Archive for March, 2015

Roux Scholarship Final 2015

Posted on: March 31st, 2015 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Roux Scholarship Finalists

Ian Scaramuzza, wins the Roux Scholarship 2015

Ian Scaramuzza, head chef at Claude Bosi’s two-Michelin-starred Hibiscus in London, has won the 2015 Roux Scholarship. He beat five other finalists who all prepared ‘Turban of sole and salmon à la marinière’ at a cook-off held at Westminster Kingsway, London on Monday 30 March.

Rpux Scholar 2015

Scaramuzza, 29, who entered the competition for the first time this year, was battling it out against fellow chefs Scott Dineen, Goldman Sachs, (BaxterStorey), London; Gavin Edney, Cliveden House, Taplow, Berkshire; Sabrina Gidda, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, (Restaurant Associates), London; Daniel Lee, JP Morgan, (Aramark), London and Richard Pascoe, The Feversham Arms Hotel, Helmsley, North Yorkshire.

Commenting on Scaramuzza’s win, Michel Roux Jr said: “Ian’s dish was straightforward, not too elaborate but the taste and technique won the day. He used the truffle superbly, it shined, and balanced well with the sorrel which can be quite tart. All the judges enjoyed it and we had a good feed.”

Alain Roux added: “Ian stood out because he showed us an excellent all round performance. Ian is a talented, yet humble chef, he will make a great scholar.”

Scaramuzza, born in Glasgow, previously worked for the first Roux Scholar, Andrew Fairlie, at his restaurant within the Gleneagles Hotel in Auchterader, Scotland, said: “I enjoyed it. It was tough but I was quite happy, although a little panicky at the start. The pressure of the competition got to me a bit. I’d have loved an extra ten minutes to improve the presentation. It was a good tough dish, nothing I’d cooked or even seen before, a pure challenge.”

Roux Scholarship Test

The young chefs had three hours to cook the Escoffier inspired recipe in front of the judges. Joining the Roux family this year were Andrew Fairlie, Angela Hartnett MBE, James Martin, David Nicholls, Gary Rhodes OBE and Brian Turner CBE.


Scaramuzza receives £6,000, and an invitation to cook and train under the supervision of a leading chef at a prestigious 3-star Michelin restaurant anywhere in the world for up to three months.

“I’d like to go to Benu in San Francisco for my stage. It’s a small kitchen and there’s nowhere to hide. It’ll be busy.” Ian said afterwards.


The Roux Scholarship is kindly sponsored by a number of companies including: Bridor, Cactus TV, The Caterer, Direct Seafoods, Fairfax Meadow, Global Knives, Hildon, Kikkoman, Champagne Laurent-Perrier, L’Unico Caffe Musetti, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, Restaurant Associates and Virgin Atlantic Airways.

Now in its 32nd year, the scholarship offers the winner a career changing opportunity: a three-month stage at a three Michelin starred restaurant anywhere in the world. But that’s just the beginning. The winner is then part of an elite club and on a fast track to the top of the profession. The Roux Scholarship is the premier competition for young chefs in the UK and ranks among the most prestigious in the world.

Relais & Chateaux Interview: Philippe Gombert (March 2015)

Posted on: March 23rd, 2015 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood
Philippe Gombert

Philippe Gombert, President Relais & Chateaux


For people who don’t know please briefly explain what is Relais & Chateaux?

Relais & Châteaux is an exclusive collection of more than 530 of the finest charming hotels and gourmet restaurants managed by a family of independent owners, innkeepers and chefs that has set the standard for excellence in hospitality since 1954.

Together they open up new horizons for upscale hospitality by focusing on distinctive and personal experiences through which our guests are invited to experience the fine ‘Art of Living’ on all five continents.

Through each individual property, Relais & Châteaux wishes to convey a message of preservation of nature and biodiversity, World Heritage of cuisine and customs and to share the beauty and unique offerings of the local terroirs with the greater world.

How were the (very well organized) series of 2014 60th birthday celebration events?

I kept in mind the fantastic “Relais & Châteaux Fellow Chefs’ Lunch” which took place in Vonnas on May and which gathered more than 60 Relais & Châteaux Chefs from 10 different countries. It was the perfect opportunity to meet with those who made and still make our Association: the historical members, our chefs.

In the US 30 unique dinners paired 30 national chefs and 30 other Relais & Châteaux Chefs from all over the world to celebrate the “arts de vivre” that has inspired Relais & Châteaux since its beginning, for example Claude Bosi cooked with William Bradley at Addison in San Diego.

How would you summarize your personal vision for Relais & Chateaux into 2015 and beyond?

60 years later, Relais & Châteaux continues to stand globally for contemporary values, the values of discreet luxury, an increasingly sought-after rarity: authenticity, charm, inspired cuisine, the opportunity to discover flavors from throughout the world, the unique character of our properties, an art of living shared by enthusiasts, personal commitment, the promise of dreams to appeal to all travelers.

Relais & Châteaux is now a movement, our vision, my vision for a fairer, healthier and happier world that the Relais & Châteaux family will serve as a catalyst and inspiration, making this world better through Cuisine, Hospitality and our relentless pursuit for “l’Art de vivre.”

What is the selection process for a Relais & Chateaux property (I understand you have access to a team of experienced Hotel & Restaurant inspectors)

All application file are reviewed by the Network Commission and one or more anonymous quality audits.

Then, an interview with the President to check the commitment of the owner and the soul of the property, but also to ensure that the candidate intends to comply with the values of Relais & Châteaux.

Finally, the Board of Directors decides on the admission or rejection of applications on the basis of the documents in the application file, the anonymous quality audit carried out and the interview with the President.

What are the dynamics of the customer market, any changing needs for you to highlight to your Association?

Traveler wants to keep a deep memory of his journey, to discover a destination, not only for its landscape, but also through its products & terroirs, to meet people who shares passion of their life. All senses are required, and only the Arts of living can bright the 5 in the same place. Here is our mission and our ambition.

What is Club 5C? And what role will it play into the future?

The Club 5C’s members are friends of Relais & Châteaux from all over the world. The club regularly gains new members thanks to several recruitment drives, promoted with the help of exclusive partnership programs. There are now more than 10,000 members.

The club’s activities consist of organizing social gatherings and invitations to exclusive events, If these contacts are willing they receive regular communication materials, which showcase Relais & Châteaux’s products (such as the “Routes du Bonheur”), news about the brand (launch of the guide), the special operations organized, the packages offered, Relais & Châteaux’s destinations, exclusive events for Club 5C, the corporate retreat offering and the gift packages.

What role does the web, social networking, apps and the likes of trip advisor play with Relais & Chateaux going forward?

All these new media, which are accessible to so many people, are only tools which allow us to better talk about our values, to better describe the experiences that we offer every day to our guests, by expressing the diversity, the richness and the commitment of all our members throughout the world.

In order to exist tomorrow, we need to succeed in implementing a genuine digital revolution.

Relais & Châteaux plans for this year are mainly focus on a new strategy for print and web to offer to our guests the best way to discover our philosophy and our members.

I see Taste Of The WorldThe Travel JournalThe Vision and Manifesto Document. How are these tools to be used?

Taste of the World book is “A world of tastes for you to enjoy”. It’s a true invitation to travel in inviting readers to savor a region sometimes unknown or an unexpected scenery. It is our guide, an invitation to travel.  This publication wants to give pleasure, enchant and let the soul of the Relais & Châteaux properties sing.

The Travel Journal 2015 is a supplement to the Taste of the World. This annual in pocket format presents the Relais & Châteaux Association and its topical news: the new members, Trophies etc.

Relais & Châteaux Vision is our manifesto for tomorrow, expresses who we are today and what we stand for. It is the commitment we make to live in a better world.

Are you enjoying the role? And good luck for the future from fine dining guide.

I’m very pleased to have been chosen to embody our family and our diversity. Today with the Vision we want to defend the uniqueness and richness of our different cultures through cuisine and hospitality. It is such an honor to be ambassador of trying to make a better world.

Derek Brown, Director Michelin Red Guides (2000-2004)

Posted on: March 20th, 2015 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood
Derek Brown

Derek Brown, Director Michelin Red Guides (2000 – 2004)


Derek Brown enjoyed a long and distinguished career at Michelin, where he took on various executive responsibilities including director of Michelin Red Guides (2000 to 2004), the first non-French holder of such a position.  Perhaps feared and revered by a great pantheon of chefs,  many of his actions through various chef autobiographies, have become industry folklore.  Here Derek speaks openly about his career, experiences and observations.  Interview was conducted by Simon Carter on February 12th 2015.

Tell us some background about the expansion of Michelin Guides outside of France?

The expansion of the Michelin Guide outside of France started well before the first world war. For instance there was an early guide to Great Britain from 1911 to the early 1930s (leaving out the first world war years). In modern terms (after World War Two) when the only running Guide was to France, the Guides to Italy, Germany, Spain and Benelux followed, each being published by the end of the 1960s.

From a Great Britain and Ireland perspective, it was decided by around 1969 that some very experienced inspectors from France should come over and conduct a survey into what levels of quality of hotels and restaurants existed in the territory to establish whether a viable guide could be created. At that time each Guide had in-country inspectors, so when the decision was made to create a Guide to this region, an in-country team was recruited.

I joined Michelin in 1971, as an inspector, having come from the hotel industry.

Tell us some background about yourself?

Originally I attended Hotel School completing a four year course at College in Bournemouth. My first working role was as a sommelier in a big Austrian ski-resort hotel. After this, work took me to London and the opportunity to spend around two years with Forte including completing a management programme. An opportunity arose to assist in the launch of a restaurant; setting up the menus and helping with the procurements as well as managing the operation for 18 months. There followed a move to a hotel in the west country as general manager, where the sequence of events leading to Michelin happened when one day I noticed an advert in a five month old copy of Caterer!

It was seeking inspectors. I thought it would be too late but phoned Michelin to find out if they were still recruiting. Two interviews followed, the second with the man who had been sent from France to set up the Guide in Great Britain and happily I was recruited.

The first Great Britain & Ireland Guide was published in 1974, the French editor of the guide moved back to France after the publication of the 1975 Guide and I was promoted to edit the 1976 Michelin Guide to Great Britain & Ireland. Those early years involved significant research. A small group (six or seven inspectors) covered the territory to identify those restaurants and hotels that were appropriate for the Guide and where they would fit into the Michelin classification system. We were all well trained, being sent to other regions to learn and be trained. I spent some time in Germany because I had worked in Austria and could speak a little German, I also spent time learning in France.

Time was invested researching each town, city or county to gather information on exactly where inspections would be scheduled. At that time, Michelin didn’t include those establishments that were pubs, guest houses or non-licensed addresses, so in summary it was purely hotels and restaurants. In terms of the restaurants we identified a short list of prospects that may have deserved recognition. Maybe fifty or sixty stood out (not hundreds as would be the case in modern times). We revisited these often and typically with different inspectors, a process which built a natural dossier of experiences. It was a collegiate collaboration of knowledge that led to any decision.

Awarding stars was a democratic process, you wouldn’t successfully have the last person speaking winning the day (even for example when that person is the editor) as there would have been a sufficient body of opinion by that time to make a fully rounded decision one way or another.  In fairness the editor would have visited earlier in the process to ensure the team were on the right track in evaluating an address for recognition before further visits ratified a consensus that an award should be made to an establishment.

For the very first Guide in 1974, a small and highly experienced team of inspectors from France came over, to help with the star selection, to ensure standards were maintained, particularly among the borderline cases for inclusion. It made absolute sense to make use of that experienced resource and was all part of the learning process.

In any case, it was clear there was a strength about food within the team and there was no sense of “French control,” we were employed by Michelin the same as any other employee and as such were trusted to represent the Michelin Guide in Britain and Ireland.

How did your role at Michelin personally develop?

The French manager (editor) was asked in around 1973 to set up a sales arm for the Michelin Maps and Guides in Great Britain. This had previously been done by an agency. He was also challenged with managing the production of the inaugural GB&I Michelin Guide scheduled for 1974. He needed someone to help manage the running of the Michelin Guide for GB&I so I was given the role of assistant. In practical terms, from that point on, I effectively coordinated the day to day running of the team of inspectors as well as conducting inspections myself.

MIchelin Guide 1974 and 1976So when it was decided, in 1975, after having been in the UK for five years that the French manager would move on to something new in the company I was officially promoted to editor of Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland. This was a fairly natural progression, the French hierarchy knew me by then, I could speak French, there were also coordinators in head office whose responsibility was to ensure that all the geographies were singing off the same hymn sheet for Michelin and they were more than satisfied with the early work completed in Great Britain & Ireland.

So the first book I was officially responsible for as editor was 1976. There were 31 stars in 1976 having grown from 25 stars in the first Guide. At the same time as I became editor, the division was split in two between a sales office and a Michelin Guide book operation. An experienced tyre company sales manager was brought in to build up the sales arm, while I spent the following nine years responsible for Michelin GB&I. In 1984 I was promoted to take charge of both sides of the publishing operation.

The sales arm was the second largest market for Michelin Maps & Guides outside of France, so it was a big responsibility. Having effectively been responsible for the communications of the Michelin Guide GB&I (talking to the media and working with our Advertising agency), I had experience of marketing, PR and advertising which of course was required by the sales division (the sales arm included all maps and guides published by Michelin).

I had a sales manager reporting to me for the pure sales operation – in those days every sizable town had a dozen or so different shops that sold books and who may have demand for stock, nowadays I imagine the job has gone even more online and digital with the likes of Amazon as stockists. Perhaps WH Smiths and Waterstones are two of the few survivors of our changing times! There was an 8 to 10 strong sales team in the mid-1980s managing that process at that time.

I ran those two divisions between 1984 and 1996. Through this time there was a revolution happening in hotel styles and types as well as gastronomic development. The birth of Travelodge and other similar chains were doing at the lower end to privately owned small hotels what supermarkets were doing to corner shops. In the early days it was only ‘three or four pavilion’ hotels or the newest of the hotels where all the rooms had private bathrooms!

In 1992, I was asked to take on the further responsibility of running the PR and advertising department for UK Michelin (the tyre company) as the department director had retired.  So I had a rather large portfolio on my hands at this time.

During 1996 a big reorganization at Michelin led to my moving from publishing to purely communications. Derek Bulmer took on the Michelin Guide GB&I editorial role and the prior sales manager took over the publication sales operation.

In my new role, I remained responsible for the UK Communication department but was given additional responsibility as coordinator of communications across Africa, Middle East and Asia from my base in London. Events moved quickly, as Michelin’s operations in Asia were growing rapidly and an Asia-Pacific Headquarters was created in Singapore, so after a relatively short period of time of being based in London, I was subsequently sent to the new HQ as Director of Communications for Michelin Asia Pacific.

I would possibly have continued in that role for the rest of my career, but when my predecessor retired as Director of the Michelin Guides in 2000, it was a great honour to be asked to take on that role and of course I could not refuse!

Did you always have at least one announced inspection of an address?

We always had the practice of at least one announced inspection a year for each of the hotels and restaurants, simply to gain as much information as possible and see those areas we would otherwise not see as a paying customer. It was also useful to see if there were any expected changes coming up in the year ahead as the Guide had to be reliable for the year after being printed.

How did you break the news of major star promotions or demotions?

From 2000 to 2004 when I was managing the Michelin Red Guides, I would tell every restaurant across Europe personally whether they had a promotion from two stars to a third star and likewise should they be demoted from three stars to two stars. During the year restaurants were not warned about their status, however (particularly in France) the three star chefs would typically be in touch with Michelin on an annual basis and they would be given an indication of what the public, who bought the guide, were saying about their restaurants. This might lead to ‘concerns’ or ‘opportunities’ which the chef could choose to action or not, the guide never told chefs what to do, as that was neither our place nor our role.

What do you think of the on-line information age and its impact on Michelin?

It is part of the world that Michelin populates so it must be embraced. Just as the company pioneered over a century ago, Michelin will continue to make good use of the tools of its time. From Michelin’s point of view so long as you apply the same disciplines in the way you interact with any element of the media and extend that to Twitter, Facebook and so on, then the results are likely to be uniform in achieving the objectives desired.

At the most basic level, what I am unsure about in the information age public-led experiences (like Twitter or Trip Advisor) is that I am not sure if there is a filter where someone has verified the validity of an accusation (or even a strong opinion) prior to publication. A professional inspector-led guide like Michelin will have all feedback properly investigated and verified carefully before acting on a recommendation. Public-led feedback is more likely to be emotionally led rather than analytical, in the sense that people are motivated to write by their emotions rather than paid to write as professional inspectors, who only report objectively.

In the 1950s and 1960s the world was much less open, people did not bare their souls on web based social networking platforms, nor similarly did Michelin talk about how it made its guides. From that developed, perhaps, this sense of mystery and aura about the Michelin Guide that has proven an extraordinary marketing tool. It was nothing that we ever cultivated but it just happened naturally during that period of time and stayed with the guide for many years. It was probably originally a case of simply being careful about competitors (and there were many) in every territory and not wanting them to know how Michelin worked.

And there has never been a ‘formula’ for achieving three Michelin stars!

No that’s absolutely right. It’s like judging art or music or literature – is one artist better than another or one composer better than another or one author better than another? One wouldn’t judge like that – I might like each but it would depend upon mood or feeling as to which I prefer at any given time. I would recognize each when I came across them and know what each were attempting to ‘say’. Each artist, each composer and each author would have their unique signature and each and every Michelin three star restaurant is much the same. Do I have a favourite food or restaurant?– not specifically but yes (they vary depending on a variety of factors). In addition, I do not believe that there’s such a thing as ‘cooking for Michelin:’ if the chef cooks brilliantly they will get recognition and if they don’t they won’t. Nor do I consider that chefs have ‘two speeds of cooking’ in their restaurants – one for guides and one for themselves: Cooking to the best of their ability should be the one and only way to cook if they wish to satisfy their customers. There are not 57 varieties of Oscar for actors in the movie world, there is only one for best actor – so as with the Oscars, the beauty of the Michelin system is that the awards remain hard earned and are therefore respected and enjoyed as a result.

Restaurant Review: The Magnum (March 2015)

Posted on: March 19th, 2015 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Magnum Restaurant and Bar Edinburgh

Located at the junction of Albany Street and Dublin Street, in a quiet corner of Newtown, The Magnum Restaurant and Bar is slightly off the beaten tourist track. It is, however, close to city centre, with York Place, St Andrew’s Square and Princes Street only a few minutes’ walk away. A well-established feature amongst locals – it has been on the same site for over thirty years – Magnum has benefitted from a makeover by owner Chris Graham. The wide exterior frontage in green remains much the same, but inside the dark grey walls punctuated by red cornices give a smart, elegant feel. This is enhanced by soft wall lighting, chandeliers and photographic prints. As befitting its name, magnums of champagne liberally decorate the bar area.

Magnum Interior

All this contrasts oddly with fairy lights which drape the large windows. In daytime they look odd, but at night they provide an attractive glittering effect to brighten an essentially dark room.

Well-spaced, polished wood tables and black leather upholstered chairs are arranged across three dining areas. With space for 40 covers, or 70 if the bar is used, they provide a comfortable and relaxed environment.

Flexibility is the hallmark of eating at The Magnum. Guests have a choice of dining rooms and can choose from either the bar menu or the carte. In the great Scottish tradition portions are generous and prices are very fair given the quality of ingredients – sourcing is a major priority – and the skill shown in the cookery. The set lunch and early evening menu is a snip at £12.95 for two courses, £14.95 for three. Starters on the carte range from £4.95 to £8.95, mains from 12.50 to £22. 50.

An interesting Old and New World wine list, with helpful, concise notes, puts quality above quantity at prices not to be sneered at. This also applies to the champagne where the Bollinger Special Cuvee is a relative bargain at £72.

An interesting set of menus – bar, set and carte – offer ample choice: for instance, the a la carte menu has six starters and nine mains. Due respect is paid to Scotland’s culinary heritage, as shown in Cullen Skink, Buccleuch or Vegetarian haggis and Cranachan cheesecake. Mediterranean influences come with courgette frittata, open lasagne, and pea and parmesan bruschetta. Even more traditional mains – burgers, steaks fish and chips – come with adventuous garnishes.

Monday lunchtime may lack the buzz of a busy weekend but offers a more peaceful, relaxing couple of hours to enjoy Magnum’s cooking.

Scallops with black pudding buttons, tomato confit and herb oil from the carte proved a well-conceived “surf and turf” starter. The scallops were accurately seared to give a caramelised crust and soft, succulent flesh. The black pudding was particularly flavoursome, whilst the tomato confit added a moderate degree of sweetness, balancing the savoury elements. The oil finished the dish perfectly, adding a herbal lift.

Magnum Scallops

My main course of seared duck breast was well rested to maximise its flavour and tenderness. Perched on slices on new potato, it worked well with wild mushrooms and broad beans which added deep earthy notes, and sweet roasted shallots. Smoked bacon lardons and a deeply flavoured broth added further layers of flavour to this attractively presented and substantial dish. Indeed, the portion was so large it did not need the bowl of delicious thick cut chips which I had mistakenly ordered as a side dish.

Magnum Duck Breast

The dessert of Assiette of Apple comprised three elements: a miniature tatin of perfect pastry and rich caramel; a creamy panna cotta set to the correct degree of wobble; apple puree and a refreshing sorbet with the right balance of sweetness and acidity. Apart from the over thick brandy snap basket, this was a well-executed dessert.

Clearly, The Magnum offers an experience equal to available at some of its more expensive but less inviting competitors closer to the city centre. It has, nevertheless, attracted a loyal following of locals who admire its consistency and high standards of cooking. The welcoming, efficient and helpful service of a young front of house team also makes a visit to the restaurant a memorable occasion. fine dining guide is happy to add The Magnum Restaurant & Bar to its portfolio and will watch its progress with interest

Restaurant Review: Wedgwood, Edinburgh (March 2015)

Posted on: March 17th, 2015 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Edinburgh is a great walking city par excellence. Whether in the Old or New town, or in the revitalised port of Leith, the best way to discover new eateries is on foot. I am constantly surprised by new openings or by old ones accidentally overlooked. Even along the Golden Mile, that well- trodden path for locals and tourists alike, there is joy in finding a restaurant of distinction.

wedgwood edinburghOne such gem, undiscovered by fine dining guide until recently, is Wedgwood, which opened in 2007. Nestled amongst a row of terraced outlets in Canongate, the lower, less crowded section of the Royal Mile, its modest shop front exterior belies the accomplished cooking and excellent service within. Owned by chef Paul Wedgwood and his wife Lisa who acts as front of house, it represents the culmination of a dream to provide fine dining cuisine in relaxed, agreeable surroundings.

Lack of pretension characterises the décor, furnishings and lighting in the ground floor dining room, which has a modern chic look. This is enhanced by the eclectic wall and overhead lighting. In two rooms, accommodating 20 and 18 covers respectively, well-spaced, polished wooden tables and high backed leather chairs make for comfortable dining.

Achievements to date have given Wedgwood an indisputably high ranking in the Edinburgh dining scene. In 2010, 2012 and 2013 it was named Scottish Restaurant of the Year in the under £35 category by the Scottish Licensed Trade News (SLTN). Other accolades have included being voted the UK’s Best Up and Coming Restaurant by Harden’s Restaurant Guide, and listed as one of only four Edinburgh restaurants in the Fodor’s Choice Distinction Award.

Paul’s cooking techniques are classically based, with little evidence of contemporary faddish technicalities. Accuracy in timing, consistency of flavour, and workable combinations of tastes and textures are paramount. His mentor and inspiration, for whom he worked, was John Tovey, chef patron of Miller Howe in Windermere, the destination restaurant of the 1980s. The same generosity of spirit and attention to detail pervades his cooking. A constantly evolving menu, changing with the seasons and being fully overhauled four times a year, reflects the glories and bounty of Scottish produce.

The lunchtime set menu, with a choice of four in each course, is a snip at £16.95 for three courses, £12.95 for two. Prices are more realistic for dinner, when the a la carte menu offers a much wider choice. A large percentage of the clientelle are regulars, reflecting Wedgewood’s increasing popularity amongst discerning foodies.

Visiting on a busy Mother’s Day lunch, I was surprised to see there was no special promotion. This clearly indicated the confidence in maintaining the popular set lunch offering. However, I was delighted at the flexibility, having arranged it earlier by phone, of being able to sample some dishes from the evening carte.

Whether at lunch or dinner, and unlike many popular restaurants, tables at Wedgwood are not turned, which encourages relaxation and enjoyment. Indeed, time is necessary to consider choices as the carte offers an embarrassment of riches, with an innovative take on classical dishes. In this respect the marketing of “Deciding Time” – a glass of champagne with a selection of canapes – has proved popular amongst those who have trouble choosing.

For those who opt out of this indulgence, warm ciabatta with smoked rosemary olive oil proved a lighter and highly agreeable alternative.

My first course featured three plump langoustines, precisely timed to preserve their essential sweetness and succulence. They were perched on sauerkraut laced with apple and raisins, sandwiched between slices of Granny Smith. This gentle combination of sweet and sour flavours and soft and crisp textures balanced the seafood perfectly. Although the accompanying langoustine aioli needed more punch, this was more than compensated for by the other star on the dish – three unctuous pig’s tail croquettes, coated in panko crumbs to maximise their crispness. Overall, this original, beautifully presented surf and turf combination could not fail to impress.

wedgwood langoustine

Other unusual dishes amongst the ten starters that have been well received include the intriguing Lobster Thermidor crème brulee and Pressed lamb’s tongue with coffee roasted carrots.

For the main course, I opted for a rabbit dish. Notoriously difficult to cook, the meat is prone to dry out unless treated sensitively. Here, Paul’s classical training stood him in good stead. The whole loin was covered in a farce of its offal before being wrapped in pancetta, seared in the pan and finished in the oven. The moist, delicately flavoured result – accomplished only using sous vide methods by lesser chefs – was a tour de force of accomplished cooking. To add deeper flavour and contrasting textures, a “stew” of chorizo, wild mushrooms and butter beans proved an hearty, robust accompaniment. A drizzle of pesto added a lively herbal note whilst a rich, but not over reduced red wine jus brought the whole dish together. Here was a dish, full of Mediterranean influences, of which the chef can be justifiably proud.

wedgwood rabbit

Again there was much to choose from in the list of nine main courses. A particular favourite fish option is the sesame and soy glazed sea trout with crispy scallop roe, pak choi and lobster and black bean nori roll.

Dessert proved difficult to choose. Finally, I opted for the lightest, given the generosity of the previous courses and did not regret it, despite my usual greedy appetite! Coconut pannacotta had a velvety smooth texture and nice degree of wobble. This worked well with warm spiced pineapple and an intense beetroot sorbet which added a deep, icy note. Shards of meringue and a good old fashioned rugged English style macaroon – how rare is this seen nowadays? – gave contrasting crispness. Set on a dark plate, this was another stunningly presented, well conceived and skillfully executed dish.

wedgwood dessert

Overall, this was a most enjoyable meal, enhanced by the welcoming and informative service. Lisa, who detailed the cooking of the rabbit dish, is a charming and engaging front of house, leading a young team who are efficient but unobtrusive. Having left the wine to the discretion of the host, the German Riesling and Austrian spiced red proved excellent partners for the savoury courses.

I do have regrets about dining at Wedgwood. The first is not having discovered it sooner, to see how it evolved since its inception. The second is that – unusually – I lacked a dining partner so could not sample some of the other offerings. Given the chef’s twist on classic dishes, what, for instance, was his take on” Black Forest Gateau” or “Very sticky toffee pudding” or Cheddar and onion bread and butter pudding as a starter?

Nevertheless, a meal at Wedgwood is to be savoured and enjoyed. Its relative longevity in a highly competitive industry in which many do not survive, and the accumulation of accolades, are a testament to its success. Fine Dining Guide will doubtlessly visit again and follow its progress with interest.

Restaurant Review: Kyloe, Edinburgh (March 2015)

Posted on: March 17th, 2015 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Located in the luxury Rutland Hotel in the heart of Edinburgh’s West End, Kyloe has a bit of an identity crisis. Officially billed as a “Steak restaurant and Grill”, its menu offers far more than the average steak house. However, steaks are a speciality, so to drop that from its title would be absurd. One thing however is certain: the quality of the raw ingredients and the consistency of the cooking justify the epithet “gourmet.”

There is no mistaking that this first floor restaurant, commanding views of Edinburgh castle and with a capacity for 96 covers, offers beef in abundance. The seating and décor are suitably bovine: booths in mock cowhide, banquettes in real leather around well-spaced striped oak tables, and a stuffed bull’s head are initial indicators. However, the real fun showstoppers, mounted on an end wall, are four large prints from Caroline Shotton’s Great Mooster series, reimagining famous paintings – by Dali and Picasso for instance – using a cow motif.

Kyloe Cows

Other attractive funky features include hanging whiskey barrels acting as large lampshades, huge oak “wheels” of ceiling décor and mirrored columns. Jazz muzak contributes to the relaxed, night club feel.

kyloe decor

Taking its name from the Scottish Gaelic for Highland beef cattle, Kyloe offers cuts from pedigree Aberdeen Angus breeds, sourced from Hardiesmill, (based in Gordon in the Borders), whose animal husbandry is exemplary. In David Haetzman, the restaurant has a head chef who is really passionate in sourcing prime quality meat and presenting it at its best. He ensures his front of house staff fully brief diners with their “Steak Presentation,” which not only identifies the various cuts but gives a realistic indication of the portion size and the ideal method of cooking. Ross, who served me, was enthusiastic in his explanations of the parts of the animal, including some I’ve never heard of!

On the a la carte menu, the 12 starters include an impressive range of seafood – scallops, mussels, oysters, smoked fish – to balance the carniverous main courses. But even here, sea bass, pork cheeks, vegetarian mezze platter are offered as alternatives. Nor is there a limited choice on the dessert menu, with six alternatives and a cheese option.

The wine list, by the glass and bottle, features an interesting selection, including Kyloe’s signature wine, “Angus the Bull” an Australian Cabernet Sauvignon, ideal with steak.

I visited Kyloe for a restful Sunday dinner, avoiding the noise of a crowded Friday or Saturday evening. The pleasant buzz of contented diners augured well for an enjoyable meal. Service under restaurant manager John was welcoming and accommodating, especially regarding which table was best – I’m fussy about this and often wonder why some restaurants – not Kyloe fortunately – dim the lights so much.

Nibbles of crusty bread, good butter and a vibrant red pepper and feta dip enlivened the taste buds.

Kyloe Bread Dips

A starter of seared king scallops was accurately timed to produce a caramelised crust and sweet, succulent flesh. Crisp Iberico ham gave a gentle saltiness and contrasting texture, whilst a velvety smooth puree of Jerusalem artichoke added a rich, deep earthiness. This combination was lifted by a reduction of sherry vinegar which finished the dish perfectly.

Kyloe Scallops

For the main course, I opted not for a single steak but a composite dish which demonstrated a greater variety of skills. “A plate of beef” comprised three well executed elements. A generous fillet cooked medium rare, revealing under a firm crust the meltingly juicy texture expected of this prime cut. Topped with a crown of not too sweet oxtail “marmalade” this took pride of place. Contrasting in cooking and presentation was a croquette of panko coated braised shin with a deeper flavour than the fillet. The third and richest element of this “nose to tail” dish featured bone marrow with a foie gras crust, a partnership which produced a wonderfully fragrant aroma. Perched on a puree of kohlrabi and finished with a red wine sauce, this was a tour de force of meat cookery. Given its substantial size, this dish only needed a mixed salad as an accompaniment.

Kyloe Steak Main

For dessert I chose the lightest of the options, Banana and chocolate chip soufflé. Light and well risen, it was perhaps a little too sweet for most adult tastes. Nevertheless, the pecan ice cream which accompanied it was well flavoured and of smooth texture.

Kyloe Desert

A meal at Kyloe is a real pleasure, impressive on all fronts – the provenance of the meat, the precision of the cooking, the informative, unobtrusive service and the seductive ambience. A reasonable price point both in the food and wine adds to the attraction of dining. Overall, it is not difficult to see why Kyloe has been successful in the highly competitive Edinburgh dining scene. Fine Dining Guide will return to sample the succulent steaks from the Grill menu and will follow is future progress with interest.