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, November 25, 2004

Restaurant

Jardin de Provence
40-42 South End
Croydon
Surrey

Phone:- 0208 255 0045

Website www.lebienmanger.com

Overview

Eva and I decided to try out Jardin de Provence, which has been taken over by the owner of what was Le Bien Manger, on Friday.

Jardin de Provence serves their interpretation of French style cuisine.

Ambience

Jardin offers seating for around 250 people, in a modern and stylish setting. There is a bar running down and a main dining area, part of which is elevated; then there is also a private dining area.

We sat in the elevated section, which afforded us a view of the bar and the kitchen; which could be seen through a large glass window.

The tables were laid with linen cloths and a selection of glassware, for wine and water. The atmosphere was busy and lively, as there was a private dinner in the adjacent function room.

There were café prints and glass mirrors on the walls. The off white ceiling was subtly contrasted by the orange pillars.

Our welcome was warm, and the atmosphere comfortable.

Menu

The menu contained a reasonable selection of French style food including; onion soup, oysters, scallops, snails, duck breast and sole. Rather perversely Jardin serves pasta as well, which of course has nothing to do with French cuisine.

There were some specials on a blackboard, as well as the a la carte selection.

I would say, that for a restaurant to describe itself as French, it needs to offer a little more traditional French food than Jardin has on its menu; eg lamb cassoulet, beef bourguignon and chicken chasseur.

Additionally, I would suggest that plain grilled steaks and cutlets are also offered; aside from those on the menu which are covered in sauces.

Service

The staff were very friendly, efficient and prompt.

One member of staff bore a striking resemblance to Oliver Letwin (Tory party Shadow Chancellor), given the Tories ratings in the polls it is entirely possible that he was working there.

Food

I started with the leek soup. This was good, hot and creamy with a good taste of leeks.

I chose one of the specials for my main course, braised lamb shank. This came in a rich red wine sauce. Now whilst there was nothing wrong per se with it; it is fair to say it was not the best lamb shank that I have ever had. To my view it had been cooked at too high a temperature, rather than the low long braising that is required. The result was that it was a little dry, and the meat did not slip gently off the bone as it should do.

Eva started with the scallops, these were sautéed with mushrooms, herbs and cream; they were presented on a bed of mashed potatoes. These were excellent, and she was very pleased with this dish.

Eva chose the chicken breast stuffed with spinach, in a tomato sauce. Whilst it tasted alright, it was not exceptional; Eva felt, and I concur, that the chicken was bland and dry.

The meal came with sauté potatoes and a selection of vegetables.

The meal, which included a bottle of Pouilly Fume and several liqueurs, came to £76 including service.

Overall Opinion

In our opinion, whilst the atmosphere is good, the food needs a little more attention and imagination.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Restaurant

The George Inn
Borough High Street
Southwark
London

Phone:- 020 7407 2056

Overview

Eva and I were near London Bridge the other evening, and decided to try out the George Inn; a pub and restaurant.

The George is London's only surviving galleried coaching inn.

Ambience

The pub was rebuilt in 1676, and retains many of the original features. The ground floor is divided into several connecting bars. There's a wealth of lattice windows and oak beams.

The restaurant is on the top floor.

We had not booked. However, the restaurant was not busy; and the time was relatively early 9:15, the restaurant was not scheduled to close until 10:00.

I asked if we could get a table in ten minutes, allowing us time to have a drink downstairs.

I was told in rather a brusque manner that they were closing early that evening, as they would be opening early the next day. Given the “take it or leave it attitude” we decided to leave it, and went elsewhere.

Menu

I have no idea, as we did not get a chance to see it.

Service

Brusque and unwelcoming.

Food

N/A

Overall Opinion

Given the unwelcoming attitude, we do not recommend this establishment.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Restaurant

Luigi’s
15 Tavistock Street
London

Phone:- 020-7240 1795

Website www.luigisofcoventgarden.com

Overview

Eva and I were near Covent Garden, the other evening, and decided to try out Luigi’s. Luigi’s is a privately owned Italian restaurant, that was established over 37 years ago.

Luigi’s is nearby the main theatres and nightlife of London’s West End.

Ambience

We had not booked, and the restaurant was very busy. However, the staff managed to find us a good table in the main dining room.

Luigi’s has a main dining room, and 3 individual private dining rooms; it can therefore cater for larger groups, other then the normal 4-6 people.

The restaurant was cheerful, comfortable and pleasantly decorated. The ceiling was white with light oak beams, interspersed with a large number of fans to circulate the air.

The walls were painted green and decorated with photos of personalities from the world of cinema, opera and theatre both and present. The tables were laid with white linen cloths and napkins.

Our welcome was warm, and the atmosphere lively.

Menu

The menu contained a good selection of Italian dishes ranging from the familiar eg carbonara, smoked salmon, Bresaola, Gnocchi, Carpaccio and rack of lamb to the more exotic eg quails’ eggs in a pastry boat and pheasant ravioli in a wild mushroom sauce.

Pizza lovers need not bother coming here; no pizzas!

Service

The staff were friendly, efficient and prompt.

I would also like to thank them for seeking us out in the restaurant, and returning Eva’s wallet; she had left this in the rest room, and it had been handed over to the staff by another diner. We were grateful for their initiative and honesty.

Food

I started with the Spaghetti Carbonara, this was a good quality version of the classic dish. The spaghetti was cooked just right, not too soft not too hard; and the sauce was cheesy, flavoursome and rich but not thick and claggy. I was very impressed with their version of this dish.

I chose the Bistecca Barolo for my main course. This was a sirloin steak served with a Barolo and mushroom sauce.

Now I have to say, that I was not that impressed with their version of this dish. The steak was tender and cooked rare, as requested. However, the sauce, although it looked dark red and inviting, was incredibly bitter and overpowering. I would charitably suggest that too much, of a poor quality, Barolo had been used to the detriment of the other ingredients. Were I uncharitable, I might suggest that the Barolo used by the chef had gone sour.

The dish came with vegetables and rosemary potatoes, the latter were excellent by the way.

Eva started with the avocado Gorgonzola, this was superb. The avocado creamy and smooth, topped with an incredibly rich Gorgonzola sauce. She was delighted with her choice.

Unfortunately Eva suffered the same disappointment as myself, with regard to her choice of main course. She chose the ravioli with pheasant.

This dish was presented in a very appealing manner on the plate. It consisted of five large bright yellow pillows of pasta, stuffed with pheasant, which were surrounded by a rich dark mushroom sauce. However, in our view, the sauce massively overpowered the taste of the pheasant and ravioli; and frankly, was not that pleasant.

The meal, which included a bottle of Chardonnay and liqueurs, came to £102 including service.

Overall Opinion

In our opinion, the quality of the main dishes that we ate let the restaurant down. We doubt that we will be returning.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Restaurant

La Barca
80-81 Lower Marsh
London

Phone:- 0207 928 2226

Website www.labarca.co.uk

Overview

Last Thursday Eva and I, having quaffed an ale in the nearby Firestation pub in Waterloo, wandered off to La Barca to have a meal.

La Barca is a traditional Italian restaurant, situated near to The Old Vic theatre.

Ambience

La Barca was very busy that evening, being crowded with theatregoers from The Old Vic. However, despite the fact that we had not booked, we were found a comfortable table without any delay.

La Barca was decorated in a cosy and welcoming manner; red tiles on the floor, linen tablecloths, wine bottles stacked on racks around the walls and a wooden beamed white ceiling.

Since the restaurant was located near to The Old Vic, there was an extensive array of photos of stars (past and present) who have dined in the restaurant.

The atmosphere was lively and stimulating.

Menu

The menu contained an extensive array of Italian meat, fish and pasta dishes including; Gamberoni Burro e Aglio, Insalata Tricolore, Gamberetti Cocktail, Pate della Casa, Bresaola Con Parmigiano, Pollo all’Agrodolce, Pollo Luciano, Pulcino Pasquale and Guelfi e Ghibellini Toscani.

There was also a very tempting cold buffet counter, which offered a good choice of starters; for those who wished to mix and match a taste of Italy for themselves.

Service

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

Food

I started with the Guelfi e Ghibellini, which was lasagne and cannelloni served together “half and half”. This was excellent. The two dishes complimented each other, without either one overpowering the other. The sauce was rich and creamy; whilst the pasta was succulent and moist, and was generously stuffed with meat seasoned with basil and garlic.

I chose the spring chicken in olive oil, flavoured with chillies, for my main course. This was decently cooked; the bird being succulent and tender. The oil and chilli did not overpower the delicate flavour of the poussin. The dish was accompanied by roast potatoes, green beans and carrots.

I was very happy with my choice.

Eva started with the crab, prawn, mango and avocado salad; which was well presented, and tasted superb.

Eva then chose the fillet of veal with truffles for her main course. This dish consisted of a tender, thinly cut fillet of veal, cooked with truffles in a white wine cream sauce. The dish was very rich and unctuous, but not overpowering; the ingredients, again, complimented rather than overpowered each other.

Eva also chose the roast potatoes, green beans and carrots.

We eschewed, as we were full, the dessert trolley. However, I would say that the variety of desserts on offer looked excellent; both well prepared and tempting.

The meal, which included a robust Barolo and liqueurs, came to £102 including service.

Overall Opinion

I am happy to recommend this restaurant. We will certainly be returning.