69 Clapham Common South Side, London, SW4, 9DA www.therookeryclapham.co.uk
I may have said this before, as I get older I find I tend to repeat myself, but there really is no place for cameras in restaurants, unless for celebrations. You give the waiter your camera, show him where the shutter button is, and then grin grin, flash flash. Job done.
Which is why when the student at the next table actually got out a giant dSLR and, after taking lots of pictures of the cruet, stood up, bent over his table in order to get a straight down view of his plate and began firing off shots like a machine gun, I was not at all happy. He did this every time a new dish arrived and he did it for a very long time.
I suppose you can’t expect even basic good manners from today’s younger generation, Lord knows you could barely expect any from mine. No doubt between bursts of bad photography he was also Tweeting ‘stupid old diner at next table giving me dirty looks lol’. Read more…
It’s that time of year again, albeit a bit later than usual owing to poor crops in Italy, when foodie noses twitch to the aroma of truffles in the air. So expensive, so delicious and as they are only available for a short while, so important to hunt down while you can.
Refettorio is where we like to get our truffle fix, because it’s a Locatelli place and Giorgio knows what he’s doing even if he isn’t in day-to-day control. Head Chef Alessandro does the day-to-day work instead and he’s a great Italian chef, delivering a regular menu of classic with modern touches and pasta of sublime silkiness
Refettorio’s truffle tasting menu may sound expensive at £125 a head and of course no one can deny that sort of cost is not for everybody. But if you’re on the right side of the great UK rich/poor divide, then actually it’s not bad, as Refettorio have kept the cost the same as last year, despite truffles being more expensive owing to the poor crops. As Alessandro tells us though, the upside is that those truffles that have arrived are more concentrated in flavour as a result. Read more…
The bids are coming in thick and fast and the French auctioneer is sweeping his fringe out of his eyes with one hand and waving his gavel about with the other as he struggles to keep up. A thousand euros bid soon becomes two thousand and then ‘best of order’ has to be asked for as it hits €3000 and the crowd gasps Gallicly in astonishment.
At €3200 the hammer finally comes down and Didier Vinazza, a man who rather resembles Father Dougal in a Gascon beret is surrounded by congratulations. He’s just sold a quarter barrel of his best Pacherenc for the equivalent of over €50 a bottle. More in fact, when you consider the American buyer now has to pay the commission, the bottling, labelling and the shipping costs on top. An expensive sixty bottles of wine but definitely worth it for such nectar and the money that’s been raised will be going to good works around the area. ‘I took a risk harvesting in late November but I knew my pebbly clay terroir would be good for the Petit Manseng grapes and they were exceptional,’ he says above the din.
The Pacherenc auction at the Château de Crouseilles is one of the high points of the year for the Plaimont wine growers co-operative in Gers, France. Each previous year around 30 winemakers set aside small parcels of their vineyards to raise a special grape crop and about 16 of them have been judged to have produced an individual expression of Pacherenc good enough to be included in the 2011auction. Since daybreak prospective buyers, have slurped and spat, met each winemaker and then had a welcome break eating the local Black Pig cured ham and drinking Jeroboams of Plaimont Madiron red. And it’s not even 11 am yet. Read more…
Lunch in London is how knowledgeable foodies get their fix of the best around. A meal that might cost upwards of £70 a head in the evening can be less than even half that if you cannily go for the set lunch option.
And it’s not a question of having to compromise either. The good chefs put a lot of thought into lunch ‘prix fixe because it’s seen as a chance to break away and to make best use of what’s available in the markets on the day.
Head chef at Roux at the Landau at the Langham Hotel is Chris King, an impossibly boyish looking chap whose appearance belies his experience. He worked at Le Gavroche over the past five years, has cooked at Per Se in New York, and was Sous Chef at Roux Parliament Square. Clearly the Roux Bros think highly of him and he joined me for a chat after a Landau lunch that was a perfect mix of French style, mixed with a touch of the exotic and a seasonal selection of market must-haves.
The Landau set lunch is three courses for £37.50, or £47.50 with a half bottle of wine from a short but punchy list. To eat at this level, in that room and for those prices is good value, and the number of people I could see in the room taking advantage rather proved it. Read more…
I have a soft spot for country house hotels, one fuelled by being glued to Downton Abbey every Sunday. Yes I know it’s only Upstairs Downstairs for 2000 but I like to sigh wistfully and imagine what I would do in the Earl of Grantham’s brogues faced with all his posh problems.
One of them, not mentioned, must be the fact that’s he’s trying to run a house the size of Kent with apparently no more than twelve indoor staff. We never see the poor man who has to run the Flymo over the hundreds of acres outside, presumably he is confined to a small hut.
Turning into the drive of South Lodge Hotel from the old Brighton Road, you get the sweep of driveway and suddenly the view of the house itself. Massively enlarged since being turned into a hotel it has been done with sympathy and only the newness of the bricks really gives away where new wings have been grafted on.
This means my head movie, where I am greeted by genuflecting loyal staff, is retained all the way up to the front desk. They have built a whole new reception area in front of what was once the original front door, which is a bit odd, but it works if you don’t wonder why there are exterior windows between internal rooms. It has a big old fireplace and must be particularly welcoming in winter. Read more…