Restaurant Writeups

This section provides summaries of the most important restaurants I've experienced, each with link to the blog post in which I've reviewed the restaurant. Those without links are ones where I ate before I started this blog or those I've yet to write up.

ÀBaC, BarcelonaRead my blog post about
ÀBaC, Barcelona
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Xavier Pellicer has recently relocated his Michelin 2* restaurant from close to my apartment in El Born up to new hotel restaurant premises on Avenida del Tibidabo, in the north-west of Barcelona. The food is as eclectic as the interior décor, with several different styles reflecting different cultures and gastronomic eras. Xavier trained with Jacques Maximim and Alain Dutournier and his food is very French-Catalan. The dishes are very well executed on the whole, but I found it all a bit conceptually confusing and over-expensive for a menu that didn't really challenge or excite.
Alkimia, BarcelonaRead my blog post about
Alkimia, Barcelona
Sorry, no website
One of my 20th birthday presents was lunch at Jordi Vilà's Alkimia. Jordi trained with two giants of the kitchen - Jean-Louis Neichel and Jean Luc Figueras - before opening Alkimia in 2004 and winning a Michelin star 18 months later. The best of the tasting menu was sheer genius, especially Jordi's signature dish - a deconstructed version of the traditional pa amb tomàquet. Although there were a few problems with both food and service on the day I went, this is genuinely great New Catalan cuisine.
Arrop, Gandía
Arrop, Gandía
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Now that I'm living in Banyeres de Mariola and have a day off when other restaurants are generally open, I'm getting out to eat in some of them. Arrop in Gandía was my first Michelin-starred eaterie in the autonomous community of València and my friends and I thoroughly enjoyed our meal there. Excellent food at very affordable prices made Arrop probably the best value for money I've experienced anywhere.
Bacchus, LondonRead my blog post about
Bacchus, London
No longer open for fine dining
I'll never forgive myself for having spent a summer at home when I could have been taking a stage with Nuno Mendes at Bacchus, within walking distance of home. But I'm so glad that I eventually experienced the cooking of this amazing Portuguese chef - working in a miniscule kitchen at the wrong end of Hoxton. Now someone I count as a personal friend, Nuno made a significant impact on my own professional development. Bacchus has closed as a fine dining restaurant, but I'm looking forward to Nuno's next venture.
Bentley's, LondonBentley's, London
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Richard Corrigan would be the last person to claim to be a creative and experimental chef, seeking to challenge and thrill customers with new flavour and texture combinations. What he does so brilliantly is to source truly great produce and cook it simply and perfectly. This is someone who could serve you a piece of fish without any accompaniment and make you cry. It's a long time since I visited the Oyster Bar & Grill, but I won't forget it.
Boxwood Café, LondonRead my blog post about
Boxwood Café, London
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My college 3rd year work placement was five weeks at Gordon Ramsay's Boxwood Café. I wrote at the time: "There's absolutely nothing wrong with cooking pumpkin ravioli with a balsamic reduction, goat's cheese and soft herbs followed by confit leg of duck with pan-fried wild mushrooms and celeriac puree. Nothing, of course, except that hundreds of other restaurants are cooking the same meal." Good food, but not creative.
Café Spice Namasté, LondonRead my blog post about
Café Spice Namasté, London
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One of my most enjoyable work experiences while still a student was at Café Spice Namasté in Aldgate. Not only does Cyrus Todiwala serve excellent modern Indian cuisine, but he has been praised and rewarded for his work, including a Culinary Honour of Merit Award from the World Chef Society and an MBE for services to vocational training. Parveen and Cyrus really make you feel welcome (namasté) at this Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant on the edge of the City of London.
El Celler De Can Roca, GironaRead my blog post about
El Celler De Can Roca, Girona
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The Roca brothers' Michelin 3* restaurant in Girona on the Costa Brava is recognised world-wide as one of the great homes of Spanish gastronomy. I walked in through the door one day at 1pm and floated out some three hours later. Service to compare with the best I've received anywhere and without question the most technically flawless execution I've ever experienced. Maybe not the most creative of menus, but I couldn't find a single fault in any of the dishes I was served on their tasting menu. Perfect cooking.
Cinc Sentits, BarcelonaRead my blog post about
Cinc Sentits, Barcelona
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If I hadn't experienced several "best ever" moments elsewhere before eating at Jordi Artal's Cinc Sentits (Five Senses), I wouldn't have appreciated just how good his cooking really is. I described my first visit as "the best meal I've ever eaten". I've had amazing dining experiences at many restaurants, but when it comes to perfect execution with just a few elements on the plate, few if any can rival Cinc Sentits. Jordi is a true master. I was privileged to eat at 5S the night before it was awarded its first Michelin star.
Comerç 24, BarcelonaRead my blog post about
Comerç 24, Barcelona
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I'll never forget my time at Carles Abellan's Comerç 24. I went there as a fresh-faced boy straight out of culinary school and left as a man with a firm foot on the ladder towards becoming a professional chef. I learnt so much working with Arnau Muñío, Oliver and the team and I will always owe them a great debt of gratitude. At its best, Comerç served creative and delicious food deserving of the restaurant's Michelin star and well appreciated by its customers, including many of my friends and family.
L'Enclume, CartmelRead my blog post about
L'Enclume, Cartmel
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If I didn't already know about Simon Rogan from the now-famous 'Future Of Food' article in The Observer, I would have been deeply skeptical when dad suggested a trip to Cumbria for lunch on the Sunday after Christmas. But I was surprised to find food at the top end of my expectations, comparing well with what I've experienced in Spain. Grange-over-Sands may be the back of beyond, but Simon's kitchen offers relaxed fine dining at Michelin 2* level. My best ever UK restaurant experience.
Espai Sucre, BarcelonaRead my blog post about
Espai Sucre, Barcelona
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Jordi Butrón is a Catalan pastry chef who decided one day that being relegated to second place on the menu was simply not good enough for his beloved desserts. Having cut his sweet tooth at some of the most creative restaurants in Europe - Gagnaire, Bras and El Bulli - Butrón opened the world's first "dessert restaurant", serving entire tasting menus of desserts and bluring the boundaries between sweet and savoury flavours. I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience at this very laid-back and informal restaurant.
Ferrero, BocairentRead my blog post about
Ferrero, Bocairent
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When I made arrangements to visit Hotel Ferrero to spend a trial weekend in the kitchens with a view to taking a stage at Restaurante Ferrero, I knew exactly how to begin my weekend. Remembering how I'd already left Comerç 24 before I ever experienced the food as a paying customer, I was determined not to repeat my earlier mistake. So my first step was to book a restaurant table on the Friday night, to experience the tasting menu with paired drinks. That experience gave me a very clear understanding of what I would be expected to deliver.
Gresca, BarcelonaRead my blog post about
Gresca, Barcelona
Website under development
After reading about Barcelona's bistronomic movement in reviews of Madrid Fusión 2008, I was determined to try one or two of these new haute cuisine bistros springing up around town. Gresca is one of my favourites. Rafael Peña gave up a career in IT to open the place, with his wife Mireia running front of house. A bubbling ambiance, well-conceived dishes and some really creative ideas, executed at a level normally associated with fine dining restaurants. And fantastic value for money.
Guggenheim, BilbaoRead my blog post about
Guggenheim, Bilbao
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A museum restaurant - albeit the best of the museum's five eateries - is not somewhere you'd immediately associate with world-class cuisine. So I checked into Josean Alija's Gastronómico Guggenheim for lunch with modest expectations. I was quite wrong - it was one of the best dining experiences of my life. Service was perfect and the food, never over-elaborated, was flawlessly executed. This and a meal at Lasarte have given me huge respect for Martín Berasategui's restaurant stable.
Koy Shunka, BarcelonaRead my blog post about
Koy Shunka, Barcelona
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The current fashion in Barcelona is for Japanese food and the place to find the city's chic foodies in recent years has been Shunka. Owners Hideki Matsuhisa and Xu Zhangchao recently started Koy Shunka, with Hideki in charge of the kitchen. For great food prepared in front of you by your own personal chef, there's nowhere to beat Koy Shunka. It's not cheap, but it's my personal favourite restaurant in town. The photo shows chef savouring a large Alba truffle brought in by one of the diners one night while I was there.
Lasarte, BarcelonaRead my blog post about
Lasarte, Barcelona
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I took my friend and fellow chef Michael to Lasarte at the Hotel Condes to celebrate his birthday. Martín Berasategui's new Barcelona restaurant won its first Michelin star within a year of opening. Then Head Chef Alex Gares (now in the Maldives) trained at three Michelin 3* restaurants - with Carme Ruscalleda at Sant Pau, with Ferran Adrià at El Bulli and with Martín Berasategui in Lasarte-Oria. The dining experience at Lasarte was in a different league to anything I'd ever experienced. It now has a second star.
Midsummer House, CambridgeMidsummer House, Cambridge
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Just weeks before I started this blog, the family visited to Midsummer House in Cambridge to celebrate the end of my second year at college. It was my first experience of a Michelin 2* restaurant and it certainly made a big impression. We were made to feel really welcome and the food was excellent. After we'd eaten, Daniel Clifford invited me into the kitchen and I was amazed to discover how tiny it was. At the time, I couldn't understand how food at that level could be created in such a small space. I can now.
Morgan M, LondonRead my blog post about
Morgan M, London
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I celebrated my 19th birthday at Morgan M in Islington and at the time it was the most enjoyable meal I'd ever eaten. Although I made some minor criticisms, I was knocked out by Morgan Meunier's ability to work with cleanly defined flavours. Like many who have experienced Morgan M, I couldn't understand how it could have been overlooked for a Michelin star. I wonder how I'd see the food now, two years of cooking and eating experience later? I must go back one day and see.
Mugaritz, ErrenteriaRead my blog post about
Mugaritz, Errenteria
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Andoni Aduritz's 2* Mugaritz is rated #4 in San Pellegrino and is their Chef's Choice - so eating there was something I'd looked forward to. Unfortunately, it failed to live up to my high expectations. The best dishes were very good and wine pairings excellent, but there was no excuse for the many service issues I encountered and the imperfect execution of many of the plates. People whose opinions I respect have reported much happier experiences, so I can only put mine down to a bad day at the office.
The Providores, LondonRead my blog post about
The Providores, London
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In July 2006 I spent two weeks on work experience at The Providores and it transformed my understanding of food. Not for nothing is Peter Gordon known as "The Father Of Fusion". Whereas most restaurants are proficient at the eclectic use of ingredients, very few can achieve culinary fusion competently. Dishes tend either to alternate between different cuisines or to slap them together in a nonsensical way. Cheese and wine expert Peter Gordon achieves incredible harmony in Eurasian fusion.
Quique Dacosta Restaurante, DéniaRead my blog post about
Quique Dacosta, Dénia
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Awarded a second Michelin star in 2006 under its previous name of El Poblet (after the local area where Head Chef washed dishes as a 14-yr-old), this restaurant has come of age and rebranded itself to celebrate the work of chef/proprietor Quique Dacosta. My choice of venue to celebrate my mother's birthday and my own 22nd didn't disappoint. Perfect ingredients were treated with meticulous precision in preparation and, with a focus on textures as much as flavours and aromas, it was a truly memorable experience.
St. John, LondonRead my blog post about
St. John, London
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It's difficult to label St. John, the 1* restaurant in Smithfield so beloved of UK food bloggers, because it's so different (or leastways it was before others started to copy). Fergus Henderson cooks unpretentious but exquisite food with a strong accent on offal, famously using his animals "nose to tail". And his desserts are simply fabulous. Recently voted the world's 34th best restaurant, St. John represents a real challenge to the culinary establishment. And it's great fun eating there.
Tamarind, LondonRead my blog post about
Tamarind, London
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Tamarind in Mayfair gave me one of my first experiences of food at Michelin-starred level and for someone used to local tandoori restaurants it was a true revelation. Tamarind was winner of the Indian Restaurant Of The Year award in 2006 and it wasn't hard to see why. The entire experience was one of relaxation and comfort, with the exquisite food being eclipsed only by the superbly flawless service. Alfred Prasad is a gentle master of precision and balance in flavour and texture.
Torrijos, ValenciaRead my blog post about
Torrijos, Valencia
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My latest venture out to eat at a fine dining restaurant in València was at one of the longest-established and most prestigious houses in the city centre. Formerly known as Oscar Torrijos, the restaurant dropped the first name when daughter Raquel took control with chef husband Josep Quintana. They have modernised the restaurant, while keeping its precious Michelin star. Torrijos reminded me very much of Comerç 24 - excellent creative food in a very relaxed, customer-friendly environment. I loved it.
Zuma, LondonRead my blog post about
Zuma, London
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My favourite dining-out restaurant in Barcelona when I lived there was Koy Shunka, which shares with Zuma the style of a traditional izakaya, while serving dishes at Michelin level. I was fortunate enough to get a one-day trial shift at Zuma and was greatly honoured by being invited to return to work there. I can't claim to have sampled all of their food, but I gave it a good try whenever I got a chance. Zuma opened my eyes to the brilliance of top class Japanese cuisine.