In-Digestion – a summary of the latest restaurant reviews

In-DigestionBruno Loubet’s Grain Store is the focus of the restaurant reviews this week and the critics are well impressed with the French chef’s new venture.

The Times’ Giles Coren labels the restaurant on Granary Square in King’s Cross as “one of the best places of the year”.

Writing in the Independent on Sunday, Lisa Markwell describes Grain Store as a “triumph of a great chef thinking about what the London scene needs”.

And Time Outs Guy Dimond says Grain Store is an “excellent new restaurant” where he finds “consistency of style and imaginative, successful flavour pairings”.

AA Gill is impressed with Tom Seller’s cooking at Story. “The menu has a deceptive simplicity – troikas of ingredients – but behind them is a sophisticated, expert construction that is elegant, thoughtful and clear,” he says writing for the Sunday Times.

The Guardian‘s Marina O’Loughlin likes the “vibe of eating as little or as much as one wants, whatever time of day, with nice drinks and jolly service” at the latest incarnation of Bell’s Diner & Bar Rooms in Bristol.

Filling in for Fay Maschler at the London Evening Standard, David Sexton finds a “curious food offer” that is “peculiarly unenticing” at Tanner & Co, while Metro’s Andy Lynes says the menu at new US southwest restaurant the Lockhart proves an assault on the palate.

In Scotland, the Sunday Herald’s Joanna Blythman says at Panevino in Glasgow there’s more emphasis on authenticity than in many other Italian eateries, while the Scotsman’s Gaby Soutar “really likes” French restaurant La P’tite Folie in Edinburgh.

A Gluttonous Month: My top dishes in June

quail egg dim sumDim sum at A Wong
Lunch at A Wong began with terribly inattentive service but my God, the food more than made up for the slow start. The highlight was a selection of dim sum, which were the best I’ve ever had. Anywhere. They included: pork and prawn dumpling with pork crackling (£1.30); quail egg croquette (pictured) (£3); and clear shrimp dumpling with shellfish chilli sauce (£1.30). The rest is a blur but I can’t wait to go back to refresh my memory!
A Wong, 70 Wilton Road, London SW1V 1DE; T: 020 7828 8931

Beef dripping candleBread and dripping at Story
Probably not the best or most accomplished dish of the 10-course tasting menu at Story but the one I enjoyed the most for its originality. A candle made from beef dripping arrives at the table melting into a pool in the holder and is served with dense, dark sourdough bread for dipping. On the side were tiny cubes of pickled celery and braised veal tongue. (£45 for six-; £65 for 10-course tasting menu)
Story, 201, Tooley Street, London SE1 2UE; T: 020 7183 2117

Lindisfarne oysters at Fifteen

Again not a dish that pays the chef’s abilities a huge compliment but these oysters were just utterly moreish. Supplied by Wright Brothers, they come from Northumberland and were served with dill and apple vinegar: incredibly fresh and tasty. (£3 each)
Fifteen, 15 Westland Place, London N1 7LP; T: 020 3375 1515

silver codSilver roasted cod at Hakkasan Mayfair
This is one of Hakkasan’s signature dishes and executive chef Tong Chee Hwee’s answer to Nobu’s black cod with miso. Silky, soft cod is served in a rich but carefully balanced sauce of Champagne and honey. A delicate dish to die for. (£35)
Hakkasan Mayfair, 17 Bruton Street,  London W1J 6AL; T: 020 7907 1888

cevicheCeviche of hand-dived scallops with black quinoa, crème fraîche, radishes, fennel and dill from L’Autre Pied
This year’s winning dish at Taste of London, created by head chef Andy McFadden and served by the lovely David Moore.
L’Autre Pied, 5-7 Blandford Street, London W1U 3DB; T: 020 7486 9696


asparagusSeared asparagus, green gazpachio sauce, rosemary and pink peppercorn melba toast at Grain Store
A very simple starter but one that delivered on all fronts: flavour, texture and it was gorgeous to look at too, although clearly my iPhone does it no justice. (£6.50)
Grain Store, Granary Square, 1-3 Stable Street, London N1C 4AB; T:020 7324 4466

duck eggAnd finally, Sat Bain’s Duck egg 62°C and textures of pea, air-dried ham and bread at Lexi and Rob’s house
In February, we went to the two-Michelin-starred Restaurant Sat Bains in Nottingham and my friends Lexi and Rob were so impressed with the food, they bought Sat’s book and have been recreating his dishes ever since – vac pack machine and water bath and all.
Watch out Sat, you’ve got competition!


The Week in Restaurants – news round-up

Anthony FlinnThe week kicked off with the sad news that Anthony Flinn’s mini empire of Leeds restaurants has collapsed into administration. The chef-restaurateur, who has widely been credited with putting the city on the culinary map, was forced to shut his flagship Anthony’s, plus Piazza by Anthony and Rib Shakk – all located in the historic Corn Exchange – as well as Anthony’s Patisserie in the Victoria Quarter, with 70 people losing their jobs.

Celebrities never seem to learn from each others’ mistakes and the latest in a series of famous people opening restaurants is Atomic Kitten star Liz McClarnon, who wants to launch her new venture in London and Liverpool. Winning Celebrity MasterChef in 2008 seems to have gone to her head.

Meanwhile fellow Scouser TV’S Sunday Brunch chef Simon Rimmer will open a restaurant at the new Doubletree Hilton in Liverpool. Simon Rimmer at Layla – a modern British brasserie – will launch in December.

Troubled roadside restaurant chain Little Chef has dropped brand ambassador Heston Blumenthal after six years. The three-Michelin-starred chef had been recruited to revamp the ailing chain’s image, with his attempts to overhaul the menu famously captured in a 2009 Channel 4 series. However, this week a spokesman for Little Chef said the two had parted ways because “no one wants” Heston’s food.

Paul O’Neill, senior sous chef at Ashdown Park Hotel and Country Club in Wych Cross in East Sussex, has joined the ranks of Andrew Fairlie, Sat Bains and Simon Hulstone after being named the 30th Roux Scholar. He has decided to spend his winning stage with three-Michelin-starred chef Pierre Gagnaire in Paris.

Meanwhile, great news for the UK’s Bocuse d’Or delegation as Adam Bennett, who this year achieved the best ever result for Great Britain, has announced his return to the culinary contest next year.

Rock ‘n’ roll restaurateur Russell Norman is bringing Polpetto back to Soho after agreeing on a site on Berwick Street. Much larger than the original above the French House, the new Polpetto will have 70 covers and open in November, with Florence Knight in the kitchen.

And bringing back Boulestin, the iconic former French restaurant, erstwhile Conran Restaurants partner Joel Kissin has appointed Colbert head chef Andrew Woodford to head up the kitchen when it opens on the old L’Oranger site in September. First opened by celebrated Frenchman Marcel Boulestin in 1927, the original closed after 68 years in 1994 when it was taken over by Pizza Hut.

Raymond BlancAnother famous Frenchman, celebrity chef Raymond Blanc, has been awarded his home country’s highest honour, the Legion d’Honneur. The recognition comes five years after the two-Michelin-starred chef patron of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire received an honorary Order of the British Empire by the British government in 2008.

Staying across the Channel, French MPs have approved a bill forcing restaurants to label home-made dishes. The “fait maison” tag on menus is aimed at curbing the practice of buying in pre-cooked meals, microwaving them and passing them off as freshly made. Restaurants marking dishes as “fait maison” fraudulently will be fined, although the French Senate still has to back the bill for it to become law.

Back in the UK, the branded restaurant market is set to grow by £5.6b to £22b over the next five years as it continues to eat into independent operators’ market share. According to a report from Allegra Strategies, which quizzed 22,000 consumers, eating out habits are becoming less structured and more informal meaning restaurants offering flexible all-day menus will benefit the most.

Shake ShackIt’s Independence Day next week and London’s Covent Garden seems set to become the battleground for two famous US burger chains, both of which are opening on the Fourth of July. Danny Meyer’s iconic Shake Shack is set to launch in the Market Building, while Five Guys is opening a stone’s throw away on Long Acre. Let the burger wars begin!

Finally, researchers from the University of Oxford have claimed that our perception of how food tastes is influenced by cutlery. Size, weight, shape and colour all have an impact on flavour, with cheese tasting saltier when eaten from a knife instead of a fork, and yoghurt tasting sweeter when eaten from a white spoon.


Independence Day celebrations

Independence DaySince I’m planning a move to California in the coming weeks, what better a way to get into the US spirit than by celebrating Independence Day right here in London?! Here’s a round-up of what’s happening in the capital on the 4th of July

Camden’s Blues Kitchen will celebrate with its annual hotdog eating competition, where punters will be invited to try to trump last year’s record of 19 dogs in 30 minutes to a live soundtrack of American rock‘n’roll. And if you’re not a competitive eater, there are also other US-themed dishes: smoked pulled pork, hot Buffalo wings, New Orleans gumbo, fried alligator and New York lemon cheesecake, as well as a huge selection of American whiskeys.

Riding House Cafe by Paul Winch-Furness / Riding House Café is putting on a special Independence Day set menu. Priced £25 and available all day on 4 July, it’ll include dishes such as fried chicken with coleslaw, creamed corn and fries, and a red, white and blue Independence Day cake. Other US themed goodies such as supersized buttermilk pancakes, cheeseburgers, and cinnamon donuts can be washed down with shakes and hard shakes as well as the signature peanut butter and jelly smoothie.

The Princess of Wales is holding a US-themed meal and quiz on 4 July, cooked and hosted by Scottish comedian Hardeep Sigh Kohli, who will be producing a three-course meal comprising his favourite dishes with an American twist. From 7.30pm-10.30pm, priced £35.

Big Easy ribsThe Big Easy on the King’s Road meanwhile is once again   looking for 10 hungry competitors to take part in its annual rib-eating contest. Last year’s winner managed to scoff down a staggering seven full racks in 30 minutes and if you think you’ve got what it takes to beat that record, enter the contest by emailing or tweeting @bigeasytweet. The winner will receive a £100 Big Easy voucher and have their name added to the restaurant’s wall of fame.

Independence Day at Christopher’s in Covent Garden includes a special menu with dishes such as BBQ pulled pork tortilla, apple slaw, avocado relish and hickory sauce to start, followed by grilled Missouri-rubbed, prime USDA rump steak, slow-cooked short rib and maple-whipped sweet potato; and grilled Maine lobster, cobb salad and mango-chilli salsa. Matching wines from the US will accompany the menu.

BenugoTwo Food Trucks (run by Benugo) at the British Museum will be serving up American street food, with snacks including the original hot dog, classic American style chowders and a New Yorker sandwich. Meanwhile Oliver Peyton’s National Café in the National Gallery is hosting an Independence Day dinner with Tim Anderson, the 2011 winner of MasterChef, who is serving a Wisconsin-themed menu. Priced £35, it includes: herby cheese ball with grandmother Casanova’s beer bread; firecracker chicken with lime-cilantro slaw; beer bratwurst with two kinds of fried onions and sauerkraut; and mom’s lime and thyme potato salad, and grandma Jeanne’s gem lettuce, orange, and pecan salad on the side; and summer berry kringle for dessert.

Finally, The White Horse is holding its annual American Beer Festival from 4-7 July. There’ll be beers from the Odell, Brooklyn and Sierra Nevada breweries across the pond as well as TAnderson Valley, Flying Dog and Bloodshot. There’ll also be a few one-off collaborations, and British beers made with American hops.

New London restaurant openings in July

Here’s a little summary of what’s to hit the capital in the coming month. All details are as accurate as possible and updated as and when they’re confirmed. If I’ve missed any exciting new places off this list, please get in touch!


1 July
What is it? A new bar and kitchen serving simple Italian dishes, on Exmouth Market, EC1
Who’s behind it? Antony Brown, formerly of Pasta Brown in Covent Garden, with Mattia Antonioni, ex-Polpo, the Ivy Club and Assaggi, in the kitchen
Size? 70 seats on the ground floor, 50 in the basement; design by B3
What’s on the Menu? The food is all about cucina povera (literally translated as “poor kitchen”), with simple ingredients used to create honest and flavoursome food. Typical dishes will include chargrilled sardine bruschetta; roast lamb with castelfranco lentils soffrito; pappardella with wild rabbit ragu; mussels impepata with rosemary crostini; pork involtini with smoked ham; and ceps and risotto al radicchio and pecorino
Contact: 2 Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4PX; @paesanlondon


Luis BaenaNotting Hill Kitchen
When? 1 July
What is it? Portuguese/Spanish mix-up housed in the former Notting Hill Brasserie, W11

Who’ behind it? Luis Baena, an acclaimed Portuguese chef who ran Manifesto in Lisbon and has worked around the world including with Paul Bocuse in Rio de Janeiro. He’s backed by Pod non-exec director James Paget and partners Filipa Teixeira and Godric Walker
Size? 100 covers; design by Sandra Tarruella
What’s on the menu? A mix of seasonal Portuguese and Spanish food, with typical dishes such as shredded crab and lobster with jellied consommé, ginger and yuzu curd; seared pink swordfish with seaweed and dashi creamed rice and Azores cheese; slow-cooked Iberian milk-fed baby lamb; and pork cheek confit with truffled bread and bacon crumble
Contact: 92 Kensington Park Road, London W11 2PN;


Aqua Shard by Paul Winch-FurnessAqua Shard
When? 1 July
What is it? All-day contemporary British  restaurant on the 31st floor of the Shard, SE1
Who’s behind it? Aqua Restaurant Group, which runs 21 restaurants in China as well as Aqua Kyoto and Aqua Nuevo atop the old Dickins & Jones building on Regent Street
Size? 220 covers
What’s on the menu? Details are yet to be confirmed but the menu will offer contemporary British dishes created by executive chef Anthony Garlando, a former protégé of three-Michelin-starred French chef Pierre Gagnaire
Contact: 31 St. Thomas Street, London SE1 9RY; 020 74780540; @aquashard


When? 1 July
What is it? South African burger brand makes UK debut near Clapham Junction, SW11
Who’s behind it? Steers is owned by Famous Brands (which also owns Wimpy UK), and has 505 sites in South Africa, as well as 43 more across Africa
Size? TBC
What’s on the menu? Flame-grilled beef burgers and handmade chips, with specials such as the King Steer Burger and the mini Rave Burger, as well as the new Steers flame-grilled peri peri chicken burger


Five GuysFive Guys
When? 4 July
What it is? Popular US burger chain’s first outpost in London, located in Covent Garden, WC2
Who’s behind it? Five Guys has teamed up with Carphone Warehouse founder Charles Dunstone. The plan is to open five outlets in central London, before expanding across the capital and beyond
Size? TBC
What’s on the menu? Burgers, dogs, sandwiches and fries
Contact: 1-3 Long Acre, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9AD; @fiveguysuk


Soho DinerSoho Diner
When? 4 July
What is it? American diner on the former Boheme Kitchen and Bar site in Soho, W1
Who’s behind it? Soho House Group has teamed up with Chicago restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff. They also run the Electric Diner together in Notting Hill
Size? TBC
What’s on the menu? Typical dishes will include the mammoth cheeseburger; honeyfried chicken; and broiled salmon with lentil salad; as well as new dishes such as honey chicken drumsticks and quinoa; and spinach and almond salad. For dessert there will be brownies and a selection of milkshakes, while weekend brunch will include waffles and pancakes next to poached eggs with avocado
Contact: 19-21 Old Compton Street, London W1D 5JJ; @sohodinerLDN


Shake ShackShake Shack
When? 5 July
What is it? New York’s iconic burger shack is coming to London’s historic Market Building in Covent Garden, WC2
Who’s behind it? Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group
Size? TBC
What’s on the menu? All-natural burgers, flat-top dogs, frozen custard, beer, wine and more
Contact: 24 Market Building, The Piazza, London WC2E 8RD; @shakeshackuk


Rock LobstaRock Lobsta at Mahiki
8 July
What is it? Pop-up goes permanent on the first floor of cocktail club Mahiki in Mayfair, W1
Who’s behind it? Pop-up enthusiast Carl Clarke, who also ran Disco Bistro
Size? 60 seats
What’s on the menu? Cornish native lobster rolls as well as other British seafood, including razor clam ceviche and soft-shell crabs next to assorted ‘hot-rock’ or ‘cool-rock’ crustacea served in ceramic pineapples. Otherwise, buttermilk chicken burgers; 40-day aged Dexter rib-eye steaks; and seafood-themed cocktails
Contact: 1 Dover Street, London W1S 4LD; 020 7493 9529


albionAlbion Neo Bankside
When? 8 July
What is it? Second Albion café and food store, located in the Lord Rogers-designed NEO Bankside building in Southwark, just behind Tate Modern, SE1
Who’s behind it? Sir Terence Conran, Vicki Conran and Peter Prescott
Size? 95 setas, plus 45 outside
What’s on the menu? Quintessentially English fare such as fish & chips, shepherd’s pie, sausage and mash and all-day breakfast. With an emphasis on local sourcing, produce will come from nearby Borough Market and Maltby Street Market, and beers from local breweries, such as Bermondsey’s the Kernel. The shop will sell local products from Tayshaw and Chegworth Farm, Neal’s Yard and Wright Brothers
Contact: Pavilion B, Holland Street, London SE1 9FU; 020 7827 4343; @albioncafes


Whyte and BrownWhyte & Brown
When? 12 July
What is it? Chicken and egg concept in Carnaby Street, W1
Who’s behind it? Creative director Fiona Gale together with chairman Kevin Bacon, the former managing director of the Restaurant Group
Size? 132 covers
What’s on the menu? Bangkok scotch egg with minced thigh meat and Thai herbs and a grilled chicken Caesar burger with Parmesan and Worcestershire sauce next to roasted and grilled chicken as well as burgers, soups, pies, salads, casseroles, wings and croquettes. Egg dishes will include breakfast classics such as eggs Florentine and Benedict, while the bar menu will offer crispy chicken skin, Vietnamese minced chicken salad in gem lettuce shells and a pulled chicken bap topped with house slaw
Contact: Kingly Court, Carnaby Street, London W1B 5PW; 0203 747 9820; @whyteandbrown

______________________________________________________________________________’s Italian Trattoria
When? Mid-July
What is it? Smaller and more rustic offshoot of Jamie Oliver’s ubiquitous high street chain in Richmond
Who’s behind it? Team Jamie Oliver
Size? 140 covers
What’s on the menu? Open daily from 10am serving coffee and breakfast pastries with the lunch menu offering traditionally inspired Italian dishes of antipasti, pasta, grills and salads. The Trattoria Bar will run a weekday aperitivo hour from 5pm to 7pm, with bar snacks including antipasti and “Gennaro bites”


Lincoln's Inn Bar and KitchenLincoln’s Inn Bar and Kitchen
When? July
What is it? All-day restaurant with both self- and table service on the former Terrace site in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2
Who is it? Caterer Benugo, which also runs the Serpentine Bar & Kitchen in Hyde Park, the Riverfront at the BFI Southbank and London’s Natural History Museum
Size? 64 inside, 24 outside; design by Path
What’s on the menu? Breakfast (from 8am-10.30am) will offer classics such as eggs Benedict or porridge with maple syrup and star anise poached plums. The main menu will include a range of 12” flat breads and pizzas, as well as five different burgers and five salads, including roast reef and prawn and crayfish
Contact: Lincoln’s Fields, London WC2A 3L

In-Digestion – a summary of the latest restaurant reviews

In-DigestionGiles Coren finds terrible food and dreadful service at Oblix, Rainer Becker’s latest venture on the 32nd floor of London’s Shard. The Times’ food critic hates everything about the restaurant, scoring it a measly 1.3 out of 10, adding a “miserably underdone veal chop tasted mildly of headache” and “a bright yellow macaroni cheese was the worst of its kind” he’s ever had.

French chef Bruno Loubet’s new veg-centric restaurant Grain Store in King’s Cross is a must-visit if you want to be part of London’s dining scene, says David Sexton of the London Evening Standard. However, he adds that not all surprises were welcome as during the six-course tasting menu his meal began to make less and less sense as a whole.

The Observer’s Jay Rayner says the food at “female-friendly” steak restaurant STK at London’s ME Hotel mostly misses. “It’s just all too frenetic, overworked and underthought,” he says.

Writing for the Independent on Sunday, Amol Rajan finds brotherly love at the family-run Shed, which he says is a great addition to the Notting Hill scene, whose atmosphere compensates for occasionally overpriced food.

At the George & Dragon in Wiltshire an enticing menu dominated by fish and shellfish sent daily from Cornwall, as well as unfussy, accurate and highly impressive cooking tick all the right boxes for the Daily Telegraph’s Matthew Norman.

The Guardian‘s Marina O’Loughlin finds a well-travelled menu of previously unseen dishes in the UK at Baiwei in London’s Chinatown, while writing for Metro Emma Sturgess is disappointed with the tasting menu at the Five Fields in Chelsea, which she is says “stuck on repeat”.

Finally the Sunday Times’ AA Gill is keen to change the popular view of German cuisine by reviewing Käfer in Munich.

The Week in Restaurants – news round-up

Marco Pierre WhiteWhat a bad start to the weekend it has been for celebrity chef Marco Pierre White, who was branded a “dishonest idiot” by a High Court judge yesterday. The former three-Michelin-starred chef was also called an “unreliable witness” as his claim for £174,000 in damages against two former business partners, who allegedly cheated him out of his share of the Yew Tree Inn in Berkshire, was thrown out. He now faces an estimated £500,000 legal bill, with the judge ordering him to pay £240,000 of the costs within 14 days.

Across the pond, fellow celebrity chef and erstwhile protégé Gordon Ramsay is also facing a legal battle as ex-waiters from his LA restaurant the Fat Cow are suing him for alleged unpaid wages. Four former employees claim, among other things, that they were forced to work gruelling eight-hour shifts without a meal break, that they weren’t always paid their minimum wage and denied overtime pay.

James Petrie Heston Blumenthal didn’t have a great start to the week either, after his right-hand-man James Petrie, head of creative development at the Fat Duck Experimental Kitchen, announced his departure. The Scottish chef, who is widely known as ‘Jockey’ and has worked with Heston for 11 years, said he was leaving to pursue new opportunities, although it is unclear what his plans are.

But it hasn’t all been bad news and a number of hospitality personalities were celebrating this week after the announcement of the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Jill Stein, founder and director of the Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, Cornwall, was awarded an OBE, while Clare Smyth, chef patron of Restaurant Gordon Ramsay; Jillian MacLean, founder of Drake & Morgan; and Geoffrey Acott, retired army captain and national treasurer of the Craft Guild of Chefs; were all made MBEs.

Angela HartnettMichelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett is to launch a new venture with chef Neil Borthwick, and Canteen founders Dominic Lake and Patrick Clayton-Malone in Shoreditch in September. Merchant’s Tavern will be an update of the classic tavern, with  Borthwick heading up the kitchen, who was previously sous chef at the three-Michelin-starred Michel Bras restaurant in France.

Restaurateur Rebecca Mascarenhas has announced her latest cheffy partnership will comprise a new Italian restaurant with Theo Randall. Mascarenhas, who already runs two restaurants with Phil Howard, will open Bibo in September on the former Phoenix site in Putney, which relaunched as Cantinetta in 2010.

Wabi LondonMeanwhile the collapse into administration of high-end Japanese restaurant Wabi London revealed a bitter dispute between its partners. While the owners lay the blame for the restaurant’s demise on former managing director and executive chef Scott Hallsworth, he strongly denies the claim and argues that it was a lack of investment that forced Wabi to shut.

Soho House Group has closed Boheme Kitchen and Bar and in its place will launch a new Soho Diner next month. Following on from last year’s relaunch of its restaurant at the Electric House in Notting Hill as the American-inspired Electric Diner, the new diner will be a joint-venture with Brendan Sodikoff from Chicago’s  Au Cheval.

Former board director of the Restaurant Group Kevin Bacon is opening a new chicken and egg concept called Whyte & Brown in London’s Carnaby Street. “It’s a concept that celebrates the extraordinary versatility of the chicken and the egg,” he said. But the question still remains: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

cevicheIt’s Taste of London this weekend and the festival kicked off with its annual prize giving for the best dish. This year gold went to the Michelin-starred L’Autre Pied for its ceviche of hand-dived scallops with black quinoa, creme fraiche, radishes, fennel and dill (pictured). The Cinnamon Club won silver with its Mumbai mille feuille of spring lamb and Launceston Place picked up bronze for its scallipop, a teriyaki dipped scallop and free range pork belly lollipop. Meanwhile Chris Corbin was handed the award for Best Restaurant of the Decade for the Wolseley.

And finally, in Scotland a renowned food historian has sparked outrage after he claimed that the country’s national dish of haggis is in fact English, adding its Scottish origins are as made up as tartan. In his new book Peter Brears goes on to rub salt into the wound by claiming Scotland’s modern whisky-soaked image has been manufactured and owes more to romantic patriotism than historical reality. Ouch!

A foodie weekend in Dublin

My weekend in Dublin kicked off with me getting utterly lost on the way to my hotel in Ballsbridge. I won’t bore you with the details of getting the bus in the wrong direction for I did eventually make it to Bewley’s, thanks to a lovely Irish man, who showed me the way.
“Are you here to see Robbie?” trilled the receptionist.
“Err, no,” I replied.
“Well you must be the only guest in the hotel who isn’t.”
It turned out she was right.

Patrick Guilbaud bookDublin, indeed Ireland, has only one two-Michelin-starred restaurant, Patrick Guilbaud. Although I’d left it too late to get a table, I did go to interview the trio at its helm: owner Patrick Guilbaud, chef patron Guillaume Lebrun and head chef Kieran Glennon for a piece for Caterer and Hotelkeeper. The restaurant may be more than three decades old but its philosophy and culinary ethos couldn’t be more contemporary: top quality, fresh, seasonal Irish produce combined with international flavours and modern cooking techniques. I was gutted not to stay for dinner but got a copy of their gorgeous book, published to mark the restaurant’s 30th anniversary two years ago.

Pig's Ear smoked salmonThat night my friend Lauren, whom I was visiting, and I went for dinner at the Pig’s Ear, a modern Irish restaurant on Nassau Street right in the city centre. The food was lovely, with local Irish produce carefully presented in an accomplished yet unfussy way. We had Earl Grey tea cured salmon with cucumber and apple, buttermilk curd, dillisk and dill oil (€10.95); and crab mayonnaise with Goatsbridge trout caviar and raw and pickled heritage carrot salad with an orange dressing (€10.95) to start, both of which were light and delicate: delicious. For mains we both had TJ Crowe’s slow cooked pig belly with salt baked celeriac, Jane Russell’s black pudding, burnt pear and barley (€23.95), which was a tiny bit dry but delivered on flavour. All washed down with a bottle of Domaine Borgnat Bourgogne pinot noir, there was no room for dessert.

That night we partied up a storm at the George until it closed. The next day I’m ashamed to say we did very little other than move to our new hotel, the Morrison, tuck into a greasy burger in the hotel bar and take a city tour on the open bus (there was no hopping off and on again). We didn’t even manage a pint of Guinness and for dinner ordered pizza to the room, watching a bad chick flick. Shameful.

Taste of DublinBut we felt a million dollars for it on Sunday and after breakfast of cold pizza in the room (all time favourite) and a bit of power shopping in the Ted Baker sale, we headed to Taste of Dublin. It’s tiny compared to the London event but no less exciting and it gave us a great overview of the Irish food and restaurant scene. Highlights were a dish of seared scallops with black pudding, pork belly and cauliflower purée from Aniar, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Galway; and grilled sirloin of dry-aged beef served on Waterford blaa, with caramelized onion, Gruyère and wild rocket from Brasserie Le Pont, a French restaurant in Dublin .

oystersAs the sun had made a rare appearance, Lauren and I decided to head to the coast. We took a 25-minute train journey to Howth and a walk along the harbour. Just as the rain came, we descended on Beshoffs, one of a dozen seafront fish restaurants in Howth, for a platter of oysters and fish and chips.

Back in Dublin it was finally Guinness time. People have always told me that Guinness tastes better in Dublin but I can’t tell you how infinitely true that statement is. I normally can’t bear the stuff – it’s so heavy and bitter – but over there it was light and refreshing, so delicious, I managed a whole two pints!

I didn’t get to see all the places on my list in Dublin but you can’t do everything and I had a really brilliant time. I love the Irish – everywhere we went, we received a wonderfully warm welcome, every time we got lost there was someone to help us and show us the way and always with a smile. I can’t wait until next time.

Beneath the Whites – Michel Roux

Michel RouxMichel Roux is the godfather of modern restaurant food in Britain, who together with his brother Albert, has changed the face of UK dining over the past 40 years. His restaurant, the Waterside Inn, now run by his son Alain, has held three Michelin stars for 28 years, while the Roux family’s Roux Scholarship has helped to launch the careers of some of Britain’s top chefs

What is your earliest food memory?
The smell of pâté, hams, black pudding, sausages and delicious foods permeating our family apartment from the charcuterie below which was owned and run by my father and grandfather.

What is your favourite smell?
The vibrant, briny smell of the sea when the tide has just gone out.

What is your idea of comfort food?
It would be a light but full flavoured lamb stew.

Who has had the biggest influence on your cooking?
My mother, who was not a great cook but put love into everything she prepared, even boiled potatoes. It was a good lesson learned: to cook with passion.

Which is your favourite cookbook?
Antonin Carême – I have the whole series of books he wrote in the 1800s. He was a great pastry chef.

What is the worst thing that’s ever gone wrong during service?
A power cut, which happened in the middle of dinner service with 80 diners. It was a nightmare, we had to locate torches and candles and it was very uncomfortable in the kitchen since, although we could cook with gas, we had no extractors working.

Have you ever kicked someone out of your restaurant?
On one occasion, a customer complained and was particularly rude to my waiters and manager. The other customers were becoming uncomfortable and for the sake of establishing order, we had no alternative but to physically remove him from the restaurant.

When are you happiest?
At the close of a busy, smooth and successful service. I sit and relax with a glass of Champagne.

What makes you sad?
The lack of freedom in Europe. I object to the pervading powers of Brussels and despair at the speed that nations seem to be losing their identity.

What do you most dislike about yourself?
I often take too much on and put myself under needless stress.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Ice cream and desserts in general.  I have a sweet tooth and no matter how satisfied I feel at the end of a meal, I cannot resist indulging in a dessert.

What is the most disgusting or weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
In Vietnam, I sampled a peculiar delicacy which is sold on the streets and popular as an aid to fertility: a hard boiled duck egg but with the chick inside so it is eaten, beak and all.

Would you eat it again.

What’s on your perfect sandwich? 
My favourite filling is good ham cut on the bone, watercress, mustard and lemon juice. It must be a thick filling on thin slices of brown bread.

Who would you most like to be stuck in a lift with?
My dog, Henry.

Where did you have your best meal this year?
The Ledbury.

If there was one restaurant you wish you’d opened, which would it be?

If you could travel in time, where would you go?
Ancient Rome. I would love to see the gladiators in action.

Follow Michel Roux on Twitter @MichelRouxOBE

James Petrie, aka Jockey, resigns from the Fat Duck

James PetrieJames Petrie, head of creative development at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck Experimental Kitchen, has left the company after more than a decade.

The Scottish chef, who is widely known as Jockey and has worked with Blumenthal for 11 years, announced his departure on Twitter this morning.

“After 11 great years working with Heston Blumenthal, I have decided the time has come to move on to explore other opportunities,” he said.

“[I’m] looking forward to many new food adventures ahead.”

Petrie joined the three-Michelin-starred Fat Duck as head pastry chef in 2002 and became head of creative development in 2007. He previously worked at the The Inn at Little Washington.