Archive for the ‘Travelling’ Category
I’m comfortable with dining alone. If I’m out and about on errands during the day I will have lunch by myself. There are many restaurants with counter seating which is perfect for one. I will perch on a stool and scroll the news headlines on my mobile as I eat. These contemplative meals tend to be at casual eateries so I was apprehensive about my booking at The Ledbury in London.
Chef Brett Graham is Australian and The Ledbury piqued my interest during the London riots. The restaurant was attacked by a mob and the staff armed themselves with kitchen accoutrements to defend patrons. There is an Aussie larrikin spirit to that!
With two Michelin stars, The Ledbury has a prix fixe lunch menu at the bargain price of £35 for three courses. The stately dining room was decorated in warm tones with chandeliers, mirrored walls draped with curtains, tablecloths and upholstered chairs.
It was a full lunch service. There was a group in a business meeting, a family celebrating a birthday, and tourists in shorts and visors.
An amuse bouche of foie gras mousse on hemp biscuit was the centrepiece on a rustic ceramic plate.
Speyside and Glenlivet are words I associate with Scotch but the area is also a pristine source of natural spring water.
A wicker basket cocooned warm onion and bacon, sourdough, and malt bread rolls. The onion and bacon scroll was dense and savoury.
The first course was a salad of spring vegetables with crisp pheasant egg and Parmesan. There was a collective gasp from the adjacent table when this was presented. It was an artistic arrangement of tender batons. Vibrant radishes, carrots, asparagus, beans, peas and micro greens complemented the richness of the Parmesan encased pheasant egg.
My entrée silverware with replaced with a spoon. I was pondering how to cut hogget with the blunt, round edge when a shallow bowl was served. The waiter announced it was a pre-course of Cornish brill with radishes, barley, shellfish consommé and cream of white beer. Delicate and flaky, the white filet paired well with the briny broth. This was an ode to the ocean.
A serrated knife was swiftly set. The waiter wryly described hogget as middle aged sheep. The plate was a kaleidoscope of shapes and colours. A wedge of aubergine glazed in black sugar and garlic, dots of green tomato juice and flecks of dried olive were in a jus with three cuts of unctuous heritage prime biodynamic hogget.
A shot glass was layered with passionfruit jelly and vanilla cream, a sweet and tart palate cleanser.
Dessert was a vivid parfait of dried flowers topped with gariguette and wild strawberries, and white chocolate. A puddle of warm tapioca was textural and temperature contrast to the icy smooth parfait.
Petit fours from left to right: eucalyptus chocolate, earl grey biscuit and mandarin jelly.
Lunch was nearly three hours and I read that day’s Guardian newspaper in between courses!
I like cooked vegetables. I grew up eating leafy greens sautéed in garlic and ginger, steamed cauliflower and broccoli, blanched lettuce steeped in oyster sauce, and stir-fried carrots and peas. Salads were not in my diet as a child.
As an adult I have learnt to appreciate the healthfulness of salads. Roasted beets, chèvre and pistachio. Arugula, pear, pine nuts and balsamic vinegar. Spicy Thai salad with nam jim dressing. These are on regular rotation at home.
I have a copy of Yotam Ottolenghi‘s sumptuous Plenty and having dined at Nopi earlier in the week so I was keen to visit the original Ottolenghi in Notting Hill. Located on Ledbury Road, a manicured hedge and distinctive red font marked the entrance.
Tiers of buttermilk scones, viennoiseries, cakes, cookies, tarts, cheesecakes and brownies were displayed at the front window enticing passers-by. Tuck your elbows in and shuffle sideways as the front room is narrow!
Platters of vibrant salads lined the counter. A daily menu is published in the morning and on this May day there were:
* Roasted aubergine, sorrel and wild garlic yoghurt, roasted cherry tomatoes, parsley and pine nuts
* Mixed green beans, shaved asparagus and peas with spinach, chilli, garlic, tarragon, lemon zest and chervil
* Chargrilled broccoli with chilli and garlic
* Roasted squash with green olive yoghurt, roasted red onion, mint, capers and sumac
* Cucumber, celery and radish with nigella seeds, coriander and mint
* Butterbean hummus with roasted red pepper, hazelnut, lemon and parsley salsa
* Red rice and quinoa with cranberries, lemon, fried onion, mixed nuts, herbs, radicchio and arugula
* Heritage carrots with cumin seeds, garlic, lemon, coriander, pea shoots, arugula and pomegranate
* Beetroot and poached rhubarb salad with gorgonzola, red onion, and mixed herbs and leaves
There were also a selection of mains:
* Seared beef fillet with watercress, whole grain mustard, horseradish and sour cream
* Beef lasagne
* Seared sesame crusted tuna with coriander, ginger, chilli and sweet chilli, soy, pineapple and spring onion sauce
* Roasted chicken marinated in yoghurt and honey with mixed spices, chilli and coriander
* Grilled salmon with artichoke, pink peppercorn, preserved lemon and parsley salsa
* Smoked bacon quiche with sautéed leeks, parmesan and thyme
* Roasted tomato quiche with caramelised onion, goat cheese and thyme
Bold, herbaceous flavours with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences, my eyes feasted on the mounds of fresh salads.
Packages of bread sticks and Madeleines, and tubs of roasted spicy nuts cluttered the register as impulse purchases.
Shelves along the short set of stairs were laden with trays of produce, bottles of olive oil, jars of house made sauces and loaves of bread.
Downstairs was an all-white dining room with a communal table and Panton chairs, and an espresso nook. A grand mirror the size of the back wall created an optical illusion that widened and brightened the basement.
Pots of jams and cubes of butter were on a rustic wooden board.
I sipped a coffee.
And nibbled on a decadent chocolate and hazelnut brownie.
I did not order any salads because I had a special lunch booked at The Ledbury but my morning tea at Ottolenghi was splendid!
The main meal of the day, taken either around MIDDAY or in the EVENING.
A formal evening meal, typically one in honour of a person or event.
From Old French disner
I’m a frequent snacker. I enjoy long, leisurely meals but at home I munch on McVitie’s, fruits, nuts and muesli bars throughout the day. It’s both sustenance and habit.
With a 9:45pm reservation for our anniversary dinner, I had to prepare for a late night meal. I had a substantial lunch, potato crisps from the minibar and a Kind bar in the afternoon, and napped prior to going to the Mandarin Oriental for Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. We waited for our table at the bar with a glass of wine and nibbled on a bowl of rice crackers in a lively atmosphere.
Dinner is the younger sibling of Heston Blumenthal‘s famous The Fat Duck. It has one Michelin star and debuted at number nine, the highest new entry, on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Named for ‘British quirky history and linguistic playfulness’, Dinner’s menu is a homage to traditional recipes cooked with modern techniques and local ingredients.
An elegant dining room with a panoramic view of Hyde Park, chocolate furniture and ivory walls complemented the high ceiling.
Clusters of jelly moulds made whimsical lights on pillars.
Nearing 10pm and feeling hungry, I was delighted to nibble on complimentary bread. I love the succinct menu in the format of dish, year originated, components and price.
Circa 1730, the hay smoked mackerel was garnished with lemon salad and gentleman’s relish, and drizzled with olive oil. The greens tempered the pungent, oily fish.
A couple of seasons ago MasterChef Australia contestants had to replicate several of Heston Blumenthal’s signature dishes and I was fascinated by meat fruit, circa 1500. A sphere of chicken liver parfait is dipped in glossy mandarin jelly. I discarded the authentic stem, and cut into the skin and flesh of the meat fruit. Spread thickly on grilled bread, the silky smooth parfait was tinged with citrus notes. It was soft and rich, best shared with the complimentary bread.
The Hereford ribeye, circa 1830, was the star of the plate. A tender cut, the beef was seasoned and perfectly medium rare.
The steak was paired with triple cooked chips and mushroom ketchup. Crunchy and luscious, the chips were starchy batons of joy.
Our waiter explained that umbles are offal and the phrase ‘eating humble pie’ is derived from the medieval specialty of umble pie. Morsels of umbles dotted the powdered duck breast, circa 1670. Portions of succulent duck and supple confit fennel were in a pool of savoury jus.
Fresh and bright, a side of green beans and shallots was the requisite vegetable.
On a wooden board was a Staub cocotte of brioche and a strip of spit roast pineapple. Circa 1810, the tipsy cake was ethereal and aromatic. Sweetly caramelised, the tropical fruit was a textural contrast to the custard soaked brioche.
We had watched the nitro ice cream trolley being wheeled from couples to groups all evening and I gleefully replied ‘yes please’ when asked. Liquid nitrogen is poured with a flourish and the handle cranked to churn the vanilla ice cream. Scooped into a dainty thin sugar cone, the ice cream was dipped in a selection of toppings. The freeze dried raspberries had a concentrated flavour and the popping candy was fun!
Our celebration concluded with chocolate ganache and caraway biscuit, courtesy of the chef with exquisite penmanship.
It was midnight, and patrons lingered at the restaurant and bar as we exited into the cold London spring, contented by the Heston Blumenthal experience.
‘David Thompson‘s name is synonymous with Thai cuisine.’ From Darley Street Thai to Sailors Thai, he pioneered Thai eateries in Sydney. He is the Australian chef who opened a Thai restaurant in Bangkok. I was missing Asian food dearly and was delighted that the original Nahm in London was located near our hotel. In the boutique The Halkin, Nahm was an intimate dining experience.
Decorated in shades of tan and caramel, a row of round tables were in the middle of the dining room and the chairs were comfortable.
We snacked on meaty morsels of ma hor, an appetising amuse bouche courtesy of the chef. Minced prawns and chicken simmered in palm sugar, fried shallots, garlic and peanuts were atop segments of fresh pineapple and mandarin.
We ordered a selection of dishes to share between three. The first was latiang, chicken and crab egg nets with caramelised coconut and lemongrass. Popularised by Longrain chef Martin Boetz on MasterChef Australia, this version of egg nets was presented in a roll. A light lattice of fine egg strands encased a moist and fragrant filling.
Our waiter recommended the yam hua bplii gung, a fresh and zingy salad of grilled prawns and banana blossoms tossed with chilli jam.
Scottish scallops were stir fried with chillies and wild ginger. Plump discs paired with crunchy greens, the hoi shenn pat prik thai orn was simple yet luscious.
All three of us were duck lovers and the pbet yang pat tor huu yii was superb. Chinese style roast duck was on a bed of bean curd, basil and Siamese watercress. The savoury sauce and grassy herbs tempered the fatty duck.
A classic Thai curry, the geng mussaman neua had tender chunks of beef in a viscous paste of aromatics including cassia, cloves, cumin and shallots. Generous dollops were savoured on steamed rice.
The others sipped coffee while I perused the dessert menu. A silver bowl contained rock sugar which had a mellow sweetness.
Kanom mor geng peuak, a scoop of charred coconut pudding were angled on a taro fritter. The two white blobs were kao mao bot, ancestor biscuits with a young coconut filling.
It was an expensive but delectable meal!
It was a glorious Monday in London and we spent the only clear weather we had outdoors. I gallivanted about Westminster in the morning fending off tourists with unwieldy maps and gargantuan DSLRs. We merrily roamed Kew Gardens in the afternoon, steamed in Victoria era glasshouses and felt the spring blades of grass between our toes.
Famished and fatigued, dinner at Nopi was a nourishing conclusion to a lovely day.
A lampshade of rustic bronze leaves greeted patrons.
The glare of the all white interior was diffused by the lighting creating a warm ambience.
A beautiful bouquet in pink hues marked the serving table where platters of salads and loaves of bread were displayed in a front corner of the dining room.
On the left was the grapefruit and lychee cooler, a fruity cocktail of lemon infused vodka, lychee and grapefruit juices, lemon, sugar and mint.
The menu was categorised into vegetables, fish and meat. We agreed to let our waiter order for us and our group of seven had nine dishes family style.
The first was roasted aubergine with black garlic, harissa and pine nuts. Eggplant halves were roasted until silky, its soft flesh contrasted with the crunch of the pine nuts.
I’m neutral on lentils so I only had a tiny spoonful of these green ones with shaved beetroot and radish, and berbere croutons. An African spice blend, the berbere was an appetising seasoning for the bland but nutritious lentils.
Sambal rubbed gurnard was wrapped in banana leaf. The fish fillet was succulent and fiery.
A sphere of burrata was paired with slices of blood orange and coriander seeds. The squeaky mozzarella oozed with cream, and the herby and citrus notes tempered the richness.
Portions of twice cooked baby chicken was dipped in chilli sauce and sprinkled with lemon myrtle salt. The distinct Mediterranean flavours were bold and vibrant.
A cube of pork belly was in a pool of grape mustard jus. The fatty meat was balanced by the wedges of caramelised nashi pear.
In a skillet was seared prawns tossed with feta, fennel and Pernod.
Two golden orbs were courgette and Manouri fritters. Dipped in a cooling lime yoghurt, the mixture of zucchini and Greek cheese were savoury bites.
The last of our waiter’s selection was a ‘cheesecake’. Valdeón, a Spanish blue cheese, was baked in a copper pot and garnished with pickled beetroot and thyme honey. I prefer this version to dessert cheesecakes!
This scoop of sorbet was the essence of pear.
A classic English treat, this Eton mess of meringue, sumac and rose syrup was topped with a quenelle of strawberry sorbet.
Delightfully warm and fluffy financiers were shared.
We had intended on going to Oxford on our first day in London. But alas, the weather conspired to confine us to indoor activities. Our umbrella gallantly shielded us from rain and wind as we waited for The Wolseley to open for breakfast. Thanks to Paola for the recommendation, the eggs Benedict, croissant and classic English (eggs, bacon, sausage, baked beans, black pudding, tomato and mushroom) were superb. So much so that we returned with a Canadian and a French on our last morning in the Old Dart!
Dried, warmed and nourished, we strolled to The National Gallery and shuffled with the crowd to admire the mastery of Cézanne, Constable, Monet, Turner and van Gogh. We ordered a canvas of Monet’s The Thames below Westminster and had lunch at The National Dining Rooms while it was printing. A ‘proudly and resolutely British’ restaurant by Peyton and Byrne, chef Simon Duff ‘seek out, celebrate and transform the finest British regional produce into exquisite modern dishes that represent the best of Britain’s abundant food treasures’.
A contemporary design, the mirrored restaurant shimmered. The main dining room has a view of Trafalgar Square and the café area is adjacent to the entrance.
Peyton and Byrne branded lilac tins lined the shelves.
Sweet treats were displayed on the counter, colourful swirls of icing on cupcakes contrasted with mounds of green salads.
I quenched my thirst with a freshly squeezed orange juice.
The smoked haddock, salmon and Parmesan pie was hearty fare. The flaky crust encased a creamy filling with morsels of fish, reminiscent of the Scottish specialty Cullen skink. A side salad of leafy greens and celeriac remoulade was the requisite vegetable serving.
My traditional pork pie was crimped and cold. A warm dough made with lard, the hot water pastry was thick and rich. A dense pink mass, the pork had the texture of spam but had a delicate flavour perfumed by herbs and spices.
The leaden clouds dissipated and silver beams illuminated our afternoon walk to the Victoria and Albert Museum.
It was a blissful afternoon of shopping in Portland. Alder & Co., Canoe, Flora, Hive and Woonwinkel were a modern collection of stores with curated homeware, jewellery, artworks and furniture. The contemporary aesthetics and stylish designs were stimulating! We re-caffeinated at Caffe Allora and joined the queue at Ken’s Artisan Pizza for dinner.
We were seemingly banished to wait at the back of the restaurant in the Bermuda Triangle of the dishwashing nook, an iron rack of logs for the wood fire oven and the bathrooms. I was surprised by a sprig of eucalyptus flower, leaves and gumnut at our table. I admired the vibrant hue as we sipped wine and whiled away two hours.
The wood fire oven is at the front of the restaurant where all the pizzas were made.
Paola‘s family serendipitously arrived as we were seated. It was nearly nine o’clock on a Friday night and Ken’s was buzzing.
Myra recommended the wood oven roasted vegetable plate. We ordered quickly as we were hungry and two of us were returning to Seattle afterwards. Clockwise from top right: carrots, chard, porcini and Asiago Vecchio; white runner beans, artichokes and tomato sauce; and polenta, kale, red pepper, almonds and chilli sauce. Tender and mellow, it was a requisite serving of vegetables.
We shared three pizzas. Ken’s crust was puffed and charred, a chewy dough that was sturdy support for the pizza toppings. The fennel sausage, onion, tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil and hot Calabrian chilli pizza was spicy and bold.
I’m ambivalent to bacon but the guanciale pizza was a crispy homage to cured meat.
Last was my beloved prosciutto with tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil. Generous ruffles of prosciutto di San Daniele were unctuous and sweet.
A creamy chocolate custard concluded our day in Portland. Paired with a quenelle of cream and studded with hazelnut crunch, the terracotta bowl was emptied with the assistance of an adorable mademoiselle!
Portland, we will return!
Listed alphabetically by state, Joe’s Shanghai (鹿鳴春) was in the New York section of CNN’s ‘50 best Chinese restaurants in the United States‘. In the same block as Momofuku Má Pêche and Momofuku Milk Bar in Midtown, Joe’s Shanghai is a double storey ‘centre of exotic specialties’.
I signalled a table for one and was ushered upstairs. Bronze deer and potted bamboos decorated the bay window. A tiered sparkling gold and crystal chandelier was suspended above the vestibule.
A curious specials menu included New Zealand mussels, T-bone steak and rack of lamb.
A mound of cold egg noodles was drizzled with sesame dressing, topped with julienned cucumber and served in a scallop shell shaped dish. I slurped the cold sesame noodles (芝麻冷麵), a simple but appetizing celebration of Chinese carbs.
The traditional trio of ginger slivers, soy sauce and vinegar were stirred in a bowl for dipping.
Joe’s Shanghai is famous for their soup dumplings. Six crab and pork xiao long bao (蟹粉小籠包) were on a bed of shredded Napa cabbage (黃芽白) in a steaming bamboo basket. The delicate morsels were juicy and meaty, although the skin was a little doughy.
Noodles and dumplings were requisite sustenance for shopping in Manhattan!
I had neglected the final post from our Christmas trip to Whistler. Teppan Village had been floundering at the bottom of my draft folder until I noticed it this week. I clicked on it with a wry smile, the lapse in time a contrast to the speed of the meal. Our teppanyaki (鉄板焼き) was cooked and served within half an hour, a frantic eating pace.
Whistler enchanted us with twinkling lights and snow flurries, a winter wonderland for Antipodeans who celebrated previous festive seasons in air-conditioning.
Conveniently located in Whistler Village, Teppan Village was spacious with several squares of tables and griddles.
We shared a plate of tempura prawns and vegetables, and a bowl of steamed edamame as appetisers.
An ingredients cart was laden with oils, sauces and aromatics.
A shallow tray of condiments was dispensed with flair.
Our group of four ordered the teppan tasting menu. The first course was a crunchy salad of iceberg lettuce, shredded cabbage and matchstick carrots, and a soothing bowl of miso soup.
Chef Taka introduced himself and demonstrated his dexterity. He holstered his tools in his apron pocket and he expertly manoeuvred the spatula and knives. A pyramid of onion rings were flambéed into a fiery volcano.
Shelled prawns were fanned out and curled as they sizzled.
Batons of vegetables were sautéed until tender.
Plump scallops were seared to perfection. I’m a slow eater and my warmed cast iron plate was already nearly full!
The teriyaki salmon was deftly portioned and well seasoned.
Juicy cubes of filet mignon were a highlight and we chewed these slowly to savour the intense beefy flavour.
The aromas of the teppanyaki lingered.