Tag Archives: fine dining

Why you owe it to yourself to try a fine dining restaurant at least once.

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Everyone loves a bit of luxury once in a while. Whether it’s wearing some classy piece of clothing or jewellery, or a nice watch maybe, or driving a nice car. There’s no escaping it, it makes you feel good.

Some years ago one of my ambitions was to eat in a recognised fine dining restaurant. Not just a step up, but a HUGE step up.

For my birthday one year, my wife treated us to a weekend in London, including tickets to a show and lunch at The Ivy in Covent Garden.

I can’t even remember what I chose for my meal but I do recall we shared a baked alaska for dessert which was brought to our table and set alight. ( My Top 5 London Restaurants)

But why choose a top class restaurant?

The Service

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Service in a top-end restaurant is like nothing you’ve experienced before. These waiters are proper professionals. Chairs are pulled out for you to be seated, linen napkins are laid out on your lap.

The sommelier will advise you on the wine choices and don’t worry even though there may be bottles on the wine list for £1000’s there are always some affordable and very good wines too and don’t even think about refilling your wine glass, someone will be over to do it for you.

The food

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The people preparing the food in these places are ‘chefs’ not ‘cooks’, they are chefs and they know exactly what they are doing. These people take time to choose ingredients that are in season, complement each other and taste amazing. In these restaurants, you won’t be getting defrosted, microwaved food. You are getting freshly prepared, beautifully constructed and tasty food. And the food is seasoned properly, so don’t go covering it with salt and pepper.

I’m a real lover of trying new things, ok, maybe sometimes it doesn’t work but I’ve had some superb dishes; steak tartare, foie gras, pigeon breast, quails eggs, pheasant, lobster, partridge and guinea fowl to name a few. The sauces are also incredible, rich and unctuous.These are sauces that have been reduced and tasted until they are perfect.

The wine

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I enjoy eating in good restaurants. I enjoy drinking nice wine BUT I’m not a millionaire. I can’t afford to be doing this every week. So when we do eat in a good restaurant we want it to be worthwhile and a good bottle of wine is worth buying to add to your meal. I’m a fan of red wine, a decent Merlot or Cabernet and I particularly enjoy South African wines. Five reasons why South Africa should be your next holiday destination

 

The ambience

If you’re treating yourself and your partner it’s nice to make it an occasion and going to a decent restaurant is exactly that. I love to get into my suit and tie and make a special effort when we go out somewhere really good.

When you eat in a good restaurant, the other people there are there for the same reason. They enjoy the food, the wine and the service. Anyone can make a meal at home and some people can do a really good job of it, but what better way to spend an evening than with like-minded people being pampered and spoilt eating exquisite food and drinking good wine.

The cost

Like with anything of luxury, the cost is whatever you want it to be. Expect to spend two or three times more than you would if you were out at your local restaurant at least and if you want to push the boat out then maybe four or five times more. Personally, I have found that even the best restaurants I’ve been to will cater for someone not wanting to go overboard on price.

The experience

Life is made up of experiences and memories and what better way of creating a memory than eating out at a top restaurant. As far as luxury goes we don’t all need to drive, we don’t all need the best watches but we do all need to eat, so why not save up, have a look at what’s on offer in your area and push the boat out.

If you’re in  London here are some that I’ve tried and can recommend;

The Ivy, Covent Garden

Le Caprice, Piccadilly

Ormer, Mayfair

Galvin at Windows, Hilton Park Lane

Babylon Roof Gardens, Kensington

Roux at The Landau

Quillon, Westminster

Craft at the O2

 

My Top 5 London Restaurants

Before we start, let’s get it straight that I haven’t been to hundreds of London restaurants. This is a list based on those restaurants that I’ve been fortunate enough to eat in and that have lived up to the expectations.

5.Roux at The Landau, Park Lane

I booked this because I originally wanted to go to ‘Le Gavroche’ but found it had a waiting list of about 6 months. No bother. ‘Roux at The Landau’ was a marvellous stand-in.

The setting is very elegant and the service, as you’d expect, is exceptional. I enjoy my wine and I thought a particularly nice touch from the waiter was to compliment us on our choice of wine. ( He might have been lying for all we know but it was  a nice touch nevertheless).

We spent a good 2 and a half hours at our table and the meal was a real pleasure.

4.Quillon, Kensington

We were staying at St James A Taj Hotel next door and had read reviews on Quillon. I fancied an Indian restaurant that was Michelin starred to add to my collection!

If you are fortunate to eat at Quillon then don’t expect the usual Indian fare of chicken bhuna or beef madras. This is proper Indian cooking. We opted for the tasting menu.

The emphasis was most definitely on ‘taste’.

We visited the restaurant some time ago and I can still taste the subtle flavours and spices that run through each of the dishes. It really is a sublime experience and well worth repeating.

3. Ormer, Mayfair

This was a restaurant we saw on TV as part of ‘Masterchef’, liked the look of the food and decided to ‘give it a whirl’.

Cocktails beforehand can be taken in the oak-panelled cocktail bar should you choose to. The meal is in a room that is smaller than most restaurants we’ve been to but the quality is there through every course.

Service is excellent throughout and the food is simply exceptional. They served ‘foie gras’ which gets me every time and my wife chose the lobster raviolo. I had the duck as the main course and it was cooked to perfection.

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Souffle for dessert at Ormer, Mayfair. Heaven

This was a meal that, as fine dining goes, was hard to beat.

2. Craft, O2 .

Again, this was a restaurant that we sourced from watching ‘Masterchef’ on TV. It looked quirky and some of the dishes looked very unusual and exciting.

Its situation fitted us exactly as we were seeing a show at the O2 and this couldn’t be closer without actually being inside.The ambience is fairly relaxed, certainly more so than others we have visited, but again the food was outstanding and the wine selection was very good.

For our meals, I chose lamb belly to start and pheasant for mains and duck to start and lamb for my wife and her son. We enjoyed two bottles of South African red before a very tasty dessert.

This is one place that, because of the venue, the relaxed atmosphere coupled with very good service, I would definitely visit again.

1.The Ivy, Covent Garden

Our ‘go-to’ place in London. Never lets you down, and for somewhere that has such a well-earned and well-deserved reputation, it is surprisingly unpretentious. We have eaten here many times before the desire to branch out got the better of us and it has never failed us.

We have tried many combinations on the extensive menu but a few standouts for us are the baked alaska that was ceremoniously set alight on our first visit, pigeon breast and foie gras ( again).

I hope you agree with some of my choices. Let me know if do, or don’t. Let me know if I’ve tempted you to try somewhere new. I may need to revise my list at a later date as there were some that just failed to make the top 5, who knows, maybe a return visit is on the cards.