Thursday, March 31, 2011

Los Angeles Day 1: Decadence at Providence


For those of you who follow me on Twitter, I had a bit of a meltdown before I left for the US. Them and their tricksy immigration rules, combined with nondescript instructions on how long you should have left on your passport. You get the idea. Even with all the research I had done, I was sweating as I checked in, sweating on the plane, and when the immigration dude had to "go check with his colleague about something", I nearly had a meltdown. Thankfully, they stamped my passport and I was through.

LA - Providence

LA is a weird place. I was warned about how spread out it all was, and you can easily travel for streets and not see a soul (apart from the numerous homeless who wander the streets). Very few things are located near each other, and often things which look close together on a map, will turn into a $12 cab ride. Providence is one of these places. A 2 Michelin starred restaurant, it was to be my first eating destination on my trip and arriving early, I thought I would check out the surrounding neighbourhood. There was nothing around it at all. After a few minutes looking for things to distract me, I gave up and headed on in.

LA - Providence

My first contact with LA hospitality was great. Our server was friendly, knowledgeable and quite refreshing from what I come to expect from much of London. Some might say over friendly, but you couldn't doubt the knowledge he had of all the restaurants products. The restaurant itself is small and looking a little worn on the inside, but still clean and simple with nice little touches. The food is far from clean and simple. Our amuse included the restaurants twist on two popular cocktails, and some extremely tasty morsels. The mojito gelee was a subtle cube of mojito, the "screwdriver" arrived like an egg yolk and exploded in your mouth. The gougere was perfectly executed, and the parsnip soup with bacon broth was quite special.

LA - Providence

After that quartet, my appetite was fully geared up. We decided to share two "entrees" which couldn't have been more different. The lobster crepe arrived looking stunning, and tasting pretty great too. With the tail, the crunchy crepe and soft claw, you get a great assortment of contrasting tastes and textures. The clam fritters arrived simply in a bowl with some yuzu mayonnaise on the side, and although the first few were pleasant, they started to cloy. There was no way I could have finished a whole portion of these on my own.

LA - Providence

My main was something so ridiculously decadent, that it jumped off the menu saying "order me", so order I did. Voila, one plate of  foie gras ravioli, served with "aromatics", a parmesan foam and smothered in grated truffle. I hate using the word umami, but this dish was designed to flood your mouth with this fifth taste, and the pasta was just so perfectly executed. Each bite provided me with such pleasure, it ended all too quickly. My companions plate of sea urchin spaghetti is definitely not something I would normally go for, so after a token mouthful, I left her to it.

LA - Providence

I ended with a coffee "bombe" and a whisky cream, a delightful combination which tasted like a refined tiramisu in the mouth. Opposite me was a dessert a mad scientist would have been proud of. A perfectly caramelised stick of pineapple soaked in white soy with little globules of jalapeno sauce. A dessert which triggers all your savoury senses, with the base ingredients sweetness dragging this dish into dessert territory. Personally, I loved the combination of sweet and savoury, and each additional bite kept me coming back for more.


With ambitious combinations and excellent execution, it's easy to see why Providence has been awarded their coveted two stars. A visit to the local Farmers Market (located on 3rd and Fairfax) soon after was probably ill timed. Packed with stalls selling food, it would be a great place to hang out if you are hungry, not so much if you had just devoured a huge meal. Located right behind is the Grove, an open air shopping center where I didn't buy anything, and just sat in the Californian sun, soaking up rays so rarely seen in London.

Providence - 5955 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles 90038

Providence on Urbanspoon

For more pictures of Providence and Los Angeles HERE

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Hinds Head, Bray (Guest Post)

*Guest post by my sister, who doesn't blog but eats out more than I do. Hopefully this will instigate her to blog a bit more for me (and she likes West London, an area I am definitely lacking in). Hope you like. Please leave her nice comments.*

I love being spoiled. Especially with food, though at the risk of oversaturating the blogopshere with another Heston review perhaps I should focus on the fact that it was my birthday and after a hard mornings shopping in (not so near) Bicester, I was very much looking forward to the comely feast that awaited me the Hinds Head. My chum, and I bombed it down the M40 in the pelting rain and screeched to a halt outside here;

Well not exactly outside. Duly following the parking signs for the pub we crunched up an inconspicuous gravel driveway opposite that led to their overflow carpark. A sure sign of the crowds brand Heston is able to draw as it was packed. Cue grumpy strop from me having to walk a whole 4 minutes in the rain! Though grump was short lived as I managed a cheeky peek into Heston’s lab which is curiously based in a little converted shed-like building in the car park... I guess real estate in Bray is a serious commodity now.

After a warm, if a little creepy welcome from the smiling maĆ®tre'd, we were led upstairs, much to my disappointment. Where was my pub fantasy? No table by the roaring fire, (no fire at all in fact) no ruddy faced old men sipping their whiskeys, no damp dogs snoozing in the gangways to step over. Just crammed to the very-carefully-restored-rafters with the ‘down from London for the weekend’ types. Like us. Embarrassing really to be so predictable. Instead we were led up the charming rickety stairs to our table and pretty much left to it. No really. Staring at our menu’s for a full 15 mins before we even caught a waiters eye did wonders for my already fragile temper, urged on by the early start, ferocious spending and now the everlasting wait for food. Prognosis: not good. Can you tell?

Pic lifted from the Hinds Head website

Finally, our orders were taken and we soon tucked into some fat juicy Scotch Eggs. The salty, crispy, deep fried, melting goodness was enough to disperse the black mood of death, voraciously dipping it into the creamy mustard we were finally off! I was so excited. A round of sourdough bread with densely churned salty butter didn’t even touch the sides…I was really gaining momentum now. The promising start was followed by a startlingly verdant confection of Pea and Ham soup. Now, peas not being my favourite thing, I approached this with trepidation, but it was bursting with field fresh sweetness. The salty nuggets of ham hock were a delight and thankfully, plentiful. Made my tea smoked salmon look a little dull. But the portions were generous and my appetite appeased by the soft, fleshy slices of curiously flavoured salmon spiked with the sharpest of lemons. Mmmmmm.

Onwards to the mains! My Wild Mushroom Macaroni with Fried Duck Egg was earthy and slippery all at once. A quivering duck egg was hastily stabbed and the golden yolk was liberated! Who knew what joy could come from an egg, some mushrooms and the tiniest hint off truffle oil. Me, at last! Delicious. Monk fish cheek scampi with fries for the Scotsman was ok. Crispy, fishy, carby. What more can I say? I definitely got the winner in the mains. He did however have to foresight to order a side of champ. Or was that me? I forget. All I can remember was this incredible spoonful of creamy potato wrapping me in buttered heavenliness. Over and over till I realised I’d practically eaten the lot. Oops.

Somewhat satiated we kicked back and ordered an Apple and Blackberry Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream. 25 long minutes later it was served. Piping hot but frankly disappointing, it certainly was not worth the wait especially as puddings are my favourite course. Soggy crumb and an over sweet compote does not a good crumble make. Neither does a half full teapot constitute £4.50 worth of tea.

We finally paid the bill after almost resorting to removing my top to get the waiters attention - around £60 for the both of us it was quite reasonable but one not quite worth making a return journey for. Very pleasant mannered waiters are all well and good, but appearing very young and with the attention span of a goldfish, I’d go for age before beauty any time.

The Hinds Head - High St, Bray, SL6 2AB

Hinds Head on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 7, 2011

Roast, London Bridge

Roast, London Bridge

I have always been a fond admirer of Lawrence Keogh. He (like me) went through a kidney transplant not so long ago, and inspires those that have gone through renal failure that you can still lead a full and fulfilling life, achieving the life goals you may have set yourself. Working as head chef of Roast in Borough Market, he has even written a cookbook focused on those suffering from renal failure, focusing on tasty dishes you can eat and make whilst taking into consideration the numerous dietary restrictions that people like me had to endure for so many years. In short, he is definitely someone I respect.

Having consumed numerous piggie rolls from the takeaway post stationed in the entrance of Borough market, I had high hopes for Roast. The minute I saw Toptable Spotlight offering £40 for £20, I snapped it up and plotted a trip. I thought I was being clever by scheduling a Saturday lunchtime trip, I could head to Roast and pickup some delights from Borough Market for later consumption. This was my first mistake, Borough was already heaving and the hordes were making me angry as I got there at 12. I was to end up with no treats.

The room itself is a nice airy space. High ceilings, lots of natural light with windows absolutely everywhere and a great view of the market below. Scattered with various photographic portraits of people you will recognise, I was left to stare at Simon Pegg's rather sad looking face during the whole meal. With a 2 hour turnaround time, we were keen to order, but after the initial welcome, and the reminder of the 2 hour rule, we struggled to attract the attention of our server, quite a feat in itself as we were sat right next to the till. A little while later, we managed to order, with 3 starters to share and mains. We also ordered the house special cocktail and waited.

Roast, London Bridge

After a little while, our starters arrived, but there was no sign of our drinks. We ended up asking three times before they eventually surfaced. We couldn't wait around for our drinks so we tucked into our food. It's hard to beat deep fried cheese, but even Laverstoke mozzarella (which is quite delicious) is over priced at £9.50 for 3 measly pieces of lukewarm cheese. Even more parsimonious was the £8 saveloy scotch egg. Basically, it was an overcooked battered egg. The sausage meat was barely there, and no matter how nice the sausage meat around the egg tasted, it was a lot of money to pay for a battered egg. The corned beef and pickled onion hash was better, but did not redeem the two dishes before it. Eventually, as we finished off our first course, our drinks arrived.

Roast, London Bridge

The mains were at least warm, but were nothing to write home about. The sole (which was a megrim as advertised, and not a lemon sole as our waiter insisted) went down well and was a hefty beast. If there was a gripe, it was not hot enough to melt the shrimp butter on top. My main of pork belly was decent enough, with excellent crackling, but the meat was on the chewy side, and the apple sauce was poor at best, tasting and looking like apple flavoured baby food.

Roast, London Bridge

Once again, we were missing items we had ordered. Beef dripping roast potatoes arrived a little while after the mains, and were nothing like the wondrous beef dripping chips at Hawksmoor Seven Dials. Underdone, lacking any crisp, insipid in flavour and actually unpleasant to eat, I had one and couldn't bring myself to eat another. The cabbage we had ordered failed to turn up at all, and when we pointed this out to our waiter, he visibly shrugged his shoulders. A little while later, our cabbage eventually turned up piping hot. The only relief was that we had eventually got some hot food.

By the time they had offered us dessert, we really just wanted to leave so we tried to settle the bill, but even that took a few goes to get somebodies/anybodies attention. The total bill pre voucher came to nearly £90, and that was with the cabbage removed and also begrudgingly the drinks. A huge wad of cash for mediocre food and terrible service. We considered desserts briefly, but when I saw them all sitting on the tray by the pass, right next to the heat lamps which failed to keep our food warm., I was very glad I hadn't. I couldn't believe it but I was pleased to be re-entering the seething mass which is Borough Market. I admire you Mr Keogh, but your restaurant, not so much.

Roast - The Floral Hall, Stoney Street, London SE1 1TL

Roast on Urbanspoon