Archive for December, 2008

The River Café (The Return), London

I can boast that when the River Café reopened after its recent renovation back in October, I was one of the earliest through the door (…who wrote about it). It was in fact Fay who first started (softly) singing its praises, but soon the decibel level was decidedly higher and climbing as consecutive visits from many of the Capital’s foodies produced flattering critiques. From AA Gill to Dos Hermanos, all agreed that the food was good, very good.

When Ulterior Epicure enquired which restaurants he ought to try whilst in London, the River Café was always on the shortlist although it was not until almost the last minute that we definitely decided we just had to dine there. However, our dilly dallying nearly worked against us. Thanks partly to all that earlier-referred-to eulogy, the restaurant is always full and reservations can be hard to come by. But tonight, fortune smiled on us.

The River Cafe - Il Menu

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Ambassade de l’Ile (The Second Return), London

It has been months since my last visit to l’Ambassade de l’Ile. But that has not stopped me recommending it to others. Lately, however, I had started to feel a little guilty about this fact. What if it had changed? What if it was no longer as good as it was yet I was continuing to send hungry men and women to unhappy, unsatisfying lunches and dinners?

That is why I was delighted though surprised when Ambassade popped up on Ulterior Epicure’s programme. Surprised as I had not suspected the restaurant’s name to be familiar, yet, with those in the Americas and delighted to at last be returning, again.

Ambassade de l'Ile Ambassade de l'Ile 2

When we arrived, everything was superficially the same as when I left it last; the purple lights continued to shine, the curious curios around the reception remained where they were and the TV monitors spying on the kitchen had not been switched off. And Chef Jean-Christophe was still there too. Before the summer, many believed that he was just another foreign chef out to bleed British diners dry with one more fancy, expensive franchise restaurant. Contrary to this, like a good sentry, he has not abandoned his post and still spends more time in London than at home, in Lyon.
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The Golden Hind, London

The Golden Hind

The Golden Hind was the flagship in which Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the globe in three years between 1577 and 1580. The galleon was originally dubbed the Pelican, but he renamed it whilst at sea and about to enter the Strait of Magellan (somewhere around South America’s southern tip) in tribute to his patron, Sir Christopher Hatton, whose family crest bore a golden deer.

Drake left England in December 1577, sailed around the world, indulging in a spot of trouble-stirring with the Spanish and a little piracy too, finally putting into Plymouth in September 1580. It was on this ship, whilst docked at Deptford in the Thames, that Drake became Sir Francis by the very hand of Queen Elizabeth herself (and that she received from him more than enough booty to pay off England’s national debt).
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Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road, London


My first Ramsay. It has been a long time in waiting, but for one reason or another, I have never eaten at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant. One obstacle was the fear factor; sceptical that Gordon would live up to his name and worried that London’s sole three star would not wow. Subconsciously, it was an exercise in expectation management; I knew that if I did not administer my anticipations in advance, the meal would not stand a fair chance.

I had quite forgotten about the man and his many restaurants when I got a call from Ulterior Epicure. As a gypsy gastronome in London this Christmas he obviously wanted to test the Capital’s best and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road is questionably that.

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St John, London (The Second Return)

St. John

It seems St. John is simply a must visit for any foreign foodie. Typically, eaters and epicures from across the world, whether they be in London to consume Chinese, Indian or haute cuisine, each show their fealty to Fergus and make homage to Smithfields. And such was the case with Aaron (A Life Worth Eating), DB and Ulterior Epicure.  This was their first foray to St. John and my third (the other two consecutive visits being before its summer refurbishment).
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The Sportsman, Seasalter

The Sportsman

Great expectations. That is what we all had. That is also the title of Dickens’ novel of which some was set in or around where we would be lunching today. The we, well, that would be Aaron, half of A Life Worth Eating; Ulterior Epicure; an as yet, un-aliased and unaffiliated passive foodie (let’s call him DB); our gastro-guide and master setter-upper, Moby P; and little old me. The where? That was Seasalter and its Michelin-starred pub, the Sportsman. And yes, you read right, I did include Michelin-starred and pub in the same sentence.

It was a miserable day. Saturday morning. Seven a.m. Heavy rain. Moby P pulled up at the West London underground station we had designated as our pick-up point; Aaron, DB and I bundled into car and into the warmth. We were on our way to a top secret airport (let’s call it H) to fetch Ulterior Epicure and start our cross-Kent road trip. It would be almost a hundred miles and almost two hours before we reached the fabled foodie oasis. However, this is no hush-hush spot out in the middle of nowhere (well, actually it is in the middle of nowhere), for even those famous French tyre peddlers know about it and like it so much they gave it a star last January (2008).
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Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, London

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester - Logo

I first dined with Ducasse almost a year ago to the day; it was less than one month after it initially opened, but already the knives were out. Another week, another victim / villain (delete as appropriate), n’est-ce pas? Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, ADAD, was assumed to be another of the chef’s prestige restaurants, together with the two elite others that bear his name: Le Louis XV-Alain Ducasse, Monaco and Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Paris. Whether this assumption aligned with Alain’s intentions, is another issue.

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester

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