The Test Kitchen, Cape Town 10-2019

It was lucky that the October reservations for The Test Kitchen only came out in September. It gave me plenty of (last minute) time to read about where I wanted to eat in Cape Town and decide if it was worth paying the R2250 + 12% service to go to The Test Kitchen. The alternative would have been to try The Pot Luck Club, and in hindsight maybe I should have tried both. But there were other food places in Cape Town I liked the sound of and food there is otherwise relatively cheap.

When the bookings were released, I (like many others I'm sure) quickly logged in. I had hoped for an early session but somehow after nabbing one, it got taken and left me with 8pm. Oh well - that's not too bad. Actually since the sunset was around 7pm in October, 8pm worked out really well. It gave us plenty of time to return home after the drive to Franschhoek and more time to digest the large lunch and cheese platter from the afternoon.

This developed section of Woodstock is really quite nice. I've read the surrounding streets are not safe (in the evenings), so it would have been nice to come back during the day or even to the development area in the evening for a more relaxing night. There are security there and also designated door people from the restaurants to keep order and safety. It really is well organised.

Immediately upon entering the industrial and relatively indistinct door, there is the dark room. Dark it is indeed with eyes needing to adjust to see the lovely artwork and sketchings in the walls. After a brief hello and introduction, it is immediately onto welcome drinks and a tour of the world starters.

Sour (lapsang souchong old fashioned) was mildly sour, a bit smoky and very nice. Bitter (num-num & rose) was only mildly bitter, a bit sweet and also very nice.

The Dark Room
- Scotland: Billionaires - chicken liver parfait, porcini mushroom and truffle jelly, topped with 24 carat gold. The standout dish from the San Pellegrino website and it was pretty good I must say, if you like/don't mind the liver taste;
- Korea: Ssamjang Veg - marmite crackers and porcini dust are mixed into ssamjang paste of fermented soy beans. Raw micro vegetables are the vessels to eat it. An excellent delicious umami dip to eat tiny beetroot, carrot, cauliflower etc.;
- England: Pork Scratchings - pork scratchings with vinegar and celeriac dust to dip into a foam of Guinness flour;
- USA: Morel Burger - the world's smallest slider made of a morel mushroom patty. Not bad, could have been stronger flavoured;
- Ethiopia: Berbere Curry & Sheep Amasi - very crispy berbere cracker made from sorghum. Topped with shredded lamb. I could eat these all day long. Sheep cheese amasi (fermented) had a mild flavour unexpectedly;
- Mauritius: Coconut langoustine - langoustine piece with coriander paste, shellfish oil and fried curry leaves. Nice;
- India: Tandoori - perfectly textured swordfish on some slightly smoking coals, topped with cucumber, angel hair chilli, jalapeno. It was warm with a strong flavour and crunchy texture peanut salsa. Excellent morsel.

Then it was through the door with a secret knock into the more conventional The Light Room. We were offered the bar or a standard table, and the bar was the atmospheric place to be in front of the kitchen and with some overly exuberant Americans to the side, 2 having a domestic argument over wine, and an older 2 constantly proclaiming it's the best meal they've ever had (they had left by the time I took my photo of the room).

The Light Room
- Sword Belly "Greek Salad" - light and juicy swordfish served with pickled tomato, olive ice, skordalia dip and feta;
- TTK Lobster Salad, Coconut, Thai Aromatics - possibly my favourite dish with a perfectly balanced flavour profile. Poached lobster served with kalamansi caviar (for the sourness), coconut ice, coconut flesh scooped into little balls, chilli, shredded kaffir lime, and tiny basil and perilla. Drizzled with lobster oil and a nam pla dressing. Simply perfect;
- bread - sage beurre noisette glazed bread with snoek butter. Very soft and buttery bread and very mildly smoked fish flavour to the butter;
- Butterfish Bibimbap - teriyaki butterfish which was very soft and served with 3 types of kimchi vegetables, masterstock caviar, mushrooms and sushi rice. Very good to mix all around although I feel like gochujang is needed for true bibimbap;
- Sundy Roast - red wood smoked beef didn't make the flavour smoky but lightly accentuated beef tartare flavour. It was very soft and tender chunks of meat, horseradish cream and celery dust;
or daily special of Beef Sweetbread - pancetta wrapped sweetbread with walnut port jus. I'm not sure which sweetbread it was but they said it was beef. The texture was very creamy and soft (like brain, but it wasn't brain);
- Butter Poached Kingklip, Chestnut Jam, Snoek Extraction - kingklip fish with an excellent tempura cabbage on top. Served with snoek fish stock and a side of saffron mash;
or "Pap En Vleis" - local South African specialty Karoo lamb with a bolognese sauce. Full of flavour. Lamb was ok for tenderness, could have been more so;
- Rabbit & Ham in Two Servings - soft pork belly skin although the skin wasn't that crisp, cooked until only a thin fat layer remained. Tender rabbit rolls and celeriac foam. Served with a strong meaty sauce with rabbit chunks and topped with another micro vegetable.

Desserts from Light to Dark
- Rhubarb Trifle, Elderflower, Sauvignon Blanc, Rose & Mascarpone - very wine-y flavour and light;
- Pear, Jerusalem, Bourbon Oak, Pine, Sheep's Milk, Espresso - lovely poached pear, pistachio crumb and bourbon ice cream;
- Petit fours 1 - foie gras jam donut, crushed peanut snow and dessert wine
- Petit fours 2 - a tiny trifle to bring the meal back full circle to the box.

There was a creative non-alcohol drinks option of Tea Pairing for R500. Each was served in a wine glass and cold. They all had nice light flavours, a bit of fruity, a bit of sweet, and complemented the food well.

I thought the meal was creative, balanced and overall good, with some definite standout dishes (for me the ssamjang veg, lobster salad in particular). My partner thought it was outstanding. I'm glad we went and experienced one of the best restaurants in the world. I don't feel the need to return though and would do to The Pot Luck Club next time in Cape Town.

The Test Kitchen Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Indian Accent, London 07-2019

During the (now quite long ago) trip to India, the best Indian restaurant in New Delhi was noted to be likely either Indian Accent or Varq (for modern), Dum Pukht or Bukhara (for traditional). All sounded great and in the end I chose Varq (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/varq-delhi-01-2015) and Bukhara (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/bukhara-delhi-01-2015). Indian Accent is actually #60 in The World's Top 50 restaurants for 2019 and #17 in the Asia list.

Fate would have it that several years later Indian Accent would open a London branch in the expensive curry area of Mayfair alongside Gymkhana and others I haven't been able afford yet.

Indian Accent is certainly no cheap one either, but a special occasion meant that the price would have to come second to me getting one long term place off my eating list. Interestingly enough the clientele was unexpectedly Indian for the most part. However there were also some rich obnoxious loud Greek men with their much younger females. The waiter apologised but it's not his fault some people have too much money.

The cocktail Green chilli sour (hari mirch infused tequila, lemon oleo saccharum, mezcal) £13 was perfect. A drink with decent alcohol, smoke, chilli and a bit of tart/tang for balance. Really excellent.

Amuse bouche of a cheese stuffed naan and a delicious shot of spiced pumpkin soup started proceedings.

- Tofu masala, shishito pepper, quinoa puffs £9 - for a first choice I expected a few small expensive bites, but this was a a decent size starter of tofu fried with crisp puff texture for contrast;
- Tadka hamachi, avocado, calcutta chutney £17 - hamachi (he said it was a type of tuna, but it isn't quite) served raw with pieces of pomegranate, avocado (that was too hard and underripe) and some roe. It was actually very delicious;
- Baked sea bass, amritsari masala butter, sweet corn kadhi £25 - a nicely cooked fillet spiced with masala and served on top of kind of textured mash;
- Ghee roast lamb, roomali roti pancakes, chutneys £28 - I expected a roasted joint and ended up with a DIY set of condiments for wraps. There was coriander sauce, a spicy tamarind sauce (that actually tasted more sweet like hoisin), a strong garlic one and a moderately hot green chilli. It was fun compiling it all together and the flavours were good. A hot green chilli was available for the daring;
- Black dairy dal £7.5 - unusually sweet version for what I'm used to and less creamy. Still nice;
- Wild mushroom kulcha, truffle oil drizzle £6.5 - a bread stuffed with mushrooms and with some truffle flavour. Nice but I don't think it went well with the other dishes we ordered;
- 'Aamras', mangoes, cardamom cheese cake, summer berries £11.5 - a beautiful dessert. The cheesecake wasn't as strong in cardamom as I hoped (others could taste it more) and the mango sauce was very nice;
- complimentary Doda barfi treacle tart, vanilla bean ice-cream - a moist sweet warm cake with dotted icecream on top. For our special occasion.

The food is definitely nice, well executed and presented. For the price I do think I would prefer Farzi. Nonetheless I'm happy to have been here.

Dominique Ansel Bakery, London 04-2019

The inventor of the cronut and World's Best Pastry Chef 2017 has this London store that isn't the most conveniently located (ok, it isn't that far away but I don't go to Victoria very often) where the wares are on sale and display. And they all look delicious I might add. Lots of people ogle and decide what to choose and how much to spend. Funnily enough the cronuts aren't (or weren't this day) on display at the counter and so I didn't see anyone in front of me order them. Silly them.

Takeaway is cheaper than eat in (although to be honest you could probably just sit after getting your takeaway and they wouldn't mind...

The cronut £4.5 TA is designed with one flavour topping per month. For April is was topped with raspberry. The icing probably wasn't that necessary (or maybe it would be to break through and add contrast to the cronut alone) but the cronut itself was excellent. Sweet, crisp, soft insides. More donut than croissant.

I also like kouign amman £4.1 TA (affectionately known here as Dominique's Kouign Amman or DKA which is a homage to diabetic ketoacidosis) since tasting the syrup soaked delicacies in Brittany (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/le-petits-caprices-rochefort-en-terre-06-2017). These were much less sweet and wet than the traditional ones but still good and more buttery than the cronuts.

Both were good, I probably prefer the cronut more.

The cakes also look delicious at between £6-8 each. I'll have to try one or two next time when my sugar levels are at a low.

Dominique Ansel Bakery Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Don Julio, Buenos Aires 11-2016

Argentina is known for beef and the parrilla. Therefore all carnivores naturally should eat the meats on offer at a respectable parrilla. Of course there are cheap ones and higher end ones and not all beef and not all chefs are created equally. After testing the parrilla waters and enjoying Patagonian specialties at La Tablita (https://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/la-tablita-el-calafate-11-2016), the cheap everyday version at Nuestro Parrilla, and also something in between as El Desnivel (https://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/el-desnivel-buenos-aires-11-2016), it was time to finish with the reputed star of the show. La Brigada was another nearby option in San Telmo and La Cabrera another big reputation place, but I couldn't go back the San Pellegrino rating for Don Julio in the decision.

Don Julio is listed in the SP Top 50 Latin American restaurants this year at #21. For a steakhouse that's a pretty big accolade. For it to therefore be the highest rated parrilla in Argentina is another accolade. It was convenient that Don Julio was open on Monday which was my last night in BA - if not, I may have been likely to have been there earlier and so the meat journey may have descended rather than finishing with the culmination.

The neighbourhood of Palermo is nice to walk through, although I wish I'd know the nicest looking streets to walk down are probably Armenia from Costa Rica onwards, and so spent less time above it closer to Plaza Italia. Nonetheless walking from MALBA to Palermo was a good way to initiate hunger. The reservation was at the opening time of 7pm, very early for a BA dinner. I'm glad though because it was a nice time to eat, leave just as night was settling in to catch the bus back to San Telmo. Additionally from about 8pm onwards, there was a constant large group of people waiting outside having a drink and waiting for a table.

I really would have liked to have tried a starter of fried empanadas, mollejas (sweetbreads) or kidney, or the provoleta or chorizo. In hindsight I should have starved myself more tactically beforehand but in the end I came for beef and was leaving with beef in my stomach. The SP information page says the owner recommends housecuts like rump and skirt. I'll be honest and say I wanted that sirloin has been my favourite cut since the meal at A511 (https://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/511-tokyo-01-2012) when I finally understood that at the highest end fillet gives you a tiny bit of extra tenderness for a lot less flavour. My sirloin was asked for "MUY jugoso" and then confirmed in English as rare. What surprised me was the waiter asking how we wanted the ribs, "medium?" The question took me by surprise and I never knew ribs were cooked to order as always low and slow but cooked through, especially since undercooking the ribs will mean the meat sticks to the bone. Sure, medium sounds good.

A large selection of bread is served initially with a mixed chilli/chimichurri, a tomato and onion salsa, butter and 3 strengths of EVOO. I've never been given a choice of EVOO strength before and naturally the strongest and best was quite grassy.

- Bife de Chorizo ancho (thick sirloin steak) ARS311 - an immaculate piece of perfectly rare meat, with a nicely seasoned crust and exceptional slightly salty flavour to the meat. It was wonderfully tender and a joy to eat without needing any condiments;
- 1/2 Asado de Tira (short ribs) ARS333 - medium ribs served medium with a pinkish hue belying the tender layers of meat and fat in short cross section. Similarly exceptional flavour, probably a little stronger saltiness than the sirloin given the higher ratio of Maillard surface. The softest beef ribs I've had without exception (although expectedly less tender than the sirloin);
- Salad of quinoa, roasted squash, toasted hazelnuts, green onion, fresh mint ARS165 - the salad was presented beautifully at the table. The waiter asked which strength of EVOO to add then proceeded to mix everything up before I could take my photo. Oh well. The salad was a nice complement of textures and some balsamic added for tang;
- dessert of caramel flan with cream and dulce de leche ARS125 - this was an unnecessary sweetener to finish the meal. It was fine but if I had stomach space, I'd go for a meat appetiser next time.

Are they the best pieces of beef I've ever eaten? The ribs is an easy yes for that cut. The sirloin may be (perhaps second only to 511 but different prices, availability and reasons to enjoy each) and if not then equally or pretty damn close. Both cuts were superb and if again I'd probably opt for the sirloin of the two. However the best would be to go with a few extra people and share the full rack of ribs or a ribeye and some starters.

It makes me wonder how good Asador Etxebarri is to be highest rated woodfired grill and smoke in the world. Hopefully I won't have to wait too long to find out.

El Baqueano, Buenos Aires 11-2016

Buenos Aires has a heap of restaurants in the San Pellegrino Latin America Top 50 Restaurants list. Choosing one for a special meal was very difficult with the competition including Tegui (9), El Baqueano (13), Don Julio (21), Aramburu (26), Elena (31), La Cabrera (33), Chila (35) and Pura Tierra (50).

I'd already skipped Borago (3) in Santiago so this choice had to be made carefully. I automatically removed anything that wasn't Argentinean but that really didn't change much. In the end the appeal of local "indigenous meats" as is advertised such as llama, alligator and the such from all over Argentina won out. Additionally being located so close to my Airbnb in San Telmo certainly helped too.

I was sent the degustation menu via email when I made the booking. On the night itself no menu was presented (perhaps they thought I wouldn't be able to decipher a cryptic gourmet Spanish menu anyway) and simply informed it was a 9 course degustation menu (for ARS1300) and emphasised the theme of all local ingredients around Argentina. It was surprising for a Thursday night that there were so few diners in a Top 50 Restaurant but I suppose there's so much choice in BA including the other top rated places.

Apertivo Consome de Setas (Costa Atlantico)
- This dish comprised of many forms of mushroom from the coast. It started as the visuals of powder and mushroom pieces in the bowl then the mushroom wine consumé was added at the table. The textured ranged from crumbly powder (that stuck rather than dissolved), slimy pieces (not unpleasantly so) soaked in vinegar and a mild watery broth;

Aguachile de Vegetables de Estacion
- A "ceviche" of seasonal vegetables including asparagus, some kind of taro-like root, cucumber, dill and edible flowers. The carrot-looking pieces were made of egg yolk. It was topped with an asparagus sorbet (strong and unusual) and at the table with a lemon, cucumber and chilli dressing. It was very refreshing, well balanced chilli, citrus and tangy, and multiple textures;

Bread arrived after the 2nd course (a little odd for timing) and consisted of a mild garlic white, rye and a salt crystalled (and thus most flavoursome of the 3) focaccia.

Crudo de Llama, Quinoa, Amaranto (Desierto Andino)
- My favourite dish of the night was a llama carpaccio from Salta which had a surprisingly mild flavour like fish. I did expect something more game tasting. Amaranth crackers enabled picking up of the meat. The most impressive part was actually the trio of coloured quinoa, half cooked first then either fried or roasted (or both) which had a sensational crunchy texture and a wealth of grain flavour;

Pil Pil al Reves (Atlantico Sur)
- A delicious dish of translucent, soft prawns from Puerto Madryn with still a slight crunch. Tiny clear krill added extra flavour and the orange sauce (of unclear origin, perhaps prawn brains?) and olive oil were beautifully mopped up with the bread until none was left. Potato garlic crackers were there but I much favoured the bread-soak method;

Roca de Mar Mimetica (Atlantico Sur)
- This dish was identified as Camouflaged Sea Rocks and left to determine the ingredients ourselves. It turned out to be a soft but meaty and stringy white salmon coated by black vegetable colour (not squid ink or charcoal) with a delicate mild salty flavour. There was wasabi yoghurt, floret cracker of kale, and egg white and seaweed sponge. So much variety of texture and hints of flavour;

Wanton de Sudado (Dorado)
- Perhaps I have a different concept of wonton. This skin was very thick and dense and neither crisp nor soft. It housed dorado riverfish and topped with bonito flakes wilting and dancing. The consumé made from the fish had a strong umami and slight chilli edge;

Liebre Patagonica, Espuma de Hibiscus (Meseta Patagonica)
- This was indigenous meat at its finest. Delicious tender Patagonian hare glowing red. Unlike typical white and dry rabbit presentations, this was incredibly soft and tender with a mild flavour. The flavour wasn't gamey and overall flavour/texture similar to the best chicken you've never had. It was accompanied by a berry combination of fresh blueberries, red berry emulsion and dried blueberries and raspberries;

Limpiabocas Estacional
- A palate cleanser where again was asked to determine the ingredients. It was a basil, mint & parsley granita served with a citrus emulsion, green apple pannacotta, celery (looked like thin slices of onion) and bouncy pieces of cucumber. Overall sweet & refreshing;

Buñuelo, Papelon
- Yucca potato that acted like Greek loukoumades with a bready wheat middle and mild crisp shell. Two icecreams of soft sugar and delicious arroz con leche (rice pudding) flavours accompanied.

Finally petit four of peanut brittle, biscuit with dulce de leche and a small piece of meringue finished the procession.

After many months since the last fine dining meal, it was nice to briefly return to this realm. I couldn't say it was the best meal I've had but it certainly a creative tour around Argentina with dishes I could never make from ingredients I could never access, and that's something I'm happy to pay for. I had hoped there would be more "meats" as such and the dishes that showcased this - llama, prawn, hare - worked exceptionally. If you add white salmon and dorado I suppose 5 out of 9 for meats isn't a low ratio to complain about.

Pierre Herme, Paris 06-2016

It must be nice to be awarded the 2016 San Pellegrino Best Pastry Chef in the World.

It must be nice to credited as having the best macarons in the world.

Although I'm not huge on macarons, it seemed difficult to pass up the opportunity to try them. This particular store in Galeries Lafayette  Maison (35 boulevard Haussmann) serves macarons but not pastries so I'll have to leave the latter to another time.

The macarons eaten included the recommended, popular and award winning mogador (milk chocolate with passionfruit) and montebello (half strawberry, half pistachio). The flavours are nice and sweet but not sickeningly so. The flavour starts off very lightly and intensifies at the end. What is most impressive is that the shells are soft and delicate, unlike the firm crispy versions I've sampled elsewhere all over the world. This is refinement.

Labyrinth, Singapore 06-2016

Picking one fancy dinner in Singapore was difficult. As the new Top 100 restaurants had just been released, choosing somewhere exceptional (and expensive) like Andre or Waku Ghin was possible but something more specifically Singapore seemed like a good idea. That left two options - the "mod Sin" at Wild Rocket or the "neo Sin" at Labyrinth.

In the end, the molecular got to me and Labyrinth it was. It isn't cheap - $98 for the basic, $128 for the extended and $158 for the full. And this is before the service and taxes of about 20% extra. I had to hope the Best New 2014 Restaurant and Best Asian Fine Dining Restaurant in Singapore 2015 would make up for it. It didn't make the San Pellegrino Top 100 world or Top 50 Asia so that was something to be wary of.

The menu is based around Singapore street food as one might eat during a typical 24 hours - although the flavours are arranged as a more standard entree/main/dessert type.

8am
- Tingkat "radish cake, rojak, nasi lemak" - a seared radish cake, a puff of rojak and a chewy disk of nasi lemak;
- Hokkaido Scallop "bak chor mee" - what a great dish to really kick things off. Chewy squid noodles with saffron, scallops depicted as fish cake, powdered anchovy and tapioca powder with a touch of sambal.

12pm
- Lardo “chicken rice” - Hainanese chicken rice in the form of a delicate slice of tofu, covered with chicken powder and chicken lard and the typical soy/sesame/ginger/scallion flavour. Great and perfect flavour although would have loved more of it;
- Otoro “char siew & siew yoke fan” - tuna belly served as a nigiri flavoured as char siew and half-grilled as a cube of "roast pork" topped with pork skin. It is interesting but the quality of tuna belly wasn't allowed to shine;
- Cod “XO fish” - an excellent fish of piece, crisp skin with a thin layer of fat served with a fake tomato made from actual tomato served with a very mild sauce from XO.

3pm
- Spices “OCK curry puff” - a hard-boiled quail egg sits atop a curry crumb nest with a bit of meat hidden beneath.

7pm
- Foie Gras “peking duck” - a foie gras lollipop coated in hoi sin sauce with duck skin sitting on a blackened uncooked (inedible) potato stand. The foie gras was very creamy and a little hidden piece of cucumber was unexpected;
- Soft Shell Crab “chili crab” - a beautiful fried soft shell crab with great flavour, contrasted by an unusual cold Singapore chilli crab-flavoured ice cream, crab foam and the sand made of fried mantou crumb (which didn't seem to add much);
- Seasonal Oyster “orh luak” - a deep fried oyster with an egg custard topped with salmon roe. The leaf tasted exactly like a fresh oyster, down the metallic ocean aftertaste - I can't comprehend how this happened...;
- Boston Lobster “hokkien mee” - soft slices of lobster in a nice savoury sauce and recommended to slide over the pork fat candle before devouring.

- palate cleanser - pineapple sorbet

7am
- Meringue “teh tarik” - an odd rendition of toast that was a bit more melted and creamy and quite sweet;
- Soft Boiled Eggs “mango sticky rice” - a hollowed shell filled with an "egg" of firm sticky rice, mango yolk and topped with black sugary "soy" and crushed almond "pepper";
- Petit Fours - a kaya butter macaron.

The menu is creative and unusual. The flavours do highlight those of a refined version of Singapore street food. The quantity and refinement don't necessarily overtake the satisfaction of a delicious bowl/plate of heavy seasoned and oily food but it's a different quality for a different occasion. The standout dishes (Hokkaido scallop, lardo chicken rice, soft shell crab and Boston lobster) were truly exceptional creations. I'm disappointed I didn't get to try the A4 Wagyu hor fun.

The Fat Duck, Bray 10-2009

With the recent stint of The Fat Duck in Melbourne (and my inability to win a place, although the price was a little ridiculous), I have been reminiscing about my own adventure at the mothership.

I remember anticipating this meal greatly. I was going to finally book the #2 restaurant in the world for one of the meals of the century. During a short term contract in northern Tasmania, I made the phone call one late evening. I wasn't particularly keen to use my mobile to ring the UK, but the work phone operator was only too happy to connect my call through. With only a few available dates, the 1/10/2009 was keenly booked, and then it was only a short two months before the day.

The restaurant isn't all that conveniently located. It requires an overground train to Maidenhead, then a taxi to the restaurant in Bray. Of course all the taxi drivers know it - it probably contributes more business for them than anything else in the area. The unassuming building stands like a old tavern. The fine dining inside and the French-accented staff elevate the mood to elegant.

Green olives with subtle flavour and fantastic bread with crunchy crust with spreadable salted and unsalted butter start things slowly. Then comes the procession of overwhelming sensory load.

Amuse Bouche
- Lime Grove (nitro poached green tea & lime mousse) - mousse bathed in liquid nitrogen then sprinkled with green tea. Cleansed the palate.

Entree
- Red Cabbage Gazpacho (pommery grain mustard icecream) - mustard-flavour icecream with a sweet cabbage sauce;
- Fat Duck Film - a delicate film which gives a mint/oak flavour to your tongue in anticipation;
- Jelly of Quail, Crayfish Cream, Chicken Liver Parfait & Truffle Toast (with oak moss) - water is poured over the oak moss to create a mist of oak scent flowing over the table. The moss flavours the air whilst you eat the parfait and truffle toast.

Main
- Roast Foie Gras (president plum puree, braised konbu & crab biscuit) - delicately soft foie gras. The alternative (for my friend) was a sublime piece of aubergine;
- Mock Turtle Soup c. 1850 "Mad Hatter Tea" - hot water added to the golden medallion of dashi/konbu broth surrounded by gold leaf. This tea is added to a bowl consisting of layered beef & fat, tofu (i think) with mushrooms, a few cucumber and pickles and thus mock turtle soup is born;
- Sound of the Sea - seashell with an iPod playing ocean & beach soundtrack, sashimi of yellowtail, mackeral & halibut, sand of tapioca and fried baby eels, foam of seaweed and vegetable stock, added sea jellybeans;
- Salmon Poached in Liquorice (artichokes, vanilla mayonnaise, golden trout roe & manni olive oil from Tuscany) - exquisitely cooked and flavoured salmon, better than Nobu's miso cod;
- Powdered Anjou Pigeon c. 1720 (blood pudding & confit of umbles) - perfectly cooked pigeon.

Dessert
- Taffety Tart c. 1660 (caramelised apple, fennel, rose & candied lemon) - the tangy candied lemon syrup with the blackcurrant sorbet is a whole new level of iced desserts.

The Not-So-Full English Breakfast
- Parsnip Cereal - chips (similar to almond slices) with parsnip milk poured on top. I adore cereal, but this tops them all for sweetness and flavour;
- Nitro-Scrambled Egg & Bacon Ice Cream - an 'egg' is cracked into a pot. liquid nitrogen is poured in. they stir... and bacon-flavoured ice cream that looks like scrambled egg is formed;
- Hot & Iced Tea - a drink of sweet lemon tea that is hot, before a hit of ice cold tea in your mouth.

That tea is followed up by an enormous menu of actual tea, should you fancy.

Apres
- Chocolate Wine "Slush" c. 1660 (millionaire shortbread) -  chocolate and delicate wine mixed and aerated. Rich chocolate, a layer of caramel, crisp shortbread base;
- Cheese platter selection;
- Wine Gums (historic trade routes of Britain) - 5 wine gums of mead, cognac, madeira, sherry, rum.

Finally a bag is handed to you with a small selection of designer sweets to take home. Added in is a printed copy of the menu.

"Like A Kid In A Sweet Shop"
- Aerated Chocolate (mandarin jelly);
- Coconut Baccy (coconut infused with an aroma of black cavendish tobacco);
- Apple Pie Caramel with an Edible Wrapper;
- Queen of Hearts (white chocolate with fruit compote).

It is unlike anything I've experienced before. With the passage of time, I think I've had meals with overall flavours that I've enjoyed more, but the multi-sensory journey that this brings is still unparalleled.

The menu itself was £130, but added onto this was the price of the arrival drink, cheese, service and the trains. Altogether it came out to £190 or so. Considering these days the UK Fat Duck charges £180 and the Australian one was $500 per person, I think my time was a bargain, and at the height of its powers. I count myself lucky for that opportunity. I don't know if I'll dine at The Fat Duck ever again, but I will return for Dinner (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/dinner-by-heston-blumenthal-london-03-2012).

Click to add a blog post for The Fat Duck on Zomato

Varq, Delhi 01-2015

I'd read that Delhi was actually a wonderful city for food. I suppose it is partially because it is within a country known for street food quality (although hygiene may be in question) and has restaurants catering toward the standard class as well as Western prices for rich and tourists. I had already decided to go to Bukhara (or Dum Pukht) for the final meal of the trip and so I thought trying a modern Indian restaurant would be a good way to start the trip. It may have been better to start with the traditional first and modern last but the schedule of hotels and day itineraries meant the other way was most convenient. 

Varq is also reputed to potentially be the best restaurant in Delhi/India and is currently the only Delhi restaurant to remain in the San Pellegrino Top 50 Asia (#32 currently, #30 in 2014) whilst Bukhara and Dum Pukht have fallen out. It is located within the Taj Mahal Hotel in Delhi, one of the luxury Taj brand places where each car is security screened upon arrival and Barack Obama was going to stay the following weekend for Republic Day celebrations.

The restaurant setting is beautiful. Mood lighting, exceptional decoration and an outdoor area that would be perfect in warmer weather. Even with only 2 tables occupied inside, the outside was primed with tables and large charcoal pits to give atmosphere in the emptiness.

- Saffron lassi
- Pink ginger lassi
- (complimentary) amuse bouche - sweet tiny wrap of potato and pomegranate seeds.

The starters (aka entrees in the Western world) were served with wonderful aromas emanating upon approach.

- Varqui Crab (layers of crab meat, tandoori shrimp on crisp filo sheet) – very highly crab meat flavour with soft texture, thin filo, top of shrimp, surrounded by a cumin balsamic sauce with small slices of red chilli;
- Chicken Three Way – ganderi kebab (soft mince kebab, sweet sugarcane, tangy raw mango sauce), bhatti ka murg (cheese sauce and fenugreek & fennel succulent chicken breast), murg methi malai tikka (7 spices including cardamom, cloves, cinnamon etc excellent grilled chicken thigh) served with coriander sauce.

I couldn't resist the sound of a lobster soup. In hindsight it wasn't all that I dreamt of but I couldn't know that at the time. In any case they served a complimentary soup so that my dining partner wasn't excluded from a course. Very considerate.

- Lobster Rassa (Cochin prawns, black pepper & fennel rusk, robust lobster broth) – small shrimp, sliced slightly firm scallop which was quite good, calamari encrusted with couscous/polenta which had odd texture. Perhaps lobster is prawn as the broth had mild prawn and fish flavour but minimal lobster. Weird crouton stick;
- (complimentary) Kale Channe Ki Cappuccino (cappuccino style flavoured black chickpea broth) – an odd soup but unexpectedly nice for kale.

The entrees (aka mains in the Western world) followed. There was great excitement given the quality of the starters. Any hint of fullness that was creeping in soon disappeared.

- (complimentary) Guava, fennel, black pepper sorbet palate cleanser which reminded me of a fresh tomato sorbet flavour;
- Duck 4 Ways – slightly disappointing. Duck egg (fried), tamarind roast (chewy roast with tangy tamarind), duck samosa (delicious green chilli dry heat), chef's special masala confit (thick chewy slices without enough tenderness or nice flavour). Overall not much duck flavour;
- Green Chilly Tulsi & Pinenut Fish (pan seared Chilean sea bass, flavoured with basil & pinenut, mango & coconut curry) – perfectly cooked and textured fish, good tasty crust, outstanding phenomenal raw mango and coconut & cashew curry (how I expect butter chicken should ultimately be);
- Camembert & Truffle Naan - I could smell the truffle but not really taste it (I suppose the cost would limit this). Plain or garlic naan is probably better value although standard.

At this point dessert was not necessary. In fact if it had not been a fancy restaurant or if it was somewhere I would ever likely return again in this lifetime, I wouldn't have ordered it. After reading the menu and looking at the display items I couldn't quite help but get one.

- The Dome (chikki kulfi with Bailey's rabdi) – chocolate shell with kulfi treated by a Cognac flambee then smothered with Bailey's and thickened milk. A thick milky dessert overall with nice chocolate tones;
- (complimentary) House Cheesecake – gulab lined and topped with rose. After dessert and asking for the bill they surprised with more food. After sampling a small slice they offered to pack it which was unnecessary. I hope the staff were allowed to eat it themselves as I suggested;
- (complimentary) Betel leaf – rose, peppermint which had a sharp taste designed to palate cleanse. They gave another 4 to take home for no reason at all.

The staff were all friendly, excellent and took time to explain the dishes. The hospitality was second to none as were the complimentary items surprising and appreciated. Some of the modern dishes weren't flavours I preferred over originals, but it is certainly creative and something I will never equate to Indian food nor likely to eat again.
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Bukhara, Delhi 01-2015

Bukhara is a restaurant institution such that it has included accolades of best Indian restaurant in the world, best restaurant in India and the Top 50 San Pellegrino Asia restaurants list (peaking at #26 in 2012). I had a tough time deciding between ITC Maurya's two outstanding restaurants (the other being Dum Pukht, which has also been in the SP Top 50 and rivals Bukhara in terms of foodiness) but after the Bollywood Masala challenge, Bukhara won out. The article I found online that included all the top end Delhi restaurants on my list (http://www.traveller.com.au/india-the-battle-for-delhis-bellies-36qux) influenced my decision of what I wanted to order - raan and dal.

Despite having a booking, it seems it's more a matter of waiting for a table after you arrive. During this time, the bar is open to serve and a quick glance at the cocktail menu lead to two delicious combinations - Dilli High 5 and Spice Route. Soon after a table was ready. The menu imprinted on two wooden boards is presented.

Whilst waiting for the food to arrive, I couldn't help but wander around and watch the chefs at work through the transparent screen especially the large kebabs hanging high and the enormous dexterity required to manipulate a large naan.

- Naan Bukhara (Rs. 1525) – the waiter insisted this was only for 6-8 people but I just wanted to have one on the table. It was huge with some crisp edges and some soft breadier parts. Definitely not the best naan I've had but it was fine to eat with the other dishes and create little sandwiches. I ate about half of it myself;
- Sikandari Raan (Rs. 2925)(whole leg of spring lamb, braised in a marinade of malt vinegar, cinnamon, black cumin, red chilli paste & finished in the Tandoor) – a nicely spiced, seasoned salty flavour with soft juicy meat. It could have been more tender but was certainly acceptable;
- Dal Bukhara (Rs. 795)(harmonious blend of black lentil, tomatoes, ginger & garlic, simmered overnight on slow charcoal fire, finished with cream & served with a dollop of unsalted butter) – what an incredible dish! The lentils had been smoothed into a creamy smokey buttery product that was so rich and luxurious. Sensational. A whole different universe to the dal makhani from other places.

Coriander sauce was nice and spicy and tangy and acted like the Indian version of tzatziki in a souvlaki binding the ingredients together.

The meal was extremely memorable considering how long I had been anticipating it, the reputation of the restaurant, the luxury of the hotel and the heavenliness of the Dal Bukhara. 

Next time I would order small breads and thus a variety of them and pick something else instead of the raan (unless I had a group of people to share this and kababs with).

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