Fischers Restaurant – Baslow, Derbyshire

Its my birthday, but friends know that I am easy to buy presents for. Just take me out somewhere nice to eat. It doesn’t have to be expensive as long as the food is memorable.

I’ve been to Fischers several times. It is the ‘go to’ restaurant for a celebratory meal for the smart set of Sheffield. The service is very reverential, hushed and gracious. Rich calls it ‘Uriah Heepish’ but I think he’s being a bit mean.

It was an unusually (for this year) warm day so we had an aperitif in the wonderful, manicured gardens that surround the house. Spiced nuts and drinks were brought to us along with a choice of the three menus that were available. There is not an a la carte offering at lunch time. The promotional 2012 menu that they were offering was a pretty good deal with 2 courses for £20.12 but as it was a birthday we went for the Best of British menu which offered 7 courses with paired wines for £90 (without wine £50).

After the drinks we were taken into the main restaurant which is spacious and airy with the feel of a country manor drawing room. The atmosphere definitely is hushed though and wouldn’t appeal to everybody.

OK, down to the food. This is definitely refined cooking and the type of edgy and beautifully presented food you would expect from a Michelin starred establishment. Experimental combinations of food are attempted and in the most part are successful. Presentation is not done just for effect but compliment and show the food of in its best light, there are no traditional meals with a ‘twist’ thankfully. The menu is intelligently thought out and put together.

We started with a Mozzarella Panna Cotta with Tomato Consommé, a spoon size portion of wobbly. creamy  Pannacotta in an intensely flavoured but visually contradicting clear tomato essence. Only the paired wine let it down slightly. A rather acidic Chardonnay fought and won the battle with the Consommé. Following this was Tempura of Quail Breast with miring aspic, toasted seeds and grains and pine nut puree. This was excellent. The tubes of tempura quail breast were expertly constructed and the miring aspic added a focused umami punch. The seeds added crunch and texture. Only the pine nut puree was slightly lost, though its mild flavour addition was quite welcome. This was served with a lovely fruity Viognier which complemented the delicate flavours well.

Next up, Wye Valley Asparagus with goats curd and blood orange. Absolutely heavenly. A welcome final chance to eat English asparagus, both green and white and a lovely, rich goats curd and fizzy blood orange. The accompanying Pinot Gris was light and crisp though perhaps a little too dry. Almost immediately after finishing this we received our Crab and Bloody Mary Cannelloni with Lime and Lemongrass snow. Bloody mary jelly strips encased a generously meaty crab filling topped with a shaved ice sorbet of lime and lemongrass. Intelligently thought out and clever cooking. Quite unforgettable. This came with a complex 2010 Sancerre which we wanted to linger over so slowed service down at this point.

Shoulder of Derbyshire Lamb Slow Cooked Over Coals with Goats cheese potato puree and Gold Rush apples. Served with a 2010 Pinot Noir. Generous portion of lamb, of course, perfectly cooked sat on the goats cheese potato puree, richly sauced and accompanied by garden vegetables picked literally minutes ago from the kitchen garden. Wildly successful. Rich and fruity Pinot Noir was a great foil for the lamb.

Our pre dessert was Cardamom, Coconut and Carrot. This was rather strange but quite delicious. Obviously Indian inspired, Coconut ‘snow’ was served with a cardamom sorbet and carrot puree with a ‘sail’ of carrot toffee. A 2009 Gewürztraminer gently edged us in a sweet direction.

Finally, Chocolate Tree Trunk was a pretty  ‘bark’ or chocolate planted in chocolate ‘soil’ with vibrant accompanying orange and chocolate mouse and lime and dark chocolate sorbet. Washed down with a Maury red dessert wine from the Roussillon region of France it made an excellent finale to a flawless lunch.

A final stroll around the manicured gardens we headed home well fed, well watered and inspired.

Superb.

Score 10/10

Fischers at Baslow Hall

Calver Road  Baslow, Derbyshire DE45 1RR
01246 583259

Wheelers – Whitstable

Wheelers is the foodie destination for anyone heading for Whitstable. In fact it becomes a reason to visit Whitstable all by itself. You would be hard pushed to find such good food without any pomp and pretension anywhere else in the UK.

Getting a table is a feat by itself. Hint: Book early and be flexible. We booked about 2 weeks in advance and got a lunch/dinner reservation at 3pm. There are two things against you, firstly the food is very good and more and more people are finding out about this, secondly, there are just 4 tables so the commodity is very scarce.

The front room has an excellent fish counter and there are a couple of stools allowing you to hop up if you didn’t score a main table. Through the beaded curtain you enter a parlour decorated just like your nan’s best room and after squeezing onto your seat and handing over your wine (its BYO and no corkage!) you take a look at the always interesting menu. This time I chose the Skate with Langoustines, confit belly pork, steamed clams and fennel puree. Possibly all my favourites foodstuffs on one plate. Before that we had excellent seafood soup and three types of oyster: natural natives, cooked with lardons and Worcestershire sauce and guinness battered. They were all delicious.

My main was a work of art. The skate was perfectly cooked and shaped into fun curls and the rich belly pork and fragrant fennel puree proved excellent foils. The clams were beautifully steamed and a real treat. After this we scraped room for a dessert which was an astonishing apple crumble soufflé with salted caramel ice-cream. It was incredible. Needless to say after all this food we caught a taxi to the train and snored our way back to Victoria.

Score 10/10

Wheelers

Telephone: 01227 273 311
Address: 8 High Street, Whitstable, Kent

Whirlow Hall Farm – Sheffield

I’ve recently moved on a more permanent basis to Sheffield. More precisely to Whirlow which is a sleepy suburb in the south west of the city near the Peak District. A lack of local food shops make me (as a non-car driver) panic but there is a good Sainsburys and excellent Waitrose not too far away. Up a winding hill above Whirlow sits Whirlow Hall which was founded in 1979 as an educational trust working with inner city children and young people with special needs or disabilities. Its a nice stroll away from the house and is sometimes the target following a carb heavy Sunday Lunch. They have recently upgraded their cafe serving a wider menu including their delicious home-made cakes. The farm shop has been somewhat expanded selling a small amount of veg along with some delicious sausages and meats from the farm. If you are in the area, it is definitely worth a visit.

See http://www.whirlowhallfarm.org/

Song Que Cafe – London

 

A bright sunny morning led us on an exploration to the east of our normal stamping ground in Islington. With mum and gourmet uncle in tow we caught the 394 bus to Homerton Hospital which weaved through well utilised parks and bustling estates to this well regarded vietnamese cafe in Hoxton on Kingsland Road. This  ‘Little Saigon’ area of London had a number of cafes huddled around the junction which tempts me back to explore further.

The room is bright and well lit. Tables are close together but it wasn’t terribly busy so we had plenty of room. Service is a little brusque but definitely not Chinatown level of just plain rude. The menu is absolutely huge so I went for a couple of favourites and a wildcard. Summer rolls and a combination of rare steak and well done flank Pho. Pho as you probably know is there utterly delicious Vietnamese noodle soup. My wildcard item was a traditional crispy pancake with prawn, chicken, salad and herbs.

Crispy Pancake

The summer rolls were very good. Nicely chilled, packed with prawns and noodles and a good spike of coriander and mint. They do not skimp on herbs here and you get a good plateful of them with each dish. The crispy pancake was delicious, like a light but crunchily crisp omelette stuffed with bean sprouts, prawns and chicken. We all dived in and polished off in no time.

Finally the Pho which came smelt incredible, The steaming soup stock topped with thin slivers of rare and well done meat, noodles, bean sprouts and herbs. Again a huge plate of herbs came to accompany it.

Wonder Pho

It was fantastic. I still dream about it now. In fact as I write this sentence I am salivating thinking about the deeply flavoured beef stock. Off course, like a lot of soups, it is all about the stock and Song Que’s is so deeply flavoured I have no idea how they achieve that level of beefiness. It is like a the contents of a drip tray after roasting a huge rib of beef. Lightly flavoured with aniseed it is immediately addicting.

I would not hesitate in returning to Song Que and I urge you all to head there immediately!

Score: Excellent 10/10

Address : Sonq Que
Address : 134 Kingsland Road
Postal Code : E2 8DY
Telephone: 0207 613 3222

Rules – London

Dinner with friends that we met on our recent round the world jaunt tempted me to book a restaurant reflecting where we met in Peru but I remember them mentioning an affection for Covent Garden stalwart Rules and as I had never been there, that was where we booked.

The restaurant was established by Thomas Rule in 1798 and stands unchallenged as the oldest restaurant in London.

I was looked up and down by the doorman as I arrived which worried me that I was under dressed but after explaining our reservation he smiled and let us through. The entrance was very welcoming and we were taken through the eclectic dining room to our slightly awkward table for 4 near an alcove. Looking around though it seemed clear that there was a slight awkwardness to a lot of the tables so we got comfortable and took a look at the menu. Having had a few plates of tapas at Moritos at lunchtime we decided to go for main and most probably dessert.

I had the steak and kidney pudding and Rich had the Saddle of Lamb. Prices are around the £20-30 for mains so this is not cheap territory. The wines also started around mid twenties and quickly escalated though we found a decent enough Merlot for about £28 and enjoyed that.

My pudding was delicious and was packed with kidney and rich steak in gravy. Thankfully I was also given a boat of extra gravy to anoint the pudding. It was only served with a small amount of cabbage so sides are ordered which normally annoys me but they are pretty good sides and despite what they tell you are enough to share. I had excellent roast potatoes and Richard had the celeriac gratin. My pudding was so excellent that it turned a normally wary kidney eater like me to an out and out kidney fan. Sadly Richards lamb was, whilst cooked correctly a little tough and tasteless. The waiter asked his opinion before he even had a mouthful and sadly didn’t return for the verdict.

Desserts were on the whole superb especially my apple and blackberry crumble which came with a satisfying jug of custard and Brenda had a super retro white and dark chocolate arctic roll which came with extra chocolate sauce. Sadly Rich struck out again with his steamed chocolate pudding which was dense and even for him un-finishable. Being the generous man I am, I shared my crumble with him.

All in all an excellent meal if you choose wisely and I look forward to returning during game season to try the game there.

 

 

Its been a while…

ImageTime to restart the old food blog again. I do have a pretty good excuse as in May 2011 I decided to take a year to travel around the world. Well that year is up, and I came back a changed man so have decided to resign from work and to think about what to do next.

While I’m looking, I’ve got some time on my hands so I’ll have a go giving you the best food stories of the last year andprovide some ongoing news from my homes in Sheffield and London. The central part has now gone as I have left Leicester now (Bye bye Firenze **sob**)

Thanks for taking an interest.

Mike

Spice Market – London

Lime Salmon Salad

Lime Salmon Salad

Sorry about the length of time in posting. This year I am taking a year of from work to travel, so far I have travelled all over Europe on an Interrail pass and have just completed a month around France. Am back now for a month before heading off to North and South America so have been eating out again in London. My wise Chinese uncle from San Francisco mentioned that Spice Market has opened in the W Hotel at Leicester Square and he missed it when he visited last. I’ve not had a great experience at the W. I took my family for cocktails there recently and found whilst the cocktails were good they were expensive even for London and meanly didn’t come with any nibbles. Also, even though the place hadn’t been open long it was pretty grubby, including bizarrely the waiters clothing.

Anyway we passed by it on the way to having a look at M&M World on the other side of the W which has 4 floors of plastic crap that you didn’t know you needed but bizarrely doesn’t sell the full range of M&M’s. Amazing!

Spice Market was advertising a 3 course lunch express menu for just £18. The room is slightly below street level so you have the odd view of peoples ankles as they walk past the window. It is done out in a pan asian / moroccan mix which shouldn’t work but does. Staff are efficient and friendly and their clothes are not grubby!

The food was wonderful. Between us we covered all the choices and they were all tasted clean and balanced. Before the starters came our waiter brought popadoms and a super spicy salsa that seemed to have a strong tang of tamarind. Thankfully they kept it coming.

Remarkable Ovaltine Kulfi

Remarkable Ovaltine Kulfi

I had Vietnamese Spring Rolls and Rich had Beef Satay. Both were subtle and satisfying. For main we had a Salmon Salad with Lime and Chicken Pad Thai. Both excellent. We weren’t going to have dessert but were intrigued by the  Ovaltine Kulfi, Banana Brulée Spiced Milk Chocolate Sauce . It was amazing. The Kulfi was malty and was garnished with a shard of Banana encased in caramel.

It seems a shame that other reviewers don’t agree but I think that this restaurant is a real find and certainly the best thing about the W. Am looking forward to going back for a bash at the full menu.

Score 8.5/10

W LONDON – LEICESTER SQUARE

10 Wardour Street, Leicester Square, London, W1D 6QF

Chin Chin Laboratories – London

Oh the London dining scene. Always looking for that new gimmick to spark interest in the sophisticated palates of the metropolitan diner. Bar breast milk ice-cream the most exciting frozen dessert is definitely the frozen on the spot ice cream served at Chin Chin Laboratories.

I read about this in Timout and wanted

Harts – Nottingham

Perfect slice of cow

Perfect slice of cow

A bright Sunday morning in Nottingham and after half an hour trying to find a parking space near Nottingham Castle we strolled back 1/2 a mile to make it to new restaurant and hotel Harts. Harts has had incredible write ups in the London press including a glowing report from hard to please Times critic A A Gill. Harts is owned by Tim Hart who also owns Hambleton Hall in Rutland. His famous sons Sam and Eddie also run Quo Vadis in London as well as the super tapas emporium, Fino.

We came for Sunday dinner and were quickly lead to a nice table replete with crisp white linen which overlooked the rest of the room. Service is charming and discreet leaving you to enjoy the food and conversation. Rich had a tomato soup to start which was perfectly executed and came with good bread. I had smoked salmon which came with a quenelle of horseradish cream and beetroot puree, it was delicious. We selected a rascally Malbec to accompany our roast sirloin of beed with horseradish hollandaise. It was astounding. The meat was perfectly cooked nestling in a crispy yorkshire pudding. For dessert we had a thoughtfully selected cheeseboard and finished the rest of the wine. A faultless Sunday lunch and we will definitely be back to sample the a la carte menu in the evening.

Score: 9/10

Hart’s Nottingham, Standard Hill, Park Row, Nottingham, NG1 6GN.
info@hartsnottingham.co.uk 0115 988 1900

New York Roundup

The Woody Allen

The Woody Allen at Carnegie Deli

Final stop of the East Coast trip was to New York. I absolutely love New York, the buildings, the people and ahh the food. I met my Uncle Rod and his super partner Pat. They know New York pretty well so we were in their hands for restaurant bookings.

Highlights Include:

The 21 Club: Cured Steelhead Salmon with marinated cucumbers, sea beans, sesame seeds and horseradish creme fraiche; Smoked cider glazed pork belly with braised cabbage, fried potatoes and grain mustard and a chocolate bourbon pecan tart with caramel sauce for dessert. The restaurant was incredible it had the most amazing buzz, rich and poor rubbed shoulders united by the fantastic food. Even in the toilets you are charmed by a toilet attendant who cracks hilarious jokes as you attempt to relieve yourself. Its definitely a must book for a NY trip but book ahead as it is extremely popular.

Felidias: Elegant Italian food with exquisite service. Felidia has a huge reputation in New York and it is well deserved. I ordered the most amazingly simple chicken soup to start which was assembled at the table. It was quite possibly the best thing I have eaten all year. Light and delicately flavoured I could have eat a whole cauldron of it. To follow I had the Pappardelle with braised shredded duck. It was rich and deeply flavoured, again, finished off by the table. Service was incredibly accommodating and friendly. I can’t wait to go back.

Carnegie Deli: Eating at the Carnegie Deli is like a rights of passage act for a New York Tourist. From the outside it doesn’t look too promising and the service is typical of New York, efficient with no time wasted on over-friendliness. We were crowded into the room, elbow to elbow with our neighbours and tried to take in the huge menu which must have about 200 menu items. Even with all that choice, everyone has the corned beef sandwich which is outrageously stuffed between two slices of rye bread. I had the Woody Allen which had a mix of corned beef and pastrami. For some reason I ordered coleslaw as well, what was I thinking. I doubt if many people finish the whole sandwich, I managed half and the waiter cheerfully offered to bag the other half but I knew I would carry it round for 1/2 hour and then toss it so I declined. So much food must be wasted. It was really delicious but it feels more like a challenge than an eating experience but you just have to do it once!