Archive for September, 2008

One-O-One, London

I love seafood. I eat it every single day, in fact, twice a day. Honest. I cannot even recall the last day I went without fish, mollusc or crustacean. Is that strange? Well, even if it were, I would not change. Never. For no one.

So where in London should such a stubborn slave to seafood go to sate themselves? Straightaway, Scott’s and J Sheekey come to mind; both specialise in this stuff. I am hard pressed to name more (obviously discounting fish and chip shops). Actually, there is one but…am I allowed to tell you? You see, it is sort of a secret; not a calculated, chichi cabal, just somewhere that has happened to become one, slowly, over time, over the last ten years. OK, I’ll take the plunge and squeal like a piggy (lovely mingling of metaphors): who has heard of One-O-One? I imagine a disappointed grown from my readers. Fine. I admit that was an anticlimax – if anything, this is London’s worst kept secret; everyone has heard how good it is, but no one goes!

Some chefs are famous for their cooking, some famous for showing and telling as many as they can about their cooking; some even for not showing and telling anyone anything; and then, there is Pascal Proyart. Who? Exactly. Proyart is a self-confessed lover of all food aquatic; the man who first introduced the red king crab to England; and even the Norwegian Seafood Ambassador to the UK (no joke). A choir of critics have sung his praises and fellow chefs esteem him: Chavot (Capital, 2*) thinks that “when it comes to fish, no one can touch him in England;” whilst Aussignac (Club Gascon, 1*) believes he “deserves fame and recognition;” even Alan Yau is a fan, proclaiming Proyart “amazing.”

So why then is One-O-One so notoriously unappreciated? General consensus singles out two reasons: prices and setting. Before discussing prices, I must quickly inform you about the menu. ALC and tasting options are offered, but pride of place is given to Proyart’s ‘petits plats’. These are basically small grazing plates “in the same spirit as Atelier [de Joël Robuchon] or Club [Gascon], but around the ocean.” The petits plat menu is quartered: low tide (shellfish); the shore and beyond; high tide (fish); and the sea and earth (meat and seafood together). Customers are recommended to order three/four but, it seems many feel that £8-£15 for each is ridiculous. However, even ordering four of the most expensive dishes plus dessert (£6 each) would mean a five-course meal would set one back £66 – not utterly unreasonable, is it?

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The Ledbury, London

Eheu! We are in menu limbo – one of those funny times of the year when one season sluggishly becomes the next. Have you updated your menus recently? Do you know when you will be changing them? I am getting tired of asking these questions, though probably less tired than those having to answer them.

I have spoken to a gaggle of receptionists over the last couple of weeks as my list of eligible dining destinations has been whittled down to those already showcasing their new fall menus (do not ask me why this has become important: maybe, what with such a copious choice of restaurants in the city, any additional parameter that helps make selecting one easier, is welcome; or maybe it is just my OCD acting up). One restaurant that fulfils this criterion happens to be one that has also been on my ‘list’ for as long as I have had a ‘list’. It is also one that I have never heard anything but praise for with an exciting chef of tremendously fast-growing repute…

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