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will be no issue of Mariani's
Virtual Gourmet next week (July 13),
because Mariani will be on vacation next week.
The next issue will be July 20.
CAN YOU AFFORD TO EAT IN LONDON
by John Mariani
: SOUTH GATE by
FROM THE WINE CELLAR: 2005
Red Burgundies May Not Wow All Winelovers by
YOU AFFORD TO EAT IN LONDON RIGHT NOW?
With the dollar pegged
at two to the pound sterling, it would seem that visiting Britain these
days and dining around London is prohibitively expensive.
The truth is, it ain't cheap, but for the most
part, even with that dreadful rate of exchange, it is possible to dine
as well as you would at nay upscale restaurant in any major U.S. city
at about the same
London restaurateurs are as concerned
about their own local clientèle as their American, so that they
tried to keep prices reasonable, especially at the slew of new places
opening all over town. True, if you insist on dining at Gordon Ramsay's
flagship on Hospital Road, or La Gavroche, or Nobu (all three of them),
you will pay a fortune for food that is very good but far from the most
exciting in London right now. Otherwise, there are plenty of
terrific new places where you can spend $30-$40 (that's dollars) for lunch and $50-$75 for
which is about what you'd spend for similar restaurants in NYC, L.A.,
San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, and Boston. Also, be aware
many London restaurants now add a 12 percent service charge, so you do not have to add a penny more. Here
are some places I think give particularly good value for the money
Please." From Dickens' Oliver
Twist, illustrated by George Cruikshank.
12 St. George Street
The folks who opened the very popular Soho
Will Smith and chef Anthony Demetre, have followed up with another big
hit, Wild Honey, which has as much to do with their holding down prices
as with the high quality of the food here.
Where the latter is sleek and cool, Wild Honey
has the feel of a traditional, wood-paneled, casual club, though there
is not the least whiff of pomp here, from the hostess to the waitstaff,
and the menu itself is just the right size that a table of six could
order everything on it.
You begin with good bread and butter while
perusing a list of wines (the majority under $70) whose every bottle is
available by the glass or carafe. They even list "ABV" (alcohol by
volume), though I'm not sure why. The cooking strikes no new territory,
instead standing firmly on modern Anglo-Italo-French precepts that good
ingredients make for good meals, beginning with slowly cooked breast of
Elway Valley lamb with "heritage burgundy" potatoes and spring onions.
One day there was pressed sole--curious but very good--with a beurre
noisette and trumpet mushrooms, and ravioli of potatoes with
cabbage and a lovely touch of dried lemon.
Our entrees included Cornish pollack, octopus and
shallots in a fine red wine sauce, and a roast of Limousin veal with
soft, Parmesan-laced polenta. Slowly cooked pork belly--which has
caught on as much in England as in the States--came with a risotto of
pearl barley and spicy chorizo, with smoked olive oil. Farther up
the pig, there is braised head with potato puree and sweet caramelized
You may then choose from a wonderful selection
of 17 cheeses, but don't miss the scrumptious desserts like Poire
William-soaked babka with poached pears and Chantilly cream or the
fabulous pain perdu with
And what will this put you in the hole?
Well, there's a pre-theater dinner at $35 and at lunch three courses
run $31--both incredible bargains. At dinner appetizers run
$8.50-$12.50 and main courses $31-$38--which includes VAT tax. An
optional 12 percent service charge is also added. It would tough
to eat this well in New York or Chicago and cost twice as much in Paris.
LE CAFÉ ANGLAIS
Rowley Leigh, who moonlights as a food columnist for the Financial Times, long wanted to
open and big, expansive, well-lighted, family-style rotisserie of a
kind he'd spent so many happy hours in in France. It seemed natural,
then, to name his new place in West London Le Cafe Anglais, with 170
seats, which does indeed have a spectacular rotisserie open to
view. And when you walk past the counter with its great haunches
of sizzling meat waiting
to be carved, one's appetite begins to rage.
Even before that you are likely to be seduced
by Le Cafe Anglais' attractive hostesses and waitstaff, who are nothing
if not helpful and friendly at every point in the meal, and it is very
likable to see so many Londoners here with their young children.
The large room, next door to Whiteley's shopping
center, is very light, airy, and extremely comfortable, with
booths the favorite tables. It's a clean, modern look without any weird
objects or artwork to distract from the business of eating well.
Leigh's menu is extensive, categorized under
hors d'oeuvres, first courses, fish, roasts, vegetables and desserts,
with about 30 items in the first two categories alone. With
friends I was able to rip through 20 dishes from all over the menu
starting off with an array of good, creamy burrata cheese on terrific
bread, a kipper pâté with soft-boiled egg (nice touch),
Parmesan custard and anchovy toast, some pickled herring with fine
potato salad, and good, homey rabbit rillettes
endive. Each dish was tradition but with a small flip of
So, too, the official first courses, including
lamb sweetbreads with salsa verde,
potato salad with black truffles,
and foie gras terrine with Pedro Ximenez sherry jelly--are robust but
heavy dishes that were are happily satisfying.
The best of the fish was a black bream with
tangy Seville orange and almonds, though Dover sole with a sauce
Béarnaise was nothing to rave about, the fish lacking the
fattiness you expect from its provenance.
I can rave about most of the meat dishes from
that grand spit--leg of black-faced lamb with celeriac puree and
truffle jus; something called
"Middle white pork" simply served with
apple sauce; and chicken that comes tangy with lemon thyme and garlic,
half, breast, or leg, however you'd like it. Creamed spinach was very
good, and gratinéed dauphinoise
potatoes devastatingly rich. Each day
there are lunch specials and each evening the day's roast, which might
be calf's liver on Monday, suckling pig on Tuesday, and a rump of beef
with "bubble n' squeak" on Sunday.
The desserts toed a simple but savory
line--bitter chocolate soufflé with pistachio ice cream,
and custard tart
with rhubarb, and a light Champagne jelly with rhubarb and blood orange.
And the damage? Not bad at
all: Hors d'oeuvres run $6 each, starters $10-$27, fish $20-$50 (the
latter for the forgettable Dover sole), and roasts $27-$31, with a rib
of beef for
two at $84, VAT included, optional serve 12 percent, and a tacky $3
cover charge. The winelist is about 150 labels strong, with
plenty of good bottlings starting at $30 and only the priciest above
originated eight years ago in Ludlow, but last year Lyon-born chef
Claude Bosi and his wife Claire relocated to London on tony Maddox
Street in a minimalist, very cosmopolitan dining room that won raves
from the local critics from the day it opened, including an
uncharacteristic whoop that Bosi (below)
is "a seriously talented
That he is, having trained under Alain Passard and Alain
Ducasse, and with his wild curly hair, reminiscent of Marco Pierre
White's unruly coif, he has a rugged, ready-to-cook-for-your demeanor
that is engaging.
When I asked Bosi why he left France for
England, he said that the cuisine and restaurants of his native land
are too staid, the kitchens too restrictive. "Here I can cook as
wish for a clientele that appreciates it for what it is," he
What it is is a superbly imaginative cuisine,
all his own,
inventive without being bizarre, complex without being complicated. For
example, Bosi's foie gras dish sounds a little odd--"roast foie gras,
Cous-cous of Romanesco cauliflower, white cauliflower puree, tamarind
syrup, and confit of `Main de Buddha"--which actually all balances out
in terms of fat, richness, delicacy, sweetness, and refinement.
It is actually first cooked Sous-Vide, then finished a la plancha, and
the "main de Buddha" is a southeast Asian lemon with fingers that
supposedly look like Buddha's gilded hand. Plenty of butter,
cream, and truffles went into a royale of Ardéche chestnut and
lemongrass with a button mushroom velouté.
Rabbit is done as an escabeche with a salad of
bean sprouts, soya bean puree, and pickled white carrots--very simple,
very, very good. A beautiful little starter was a poached egg
yolk with Savoy cabbage and coconut foam.
Our main courses included a very rare
(they should ask) squab with
a confit of tamarillo in
with wild chicory leaves to blunt the sweetness, and a
pumpkin-passionfruit puree to hold a middle ground of sweet and sour
flavors. "Hand-reared pork" (huh?) comes two ways: first, as crisp pork
belly, with freshwater eel (a tad fishy) cooked in truffle jus, fondant
potatoes, and roast pineapple, then as a warm sausage roll with salad
and black truffle dressing. Cornish John Dory seasoned with air-dried
ham, roasted root vegetables with a spice mixture called ras el hanout, and cream of candied
chestnut and gherkins. There is a fine selection of cheeses from Neal's
Yard of London and Bernard Antony of France.
were a mixed bag: a chocolate tart with Indonesian basil ice cream
worked, as did and iced Kaffir lime parfait with mango salad, sweetened
olive oil, and mango dressing, but a Jerusalem artichoke and dark
chocolate "Viennetta" with caramel cream and vanilla sorbet was
dreadfully out of whack with the rest of the cuisine here.
The room itself has just the right mix
of yin and yang, soberly masculine and softly feminine, with only 45
seats, well separated from each other, and the finest linens,
silverware, and stemware. The winelist is 500 selections strong, beefed
up with Bordeaux and Burgundy, with 40 dessert wines.
The tab here is higher than at the
other restaurants in this article, though by U.S. restaurant standards
caliber, about the same as if you were dining at a three-star
dining room in Manhattan, Boston, or Las Vegas. The menu offers
plenty of options (all with V.A.T. and 12.5 percent service): A
2-course lunch is $42, 3 courses lunch is $50, 6 courses, $140;
dinner is $120, a "Taste of summer" 5 courses $125, 7 courses $150, and
vegetarian $120. A meal here is well worth whatever you choose to
Lower Belgrave Street
favorite meal of my recent trip to London was at the unassuming,
extremely affable Olivomare, whose sister restaurants are two others I
recommend, Olivo and Oliveto, all run by the gregarious Mauro Sanna.
Here the emphasis, as the name suggests, is on Italian seafood, a motif
readily shown in the wall imagery to the left in the all-white slip of
a dining room; beyond that is a sky lighted room, and outside in good
weather there are tables.
The crowd seems as fashionable as it is well
heeled, though there is nothing ornately posh about the premises, and
the prices are very reasonable for this high quality Mediterranean
seafood--starters range from $18-$23, pastas as main courses $26-$31
(the latter for seafoods risotto), about two-thirds those prices for
appetizer portions. Main courses run $34-$38. There is no added
Best thing to do on sitting down is to have a
glass of Sardinian Vernaccia, the house aperitif, at $8 a glass. Then
begin the feast with friends, perhaps beginning with burrata with
mullet roe and cherry tomatoes, or impeccably chargrilled stuffed
calamari with tomato and basil. There is a dish of sea urchins with
crostini, and a marvelous baby octopus stew with bay leaves,
chili, and tomato sauce. I adored the mascarpone gnocchi with
prawns and tomatoes, and simply grilled prawns are every bit as good as
you'd find in a Sardinian trattoria, where you'd also find an equally
fine cassola stew of mixed
fish and shellfish to match
Olivomare's. Baked sea bass with black olives and wine sauce was
succulent in every morsel, and a grilled brochette of fish and
came impeccably cooked, with each species tender and juicy. The
Alto-Adige whites are a better choice. The majority of bottlings are
The winelist is compact, with a lot of Sardinian
that may or may not go with most of the seafood on the menu, so ask.
There is also a new gourmet deli next door, named Olivino, carrying
many of the same fine products Sanna uses at Olivomare.
WEEK: GREAT HOTELS AND CLASSIC RESTAURANTS in London
by Edward Brivio
154 Central Park South (near 7th Avenue)
was love at first sight when I walked into South Gate, Chef Kerry
Heffernan’s new restaurant located on the ground floor of the Essex
House hotel. I couldn’t help thinking, this is just what
NYC’s top dining rooms should look like at the beginning of the 21st
century: dazzling, dramatic, nostalgia, and cliché-free.
The room is a large, light, soaring
space, with the
ceiling a good 30 feet above your head, walls covered with small
mirrored tiles inset at differing angles so each reflection is slightly
different from its neighbor’s, and big comfortable chairs around
well-appointed tables separated by wide-open spaces. No cheek-by-jowl
seating or communal tables, thank God. No tablecloths either: they
would be as out of place here as Miss Marple clutching a Blackberry.
Whether you’re facing the rear of the dining room and the sleek,
contemporary, yet still hearth-like fireplace; the beautiful bar
against a 40 foot “wall-of-wine” backdrop, or the floor-to-ceiling
front windows overlooking the Park’s Fragonard-like massif of trees,
sightlines are all good here. Anyway, the chairs revolve so, at least
momentarily, you can enjoy each of them. Tony Chi & Associates have
created an interior of sophisticated, urban drama that prepares one for
the sure-handed, refined drama of the cuisine. Central Park South may
have lost San Domenico, but it has
another eatery worthy of the address.
We enjoyed Chef Heffernan’s flan
of English peas for the first time when he cooked at 11 Madison Park,
and it's only improved in the years since. There’s still that ethereal,
silken texture, and intensely true flavor that made the original such a
treat, but now it’s surrounded by a scattering of wonderful, whole
fresh peas. A few strips of prosciutto provide the salt, a few
the bite, and a chervil emulsion rounds out the dish to perfection.
Mayan shrimp and leeks vinaigrette with cardamom, rocket
and dill, all added up to a nicely acidic provocation to the palate.
The smoked char was as sweet as the morning’s catch, with flavor as
fresh, clean, and delicate as the grapefruit sections seasoned with
savory that accompanied it. Just be aware that the portion is
minuscule, five paper-thin strips of that delicious fish, when twice
that amount would still have left me wanting more.
on to butter-roasted lobster, a whole one taken from its shell and cut
up for your convenience, with a mild kimchi, as well as a light broth
scented with marjoram and red pepper. Delicious oven-roasted Colorado
lamb, another doll-sized portion of loin, came with a generous
cassoulet, deconstructed so it was light and savory, along with tat soi, an Asian, small-leafed
green used mostly for salads, and a marjoram gremolata.
seems to possess an instinctive mastery of complementary flavors, a
comfortable familiarity with the global larder, and a taste for the
less mundane, more delicate of the fresh herbs available: marjoram
rather than oregano, savory as opposed to thyme or rosemary, and
chervil, often called “the gourmet’s parsley.”
It’s just as well some portions are on the
small side, since it would be a crime to skip dessert here. The
chocolate pot-de-crème was excellent, as were its garnish, a
perfect chocolate madeleine, and little balls of chocolate as crisp and
crunchy as their name, chocolate craquante,
would suggest. I can’t resist passion fruit in any guise, and the
passion fruit meringue tart at South Gate maybe one of its best. Forget
lemon, or Key lime--this is the tropical fruit meringue pies were
created for. With it came a small glass of “soda”—like a passion fruit
egg-cream-- and a fittingly bland yet rich coconut sorbet.
Our wine, chosen with the help of the
knowledgeable sommelier, and one of a handful of bargains on an
extensive wine-list where prices quickly hit three figures, was a 2005
Regis Bouvier Marsannay Clos du Roy for $68, with nice dry, cherry
fruit, not a hint of sweetness, and the supple texture and medium body
pinot noir is known for. A wonderful Grappa di Nebbiolo di Barolo from
Berta brought everything to a perfect close. The various flavors from
the grappa seemed to blossom at the back of my throat only after I’d
Gate is open for lunch Mon.-Sat., for brunch Sun, and for dinner
Appetizers: $12 to $21; entrees: $25 to $39; desserts: $9 to $12.
Brivio is a contributing writer to the Virtual Gourmet. He lives
Red Burgundies May Not Wow All Winelovers
by John Mariani
recently sung the praises of the 2005
red Bordeaux in this space , it is disappointing to give a shrug
about the 2005 red Burgundies.
Perhaps I am more disappointed than
depressed by many I’ve tasted, because the wine press and sellers have
heaped such high praise on the 2005 bottlings coming out of the
Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits. Master of Wine Jasper
Morris’ report for Berry Bros. & Rudd, London’s oldest wine
merchant, calls the vintage an “extraordinary year”: “The grapes had
thick skins and ripe pips giving rapid and profound colour extraction,
yet the profile of the vintage is definitely more red fruit than
black. There is a marvelous refreshing mineral aspect which keeps
these wines lively and dynamic.”
I agree with some of the opinions in that assessment, but one must read
between the lines. “More red fruit than black” connotes a lighter body,
and “lively and dynamic” hints still further at a youthful, bright
vintage whose maturity will be rapid and difficult to predict.
I have not had the chance to taste the most
sought-after estates in Burgundy, like Romanée-Conti, whose
lesser Échezeaux is selling well in excess of $1000 a bottle and
whose top wines are being gathered up for auction or not yet available.
Instead I assembled a selection of well-regarded labels from the 2005
vintage priced under $150 a bottle, assuming they would be just as
impressive, if not as glorious, as the greatest Burgundy crus.
Overall I found the wines were lively and
seemed well along in their maturity. I had expected huge floral
bouquets upon opening the bottles, but for the most part that was not
the case. Some of the wines were tight, others quite open, though
dark tannins were not much in evidence. It is possible some are going
through what the industry calls a “dumb” period after recent shipping;
if so, there were a lot of dummies in the class.
Michel & Joanna Ecard Savigny-les-Beaune
Les Serpentières 1er Cru ($35) was lightweight, as this wine
often is, but one-dimensional, with no nose of consequence, even after
swirling and letting it aerate.
Surprisingly bland, even watery, was a Domaine
Joseph Voillot Volnay, made from “vieilles vignes” (old vines) on just
25 acres, which should have given it some fat and bite. The wine
did nothing to enhance a dinner of roast pork one evening, when I
thought a Volnay would be a perfect match.
Raphet’s Chambolle-Musigny 2005 ($55) also had but a slight bouquet and
a light body. There was refinement here, a true Burgundy pinot noir
flavor, but it was no triumph for a supposedly great vintage.
Catherine et Claude Marèchal’s
Chorey-les-Beaune ($35) was certainly cheap enough for a very pleasant
Burgundy, and there was some charm and good fruit there too.
One of the better examples of the 2005 I
tasted was the Vosne-Romanée Les Suchots by the large producer
and negociant Bouchard Père & Fils. It had considerably more
body but not the hugeness of a New World pinot noir. Instead, it
showed the satiny elegance you’d expect in a premier cru, along with
good fruit. Still, the tannins seemed quite modest, which does
not indicate that many more years in the bottle will improve it
measurably. And at $115-$125 a bottle, I’d like more iron in this
I will keep an open mind for now about the
2005 red Burgundies and taste them again next year—by which time
the most illustrious grand crus will be all gone—and see how they’ve
aged. They may be in a state of arrested development right now, but
somehow I doubt it. I feel somewhat like the anti-Jim Cramer of
“Mad Money.” He “just wants to make you money.” I just want to
save you some.
Mariani's weekly wine column appears in Bloomberg Muse News,
from which this story was adapted. Bloomberg News covers Culture from
art, books, and theater to wine, travel, and food on a daily basis, and
some of its articles play on the Saturday Bloomberg Radio and TV.
KIND of WOMAN!
YOU'RE JESSICA SIMPSON. . .
Simpson sporting a t-shirt
Primehouse restaurant in NYC.
on Orleans, 666 N. Orleans; (312) 337-8500. I say go for the combo
(beef and sausage). Walk up to the counter and say `Combo, wet, hot,
for here.'"--Pat Bruno, Chicago
* From July 5-27 in Chicago Brasserie JO celebrates Bastille Day
with Proprietor/Chef J. Joho’s “Frenchie’s Menu,” On July
14 itself there will be live gypsy-jazz. Call 312-595-0800 or visit
• On July 14 NYC’s Cercle Rouge is celebrating Bastille
Day with a special 3-course menu, live music and decorations. $39.95
pp. Call 212-226-6252.
* On July 17 in Kirkland, Washington, chef Vicky
McCaffree of Yarrow Bay Grill
will hold a wine dinner featuring Justin, with Yarrow Bay Grill wine
director Jake Kosseff choosing the wines. $195 pp. Call 425-889-9052 or
* On July 19 in Venice, The Feast of the Redeemer (La
Festa del Redentore), a tradition that dates back to the year 1576,
will be celebrated at the Bauer De
Pisis restaurant and the Bauer
Palladio Garden Bar & Restaurant at a gala dinner at the
restaurants of two of its properties; the Bauer Hotel and the Bauer Il
Palladio. Euro 420 pp Euro 200 including beverages. Guests will
be able to enjoy the fireworks show after dinner, shortly before
midnight. Phone: +39 041 520 7022. Visit: www.bauerhotels.com.
* On July 27 in Washington DC, in celebration of
Spain’s Santiago Festival, Taberna
del Alabardero will celebrate Spain’s culture, cuisine and
cocktails with a one-night-only ‘Juerga’ (or party), with Spanish music
and flamenco dancing. Sommelier Gustavo Iniesta will teach revelers how
to make traditional Spanish cocktails, while guests will also enjoy an
array of popular Spanish tapas, created by Executive Chef Dani
Arana. $75 pp. Call 202-429-2200; Visit
*From Aug. 1-Sept. 30 , many of Miami's top fine dining
restaurants will participate in Miami
Spice Restaurant Month, offering $23 lunches and $36
dinners consisting of 3-course, prix fixe menus, organized by the
Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau and Amex.