The great British public has a reputation of forming orderly lines with no notice, but sometimes the clue is in the queue. On a recent drive to the Cotswolds we stumbled across The Telegraph’s online ‘insiders guide’ to the best places to eat in the area; from typical pub grub to fine dining restaurants. As we were staying near Cheltenham we searched a 30 min radius drive from our hotel so that we could stop for lunch before the usual 3pm check-in time.
We’d heard Cheltenham was a nice place to visit (we guessed it must have something to offer other than the famous steeplechase horse racing as it has the fourth-highest rate of multi-millionaires in the UK living there) but after looking through the restaurant list we weren’t overwhelmed…the closest venue we liked was Jamie’s Italian…so we decided to continue our search. We decided on the quaint village of Cirencester and deli-café-bistro ‘Made by Bob’.
Empty Chairs at Empty tables: Part 1
Alas, not a review of Les Miserables nor the song from the show, instead a review of two recent dining experiences at two rather lovely restaurants, but sadly, both were somewhat deserted hence the title of our latest two-part blog.
Our first review focuses on NW3 Bar & Kitchen.
The new Mondrian London hotel opened earlier this year to much fanfare and Elldrew were particularly excited to take a peep inside (we knew the building from when it was offices of an old client) so what better excuse than a pre-Christmas dinner in it’s main restaurant ‘Sea Containers’.
Sea Containers has been aptly named after the building that houses the hotel (Sea Containers House) and is award-winning New York chef and restaurateur Seamus Mullen’s first European restaurant. To be honest we had no idea who Seamus Mullen was beyond what we’d read in the papers, but we were nevertheless excited to try his “farm to table” dining concept.
For our third visit back to this fantastic resort we just had to return to Kabuki – the 1 Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton resort. This visit we dined twice as the food was exquisite and again lived up to it’s ‘best Japanese restaurant in Europe’ status. Mouthwatering, visually spectacular, if you are visiting Tenerife (South) Island then this restaurant has to be on your to-do list.
You know when you’re watching a talent show on TV and you think the act is terrible yet they get a standing ovation, or the opposite happens, your favourite act is booed and you wonder if you’re watching the same programme? At the end of the day everything we experience comes down to personal preference, this also applies to any restaurant we eat in. Of course each of us have expectations or standards when it comes to food quality and service (even more so with that ‘discretionary’ service charge which has pretty much become a mandatory on the bill), but as novice writers (or dare we say bloggers) we still believe that a review of any restaurant should be written fairly, leaving the reader to make up their own mind.
An article on the recently opened Spring restaurant in London, by Camilla Long for The Sunday Times magazine ‘food and drink’ section, had so much venom in it (she even went as far to insult the 1547 historic building the restaurant is located in) that we had to wonder how hers and our dining experience could differ so greatly…could she really not have enjoyed Spring that much to give it such a bad critique? Truth be told we only got three quarters of the way through her article as by the end of it she was cleverly trying to fill space with meaningless words and pointless dribble. So, like Ms Long, Elldrew have an opinion and a platform to voice our views and with that in mind we would like to stand up, push back our chairs and give Spring a standing ovation, because we think it deserves it!
For years Elldrew’s ‘local’ pub in Kentish Town NW5 was less than 100 metres away, but we never dared enter in fear that we might not make it out alive. You see, The Grafton was a run down pub that attracted the wrong crowd, and as far as we knew, it was kept afloat via behind-the-scenes criminal activity (if it wasn’t then it sure did a great impression that it did).
A traditional cornerstone pub in an upcoming area of Kentish Town on the borders of eclectic Camden (well Elldrew did live there after all), it was only a matter of time before someone threw some love (and a bucket of paint) at the old girl, taking on board the current gastro pub ‘style’ and ‘etiquette’ that we have all become accustomed to, so that The Grafton could re-open and breath new life through her doors.
It’s been a busy eating week for Elldrew; we’ve lunched at old favourite ‘The Wolseley’, suppered at Bruno Loubet’s ‘Grain Store’ and last night we had the pleasure of dining at the newly reopened Quaglino’s. And despite The Wolseley retaining its crown as Elldrew’s favourite dining spot, it’s Quaglino’s that gets the honour of our attention and review.
Quaglino’s has to be one of the grande dames of the London dining scene. Currently celebrating her 85th birthday, she’s been “in” and “out” so many times that she’s rather like one of Soho’s less salubrious residents, and Elldrew remembers Quaglino’s well, from her last revival and hey-day in the nineties. Back then she was an airline hangar of a room; the jewel in Conran’s fledgling restaurant group. She was white and bright, vast and opulent, and symbolised all the decadence of the early nineties and optimism of the approaching millennium. But she withered and floundered, struggling to attract the crowds in the noughties as the new hip, young and trendy joints around the London restaurant scene emerged – like every elegant lady of a certain age she long ago needed a little bit of, errm, “cosmetic maintenance”. Fortunately for Lady Quaglino, D&D Group came to her rescue and treated her to a full workout and makeover, reopening mere weeks ago with a fierce new look and a drinks and food menu to boot!