Archive for January, 2011

Interview: Derek Bulmer, (January 2011)

Posted on: January 12th, 2011 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Derek Bulmer has thirty plus years of experience at the world-renowned Michelin Guides. Having just retired after thirteen years as editor of the Great Britain and Ireland Guide, Mr Bulmer is now focusing his attention on a new venture – one without the corporate constraints – that of consultant to the industry as part of the company MyJam. Derek found time to speak to Simon Carter of fine-dining-guide, interview took place at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the end of February 2011.

Derek Bulmer

Derek Bulmer

How are you finding retirement?

I must admit I’m loving retirement although there are both advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that I don’t have all those publishing deadlines and big company procedures that I once had to follow: The disadvantages are that over a long period of time you get to know your team very well and see many of them as personal friends and you miss them…

However, one of the biggest disadvantages, that I perhaps miss most of all, is the expense account! (laughing)

Tell us about some of the highlights of your career?

Whilst the vast majority of my career was concentrated on the Great Britain and Ireland Guide, over the last fifteen years I took on additional responsibilities: Taking on the Main Cities of Europe Guide showed me, for instance, how the Nordic countries were producing fabulous food.

Also under my stewardship, the London Guide was redesigned and redeveloped to become a more accessible book, with longer written restaurant and food descriptions – more interesting I believe to our readers.

Starting the Eating out in Pubs guide from scratch was also a highlight – reflecting the trend that was happening in the industry of pubs serving good food.

In the first instance, my French boss had to be persuaded that pubs should appear in the Great Britain & Ireland Guide, have a specific symbol and later be considered for the award of stars: The Eating out in Pubs Guide as a dedicated book, was a natural progression but also one that needed the understanding of the company hierarchy.

The pub phenomenon is after all, uniquely British and whilst they’ve (pubs) always had a good reputation as welcoming places to drink, the food aspect only really gathered momentum over the last twenty years – which was right through my tenure as editor.

The Bib Gourmand was introduced in 1997 and I’ve enjoyed seeing that rise in popularity over the years. From the thousands of letters that were sent in, many focused on the bib gourmand and effectively thanked Michelin for making these addresses known (as being of good quality and value for money).

It is understandable that the majority of the press concentrate on where the stars are being awarded but the readership actually has a much more diverse set of interests.

What is your proudest professional achievement?

I would have to add to the highlights that my proudest professional achievement was being appointed editor of the Great Britain & Ireland Guide. I was only the third editor in Great Britain & Ireland guide history (and the first editor was only in the position for two or three Guides.) ]

The way you conduct yourself, the way you behave, the way in which you make awards all had to reflect the integrity, reputation and professionalism of Michelin. It was a great responsibility to be entrusted with the role and a great feeling to know that you had been given that trust.

What do you feel is your legacy to the Michelin Guide?

The thought that I maintained that sense of professionalism and integrity that my predecessor had established – that was always important to me.

I think I have overseen an era of expansion in restaurant eating and the star system has become more diverse and accessible – not just simpler restaurants or pubs but more ethnic restaurants, too.

How have you found the ever spiralling media interest in restaurants and chefs?

Well it has been increasing for the last quarter of a century and anything that puts the spotlight on the industry that I care so much about must be a good thing.

Tell us about the role of a consultant to the industry?

The idea of what I’m doing now is to use the knowledge and experience that I’ve gained in working for thirty plus years for Michelin to give something back to the industry. In particular using those skills and that experience to help chefs improve the end product in their restaurants.

In my role at Michelin it was inappropriate for me to give detailed feedback to chefs, restaurateurs or hoteliers about their business. Now that I no longer have those constraints there’s an opportunity to advise and guide accordingly.

In terms of the organization I now represent: MyJam is a young and dynamic company that has quickly established itself as a dedicated restaurant marketing and PR company. We have the opportunity to deliver a complete package of marketing, PR and consultancy and the objective is to become one of the leading players in this field and operate with the highest levels of professionalism and integrity.

With your recent experience around supporting the development of the international city guides for Michelin, presumably you have international consultancy opportunites, too?

Yes, I have had the good fortune of some engagements abroad although that is an area I hope will develop further over time. At the moment I am kept busy in and around London, which is not surprising as so much of the best cooking in this country is concentrated in the capital.

What would a typical consultancy engagement entail?

Well it depends: If we are talking about a restaurant consultancy then it is a three step process – an incognito visit, a detailed written report and a one on one debrief with the chef. I will try as many dishes as is necessary to write a comprehensive report and this package may be repeated several times a year to gain a sense of progress.

I can also do a sort of food dissection, where it wouldn’t come down to chance on the three dishes that I happen to choose but a broader selection of the chef’s repertoire. In this way luck is taken out of the equation and I am able to establish the overall quality of the cooking in a comprehensive manner.

Should it be a hotel review it would encompass everything from the moment I make a reservation to the moment I check out as well as the meal experience. I’m just as happy to provide a detailed report and debrief on a hotel operation as I would be for a restaurant.

What do you think is the current state of top end restaurant eating and how can it improve?

In terms of London, there seems to be no slowing down whatsoever – top end restaurants are opening on a regular basis and are packed out. Perhaps as you go out into the countryside things are a little tougher.

What makes London such an exciting place to dine out is the level of diversity – a level probably only matched in the world by New York.

There is also a trend towards more relaxed, informality in top end restaurants which perhaps makes them more accessible and can be viewed as a positive trend.

From what I’ve seen of top end restaurants in other parts of Europe and around the world is that the unique British culture is driving this process – people in this country are very receptive to new ideas and readily adopt new trends in their dining habits. As a result we have this balance of flexibility with quality that makes London and Britain a very exciting place to eat. And long may that continue!


And so it was time to leave, Derek Bulmer had been as charming, courteous and professional as ever – Ashley Palmer-Watts and team provided a wonderful lunch and the perfect backdrop to the interview. No doubt Derek Bulmer and his new venture will prove great successes, mirroring the many years of outstanding contribution to the industry

Roux at the Landau Review, January 2011.

Posted on: January 10th, 2011 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

2010 was a very fruitful year for both sides of the Roux family. For Alain and Michel Roux Senior the celebrations to mark the Waterside’s 25 years of three Michelin stars marked the climax of their achievement. Meanwhile, Albert Roux expanded his Scottish interest at the Inver Lodge Hotel above Lochinver, and the prestigious Greywalls East Lothian Hotel.

For Michel Roux Junior, the pace was more hectic: apart from overseeing operations at Le Gavroche, giving brilliant guidance and critiques in Masterchef the Professionals, and filming his series on Service, he found the time and energy to launch Roux at Parliament Square in the autumn. Then, near the end of the year, and in collaboration with his father, he opened Roux at the Landau. Housed in The Langham, one of London’s original grand hotels, the restaurant has the potential to succeed at the highest level. Not that this is immediately apparent given the hotel’s unattractive exterior, reminiscent of a railway terminus hotel.

However, the dull facade belies the glamour of the bright, palatial interior. Diners are advised to enter by the main entrance, where they can experience the grandeur of the lobby and glimpse into the stylish Artesian Bar, both of which are missed if using the side entrance. Either way, it is easy to walk by the “reception”, which, strangely enough, is a recess in a narrow corridor – confusing for first time visitors. Having finally been greeted, guests are led to their table through an impressive vaulted glass fronted wine corridor, displaying the finest of rare vintages.

The restaurant itself – originally the hotel’s ballroom – has been restructured to produce a lower ceiling and a symmetrical capsule shaped dining room. It is dominated by a magnificent bow window giving views of All Souls Church and Broadcasting House. The sumptuous décor is unmistakably David Collins, whose wood paneling, antique brass chandeliers, comfortable banquette seating and generous sized tables harmonise well with the spacious dimensions of the room.

No expense has been spared to produce a feeling of luxurious elegance. Table settings include Riedel glassware decorated in the restaurant’s twin horse motif, and Bernardaud porcelain designed by Vera Wang. Napery shows great attention to detail, being “oversized with buttonholes for men and black for ladies in little black dresses.”

All this forms the backdrop to the cooking of Chef de Cuisine Chris King, the latest protégé from the kitchens of Le Gavroche. With stints also at Per Se in New York and Roux at Parliament Square, he combines the best of his lofty experience with his own interpretation to produce a menu of contemporary European dishes, attractively presented and using first rate British seasonal produce whenever possible. Quirky combinations are avoided, whilst the imaginative use of underrated ingredients such as chicken oysters, razor clams, hake, kale and Swiss chard is clearly evident. Inventive variety is successfully used in cooking techniques and the composition of dishes: organic Salmon is citrus cured; Acquerello rice is used in a cep risotto; pumpkin, pear and gingerbread accompany seared foie gras; shitake mushrooms are matched with heirloom carrots in a vegetable terrine; and truffle is used to perfume a hollandaise garnishing a grilled steak

The ambitious carte of nine starters, nine mains and seven desserts reflects Chris King’s passion for his craft. This embarrassment of choice – which can be solved by opting for the seven course tasting menu – provides dishes to suit most tastes. Starters such as oysters or foie gras and mains of Dover sole meuniere or grilled rib eye steak will please more conservative diners. For the more adventurous, lobster roll with pickled vegetables or Salt-cod brandade with crisp squid to begin, followed by poached hake with razor clams and Serrano ham or a vegetarian dish of Swiss chard pierogi with buttered chestnuts and sour cherries should prove highly satisfying.

Fine Dining Guide visited Roux at the Landau on a Monday evening in January and found much to admire in the selection of dishes sampled.

At a time when many top end restaurants opt to serve an amuse bouche instead of canapés, the appearance of a tray of these bite sized morsels was a welcome change from the ubiquitous root vegetable veloute. All three canapés showed exemplary attention to detail and timing, the soft boiled quail’s egg with celeriac remoulade and the crisp pastilla roll filled with chorizo being particularly memorable.


A starter of free range hen’s egg, soft boiled, bread crumbed and deep fried was perfectly timed to produce a rich, runny yolk. The accompanying sauted chicken oysters and a wafer thin crisp of chicken skin made creative use of neglected yet flavoursome parts of the bird. The addition of endive, shallots and hazelnuts added more savoury notes and crunch to make this a perfectly balanced dish. (Wine: Moliun-a Vent, Bojalun, France, Henry Ferry 2009)

Hens Egg

Seared Orkney scallops had a caramelized crust and succulent flesh which showed precision in their cooking. A puree of Jerusalem artichoke proved a suitable partner and a welcome change from its clichéd cauliflower equivalent. However, the truffle shavings and split truffle dressing which liberally dressed the dish proved excessive, almost overwhelming the delicate taste of the seafood. (Wine: Pinot Bianco, Leon Bayer, Alsace, France 2009)


A terrine of heirloom carrots and shitake mushrooms was stunning in its visual and taste composition, its inherent sweetness being offset by a gently acidic and spicy carrot juice and ginger dressing

Main courses offered well rendered meat and fish dishes.

Roast rack of Romney Marsh lamb, cooked pink, was moist and deeply flavoured, with an intense jus. This dish was enriched with a persillade sauce instead of the usual garlic and herb crust, and given an additional earthy quality with the addition of artichoke hearts and ceps. (Wine: Layton Spring Paul Craper, Ridge Vinyards, Sanama County USA, 2007)


Of the fish main courses, hake was the most adventurous. Not only was it good to see this underused fish on an English – rather than Spanish – menu, but also its presentation, resembling a coastal rock pool, was stunning. The fish, rolled as a cylinder, was gently poached and garnished with razor clams, and Serrano ham. A gentle lemon butter sauce brought the elements together in a first class composite dish.


Grilled Castle of Mey rib eye steak with pommes Sarladaise and truffle hollandaise was a safer main course, but nevertheless well executed. (Wine: Chateau Pavel du Lug, Margaux, Bordeaux, 2005.)

Desserts revealed matching strengths that did justice to the starters and mains.

Making good puff pastry is the acid test for any patissier and here the kitchen passed with flying colours with an excellent millefeuille. Delicately crisp layers sandwiched a rich aged Calvados bavarois in what seemed to be a playful mock version of an ice cream wafer. Crowning this were quenelles of caramelized apple, the whole plate being streaked with a not too sweet caramel sauce. This was a delicious, memorable dessert in its balance of tastes, textures and temperatures.


Another imaginative creation was the Pear William and walnut soufflé. It was well risen, lightly textured with an element of crunch, and topped with poached pear. The bitter chocolate sorbet was intense in flavour and velvety smooth, proving an excellent foil for the sweet, gently alcoholic soufflé,


Others aspects of the meal – a choice of three breads, coffee and petit fours, and the sommelier choice of wines – were all first rate. Service was friendly, helpful and knowledgeable without being obtrusive. The distinguished green livery of the waiting staff reflects the near military precision of the service. This professional formality, so rarely seen nowadays except in the most distinguished of restaurants, is overseen by restaurant manager Franco Becci, whose extensive experience at Brown’s Hotel and the Savoy Grill has made him a master of the classical tradition of service.

Overall, a meal at the Landau is a highly memorable experience. Chris King has already justified Michel’s Roux’s description of him as “a rising star” and he clearly has a great career ahead of him. To be given charge of a prestigious London restaurant of 90 covers (with an extra 18 in the Postillion private dining room) is a testament to the enormous confidence his Roux mentors have in him. Not that Chris is content to remain in the shadow of Le Gavroche: whilst emulating its deserved reputation for luxury and excellence in cooking and service, he has offered his own take on classical European cuisine that will definitely appeal to discerning diners. Although it is too late to gain recognition in the 2011 guides, his impact will definitely be felt next year.

Cassis London, Restaurant Review, January 2011

Posted on: January 10th, 2011 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Head Chef David Escobar


The opening of Cassis in Brompton Road represents a new departure for restaurateur and wine mogul Marlon Abela. Not only is Cassis well removed from Mayfair, where his other establishments – Morton’s private club, Umu and The Greenhouse – are located, but it also claims to be a bistro, rather than a fine dining restaurant. However, this modest description fails to do justice both to the stylish décor and the quality of the cooking.

The large, glass fronted room, attractively decorated in shades of brown and cream, is the design of Tara Bernerd of Target Living. It bears little resemblance to the homely features of a classic bistro. Whilst the lack of tablecloths, wooden floors and open fireplace might suggest a degree of informality, the glossy surfaces, comfortable banquettes, sharp spotlighting, oak framed wine displays and high quality prints speak of an expensive contemporary elegance, in keeping with a SW3 location.

Nor does the cuisine reflect the usual average level of bistro cooking. This is hardly surprising given the experience of head chef David Escobar, who heads a brigade of twenty in the kitchen. He spent four years at the Michelin three starred Maison Lameloise in Burgundy before becoming Marlon Abela’s private chef. Just as his predecessor in this role, Antonin Bonnett, was given control of the Greenhouse kitchens, so Abela’s latest protégé has full rein in this latest opening to demonstrate his skill and flair

These are amply seen in the menu, which emphasises the bold and gutsy dishes of Provence and France’s Mediterranean coast. It impresses by its sheer range and quality of ingredients. Eight Petites Bouchees, feature suitably intense green and black olive tapenade, pissaladiere and Corsican chacuterie .Ten Entrees include four seafood dishes – the most adventurous being grilled stuffed squid, piquillo pepper and passata sauce – alongside classic pate, foie gras and salad offerings. Twelve Plats principaux include thee fish and seven meat and poultry mains, although only one purely vegetarian dish is listed. Nine desserts include the classic tarte tropezienne, that delectable combination of brioche and crème patissiere.

Generous portions and value for money are bistro characteristics which Cassis does emulate. On the carte, Petites Bouches range from £2.50 to £16; Entrees £6.50 – £13; Plats Principaux £13 – £24 and Desserts £5 – £8. Although Mediterranean fish bouillabaisse is priced at a lofty £29, it does include whole fish fillets and shellfish. There is also a set lunch, £17 for two courses, £20 for three, and a reduced choice carte in the afternoon.

Fine-dining-guide visited Cassis for a mid week dinner in January.

The meal began with excellent breads: focaccia, sour dough, black olive and country bread were models of their kind; extra virgin olive oil for dipping was also of very high quality.

Of the three Petites Bouches sampled, egg mimosa was outstanding: utterly fresh white and brown crab meat mixed with properly made mayonnaise filled three halves of hard boiled egg.


Barbajuans, deep fried Monegasque pastries, were well executed – non greasy – if rather heavy; they came with individual fillings of spinach, chicken liver and goat’s cheese. Strongly flavoured pastis flambed snails with garlic butter were let down by their vol au vent containers which would have benefitted from a richer puff pastry


An entrée of queen scallop ragout proved rather bland, the al dente coco beans overwhelming the seafood. The lemon thyme was barely noticeable in this most disappointing dish. By contrast, pan fried Landes foie gras was meltingly rich, well seasoned with juniper jus and given textural variety by an unusual brittle of sunflower nougatine.

For carnivores, main courses proved an embarrassment of choice, with bistro classics reaching new heights of excellence in their execution. Provencal daube of beef, slow cooked to a tender unctuousness, came with a Bagnol wine sauce, its richness being cut by the addition of orange. Herb crusted rack of lamb was precisely timed to produce succulent, fully flavoured pink meat. Chorizo batons and chestnuts gave extra spice and richness which was balanced by soft polenta.


Rib eye steak (28 day matured Black Angus) was grilled to medium rare perfection. Its smooth peppered sauce had a gentle heat with a well judged mix of brandy and cream.

Desserts, so often an anti climax in bistro eating, were equally impressive. A Grand Marnier and orange soufflé was huge – easily enough for two. However, its feather light texture and intense flavour rendered it a manageable delight for a single diner. Pear mille feuille was a master class in patisserie; Ice creams and sorbets, including the exquisite pear sorbet which accompanied the mille feuille, were velvety smooth with clean, deep flavours.

Other aspects of the meal enhanced the whole experience. Wines – from a list of over 700 from France, Italy and Spain – were carefully chosen by the sommelier to match the food. Prices vary to suit all pockets. Friendly, knowledgeable and attentive service was carefully overseen by Jean Marie-Miorada whose experience at The Greenhouse, enabled him to manage his new team effectively. It coped well with the dining room, which was approaching its 70-80 capacity.

It is clear that no effort or expense has been spared to make Cassis an exciting addition to an area already replete with restaurants of all kinds. What makes Cassis stand out, and which will allow it to survive the intense competition, are its unrivalled provision of Provencal cuisine coupled with outstanding Michelin quality cooking. Marlon Abela has produced another restaurant of quality, which will undoubtedly gain the recognition it deserves from the guides.

Interview: John Stauss, Regional VP Four Seasons (Jan 2011)

Posted on: January 8th, 2011 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

John Stauss, Regional Vice President of Four Seasons Hotel Group, knew his vocation would be in the hotel business at the age of fourteen. Twenty-nine years ago he joined Four Seasons Group and his natural enthusiasm is such that he finds his inspiration to strive forward as strong today as it was the day he joined. Simon Carter of fine-dining-guide conducted the interview which took place in one of the beautiful lounge areas of the new Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane.

Tell us some background about yourself?

Well, back in the late 60s, at the age of fourteen, my grandmother took me to see a blockbuster movie based on a best selling novel, called Hotel. In those days there was still an interval and at the break I told to my grandmother that I genuinely believed that my future was in the hotel business.

Within a year I was working in the trade, and enrolled in a hotel school that had a five years waiting list. For those years I continued working in hotels and restaurants and have done so ever since!

Twenty-nine years ago I joined Four Seasons. I strongly believe that this company is clearly aligned with the values ingrained in me from the early days, in particular how to treat people, be they employees or guests. Every day I get up in the morning with the same enthusiasm that captured me in the beginning. I’ve had the pleasure of working in various hotels in various locations – the last seventeen years of which as general manager of the Fours Seasons at London Park Lane.

In terms of my current roles and responsibilities, my first love is being general manager of this hotel (Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane) but my overall remit is as Regional Vice President, so I have additional operational responsibility of six other hotels: Budapest, Prague, Lisbon, Dublin, Canary Wharf and a country house hotel in Hampshire. The majority of my time is spent here (in London) although I do travel around the region visiting the other hotels. In terms of the Park Lane Hotel I currently have the full operational, financial and marketing responsibilities.

What is your philosophy of General Management?

Four Seasons is a Canadian Group in thirty-six countries. We have our 50th anniversary in March 2011, and the founder – Isadore Sharp – remains the Chairman today. It is his philosophy or vision that is the heart beat of the group. In any business, where you have that level of consistency of leadership then the values of the leader will naturally pulse through the veins of the company.

Mr Sharp, although he is 80 this year, is still highly active in the company – he knows the hotels and the teams. One key philosophy is to hire attitude and teach technical. Many businesses, not just hotels, hire technical and try to instil attitude. A corollary philosophy is to maintain dignity and respect. This encompasses the way we treat employees and the way employees treat our customers – the golden rule of treat others how you wish to be treated. These areas are fundamental and it’s important that we walk the talk every day.

A Four Seasons differentiator is perhaps the idea of providing service for our customers without excessive formality: to achieve excellence through technical quality of service rather than formality. In London, where there is an unmatched diversity of top end hotels, this proves something that makes our hotel stand out from the crowd.

Tell us about the ideas behind- and concepts of- the redevelopment Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane?

The Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane is the longest serving Four Seasons in the world. It opened forty-one years ago this week and became the model for how Mr Sharp saw Four Seasons Hotels: medium sized with a high level of personalized service without formality. The hotel has historically been very successful and also provided a benchmark for the group in terms of finding its way in the competitive market of top end luxury hotels.

Naturally, over the last forty years, there have been significant developments in innovation as well as in hotel concept and design. This led the Group, about five years ago, to consider what could be done to take this fabulous location over looking Hyde Park and transform it into something we would like to have today.

We are not talking about a refurbishment or a redevelopment but a complete transformation. After some years of planning, the site closed in September 2008 and on January 31st 2011 re-opens as this extraordinary new hotel.

The Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane is completely newly laid out and configured, a process that involved (literally) ripping out the entire interior to develop the new site. There were a few important core concepts – bring in the park, bring in the light and make use of the garden.

There is a spectacular 360 degrees view from the building (around London) – Buckingham Palace, The London Eye through to Canary Wharf to the east and Hyde Park and Knightsbridge to the west. Consequently there are large windows around the hotel: To bring in these views and bring in the light. We have considered the concepts down to details; part of bringing in the Park means that you will find plants, rather than cut flowers, all around the hotel.

We wanted to be uniquely Four Seasons at Park Lane and differentiate ourselves with a special identity. Designers call the resulting spaces classical contemporary: a stunning blend that bridges the styles from the 1920s and ‘30s moving forwards. There are a lot of very subtle British touches all around the hotel, giving a rich and sophisticated feel without being extravagant or opulent.

The hotel also contains thirty-two fireplaces, which can be found in the lobby, lounges, conference facilities and suites and provide a warm comforting feel for our guests.

An exciting feature is a new tenth floor, which is a glass attic, containing a world destination spa and a state-of-the-art fitness centre with panoramic views. This floor also has a lounge which serves three purposes: To accommodate guests waiting for rooms who have come in at 6am from Asia or the United States (an early arrivals suite with three showers): To provide a comfortable spa café lounge for guests using the facilities during the day: To offer a beautiful function space for private hire in the evenings that seats sixteen.

Tell us about the dining experience that will be on offer at the new Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane?

The bar, restaurant and lounge are designed as one venue, called Amaranto, with multiple experiences. There is a consistent, high-end, Italian inspired menu that is available across the three distinct spaces; the customer can choose where to dine according to their mood or the occasion. This concept extends through breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner or drinks.

Certainly a departure from the traditional hotel experience; for example take your dinner in the lounge by the piano, in the bar by the wine wall or in the restaurant beside the conservatory. We understand that today’s luxury hotel traveller or restaurant connoisseur does not need policing on where to sit or to be told what they want or how they feel.

To this end, the team is expected to give the customer what they want rather than what we think they should have, a kind of bespoke experience, that follows on from the value that service excellence is more about flexibility than formality.

Overall it is a venue that will serve the luxury hotel guest and fine dining enthusiast in equal measure; offering a new, unique and exciting destination in London.

Have you set any hard or soft targets for the re-opening?

London hotels historically do very well and run at nearly full capacity from Easter to Christmas. This hotel has always been strongly successful and after the re-opening we expect that to continue.

The bar, lounge and restaurant area is expected to do well in the new hotel. The garden will be a draw in summer and the unique venue attractive to non-resident diners, too.

Expanding on an area we’ve touched upon – Is Amaranto designed to be an outlet for hotel guests or as a destination restaurant for travelling diners?

The answer is both. This is not to suggest that the restaurant aims to be all things to all people but to specifically cater to those two groups. We are honour bound to serve our luxury hotel customers what they want, when they want and where they want – should a guest like to have an omelette at 8pm on a Saturday night in the restaurant then we must provide them with an omelette at 8pm on a Saturday night in the restaurant.

At the same time we have recruited some first class chefs, in a large brigade of fifty-eight in the kitchen, (many recruited from outside the company) to meet the needs of discerning visiting diners. The brief is clear in this respect. There is a separate entrance to the restaurant venue on Hamilton Place, which is the clearest demonstration that the restaurant is designed to attract non-residents and stand on it’s own as a destination.

What are your plans for the future?

The London Hotel and restaurant scene is so vibrant at the moment. I’d feel very lonely were I sitting on the sidelines and not a part of such an exciting time. I’m right where I want to be and hope to be long into the future.


And so it was time to leave, John’s enthusiasm for the project is unquestionable. One imagines his natural enthusiasm is inspirational to the staff and his focus on achieving the details of objectives the path to true and lasting success.


Launceston Place, Restaurant Review, January 2011

Posted on: January 6th, 2011 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Head Chef: Tristan Welch

Launceston Place is contemporary, comfortable and confident. This well established neighbourhood restaurant has been thoroughly modernized since its take over by the D&D group in 2008. Located amongst a small parade of fashionable shops in quiet residential area, it now exudes understated sophistication in its décor, furnishings, cuisine and service, being perfectly suited to its affluent Kensington location.

The attractive curved frontage is the result of its conversion from three shops. The darkness of the front façade is repeated inside, the whole restaurant being swathed in a chocolate brown. Even the windows have black blinds. For some, this may seem gloomy and oppressive; for others it creates a certain gravitas, relieved by large windows, mirrors, landscape prints, flower displays, wall lamps and spotlighting.

The maze of interconnecting rooms disperses guests amongst intimate interior or more exposed window tables. It also helps to alleviate noise levels in this sixty cover restaurant. Soft leather banquettes, well spaced tables and fine napery also make for a pleasant dining experience.

Downstairs, the Chef’s Office, a unique combination of Chef’s Table and private dining room, allows up to ten diners to enjoy a bespoke meal whilst viewing the kitchen action on a live plasma screen television, as well as having direct contact with the chef. This is an innovative idea for those restaurants that simply do not afford the room to have a table inside the kitchen.

Before taking over the kitchens at Launceston Place, Tristan Welch trained in classically French gastronomy at Arpege in Paris and was sous chef for Marcus Wareing at Petrus. However, he has adopted an unashamedly modern British approach to his cooking.

The essential prerequisite is the impeccable sourcing of the finest – and sometimes little known – seasonal ingredients: English ceps, Somerset truffle, Spenwood cheese, Herdwick lamb, west coast scallops and a totally British cheese board all feature on the menu. Nor is Tristan afraid to offer a British take on classical French dishes: witness venison, instead of steak, tartar; salad cream replacing mayonnaise; and an English apple tart version of tarte tatin.

Confidence is also demonstrated by a short carte. It takes a bold chef indeed to offer only four starters, four mains (including one fish and one offal dish), and three desserts or cheese in a fine dining restaurant. With so few alternatives, each dish must be perfect in all respects. This is even more important given the small number of elements on each plate. Main components are allowed to shine, although vegetable garnishes are given equal attention. The absence of (now clichéd) foams, smears and dots, along with the lightness of saucing, makes for a cooking style in which purity of flavour, precision of timing and simplicity of presentation are paramount. The food itself can be appear on a variety of surfaces including slate, stone, wood, shells and stoneware, as well as porcelain.

A choice of menus, ranging from an early evening (£38), to the six course tasting (£60), allows for constraints of time and finances. Fine Dining Guide visited on a mid week January evening and chose from the three course carte.(£45)

For nibbles, home made crisps bunched with black ribbons, has become a Launceston Place trade mark.

A small loaf of country bread, still warm from the oven, came with whipped butter (perched on a pebble), and gently pickled herrings (in a kilner jar), all served on a wooden platter. The freshness of these elements was impeccable, whilst the rustic presentation typified the simple yet sophisticated elegance of presentation which ran throughout the meal.

A pair of roasted West coast scallops, perfectly timed to retain their succulence, arrived in their warm shells, which added to the overall fragrance of the dish. The inherent sweetness of the flesh was balanced by a well judged garnish of “aromatic herbs from the coastline.” (Wine: 2008 Sancerre, “Le Rochoy, Domaine Laporte, Loire, France)


Another starter of calves’ tongue had great depth of flavour and an exquisitely melting texture. The richness was offset by a salad of winter leaves – including those of the highly fashionable Brussel sprout – and wild herbs. English crones added colour and crunch. Presented on a black slate, with a zig-zag drizzle of salad cream, this dish was also visually stunning. (Wine: 2009 Gavi, La Fornace, Piedmont, Italy)

calves tongue

A main course of sweetbreads was skillfully rendered to produce a caramelized crust encasing a rich, creamy centre, the latter implying the pancreas rather than thymusgland of this delectable offal. The dish was lifted by a light curry spicing and given textural and taste contrast by a sweet and savoury garnish of grapes and chestnuts. (Wine: 2007 Abadia Retuerta “Seleccion Especial, Sardon de Duero, Spain)


As an alternative, a generous portion of fully flavoured aged sirloin came medium rare as requested. Served on a strip of onion tart, the beef came with sauteed chanterelles and a sauce enriched with Tunworth cheese. This was a totally harmonious, earthy set of ingredients, skillfully cooked and attractively presented. (Wine: 2004 Chateau Beaumont, Haut Medoc, Bordeaux, France)


A selection of soft and hard English cheeses, including Cornish Yarg and a superb stilton, was enjoyed before the final course.

Both desserts demonstrated the strengths of the pastry section of the kitchen.

Dark chocolate soufflé was suitably light and well textured. It was given extra decadence by the addition of a velvety smooth, strongly alcoholic Laphraoig malt whisky ice cream

Apple tart was no ordinary specimen, but an inspired British version of tarte tatin. Inverted from its small copper pan at the table, it featured a richly caramelized whole apple and crisp, buttery pastry. The quenelle of clotted cream ice cream added richness which also helped to make this a memorable dessert. (Wine: Tokaji Aszu, 5 puttonyos, Ch Dereszla, Hungary)


To finish, good coffee came with dainty madeleines. These warm, crisp and soft morsels could be dunked in the luscious accompanying cream.

Service, under the direction of Zafar Salimo, was seamless and highly professional. The front-of-house team was solicitous without being obtrusive, knowledgeable without being patronizing, and friendly without being familiar. Their desire to please was clearly and consistently evident. Of particular note was the sommelier’s choice of matching wines. With such excellent staff and an extensive list from the New and Old Worlds, it is not surprising that Wine Spectator Magazine recently awarded Head Sommelier Mickey Narea, and the restaurant’s wine list, the Award of Excellence.

“Less is more” is a dictum that helps explain the success of Launceston Place. This is a lesson that aspiring chefs should learn. Tristan Welch and his team have hit on a winning formula that appeals both to regular local diners and an increasing number who come from further afield. Certainly, the restaurant is constantly busy, reflecting high levels of repeat custom and consumer satisfaction. It goes from strength to strength, and is now beginning to receive the full recognition it deserves. The award of three AA rosettes is a fitting testament to its success.