Archive for December, 2011

AA Rosette Award Criteria Explained

Posted on: December 31st, 2011 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

For the latest information visit The AA own website, here

The following was found in 2012 through surfing the resources of the AA Website.  The official AA pdf document at that time is also attached.  Note/ To be sure this is up to date please click through to the link above for The AA’s own website and explore for yourself.  Generally speaking the below remains an excellent reference point for those interested in AA Rosette recognitions.

“Consumer Guidelines for AA Rosette Awards

The Rosette scheme has long been established and successfully recognizes cooking at different levels nationwide. The success or failure in achieving Rosettes is based on a single (sometimes multiple) visit/s to a hotel or restaurant. Essentially it’s a snapshot, whereby the entire meal including ancillary items (when served) are assessed.

Of all the restaurants across the UK, approximately 10% are of a standard which is worthy of 1 Rosette and above. This is indeed a huge achievement and something not to be underestimated.

We are often asked:

What is the difference between 1 and 5 Rosettes and how can I get to the next level?”

Our (The AA) answer is:

It’s how well a chef manages to apply advanced technique whilst retaining maximum flavour, assuming an appropriate quality of source ingredients”

Whilst we endeavour to work with the industry and promote great cooking across the UK, it’s of paramount importance to always serve your market first. We would also recommend you don’t chase awards, see them as something to celebrate when they come along.

Where however, the winning of Rosettes is an aspiration, the simple guidelines below are provided for your information. AA food tastings, enhanced food tasting or signing up to one of the AA Rosette Academies can also give further insight and guidance, but are separate from the awards process and do not influence any assessments.

AA Rosettes are awarded solely by AA Hotel and Restaurant Inspectors. External influences from hotels, restaurants or other guides are not taken into account when awarding Rosettes.

The best restaurants serving food prepared with care, understanding and skill, using good quality ingredients. These restaurants will be achieving standards that standout in their local area. The same expectations apply to hotel restaurants where guests should be able to eat in with confidence and a sense of anticipation. Around 50% of restaurants/hotels within our AA Restaurant Guide will have One Rosette.

Excellent restaurants, which aim for and achieve higher standards, better consistency and where a greater precision is apparent in the cooking. There will be obvious attention to the selection of quality ingredients. Around 40% of restaurants/hotels within our AA Restaurant Guide will have Two Rosettes.

Outstanding restaurants that achieve standards that demand national recognition well beyond their local area. The cooking will be underpinned by the selection and sympathetic treatment of the highest quality ingredients. Timing, seasoning and the judgment of flavour combinations will be consistently excellent. These virtues will tend to be supported by other elements such as intuitive service and a well-chosen wine list. Around 10% of the hotels/restaurants within the AA Restaurant Guide will have Three Rosettes and above.

Amongst the Top restaurants in the UK where the cooking demands national recognition. These restaurants will exhibit intense ambition, a passion for excellence, superb technical skills and remarkable consistency. They will combine appreciation of culinary traditions with a passionate desire for further exploration and improvement. There are very few restaurants with Four AA Rosettes.

The pinnacle! Where the cooking compares with the best in the world. These restaurants will have highly individual voices, exhibit breathtaking culinary skills and set the standards to which others aspire to, yet few achieve.

Announcements of awards

1 and 2 Rosettes are awarded at the time of inspection.

3 and 4 Rosettes awards are announced twice during the year, but never at the time of inspection.

5 Rosettes are awarded just the once during a year and never at the time of inspection.

Suspension of Multi-Rosettes (3, 4, 5 Rosettes)

When a chef holds 3, 4 or 5 Rosettes and moves from one establishment to another, the award is suspended at the hotel/restaurant he/she has just left. The award does not follow the chef automatically either.

We therefore recommend that when a change of chef occurs, establishments let us know as soon as possible in order for us to schedule forthcoming inspections.

Multiple restaurants within one establishment

In the case of an AA rated Hotel or Guest Accommodation with a Rosette award having more than one restaurant and wishing to have the food at the 2nd restaurant tested for a Rosette award this restaurant must have:

• A different head chef from the other restaurant

• Separate kitchen

• Different food style

All other Rosette criteria apply.

Menus, chefs CV and wine list should be submitted for consideration to AA Hotel Services, Fanum House, Basing View, Basingstoke, Hants RG21 4EA. It is entirely at the AA’s discretion whether a visit is completed and a Rosette award given.”

Click on the link to download the AA official resources document. AA-rosette-consumer-202012.


The Kitchin, Edinburgh, Restaurant Review (Dec 2011)

Posted on: December 30th, 2011 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Over the last twenty years Leith, the declining port of Edinburgh, has witnessed a redevelopment which has transformed it into the seat of the Scottish Executive and a modernised residential and retail centre, alive with new restaurants and wine bars which serve as a magnet for the leisure and social life of the capital.

Tom Kitchin opened his eponymous restaurant here in June 2006. The Michelin star awarded after just six months and held ever since testifies to the prodigious talent of this young chef patron. Now, five and a half years later, his cooking continues to go from strength to strength, fully justifying the critical acclaim it has received.

Not that the setting and décor of The Kitchen gives much indication of the gastronomic delights that await the diner. Seen from the main road, the exterior of the restaurant – part of a converted two storey whiskey warehouse – is so understated it can easily be missed. In fact this is the back view. On the opposite side, the glass fronted main entrance, accessed from a quayside piazza, is more impressive, with a conservatory style bar on the right and attractive displays of wine in the corridor leading to the dining room. Here, as if to focus attention on the food, the curtains are drawn, even at lunchtime, and the décor and furnishings are essentially simple and functional. Large, well spaced tables lack the fine napery associated with a fine dining restaurant. The dark green walls and grey carpeting are relieved by well directed spotlighting, whilst a large internal window, the source of most natural light, also gives views of the kitchen.

What does impress, however, is the excited buzz and warm feel that comes from diners genuinely enjoying their food, which contrasts with the hushed reverential tones and stiff formality so often encountered in fine dining restaurants. It is a tribute to all concerned that the considerable skills in the kitchen are balanced with the relaxed, unintimidating atmosphere of the dining room.

Using classical training gained in the top ranked restaurants, including those of Guy Savoy, Alan Ducasse and his acknowledged mentor Pierre Koffman, Tom Kitchin’s modern British cuisine emphasises pure, often bold flavours and simple, elegant presentation. Innovative dishes such as bone marrow and snails or beef carpaccio with foie gras beignet appear alongside classics like hare royale and game terrine. Saucing enhances rather than overwhelms the main component, plates are not overcomplicated with excessive garnishes, and due care is given to balance tastes and textures. Great skill is demonstrated in the timing of cooking and in the combination of ingredients. His “Nature to Plate” philosophy of food also celebrates the bounty of top quality, seasonal and largely Scottish produce, its provenance being given due credit on the menu. Seafood and game are, naturally, major strengths. The winter menu, offering an embarrassment of riches, features razor clams from Arisaig, Orkney scallops, West Coast squat lobster, Shetland cod and Scrabster turbot. Alongside these are red legged partridge and roe deer from the Borders, Hare from Humbie and Woodcock from Perthshire

The menu structure accommodates a range of pockets and appetites. As a cheaper, but no less accomplished alternative to the carte, the set lunch menu, with three choices in each of three courses, provides outstanding value at £26.50, or £31.50 with cheese as an extra course. A surprise tasting menu  comprising seven items, coffee and petit fours is priced at £70. Wine pairings are also offered with these two menus.

A lunchtime visit to The Kitchin in early December revealed its qualities to the full.

A selection of winter crudités, including radishes, carrot and celery, provided clean, crunchy nibbles whilst perusing the menu. How pleasing, also, to see crudités, which have almost disappeared from fine dining restaurants, being offered at all.

The breads, which included sour dough, granary, black olive, and tomato, had crisp crusts and firm crumb, the black olive being particularly flavoursome.

As an amuse bouche, a small bowl of impeccably clear chicken consommé was enlivened by apple, cabbage and grapes. This was an unusual, bold combination which worked.

Tom Kitchin Amuse Bouche

The first course from the set lunch menu featured a raviolo of silk like pasta generously filled with beautifully sweet West Coast shellfish. It was surrounded by deeply flavoured, lightly foamed langoustine bisque, given added warmth by a light curried spicing. Vegetable julienne provided a contrasting texture to this accomplished dish. The fruity acidity of the accompanying white wine was a good foil for the richness of the food. (Wine: Pacharenc du Vic Bilh sec Domaine Berthomieu 2009 Gers France)

Tom Kitchin Raviolo

Next came a signature dish from the carte. Steamed razor clams (sproots), were precisely timed to preserve their sweet, succulent taste and delicate texture. Combined with diced al dente vegetables and chorizo sausage in a cream sauce, the richness was cut by the addition of lemon confit. This dish, beautifully presented in its shell and topped with grilled squid, was a tour de force of harmonious tastes and textures. The zesty citrus tang and minerality of the Riesling was, again, a fitting wine match. (Wine: Riesling Little Beauty 2010 Malborough New Zealand.)

Tom Kitchin Razor Clam

The main course, taken from the “Celebration of the Season” menu for a supplement, was roasted woodcock. Again, skilled cooking allowed all the gaminess of this prized bird to be enjoyed at it medium rare best. The presentation was classical, with the head and long beak split lengthways so the delicate brains could be scooped out. The crouton, spread with a puree of the cooked innards and foie gras, gave an intense, strong flavour, complemented by a powerful salmis sauce which brought the dish together. Roasted pumpkin puree, salsify, potato gnocchi, and sprouts were simple vegetable accompaniments balancing this robust, bold flavour of the woodcock. Equally intense was the Spanish wine, the black fruit qualities of which complemented the game well. (Wine: Ribera Del Duero Crianza Valduero Spain 2007)

tom Kitchin Woodcock

For dessert on the set menu, a chocolate chip soufflé, was well risen and had a light and fluffy texture. Equally accomplished was a velvety smooth chocolate ice cream. The dessert wine, aged for thirteen years in Armagnac casks, had concentrated flavour but was nevertheless fresh on the palate. (Wine:Antic Muscat Consolation Riversaltes 1996)

Tom Kitchin Souffle

Good expresso coffee and well made petit fours – nougat, chocolate truffle, mini tartlet and macaroon – completed a flawless, memorable meal.

Service was excellent: professional without being stuffy; attentive without being obtrusive; and knowledgeable without being patronising. As seen above, the sommelier masterly paired wines with the food. Overseeing the front of house in a fully booked lunch service of some 60 covers was maitre d’ Sylvain, whose welcoming charm puts diners at their ease.

It is hardly surprising that The Kitchin has a strong local following as well as attracting many from further afield. In a period of economic austerity, it continues to thrive both as a neighbourhood and destination restaurant, a testament to the passion of its founder and the hard work of his team. In a city that now boasts five Michelin starred restaurants, The Kitchin will clearly hold its own in the competitive world of fine dining.

The Kitchin on Urbanspoon

Editorial: The Future of Restaurants and Wine?

Posted on: December 25th, 2011 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Today we discuss the role of the sommelier in modern fine dining and anticipate a greater opportunity for their participation in the success of a restaurant in the future.

The sommelier may be the diner’s best friend or worst enemy.  The average mark-up in fine dining restaurants lies between 300% and 400% of retail (See December News).  The continuously expanding choice available to the consumer outside of restaurant dining is spellbinding:  British supermarkets are unique in offering residents an unparalleled choice of wines.  Waitrose, for example, are believed to hire at least two masters of wine in their wine-buying department.  Most other European countries shops’ are more closed, understandably so where they are major wine producers, in that they stock wines exclusively of their domestic origin.

The fate of the Euro is something of a sideshow, as quality world–wide wines are now available in Britain’s local shops, many of which a map might need to be consulted to confirm the whereabouts of provenance.  Yet, in many cases, the consumer may be honestly unaware as to whether the purchase is a treat or a mistake.  There’s some limited help on the internet, in magazines or in books, but really the truth of the matter is close to the statement that “if you like it, its a good wine.

Still, some help, guidance and education in making choices is always welcome:  To understand better the boons and bargains from the misfortunes.  It has been noted (in usually American sitcoms like Friends and Frasier) the benefits of personal shoppers or wine clubs in expanding knowledge and quality of experience.  The combination of the two would be an unaffordable luxury for most in simply navigating the burgeoning supermarket wine shelves.  But what an asset that would be – to have a voice over the shoulder – who knew tastes, and explained the pros- and cons- of a particular choice!  This would be true no matter what the budget, from £4 to £40 to £400 a bottle – there are always hidden gems that go beyond possible understanding or equally poor value choices that could not be appreciated.

The review will come back to this, but for now, discuss the role of the Sommelier in fine dining restaurants.  In recent times it has been noted that upon presentation of the food, the associated descriptions from waiters have been muted.  Instead the volume has been turned up on the sommelier’s role and their introductions of the accompanying wine:  Where once the food would be given almost a minute of detailed introduction this is now obviated or replaced with a brief description:  The wine on the other hand has gone from a cork opening to around ninety seconds of detailed analytical review; including grape variety, producer, origin and description. Perhaps a more balanced approach to the end products consumed would be a happy compromise for all customers.

It is, however, still the case that at least 50% of gross profit for a restaurant comes from wine.  Something that may be enjoyed occasionally at home, diners may feel somewhat obligated to enjoy in restaurants, in spite of the glaring average of 350% mark up above retail.  Even with the internet offering fingertip advice on retail price (including the more obscure wines), or Andy Hayler’s Wine Searcher iPhone App (the latter remains somewhat cumbersome and possibly socially inappropriate to be tapping away for fifteen minutes while in the restaurant), consumers are still relatively helpless while sitting at the table reviewing the wine list.  Or are they?

This is where a quality Sommelier is worth his or her salt.  To glean your tastes and advise and guide expertly to wines that will suit your food, your taste and your pocket.  To an extent though, how possible can this be in the actual restaurant environment?

Ideally, an open and honest conversation that went along the lines of “I don’t want to spend more than £x on the wine and I like Burgundy reds, let me have something that will work well and offer value for money.”  Indeed, having this conversation would be recommended; whether you’d actually end up with something that offered value for money outside of the restaurant is another matter.  This is of course grossly understating the value of the sommelier to the dining experience:  A significant part of their job is to understand the nuances of the food ordered and be able to match a wine that will optimize the enjoyment as one overall product.  This is where the trend of wine by the glass to match each course is a venerable one and likely to play a larger role in fine dining restaurants in the future.

However, what opportunities may be afforded to the wine drinker at home?  Importantly, this is separated from the fine wine investor or collector who would seek advice, for example, from a consultant working with, say,  Berry Bros & Rudd.  How might fine dining restaurants carve a new niche from potential demand to match their supply-side capabilities?  Some forward thinking establishments have realized that there’s a hole in the market.  To link the knowledge, experience and purchasing power of their restaurant with the personal shopper and wine club ideas previously discussed.  Why not have sommeliers use their skill and expertise to buy wines at a decent price that they can match to your tastes and budget?

In unseen work, the sommelier will sift through endless suppliers (in this country), going to tastings, being visited by reps, attending courses, expanding their knowledge to the potential benefit of the end consumer.  Surely, the typical restaurant sommelier has accrued knowledge of wines far beyond our expected level of attainment.  Why not pay a small premium – say 25% – above the price they pay for a wine, that they can vouch for, and even better (if they know us well enough) match to our tastes?

This is where certain establishments may score heavily:  Restaurant wine made available via an assisted personal shopper (sommelier), for a regular customer (club), at high street prices (or slightly above):  Your typical fine dining restaurant becoming a kind of value-added boutique wine merchant.

Thierry Tomasin’s Angelus, Alexis Gauthier’s soho restaurant and the soon to open Alan Murchison’s 10-in-8 Group Les Caveaux have all seized the nettle (or grasped the grape).  They appreciate that there exists a marriage between restaurant customers, the like of fine wines, and their supply side strengths.  We’ve yet to see how this market will develop but there is logic behind it as well as economic sense, so perhaps these early adopters will reap the harvest of their efforts. Any move forward for restaurants in this country would be sure to be welcomed…

Alyn Williams at The Westbury Restaurant Review (Dec 2011)

Posted on: December 22nd, 2011 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Alyn Williams at The Westbury London

In recent years the north-east quadrant of Mayfair has seen the proliferation of fine dining restaurants, with Sketch, Hibiscus and Wild Honey joining The Square and Umu in gaining Michelin starred recognition. Given competition as strong as this, it is a brave chef indeed who dares to enter the fray. Yet this is what Alyn Williams has done with his eponymous restaurant at the Westbury Hotel; and, given a recent visit by Fine Dining Guide in its second week of opening, the signs are most promising.

What used to be the Artisan restaurant has, thankfully, been transformed out of all recognition into a stylish, contemporary dining room. Alex Kravet’s design features handsome rosewood panelling, attractive bespoke lighting and richly tufted grey carpet – complete with glitter which adds an opulent feel. Well spaced tables and light cream velvet backed chairs and banquettes accommodate up to 45 diners, plus the spectacular glass walled Wine Room – complete with 600 bottles – adding eight more places, with another 18 in the adjacent private dining room.

This is a fine setting for the cuisine of Alyn Williams, whose impeccable CV includes – most recently –  four years as Head chef at Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley, as well as experience at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants in Royal Hospital Road, Claridges and the original Petrus in St James’ Street. However, whilst his skills were honed in some of the finest Michelin starred kitchens in London, he has not embraced the style of his mentors, developing instead his own brand of innovative, modern European cooking. His dishes, using top quality, well sourced seasonal and mainly British ingredients are strong on technique, clear on flavour, harmonious in combination and artistic in presentation. Nor is his cooking without humour, wit and surprise. Menu descriptions list the main components of each dish but totally understate the complexity of cooking methods and the beauty of presentation.

High quality canapés were impressive in themselves and augured well for the meal to come: dainty gougeres had crisp choux pastry, strongly flavoured with Fourme d’Ambert; risotto balls were gently perfumed with truffle; delicate prawn crackers were filled with prawn and tom yum mayonnaise; and beignets of rich sea bass belly – so often discarded by lesser chefs – were accompanied a smooth taramasalata of its roe.

Next came two delightful amuse–bouches served in cocktail glasses. A layered dish of white crab meat, beef cheek and onion consommé had beautifully clear flavours, whilst creamy cauliflower panna cotta was dressed with acorn shavings and given contrasting texture with shredded fried leaves and filo wafers filled with cream cheese.

Alyn Williams Amuses Bouches

A first course of “sand carrot / liquorice / foie gras” surprised the diner in both taste and texture. The semi freddo mousse, moulded into torchon shapes, was more subtle in taste, less rich and fatty than classic foie gras dishes. Pickled sand carrot gave a sweet and sour dimension whilst the liquorice based dressing added a background herbal note which complimented the other elements well.

Alyn Williams Foie Gras

Seared Orkney scallop was perfectly timed to retain its succulence and sweetness. It was balanced by a Mersea oyster, less salty that other varieties, and topped with Aquitaine caviar. Sea purslane and a refreshing cucumber jus, poured at the table, finished this composition of different tastes, temperatures and textures.

Alyn Williams Scallop

Sauteed veal sweetbreads, marinated in sherry had a creamy moistness which obviated the need for a sauce. Artichoke puree and braised celery and button mushrooms added earthy notes and textural complexity to balance the luxuriously rich offal

Alyn Williams Sweetbreads

Hake in seaweed butter made good use of this underrated and underused fish. Its robust flavour and firm texture stood up well to the imaginatively chosen whelk, sea vegetable and autumn truffle accompaniments.

Alyn Williams Hake

Sous vide smoked duck egg provided the flavoursome dipping sauce for toasted “soldiers” sandwiched with fragrant autumn trnffle. Celeriac remoulade and Jangold apple discs added a different crunch and gentle acidity which this rich dish needed.

Alyn Williams Duck Egg

Cotswold white chicken – perhaps the English equivalent of Poulet de Bresse? – came in three forms: a lightly battered nugget of its breast; a rich confit of its leg and a beautifully clear, intense consommé. Onion ravioli and celery root provided more robust elements to this highly satisfying dish.

Alyn Williams Chicken

Even more accomplished was the next composite dish. Herdwick lamb fillet, pink and tender, was given added richness by a bacon of its belly. A delicate parmesan custard, spinach and fennel provided more savoury notes to balance the sweetness of the lamb, whilst the whole dish was brought together by a deeply flavoured jus.

Desserts showed same creativity and attention to detail as the other courses, together with a certain nostalgic playfulness.

A pre dessert of crème Catalan and pear granite excited the palate with its clean flavours and differing textures.

“Walnut whip” featured a feather light mousse, rich velvety ice cream, and a candied nut topped with gold leaf.

A terrine of layered caramelised apples came with an “afternoon tea” of mini scone and clotted cream, and a brilliantly conceived sorbet of blackberry and apple “mivvi”

Alyn Williams Tea/Mivvi

Other aspects of the meal were also first rate.

Well made breads comprised firmly textured stout and star anise, light potato sour dough; and crisp Persian lavash.. These came with unusual but delicious whipped caraway seed butter. Good coffee came with indulgent chocolate and coffee truffles.

Head Sommelier Alex Gilbert paired food and wine with consummate ease whilst Giancarlo Princigalli managed the knowledgeable, unobtrusive service with professional skill and charm.

Prices at the time of writing provide a clear incentive to dine at the Westbury. Three lunchtime courses are competitively priced at £26. The carte, with five options in each course comes at £45, modest by West End standards and at this level of cooking. However, an even better deal comes with the seven course tasting menu, a real bargain at £55.

Clearly Alyn Williams at the Westbury has made an impressive start to what is likely to be a successful future. Here is a highly experienced, creative chef near the top of his game, but still with an energy and creativity to produce refined, innovative dishes. There is no reason, therefore, why he should not emulate his distinguished neighbours in achieving the Michelin starred status he deserves.

Alyn Williams at The Westbury on Urbanspoon

Martin Wishart Restaurant Review (December 2011)

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

The fine dining scene in Edinburgh is alive and well, with an embarrassment of choice for discerning foodies. In the 2012 guides, five restaurants hold a Michelin star, seven have three or more AA rosettes, and nine are marked 4/10 or higher in the Good Food Guide. Clearly the city now has a gastronomic scene to match its spectacular setting, historical monuments and cultural achievements.

Foremost in this exciting development is Martin Wishart, whose eponymous restaurant has held a Michelin star since 2001 – the first in the city to be awarded that coveted accolade. It also boasts four AA rosettes, and is consistently awarded 8/10 in the Good Food Guide. Amongst the other concerns in his expanding gastronomic empire are a cookery school, a restaurant in the Cameron House Hotel on Loch Lomand and, more recently, The Honours Brasserie in the city centre. Martin has received many accolades, but the ultimate recognition for his achievements came in 2011 when he was named Chefs’ Chef at the AA Restaurant Awards.

Restaurant Martin Wishart is to be found in Leith, the redevelopment of which has given new life to Edinburgh’s declining port. Located on the quayside, its unremarkable exterior on the ground floor of a grey stoned building belies the elegant sophistication within. The furnishings and décor – well spaced tables, comfortable leather seating, mirrored walls, wooden Venetian blinds, sumptuous curtaining, plush carpeting and stylish lighting – all give a soothing, relaxed feel. The room, however, is to undergo major refurbishment in January 2012, although regular diners can be assured that the new look will reach the highest standards in materials and design.

Creativity in composition and consistency in execution, are essential hallmarks of Martin Wishart’s cooking. Blessed with top quality, seasonal – largely Scottish – produce, and using classical and modern techniques gained in the kitchens of top British, American and European chefs, his innovative dishes delight the eye and excite the palate. Harmony of flavour, balance of texture and purity of taste always take centre stage. Saucing is a major strength, with foams and smears kept to a minimum. Cooking techniques are mainly traditional and classical with pickling, smoking, roasting and braising all featuring strongly.

The labour intensive, multiple component dishes are fully demonstrated in the winter carte of five starters (four featuring shellfish), five mains (two being fish), and seven desserts. Diners who have difficulty choosing can opt for the six course tasting menu with alternatives in two of the courses. There is also a vegetarian tasting option. Great care is taken to show the provenance of the ingredients on all the menus.

Fine–dining–guide visited in early December, finding much to admire in the tasting menu with its celebration of exquisite Scottish produce.

A beetroot macaroon with horseradish cream, which melted in the mouth, and salsify, pickled cabbage and peanut mayonnaise, which contrasted in taste and texture, were refined canapés to accompany a glass of champagne.

The freshly baked rolls – black olive, white with poppy seeds, and granary with pumpkin seeds – were flavoursome, with crisp crusts and firm crumb

A trio of amuses bouches featuring chestnut soup with hazelnut oil, pickled mushrooms and yellow corn puree combined savoury, sour and sweet elements which succeeded in tickling the taste buds.

Martin Wishart Amuses Bouches

Jerusalem artichoke veloute had a deep earthy flavour and a smooth, velvety texture. It was lifted by the addition of pan fried veal sweetbreads, with caramelised crust and creamy interior, and given a final surprise with a layer of rich chestnut puree at the bottom of the bowl. The matching white wine had a good intensity and freshness, with a crisp finish which worked well with the dish. (Wine: Pernault Vergelesse, Dom Rollin, Burgundy, France 2001)

Next came ceviche of Gigha halibut with mango and passion fruit. This proved to be a triumph of taste and texture. The robust, meaty fish, cubed for the marinade, was not overwhelmed by the sweet fragrance of the soft mango or the astringent, lingering after taste of the passion fruit. Indeed the harmony of flavours was perfectly balanced. A small meringue gave a contrasting crisp texture to what has become the chef’s signature dish. Wine pairing for this would be difficult, but the sommelier made a brilliant choice with a Muscat, the clean, dry, intense lime acidity and light body providing the perfect match.  (Wine: V.D.P. D’Oc Muscat Sec, Domaine de la Provenquere “Les fruits defundus,” 2010)

Martin Wishart Halibut

An abundance of riches was crammed into the following small dish of white truffle risotto, Isle of Mull scallop and parmesan. The scallop, huge even by Michelin restaurant standards, was cooked to perfection, retaining its succulence under a golden crust. The rice had the correct degree of creaminess, enhanced by the deep but not overpowering saltiness of the parmesan and the earthy fragrance of a generous shaving of white truffle. The dry white wine, with delicate, elegant palate was another good pairing. (Wine; F.M.C. Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa. 2009)

Martin Wishart Scallop

Following this was another innovative dish.  Loch Ryan Native Oyster was layered under green apple jelly, sauerkraut in the form of spherical beads – one of the few signs of molecular techniques – and topped with caviar d’Aquitaine. This masterly combination worked well in its marriage of unusually paired flavours, clean tastes and contrasting textures. Visually, it was stunning. The wine had a suitably fresh, crisp palate and dry mineral finish.  (Wine; Weingut Braudlmayer, Reisling, 2009)

Martin Wishart Oyster

Kilbrannon langoustines were breathtaking in their delicately soft sweetness. A scattering of “crumbs” of parsnip and white chocolate – another ingenious molecular technique -complemented the crustaceans well, whilst a sauce of verjus and smoked butter – neither too powerful – gave additional flavour. The Viognier had a well balanced acidity, ideal for shellfish. (Wine: Viognier de Rosine, Stephanie Ogier, France 2009)

Martin Wishart Langoustine

The meat course featured a beautiful loin of Ayreshire hare, roasted medium rare to maximise its gamey flavour and soft, juicy texture. A richly flavoured civet and celeriac pastilla, red cabbage, port braised parsnip and dauphine potato proved to be excellent garnishes. A rich game jus brought this tour de force of a dish together. The dark berry fruit and tobacco flavours of the Merlot wine was a fine partner for the robust, earthiness of the food.  (Wine: Shafer Merlot, Nappa Valley. California, USA  2005)

Martin Wishart Hare

Two desserts revealed the undoubted strengths of the pastry section.

A glossy cylinder of tempered Valrhona dark chocolate, reminiscent in shape of the teardrops of Nouvelle Cuisine, was filled with a delicious chocolate cremeux and garnished with a well made ice cream and chocolate shortbread. This was well matched with a dark, syrupy Maury, with its palate of smoked raisins and liquorice. (Wine: N.V. Maury 15 years prestige , Mas Amiel, France.

Martin Wishart Chocolate

A less rich alternative saw poached Comice pear with ice cream, praline, caramel, and roasted hazelnuts. This was a refreshing dessert with contrasting fruit and nut flavours with soft and crunchy textures. The rich but light sweet wine was the final inspired choice for the sommelier. (Wine: Noans La Tunella  Friuli,  Italy  2008)

Good coffee and delectable petit fours completed a memorable meal.

Other aspects of the restaurant were also first rate. The impressive wine list, which won AA restaurant wine list in 2006, had a predominant French section and a wide selection of New World and European vintages by the glass from which Sommelier Patrick Cooper expertly selected the flight of wines. Finally, the welcoming, knowledgeable and seamlessly efficient service, overseen by the utterly professional and charming restaurant manager Jean-Christophe Froge, enhanced the whole experience.

As Edinburgh’s leading fine dining establishment, Restaurant Martin Wishart continues to go from strength to strength, building on seemingly inexhaustible energy and creativity of its chef patron. He and his well drilled team are producing food of two Michelin star quality, so it remains a mystery why this distinction is yet to be achieved. Clearly, it can only be a matter of time before it is awarded. We all await the 2013 guide with interest.

Martin Wishart on Urbanspoon

Waterside Inn, 25 Years Michelin Three Star Celebration

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

December 10th 2011 – Just seen this video clip uploaded by the Waterside Inn this year (2011) to You Tube.  fine-dining-guide had the pleasure of attending on the night in May 2010 when long standing customers visited.  This video from the night before, when the industry, including the Michelin chefs attended, shows interviews with all the key players as well as the speeches on this memorable night – where all concerned pay their respects to the great Roux family!

fine-dining-guide have long been admirers of the restaurant and all who sail in her – see (Alain Roux Interview, Diego Masciaga InterviewImage Gallery, Restaurant Review).

December 2011: Fine Dining Guide December News

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

December 8th 2011 – So much has happened since the last site news update in March 2011.  For example, the guide season was crammed into the space of a month with the site’s four featured guides all publishing their 2012 editions, namely; Michelin, Which? Good Food Guide, AA Restaurant Guide and Relais & Chateaux. (See Guides Section)

Michael Wignall at The Latymer, Pennyhill Park Hotel (See Interview, See AA Restaurant Guide Press Release 2012, See Restaurant Review) picked up five AA Rosettes.  Tom Kerridge and Sat Bains were awarded a second Michelin Star (See Michelin GB&I 2012 Star Listing).  Rebecca Burr completed her first year as editor of Michelin Guides (See Interview).  The Good Food Guide further developed their own site (visit here) and awarded Sat Bains and L’Enclume a coveted 9/10.  In addition, the TV programme Britain’s Best Dish (for professionals) features inclusion in this guide as the qualification criterion.  Relais & Chateaux continues to expand the Association with new members across Scotland (3) and Ireland (1) – now a far cry from the Relais de Campagne of 1954 (See Relais & Chateaux 2012 Press Release).

There has also been a near five months process of re-design and re-development of fine-dining-guide.  With many thanks to David Taylor of Glass Slipper Interactive, this was completed in early December and was marked by the sending of an email newsletter on December 6th 2011.  As well as easier navigation, the site has better organized content with superior landing page presentation: The objective being a more enjoyable visitor experience.  Packed with new features to help the visitor explore, the site is backed by google analytics and much stronger SEO.  This can only help the site’s content into the future.

Along with Rebecca Burr, four further interviewees gave insights into their professional lives.

Interviewees to December 2011

Former Michelin two star chef John Campbell (See Interview, Restaurant Review) spoke about his journey of technical discovery in cooking and about how he gives back to the industry he loves.  John Williams MBE has been quietly changing the fortunes of the dining room at the Ritz, while in another role, promoting the future of the industry through The Academy of Culinary Arts (See Interview, Restaurant Review ).  Thierry Tomasin (See Interview) spent over a decade in charge of the cellars at the great Le Gavroche, his latest venture – Angelus (See Restaurant Review) – is proving a great success.  Peter Egli (See Interview) is general manager of Whatley Manor (See Hotel Review) and provides interesting insights into balancing the appeal of a Michelin two star restaurant (See Restaurant Review, See Martin Burge Interview, See Food Image Gallery) with the breadth of facilities of a luxury ‘resort style’ hotel.

Twitter/Facebook: Both continue to deliver good traffic to the site – @finediningguide has over 3030 followers in December and the newer facebook page 425 likes.

Podcasts: The podcast series on iTunes is under review.  With the site’s change in hosting company there is more technical work to be done.  We expect the service to resume in the New Year 2012.

Opinion/News: During these prolonged difficult economic times we see restaurant openings still occurring at a rapid rate.  The market, in London at least, is doing very well, with enough customers to go around.  Along with the new there will always be the old favourites, indeed most enjoyable visits this year came at Roganic (See Review), Medlar (See Review), The Waterside Inn (Search Various), Coworth Park (See above for links) and Whatley Manor (ditto).

As has been discussed before, there are a combination of factors at play with the ‘market for food in restaurants.‘  On the demand side people are working longer hours and have less time to cook at home so going out for a meal is an easier option – so long as the price point is right.  This is where so many mid-market eateries (brasserie/bistrot) have opened and done well.  People are also looking for more diversity in their food and restaurant experiences – hence concept venues offering a variety of smaller courses from a burgeoning variety of cultures and cuisines.

Internationalism is the flavour of our times in London and the younger, well heeled, professionals market has an endless stream of choice.  At the same time the bastions of gastronomy – The Institutions – continue to deliver, possibly by aiming at a slightly different demographic.  Lunch at multi-Michelin starred Le Gavroche, The Ledbury or The Waterisde Inn remain tough to get bookings.

Congratulations to The Square (See Phil Howard Interview, Restaurant Review) who recently celebrated 20 years of opening.  A remarkable achievement to have retained the exceptional level of quality and consistency required by a great restaurant.

Otherwise, experiences in the food world this year have been more about wine and learning about the dynamics of this market. Three years ago a podcast episode discussed fine wine and restaurant lists (See Emperor of Wine).  It was argued that in the information age, where the retail prices of wines have been available instantly via a fingertip type into the likes of google (now also Wine Searcher, Andy Hayler’s mobile app), then the greater knowledge of consumers must inevitably drive down mark-ups in restaurants.  This has still not happened.  Mark-ups remain at 300% to 400% of retail.  However, by the end of this recession, it would prove a useful experiment to see if mark-ups at 150-200% of retail demonstrate that the demand for this product is elastic enough such that people will drink more, be more satisfied, return more often, thereby retaining the profit margins for the restaurant.

In any event, let’s hope that an economic spring is around the corner and that this fascinating industry goes from strength to strength.

Until Next time, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Happy Eating!

Michelin Guide: Hong Kong & Macau Press Release 2012

Posted on: December 2nd, 2011 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

 The MICHELIN guide Hong Kong Macau 2012

2nd December 2011 – Michelin today launches the fourth edition of the bilingual MICHELIN Guide Hong Kong Macau. Not only does it reflect the sustained improvement in the quality of restaurants in Hong Kong and Macau, it also highlights the increasing richness and diversity of the delicacies to be found in each city.

The latest Hong Kong Macau Guide includes 281 establishments in Hong Kong (237 restaurants and 44 hotels) and 51 establishments in Macau (35 restaurants and 16 hotels). It includes 59 new restaurants (57 in Hong Kong and 2 in Macau) and 10 new hotels (7 in Hong Kong and 3 in Macau).

In Hong Kong and Macau there are now 5 three-star restaurants (4 in Hong Kong and 1 in Macau), 13 with two-star (10 in Hong Kong and 3 in Macau) and 51 one star establishments (48 in Hong Kong and 3 in Macau).

The Michelin inspectors have been continuously exploring the local dining scenes in Hong Kong and Macau to find a wide variety of establishments for our readers. Not only have they found many new stars but they have also discovered a wide variety of restaurants offering many different styles of cooking. We have expanded our coverage to take in new locations such as Kennedy Town and Sai Ying Pun on Hong Kong Island and have also included two additional cuisines – Singaporean and Xinjiang – which further showcase the diversity of excellent food in Hong Kong and Macau.

The MICHELIN Guide Hong Kong Macau 2012 is the perfect Guide to finding the best restaurants offering excellent value for money. A total of 59 simple shop restaurants (52 in Hong Kong and 7 in Macau) are included (c.f. 55 restaurants in 2011). These basic, local food stalls make up around 20% of the Guide and include noodle shops, noodles and congee eateries, and Vietnamese food stalls. Some of them have even been awarded stars, making them the most affordable starred restaurants in the world.

The Guide also features 64 Bib Gourmand restaurants (59 in Hong Kong and 5 in Macau), chosen by the inspectors for their good value. 19 Bib Gourmand restaurants are new to the Guide , indicating that there are still a lot of affordable restaurants with top-quality cuisine. These restaurants are particularly popular with our readers in these challenging economic times so the list of Bib Gourmands for gourmets looking for great food at an affordable price – a full three-course meal (excluding drinks) costing HKD/ MOP 300 or less – is a very valuable part of our Guide .

Michelin stars are awarded purely for what is on the plate. To ensure consistency, our inspectors, who undertake all restaurant reviews anonymously, adhere to the standard five criteria for awarding stars in all areas and countries: product quality, preparation and flavours, the cuisine’s personality, value for money, and consistency over time and across the entire menu. In this year’s Guide, more than 70% of the restaurants selected offer Chinese cuisine, including Shanghainese, Pekingese, Sichuan, Hakkanese, Hang Zhou, Cantonese, and Chiu Chow. A restaurant that receives one or more stars is not only one of the best in its country, but also one of the best in the world.

One star means a very good restaurant in its category.
Two stars mean excellent cooking, worth a detour.
Three stars mean exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.

Locals and travellers seeking an enjoyable experience have counted on the MICHELIN Guide for its trusted recommendations for over a century. While the MICHELIN Guide is known around the world for its famous stars, they actually account for only 10% of the selection in the Guide . With more than one million copies sold every year around the world, the MICHELIN Guide has always built its success on the diversity and range of its selection and is, in itself, synonymous with quality, since only the best establishments in each comfort and price category are selected.

The MICHELIN Guide Hong Kong Macau 2012 will be available on 2nd December in Hong Kong (HK$ 188); on the 5th in Macau and on the 12th in Southeast Asia.

For more than a century, MICHELIN Guides have helped travellers enjoy better mobility by offering qualified restaurant and hotel recommendations throughout Europe. Now covering 23 countries across three continents, the collection of 27 MICHELIN Guides includes more than 45,000 addresses. In Asia, the company has just published the 2012 MICHELIN Guide for Tokyo Yokohama and Shonan, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe and Nara. The first Guide to Hokkaido will be launched in April 2012.

About Michelin
Since the late 1800s, Michelin has been dedicated to sustainably improving the mobility of goods and people by manufacturing and marketing tyres for every type of vehicle, including airplanes, automobiles, bicycles/motorcycles, earthmovers, farm equipment, trucks and the US space shuttle. It also offers electronic mobility support services, on, and publishes travel guides, hotel and restaurant guides, maps and road atlases. With its headquarters in Clermont-Ferrand, France, Michelin is present in 170 countries, employs more than 111,000 people and operates 70 production facilities in 19 different countries.

Click on link to download the official Michelin Press Release in full, including comprehensive star and Bib Gourmands listings:-

Angelus Restaurant Review (November 2011)

Posted on: December 1st, 2011 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood


To many critics, London has eclipsed Paris as the food capital of Europe. This applies not only to high end fine dining but also to less grand but no less worthy restaurants such as Angelus. At this brasserie de luxe, the distinction between the two capitals disappears as classic French food and design are integrated into a traditional converted British pub. Indeed, the  relaxed, homely feel and Gallic buzz during a busy service are almost palpable.

Having opened to critical acclaim in 2007, Angelus has maintained its high standards and loyal following over the last four years. The Auld Alliance, now personified in French founder owner Thierry Tomasin and Scottish head chef Martin Nisbet, has produced a delightful gem of a restaurant in the heart of the English capital. Their success is built on impressive professional experience. Thierry was Chief Sommelier at Le Gavroche for twelve years before being General Manager of Aubergine for the next five. Amongst his many accolades are the Chairman Sommelier of Britain (1996) and the Excellence Award Master of Culinary Art. and Tatler Best Maitre d’ for 2005. Martin was Senior Sous Chef under Anton Edelmann at the Savoy and ran his own restaurant in Hertfordshire before coming to Angelus in 2009.

Thierry Tomasin and Chef

Thierry Tomasin (Left) and Chef Martin Nisbet


True to his origins, Thierry has designed Angelus to replicate the traditional elements of a French brasserie. The handsome exterior with purple grey awning has terrace tables for al fresco dining. Inside, simple square tables – closely arranged as in France to encourage conviviality – are set against luxurious leather banquettes, dark wood décor and Art Deco stylised mirrors which give a greater sense of space. ‘Murano’ glass chandeliers hang from the original high ceilings to provide ample lighting. The glamourous lounge is more eclectic in design, with supremely comfortable crushed velvet banquettes, stencilled walls and exotic soft lighting. The private dining room in the old pub cellar features a glass wall overlooking the prized wine cellar.

Martin Nisbet’s carte of seven entrees, eight plats and six desserts showcases seasonal specialities, cooked precisely and presented simply. Strong, bold flavours and rich sauces abound, yet main courses, which include vegetable garnishes, are remarkably well balanced in taste and texture.

A signature entrée of Foie gras crème brulee “Angelus” was outstanding. Ethereally light, meltingly soft and decadently rich, the parfait contrasted in taste and texture with its crisp, delicate sweet topping of caramelised brown sugar, almonds and poppy seeds. Served in the shallow well of a simple white bowl, which set off the extravagant contents well, this was a remarkable, memorable opening to the meal.

Foie Gras

An alternative starter featured Loch Duart salmon, gently marinated in citrus to cut its rich oiliness. The resulting pure, clean taste of the fish was enhanced by the sourness of herb crème fraiche and the saltiness of a caviar garnish. Again, the simple presentation of this dish added to its attraction. The white wine offered – Maison Chanson, Macon Villages 2009 – went well with both dishes. Pale gold in colour, it had a delicate floral fragrance, good acidity and subtle minerality.


A main course of roasted stone bass was far from the wreck that has given this fish its alternative name. Indeed, the utterly fresh fillet had been perfectly timed to produce crisp skin and flakes of succulent flesh. Confit chicken wings provided a denser texture and sweeter taste, whilst potato mash was lifted by the addition of smoked garlic and lemon. Red wine jus brought the other elements of this successful dish together.

Angelus Stone Bass

More robust flavours were to be found in Hare Royale, so rarely seen on menus that that the diner is almost inevitably drawn to it. Nor did it disappoint. The ballotine of dark meat, cooked with bacon and sitting in a pool of its intense thickened braising jus, was moist and gamey, but not overwhelmingly so. Added richness came from the foie gras stuffing, whilst glazed chestnuts and cubes of roasted butternut squash gave sweetness and textural contrast to balance the supremely earthy qualities of the hare. This was a tour de force of classical French cooking.  The wine with this dish, Chateau Civrac, Cote de Bourg, 2009, was light bodied with soft fruit notes.

Angelus Hare Royal

Another ambitious and rarely seen dish, this time from the dessert menu, was Souffle Rothschild. This was classically flavoured with candied fruit and well risen, if slightly too eggy in texture. However, the orange sauce spiked with Grand Marnier and a gently soured orange yogurt ice cream were inspired additions which complemented the sweet, warm soufflé perfectly.

Angelus Souffle

In a simpler dessert, roasted pear, delicate and soft, was served with an intense rum and muscavado jelly and a well balanced gingerbread ice cream. Here was another combination of tastes and textures which worked perfectly together.  (Wine: Clos Dady 2007, Sauternes)

Other aspects of dining at Angelus, from the rustic bread, good coffee, and well informed, efficient service, were all first rate. Overseeing the whole operation, and greeting us with characteristic Gallic charm was Thierry Tomasin, whose passion for and dedication to his craft are clearly evident. Overall, there seems no reason why Angelus should not go from strength to strength, consolidating its position as an excellent neighbourhood restaurant whilst, given its proximity to Lancaster Gate and Paddington stations, attracting those from further afield.

Angelus on Urbanspoon

Gilgamesh Restaurant Review (November 2011)

Posted on: December 1st, 2011 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Frankly, when first asked to review Gilgamesh, I had strong reservations. Aware of the size of this huge venue in Camden Town Stables Market, I feared the worst: mass catering of indifferent quality with inefficient and impersonal service. Since opening in 2007 its survival, I surmised, must, be down to everything but the food – the bars, the VIP lounge, the Oriental tea room, the sumptuous furnishings, the lavish décor, and the loud funky music which gives it a throbbing, night club feel. In my ignorance I also assumed the food was Middle Eastern, given the Babylonian god which gives Gilgamesh its name.

How wrong I was on all fronts. Gilgamesh certainly accommodates large numbers – 240 covers in the main restaurant, with up to 680 if the other rooms are fully occupied. But the food and service are surprising good for such a large establishment. Indeed, the extensive pan Asian menu – Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Malaysian – has an abundance of popular, well executed dishes. It is these which entice the largely young, well heeled clientele to return in their droves. The other glamorous attractions largely serve to complement the output of the main restaurant.

Not that the style can be ignored. Within this glass walled structure no expense has been spared in creating sensuous, almost decadent surroundings. The escalator with its celestial lighting forms a dramatic entrance. The restaurant’s forty foot vaulted ceiling has a retractable roof for hot weather. The stylish Lapis stone bar is spacious with comfortable booth seating. Two statues of Gilgamesh and bronze ancient Babylonian friezes form an impressive historical backdrop. Marble pillars inlaid with mother of pearl; decorated ceiling panels; and heavily embroidered banquettes around hand carved dark wooden tables all reflect serious craftsmanship as well as unbridled opulence. The VIP Babylon lounge, where the music is more subdued, provides even more luxury, the seating booths being divided by long flowing gossamer like curtains.

At the heart of all this is the kitchen headed by Ian Pengelley, who received critical acclaim at E&O in Notting Hill, The Hempel Hotel, and his eponymous restaurant in Sloane Street.  His childhood years spent in Hong Kong and later gastronomic tours of Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia during a career break, confirmed his love of, and experience with, pan Asian cuisine. Leading a large, multinational brigade in the open, stone carved kitchen, he has developed a carefully balanced menu to represent some the best dishes from China, Japan and south east Asia The current choices feature three soups, six salads, seven small, nine dim sum, four tempura, ten Gilamesh main and six side dishes. Those dining in the Babylon lounge can also choose from a seafood menu and a roving Peking duck trolley.

What impresses most is accuracy and freshness of the cooking which preserves essential tastes, flavours and textures. Given the diversity of cuisines and large number of covers on a busy evening, to maintain a consistently high quality is no mean achievement.

Fine Dining Guide visited Gilgamesh on a busy Friday evening and ate in the Babylon lounge.

Whilst nibbling over a bowl of edemame beans, we chose from the recently introduced and spectacularly presented Seafood Bar for our first set of dishes and were not disappointed. The utterly fresh shellfish arrived in an attractive, artistic display. Cold lobster had been precisely timed to retain its sweetness and delicate texture – a far cry from the cotton wool often served in establishments which should know better. Razor clams steamed with black beans were memorable for their delectable succulence, and king prawns were given added interested by a not overpowering mango salsa.

Gilgamesh Seafood Bar

The second innovation was the Peking duck trolley. At the tableside the assistant carefully carved slices off the bird and made up the pancakes. Whilst the duck meat was well cooked, no crisp skin – crucial in this dish – was offered, whilst the whole process took too long to complete. This kind of service, although avoiding mess for the diner, is inappropriate and too time consuming for large tables, especially as there only appeared to be one trolley circulating the room. Perhaps pre ordering this dish for the whole table, with its deconstruction in the kitchen, might be a better alternative?

Gilgamesh Peking Duck

The rest of meal was left to the discretion of the chef who decided next on a selection  of small dishes. Outstanding amongst these was crispy squid, deep fried in a beautifully light batter, spiked with spring onion and garlic chips and served with a sweet and sour adjud sauce. Nestled in a paper cone, this taste and texture sensation has become a signature dish.

Gilgamesh Prawn

Silk like slices of salmon sashimi were served over dry ice which provided a spectacle to accompany the pure clean taste of the fish. Chicken Gyoza, (like pot sticker dumplings), and prawn spring rolls with white sesame seeds and tomato salsa were both well flavoured and generously filled. More unusual but no less delicious were the prawn and banana spring rolls, whose savoury and sweet filling was encased in crisp rice paper

Gilgamesh Salmon

Main courses proved equally accomplished.  Black Cod, marinated in plum miso sauce and cooked on a hoba leaf, was first rate. The delicate, soft flakes of fish with caramelised skin simply melted in the mouth, whilst the rich, deeply flavoured sweet and salty sauce was finely tuned to avoid overpowering the main ingredient. This dish was superior to similar versions dishes served in more celebrated, expensive restaurants.

Beef Penang also delighted. The meat was juicy and well flavoured, whilst the essential features of this dry curry were well executed. The spiciness of the sauce was tempered by the correct amount of coconut milk and its fragrance enhanced by a moderate addition of kaffir lime leaves.

Spiced lamb, cooked pink and served in large cubes, came with enoki mushrooms and a fiery wasabi puree, providing a good contrast to the other two main dishes.

Gilgamesh Lamb

Side dishes of coconut rice and noodles with sir fried vegetables complemented the main dishes perfectly.

Although the dessert menu features chocolate fondant, chocolate and green tea brulee and banana and toffee crumble, a lighter, more refreshing alternative was found in a selection of fruit sorbets, which had intense flavour and velvety texture.

Instead of choosing to drink from the extensive range of teas, sake or wines, we decided to opt for cocktails. We chose well with Dilmun (made with Absolut Citron, watermelon, mint, sugar and cranberry), Shuruppak (Eristoff vodka, apricot, watermelon, berries and pineapple) and Shamash (champagne with Bombay Gin, lychee liquor and fruit)

The embarrassment of choice of food and drink requires the front of house to be well informed to guide new or even regular diners. In this respect the Gilgamesh succeeds, its courteous and solicitous waiting staff being eager to advise and assist without being intrusive. Overseeing them is the charming

Reception Manager Frank Folly helps the restaurant run like clockwork, but not without a personal touch.

All this comes at a price. Those who complain the prices are too steep should consider the huge investment that has gone into making a visit to Gilgamesh a total experience, with the same drama and spectacle expected at fine dining restaurants but on a larger scale. More importantly, they should also bear in mind the top quality ingredients, the consistently high standard of cooking and the welcoming, efficient service. Clearly, as the last five years have seen, the prices are seen as competitive and worth paying by its loyal following, making Gilgamesh not only a neighbourhood venue, but one attracting many from further afield.

Gilgamesh on Urbanspoon

Michelin Guide: Tokyo, Yokohama, Shonan 2012 Full PR

Posted on: December 1st, 2011 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

PRESS RELEASE Boulogne, France – November 29, 2011: MICHELIN Guide Tokyo Yokohama Shonan 2012
Summary: 17 restaurants with three stars, 57 with two stars (including 1 ryokan), and 219 with one star

Michelin is pleased to announce the publication of the MICHELIN guide Tokyo Yokohama Shonan 2012, which offers a selection of the best hotels, ryokans and restaurants in these three regions. The guide includes a total of 356 establishments, of which 292 are restaurants, 54 hotels and 10 ryokans. The MICHELIN guide Tokyo Yokohama Shonan 2012 is available in both Japanese and English and goes on sale in Japan on December 2nd 2011.

In the MICHELIN guide Tokyo Yokohama Shonan 2012, we have enriched the selection by expanding the area of Kamakura to include Shonan. The new areas covered are Yokosuka, Hayama, Zushi, Fujisawa, Chigasaki, Hiratsuka, Oiso, Odawara, and Yugawara; these are shown on the map attached to this press release. In the MICHELIN guide Tokyo Yokohama Shonan 2012 selection:

* 17 restaurants earned three stars: 16 in Tokyo, 1 in Shonan
– Sushi Yoshitake in Tokyo joins the selection with three stars
– Ryugin in Tokyo is promoted from two stars to three stars
– Koan in Shonan (Fujisawa) joins the selection with three stars

* 57 restaurants earned two stars: 52 in Tokyo, 3 in Yokohama, 2 in Shonan (including 1 ryokan)
– 5 restaurants in Tokyo join the selection with two stars and 4 restaurants are promoted from one star to two stars
– 1 restaurant in Yokohama is promoted from one star to two stars
– 1 restaurant in Shonan (Kamakura) is promoted from one star to two stars
– 1 ryokan in Shonan joins the selection with two stars
– 1 Korean restaurant in Tokyo joins the selection with two stars (and becomes the first Korean restaurant in the world to achieve this award)

* 219 restaurants earned one star (m): 179 in Tokyo, 14 in Yokohama, 26 in Shonan
– 54 restaurants join the selection with one star (34 in Tokyo, 2 in Yokohama, 18 in Shonan)

We are pleased to continue pointing out restaurants with a new symbol which we introduced last year. This indicates a starred restaurant offering a menu under 5,000 yen for lunch and/or dinner. In last year’s edition, 30% of the restaurants qualified for this symbol and in this latest edition that percentage has risen to more than 40% (97 in Tokyo, 7 in Yokohama and 22 in Shonan).

In the MICHELIN guide Tokyo Yokohama Shonan 2012, three Korean restaurants join the selection, one of which is the first in the world to earn two stars. Also, 70% of the selection is made up of Japanese restaurants and this includes traditional Japanese, contemporary Japanese, beef specialities, fugu, izakaya, kushiage, oden, shojin, soba, sukiyaki, sushi, tempura, teppanyaki, tonkatsu, unagi, and yakitori.  The remainder is comprised of Chinese, European, French, French contemporary, Fusion, Italian, Italian contemporary, Korean, Spanish contemporary, and Steakhouses.

Michelin updates its guides every year in order to provide the most reliable information possible for its readers. All the restaurants and hotels selected in the previous edition have been re-examined; other establishments have also been inspected but were not necessarily selected. Just after the launch of 2012 edition, Michelin inspectors – employees of Michelin who have professional knowledge of the hospitality industry and pay all their bills in full – will again be anonymously evaluating restaurants and hotels for next year’s selection.

In Tokyo Yokohama Shonan, as in the 22 other countries covered by the MICHELIN guide, a consistent selection is ensured by awarding stars based on the same criteria. Stars in the MICHELIN guides have the same value all over the world, so that a one star restaurant in Shonan offers the same quality as a one star establishment in New York or Paris. The same five criteria are used for awarding stars whatever the country or city: product quality, preparation and flavours, the chef’s personality as revealed through his or her cuisine, value for money, and consistency over time and across the entire menu. The criteria are adapted to each type of cuisine, notably Japanese cooking styles.

Bernard Delmas, President of Nihon Michelin Tire announced, “Thanks to our readers, we have reached the 5th anniversary of the MICHELIN guide in Japan. Since the first publication of the guide in 2007, we have enriched the selection by expanding the area. Starting from Tokyo in 2007, we now cover 7 areas in our two guides: Tokyo, Yokohama, Shonan, and Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara.

We are also very pleased to have found new shining stars in Japan to introduce to our readers each year; today, 62 new stars join the MICHELIN guide Tokyo Yokohama Shonan 2012.  As a tire manufacture, we have been offering mobility with the MICHELIN guide for more than 100 years. This is why the definition of three stars is expressed as “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”.

Last year, we introduced the coin symbol (lunch and/or dinner for 5,000 yen and less) so that our readers could enjoy and use this guide for a variety of occasions. Seeing as more than 40% of this year’s establishments qualify for this symbol, I am sure even more readers will appreciate this year’s selection.
We hope that readers from all over Japan and also from overseas will visit the shining stars in Tokyo Yokohama and Shonan and have a wonderful time. And we sincerely hope that we can contribute to Japan’s restaurant and tourism industry by publishing this guide.”

For a full listing of stars and the press release, please see attached pdf:-