Archive for April, 2012

Interview: Danny Pecorelli, Exclusive Hotels. (April 2012)

Posted on: April 27th, 2012 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood
Pennyhill Park Hotel

Pennyhill Park Hotel of Exclusive Hotels Group


Danny Pecorelli is Managing Director (and Owner) of the Exclusive Hotels Group, which currently comprises four luxury hotels: Pennyhill Park, Bagshot, Surrey (pictured): South Lodge Hotel, near Horsham, Sussex: Manor House Hotel, Castle Combe, Wiltshire:  Lainston House Hotel, Winchester.  Employing over 700 staff in a £45m turnover business, Danny found time in his exhausting schedule to speak to Simon Carter of fine-dining-guide.  Interview took place on 6th April 2012 at The Pass Restaurant, South Lodge Hotel, near Horsham.


Danny Pecorelli

Danny Pecorelli, Owner, Exclusive Hotels Group

Tell us some background about yourself?

I am more hotel trained than restaurant trained, although my first role was working in the kitchen at The Savoy Grill under Alan Hill who, at the time, was a Michelin star striving chef.  He (Alan) is now F&B Director at Gleneagles.

With the privately owned family business of Exclusive Hotel Group, my ultimate destiny was pretty much fixed so I had in mind a kind of four year training programme; to take in as much industry knowledge as possible.  At Four Seasons Group I worked Front of House, Estates, Marketing and HR (which included guest profiling).  I then worked for The Sheraton Hotel Group in Washington DC, who twenty plus years ago, were probably the most innovative marketeers in the business.

For the last twenty years, I worked my way up through the Exclusive Hotels Group business; starting at Mannings Heath Golf Club (here) at the South Lodge Hotel, before spending five years running this hotel (South Lodge).  The last ten years I have been responsible for the Group.

Tell us more about the Exclusive Hotels Group.

We have four hotels in the privately owned Exclusive Hotels Group “brand”.  They are Manor House Hotel in Castle Combe, Pennyhill Park in Bagshot, South Lodge Nr Horsham and Lainston House Hotel in Winchester.  These are beautiful listed buildings in large grounds.

“Brand” is in inverted commas as we like to demonstrate the uniqueness of each property right down to each room.  There will remain a thread to the group offering with common objectives (like an expectation of a certain level of food and beverage offering), common qualities (like delivering a certain specified standard throughout) and common strategy (to deliver “wow customer experiences”).  The difficulty with ‘brand’ and the hotel industry is that for many people it conjures up an image of homogenized corporate offerings and that is exactly what we don’t want to achieve.

I’m delighted that we’ve grown this business every year, even in tough economic times and think that has been, at this luxury end of the market, due to providing the ‘unique’, the ‘non-formulaic’, the ‘non-homogenized’ offerings that customers at this level are seeking out.  Rather than being policeman of a brand, which in effect is a product with a life cycle, we look to bring out the evolving personality and heart of each property.

We have a framework rather than a weighty brand and/or policy manual: An example of framework would be to establish a British restaurant that aims for a certain level of attainment in an English country house hotel; we’re never going to run a Thai restaurant in the English countryside.  If you want to be Nahm, that’s great but that works in London.  The chef in one of our restaurants won’t be handcuffed by any policy or brand manual and will have the freedom to express his/her personality to the best of their ability.  For the last six or seven years we’ve set a strategy to deliver food and beverage that acts as a destination in its own right.  The food is like a heartbeat of the properties and as such we aspire to make the best possible offerings we can within the framework.

How would you describe your roles and responsibilities?

I run the group.  I am officially the Managing Director.  The group has very limited umbrella functions like business development, marketing, HR and accounts.  The focus of resourcing is on each property, which comes back to the ‘anti-brand’ idea of bringing out the best in each property – it’s individuality, it’s personality and the heartbeat and not getting stifled with ‘corporate’ style functions.

For example, coming back to the framework: There would be a standard type of employment contract across the group that requires one head in an umbrella function but day to day HR would be run in-house in each property.  This may not appear the most cost effective way to run the business but in reality we (Exclusive Hotels) gain far more through the overall objectives of how you want the properties to work.

How would you define the Exclusive Hotels Group mission statement and strategy?

The mission statement is really simple: To create wow experiences!  It’s an old saying but it’s true; your completely satisfied customers are your best marketeers.  We do some marketing and PR but the spend is so much less than competitors simply because we have that every day mantra.

If you relentlessly focus on the basics of doing the simple things right and consistently right (not getting lost on over-complicated tangents) then with the right people, everything falls into place.

We don’t chase accolades such as red stars or Michelin stars but gratefully receive them when deriving from a strategy that involves a consistent level of quality delivery in our offerings.  Exclusive Hotels certainly doesn’t aim to be the biggest but we do aim to be the best.

There perhaps comes a tipping point in terms of size where the strategy would not work as you lose the personal touch; the uniqueness, personality and heartbeat of each property – the homogenous corporate feel becoming a necessity of very large scale operations.  Instead we aim to hit the balance of economies of scale and uniqueness of operation; being the best each property can be within the context of the frameworks described.

What is your philosophy of people management?

That is a very good question in this industry.  The hospitality trade is about people – people delivering to people – and happy, high quality staff that are retained will make the difference to your business.  In that regard managers have a significant part of their bonus based on internal staff surveys and staff retention.  As a business we talk as much about the internal customer as the external one – there is often a correlation between the strongest performing property and the best internal staff survey.

There’s an old saying from an American Express advert where a businessman says “great service isn’t a mystery, employ nice people”.  The art to me is get that fundamentally right then being consistent will follow: Skills can be taught and moulded but attitude is pretty much in-built.

Tell us about Exclusive Hotel Management (EHM)

This is a separate business.  We consult on a number of properties and run two for private interests.  The activity really helps The Hotel Group as it encourages an input of ideas from outside the box of what we are doing on a day to day basis and as such helps feed into the positive growth of the Group.

Tells us your views of the Social Networking phenomena?

There are two levels, a personal level and a professional level.  On a personal level you get a 360 degree view of something – a fully holistic, rounded perspective.  You can see what a company is thinking, what the employees are thinking and what the customers are thinking – this is very healthy.

You can engage as much as you want – to be interactive or just to take it as information.

A byproduct is that consumers have become much more wise, with access to peer to peer information that they feel they can trust over and above a corporate message (website).  All the independent bloggers, websites, twitter(ers) that are reviewing hotels and restaurants have rightly made a name for themselves as they offer an independent, extra piece in the jigsaw of making informed consumer choices.

We have one group marketing person who is purely dedicated to social media.  People are aware that is the official hotel feed as it has all the offers and so on.  If you look at Matt (Gillan) for example (the Michelin starred chef at The South Lodge, Pass restaurant) he has more followers by some distance than the hotel!  This all feeds into the awareness of the group, becoming a beneficiary of the social networking media channel.

How do you see the general market for dining developing outside London?

It is fiercely competitive. Customers are more aware of what is great experience, however there are more than enough who are prepared to pay for the right kind of experience: Those that do it will well, will continue to thrive and prosper.

In terms of trends, people are eating out more and people look for more value for what they are paying.  People want the full rounded experience; twenty-five years ago you might have been thrown out of a Michelin restaurant for ordering a gin and tonic whereas today you would look to service the customer in every respect.  Accessibility and informality are trends, too.

What is your proudest professional achievement?

Every time someone recognizes and gives a pat on the back to the team is a proud moment.  Particularly the awards that come out of the blue and genuinely surprise and please.

Describe a day in the life…

No two days are the same.  The complete variety of work is of paramount importance to me.  There’s so much going on in a business like this – 700 people and a £45m turnover.  You’re always juggling so many balls in the air, take one out check it’s working and slot it back in: Shaping the future, managing the brand, managing the cross-sell and expectation setting and management.  I’m certainly comfortable in employing talented people with the right expertise and delegating.  Without that every day would be very long indeed…

What are your plans for the future?

Careful expansion while maintaining quality: If I hand over this family business to the next generation and we have six Exclusive Hotels and five Michelin stars: If the Group is making money and everyone is still doing what they should be doing then I will have done a good job!

Rogan & Company, Restaurant Review, Cartmel (April 2012)

Posted on: April 19th, 2012 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

The picturesque village of Cartmel in the southern Lake District boasts two restaurants of distinction: the highly innovative, Michelin starred L’Enclume, and the less celebrated but nonetheless successful Rogan and Company. The two restaurants share the same owner, Simon Rogan, their own bio-dynamic kitchen farm, and a commitment to excellent cuisine.

Opened in 2007, and occupying a central location in the village, Rogan and Company is housed in an attractive grey stoned house with origins in the 16th century. Despite its low, oak beamed ceilings, the restaurant is light and airy, with wide front windows, glass partitions and large mirrors giving a greater sense of space. Decorated in pastel shades with wooden floors and  clever spot lighting, the room has a fresh, contemporary feel.

Up till the start of 2012, Rogan and Company was noted for serving high quality bistro food. It has recently changed to a “restaurant only” concept, reviving the style of dishes offered in the early days of L’Enclume. Dishes such as salt baked kohlrabi with ruby chard and roasted buckwheat and cheese sauce or goat’s milk curd with rocket, beetroot and radish testify to this. Vegetables and herbs are given almost equal weight with meat and fish on starters and main courses.

That more people can experience the inimitable style of Simon Rogan’s cuisine, at more affordable prices, can only be a welcome development. With the same carte being offered for lunch and dinner, a three course meal, with six choices of starters, mains and puddings, can be enjoyed for £30-£35, (although there is a cheaper set price lunch menu.) The wine list is also an attractive prospect with affordable prices not in excess of £30.

In the kitchen, Chef Louie Lawrence, previously sous chef at L’Enclume, leads a team which treats top quality farmed and foraged ingredients with care, sensitivity and real flair. Precision in timing, balance of tastes, textures and colours, and elegant presentation are much in evidence.

Two well made breads were offered.  Pumpernickel, with its mild rye taste and dark colour, was particularly good in texture and flavour.

An amuse bouche of grilled asparagus preserved the intense flavour of this vitamin rich spring vegetable. Bacon hollandaise and crisp pancetta added a creamy smokiness which complemented it well.

A starter of soused mackerel was gently marinated, giving a light, bright taste to the dazzlingly fresh fish. The pickled vegetable garnish, which included red carrot, was offset by a sauce of mustard and dill, which added warming spice and aniseed herb flavours. These balanced the dish beautifully.

Rogan & Co Mackerel

In contrast, another starter featured confit Goosnargh duck. The soft, melting flesh, paired with Jerusalem artichoke in soft and crisp forms, was lifted by a highly reduced sauce of and tarragon and mulled cider.

Rogan & Co Duck Confit

A main course described as poached chicken understated the complexity of the cooking which involved wrapping the flesh around a garlic mousse. The result was moist, delicate and gently aromatic. Enoki mushrooms, spinach and celeriac proved highly suitable garnishes whilst the whole dish was brought together by an intense, well flavoured jus. This was as exemplary dish with clear flavours and clean presentation.

Even more accomplished was a main course of wild Brill which was a veritable tour de force of fish cookery. The luscious, white flesh was perfectly timed to preserve its soft texture and delicate flavour. The fish was partnered with lobster dumplings, two crescent shaped ravioli with wafer thin fresh pasta encasing the beautifully sweet and succulent flesh of the crustacean. A light lobster cream added richness and crisp deep fried leeks gave texture and height to the dish. Visually, as with the other dishes, the presentation was stunning.

Rogan & Co Brill

Desserts were less complex but equally well crafted.

Poached rhubarb, soft and sweet, was a riot of pink. Buttermilk custard and lemon was an excellent foil, giving balance with a hint of acidity.

Rogan & Co Pineapple

Spiced pineapple tart saw a finger the confit fruit paired with coconut ice cream. Whilst the puff pastry lacked the richness normally associated with this variety, the ice cream was well flavoured, velvety smooth and of the correct consistency.

Rogan & Co Pineapple

Service was cheerful, solicitous and knowledgeable.

Overall, judging by the meal we had, the new approach to reviving early L’Enclume style dishes is likely to be an unqualified success. But Rogan and Company should not be seen as a mere adjunct to its more distinguished sister restaurant a hundred yards around the corner. Here is a restaurant that is succeeding it its own right, popular with locals and those from further afield. The addition of rooms on the first floor, still to be completed at the time of writing, is likely to add to its attraction.

Chef Interview: Matt Gillan (April 2012)

Posted on: April 16th, 2012 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood
Matt Gillan Landscape

Matt Gillan (literally) at The Pass at The South Lodge Hotel


Matt Gillan has spent some serious time in serious kitchens – working for several years for Daniel Clifford at Midsummer House before spending time in the kitchen of John Campbell at The Vineyard at Stockcross.  Now recognized by the guides in his own right at The Pass at South Lodge Hotel, near Horsham, Matt cuts a relaxed, cheerful but determined figure as he chats to Simon Carter of fine-dining-guide.  Interview took place on Thursday 5th April 2012, at The Pass restaurant.

Tell us some background about yourself?

I grew up in Hampshire in a little army town called Bordon, just outside of Petersfield.  My first experience of food was by accident – or financial sense – I was 14/15 years old and doing the typical kind of job you do at that age;  a paper round, which was outdoors through wind, rain and snow.  In around 1996, A friend of mine was working washing up in a pub restaurant (The Hen and Chicken on the A31) and I discovered that he was earning more in one shift than I earned all week doing the paper round!

So I got shifts there washing up on Saturday night and Sunday lunch before being told that if I found a replacement for my job then I’d have the opportunity to prep the vegetables.  So I drafted my brother in and started working in the kitchen.  The pub would do 150 covers in a typical weekend lunch time.  As more shifts came up I took them and eventually found myself there almost every shift all the way through my summer holidays.

At school my focus was on art and design and if I weren’t doing cooking for a living now, I’d expect to be in front of a drawing board doing some kind of graphic design role.  I think the creative element of taking a raw product and turning it in to something different was what drew me to the chef profession.

In 1998 I followed Nick Wentworth (the head chef) to a restaurant called Hunters in Alresford, outside Winchester.  I stayed there six months before moving to Cambridge – my girlfriend at the time was at University in Cambridge so it seemed like a good idea!  I looked in the back of Caterer and found an advert for Midsummer House.  Daniel Clifford had been there around 6 months – it was a two AA Rosette restaurant at the time and in the process of a complete refurbishment.   I had about a fifteen minutes interview and went back a couple of weeks later for a trial, and got the job.  I was there three and a half years and it was a real journey, a culture shock!  Daniel had adopted the French mentality to discipline and I found it very tough at the beginning but grew into the role and left as junior sous chef.  Daniel (Clifford) continues to be a good friend and mentor.

I spent a short time at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay after Midsummer House.  I had always dreamt of working in that kitchen after watching the Boiling Point programme on TV in 1998.  I was in awe of Gordon Ramsay.  As a result the interview was quite nerve wracking but I got the job.  I stayed for nine months but found that at the three star level the day in day out tasks were too repetitive and there was no culture of questioning “why are we doing this?” which I had found so educational at Midsummer House.

In 2004, I spent a year working for John Campbell at The Vineyard at Stockcross.  I had explained in advance that I wanted to go travelling and that the most I could commit to was a year (John usually required around a two years plus commitment).  I loved that kitchen.  No only did I learn about cooking and the science behind it but also kitchen management:  No shouting – firm – but nurturing.  If you wanted to listen then he had plenty of time for you (if you didn’t want to listen then you were in the wrong kitchen) and it was always conversations rather than one way talking about what you could do better.  I think I only heard him raise his voice once in a year.  A great role model and an approach I try to follow in my kitchen.

In 2005, I went travelling to Australia and after spending a month soaking up the sun on Bondi Beach decided to move to Melbourne and find a short term cooking job.  Shannon Bennett at Vue de Monde took me in and I had a great time working at his restaurant.

When I came back I was looking for a sous chef role.  I wanted to learn how the management side of a kitchen worked, so I was looking for a low key two rosette property.  The agency said that a three rosette address had a vacancy and that I should apply.  I came down to South Lodge and have been here ever since.  In 2008 the extension was completed and I moved from the Camelia restaurant (in the hotel) to head up The Pass (in the hotel).  The brand new kitchen is big and airy and really a beautiful space.

What are your opening times and explain the menu concept?

We’re open Wednesday through Sunday, lunch and dinner and we offer exclusively tasting menus.  There are effectively 11 chef’s tables – 22 covers – who all have the concept of being inside the kitchen eating the chef’s menu.

There are three course, five course and seven course for lunch.  Dinner is a six or eight course.  We are looking at adding a new menu of around twelve courses for the serious foodies.

I’m always conscious of pricing and we aim to keep the prices down as much as possible so that we’re not bracketed in that ‘elite restaurant’ category and have the possibility of pricing ourselves out of the market.

How would you describe your cuisine?

Well I was talking about this with a few of my peers and we’ve coined this phrase ‘Progressive British.’  Modern British didn’t really reflect what we do and perhaps has the ring of 1980s Good Food Guide about it or even, nowadays, funky fish and chips.

We are British chefs using a lot of British produce but we don’t inherit dishes directly from France nor from traditional British dishes.  In fact influences come from all around the world.  All these cultures have their different styles and we try and use all the modern technology and techniques (water baths, dehydrators, pressure cookers, thermo mixers etc) to take the best of what these other cultures have to offer and present them in a new way.

How do you source your ingredients?

This has been really refined over the last three years.  We used to have a bulk buy butcher.  We have specialist suppliers such as a quail egg supplier, a pig farmer for pork and so on.  Quality is paramount at this level so we won’t compromise and ensure consistency of product and consistency of delivery.  The specialist suppliers have definitely raised the bar on quality.

Tell us how you created one of your favourite dishes?

A lamb dish started with belly of lamb.  As a hotel kitchen there’s quite a lot going on, I was walking past the butchers block one day and they were prepping the saddles and leaving the bellies.  I decided to take the bellies and slow cook them, leaving the fat in the fridge.

The lamb fat gnocchi garnish came about from thinking about gnocchi – essentially Italian potato dumplings – then taking the British idea of dumplings, which is suet and self raising flour, then playing around with replacing the suet and self raising flour with pure lamb belly fat and potato flour.  The first ones came out like Chinese dumplings so we added the egg white to lighten them up.

Lamb with Lamb Fat Gnocchi

Lamb with Lamb Fat Gnocchi and Lemon Curd


The addition of lemon curd to the dish was derived from thinking of a sweet and sharp element to go with the fatty gnocchi and the lamb and I feel the end result works really well.  An interesting dish that I’m really proud of the recipe.  I certainly haven’t seen a recipe anywhere for the lamb fat gnocchi.

What is the size of the brigade front and back?

There are five of us in the kitchen and three out front for twenty two covers.  We tend to look at it as the number of plates of food as opposed to covers.  Simply because we exclusively offer tasting menus.

Which chefs have influenced you in your cooking?

Directly, Daniel Clifford and John Campbell but equally had I not worked for Nick Wentworth I wouldn’t be cooking now – he showed me that if you’re going to spend 15,16, 17 hours a day in the kitchen then you need to do it smiling.  When we first opened here it was really stressful and we felt a pressure to get a Michelin Star.  I found I wasn’t so excited about cooking and coming in to work every day.  Then I pulled back and decided to relax and just express myself and we actually got much better.  A little bit of personality and individuality came through and possibly that’s what the guides look for as much as anything else

Which restaurants inspire when you eat out?

I think its probably those that travel ‘off piste’ a little and challenge you to think about “how did they do that?”  I had a brilliant meal at Sat Bains and was really impressed.  I would like to go to L’Enclume.  So it’s meals where I might learn something that really get me excited.

What is your proudest professional achievement?

I don’t want to say getting the Michelin Star but I can’t say anything else.  It was amazing!  As a goal that you have in the back of your mind, the day that it comes can actually be quite emotional.  The guide came out at 12pm – just as service is about to start – Daniel Clifford was the first to tweet the news.

I had 22 ladies in for lunch that day and was teaching a foolproof way to make risotto, I couldn’t even remember how to do it, it was so emotional.

Describe a day in the life…

Every day is different.  Typically, first thing, we check the orders and the invoices.  On Wednesday’s garnish may need some help in steering the ship, on Thursday it’s more meat, fish and sauce….but generally, in the kitchen is a day in the life!

Tom Aikens, Restaurant Review, London (April 2012)

Posted on: April 10th, 2012 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

“I don’t want a temple. I don’t want a shrine. I just want pure gold happiness.” Despite Raymond Blanc’s plea, made over twenty years ago, guests at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons and similar Michelin starred restaurants continue to show undue reverence as they worship at the feet of culinary gods. This attitude is encouraged by the formal service of liveried staff in hushed dining rooms, complete with luxurious décor, comfortable furnishings, fashionable crockery and fine napery. Such accoutrements are seen as the essential prerequisites for so called fine dining.

By contrast, and in line with his “New Vision for 2012,” Tom Aikens is amongst an increasing number of leading chefs who aim give diners a more relaxed, informal but stylish setting. Not that expense has been spared in the refurbishment of his eponymous restaurant in Chelsea, which reopened in January. Bare concrete walls, oak floorboards, mismatched bare tables and customised chairs give the dining room a dark, rustic tone; expensive but far removed from typical Michelin extravagance. This same simplicity extends to stoneware, slates and wooden boards on which many of the dishes are served. Additional unconventional features include the canvas wall with culinary quotations and space enhancing mirrors rotating on iron rods. Menus in envelopes, wine lists pasted in hardback books and petit fours served in old biscuit tins add to the novelty of the service. Perhaps the most controversial feature is the informal designer uniform – open neck shirt, tie and jeans – of the junior waiting staff.

All this change might divide opinion amongst the dedicated following Tom Aikens has attracted over his distinguished career. One thing they will all agree on, however, is the renewed vigour of his cuisine. It would seem that time during the six month’s closure was well spent in refining his cooking techniques, moderating – although not markedly so – the complexity of dishes, and developing new flavour combinations.

Sophistication of composition, clarity of taste, balance of texture and beauty in presentation continue to delight.

The menu comprises a carte of 20 savoury dishes and eight desserts. At £50 for three courses and £55 for the six and £75 for the eight course tasting menus, prices are competitive with restaurants of similar quality and, given the quality of ingredients and labour intensity and quality of the cooking, better value for money than most.

Fine Dining Guide visited on a weekday evening in March, enjoying a tasting menu with wines which utterly exceeded our high expectations.

An amuse bouche of duck cassonade with mushroom foam flecked with black truffles was at once rich, light and fragrant

A selection of canapés highlighted the enormous attention to detail lavished on these delectable morsels. Particularly impressive were the eel roulade with its gentle smokiness and creamy texture and tangy goat’s curd sandwiched between layers of crisp grated beetroot.

Breads, presented in a miniature sack, contained the outstanding bacon brioche – crisp, sweet, soft and crumbly. Equally accomplished were cep and buttermilk rolls.

Hand dived scallops, marinated with apple vinegar but retaining their inherent sweetness, contrasted with salty lardo crudo and bland tapioca. The composition was lifted by acidulated apple tarragon granite. The balance of tastes, textures and temperatures, enabling each element to retain its distinct identity, was astounding. (Wine Saint Mont Plaimont SW France, 2009)

Tom Aikens Scallop

The next dish proved high innovative. Pigeon breast, timed to a medium rare to retain its intense flavour, was served with truffle custard, foie gras, chocolate and mushroom puree and an array of green and red vegetable granules. Arranged on a dish to look like an artist’s palette, a delicate, pristinely clear pigeon consommé was poured over. The overall taste sensation  – gamey, fresh and vibrant – was exciting and memorable.  (Wine: Zinfandel Foxglove Paso Robles 2009)

A tranche of roasted foie gras was precisely rendered with a seared crust and soft melting creamy interior. Thyme sabayon added a herby lift whilst blackened spring onion added a bitterness which balanced the caramelised onion garnish.  (Wine: Pais de Quenehuao, Chile, 2009)

Tom Aikens Foie Gras

Soft textured, gently smoked Venison Tartar was well seasoned and spiked with juniper. It benefited also from the addition of grated walnuts, wild sorrel and hazelnut puree. Melba toast added crispness and provided an attractive garnish. (Wine: Bourgogne Roucevie Domaine Arlaud 2008)

Tom Aikens Venison Tartare

Skilled fish cookery was seen in an accurately timed fillet of roasted John Dory. This was creatively partnered with sweet cauliflower floret crisp , well judged cumin spicing, cauliflower milk skin and brown butter. As with the other dishes, the main element and garnishes were harmoniously matched, whilst the whole ensemble was visually stunning. (Wine: The Observatory, 2006, South Africa)

Tom Aikens John Dory

A succulent and sweet fillet of Romney lamb, served pink, came garnished with ewe’s cheese, garlic confit, and finished with a piquant  sauce lifted by the addition of olives, capers and anchovies. (Wine: Rioja Olivier Riviere, 2009)

Tom Aikens Lamb

Finally, one of the three vegetable desserts was served. Candied beetroot was a veritable tour de force of invention, with yogurt parfait encased in cigarette of beetroot gel, nuggets of sweetened beets, flavoured meringue and port syrup.

Tom Aikens Desert

Strong coffee and excellent petits fours – chocolates, tuiles, nougats and jellies – completed a memorable meal.

Service was knowledgeable, attentive and unobtrusive. Wine pairing, in particular, demonstrated the superb knowledge and skill of the head sommelier Raphael Rodriguez.

Overall, it is clear that the new Tom Aikens restaurant is not just about the more casual, understated refurbishment. More importantly, it is showcases a highly talented, reinvigorated chef near the top of his craft. I hesitate to say at the “top” as he continues to surprise us with his inexhaustible creativity and energy. A strong impression has been made amongst the critics in the first three months as the restaurant goes from strength to strength. We shall all watch the Michelin Guide in autumn with interest.