Archive for November, 2010

The 1855 Bordeaux Classifications of Wines

Posted on: November 15th, 2010 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood


The 1855 Expositon Universelle de Paris provided the opportunity to France to display her best to the world. To promote wine, Napoléon III requested a classification of the top wines from Bordeaux. The results were a five tier ranking system of the reds of Médoc region (plus Château Haut-Brion from Pessac-Leognan) and a three tier classification of the white wines of Sauternes and Barsac. Given the numerous changes in ownership and production over the last 150 years, the lists have retained a fair degree of legitimacy. There are of course a few exceptions! The only change to the system was in 1973 when Château Mouton Rothschild was promoted from a Deuxième Cru to a Premeir Cru. Classifications of wines from other Bordeaux regions came a century later.

First Growths (Premiers Crus)

Chateau Lafite-Rothschild (Pauillac)
Château Margaux (Margaux)
Château Latour (Pauillac)
Château Haut-Brion (Pessac-Leognan)
Château Mouton-Rothschild (Pauillac)

Second Growths (Deuxièmes Crus)

Château Rausan-Ségla (Margaux)
Château Rauzan-Gassies (Margaux)
Château Léoville-Las Cases (Saint-Julien)
Château Léoville-Poyferré (Saint-Julien)
Château Léoville-Barton (Saint-Julien)
Château Durfort-Vivens (Margaux)
Château Gruaud-Larose (Saint-Julien)
Château Lascombes (Margaux)
Château Brane-Cantenac (Margaux)
Château Pichon-Longueville-Baron (Pauillac)
Château Pichon-Longueville, Comtesse de Lalande (Pauillac)
Château Ducru-Beaucaillou (Saint-Julien)
Château Cos d’Estournel (Saint-Estèphe)
Château Montrose (Saint-Estèphe)

Third Growths (Troisièmes Crus)

Chateau Kirwan (Margaux)
Château d’Issan (Margaux)
Château Lagrange (Saint-Julien)
Château Langoa-Barton (Saint-Julien)
Château Giscours Labarde (Margaux)
Château Malescot Saint-Exupéry (Margaux)
Château Boyd-Cantenac (Margaux)
Château Cantenac-Brown (Margaux)
Château Palmer (Margaux)
Château La Lagune (Haut-Médoc)
Château Desmirail (Margaux)
Château Calon-Ségur (Saint-Estèphe)
Château Ferrière (Margaux)
Château Marquis d’Alesme-Becker (Margaux)

Fourth Growths (Quatrièmes Crus)

Château Saint-Pierre (Saint-Julien)
Château Talbot (Saint-Julien)
Château Branaire-Ducru (Saint-Julien)
Château Duhart-Milon-Rothschild (Pauillac)
Château Pouget Cantenac (Margaux)
Château La Tour-Carnet (Haut Médoc)
Château Lafon-Rochet (Saint-Estèphe)
Château Beychevelle (Saint-Julien)
Château Prieuré-Lichine (Margaux)
Château Marquis-de-Terme (Margaux)

Fifth Growths (Cinquièmes Crus)

Château Pontet-Canet (Pauillac)
Château Batailley (Pauillac)
Château Haut-Batailley (Pauillac)
Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste (Pauillac)
Château Grand-Puy-Ducasse (Pauillac)
Château Lynch-Bages (Pauillac)
Château Lynch-Moussas (Pauillac)
Château Dauzac Labarde (Margaux)
Château Mouton-Baronne-Philippe (Pauillac)
Château du Tertre Arsac (Margaux)
Château Haut-Bages-Libéral (Pauillac)
Château Pédesclaux (Pauillac)
Château Belgrave (Haut Médoc)
Château de Camensac (Haut Médoc)
Château Cos-Labory (Saint-Estèphe)
Château Clerc-Milon (Pauillac)
Château Croizet-Bages (Pauillac)
Château Cantemerle (Haut Médoc)

The 1855 Classification of Sauterns and Barsac

First Great Growth (Premier Cru Supérieur)

Château d’Yquem (Sauternes)

First Growths (Premiers Crus)

Château La Tour-Blanche (Bommes)
Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey (Bommes)
Château Clos Haut-Peyraguey (Bommes)
Château de Rayne-Vigneau (Bommes)
Château Suduiraut (Preignac)
Château Coutet (Barsac)
Château Climens (Barsac)
Château Guiraud (Sauternes)
Château Rieussec (Fargues)
Château Rabaud-Promis (Bommes)
Château Sigalas-Rabaud (Bommes)

Second Growths (Deuxièmes Crus)

Château de Myrat (Barsac)
Château Doisy-Daëne (Barsac)
Château Doisy-Dubroca (Barsac)
Château Doisy-Védrines (Barsac)
Château d’Arche (Sauternes)
Château Filhot (Sauternes)
Château Broustet (Barsac)
Château Nairac (Barsac)
Château Caillou (Barsac)
Château Suau (Barsac)
Château de Malle (Preignac)
Château Romer-du-Hayot (Fargues)
Château Lamothe-Despujols (Sauternes)
Château Lamothe-Guignard (Sauternes)

Chateau d’Yquem the king of sweet wines, made from Botrytis Cinera (Noble Rot) afflicted Semillon (80%) and Sauvignon Blanc (20%). The Chateau was in family hands for centuries until 1999 when Louis Vuitton-Moët-Hennessy took control. Alexandre de Lur-Saluce remains as director to ensure continuity of quality.



The Graves Classification 1959

Classified Red Wines of Graves
Château Bouscaut (Cadaujac)
Château Haut-Bailly (Léognan)
Château Carbonnieux (Léognan)
Domaine de Chevalier (Léognan)
Château de Fieuzal (Léognan)
Château d’Olivier (Léognan)
Château Malartic-Lagravière (Léognan)
Château La Tour-Martillac (Martillac)
Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte (Martillac)
Château Haut-Brion (Pessac)
Château La Mission-Haut-Brion (Talence)
Château Pape-Clément (Pessac)
Château Latour-Haut-Brion (Talence)

First Growths (Premiers Crus) Classés — A

Château Ausone
Château Cheval Blanc

First Growths (Premiers Crus) Classés — B

Château Beauséjour-Duffau La Garrosse
Château Belair
Clos Fourtet
Château Figeac
Château La Gaffeliére
Château Magdelaine
Château Pavie
Château Trottevieille

Classified White Wines of Graves

Château Bouscaut (Cadaujac)
Château Carbonnieux (Léognan)
Château Domaine de Chevalier (Léognan)
Château d’Olivier (Léognan)
Château Malartic Lagravière (Léognan)
Château La Tour-Martillac (Martillac)
Château Laville-Haut-Brion (Talence)
Château Couhins-Lurton (Villenave d’Ornan)
Château Couhins (Villenave d’Ornan)
Château Haut-Brion (Pessac) (added in 1960)

The 1985 St Émilion Classification

Chateau Cheval Blanc made from Merlot 39%, Cabernet Franc 57%, Malbec 3%, and Cabernet Sauvignon 1%. The Chateau produces the most famous Cabernet Franc based wine in the world and present régisseur Pierre Lurton has the greatest reputation in Bordeaux today.

 The 1985 St Émilion Classification

Grands Crus Classés

Château L’Angelus
Château L’Arrosée
Château Balestard La Tonnelle
Château Beausejour-Becot
Château Bellevue
Château Bergat
Château Berliquet
Château Cadet Piola
Château Canon-La-Gaffeliére
Château Cap de Mourlin
Château Le Chatelet
Château Chauvin
Château Clos Des Jacobins
Château Clos La Madeleine
Château Clos De L’Oratoire
Château Clos Saint-Martin
Château La Clotte
Château La Clusiére
Château Corbin
Château Corbin Michotte
Château Couvent Des Jacobins
Château Croque-Michotte
Château Curé-Bon-La-Madeleine
Château Dassault
Château La Dominique
Château Faurie de Souchard
Château Fonplégade
Château Fonroque
Château Franc-Mayne
Château Grand-Barrail-Lamarzelle-Figeac
Château Grand-Corbin
Château Grand-Corbin Despagne
Château Grand-Mayne

Château Grand-Pontet
Château Gaudet-Saint-Julien
Château Haut-Corbin
Château Haut-Sarpe
Château Lanoite
Château Larcis-Ducasse
Château Lamarzelle
Château Larmande
Château Laroze
Château Matras
Château Mauvezin
Château Moulin-du-Cadet
Château L’Oratoire
Château Pavie-Decesse
Château Pavie-Macquin
Château Pavillon-Cadet
Château Petit-Faurie-de-Soutard
Château Le Prieuré
Château Ripeau
Château Saint-Georges-Coat-Pavie
Château Sansonnet
Château La Serre
Château Soutard
Château Tertre-Daugay
Château La Tour-du-Pin-Figeac
Château La Tour-du-Pin-Figeac (Moueix)
Château La Tour-Figeac
Château Trimoulet
Château Troplong-Mondot
Château Villemaurine
Château Yon-Figeac

40 Perils of Fine Dining – For Restaurants

Posted on: November 10th, 2010 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

The Grumbles – The 40 Perils

And these are things that we as diners are all guilty of from time to time. Will hopefully entertain a little

For Customers For Restaurants


1) Arrive more than 30 minutes late for a booking or if you can’t make it just don’t turn up

2) Spark up.

3) Ensure the staff are treated as if their sole purpose in life is to serve you.

4) Engage in loud conversation so that your fellow diners are aware of your importance.

5) Complain in front of as many people as possible.

6) Ask for more salt and pepper.

7) Visit as part of a large group and get drunk before you go.

8) Don’t pay the service charge, after all it’s not the law!.

9) Examine the cheese board and ask for three cheeses they have not got, same for the wine list.

10) Ask for more.

11) Expect something ‘off menu’ to be prepared as you’re a special customer

12) Tipping is for mugs.

13) Negotiate, offer to pay half.

14) Send back a dish if it’s not up to scratch, but only after you’ve eaten it.

15) Clunk your plate up and down if not cleared within 60 seconds.

16) Ring in advance of a fixed price evening to negotiate better terms.

17) When you attend a chef’s table and they ask if there’s anything you don’t eat, list as many things as you can.

18) Pint of beer please.

19) I’ve booked the taxi for 2.30am, is that ok?

20) But I always have table 11.

21) Tell the restaurant manager, at some length, about your luxury lifestyle.

22) Go to the toilet between courses and spend a good 20 minutes in there.

23) Ask for souffle after you’ve finished your cheese..

24) Hit on a waitress

25) Drink until you need to be carried out or be sick on the carpet.

26) Be the last to arrive for service

27) Walk out if you’re not happy, but only when full and knowing they’ll remember you.

28) Faint if the price ever goes up.

29) Arrive before service has begun, those team meetings are really interesting.

30) Expect treatment out of the ordinary every time you go.

31) Prove you are bilingual.

32) Ask for a signed copy of the menu from the chef as a keepsake.

33) You’re helping them appreciate respect by being rude and abrupt.

34) Tell the restaurant manager it’s your birthday or anniversary and expect him to blink.

35) Tell them with ardour that their Guide ratings will surely get better and talk about worse places when they don’t.

36) It is a right to expect a table every time you turn up on spec.

37) You can’t be too careful, ask for all types of meat very well done.

38) Write to the chef and copy a guide when the front of house screws up.

39) I’d like a low fat, single shot, decaf cappuccino, hold the mayo and make it snappy.

40) Let the manager know you share the same barber and petrify him about his indiscretions.

40 Perils of Fine Dining – For Customers

Posted on: November 10th, 2010 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

The Grumbles – The 40 Perils

So what do certain fine dining establishments do that make us seethe; the things about which we feel they should know better and equally what do we do that we simply shouldn’t.

For Customers For Restaurants


1) A Sommelier that doesn’t know you, makes two recommendations, both over £100 a bottle.

2) Aggressive pouring of the wine and water to try and sell some more.

3) Treat you with general disdain, after all its never their fault, particularly so if you’re eating on a promotion.

4) Not offer a set lunch on a Saturday and so force you onto the expensive a la carte or the 7 course Gourmand menu .

5) Have list prices exclude VAT

6) Have staff talk about you (or swear at each other) in a foreign language, you’d be too stupid to understand.

7) Ignore you when you walk through the door and find you by accident some twenty minutes later.

8) Have a wine list that really starts at over £50, the two token cheaper bottles would work better in your car.

9) Consider vegetarians as an after thought and then charge a la carte prices for a plate of lettuce.

10) Outsourse the booking system and then have it permanently engaged.

11) Hold back as many tables as possible for “regulars” to lengthen the lead time for reservations and appear popular.

12) The fewer staff the better and it’s the manager’s night off so relax!

13) Make a Cover Charge

14) So who ordered the beef?

15) Upon arrival, offer three types of Champagne, you have to guess which one you can afford.

16) Only accept cash, nearest cashpoint a tube stop away.

17) Increase prices 25% the day a guide is published that makes reference to the old prices and gives a favourable review.

18) You discover that you visit the restaurant more often than the chef.

19) Rush you through so they can go home as early as possible.

20) Consistently mis-calculate the bill, always in their favour.

21) Recommend only those dishes which they need to sell.

22) Allow you to feel forgotten about half way through a sitting, so you help yourself to the wine.

23) Charge £5 for a bottle of mineral water.

24) Charge for service and then leave credit card slips open.

25) Expect the disabled to leap umpteen stairs in a single bound.

26) Enhance the atmosphere by playing entirely inappropriate background music that matches the extraordinary decor.

27) Confuse your wife with an innocent female acquaintance and make it worse by apologising profusely.

28) Populate the dining room with uncomfortable chairs that are apparantly chic.

29) Cram tables in to the point you become on first name terms with all diners around you.

30) Make their latest marketing ploy to advertise as a promotion their business as usual.

31) Eat/Stay there once and get junk mail forever.

32) Hold ‘special dining’ evenings then cram in as many as possible and serve mass catering standard food from a fixed menu.

33) Fluctuate the ‘mood lighting’ between blinding and fumble in the dark.

34) Nearest parking 2 miles away, unless it’s £25 valet parking.

35) Offer for sale just about everything at your table or in the lobby.

36) Present a menu exclusively in a foreign language and fail to help.

37) Offer second sittings first.

38) Have an unbalanced menu and compound the error by never changing it.

39) Charge for coffee refills.

40) Have an unclear smoking policy so half the customers are always unhappy.

Birmingham Revisited Part I: Love’s Review (Dec 2010)

Posted on: November 10th, 2010 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

See Birmingham Revisited Part II

Fine Dining Guide reviewed the Birmingham restaurant scene in 2005 and found much to recommend in a variety of cuisines. Since then, the city has gone from strength to strength and is now the proud possessor of three Michelin starred restaurants. The 2011 AA Restaurant Guide has awarded rosettes to eleven restaurants, whilst the 2011 Good Food Guide has ten main entries. It’s not just the quantity, but the quality that also impresses: Love’s, Simpsons and Purnell’s each have three AA rosettes, and the same establishments, along with Edmund’s and Turner’s, gained four or more out of ten in the Good Food Guide

Love’s is situated in a modern, multi-storey residential canal side development behind the busy Brindley Place. Accessed by a footbridge, this glass fronted, minimalist chic designed restaurant has little chance of passing trade, relying more on local residents, word of mouth and strong marketing to reach a discerning clientele. It has succeeded in doing this, given its recent expansion and partial refurbishment. Weekends are very busy, and the private dining room has proved especially popular. Claire Love oversees the front of house, her warm welcome and engaging charm putting diners at their ease. The wine list is also her responsibility, one which she has shown great care and attention in selecting. Service is efficient and knowledgeable.

As one would expect from the ex Roux Scholar and National Chef of the Year, Steve Love’s cooking continues to amaze. For those who visited his previous restaurants in Leamington Spa and Lower Quinton, his mastery of classical techniques is unquestioned. Now his food has developed even further with clarity of taste and balance of flavours being paramount. Diners can choose from a good value lunch and early evening set menu, or from the carte. The ultimate delight is the tasting menu (with optional wines), a tour de force of skill, invention and artistry.

An amuse bouche of celeriac and goat’s cheese puree was lifted by the judicious addition of nutmeg.

A starter of tuna sashumi and goat’s cheese with raw, cooked, pickled and jellied beetroot, with its own sorbet, was brilliantly conceived and spectacularly presented.


Next, a perfectly timed scallop with caramelized crust was served with braised belly pork. These two rich elements were balanced by piquant peas and an earthy crumble of black pudding.

A sublime seared tranche of top quality foie gras, was set against figs poached in port and cinnamon. Pain d’espices gave a fragrant textural contrast.

Foie Gras

A palate cleansing sorbet of banana and lime with pork scratchings was another eclectic combination which succeeded in re-awakening the taste buds

The main course demonstrated Steve’s forte in transforming humble ingredients into delectable morsels: crispy tongue and braised ox cheek accompanied rib eye of Herefordshire beef cooked in carrot ash and sauced with an intense red wine reduction. Celeriac choucroute and smoked mash potato also helped to make this dish a taste sensation.


A light but intense passion fruit crème with biscotti was followed by two well judged desserts.

A dish of poached pineapple, coconut milk porridge, coconut sorbet and pinacolada foam was well balanced in temperatures and textures

Iced raspberry and turron parfait, hazelnut cake, marinated raspberries and sherbet showed again the real skill of the pastry section.

Overall, this was a highly memorable meal. Given the composite nature and labour intensity of the dishes, the fact that there are only three in the kitchen is remarkable. A gifted chef and creative artist, Steve Love has yet to receive the full recognition he deserves. Let us hope that Birmingham is the city where he achieves it.

See Birmingham Revisited Part II

Birmingham Revisited Part II: Turner’s & Purnell’s Review

Posted on: November 10th, 2010 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Turner’s Restaurant Review by Daniel Darwood, November 2010

See Birmingham Revisited Part I

Located in a non-descript shopping parade in the Birmingham suburb of Harborne, Turner’s modest exterior belies the sophistication of the restaurant within. The dark paneling of the long narrow dining room is offset by striking wall of mirrors with the restaurant’s name etched on the glass. .

Turner’s is perhaps the most exciting of the city’s Michelin starred restaurants, producing modern European dishes with classical French influences. Cooking here is unashamedly complex and ambitious, with elements of molecular gastronomy. Nevertheless, clear and bold flavours take priority. Diners can choose from a carte of five starters, mains and desserts, a set lunch or a six course tasting menu, with optional matching wines. The restaurant is attracting a wide audience, as shown on the day we visited, when it had to turn away regulars from a fully booked mid week lunchtime service.

The tasting menu was a brilliant display of harmonious flavours, textures and temperatures, all dishes being beautifully presented.

Canapes of well seasoned salmon ceviche and beef tartare, served on spoons, came with a small dish of (molecular) melon caviar and goats cheese. Next came an amuse bouche of gently smoked cauliflower soup, enlivened with honey and cumin seeds. Both these dishes impressed visually and in terms of taste.

A first course of terrine of foie gras, properly marinated and seasoned, came with poached plums to cut its richness. Red wine syrup, salted meringues and sauternes jelly, all perfectly executed, added a range of complimentary tastes and textures.

Foie Gras

A generous fillet of pan fried turbot was juxtaposed against braised oxtail and its consomme, with parsley root, kale, and baby onion garishes. The whole dish was carefully judged to allow the individual flavours to shine, the delicate fish not being overwhelmed by the robust, unctuous meat


Roast breast of grouse was not too gamey and came with a raviolo of its confit leg. This dish proved to be a master class in game cookery, with the seared foie gras and Madeira jus adding more depth of flavour. Bread sauce and swede helped to balance the richness.

Desserts showed the same high level of skill and attention to detail as the savoury courses. An exquisite assiette of rhubarb (poached, dried, jelly, sorbet, cheesecake, espuma in a tuile tower) showcased this versatile fruit at its best.


This was followed by a deeply flavoured and perfectly textured Prune and Armagnac soufflé, garnished with Earl Grey tea syrup and Armagnac ice cream.

Coffee and well made petits fours – the latter being boxed for later consumption – completed another memorable meal, enhanced by knowledgeable and efficient service.

Turner’s is a serious, fine dining establishment which thoroughly deserves the accolades it has gained. We shall watch is progress with interest.

Purnell’s Restaurant Review, By Daniel Darwood. November 2010.

In his spacious eponymous restaurant, set in the heart of the city’s financial district, Glynn Purnell has built on the success he first found at Jessica’s, and then on the “Great British Menu.” The elegant dining room, complete with venetian blinds, hung spotlights and balloon lampshades, has well spaced bare dark wood tables and comfortable leather seating.

The Kenny Everett of modern cooking saves his most inventive and fun dishes for his carte and tasting menu, which were popular choices at a weekday lunchtime when we visited. For those on more limited time and finances, the set lunch menu offers a viable alternative,

A warm amuse bouche based on feta milk spiked with crisp black Japanese rice provided a tasty, satisfying opening.

A starter of venison carpaccio was strangely under seasoned, the dish being saved by blue cheese beignets and an intense watercress puree

The main course of slow cooked belly pork was meltingly rich and tender. Cep puree, braised endive, confit potato and crisp were well judged accompaniments.

pork belly

British and French cheeses, all in perfect condition, proved a satisfying end to the meal

The service was somewhat inconsistent: some dishes were described in great detail, others not at all. Nevertheless, when asked, the serving staff were highly knowledgeable in their explanations.

Simpsons Restaurant

Regrettably, due to circumstances beyond its control, Fine Dining Guide had to cancel its mid week dinner booking at Simpsons. However, attempts to contact the restaurant by phone during the day, including the lunchtime service, proved impossible, hence the need to visit the restaurant in person to cancel. The young lady who answered the door claimed she was the only person in the office that day and had been inundated with calls. Surely this well established restaurant with rooms can do better than this?

See Birmingham Revisited Part I

Odette’s Restaurant Review, November 2010

Posted on: November 10th, 2010 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Odette’s is located on Regent’s Park Road, near the foot of Primrose Hill in an affluent area of northwest London. Given the area’s rich artistic, literary and media associations, as witnessed in the Primrose Hill Set of the mid 90s, it is hardly surprising that the décor and furnishings reflect a contemporary eclecticism. The bold floral chintz wallpaper, whitewashed brickwork, wall lights, blue and yellow backed chairs, and green carpet of the dimly lit, front dining room can provoke extreme reactions of loving or loathing. (Indeed one commentator has described it as a “whore’s boudoir.”) The lower dining area is more spacious, and is currently being refurbished with brightly lit bookcases, mirrors, prints and more comfortable banquette seating. The most luxuriously appointed area is also the least used: the subterranean bar has velvet banquettes lining two deep, restored alcoves. Al fresco eating is available in the terraced seating at the front and in the secluded walled garden.

Odette’s is located on Regent’s Park Road, near the foot of Primrose Hill in an affluent area of northwest London. Given the area’s rich artistic, literary and media associations, as witnessed in the Primrose Hill Set of the mid 90s, it is hardly surprising that the décor and furnishings reflect a contemporary eclecticism. The bold floral chintz wallpaper, whitewashed brickwork, wall lights, blue and yellow backed chairs, and green carpet of the dimly lit, front dining room can provokeextreme reactions of loving or loathing. (Indeed one commentator has described it as a “whore’s boudoir.”) The lower dining area is more spacious, and is currently being refurbished with brightly lit bookcases, mirrors, prints and more comfortable banquette seating. The most luxuriously appointed area is also the least used: the subterranean bar has velvet banquettes lining two deep, restored alcoves. Al fresco eating is available in the terraced seating at the front and in the secluded walled garden

His seasonal changing menus, many of the top quality ingredients being sourced from the family’s farm and nearby rivers

in North Wales, include a seven course tasting menu at £60 (or £85 including wines), a good value set lunch and early dinner from £16 for two courses and full a la carte menu (seven starters, eight mains and seven desserts, including cheese) available for lunch and dinner.

Most of Bryn’s cooking is unashamedly complex. Whilst techniques are classically French, dishes often feature unusual combinations which marry well; flavours are clean and often bold, and presentation is beautiful and immaculate.

Fine Dining Guide visited on a midweek evening and sampled dishes from the carte, with a tasting sample of Bryn’s celebrated signature dish.

An amuse bouche of beetroot foam with horseradish cream was gently light and sweet with a touch of heat.

A starter of three generous quenelles of whipped goat’s cheese was lifted by tiny drops of Regent’s Park honey. This richness was balanced by beetroot puree, whilst a sprinkling of pine nuts gave textural contrast. Visually, this dish was stunning.

Goats Cheese

A trio of roasted langoustines, perfectly timed to retain their sweetness and succulence, was enhanced by a deeply flavoured seafood foam. Although the accompanying gnocci might have been a little lighter, their blue cheese content was well judged so as not to overwhelm the delicate seafood.


Bryn’s signature dish of roasted turbot with braised oxtail, which he produced for the Queen’s 80th birthday, was a tour de force of robust flavours combined with artistic presentation. The crusted firm fleshed turbot held its own against the unctuous caramelized oxtail. Cockles, samphire and garlic foam, added contrasting textures and tastes, also helping to give the visual image of a coastal rock pool on the plate.


Another well executed fish main course saw steamed fillets of lemon sole garnished with brown shrimps – which also acted as a seasoning – and tiny cubes of cucumber and butternut squash. Attractively presented with a light cream sauce and puree of butternut, this dish would have benefitted from another vegetable to give substance and textural contrast.

main course

Roast mallard duck, shot by Bryn’s uncle in North Wales, was presented in all its glory at the table before being carved. The simpler but well timed cooking did full justice to the gutsy, intense gaminess of the wild bird. The red wine jus, potato fondant and red cabbage complimented the richness perfectly

Desserts also demonstrated the kitchen’s all round high level of skill. We must not forget that part of Bryn’s early training was in Patisserie Millet in Paris.

Classic tarte tatin was well executed, with the correct degree of caramelisation of the apples and crisp pastry. The accompanying vanilla ice cream was a model of its kind.


Cranberry sorbet proved the perfect foil for a densely textured chestnut cake, decorated with confit chestnuts, cranberries and pistachios.


Food of this quality is worth waiting for, and indeed the gaps between courses were longer than some might expect. However, given the attention to detail and labour intensity each dish clearly required, the waits are understandable. Restaurant manager Paul Halliwell greets guests with a polished, understated charm. He organizes his team well, the resulting service being efficient, knowledgeable and unobtrusive.Overall, a meal at Odette’s is a memorable experience with cooking definitely of Michelin star quality. The restaurant has gone from strength to strength since Bryn’s initial involvement and subsequent ownership, its potential being very strong indeed. Let us hope this neighbourhood and destination restaurant achieves the highest accolades it deserves.

Le Pont de la Tour Review, November 2010

Posted on: November 10th, 2010 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

After a busy Monday night’s service, Lee Bennett emerged from the kitchens looking remarkably fresh. As he chatted to diners, a genuine sense of satisfaction was evident. Indeed, there was much to be proud of, having taken the cooking of this iconic restaurant to levels not reached under previous stewardship. In the past, the great and the good often came to Le Pont de la Tour to be seen, showing more interest in the chic surroundings and magnificent views than the quality of the food. Why else did Tony Blair bring Bill Clinton here in 1997?

Not that the setting of Le Pont de la Tour is unimportant. Nestled in the Gastrodome of Butlers Wharf, on the south bank of the Thames, in the shadow of Tower Bridge, its unrivalled location remains the envy of most London restaurants. Celebrities still come, but now their dining experience is at a distinctly higher level.

Certain attractions, however, have not changed since the restaurant’s opening in 1991: al fresco dining on the delightful terrace; the balustrade and large windows, giving diners the impression of being on an ocean liner; the stunning views of Tower Bridge, floodlit at night; and the long, low ceilinged dining room. The Restaurant – as opposed to the more casual Bar and Grill – has a more formal ambience. With tables smartly set with white napery, comfortable burr oak furniture and framed lithographs of early 20th century Parisian cafe society, it is one of the most elegant dining rooms in London.

The buzz and excitement which has always been part of dining at Le Pont de la Tour now extends more fully to the food. Under D&D ownership since 2006, and Lee Bennett’s arrival as Executive Chef in 2008, Le Pont de la Tour has turned more towards fine dining. This is hardly surprising given Lee’s impressive CV which includes working in the kitchens of Pierre Gagnaire and Alain Ducasse. His talent and hard work were recognized by his appointment as head chef (under Marcus Wareing) at the Savoy Grill, where he oversaw two restaurants, private dining and the chef’s table.

Such wide responsibilities, coupled with passion and skill, helped Lee win the Craft Guild Restaurant Chef of the Year in 2007. At 27, he was the youngest person to do so.

The wide range of Lee’s seasonal, impeccably sourced menu is impressive. Whilst seafood is much in evidence – an asseitte de fruits de mer, grilled lobster and Dover Sole with beurre noisette being best sellers – other dishes show the versatility of Lee’s cooking. Great respect is shown for top quality produce, avoiding excessive garnishes which can overwhelm the main ingredient. From a classical French base, he has created a stylish range of starters, mains and desserts which will accommodate most tastes. At £31.50 for three courses for lunch and £44.50 for dinner, the prices are a relative bargain. Sunday lunch (three courses £27.50) is more traditionally British, with Lee’s take on Roast Beef taking centre stage

Fine Dining Guide visited on a Monday evening in late November. Given the embarrassment of choice on the menu, it was at the discretion of the chef to compose a short tasting menu with matching wines chosen but the sommelier.

Aperitif: Champagne: Tattinger Brut NV

Lobster bisque was the first signature dish offered. Poured over a generous portion of lobster meat at the table, this highly refined, deeply flavoured soup was rich and velvety smooth. Enhanced by the moderate addition of fennel and dill, it was served warm to maximize the taste. This was an impressive start to the meal Wine: Charles Hours Cuvee Marie, Jurancon Sec, 2008 France

Lobster Bisque

Next came a trio of cold seafood. Gently smoked salmon with a caviar garnish came on well made soft blini. Oyster en gelee would have benefitted from an acidic lift. However, the cocktail of crab was excellent: a jellied tomato consommé was layered with utterly fresh crab mayonnaise and topped with a light lettuce foam. Wine: Torbreck Semillon “Woodcutters” Barossa Valley, 2008 Australia


As a main course, Essex Middlewhite pork was served in two different ways: the slow cooked braised belly was properly unctuous and melting. It takes a brave chef like Lee to serve pork fillet pink, in the traditional French style. This brings a fuller flavour, avoiding the dry stringiness that can result if cooked to a more typical British taste. Curled crackling strips added a crisp contrast, whilst a not over-sweet honey sauce succeeded in bringing the dish together. A bouquet of buttered chantenay carrots was the perfect simple accompaniment. Wine: Almaroja “Pirata” Aribbes Castille y Leon, Spain 2007


The substantial main course meant there was only room for a tasting of three cheeses chosen from an impressive range of English and French varieties. . The Mont d’Or and Chambertin, especially, were in peak conditon Wine: Dettori “Muscadiuddu”, Sardinia

Of the assiette of three desserts, the Morello cherry sorbet was a model of its kind in terms of smooth consistency and fullness of flavour. Its intensity proved an excellent foil to the mild Jivara milk chocolate mousse. Somewhat surprisingly, in the context of the meal, the hazelnut financiers lacked the essential softness beneath their crisp exterior. Wine: Disnoko Tokaji, Aszu 5 puttonyas 2002 Hungary


Other aspects of the evening; the bread, the coffee and petit fours were all first rate, showing skill and attention to detail in all aspects of the kitchen. Service, under the efficient direction of Frank Moser, (with Duncan Pitfield as General Manager), was helpful, unobtrusive and utterly professional. Special mention must also go to the impressive Bart Williams whose understated selections from the restaurant’s extensive collection of fine wines made the dining experience complete.

Le Pont de la Tour has improved its position amongst the destination restaurants of London. Despite being open for nearly twenty years, it has not rested on its laurels, but has successfully worked hard to reach new heights of achievement. This is due to the enthusiasm of the current team which is palpable and infectious. The passionate dedication of Lee Bennett and his colleagues to their craft will ensure the continued success of the restaurant.

November 2010: Fine Dining Guide November Newsletter

Posted on: November 3rd, 2010 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

newsletter interviewees

The site has conducted three interviews since the last newsletter, spanning two chefs and a front of house general manager.

Having returned to the stove from the peace and tranquility of retirement, Pierre Koffmann  found a stint at Restaurant on the Roof, Selfridges as exhilarating and rewarding as it was challenging. Now housed at Koffmann’s in The Berkeley Hotel, this legendary chef shared his story with fine-dining-guide.

Another chef returning to London, this time from overseas, former Michelin starred Joel Antunes  shares his insights into the profession and his passion for cooking.

Over a twelve year period David O’Connor  has managed front of house for three of the Nigel Platts-Martin group of restaurants: Chez Bruce, The Square and The Ledbury. David shares his technical knowledge of service and understandings of hospitality with fine-dining-guide.

Extending the site’s interest in Hotel/Resorts, Daniel Darwood reviewed The Capital Hotel including a review of The Dining Room Restaurant, as well as a visit to Somerset to review Bath Priory Hotel  and restaurant fine-dining-guide has had the pleasure and privilege of running a free to enter lunch or dinner competition in conjunction with The Waterside Inn in Bray. This has been part of their 25 Years of Michelin Three Star celebrations. The competition is now closed and after strong interest, the winner will be informed during the next week.

Twitter/Facebook: The Twitter page continues to grow and now approaches 2150 followers ( The top 20 or so news tweets can also be found on fine-dining-guide’s News page.

The Facebook page, which carries photo galleries of restaurant visits and updates of new articles, has grown steadily with 260 ‘likes’.

General Website Updates: The autumn months have proven a real mixed bag in terms of page views and visitors. The early period saw around 30,000 page views from 12,000 unique visitors but the last few weeks traffic has picked up to all time record levels with as many as 10,000 page views over the last week.

The site is considering a re-structuring and re-development to take in superior navigation (drop down menus and more easy to follow sections) as well as better multi-media support. This process will take some time and we hope to have more information for you in the next newsletter. An example of our (at this stage) experimentation can be seen at

The 2011 editions of The Which? Good Food Guide and The AA Restaurant Guide were published since the last newsletter – the AA 2011 Guide Press Release is published in full and updates of all the Lists of Restaurant Rankings.

The Michelin Section continues to be updated with the complete list of Michelin Restaurants for New York for 2011. fine-dining-guide are considering a change of policy. Six years ago, it wasn’t easy to get access to the information provided in this section. Today, the various Michelin websites are far better at providing the data and Twitter offers the ideal vehicle for pointing directly to the various Michelin Star and Bib Gourmand listings as and when they are made available. Perhaps a page of links instead?

The Restaurant Picture Gallery  continues to be popular with readers and has been updated with visits to: John Campbell at Coworth Park, Texture and Roux Parliament Square.

In terms of restaurant reviews, The Restaurant Reviews Section now carries new pieces regarding Texture , Roux Parliament Square and Bombay Brasserie

Opinion/News: We’ve been through another guide season for the 2011 editions – Zagat, Harden’s, Which? and AA, while we await Michelin at the end of January. New editor Rebecca Burr has taken up the mantle from the retiring Derek Bulmer. Jean-Luc Naret also vacated his position as International Director at Michelin and at the time of print a successor is yet to be announced.

Following on from the Guide season (September) we saw the London Restaurant Festival and London Restaurant Show, as well as a plethora of London-led but national awards ceremonies at the top end. Add to this the on-going media coverage (MasterChef The Professional which will be followed by Great British Menu), it should then come as little surprise that more people are eating out than ever before.

These potential customers have more choice than ever before and more access to data to make an informed decision than ever before. The double edged sword of the digital age means that reviews of restaurants may appear on sites or forums within the hour or equally, an email of thanks or dissatisfaction fires into to the restaurant in a similar timeframe.

A fascinating corollary is that the successful top end restaurants are adapting to these changing times by becoming more customer centric and less kitchen centric. This means that instead of having a menu and order of service set in stone, the restaurant philosophy is to offer a more bespoke experience. For example, a customer orders a particularly expensive bottle of wine, the restaurant reaction is “how can we put together a menu to work around that wine for you” or you are a regular and the question from the restaurant is “what can we put together for you that’s new and exciting.”

Naturally, the challenge is that what is exceptional today is expected tomorrow and restaurants have to manage expectations. However, the trend is clear – those that are dynamic, flexible and adaptable find returning customers.

Any movement in the market that benefits the customer while enabling the chef to demonstrate his/her talent can only be good for the industry.

Until next time, Happy Eating!