Saturday, June 30, 2012

Inverness (Scotland): Rocpool

We picked Rocpool because it was always listed in the top 3 restaurants in Inverness of all the travel books we had. We had made a reservation but when we showed up for dinner, we (at least I anyway) felt highly under-dressed; ladies in evening gowns, man in suits... and we showed up in our hiking attire. Not completely inappropriate but definitely a little bit out of place.

Not that this would stop us. But there was still an air of pretension floating in Rocpool; the staff was a bit distant, the guest all seemed happy with themselves being there. The upper-crust or something like that.
It bugged me for 5 minutes but then I looked at the menu and forgot about it.

Then they brought the dishes and was very happy; food was good. Freshness in all the produces as we have been accustomed to in Scotland and great attention to the way they are prepared. I'd give it 3 Michelin forks (not a star but darn close).

We had a really good time and I would wholeheartedly recommend Rocpool.

Buffalo mozzarella with sweet roasted red peppers, baby plum tomato & aubergine with fresh greens, basil & mint £7.95

Chicken liver parfait with fresh mango chutney, dressed greens and toasted brioche £7.95 

Crisp fillet of sea bream with warm salad of griddled new season asparagus, soft boiled egg and watercress with parmesan, dijon & capersreally £17.95

Loinf of venison roasted with parma ham & black pudding, creamed parsnips & wild mushrooms with garlic, thyme and crisp fried potato £19.95  

Linguine with grilled king prawns, hand dived king scallops , oven roasted cherry tomatoes with garlic & chili olive oil £18.95

Rocpool Restaurant
1 Ness Walk
Scotland, U.K.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Isle of Skye (Scotland): The Glenview

The Isle of Skye is a must if you are going to visit western Scotland; breathtaking landscapes along sinuous roads, waterfalls and good hiking (don't miss the Old Man of Storr and climb the Storr for an amazing view of the surrounding area). We stayed at The Glenview where Simon, chef part-owner fed us happy. Very fresh produces sourced very locally (a lot from Skye and quite a bit from The Glenview's garden!)
Everything we had was great. And the breakfast were spectacular. The menu changes everyday, depending on what's available at the market (makes sense to me) and that ensures nice variety if one is going to stay at the Glenview over a few days.

On a sidenote, one nice thing about Scotland at the height of Summer is that the days are extremely long (sun sets at 10/10:30pm making it possible to have extra long hikes during the day and go for one last hike after supper.

Isle of Skye oysters £3.60

Roast vine tomato & Skye basil tart with goat cheese, green olive tapenade

Orbost highland beef with mustard hollandaise, crispy polenta, summer vegetables

Poached shetland salmon with Skye bacon, mussel & cider sauce, Jersey Royal potatoes, Totaig greens

A fruit plate every morning.

breakfast; French toast

breakfast; Poached egg, black pudding

Vine tomato and Loch Eishort mussel broth with Skye herbs

Butter poached Lythe with squid & parsley dressing. Jeyrsey Royal potatoes, organic spinach.

Staffin free range pork with ratatouille, green olive mashed potatoes, roast garlic and rosemary sauce

Mull cheddar, Clava Brie, Strathdon blue

Pancakes with blueberries for breakfast, can it be any better?

The Glenview
Culnacnoc, Isle of Skye, Portree,
United Kingdom

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Oban (Scotland): EE-Usk

Oban was a little piece of paradise; not only is it beautiful and the people very friendly, the food was some of the very best I have had. Our first supper was at EE-Usk (fish in Gaelic). Ee-Usk fish and shellfish is caught locally and delivered alive just in time to hit the pans. It was simply the most amazing seafood I have ever tasted.
And the relaxed ambiance, with 180 degree views rounds up the experience for a great evening of discussion, eating and drinking.
I'm telling you, this is not hyperbole; once you have tasted Scottish seafood, it's hard to settle for anything less. It's not just that it is incredibly fresh, it's also so rich in depth of flavour, it opens up a whole new dimension of taste. It's like your taste-buds are waking up from a long slumber.
We were told that there's a few other good seafood restaurants in Oban. I don't doubt it.
However, you can't go wrong with EE-Usk; wherever you are planning to go in Scotland, make Oban part of your plans and book EE-Usk for a meal. Note that the Obanites go to bed early and restaurants' kitchen also close early.

Crab anyone?

Seafood Platter ; Oysters, langoustines, cracked crab claw, smoked salmon, mussels and a scallop £19.95 I never tasted  mussels like these; they melted in one's mouth, yet had a nice consistency, and tasted incredible. Maybe it's the loch's water, I don't know, but it is just something that must be experienced.

Local scallops seared and served with spicy tomato rice, vegetables and mornay sauce. Those scallops were very large, yet oh flavourful. Cooked perfectly. Exceptional. £17.95

Dover sole. £17.95

North Pier, Oban, Argyll
ph: 01631 565666

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Edinburgh: The Dogs

Arrived in Edinbrugh. After having had a little bit of trouble synchronizing with our Air-BnB hostess (turned out fine in the end and the apartment was amazing), we head for The Dogs which came highly recommended, I believe that was on Chowhound.

Anyhow, food was indeed quite good and the ambiance was convivial. We had a few first on that night; haggis, which turned out to be quite nice but it wasn't boiled and was properly seasoned and and accompanied with sauce. Scottish mussels, which was our first introduction to the amazing Scottish seafood; while they were good, there would be even better in Oban. Finally, Aberdeen beef which was also quite nice. One thing that The Dogs showed us is that the Scots like fresh, local produces and are cooking them with pride to the most satisfying effect.

The eclectic interior corridor leading to the dining room/bar lounge

Mussels in garlic and parsley sauce £5.75

Chicken liver on toast with salad and apple compote £4.25

Braised rabbit with roast vegetables and chorizo  £ 12.90

Chicken breast, sweet potato and black haggis cake and green beans  £ 11.50

Skirt steak, chips, beef tomato and smoked garlic butter  £ 11.75

The Dogs
110 Hanover Street

Bath (U.K.): Jamie's Italian

It's hard to watch any TV channel, even here in Hong Kong, without seeing Jamie Oliver's face in some show or another. So, of course, if we were to go to the U.K., we'd have to see if the food is up to par. Interestingly enough, Jamie doesn't have much in terms of fine dining restaurants. But that's fine, a good gastro-pub is just as good as far as we are concerned.
In bath, we therefore set our tummies on Jamie's Italian. After a bit of a wait, we were seated to the second floor where the homely ambiance was quite nice. However, we thought that the food was very average; we ate better at gastro-pubs such as The Dogs in Edinburgh and Anchor and Hope in London.
Made us question whether Jamie spends any time checking the menus out or whether he just sold o..., I mean,  lent his name.

Baby mozzarella, basil, tomatoes & “music bread”.
Don't know who's behind having what is essentially a cracker to "augment" an otherwise ok Caprese salad; it just doesn't work. What's nice about a Caprese salad is the freshness of tomatoes, the spike of the basil with the goey-ness of buffalo mozzarella. Crispy adds nothing to the dish, actually, it removes the classic balance.

Slow-cooked rag├╣ with garlic & herbs, mascarpone & Amalfi lemon

Fried garlicky prawns with shaved fennel, tomatoes, chilli & rocket

Lemon curd.  £4.95  

Tiramisu. The taste was there but it was too heavy.  £4.95   

Jamie's Italian
10 Milsom Place
Bath, U.K.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

London: Anchor and Hope

The concept of gastro-pub had always been vague to me until we went to London; it seemed that all the so-called gastro-pub I went to had nothing to do with being a pub. All of this started to make sense after I saw the formula put to good use in the U.K. The pub we tried in London all pretty much dished very average quality food which is mainly an excuse to get one drinking. The U.K's gastro-pubs are still bona-fide pubs in that they have a bar, serve various kind of beer, spirits and some people will go for that sole purpose, but they also pay special attention to food served, to great effect.

Anchor and Hope was no exception; very fresh produce, elegant yet simple recipes delivering bold taste at a price that is generally below what you'll get at a fancier restaurant. Menu seems to be changing quite frequently; ours had a date on it.

They got me convinced!

Octopus, little gem and aioli.  £8 

Very nice asparagus

Seatrout. Flaky but not dry. Wild sea trout, little gem, roast tomato, beetroots and horseradish dressing.  £15

Grilled lemon sole, samphire and crab beurre blanc. A classic.   £16

Almon tart, cherries and mascarpone. Look at those cherries!
(while I eat the excellent tart) £6.40 

Anchor and Hope
36 The Cut
Waterloo, London
phone: 0207 928 9898

Monday, June 18, 2012

London: Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea

We couldn't be in London and not go to Gordon Ramsay's flagship restaurant. Actually, I had two 'must' restaurant in London; Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and The Fat Duck, but it was impossible to get a reservation at The Fat Duck.

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay is Ramsay's only 3 Michelin star restaurant. I was a little, ok, very apprehensive about stepping into a restaurant who's namesake owner's claim to fame has as much to do with saying fuck on TV as making food. However, we obviously did know that Ramsay is not the one cooking, nor even creating the menus anymore. Furthermore, the 'sellout' risk is much lower at the flagship.

Well, from the moment we stepped into the restaurant, the cordial, subdued yet attentive service enchanted us. Then, the food justified every single Michelin star; from Clare Smyth’s creation to her rendition of Ramsay's classics, everything was perfect. Flavours layering, presentation and choice of produce, all masterfully executed.

There were three of us (my mom, May and I) and we took the two tasting menus so we could sample everything. Price is consistent with typical 3-Michelin starred restaurants.

It was a great evening. Highly recommend Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.

Scottish eggs!

Poached Scottish lobster tail with lardo di colonnata, vegetables a la grecque and coral vinaigrette.
I have never seen lobster looking so appetizing. And it tasted as amazing as it looked. Ever so tender and almost sweet.

Pressed foie gras with peppered Madeira jelly, smoked duck, new season rhubard and blood orange

Ravioli of lobster, langoustine and salmon poached in a light bisque with a chervil veloute

New season asparagus, morels braised in vin d'Arbois, creme fraiche and gnocchi.

Isle of Gigha halibut with Atlantic King crab, cauliflower couscous, finger lime and ras el hanout infused broth

Pig's trotter stuffed with veal sweetbread, parsley, Dijon mustard, warm apple sauce  and 'Waldorf salad '. 

Roasted pigeon from Bresse with grilled polenta, smoked ventreche and date sauce

Cannon of Costwold lamb with confit breast and braised shank, navarin of summer vegetables.

Suckling pig, crispy belly, roasted loin, homemade sausage, chou farci with crushed potatoes and spring onions

Fromleft to right; Sel sur Cher, Brie de Meaux, Stiking Bishop,  Lincolnshire Poacher  Cheddar, Colston Bassett Stilton. I had asked if they could write down the names of all those cheese for me and they said they would. On the way out of the restaurant, I thought they forgot but our hostess presented me with an envelope containing the list of all those cheese. Nice little attention.

Menu Prestige £125
Menu Seasonal Inspiration £155
One bottle of Barolo Fenocchio £118

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay
68 Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea
tel: 020 7352 4441