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, March 31, 2005

The Rib Room and Oyster Bar

Restaurant

The Rib Room and Oyster Bar
The Carlton Tower Hotel
On Cadogan Place
London
SW1X 9PY

Phone:- 0207 235 1234

Website www.carltontower.com/dining/

Overview

Eva and I were intent on celebrating the launch of my new company, and so decided to push the boat out and try the Rib Room of the Carlton Tower Hotel in London.

The Rib Room was established in 1961, and is renowned for serving the tender Aberdeen Angus beef and fine traditional British cuisine. There is also an Oyster Bar, which serves a variety of oysters and caviar.

Ambience

The Rib Room harkens back to a bygone era of elegance and opulence, rarely seen these days in mainstream restaurants.

The dining room and bar were spacious and calm. The walls lined with dark wood panelling, the bar modern and comfortable, with deep sofas. There was a piano in the corner, but as this was a Good Friday no pianist was on duty.

The dining room had a warm, intimate interior and was decorated with bronze statues, pyramids and artworks by Feliks Topolski. It had more of the feel of an ocean liner from the 1950’s.

The tables were laid with linen cloths, napkins and silver cutlery. There was also a loaf of home baked granary bread, in the centre of the table, which was light and crusty.

The atmosphere was relaxed, and not overtly formal.

Menu

The menu is traditional British, with a fine selection of; oysters, caviar, Cornish crab, goose liver, beef, duck chicken and lamb on offer.

Service

The staff were friendly, efficient and very welcoming. We partook of a few drinkies at the bar whilst perusing the menu, and lingered for an hour before being escorted to our table.

Our waiter was very attentive and accommodating, he happily conveyed my request to the chef to ensure that my beef was not trimmed of its fat.

Food

I chose the Cornish crab to start with. This was a delightful arrangement of dark and white crab meat in a crab shell, interspersed with a generous quantity of chopped egg. This came with a small side salad.

In my view this was an ideal starter, an excellent combination of flavours and textures.

I chose the 454g roast Aberdeen Angus rib of beef (one of the signature dishes of the restaurant) for my main course. This was absolutely superb, it had been cooked medium as requested and was so tender and succulent it just melted away in the mouth. It was absolutely unctuous!

The beef was accompanied by Yorkshire pudding, sauté potatoes and cauliflower cheese. I was absolutely delighted with my meal, and unashamedly “pigged out”; let’s be honest I could have opted for just 250g, but I am a greedy piggy!

Eva started with the scallops on pureed parsnips. These were delightful. Three tender moist and succulent scallops, served atop of pureed parsnips; an excellent combination. She was very pleased with her choice.

Eva then had the spit roast duck for her main course. This was a leg, thigh and carved breast of duck. The meat was tender, flavoursome and succulent; it had been well cooked as requested. Eva chose creamed potatoes to accompany the duck. These were rich and smooth; utterly indulgent.

We demurred on the tempting desserts, and instead had liqueurs and coffee.

The entire bill, which included pre dinner champagne a bottle of Chablis and liqueurs, came to £249 including service.

Overall Opinion

Whilst the Rib Room is not cheap, the meal was definitely one of the best that we have had. Whilst we will not be visiting every week, we will most definitely be dining there again. In our view, if you want to have a special evening then the Rib Room is certainly one place that is worth visiting.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

New Zealand Restaurant Boycott

New Zealand Restaurant Boycott

It is reported that New Zealand's Service and Food Workers Union Northland delegate, Katrina Bazey, is calling for a boycott of restaurants which increase menu prices on Easter Friday.

Seemingly some restaurants and cafes put up menu prices about 15%, to cover increased staff wages incurred under the Holidays Act.

Bazey said that she "did not believe in surcharges", and asked people not to go to places with the surcharges.

She argues, quite reasonably in my view, that increased visitor numbers to restaurants at Easter should also help offset increased staff wages.

Restaurants, dairies, service stations and takeaway bars are the only eateries allowed to open on Good Friday. Under the Holidays Act, employees must be paid time-and-a-half and receive time off in lieu.

Needless to say, restaurant owners disagree.

Well, it's now down to the customers, they have the final say.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Ramsay To Open In New York

Gordon Ramsay, one of Britain's leading chefs, is to open a restaurant in New York.

He currently runs seven restaurants in in London and one in Dubai.

He will open at the five-star Marriott Rihga Royal Hotel next April. The venture will include a 100 seat restaurant, and a less formal dining area and bar.

Ramsay is quoted as saying:

"It's the burning ambition of every top chef in the world to succeed in New York. To be there among the best in the world is so exciting..I thrive on competition, and New York has restaurants from all the top chefs in the world, from Thomas Keller to Jean-George Vongerichten."

Last year, Ramsay reportedly sent an employee to work as an "undercover" chef at a top New York restaurant to check out the competition.

Blackstone, the investment bank and previous owner of the former Savoy Group of hotels, is leasing the restaurant site to Ramsay; he plans to set up a New York headquarters for the group.

Tim Zagat, the chief executive of the New York-based Zagat Survey, is quoted as saying:

"If anyone can hit a home run it is Ramsay, especially with the powerful backing from Blackstone. He is well known among the sort of New York restaurant customers who think nothing of traveling between New York and London...These are the sort of people who eat out for lunch and dinner on a day-to-day basis and who will go to his new restaurant..The challenge now is to see if he can transfer the personal cooking he is known for to a group of sous chefs. That is always a great risk, but if anyone can do it is Ramsay."

Ramsay also intends to open a restaurant in Miami.

Fox will be running a series shortly, which is described as a cross between Hell?s Kitchen and a sort of "Chef Idol", with the winner getting the keys to a restaurant worth over £1M.

Ramsay is also launching a restaurant in Tokyo

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Canadian Restaurants Safer Than Hospitals

Canadian Restaurants Safer Than Hospitals

It seems that Canadian hospitals have fewer infection control regulations than restaurants, and many don't have even the minimum number of staff they're supposed to employ to combat infections.

That at least is the conclusion of a CBC News investigation.

The report goes on to say that no level of government is in charge of monitoring infection controls at hospitals. The contrast with the restaurant industry could not be more stark, restaurants and cafes must pass regular health inspections or face being shut down.

The statistics for Canada are that about 250,000 patients a year contract at least one of the three most common infections that crop up in hospitals: MRSA, Clostridium difficile and necrotizing fasciitis. About 8,000 of those patients will die.

Cleanliness standards in hospitals in Canada, such as use of protective clothing, stricter handwashing rules and tough new cleaning dictates, are voluntary.

The lesson here is, if you want an operation in Canada, maybe you should ask your local restaurant to perform it.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Brunei's Cutlery Crisis

Brunei's Cutlery Crisis

It seems that diners in Brunei have been experiencing problems with their cutlery and crockery.

Customers have been complaining that restaurants have been serving meals in broken crockery, with damaged cutlery and broken glasses.

Needless to say this is neither sanitary, or pleasant on the eye.

There have been calls for the restaurants to clean up their act, and to ensure that cutlery etc is in pristine condition.

There have also been calls for hygiene awards to be made for those premises with clean and functioning lavatories, something which has also been the subject of numerous complaints from diners.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Tragedy at Blaze

Tragedy at Blaze

Three people have been arrested after a fire which killed three today in flats above the Blaze restaurant Chatham, Kent.

The fire, which started at 1 am, is being treated as suspicious. Three people were found dead inside the properties after the building was evacuated.

The Blaze restaurant served "Turkish traditional cuisine", and has only been open a few weeks.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Atkins On The Wane

Atkins On The Wane

It seems that the Atkins fad, for eating protein but no carbs, may be on the wane in restaurants in the US.

The diet was as much the product of slick PR, as it was obesity. As such many restaurants, both in the US and Britain, scrambled to satisfy their customers' latest fad.

Menus were revised to include "Atkins" friendly items, or low carb meals. Fries were out, and veggies were in.

However, as with any fad, the momentum faded. The NPD Group, an independent US marketing information company, has reported that the percentage of American adults on any low carb diet in 2004 peaked at 9.1% in February 2004 and dropped to 4.9% by early November.

This means that restaurants in the US are now revising their menus again, and bringing back the carbs.

Hooray!

As with anything in the US, you can be sure that it will take hold here in the UK as well. So those of you missing your carbs, need not go hungry for much longer.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Cheese Olympics

The Cheese Olympics

Every two years, hundreds of cheeses are sent in from across the USA to Milwaukee for the Championship Cheese Contest.

Fourteen judges will sniff, taste and poke the cheeses to determine the winner of the title U.S. champion of cheese today.

John Umhoefer, executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, says:

"It's kind of like the Olympics where you start out with a 10 and your flaws are downgraded,".

There are 50 criteria on which the cheeses are judged including; too fruity, too flat, too curdy, too gassy, colour, rind, dents, texture and body.

The judges chew the cheese, allow it to cover their tongue for a few seconds, spit it out and then smell the aroma.

Seven new classes of cheese have been added including; Havarti, Quesos Frescos and Pepper Flavored Cheese.

However, cheese making is a random biological process and the cheese makers are not allowed to cut or taste the cheese they send to the contest. Therefore all bets are still open as to who will win this year.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Waiter There's A Tongue Piercing In My Soup!

Waiter There's A Tongue Piercing In My Soup!

It seems that the diners in Cheyenne, Wyoming USA, have more than just hairs in their soup to contend with.

It is reported that a city health inspector has said there had been "several cases" of tongue rings, and other facial jewelry, found in the food in the city's restaurants.

This has caused a minor panic in the Governor's Food Safety Council, as such they have recommending banning facial jewelry for restaurant workers who prepare food.

This may be a culinary first!

Jon Cecil, of Cheyenne Health Department, reportedly told the Food Safety Council in January:

"We've had several cases of old ladies finding tongue rings and rings and whatnot in their food..We actually had a lady at one of our finer restaurants in town and ... she found a tongue ring."

Seemingly nose rings could transmit staph bacteria. However, the nose ring would have to sit in a plate of food for hours before a sufficient population of bacteria built up to spread the disease.

It may be more important to concentrate on the basics of hygiene, such as washing your hands regularly.

Monday, March 14, 2005

The Joy of Cheese

The Joy of Cheese

The well known American food writer, Ruth Reichl, came to Britain with her colleagues to review the quality of dining opportunities here.

They were so impressed, that they announced that London was the best place on Earth to eat; in fact, they dedicated the whole issue of Gourmet magazine to dining in London.

It seems that one of the key elements in convincing Reichl, and her colleagues, about the quality of food on offer was her chance encounter with a toasted cheese sandwich.

She was reportedly walking through Borough market and came across a sandwich stall run by Bill Oglethorpe, a cheese expert from the specialist suppliers Neal's Yard Dairy.

Reichl was so impressed with his toasted cheese an onion sandwich that she had a second helping.

If you want to try his sandwich you can find his tall in Borough Market, near London Bridge, every Saturday.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Phil Vettel has listed his his top 10 Italian restaurants in Chicago. They are:

Spiaggia 980 N. Michigan Ave., 312-280-2750

Vivere 71 W. Monroe St., 312-332-7005

Coco Pazzo 300 W. Hubbard St., 312-836-0900

Va Pensiero 1566 Oak Ave., Evanston, 847-475-7779.

Campagnola 815 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 847-475-6100.

Vinci 1732 N. Halsted St., 312-266-1199

Gabriel's 310 Green Bay Rd., Highwood, 847-433-0031

Bice 158 E. Ontario St., 312-644-1474 or Northbrook Court, Northbrook.

A Tavola 2152 W. Chicago Ave., 773-276-7567

Mia Francesca 773-281-3310

Phil Vettel is Restaurant Critic of the Chicago Tribune. He is rumoured to dine out around 200 nights a year, there's dedication for you!

He authors a weekly restaurant review, a "Table Hopping" column of restaurant news and events and oversees the production of reviews in four suburban zones.

He also produces the "Dining Guide" this is a bi annual review of dining trends, news and reviews.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Smoking Banned In Houston

Smoking Banned In Houston

Houston on Wednesday joined a growing list of cities to ban smoking in restaurants.

The City Council rejected a ban on all public smoking, but voted 9-4 to prohibit lighting up in restaurants. The measure still permits smoking in some restaurant-bars.

Seven states in the USA and several individual cities prohibit smoking in most indoor public places, though the effects of the bans are still being debated.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Trans Fats

Trans Fats

There has been much concern expressed recently about the levels of trans fats in foods; these are the fats produced by cooking in oil, and are deemed to increase the risk of heart disease.

Supermarkets have been quick to cash in on, the latest food fad, by offering food free of these fats. However, restaurants are a little slower off the mark.

The main problem being that the oils used, that produce the trans fats, are cheap. A better source of fat, ie healthier, is peversely hard fat such as butter and lard.

Some restaurants are eliminating these trans fats. In the USA, an East Coast chain of 30 restaurants Legal Sea Foods has eliminated trans fats from its menu.

Seemingly, fries present one of the toughest challenges to restaurants. They usually arrive at restaurants blanched, or precooked, in oil with trans fats. So even if a restaurant has switched to a healthier oil, french fries can still have trans fat. But manufacturers are starting to offer trans fat-free fries.

Ultimately it will be the actions of the customers, that will determine whether restaurants eliminate trans fats from their menus.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

No Smoke Without Fire

No Smoke Without Fire

Smokers may wish to avoid travelling to Houston for a meal. It is reported that a new, expanded version of the city's proposed smoking ban could affect Houston businesses other than restaurants.

The proposed ban, if passed, would mean smokers could no longer smoke inside the dining area of a restaurant. Currently they are allowed to smoke in designated smoking areas.

The ban could also target bowling alleys, enclosed bus stops and other businesses. Taxi drivers would have the option of making their cabs smoke-free or not.

It seems that this ban could lose Houston a lot of convention centre business.

Reportedly officials with Alcoholics Anonymous, the National Retailer Federation, the National Convenience Store Operators and the National Tobacco Retailers Association have threatened to pull their conventions out of Houston.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Edinburgh's Dirty Restaurants

Edinburgh's Dirty Restaurants

It is reported that a number of Edinburgh’s top restaurants have at one time failed to meet hygiene standards set by health and safety inspectors.

Reports have been obtained under the Freedom of Information Act which show that some of Edinburgh's leading restaurants have served food that is not fit for human consumption.

Named and shamed include Café St Honoré in the New Town. Its kitchen was described as "filthy and in need of a thorough clean". Inspectors recommended that the owners hired an industrial cleaning firm.

Haldanes had 13 separate contraventions of food safety laws, including mouse droppings, in the year that it was named Edinburgh’s best restaurant in the Taste of Scotland awards.

The Balmoral Hotel, on Princes Street, was reportedly served with a statutory notice after inspectors recorded 24 breaches of food hygiene rules.

Fishers Bistro in Leith, whose customers have included the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and his wife Cherie, was told in 2003 that the kitchen floor was dirty.

Oloroso, whose guests have included Prince William and the actor Jude Law, was warned in 2003 to replace seals on refrigerators and throw out scored chopping boards that were difficult to clean.

All the restaurants now claim that they have addressed the complaints made against them, and that there are no problems.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

The World's Worst Waiter

Is this the world's worst waiter?

Judge for yourself, visit The World's Worst Waiter