April 13, 2009

Fancy Restaurants Part Deux

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Deux because they’re fancy!

Starting with the best, Pied a Terre is a small, intimate restaurant in Fitzrovia. At least I think it is small. It appears to be a converted house, so there are many small rooms. We were in the front room with four tables, most of which were empty during our meal, and none were in our eyeline. The large front window was frosted to just above head height. The room felt light, but no one on the street could see in, nor could we be distracted. Combined with the staff materialising as if from nowhere whenever required, the impression was a private dining experience. It is the effect Hakkasan was attempting and failing to achieve (there I felt as if I was on a stage with down lighting trying to isolate our table in a large room). We ordered the tasting menu with the discovery wines option. Were I to describe each dish it would become a bore of hyperbole. It is safe to say the food was incredible, sometime surprisingly so. I’m not normally a fan of raw tuna, but here the flavour was exquisite. The wine was of a high standard with two outstanding exceptions and another disappointing exception (which turned out to be from my home town). Although with 8 glasses over 10 courses it was too much and we had to leave nearly half. The staff were friendly but to the point and never instrusive. Overall, the meal was verging on perfection. The main negative point was the expense – oh my lord the expense. It is by far the most expensive meal I’ve ever had by a long way. About 50% more expensive than Hakkasan, which I thought was expensive. For the cost of this meal for two, you could feed eleven at The Sportsman. Having said that, I’m glad to have been once, just not sure I could justify another visit before I win the Lotto jackpot. If this is what two Michelin stars is like, how much better can three be?

Babur is an Indian restuaurant in Forest Hill (about 15 minutes walk from where I live) which recently won an award. I thought it was the “Best Cheap Eat in South London”, but I’m told that’s not right, and if it is correct then it must only just qualify on the price criteria (to my mind it’s at the high end of cheap – £60 for two, with beer but no wine or dessert). Their takeaway menu is very good so we went for a sitdown meal. The food was excellent. I had the ostrich starter with tandoori jumbo prawns (the largest prawns I have seen in Britain), it was mouthwatering and satisfying in the way good curry can be. Based on the food alone, this would be one of my favourites. However, I found the service a little lacking. Our naan was forgotten, but when pointed out it was removed from the bill with no hassle. Also they tried to sell us a loyalty card a little too strongly. At first I was interested, but after a quick calculation realised it wouldn’t be much use to us. We politely refused. So far no problem. However, they then proceeded to try selling it to us a further two times, each time explaining to us the “benefits” in full as if we hadn’t grasped the system the first time. I wasn’t impressed. Overall, despite the hassle it’s worth a visit.


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