Restaurant Reviews

Restaurant Reviews

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Fed up with celebrity chefs drizzling sauces over undercooked pieces of meat? I am!

I regularly dine out and am happy to share my restaurant experiences, and views on food, with you.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Restaurant

L’Autre
5B Shepherd Street
Mayfair
London

Phone:- 0207 499 4680

Overview

Eva and I spent the other evening strolling around Shepherds’ Market, and came across L’Autre. Despite the French sounding name, this restaurant, come bistro, serves a combination of Polish and Mexican dishes.

Ambience

The bistro is romantic, cosy and intimate. The main part is situated on the ground floor, and is not much larger than a reception room of a domestic house. There are also tables outside and a dining area downstairs.

The décor is “bistro kitsch”, with a wooden floor and wooden beams decorated with knickknacks and stuffed toy animals (some of which are wearing sombreros). The tables are situated close together, and there is a bar (space prevents you sitting around it) at one end of the room.

The management have a rather unusual policy with regard to single diners, which we witnessed first hand, they don’t allow them. The rationale being that the single diner may intrude on the intimacy of couples.

Menu

The menu offers a good selection of Polish dishes including; Borstch, pate, dumplings and stuffed cabbage. The Mexican selection is a little more limited, concentrating mainly on a variety of burritos.

The bar has a selection of chilled vodkas, including Goldwasser which contains flecks of gold leaf.

Service

The service is pleasant and efficient.

Food

I chose the charcuterie for my starter. This consisted of a very generous selection of sliced smoked meats (sausage, chicken and ham); served with salad, horseradish and dark rye bread. The combination of meat tasted superb, I was very impressed.

I chose the Golonka for my main course. This was a large boiled ham hock, served with a good sized portion of mashed potatoes, red cabbage and sauerkraut. The meat, which was tender and succulent, was cooked to perfection; literally falling off the bone. The potatoes were excellent, and had been flavoured with a little cheese. This was a most hearty dish, make sure you have a hearty appetite to do it justice.

Eva chose the fish blini for her starter. This was really special, resembling a large pasty, it was stuffed with prawns, crab and trout. It was served with roe, and a sour cream sauce. I am not a great fish fan myself, but tasted it and was very impressed with the quality and combination of flavours. Eva was delighted.

She chose the Pozarski for her main course. This was minced veal, flavoured with dill and other herbs, shaped into a cutlet. The meat was creamy and succulent, and had a very special flavour of dill. It tasted superb. The dish was served with a mushroom and cream sauce, and was accompanied by boiled potatoes, carrots and French beans.

The bill, which included; a bottle of Chardonnay, an Irish coffee and brandy, came to £59 including service.

Overall Opinion

We thoroughly enjoyed our meal, and will definitely go back there again; making sure that we have starved for a day beforehand!

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Restaurant

The Old Bell
High Street
Old Oxted
Surrey

Phone:- 01883 712181

Website
www.theoldbell-oxted.co.uk

Overview

It was a sunny, hot Saturday; and so Eva and I decided to take a trip out of town to Old Oxted, a village, only 20 minutes train ride away from Croydon.

I haven’t been to Oxted since my childhood, so we took pot luck with regard to our dining needs. Having visited a couple of hostelries, we were delighted to stumble across The Old Bell; a 15th century pub that serves traditional and modern English cuisine.

Ambience

The pub is a traditional timber framed building dating back to the 15th century. Low ceilings with timber beams and columns are decorated with the usual knickknacks (hops, horse brasses, photos etc) accumulated over the centuries of use.

The restaurant and bar meld into one, so you can combine a trip to the pub with a meal (every Englishman’s dream!).

The menus are on chalkboards dotted around the walls.

There is a smoking and non smoking area, plus a garden. We were offered a choice of tables, and took one by the window.

The chairs were old fashioned highback “cottage” style, and were exceptionally comfortable.

Menu

The menu offers a staggering array of dishes including; pate, smoked salmon parcels, baked goat’s cheese, pies, fish, spinach and Roquefort tart, steaks, ham and eggs and vegetarian dishes.

I would venture one small suggestion; whilst the use of chalkboards is fine for specials, we found it to be a little inconvenient placing the entire menu on it. I would suggest that the “standard dishes” are detailed on menus (even if only photocopies) placed on the tables.

Service

We were promptly and warmly greeted by one of the staff when we arrived, and were shown to a table. Once seated, the ordering system was explained to us.

You choose from the menus on the walls, then place your order at the bar; quoting the number attached to the candle stick on your table.

After that the service is as in any other restaurant; ie further orders for drinks, wine, desserts etc can be placed with a member of staff. All of whom we found to be cheerful and efficient.

Food

I chose the warm chicken liver and bacon salad as a starter. This was very good, there was a generous portion of both liver and bacon tossed with a green salad and croutons. The liver was not overcooked, and was complemented by the bacon.

I chose the mixed grill for my main course, with a couple of fried eggs as an extra. The grill included; a lamb’s kidney, calves liver, a double lamb loin chop, a good sized portion of steak, a sausage and a slice of gammon. This was served with home-made chips.

The grill was professionally cooked, not burnt or dry. The meat was of good quality, although parts of the steak were a little chewy. A hearty meal for a hearty appetite!

Eva started with the smoked salmon parcel stuffed with crab. This was served with cherry tomatoes and beetroot. It was a good sized portion, the chef had not stinted on the crab stuffing. The combination of flavours was first class, and made an ideal starter.

Eva chose breaded pork with apple squares in a sage sauce for her main course. The combination of flavours was mouth-watering. The sauce was very “sagey” and was complemented by the flavour, and texture, of the cooked apple cubes; which in turn enhanced the flavour of the lean, tender pieces of pork in breadcrumbs. The pork had been cooked to a golden brown colour.

The dish came with new potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots and courgettes; all cooked to perfection.

The bill, which included; a bottle of Chablis, two Irish coffees and brandy, came to £60 before service.

Overall Opinion

We thoroughly enjoyed our meal, and feel that it was exceptionally good value. Well worth a trip to Old Oxted. I recommend that you do the same.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Restaurant

King’s Restaurant
The De Vere Grand Hotel
Kings Road
Brighton

Phone:- 01273 224300

Overview

We celebrated Eva’s birthday in King’s, which serves a variety of fish, meat and vegetarian dishes in opulent surroundings; evocative of the Victorian era.

Ambience

As noted, the décor of King’s is evocative of the past glories of the Victorian era. Two silver carving trolleys mount guard to the entrance, which leads into the spacious dining room and sea front veranda. The dining room is resplendent with marble columns and dark wooden panels. The tables are laid with crisp white linen and silver cutlery.

We were given a veranda table, which afforded us a splendid view of the sea.

However, it was sad to see that were only a few other diners in the restaurant. In my opinion, a place such as this would benefit from being busier. The lack of customers also negates the restaurant’s ability to serve roast meats on their splendid carving trolleys; there is after all no point in roasting a joint if you only have a few customers. A point that was readily accepted by one of our waiters.

Menu

The menu offers a variety of dishes including roast lamb, Dover sole, chateau briande, lobster (Friday and Saturday only) and breast of chicken stuffed with cous cous.

Service

The staff were very professional, and the service polite and attentive.

Food

I started with the smoked salmon which came with a twist of lemon and sprig of dill; no brown bread oddly enough. However, it was fine way to start the meal.

I chose the roasted half English duck, in orange and liqueur sauce, for my main course. I am pleased to say that it was well cooked (unlike some establishments who offer you a carcass dripping in blood). The meat was succulent and tender, the sauce was a well balanced combination of liqueur and oranges.

The meal was accompanied by sauté potatoes and cauliflower au gratin. The latter, to my view, was undercooked; and on raising this with the waiter I as offered a replacement or no charge. I opted for the latter.

I finished my meal with a selection of cheese and biscuits, the latter being served from a magnificent silver serving bucket.

Eva started with asparagus with Hollandaise sauce. The asparagus was tender and not stringy. However, Eva noted that the hollandaise had started to curdle.

She chose pork fillet with sliced apples in a green pepper sauce, accompanied by thyme and red cabbage. The meat was tender, and the accompaniments were an innovative and welcome change to the more traditional apple sauce

Eva opted for herb buttered new potatoes as a side dish, these were cooked to perfection.

The overall bill which included; champagne cocktails, a bottle of Chardonnay, brandy and Irish coffee came to £122 before service.

Overall Opinion

We enjoyed the evening, and rate this as a good quality restaurant. However, I would suggest that the prices are more akin to central London rather than to Brighton. This may account for the lack of customers, which to my view negatively impacts the restaurant’s atmosphere.
Restaurant

Donatello
1 Brighton Place
The Lanes
Brighton

Phone:- 01273 775477

Website
www.donatello.co.uk

Overview

Eva and I spent a couple of days in Brighton; and, feeling in the mood for Italian, dropped into Donatello one evening.

Ambience

Donatello is a large restaurant and offers; a smoking area, a non smoking area, a large bar, upstairs function rooms and outside seating for those that feel brave enough to face the uncertainty of the British weather.

The restaurant is bright and cheerful; some of the walls are painted red, others green and at the far end of the smoking area you can admire your reflection in the wall sized mirror. The stairway up to the function rooms is adorned with photos of celebrities, including Tony Blair, who have dined in the restaurant.

Menu

The menu offers a good range of Italian dishes including a variety of; pasta, pizzas, fish, steaks and veal.

Service

The service is very attentive, friendly and efficient. Although the restaurant is large, and was busy when we were there, there was a large enough complement of staff on duty to ensure that that customers’ needs were efficiently attended to.

Food

I started with the lasagne, which was rich and creamy. The sauce was a well balanced blend of tomatoes and cheese, which did not overpower the meat and spinach filled pasta.

I chose steak, in a green pepper sauce, for my main course. This was first class. The sirloin was cooked rare, as requested, and was exceptionally succulent and tender. The piquant sauce complemented the meat, and did not overpower it. The dish was served with a good sized portion of fries, carrots and courgettes. I was very happy with my choice.

Eva opted for pizza, and chose one with a topping that included; Chorizo, artichokes, prawns and peppers. It had been freshly prepared, and the dough had a light not “claggy” texture. She enjoyed it, but felt that it would have benefited from a more generous tomato and cheese base.

The total bill, which included; pre dinner drinks a bottle of Pinot Grigio, brandy and Irish coffee, came to £61 including service.

Overall Opinion

We enjoyed our meal, and will be pleased to visit again when we have the opportunity.
Restaurant

Coach House
59 Middle Street
Brighton

Phone:- 01273 719000

Website
www.coachhousebrighton.com

Overview

Eva and I had a leisurely lunch in the courtyard of The Coach House, a bar and restaurant five minutes away from the seafront in Brighton.

Ambience

The Coach House is a bright and breezy restaurant and bar. It has a small courtyard in the front, and being a sunny day we “pitched our tent” there.

Menu

The menu offers an extensive variety of dishes including; mussels, steaks, falafels, lamb noisettes and fish cakes.

Service

The service was relaxed, friendly and efficient. The waiter was honest enough to guide my initial choice of starter (pate), to what he felt to be the more reliable soup of the day.

Food

I started with the carrot and coriander soup. The flavour being more of coriander than carrot, made it a refreshing change to those luminous orange creations served in other establishments. It came with a swirl of cream, and a good sized portion of freshly baked bread.

I chose sirloin steak for my main course. This came with chunky home made chips, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms. I asked for two fried eggs to top it off, no raised eyebrow to that request. The steak was cooked to perfection, and was exceptionally tender and flavoursome.

Eva had a hearty bowl of mussels in a white wine, cream and garlic sauce. This was served with a mountain of freshly baked bread. The dish was absolutely first class, full of flavour and very filling.

The meal, which included two bottles of Pinto Grigio and an Irish coffee, came to £58 including service.

Overall Opinion

Definitely worth visiting should you be strolling through the streets of Brighton on a sunny day. We will go there again when we are in town.