Archive for August, 2011

Brasserie Joel, London

First Floor, Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, City of London SE1 7UT

Rather moody

The Park Plaza hotel is south of the river, but only just. Run full tilt out of the foyer and you’ll be in the Thames seconds later and soon bobbing past the London Eye.

South of the river but not of The South, the hotel resolutely turns its back on the area and instead looks toward Parliament across Westminster Bridge. In fact approach as we did from the rear and you find yourself forced to detour around endless pelican crossings before making your final assault on the front door.

Even then it’s not over, the escalators packed with happy tourists take you up to a modernistic foyer (i.e. it looks nothing like one) with no sign of, or signs to, the restaurant. It is in fact a sharp left and left again down a long moodily lit corridor toward a tall reception desk where a guardian coolly appraises your approach while you will yourself not to do a Miranda pratfall.

And yet in the restaurant it’s friendly and family, guests from many nations are eating and there are even small children too. Yes the mood is Hotel, but the food is something else. Back in the 1990s Joel Antunes was chef/patron at Les Saveurs, now sadly gone to the great griddle in the sky, and back then we flocked to eat there. Now he’s back in London and thanks to him this is no ‘hotel restaurant’. Read more…

The Drift, Heron Tower, London

Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, EC2N 4AY. www.

The entrance to Drift is around the side of the Heron Tower, but it’s worth going into the main reception to ‘ask directions’ just to get a whiff of that new building smell and stare in awe at the fish tank.

In fact it’s not so much a tank as Europe’s largest privately owned aquarium. It’s so massive you expect a heavily tied up James Bond to suddenly drop into it , and then a shark to appear looking peckish.

After security has firmly set you on the right path you find The Drift itself.  A new London restaurant, triple-heighted, with a bar on the ground floor and the restaurant on the first, it’s clangy and modern but not unpleasant. The mix of seating, with tables of various heights plus large refectory ones that seat eight, means it caters for all pay grades in a pleasingly egalitarian manner Read more…

Waldorf Salad: In the garden with Executive Chef Lee Streeton

Chef’s rubber Croc shoes seem at odds with the mud we’re tramping through, but then so are his chef’s whites. ‘I’ve got big plans,’ says Lee Streeton Executive Chef at the spanking new Syon Park Waldorf Astoria Hotel while waving his arms around. ‘This land is mine!’

As veg patches go, it’s already a sizeable one. Courgettes are massed in yellow-flowered profusion. ‘We cook those, they go quick,’ Lee says charging up and down the veg beds in the dwindling light pointing out other plants and herbs growing furiously well in his deep organic beds, all sheltered from the worst of the weather by the hotel’s walls and close presence.

Many chefs these days claim to be pulling produce from the restaurant garden, but if you get a chance to peek outside their restaurants you have to wonder who is kidding who. A patch of herbs and a tomato plant do not a vegetable garden make.

Lee is certainly capable of keeping his customers fed from his. A cynical non-foody might say that’s because his dishes are rather tiny. One tomato can probably make ten plates the way Lee does it. I’m being a bit naughty though because, seriously, Lee’s dishes are examples of fine dining restraint and quality and are about textures and tastes combined with seasonality. Read more…

Simply red. Totally tomatos in Alicante

Mind the step

Anyone stumbling slightly the worse for wear into the lobby in the Hospes Amerigo Hotel might be forgiven for thinking the DTs had set in. Not pink elephants but red globes are everywhere; they’re piled in heaps next to the reception desk, they’re lined up like tubby soldiers on every available spare shelf, they lurk by the lift doors and they offer themselves as trip hazards on the marble stairs. There really are a lot of tomatoes hanging about in this chic converted monastery in Alicante old town.

The reason is simple, Hospes Amerigo is launching a new holiday idea for foodies who also love the sun, ‘Discover the Tomato’. For three days guests can immerse themselves in a local product; seeing how it’s grown, how it’s harvested, how it can be cooked and most importantly how it can be eaten. Read more…