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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Miracle Beer?

Miracle Beer?

Those of you who enjoy a few pints of beer, but dislike the fact that it is fattening and can give you headaches, may find a new beer coming from India to be just what you are looking for.

The beer, called Ladybird Bio Beer, claims to cut cholesterol and eases conditions such as asthma and arthritis. However, it will be as alcoholic as the average beer available in Britain.

The beer was invented by Srinivasa Amarnath, and contains ingredients to stop drinkers getting a hangover.

Ladybird Bio Beer is 5% proof, and contains extracts of aloe vera and the herbs phyllanthus niruri and ashwagandha; these allegedly have medicinal qualities.
It was launched in India last year, and is proving to be enormously popular over there.

Amarnath claims that a regular intake of the beer will help to prevent ulcers, gastric problems and "other harmful effects of drinking".

Bio beer will initially be sold in bars and restaurants from this week, priced at £1.89 for a 650-millilitre bottle.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Smollensky's Metro

Restaurant

Smollensky's Metro
48 South End
Croydon

Phone:- 0208 688 6132

Website www.smollenskys.com/metro/

Overview

In the gloomy first week of the new year, Eva and I decided to go out for simple burger, and decided to try the new Smollensky's Metro which has been opened on the site of the Crazy H which we have reveiwed on this site earlier.

Smollensky's Metro is part of the well known, and reputable, Smollensky's chain. The Metro concept, according to the publicity, specialises in quality burgers (eat in, take out). They claim that they use the same "high quality products and perfected techniques" in the preparation of the food.

With such promises, we entered the premises with a sense of anticipation.

Ambience

The restaurant blurb describes the ambience as contemporary, with a naturally warm style.

Quote:

"With wooden surfaces, glowing brick work and the leather seating, attention was paid to deliver and atmosphere as comfortable and welcoming as our staff."

Well, the layout was reasonably bright and cheerful; brown brick walls complemented by red painted canvas. However, this being January rather disappointingly the concept of warmth was very much lacking; the restaurant was cold, and Eva told me that the Ladies were freezing.

Additionally, the background music being pumped out was to our view too loud; so as regards ambience, we were not that impressed.

Menu

The menu offers a good range of burgers, and chicken dishes, together with some grills. However, rather surprisingly they do not offer baked potatoes.

Service

Our waiter was rather an oddball, I would almost say he looked a bit spaced out. No sooner as he had offered us the menus, and I mean within 10 seconds, he asked us if we were ready to order.

Oddly enough, we weren't!

We read the menus, at OUR leisure, then placed our orders. I was surprised that, given the fact that Smollensky's claim to offer "quality burgers" of 170g (which therefore should require some decent cooking), we were not asked how we wanted them cooked.

After our meal I mentioned our disappointment with the food to the waiter, and asked why he did not ask us how we wanted them cooked; I was greeted with a blank uncomprehending stare, he muttered something and then went away.

We were then ignored, no offer of coffee or anything else, until we made a move to leave; then, as if by magic, a bill appeared.

Food

I chose the egg burger. This was a rather sad looking specimen, dry and over cooked. I suspect it had been sitting on the hot plate for most of the day. The egg gave the poor old thing some much needed moisture.

Eva chose the cheese bacon burger; this was the same in quality, except that she had no egg.

The meal, which included a screw top bottle of Pinot Grigio, came to just under £31; we paid no service, as none was given.

Recommendations
  • Offer baked potatoes and potato skins on the menu


  • Turn the heating on, especially in the Ladies


  • Turn the music down


  • Train the waiters to serve in a responsive and customer orientated fashion


  • Train the chef to cook burgers to the customer's requirements


  • Do not reheat the burgers
Overall Opinion

We lament the demise of the Crazy H.

Smollensky's staff and chef have a lot to learn, and we most certainly do not recommend that you waste your money in this place until they have addressed our recommendations.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Food Fit For a Queen

Food Fit For a Queen

The Queen is reportedly looking for a new chef, to improve the meals prepared in the royal kitchens.

The Queen is reviewing the work of Britain's best chefs, in the country's top restaurants, to lead her team of 20 chefs.

Buckingham Palace said:

"We are stressing it's an important role. The food has to be perfect.

We cannot have foreign heads of state turning up to a banquet and finding the food is not up to standard
."

In additon to changing chef, the Queen will also be trying a dish selected by her loyal subjects for her 80th birthday this year.

The British public will choose what she eats for lunch on her 80th birthday.

The special BBC TV programme, starring 14 of the UK's top chefs, will begin in April and viewers will vote for the 'perfect' four course dinner for the queen.

The final menu will be chosen in a public poll and served at a City of London lunch, being held on June 15 to mark the queen's big day.

Each of the chefs will be given one of seven regions in the UK, and asked to make four "innovative" dishes from the best local ingredients.

The Lord Mayor of London, Lord Brewer, who will host the lunch, said:

"The City of London is proud to honour Her Majesty on behalf of the nation on this very special occasion.

Food brings us all together and through this event the whole country can take part
."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Standing Up For My Rights as a Consumer

Standing Up For My Rights as a Consumer

Those of you who hesitate to complain about poor quality food and substandard service, should take note of this lesson.

Back in October 2005 I wrote about the poor quality service and food that I received from Ixxy's Bagel Shop at Victoria station.

I emailed the company about the article, and heard nothing until now.

Today, out of the blue, I received a letter of apology; together with a full refund, and a voucher for £5 which can be used at many of the food outlets (eg Burger King, Ixxy's etc )at the major railway stations.

The lesson?

If you are on the receiving end of bad service or poor quality food, no matter how modest your purchase; complain like hell!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Torquay Loses Fawlty Towers Image

Torquay Loses Fawlty Towers Image

Torquay has finally shaken off its Fawlty Towers image of poor service and dreadful food, after the Michelin Guide has awarded stars to two of its restaurants.

The Elephant and Orestone Manor have both received Michelin stars.

The Elephant's head chef, Simon Hulstone, said:

"When I heard I was extremely excited and now I'm full of anticipation for the year ahead."

Friday, January 20, 2006

East is East?

East is East?

Owners of Indian and Chinese restaurants in the UK are now being asked to hire East European nationals to work in their kitchens and front of house, rather than source their labour supply from the Indian subcontinent.

Officials say that East Europeans would now need to be given preference in the labour market, after their countries joined the EU.

Ministers have reportedly told owners of Indian and Chinese restaurants that English should be spoken in kitchens, so that vacancies can be filled by East Europeans.

This move is causing discontent amongst the owners of the restaurants.

Representatives of Chinese restaurants have already lobbied with MPs to save the industry.

Ashraf Uddin, secretary-general of the Bangladesh Caterers' Association, said:

"Unless they know our culture, our language, our way of working, it's a complete mess."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The New Maharajah's

Restaurant

The New Maharajah's
17 Forrest Road
Edinburgh

Phone:- 0131 220 2273

Website www.thenewmaharajahs.co.uk

Overview

Eva and I spent a few days over Christmas in Edinburgh this year. We arrived on Christmas Eve and, with absolutely no plans, decided to pop out for a drink then something to eat.

Having imbibed of a few welcome drinks, we found that rather disconcertingly many of the restaurants we looked in on were in fact closed. The night was getting cold and we had almost resigned ourselves to returning to our hotel, and eating in, when we came across The New Maharajah's; an Indian restaurant serving Tandoori, Mughlai and Bengali cuisine.

The restaurant, situated near the famous Greyfriars Bobby pub, is under new management and claims to have been recommended by Egon Ronay and the Good Curry Guide.

Ambience

The restaurant was bright and cheerful, not one centimetre of flock wallpaper was in sight! Most especially welcome, on that rather cold damp night, it was warm and comfortable.

The walls are painted a light cream colour, the floors wooden parquet. The chairs are red velvet backed, comfortable to sit on and the tables laid with linen clothes and napkins.

Unlike many Indian restaurants, the background music was not a the usual selection of "Asian style" mood music, but an eclectic mixture of disco and Motown from the 1950's, 60's, 70's and 80's. In fact we rather enjoyed naming the tunes, but would note that the music was not intrusive.

Menu

The menu offered a good range of Tandoori, Biryani and Mughlai dishes; additionally there were a number of house specials and standard curries.

As with many Asian restaurants the New Maharajah offers a take away service as well.

Service

The staff were friendly and welcoming, even though it was 9:00pm on Christmas Eve they showed no sign of trying to rush us through our meal.

The service was attentive and efficient, and the staff were happy to explain the dishes when asked.

Food

I chose the lamb baja for my starter. This consisted of a most excellent and succulent chapatti, stuffed with minced lamb and spices. I was very impressed both with the taste and texture of this dish. It was, to my view, an ideal starter.

I chose the Jhallfrezie chicken for my main course, this is a marinated Tandoori chicken with fresh green chilli, coriander and garnished with ginger. It was spicy and flavoursome.

I had plain boiled rice and allo jeera (potato with cumin) to accompany it.

Eva started with the lamb kebab; this was a dish of succulent and tender Tandoori cooked lamb chunks in yoghurt and medium spices, served with a salad. The meat was good quality, and the spices not overpowering

Rather bravely, for her main course, Eva chose the chicken Balti Rooflifter. This dish, not surprisingly was very hot, I guess it had been created especially for the Scottish palate. It consisted of pieces of chicken in Balti spices, chopped onion, green pepper, mint, yoghurt coriander and Kashmiri massalla.

She chose pilao rice to accompany it.

She was delighted with this dish, even though it was by far the hottest that she has ever had.

It is fair to say that it opened the pores!

The meal, which included a good bottle of Pouilly Fuisse and liqueurs, came to £48 including service.

Overall Opinion

We had a splendid meal, and are more than happy to recommend the New Maharajah's as a place worth visiting when in Edinburgh.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Bellini

Restaurant

Bellini Restaurant
8a Abercromby Place
Edinburgh

Phone:- 0131 476 2602

Website www.bellinirestaurant.co.uk

Overview

Eva and I spent a few days over Christmas in Edinburgh this year. On Boxing Day, with no set plans for dinner, we took the advice of our hotel (The Balmoral) and visited Bellini Restaurant.

Bellini is an Italian restaurant and cookery school that aims to bring "a taste of Venice" to the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town.

Bellini is run by Angelo Cimini who, like his family, comes from a long established catering background. His hometown of Villa Santa Maria, has taught chefs since 1290 and exported them internationally through the centuries to all corners of the world. Angelo has cooked for Sophia Loren, Charlie Chaplin and Clint Eastwood; now he has also cooked for us!

Angelo spent several years in Venice cooking at many famous deluxe international hotels and restaurants, learning the "secret-kitchen" which has provided him with a wealth of knowledge and experience.

In addition to running the restaurant, Angelo also runs a cookery school from the same premises.

Ambience

The restaurant is set in an elegant Edinburgh town house. Our welcome was warm and friendly. We were shown to a private bar on the left of the entrance hall, where we perused our menus whilst sipping some champagne.

The decor is cosy and romantic and the dining room is intimate, not over crowded with too many tables too close together.

Blue is the colour of choice in the dining room, the walls are painted blue complemented by a blue carpet contrasted by the tables which are laid with white linen cloths and napkins.

As an additional festive touch, since it was still Christmas, we each had a Christmas cracker. We wore our paper hats with enthusiasm!

Menu

The menu, rather surprisingly for an Italian restaurant, contains little pasta. In fact, Angelo cooks what is in season and what he feels is appropriate. Hence a large part of the menu is not printed, but conveyed to the customers by word of mouth by the hostess.

The dishes offer a "fusion" of local Scottish produce with Italian culinary expertise.

One amusing touch during the menu "performance" was the presentation of the mushroom basket, which Angelo would use in some of his specials.

Service

The staff were very friendly and welcoming. The service was relaxed but attentive, I would not recommend the restaurant if you only have 30 minutes for a quick business lunch. However, to my view, you should not go to a good restaurant if you are in a hurry.

Angelo came out at the end of the meal and personally introduced himself to all of his customers. Which was a nice touch, and meant that he was able to hear first hand if there were any issues regarding the quality of food or service.

Food

I chose the chicken ravioli for my starter. This consisted of freshly made pasta stuffed with chicken, in a white wine and tarragon sauce.

It was thoroughly enjoyable, and was an ideal way to start the meal.

I opted for the 16oz veal T-bone for my main course. This was cooked medium, as requested, with a rosemary white wine and lemon sauce.

The veal was succulent and gorgeously tender. It was accompanied by sauté potatoes and French beans. I was very happy with my choice.

Eva started with scallops with mash. These were first class; the scallops were tender and flavoursome and were complemented by the creamy rich mashed potato.

Eva chose the chicken ravioli for her main course. She was as happy with this as I had been when I had it for my starter. I would note that of course, the main serving was larger than the starter portion.

The meal, which included a bottle of Chablis and liqueurs, came to just under £117 including service.

Overall Opinion

Bellini Restaurant is definitely worth visiting, and we shall certainly revisit when we are next in Edinburgh.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Balmoral Christmas Day Brunch

The Balmoral Christmas Day Brunch

Eva and I stayed at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh over Christmas, and partook of their special Christmas Day Brunch on the 25th.

It was superb!

We dined in one of the function rooms that had been specially set aside for the brunch, and were warmly and cheerfully greeted by all the staff.

A glass of welcoming champagne whetted our appetites for the buffet feast to follow. This included:
  • Cereals, juices and yoghurts


  • Hams, smoked salmon and prawns


  • Scrambled eggs, Ayreshire back bacon, black pudding, tomatoes, Musk sausages (the Queen eats these when she stays in Holyrood), saute potatoes and mushrooms


  • Strawberries, chocolates and bread
We tucked in with gusto, I was even offered a plate of sausages to take back to the room for snacking on later.

At £37 per head, the brunch doesn't come cheap. However, Christmas is but once a year!