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.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Restaurant

L’Alsace
39 Avenue Des Champs Elysees
75008 Paris
France

Phone: - 01 5393 9700

Website www.restaurantalsace.com

Overview

Eva and I were in Paris on the 60th anniversary of its liberation from Nazi occupation. We decided to try one of the many restaurants on the Champs Elysees, and opted for L’Alsace.

L’Alsace is a restaurant specialising in the cuisines of the Alsace region of France, and is open an impressive seven days a week, 24 hours a day. It is described as the ambassador of Alsacian cuisine.

Ambience

L’Alsace was an enormous restaurant and bar, with dining areas on both the ground and basement levels; plus a lively alfresco dining area on the Champs Elysees.

We opted for an open window seat, on the very edge of the Champs Elysees. This afforded us an excellent view of the hustle and bustle of this most famous of Paris thoroughfares. Which, even though it was close to midnight, was packed with people.

The décor of L’Alsace was opulent and elegant. The ceiling was dark panelled veneer contrasting with the mirrored walls, the tables were laid with linen cloths.

Even though the restaurant was enormous, it was heaving with people; and had an excellent atmosphere.

Menu

The menu was a homage to Alsace cuisine, and contained a splendid array of sausages, pigs totters, pork, calf liver escalope with parsley and garlic, breast fillet of duck with peaches and tagliatelle, rib of beef grilled on the bone, Veal Paillard in breadcrumbs and seafood dishes. The menu was in English and in French.

Service

The staff were friendly, efficient and spoke English.

Food

We both chose the quiche for our starters. This was a splendid dish, a generous cut of home made quiche; prepared with cheese and local ham, served with a good quality salad.

An excellent way to start our gastronomic tour of Alsace.

I chose the Choucroute Maison, the house speciality, for my main course. This was partly cooked on a primus stove near our table, and consisted of boiled potatoes, a massive quantity of well flavoured sauerkraut, four different types of regional sausage, boiled smoked fatty bacon, a boiled ham hock, a slice of gammon and smoked ham.

The serving was so large, that half of the dish came on a separate silver platter resting on a hot plate.

I was impressed with this hearty feast, maybe my cardiologist would not have been so impressed at my eating this at 11:00pm; but life is for living!

The meal was excellent, the meat tender and flavoursome; complemented by the cabbage with mustard seeds and potatoes. I managed to finish it all, just!

Eva went for a boiled ham hock for her main course. This was well cooked, the tender ham falling off the bone when teased with the knife. As an added bonus, the hock had been shaved.

It came with a rich sweet honey sauce and mashed potatoes.

Absolutely superb!

We decided that we could not manage a dessert. No surprises there then.

The meal, which included a very good bottle of Gewurztraminer, came to 76 Euros before service.

Overall Opinion

A first class restaurant, make sure that you have a healthy appetite before you go though.


Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Restaurant

Bistro Mania
28 South End
Croydon

Phone:- 0208 688 3839

Website www.bistromaniacroydon.co.uk

Overview

It was an unseasonably wet August evening in Croydon. Eva and I were in the pub, and did not fancy wandering around too far to find a place to eat; so we dashed to the nearby Bistro Mania.

A continental café and restaurant, with live music.

Ambience

Bistro Mania was a small restaurant; cheerfully decorated with white walls, pine floors and a yellow ceiling with rotating fans.

The green clothed tables were decorated with fresh flowers, and the walls with paintings and a small alcove housing a large plant.

The live music on offer was a robust one-man act, harking back to the 1960’s and 70’s. I suspect that it appealed to a certain generation, who enjoy listening to songs such as “My way” being belted out.

Although the restaurant was not very busy, the atmosphere was jolly.

Menu

The menu was an eclectic mixture of Tapas, Italian and French.

Service

The staff were friendly and efficient. We were offered a bowl of excellent garlic olives to munch on, whilst we perused the menu.

Food

I chose the potato tortilla to start with. This was a good sized omelette, which had been freshly cooked, containing potato and onion. It was very pleasant, and a good start to the meal.

I then opted for the lamb cutlets in rich red wine and herb sauce for my main course. Although the three cutlets were tender, and properly cooked, I felt that they were a somewhat miniscule size. I could have eaten six of that size, easily; that being said, maybe I am just too greedy!

The sauce was full bodied and pleasant, not overpowering.

The dish came with sauté potatoes and vegetables, which were agreeable; but nothing special.

Eva started with tiger prawns in a tomato and garlic sauce. Both the prawns and the sauce had an excellent flavour.

However, the prawns were served in their shells in the hot sauce. This made them very difficult and messy to eat.

Eva then opted for the veal in a white wine and sage sauce for her main course. The veal was cut thin, and served with ham and a very fresh piquant white wine sauce with fresh sage. It was a well made and presented dish.

The meal, which included a bottle of Pinot Grigio and liqueurs, came to £57 before service.

Overall Opinion

If you like live music, then pop along; it’s a laugh.




Monday, August 16, 2004

Restaurant

The Guinea Grill
30 Bruton Place
London

Phone:- 0207 409 1728

Website www.theguinea.co.uk

Overview

Eva and I took a trip to Mayfair the other evening, to try out The Guinea Grill; a restaurant, just off Berkley Square, famous for its steaks and award winning pies.

It is attached to a 19th century pub, The Guinea, and is open Monday to Saturday. The Guinea has a loyal customer base going back some years since it was established in 1952, and is very popular, I advise you book at least 24 hours in advance.

Ambience

The Guinea Grill is nestled in a small alleyway just off Berkley Square, near the Rolls Royce and Bentley showrooms.

The tiny entrance, attended by a uniformed doorman, leads into the reception and grill area. This is where we got our first inkling of the style and quality of the restaurant. Just in front of the open grill was a chilled glass counter; which displayed a selection of 28 day aged steaks and fresh seafood.

The dining area was cosy, and decorated in the traditional manner of a pub/dining room from the 19th century.

The walls were half wood panelled and half painted sunset yellow, they were decorated with oil paintings. The carpet was tartan check, and the tables were laid with linen cloths and napkins.

The restaurant was busy, and tables were placed close to each other (but not uncomfortably close). Eva sat with her back to the wall on a bench, which provided seating for the tables on either side of us.

I would note that the one part of the décor that was definitely not 19th century, was the air conditioning unit in the ceiling. This, unfortunately, was situated directly above us; and we felt the full “benefit” of its output. We had to ask for it to be turned off, as we felt we were sitting in a refrigerator.

The atmosphere of the restaurant was very jolly, and not at all “stuffy”.

Menu

The Guinea is noted for its steaks, and its pies which have won national awards. Needless to say, the menu was dominated by steaks, lamb and pies. However, there was also a good selection of fish, chicken and seafood on offer; and an impressive wine list.

Service

The staff were very professional and courteous. We were even asked what types of gin we would like in our pre dinner cocktail. Old school service!

Food

I started with half a cold lobster (there were hot ones on the menu as well), served with a salad and mayonnaise.

The flesh of the lobster had been fully “de-shelled”, so I had no need to employ the shell cracker that had been laid on the table; I confess that I was rather disappointed at not having to “work for my lobster”!

The lobster was fresh and fleshy, it was a good choice for a starter.

I chose the 12oz sirloin for my main course, with chips and gratin tomatoes.

The meat was cooked medium (as requested), and was tender and flavoursome; as it should have been, given that it was hung for 28 days. The layer of fat around one side, which is essential for flavour and moisture, had a most excellent smoky flavour from the grill.

The chips were homemade, not frozen fries from a packet, and had a good flavour and texture. The tomatoes were topped with grated cheese, and provided an ideal accompaniment to my meat.

Eva started with the crayfish and prawn avocado salad. This was a generous helping of prawns in their shells and crayfish, served with chunks of ripe avocado in a good quality salad.

The dish was fresh and flavoursome. During this course Eva indulged herself in the bread basket; which contained an excellent selection of home baked breads, including a particularly flavoursome bread made with sultanas.

Eva chose one of the award winning steak and kidney pies for her main course. She was not disappointed. The pie came in its own dish, and was a good size. The pastry was flaky and light, the gravy rich, piquant and flavoursome; the meat and kidneys very tender, and generous in quantity.

As a side dish Eva chose the baked potato. This was a very good sized potato which had been baked, not micro waved; it was fluffy, and was served with a good dollop of sour cream.

Eva was delighted with her choice.

The meal, which included cocktails, a very good bottle of Chablis and liqueurs came to £158 including service.

Overall Opinion

A very enjoyable evening, and good quality restaurant. I can well understand why it has a loyal customer base, we would like to add ourselves to that list.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Restaurant

The Gaucho Grill
29 Westferry Circus
London

Phone:- 0207 987 9494

Website www.thegauchogrill.co.uk

Overview

Eva and I braved the terrorist threat and took a trip, via river taxi, to Canary Wharf. We went there to try out The Gaucho Grill, an Argentinean steak house situated on the banks of the Thames.

Ambience

The Gaucho Grill had both inside and outside seating. The inside was bright and glitzy, with a bar and dining area decorated with cowhides. The outside dining area, on the riverbank, afforded a splendid view of London.

It was a sunny, and warm, day and the outside dining area was packed with a lively and jolly mixture of tourists and local office workers. However, we managed to get a table outside; under the trees that marked the boundary between The Gaucho Grill and the riverbank boardwalk.

The chairs were moulded plastic, and reasonably comfortable. However, the tables had been set on a support in order to stop them wobbling on the gravel (which was used to surface the al fresco dining area); as such they were an inch or so too high for the chairs. It might be better, in my view, to dispense with the gravel and use paving slabs instead.

During the course of our meal, I did battle with a rather persistent wasp; which I eventually, and heroically, managed to despatch to the next world.

Menu

A meat lover’s paradise! The menu offered a very good range of steaks; sirloins, rump, fillet, rib eye that you could order to any size you wished.

There were also chicken and fish dishes, as well as oysters, black bean soup and prawns.

Service

The staff were very friendly and welcoming. Our waiter was very amiable and knowledgeable. He explained each of the cuts of meat, with the aid of a platter on which the different cuts of raw steaks were displayed.

Food

I started with the chicken and beef empanadas. These were 2 medium sized filo pastry parcels, one filled with beef and the other with chicken; served with salad of red and yellow cherry tomatoes.

The beef empanada was pleasant, if a little bland. However, the chicken was very well spiced and had a good smoky flavour; this was my favourite one out of the two.

I chose a 300g Chorizo sirloin for my main course (I resisted 400g). This melted in the mouth like butter, and had a good flavour and succulence.

I chose a good sized baked potato with butter to accompany it, together with Corn O’Brien as a side dish. This consisted of sweet corn which had been sautéed with butter spring onions, and a little red pepper; it made an ideal accompaniment to the steak.

Eva started with the exotically named Gambas Ceviche. This was a small dish of fleshy prawns and avocado, in a piquant tandoori flavour sauce. Rather perversely the dish came with a side dish of popcorn, apparently this was to cool the pallet. We found the dish to be very mild, and the popcorn’s alleged cooling effect unnecessary.

Eva chose a 225g rib eye, with béarnaise sauce, for her main course. This was good cut of meat, marbled with succulent fat. It was splendidly tender and flavoursome.

Eva chose pureed potatoes to accompany the meat. These were very special, as they were exceptionally rich and creamy, and had been pureed with a red pepper. This gave the dish an orange hue, and a piquant flavour.

Eva was delighted, who wouldn’t be having me as a dining companion?

The meal, which included cocktails, a good bottle of Merlot and liqueurs, came to £117 before service.

Overall Opinion

Our verdict?

Jump on a river taxi, and indulge your flesh eating fantasies. We will definitely visit The Gaucho Grill again.