Thursday, May 20, 2010

Alloro , London

Picture courtesy of Douglas Blyde

A recent invitation to a Sardinian feast at Alloro by the London Fine Dinning Group prompted me to revise my view of both the quantity and quality of top class Italian Restaurants in London .

It was a pleasure to have Douglas Blyde as a dining companion not only because of his "intoxicating prose" but because he takes beautiful pictures too, and I can then focus on the food and wine !

I first ate at Alloro in 2003 what was an above average for London Italian lunch and then again a year or so later experienced an exceptional dinner just before Christmas. What happened in that period is that Daniele Camera who originates from Turin took over as head chef. The restaurant itself reminds me of the timeless establishments one finds in Turin and Milan , understated elegance , superb service and a kitchen that delivers year in year out.

The evening was co sponsored by Feudi della Medusa and Vallebona Sardinian Gourmet.


Chef’s Selection of Canapés
Musamari de tùnnu con fasobeddu e pilarda
Wind dried tuna with green beans and sun dried tomatoes
~Albithia Vermentino di Sardegna 2008~
Supa de freula e coccioba
Soup of Sardinian cous-cous with tiny clams
~Alba Nora Isola dei Nuraghi 2007~
Malloreddus a sa moda campidanesa
Sardinian pasta with fresh sausage, tomato and pecorino cheese
~Cannonau di Sardegna 2006~
Proceddu e patatasa arrustidasa
Roast suckling pig with roast potatoes
~Gerione Isola dei Nuraghi 2006~
Sebadas cun meli de olioni
Traditional Sardinian cheese fritters with Corbezzolo Honey
~Aristeo Vino Passito 2005~
Caffei & Murta
Coffee & Traditional Myrtle Berry Liqueur

For me the stars of the evening were the Supa de freula e coccioba matched with Alba Nora Isola dei Nuraghi 2007 and Proceddu e patatasa arrustidasa matched with Gerione Isola dei Nuraghi 2006 . The soup was perfectly balanced and a perfect example of Daniele Camera's light touch whilst the Suckling Pig was one of the best I have eaten in the UK.

The Alba Nora Isola dei Nuraghi 2007 is a wonderful example of how you can make wonderful Chardonnay in Italy . The wine is an intense yellow with a flint and toasted almond bouquet coupled with a hint of sea salt taste.

Gerione Isola dei Nuraghi 2006 is a blend of Bovale , Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Cabernet Franc .Maleolactic fermentation takes place in barriques . Maturation is for 18 months in 225 litre Ailler and Tronçais oak barriques. The scent reminds one of cherries with a tinge of Muscat and liquorice .There is a long lasting flavour that heightens the cherry and small fruit scents; a taste of tannin emerges at the back of the mouth that gives the wine its persona.

The delightful Claudio Benvenuti a Tuscan ex Frescobaldi who was seduced by Feudi della Medusa gave us a detailed history and background to all the indigenous and non indigenous wines the winery produces.

Those of us who live in London are really fortunate to have access to excellence at Alloro , Locanda Locatelli , L'Anima , Semplice and Zafferano . Alongside the aforementioned we also have some really good neighbourhood Italians like Edera , Enoteca Turi , Sardo and Locanda Ottoemezzo . Can we say the same in terms of quality and numbers about Chinese , Japanese or even Indian/Pakisatni cuisine ?

Alloro on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 17, 2010

Bar Boulud , London

3 Michelin Starred Chef Daniel Boulud’s first UK restaurant, Bar Boulud, London opened its doors on May 6th at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. I am told breakfast will only be served until Heston Blumenthal opens his restaurant in the same Hotel later this year and I'm assured the breakfast menu will not be based on his work for Little Chef.

The Adam D. Tihany designed interior seats 169 in two large connecting rooms, the first has zinc topped bar and the second has a vista of the open kitchen. Materials such as wood, leather and cork add a contemporary touch and the bar a vin theme showcases the craft of wine making, including walled wine stains from Chef Boulud’s favourite vintages and photography by Blaise Adilon of various renowned Lyon bistros and brasseries. Guests can watch the chefs at work at the charcuterie bar running along the edge of the open kitchen or dine in one of the two interconnecting private dining rooms, both seating 16 people each. The management are forecasting serving circa 700 covers a day and from what I saw on my visits so far they have a top team in place to do so.

Dean Yasharian from Bar Boulud in New York has come over as Executive Chef and Stephen Macintosh from The Wolseley is the General Manager, Bar Boulud, London looks set to follow in the success of Daniel Boulud's "diffusion" range of restaurants in NYC, Café Boulud, Bar Boulud, DB Bistro Moderne and, most recently, DBGB Kitchen and Bar, on the Bowery.

A full bistro menu is based on seasonal, bourgeois French cooking and includes dishes such as Truffled White Sausage, Grilled Atlantic Sea Bass, Braised Rabbit Ragout and Coq au Vin as well as a selection of terrines and pâtés made on site under the direction of acclaimed charcutier Gilles Vérot. Alongside the classic bistro fare we have a selection of Burgers from Danile Boulud's second tier eateries. Wine has a focus on Burgundy and the Rhône Valley, an impressive selection of wines, by the glass and by the bottle, and occasionally from Magnums, Jeroboams and Rehoboams, feature old world wines as well as new world selections made in the Rhône or Burgundy spirit. A selection of beers is also available on draft from small, artisanal producers and continental microbreweries with specially designed glassware for tasting portions.

Everything I have eaten is beautifully prepared and I'm sure sourcing will improve over time as is the case with many transplants from the US.

In terms of food though what I think is truly disruptive for London is not the much anticipated burger(s). Though perfectly good, even in New York not considered to be in the same class as Minetta Tavern or the Spotted Pig for instance but for me the Charcuterie of Gilles Vérot is the star of the show. Bizarrely I first tasted the product of this Pierre Hermé of charcuterie" in New York before visiting his boutiques in Paris . When in New York I understood that the Charcuterie is made on site by a master Charcutier supplied by Gilles Vérot. In the case of London it is Nicholas Maragou that is preparing truly world class Charcuterie in London.

We are very fortunate to have both Pierre Hermé and Gilles Vérot delights in London and for those who have not been to Catherine and Gille Vérot's boutique Charcuterie's in Paris it's worth going there just for that !

All I can say is at the moment is thanks to Daniel Boulud and the Mandarin Oriental , London "nous sommes gâtés ". I have already enjoyed some of Nicholas Maragou's delights for breakfast and cannot think of a better stop over on the way to work !

I predict Bar Boulud despite the constraints of being in a Hotel will be a great success. It has a wonderful room , service is superb and where it trumps The Wolseley par example is on what the kitchen delivers in each and every plate or board.

Bar Boulud on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sardo , London

I recently returned to Sardo after not having been for about a year. On this occasion it was a lunchtime walk in with my business partner who was over from LA.

Returning to Sardo was like running into a a very dear old friend who for one reason or another one has not seen for a while. Nothing had really changed much be it the simple decor or olives and the perfect Pane carasau, or carta da musica, the traditional flatbread from Sardinia.

Sardo and Primrose Hill sister Sardo Canale remains in my opinion the best Sardinian restaurant in London . To check standards were high I could not resist the Spaghetti a la Bottarga to start and it was truly sensational made with a generous quantity of top class Sardinian Grey Mullet roe not the cheap pulvarised stuff often used in inferior restaurants. My companion joined me on both the Spaghetti and to follow a simple but beautifully executed grilled medium rare dish of Yellowfin Tuna with asparagus , cherry tomatoes and rocket.

We shared a portion of Sebadas (Sardinian puff pastries with honey) with our espresso's before heading off to our next meeting.

I need to return soon for a longer meal and to revisit the excellent Sardinain and Italian centric wine list.

Sardo on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 01, 2010