Archive for March, 2017

Feature: Simon Rogan in Cartmel; L’Enclume and Beyond (March 2017)

Posted on: March 27th, 2017 by Simon Carter


The evening of Wednesday 22nd February 2017 was fraught. My own car was in for insurance claim repairs after a minor accident and I had just taken receipt of a substitute hire car: A Mercedes C Class 2.2 Diesel ‘66’ Registration. Even though I’m no Jeremy Clarkson, I do like a nice car and I may from time to time have been known to throw a paddy over hot food.

This aside, a brief review of the BBC Weather App on the iPhone showed the prospect of Storm Doris. Doris was due to lash across a band of Britain stretching between South of Birmingham to North of Liverpool, for eight hours solid during the forthcoming day.

So the journey from our home on the Surrey, Hampshire, Berkshire border to Cartmel in Cumbria involved a direct trip up the M40, M42 and M6. In parts a somewhat bumpy ride but nevertheless a straight run, which in spite of including a cautious 5.30am start and a three stop strategy, led to an arrival as promised by Mid-day.

Cartmel is beautifully described by its own village website ( as steeped in history but not trapped in time: The history is partly medieval, dating from the 12th Century Priory Church, while many other architecturally intriguing and aesthetically pleasing buildings date from between the 16th to 18th Centuries: The not trapped in time refers to the shops, inns and eateries like Simon Rogan’s internationally recognized and trailblazing top end restaurant, L’Enclume.

L’Enclume, meaning Anvil, was formed in 2002 from the shell of buildings that had previously been an antique store.


You might be forgiven for thinking that the L’Enclume of 2017 is in seven parts! Or at least the “Simon Rogan Cartmel Experience” as having seven parts: Starting with the warm and welcoming reception that provides a friendly and hospitable arrival for those staying over, there are also eight well appointed, comfortable rooms housed within this building: The second is next door where the diner will find Rogan & Co, a more informal restaurant that doubles up as a breakfast space for staying guests.

The third aspect is found walking into the cobbled Square from reception where our beautiful room (I would call it a junior suite) was located upstairs above a coffee shop.


Rogan has gradually expanded his ‘with rooms’ element of the offering over time: The next part is found as you walk towards the archway from the Square and find the soon to be opened L’Enclume shop where visitors will be afforded the opportunity to purchase anything associated with the L’Enclume experience, from pots and pans through kitchen technology to chef’s jackets and aprons.

As you make your way through the arch from the Square and into Cavendish Street you will find the elements of the star attractions of L’Enclume, the Michelin two star restaurant, which itself houses six further rooms, and next door to the restaurant, the development kitchen headquarters of Rogan’s empire, Aulis.

A short five minute drive away is the 12 acres ‘Our Farm’ site that provides much of the livestock, fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers that appear on the assorted plates served in the restaurant. Simon believes in appreciating the quality of good provenance, let’s call it ‘field to fork,’ he was too modest to have a particular soundbite for ‘Our Farm’; but what he categorically does not do is pay a farmer to allow him to say that he owns a farm, he really does own a farm, and has staff of L’Enclume, including both new and experienced chefs doing the farming.  This is to ensure optimum respect for- and understanding of- the ingredients that go onto the plate at L’Enclume at any time.


The top end of the restaurant industry, like any other, is a fluid market, adapting to trends and customers’ demands in ever shorter time cycles. Thirty years ago you would have found the remnants of Nouvelle Cuisine, represented by the long (later to be called) tasting menu of smaller plates, ten years later and the raison d’être of tasting menus had changed to allow customers to try smaller versions of a chef’s best selling larger plates. These larger dishes formed the absolute star of the show, typically with six, six and six choices of starter, main and dessert (or in many cases a much longer repertoire of choices of dishes) and these were the ones which formed the ‘signature’ of the chef, as described by guides like Michelin.

For a variety of reasons, around ten years ago, the starter, main and dessert concept started to fade and the tasting menu came to the fore. There are a variety of logical reasons for this: The tasting menu offers more variety of creative food to try for the customer balanced by certainty in the kitchen of what will be cooked, which means: less wastage, more efficiency and better consistency which in turn allows either keener pricing from better GP on a plate, or more labour intensity, or more luxurious ingredients or a combination of these factors.

As the clock has ticked on, this apparent win/win formula for restaurants and their customers, the market has continued to evolve. There is that precious commodity – time! People don’t have enough of it! Classically four hours plus, turning no tables, for a special and expensive meal out was fine. Nowadays the feeling in the industry is that two and a half to three hours is a sensible upper limit to aim for a sitting. Further, customers and importantly repeat customers, do like choice and there is a subtle move back to the three course format in the high-end market.

L’Enclume has been a tasting menu trailblazer and continues to deliver on a significant scale to this audience. Cleverly, Rogan has tapped into the latest development in customer need: The circa eighteen-course star attraction tasting menu arrives in what I would call ‘sections’ in that there may be collections of three small plates which offer harmonious tasting experiences. This has the impact of reducing dining time to around two and a half to three hours but also the complementary nature of the dishes ensures that, for example, the opportunity for piquancy in one dish to overwhelm a subtle and elegant flavour in another is avoided.


Three further on going trends in the top end market for restaurants are accessibility (relaxed, friendly, welcoming and engaging social meeting places where you happen to have something to eat), simplicity (the re-emergence of the bistro/brasserie) and value-add. In short, these three elements encompass the front of house, the cooking style and the way in which some form of theatre is added to the dining experience.

In Thomas Mercier (See Interview) Rogan has made an astute hire – a past master at creating an atmosphere of warmth to go with what I would describe as ‘relaxed formality’ to previously more formal dining rooms like Coworth Park, Cliveden or The Vineyard. While L’Enclume naturally has a far more vibrant atmosphere than these more classical eateries, Thomas has experience of the value-added side; while managing the logistics of a similarly tricky listed building, he planned an eating ‘journey’ while general manager at Stovells where the cellar, ‘Gin room’ and larder become part of the value-added dining experience. L’Enclume also embraces this value-added theatre by chefs introducing certain dishes in just the right amounts to hit the customer satisfaction spot. Good to see harmony in vision and style between staff and restaurant, which can only bode well for the future.

The food at L’Enclume engages sight, taste, touch and smell. The presentation of dishes is beautiful; the tastes are clear, deep and strong; texture and temperature are cleverly employed; so too the rich aromas of certain dishes.


While Rogan enjoys the technology of food, it is not for the sake of the technology that dishes appear. Simon admitted that for customers and guides alike there was a period some years ago where he became influenced by many different factors, including Southern Spain as well as latest technologies and the menu was changing every couple of weeks with experimental style dishes.

With maturity, this has long gone and while technology is important, Simon sees it more as a tool to achieving the right “simplicities of flavour” in food on a plate rather than to intellectually challenge the guest. At the same time, the axiomatic complexity of some creations is facilitated by an acute knowledge of ingredients, technologies and their evolving efficacy in a multi-Michelin starred restaurant environment.

Where Heston Blumenthal is taking an exceptionally strong technical base and leading his (The Fat Duck) restaurant on a particular ‘theatrical journey,’ Rogan you feel has all the technical knowhow but seeks to more than tap into a nerve, or touch particular points but instead to continously wrap his restaurant offering around the heartbeat of the high end restaurant industry.

It was interesting to note from twitter that The Michelin Guide had visited L’Enclume to keep a steady eye on progress. Indeed, take the upper quartile of the twenty plus GB&I Michelin two starred restaurants, award one a third Michelin Star and then view the Twitterati response: Within an hour there would probably be a positive consensus that Michelin’s judgment was just, true and fair. L’Enclume would be a prime example of a restaurant in that category for a variety of valid reasons.

MIchelin Twitter Lenclume

They say it is the artist and not the forger that gains the accolades and further that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In Simon Rogan’s case, when looking back on his contribution some time in the future, his legacy may best be defined by the protégé talents he has given wings to, achieving their own signatures in the industry, while at the same time reaching the heights of recognition himself.

Restaurant Review: The Fat Fox Inn, Watlington (March 2017)

Posted on: March 22nd, 2017 by Simon Carter


The Fat Fox Inn is located in the centre of one of England’s smallest historic market towns, Watlington in Oxfordshire. A gastropub with nine recently refurbished en suite rooms, it is an ideal venue for discerning guests seeking a short break with good quality food and stylish accommodation. There is easy access from Junction 6 of the M40, with Oxford 13 and London 45 miles away. Ramblers also are attracted to the town, which lies close to the Ridgeway, a national trail which runs along the Chilterns. Not that locals who just wish to drink are absent from the clientele, given the warmth of welcome and the efficiency of service. Owner John Riddle is particularly keen to ensure that, unlike food led pubs elsewhere, The Fat Fox Inn does not turn primarily into a restaurant, with scant attention and limited space given to those who only request, say, a pint of Brakspear’s bitter or Oxford Gold. Indeed, the restaurant and bar occupy roughly half the space each.

The columned entrance porch of the two storeyed whitewashed Georgian building leads to the bar area on the right and restaurant on the left, with seating for 30 and 28 respectively. (The same menu is available in both.) Wooden flooring with oriental rugs are evident throughout. Whereas the bar has a classic rustic feel, with low beamed ceiling, Inglenook fireplace and bench seating, the restaurant has a more dated, dare I say 18th Century character, in line with the origins of the building. Bold crimson wallpaper, large gilt framed mirrors, well-spaced tables of various sizes, seating of varying comfort, and mood lighting characterise the eclectic but well-proportioned room.


Although the décor might not be to everyone’s taste, few would not be enamoured of the food. John Riddle, who after six years, sold his brasserie in Drury Lane to buy the Fat Fox Inn, is fully aware of the demands of a discerning, food conscious clientele. In Stewart Lennox he has found a head chef of distinction. Top quality produce is carefully sourced, much coming from trusted suppliers in south Oxfordshire. For instance, Toulouse sausage comes from the renowned Calnan brothers in Watlington itself. On the other hand, Skrei Cod, probably the finest of the species, is caught off the coast of Norway. A daily changing menu ensures maximum use is made of seasonal ingredients. The menu is sensibly short, bearing in mind that a team of up to four in the kitchen have to cater for large numbers at weekends. The choice comprises the chef’s interpretation of traditional British classics with other dishes reflecting continental influences. On the evening we visited, Toad in the Hole and battered haddock with crushed peas, tartare sauce and chips appeared alongside Toulouse sausage with cassoulet and Gnudi with braised rappini, Parmesan and broccoli as choices for the main course.

A balance of tastes and textures, with harmonious combinations of ingredients, are evident throughout. Main components are allowed to shine with accurate seasoning and precisely timed cooking. Techniques are classical with, thankfully, not a trace of faddishness. This is honest, unpretentious cooking of a high standard and is recognised by a listing in the Michelin UK and Ireland Guide.

Prices reflect the quality of ingredients and skill in cooking. Starters average £6-£7, mains £10-£20, sides £3, and desserts £6. A select range of English cheeses is charged £2.50 per piece or four for £10. The select wine list which avoids greedy mark ups is mainly Old World, most being available by the glass

We decided to sample small portions of four starters.


Haddock chowder was suitably thick and smooth being topped with Serrano ham which also acted as a seasoning. A blue cheese scone added a little spicy piquancy, texture and substance – perhaps unnecessary – but overall this was a comforting, hearty starter.

By contrast, Gorganzola on toast with radish, celery and fennel salad was lively and fresh, the saltiness of the soft cheese being balanced by the peppery qualities of the radish and the crispness of the celery. The addition of fennel gave a mild aniseed hit which lifted the whole combination.

The warm Fat Fox Scotch egg was properly executed with a runny yolk, moist, well-seasoned sausage meat filling, and a crisp coating The celeriac remoulade which accompanied it had a good balance of mustardy creaminess and slight acidity.

Best of all were the curried cauliflower samosas with their crisp, light pastry and delicately spiced filling. Served with spiced lentils and sweet and sour sauce, this dish combined an explosion of flavours and contrasting textures which proved most satisfying.

For mains, it was good to see the Bavette steak on the menu. Popular in France, but underrated in the UK, it is cheaper but superior in flavour to the more expensive cuts. Here the meat was accurately timed and well rested to a medium rare, maximising its deep beefy flavour and fine texture. Enlivened by the parsley, lemon and garlic in a dressing of gremolata, and served with crisp straight cut chips, watercress and heritage carrots, this was a simple, well executed dish needed nothing more – except some tomato ketchup – to complete it.

How pleasing to see Skrei cod, another ingredient not commonly used in UK restaurants. Again, precise cooking – seared in the pan and finished in the oven – did full justice to the clean, muscular flesh which its translucent flakes. Dressed simply with herbed new potatoes and sprouting broccoli, the dish was finished with an innovative wasabi and cucumber sauce which was clean, herbal and not overpowering.


Desserts were not quite as accomplished as the savoury courses but still a credit to the kitchen. In particular, the lemon roulade had a crisp crust accentuated with toasted hazelnuts, and soft meringue encasing a generous cream filling. The lemon curd had a well-judged balance of sweetness and acidity.


Although a half pint mug containing layers of all the sweet options was, perhaps, ill conceived – too heavy and rich but a delight for those with the capacity – this was redressed by velvety smooth ice creams with unusual flavours such as brioche, cookie dough and lemon meringue.

Overall, this was an enjoyable three course meal, enhanced by the cheerful, helpful service of Henry who looked after us for the evening. Fine Dining Guide hopes to revisit in the summer to sample other dishes from the ever changing menu and perhaps stay overnight in one of the luxuriously appointed rooms.

Restaurant Review: Gauthier Soho (March 2017)

Posted on: March 9th, 2017 by Simon Carter


Passion, Precision and Perfection are epithets justifiably applied to Alexis Gauthier’s gastronomy. Since opening Gauthier Soho in 2010 and receiving plaudits from all the major guides, his restaurant has gone from strength to strength, delighting guests with exquisite cuisine, comfortable surroundings and highly professional service. To achieve all three simultaneously, especially the last given the lamentable decline in standards euphemistically dubbed relaxed formality, has become a rarity in the world of fine dining.

Set in a five storey terraced Georgian townhouse in Romilly Street, Gauthier Soho is a miniature maze of narrow staircases, uneven floors and varying sized dining rooms. This, indeed, is one of its many virtues – its smallness and intimacy. Ringing the bell of the glossy black door ensures a personal welcome before guests are shown to either of the two dining rooms – the Petit Salon on the ground floor or the Grand Salon on the first. (There are also two private dining rooms at the top of the staircase and a Chefs’ Room / wine cellar on the ground floor.) The high ceilinged, thickly carpeted rooms feature large gilt framed mirrors above the original marble fireplaces. Plain white walls form the backdrop to eclectic paintings and objets d’art. At lunch, ample natural light comes from the sash windows fitted with colourful floral blinds. In the evening, clever spotlighting supplements the dimly candlelit tables. Upholstered chairs in beige and well-spaced tables dressed in fine linen with monogramed napkins complete the elegantly designed salons.


A disciple of triple starred Alain Ducasse at his Louis XV restaurant in Monaco (1993-6), Alexis Gauthier progressed to gaining his own Michelin star in 2000 at Roussillon in Pimlico, where he was head chef from 1998 to 2010. After opening Gauthier Soho in 2010 – which used to be Richard Corrigan’s Lindsay House – another star followed after a year.


Passion is shown in Alexis’ inexhaustible creativity whilst being true to his classical roots. Invention is tempered with a sensitive caution, leading to unusual yet harmonious combinations in taste, texture and colour. Equal attention is paid to vegetables – Vegetronic, is his latest cookbook – as to meat and fish in the composition of dishes. Vegan dishes – highlighted in his Menu Les Plantes – also warrant serious consideration: where else amongst high end restaurants, could one eat a dish such as Tofu & Swiss chard gratin with roast garlic purée, crispy garlic & herb salad?

Precision comes from the accuracy of timing in cooking and in the balance of delicate flavours and contrasting textures. Uniquely amongst top chefs, Alexis rejects pre-weighing and timing in favour of judging by touch and sight. Such an instinctive approach demands far greater skill from his brigade of ten chefs. Where figures are called for, however, is in the calorie count for each dish, which is clearly indicated on the menu.

Perfection in the finished product is guaranteed. Menus change with the seasons, the ingredients being impeccably sourced. Generosity of spirit is evident in abundance: all dishes, even the smaller ones, are multi component, with distinct tastes identifiable. A conscious artistry is shown in their beautiful presentation. Attention to detail at every stage, from the dainty canapes with parmesan tuiles, through home baked breads to the delicious petit fours, is exemplary.

Nor is perfection confined to the food. The front of house team of nine, overseen by the understated resilience of restaurant manager Pierre Dumoulin, conduct a seamless operation, especially impressive given the cramped conditions and awkward shape of the rooms. Commis waiters negotiate the narrow staircase from the basement kitchen with sprightly step, allowing senior staff to present the dishes with considered aplomb. Service is correctly formal but not stiff, polite but not ingratiating, informative but not condescending. A suitable interval is allowed between courses, with diners’ requests often being anticipated – perhaps the acid test of excellent service.

With three sommeliers headed by Perrick Chapel, wines are taken seriously. The “dynamic and exciting” mainly French and Italian wine list avoids excessive mark ups. The restaurant also has its own thriving wine club. Assistant sommelier Domenico Barbieri, who served us presented, the flight of wines concisely, showing a real engagement with his craft.


The menu structure and price point are highly appealing, both gastronomically and financially. The carte, with three or four options at each stage, finishing with cheese or dessert, offers three, four or five courses for £50, £60 and £70 respectively. It is also possible to mix and match dishes from the same course. An eight course tasting menu, the Gout du Jour, featuring smaller versions of dishes from the carte, is competitively priced at £75. The vegan menu, Les Plantes, is £65, with wines pairings an extra £60 for each menu. Even better value can be had at lunch, where three courses with champagne, two glasses of wine and coffee is £45, or a four course tasting menu with champagne aperitif for the same price. Nor should we forget the free still or sparkling filtered water which is often charged for in lesser establishments. Certainly, no other high end West restaurant can match Gauthier Soho for prices and quality.

Fine Dining Guide visited on a busy Friday evening in early March to sample the tasting Gout du Jour.

Well-made canapes served with an aperitif showed minute attention to detail. Delicate tapioca crisps with cod roe mousse, roasted celeriac with horseradish and ricotta and herbs tartelettes served their purpose in tantalising the palate with mouthful explosions of flavour without stealing the thunder of the courses to come.


A selection of freshly baked breads, served with a generous pat of unsalted Normandy butter, included sour dough, basil and tomato focaccia, pain au lait with parmesan and red onions, and wild garlic brioche. They were exemplary in their crisp crusts, firm crumb and heady aromas and equally accomplished as those produced at Le Champignon Sauvage.

The first course saw a plump Scottish scallop, seared to produce a caramelised crust with meltingly soft, translucent flesh. Sauteed soya beans and oyster leaves added contrasting texture and freshness, whilst a deeply flavoured crustacean veloute, incorporating the scallop coral, lifted the dish. The firm acidity of the chosen dry white wine partnered the seafood well. (Wine: Savennieres-Roche-aux-Moines 2013, Domaine aux Moines)


Next came a delicately poached hen’s egg, its golden yolk cascading over sautéed wild enoki mushrooms, wild mushroom cream and a dashi emulsion. These soft, earthy elements were balanced by a light parsley veloute and crisp chicken skin. The lively fruit flavours and juicy acidity of the paired wine worked well with this dish. (Wine: Alsace Pinot Gris 2013, Domaine Josmeyer <Le Fromenteau>)


The third course featured a signature dish for which the restaurant has become renowned. An intensely fragrant Perigord black truffle risotto made from Acquarello rice, which absorbs more stock than other varieties without reducing it to a shapeless mush, was rich, creamy and moreish. Enhanced by aged Parmesan Reggiano, and Jus de roti, the earthy depth of flavour was stunning. The sherry- like Jura wine, with its spicy, almondy finish, was another inspired pairing. (Wine: Cotes du Jura 2012, Domaine Daniel Dugois)



It was interesting and unusual to be offered Sturgeon for the fish course. The pronounced piscine flavour and soft texture of this freshwater fish, timed to retain its succulence, was balanced by the relative subtlety of crisp cauliflower florets and smokiness of grilled early season leek. This dish was finished with a classic fish veloute and an appropriate luxurious garnish of Oscietra caviar. The light Pinot Noir style of the Austrian wine proved a suitable match. (Wine: Weinland 2014, Domaine Gutt Auggau <Atanasius>)

The meat course showcased the deep, sweet gamey flavour of Barbary duck in two ways. The thick breast, roasted to a medium rare, and shredded, meltingly soft confit leg. Garnished with roasted Kentish carrots and finished with a silky blood orange puree and a rich Madeira duck jus which lifted the whole dish, this was a simple yet accomplished dish. The full bodied red wine, high in tanin, complemented it well.  (Wine: Coteaux du Languedoc-Montpeyroux 2003, Domaine Alan Chabanon < L’esprit de Font Caude>)


The cheese course presented a slice of the unusual Secret du Couvent with its dense, semi firm texture and heady fragrance. Gingerbread, tiny apple and pear balls with red wine jelly and a balsamic reduction set off the creamy savouriness of the cheese, as did the caramel notes of the accompanying dry Madeira. (Wine: Madeira 10 yrs, Blandy’s <Sercial>)

Mango vacherin demonstrated the undoubted strengths of the pastry section. A golf ball size of crisp, delicately thin French meringue encased an aromatic sorbet of Alfonso mango. Dressed with drops of mango coulis and tiny cubes of fresh mango given a herbal lift, this light, refreshing dessert, partnered with a sweet New Zealand Riesling was a fitting prelude to the richer finale to come. (Wine: Marlborough Valley 2014, Framlingham <Select Riesling>)


Not having dined at Louis XV in Monaco, my first acquaintance with its eponymous dessert was by watching a TV programme in which Alexis Gauthier, who was Alain Ducasse’s pastry chef, championed it as the greatest dish in the world. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Alexis makes no apology for making it his signature dessert. Having eaten it several times at Gauthier Soho, I can see why it is seen as a dessert lover’s dream. Discs of crisp praline dacquoise topped with a 70% dark chocolate mousse, enveloped in a glossy ganache paradis and decorated with gold leaf formed this rich but light confection that oozed elegant, sophisticated indulgence. Although it is notoriously difficult to pair chocolate with wine, the selected Uraguayan sweet red, combining two different techniques for dessert wines, Barolo Chinato and Marsala, proved a perfect match. (Wine: Calenons N-V, Vinendo de los Vientos <Alcyone>)


Good coffee and petit fours completed this memorable meal, enhanced by the select flight of wines and impeccable service.

Why Michelin decided to withdraw its star defies belief. Not that Gauthier Soho needs a star to attract custom – it has already proven its worth. Certainly, the healthy numbers of diners, on average 25-30 for lunch and 45-50 for dinner, amongst whom there are a high proportion of regulars, testify to its success. Nevertheless, in the often unintelligible and unfair world of restaurant guides, a major injustice remains uncorrected. Fine Dining Guide will continue to visit this remarkable restaurant, and will follow its progress with interest.

Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, New Sunday Menu (Press Release March 2017)

Posted on: March 7th, 2017 by Simon Carter



Following the huge success of the “Le Poulet du Dimanche” menu over the past year, Hélène Darroze has launched a new five-course Sunday tasting menu – “Le Pot-au-feu du Dimanche” at her eponymous restaurant at The Connaught in London’s Mayfair.

“Pot-au-feu”, which means “pot on the fire”, is a traditional beef stew from the south west of France and is the epitome of French family sharing cuisine. The new menu showcases the main elements of the classic dish, deconstructed with Hélène’s personal flair and a few select luxury ingredients. The menu features the following:

  • Roasted bone marrow with a parsley crust, caviar, capers, pickled shallots, Meyer lemon, gem lettuce and a salad of fine herbs
  • Charred leeks with saucisson Lyonnais, leek velouté, and Périgord black truffle
  • Lake District Farm beef fillet, foie gras from Les Landes, confit pork belly, veal sausage, and a traditional bouillon perfumed with ginger and lemongrass
  • A salad of light gêlée of beef consommé, confit terrine of brisket and oxtail, young vegetables, horseradish and grain
  • A twist on the classic lemon tart – Candied Meyer lemon, sablé breton, coriander and lime emulsion

Passionate about classic French dishes from her home region, Hélène Darroze commented: “I have so many wonderful memories of my grandmother’s pot-au-feu on a Sunday – I loved the hearty richness of the dish, and the fact that there were always leftovers to turn into a salad the next day. My own version at my restaurant may be a little bit fancier with some shavings of truffle and a little bit of caviar, but the heart and soul of the traditional dish and all its gutsy ingredients remain.”

“Le Pot-au-feu du Dimanche” is now available at Hélène Darroze at The Connaught every Sunday for lunch from Noon-3pm and dinner 6.30pm-9pm, and will be priced at £75 per couple (the menu is designed for two to share). The menu must be pre-booked as availability is limited.

Since 2008, Hélène Darroze has been bringing her signature style of exquisite, contemporary French cuisine to The Connaught. India Mahdavi designed the sophisticated but comfortable Michelin two-starred restaurant. Hélène is known for her obsession with exceptional ingredients, and always forges very strong relationships with her French and British suppliers. In 2015, she was named the Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef, and she has also been awarded the Order of Chevalier three times, one of the highest decorations in France. Her well-established Paris restaurant on the Left Bank – Hélène Darroze – opened in 1999, and holds one Michelin star.

Address: Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, Carlos Place, Mayfair, London W1K 2AL Reservations: 020-7499 7070

Website: Twitter/Instagram: @HeleneDarroze @TheConnaught

For more press information, contact:

Network London PR – Maureen Mills, Jessica Corrigan or Tom Rogers

Tel: 020-8947 4474, or Email:                                                              March 2017

The Kitchen at Chewton Glen (Press Release March 2017)

Posted on: March 6th, 2017 by Simon Carter


The Kitchen – A New Restaurant at Chewton Glen

Later this month, Chewton Glen, one of the UK’s finest country house hotels, will officially launch The Kitchen. The handsome new-build space in the grounds of the New Forest property will have a dual purpose – a cookery school overseen by celebrity chef James Martin which will launch on 1st April 2017, and a 42-seat informal restaurant will open its doors on the 14th March 2017.

Offering a menu of casual comfort food classics, often with a touch of luxury, ranging from wood-fired pizzas and gourmet burgers to healthy superfood salads and indulgent desserts, The Kitchen’s open-plan interior will not only showcase chefs at work, but also provide a glimpse into the day-to-day activity in the busy adjacent 12-station cookery school.

Chewton Glen’s Adam Hart has been appointed Head Chef, and has devised the British-influenced menu in consultation with the hotel’s Executive Head Chef Luke Matthews and additional input from James Martin, particularly on some of his own well-loved signature specials.

Local sourcing is crucial, and as well as British artisan charcuterie (on a create your own board), fish is from the south of England, and cheese from Hampshire and Dorset. Chewton Glen’s own gardens will provide a ready supply of vegetables, fruit and herbs – and guests will be encouraged to visit with the hotel’s own foragers and gardeners.

The lounge area will be perfect for snacks or a lighter grazing experience, and a spacious outdoor terrace will also be available for al fresco dining. Options will include Pea and mint croquettes with English feta; Gin and tonic scampi; and Deep-fried aubergine with caramelised miso. (Prices from £3.50-£5.50.)

Typical dishes on the seasonal main menu will include – Salt and pepper Brixham squid (with dashi dressing); Cornish mussels with Laverstoke Park chorizo; Salad

of chargrilled tiger prawns (with kohlrabi, celeriac, dulse, ginger and spring onions); Trenchmore Wagyu beef burger (with field mushrooms and truffle mayonnaise); a variety of Sourdough Pizzas (such as with Artichoke, asparagus, Flambards eggs and Dorset truffle, or Nduja, fennel, rosemary sausage and black olives); and a few Chargrills – such as Salt-aged Udale ribeye, Spatchcocked chicken; and Wood-fired whole seabass (with watercress salsa verde). Tempting desserts will feature a Classic lemon tart with crème fraîche; Sticky toffee pudding with toffee sauce; Rum Baba with Chantilly cream; and a selection of Laverstoke Park ice creams.

Prices for the à la carte menu at lunch and dinner will be from £7.50 for charcuterie; £17 for superfood salads; from £12 for burgers; pizzas from £10; grills from £18; and all desserts at £6.

There will be a compact, international 42 bin wine list with many selections from small growers (bottles from £20), with all available by the glass (from £4) or 500ml carafe (from £16). In addition, there will be an extensive cocktail list that incorporates some local area whiskeys, gin and vodka, plus a range of local and craft beers.

Stylish, informal, family-friendly, relaxed and professional – these are the hallmarks of The Kitchen, and synonymous with Chewton Glen’s enduring award-winning style.

Address: Chewton Glen, Christchurch Road, New Milton, Hampshire BH25 6QS Reservations: 01425 275341

Website: Twitter/Instagram: @TheKitchenatCG

The Kitchen at Chewton Glen (Press Release March 2017) by Angela Day and Network London

Atul Kochhar: Chefs Season 2017 (Press Release)

Posted on: March 4th, 2017 by Simon Carter

Atul Kochhar Chefs Season

Twice decorated Michelin-starred Chef Atul Kochhar announces the start of his 2017 Chef Season in which he will welcome a list of fellow chefs into the kitchens of Sindhu and Indian Essence.

Once a month diners will experience a collaborative six-course Tasting Menu created by Atul and some of the most celebrated names in the culinary world.

Each chef will present three dishes alongside Chef Kochhar’s three that will promise to delight the palate and awaken the senses of guests. For a flavour of these highly anticipated events please see the full list below.

Commenting on the specially curated season, chef Kochhar said: “I am excited to welcome such a variety of talented chefs. The mix of skill, passion and creativity is outstanding. Here are chefs who, like me, promote and encourage seasonal British ingredients as well as Indian, Italian and South Asian. It’s important for me to adapt and adopt – cultures, cuisines, ingredients, everything. To bring diverse cultures closer, this is what food is about and these chefs understand and demonstrate these same important principles. So let’s get cooking!”

Future dates and chefs to be announced. Please check and for further information.

Chef Season Diary

Aktar Islam of Lasan Group

21st February at Sindhu Restaurant and 22nd February at Indian Essence

Birmingham born chef Aktar Islam from the Lasan Group is renowned for his creative passion of South Asian cuisine. Winner of The Great British Menu in 2011, his influence and distinctive style using exotic flavour combinations was borne from his culture and heritage. Aktar’s passion for creating modern South Asian cuisine has ensured his meteoric rise as one of the most talented chefs in the UK.

“I’m driven by the desire to create innovative modern dishes that bring together quality local produce with the intricate flavours of the Indian subcontinent.” Aktar Islam on Twitter @aktarislam |

Ping Coombes

15th and 16th March (Sindhu only)

Chef Ping Coombes is a home cook who rose to fame after winning the coveted MasterChef trophy in 2014. Growing up in Ipoh in Malaysia, a city renowned for its street food and exotic Malaysian cuisine, Coombes moved to the UK in 2000 and since winning the coveted MasterChef title has created a successful career in the food industry, showcasing Malaysian food and techniques to a mass audience via special appearances, food demonstrations and her cook book Malaysia: Recipes from a Family Kitchen.

“I want to continue to learn more new skills and techniques, adapting them to East Asian cooking, and to introduce the UK to more Malaysian flavours.” Ping Coombes on Twitter @WanPingCoombes |

Jane Devonshire

26th April at Sindhu Restaurant and 27th April at Indian Essence

Jane Devonshire comes from a family of cooks and her talent, skill and energy for food was demonstrated when she won the MasterChef title in 2016. From a very young age her passion for food was evident and it was this drive and determination that caught the eye of John Torode and Greg Wallace. Janes’ passion for food thrives as she continues her extraordinary culinary journey creating fuss-free recipes and delicious meals for the home cook.

“I’ve had a life-long passion for food but appearing on MasterChef meant stepping out of my comfort zone. Food is an absolutely solid and integral part of my family life, both growing up and now. It represents so much more for me than just food; it’s family and friends – the best times are always when good food, family and friends surround you.” Jane Devonshire on Twitter @janecdevonshire 

Dominic Chapman from The Beehive Pub & Restaurant

9th May at Sindhu Restaurant

As a self-confessed traveller at heart Dominic Chapman has a love of world cuisine, with Indian food holding particular significance. Every year the chef travels to India and spends two weeks cooking in the kitchen of an existing restaurant. Once head chef for Heston Blumenthal, Chapman has a less molecular style than his former mentor, instead serving up beautifully prepared, comforting dishes made with quality local ingredients. He won a Michelin-star at The Royal Oak in Maidenhead before becoming chef proprietor at The Beehive in White Waltham. With his love and appreciation for Indian cooking, Chapman was a natural selection to join chef Kochhar for Chef Season.

“I use traditional cooking methods to create seasonal and delicious dishes. I’m passionate about seasonal ingredients cooked simply. British ingredients where possible, but I don’t want to be restricted by them.” Dominic Chapman on Twitter @DomChapman

Cyrus Todiwala of Café Spice Namasté and Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen

11th May at Indian Essence and 29th June at Sindhu

Cyrus Todiwala is a chef, restaurateur, author and TV personality. The Bombay-born Parsee chef is recognised for his hallmark style of blending traditional Indian culinary techniques and flavours with more unexpected ingredients, as well as his hand-made line of pickles and chutneys (Mr Todiwala’s Splendidly Spicy and Deliciously Hot Pickles and Chutneys) which are food festival favourites. He is Proprietor and Executive Chef of Café Spice Namasté and Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen in London and is known for his innovative and fresh approach to Indian Cuisine.

“I always think to myself ‘How can I do something different this time?’, that’s how you can create something completing out of the ordinary. The best inspiration comes through trying new things.” Cyrus Todiwala on Twitter @ctodiwala |  

Restaurant Review: Sindhu by Atul Kochhar, Marlow (Feb 2017)

Posted on: March 1st, 2017 by Simon Carter

sindhu exterior

Atul Kochhar has been in the vanguard of transforming Indian food from the traditional curry house staples into the sophisticated, elegant cuisine of contemporary fine dining. Having won Michelin stars first at Tamarind (2001) and then at Benares (2007), his career has seen openings of Sindhu restaurants on three P&O cruise ships, a partnership with Jatindar Singh at Indian Essence in Orpington and, since December 2014, a franchise at Sindhu in the Compleat Angler Hotel in the historic Thameside town of Marlow, Buckinghamshire.

The 2017 Good Food Guide lists four entries with marks of 5/10 or above for this relatively small town, no mean achievement given the exacting standards of this publication. That “Marlow is the new Ludlow” is now indisputable. It has seen a veritable flowering of destination restaurants in the last decade, including the Hand and Flowers, the Coach, Vanilla Pod and the nearby Danesfield House Hotel. On a site once occupied by Aubergine, overseen by Michelin starred Billy Drabble, Sindhu is emulating its success with 6/10 in the GFG with two AA rosettes.

Aptly taking its name from the Sanskrit for the Indus River, Sindhu boasts commanding views of Marlow weir. Insulated from the sound of cascading waters, the carpeted dining room is a stylish blend of traditional features – stained glass on the leaded windows, dark wood panelling and real log fire – with more contemporary touches such mirrored columns, spotlighting and abstract canvasses which punctuate the green grey décor. Bold fabrics used in the lemon and turquoise upholstered chairs and in the glitzy banquette which runs the full length of the restaurant provide comfortable seating around well-spaced, polished dark wood tables.

Sindhu Interior

Just as the setting offers a mixture of old and new, so Atul Kochhar’s cuisine matches the authenticity of Indian cuisine – there is extensive research into the regional dishes of the subcontinent – with innovative modern British touches both in preparation and presentation. Spicing is subtle rather than bold, maximising flavour without excessive heat. Top quality ingredients are allowed to shine, with saucing enhancing their natural qualities. Timing is skilfully judged, whether in slow cooked or dishes needing less time. Combinations of ingredients can be unusual and exciting but always harmonious. The food is attractively displayed on a variety of surfaces including slate, wood and porcelain.

Menus include the full carte, featuring signature dishes such as soft shell crab, lamb shank and lamb cutlet, the highly popular seven course tasting menu (£65) and a good value weekday set lunch (at £19 for two courses and £22 for three).  Prices are fair, given the outstanding quality of the ingredients, such as Scottish scallops, Atlantic halibut and Romney Marsh lamb, and the skilful, innovative cooking. Menu descriptions are sparse, listing the main components with little information of cooking techniques, thus allowing for an element of surprise when the dish is served.

Connoisseurs will be impressed by the select and informative wine list. There is a good selection from Old and New Worlds with excessive mark-ups being avoided. The cocktail list also includes six non-alcoholic options. The Ginger Feast, with pressed pineapple and fresh lime spiced with fiery ginger beer was especially refreshing, and a pleasant accompaniment to the delicate bite sized lentil poppadoms with a trio of mango, tomato and coriander chutneys which started the meal.


The tasting menu, which we noticed many diners were choosing, proved the perfect introduction for those unfamiliar with Sindhu’s repertoire.

An amuse bouche of leek and potato soup fused a classic English starter with gentle Indian spicing, tantalising the palate with moderate heat and a long finish.

Sindhus amuse

The first course of Aloo and Samosa Chaat, combined two staples from Northern India. This flavoursome dish of roasted sweet potato encased in crisp pastry, and crisp deep fried new potato was enlivened with dressings of yogurt, tamarind and mint, with a scattering of pomegranate seeds for sweetness and colour.

starters sindhu

Next came Jal Tarang showcasing a large, beautifully fresh Scottish scallop, precisely timed to produce a caramelised crust and sweet, succulent flesh. What transformed this essentially modern British offering, with its velvety parsnip puree and deep fried crisps into a unique Kochhar creation was the spicy but not overpowering parsnip pickle, which lifted the whole dish. Set on dark slate, the contrasting colours of the ingredients also made this a visually appealing dish.


Equally accomplished was Meen Moilee, reflecting southern Indian influences. Here a fillet of Stone Bass – underrated but equally delicious as its better known cousin Sea Bass – was cooked to perfection with crisp skin and flakes of meltingly soft flesh. The balance of this dish was well judged, the freshness of the fish contrasting with the earthiness of a crushed potato and beetroot quenelle, with a rich coconut sauce, flecked with fresh coconut, bringing the other elements together well.


Lime sorbet provided a cooling citrus hit before the meat courses. Although, sadly, sorbets as an intermediary course has almost disappeared from modern British tasting menus, here it is entirely appropriate, allowing the palate to revive from the variety of tastes and textures which preceded it.

A northern dish of Murgh Makhanwala presented strips of succulent, smoky tandoori chicken supreme enhanced by a gently spiced and sweet Tomato Pulao, laced with butter and saffron. Raisin pilaf and paneer with spinach proved excellent foils for the richness of the chicken, soaking up the complex flavours of the sauce.

sindhu chicken

Erachi Chettinaad from the Tamil Nadoo region in south eastern India has proved to be a popular signature dish. A grilled cutlet from a Romney Marsh lamb, noted for its extra marbling, had been marinated in a Chettinaad mix of 21 spices to produce a sauce which, amazingly, complemented rather than overwhelmed the juicy, full flavoured lamb. Again, such deftness in the use of spices is the hallmark of Atul Kochhar’s gastronomy. A portion of dry polenta provided the necessary starch element whilst a dressed Kachumber salad of cucumber, tomato and bean sprouts and mint raita added a crisp freshness to offset the more aromatic elements.

lamb sindhu

Chapa Pulusa, a southern dish, featured a grilled fillet of Atlantic Halibut, the firm flesh of which was suitably partnered with caulifower Pakora and chickpeas. A Tamarind sauce, with its sweet and sour qualities, worked well with the robust textures of the fish, vegetable and pulse.

halibut sindhu

The accompanying warm nan bread was soft and light, the perfect vehicle for mopping up the delectable sauces and the slow cooked Black dahl with its deep, smoky flavour.

The final course was a trio of well executed desserts. Bhapa Doi, a delicate yogurt cheesecake with rose water added sparingly so as not to be overpowering. Mango Kulfi was light, creamy and full of fruit flavour. And chocolate and passion fruit disc was dark, intense and fragrant.

dessert sindhu

Coffee and petit fours completed this memorable meal, the service of which was seamless, dishes arriving with a well-judged interval between courses. It was overseen by deputy manager Jaspreet who was welcoming and informative, especially on the origin of the dishes. Although we only drank a glass of red wine with our meat courses, it was clear that Mark, the Sommelier who was busy serving other tables the full flight of wines, was an accomplished practitioner of his craft.

Overall, Sindhu is a class act in all respects, a distinctive addition to the Marlow food scene. The lively buzz of contented diners in a relaxed atmosphere reflects a strong local following with increasing numbers from further afield. A healthy weekday evening average of 30-35 covers, and full capacity at weekends, clearly testify to the popularity of Sindhu in a highly competitive market in the affluent Thames Valley. Fine Dining Guide will visit again to sample other dishes from the carte and will monitor Sindhu’s progress in the guides with interest.