn of the millennium until being bought five years ago by Richard Caring, given a sensitive but stunning Martin Brudnizki makeover and transforming, seemingly overnight, into the capital's A-List hangout of choice.

Write off Scott's as a mere celeb canteen though at your peril, for behind the landmark round window and canopied entrance there's a beautiful, brilliant and welcoming restaurant catering to a far more diverse clientele than the paparazzi-populated press would have you believe.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Roger Hickman's Restaurant, Norwich

Norfolk is, egregiously unfairly, probably the most maligned county in Britain. Silly (if not-entirely unamusing) stereotypes abound about the good people of Nelson's County, generally alluding to a lack of intelligence, a fondness for intra-familial relations and a tendency towards eccentric, abnormal behaviour - or, as the medical profession's tongue-in-cheek acronym would have it, NFN: 'Normal For Norfolk'. 

Spend any amount of time there however and you'll discover not only that none of this is true (OK, not entirely true...), but that there is a very great deal more to love about the county than there is to mock. Its towns and city offer all the comfort and amenities of more thriving metropolises without the congestion and crime. Its historic villages are beautiful oases of calm offering a quality of life at least comparable and perhaps superior to, say, the Cotswolds at half the cost. 

And, to get to the point to which you have I expect been urging me to get for two paragraphs now, Norfolk has the most fantastic food scene; artisan producers, rare breed farms, organic grocers and weekend markets mean that whatever outsiders might like to think of the locals, no-one could ever say they're not at the very top of the culinary tree. The wealth of quality food has even spawned a Norfolk Diet movement.

Although I've not eaten at all that many restaurants in my adoptive home county - my family having now all gravitated there from almost-as-roundly-mocked Dorset - I can confidently say that I have not eaten at any better than the Ronsealogically-named Roger Hickman's Restaurant in Norwich. Chef-patron Roger Hickman was head chef under former owner David Adlard and took over the premises when Adlard sold up to found a now hugely-popular cookery school. I ate once at what was then Adlard's with my family a few years ago and remembered having been impressed with the Tom Aikens-esque technique of the chef; that chef was, it transpires, the Aikens-trained Hickman. My mum's recent birthday presented the perfect opportunity to re-visit and see what had changed now that it's Hickman's name out front. 
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