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28/01/09

Permalink 04:25:32 pm, by Brad Email , 115 words   English (UK)
Categories: General

Cyanide and Happiness Greeting Cards

So I'm in Hammersmith shopping centre, waiting for Lana to get a crepe.

I look over and see this store, selling greeting cards. And do I see in the window?

And a closer pic.

That's right, Cyanide and Happiness now gone reasonably mainstream and available as greeting cards.

Took a pic of the display on my mobile. Please excuse the quality.

Here's a link to the store in question. Go and check it out yourself.

http://www.qype.co.uk/place/103477-Scribbler-London

Cards were selling for £2.35. Main reason I didn't get one, was we were going to queue for up Britain's Got Talent Auditions, so didn't want to carry anything. I'll post about that later.

14/01/09

Permalink 10:30:43 pm, by Brad Email , 1401 words   English (UK)
Categories: General

Royal Hospital Road Review

So for my birthday, Lana took me to Gordon Ramsay's Royal Hospital Road restaurant. The only 3 michelin starred place in London.

The quick review. 2nd best meal Lana's ever had, and her first experience of fine dining, so she loved it. Myself, I wouldn't rank the meal in my top 20 meals, and the experience itself not in the top 10. Good, but not great. Details to follow.

Forgot the camera, so no pics. But this place was pretty stuffy, and no-one else was taking pics. And at the end when I took a picture of my b'day cake, one of the snobby diners made a comment that you shouldn't be taking pictures in a place like this. wtf?

Firstly, Lana's got a bunch of allergies. Basically any spices, anything acidic (tomatoes, onions, garlic, vinegar etc). So normally I don't take her to the top notch places, as getting a plain piece of steak isn't worth the cash. This time decided to risk it (plus Royal Hospital Road is more a date place than a rowdy bunch of guys place). So she e-mailed them 2 weeks before and let them know of her allergies.

Pull up to the place in a cab. Door is opened, walk in. Coats taken (no coat receipt which is great). Shown to the table. Lana's dressed to the nines, I'm suited up. I start poking fun at her that her boob is about to pop out of her dress, so she gets self conscious, and puts her jumper on :)

Back to the meal. Service is top notch here. About 12 tables, and around a dozen waiters. One of the head waiters came over, and ran through what Lana's allergies were. This was without prompting. The Maitre D' came over for a bit of chat. But soon realised that we weren't that interested in chatting to him so left us alone.

After running through the menu, I went for the Menu Prestige (tasting menu). Lana went for the a la carte. She wanted Lobster to start, but the waiter knew it was marinated in garlic butter so was out. But again, he knew straight away. This was damn good service. Instead she went for the sea scallops carpaccio of octopus, Pan-fried fillets of John Dory with Cromer crab, caviar, crushed new potatoes and Gianduja chocolate soufflé with milk ice cream.

Courses were mixed in with "surprises". Basically surprise courses. Amazingly each surprise course was also tailored to Lana's allergies.

Quick side note. I was talking to Lana about the Sommelier. For some reason she thought this was the woman's name, not title. Funny :)

First were the canapes. A little cornet of lobster, crab and asparagus. Lana's was just asparagus. Plus some crackers, cheese layered. Good, but not great.

Next was another surprise course. I think it was a beef tongue in pasta, with a chicken stock soup, with some vegetables. Good, but no bite. But lana's custom meal here was a small salad drizzled with olive oil...with some black truffles (which I shamelessly stole). The waiter had already checked with Lana's allergies to onions, and all the stocks were made with onions, so they were out.

I then had a foie gras terrine, which had black truffles layed within it. And some great nice and chunky toast.

Next was my Ravioli of lobster, langoustine and salmon with tomato chutney, vinaigrette. Lana had her scallops. I didn't have any of her scallops, but the octopus was great. My ravioli was really average. Don't know why, just nothing special there.

Lana go up to go to the bathroom. 2 things here. The waiters ran to get in front of her to show her the way. She left her chewing gum in her napkin. Now of course the waiter tidies her napkin up pretty much jams her chewing gum there. Lana gets back, has forgotten about that, and promptly sticks her napkin to her dress. Highly amusing.

BTW, on the topic of service. It was hard to have a conversation, as every 5 minutes a waiter would be over doing something. Yeah, I know you're meant to ignore them, I can't do that.

Next course, just for me. Fillet of turbot with braised baby gem lettuce, leeks and cep sauce. Lettuce was bleh. But I don't like braised much (though the pink veal last week was an exception). Turbot was good, but again not the best I've had (Amsterdam perchere much, much better).

Then I had the special of partidge with some vegetables, and stock. Good, but not great. Lana had her main, which was great. They also had done a custom butter sauce. I'm not sure what was in it, but it was green, and according to Lana delicious.

Now it was desert time. I had a pre-desert, which escapes me now. Nothing fantastic.

The next desert course was gold though. They even brought one out for Lana complimentary. Mango and passion fruit soup with lychee and coconut. But it had space dust at the bottom, so when you sucked from the straw, it bubbled in your mouth. Absolutely great.

Final desert course was pretty good as well. Presented brilliantly. I had Bitter chocolate and hazelnut cylinder with ginger mousse and blackcurrant granité. Picture perfect presentation, with some raspberry syrup poured in a great pattern. Really wish I had a picture of that.

Now here's where they get tricky. About 10 oclock now. They need to turn tables. So the waiter comes over, and says do you want a tour of the kitchen? Then we can adjourn to the bar where there's another surprise for you. Obvious what they are doing, but done brilliantly, very impressed. Plus you get free stuff :)

So get the tour of the kitchen. Ran into a face that I saw at Claridges last week. Didn't remember his name, just remembered his face. So told him I saw him last week, he reintroduced himself. Mark Askew. Great guy, had a bit of chat with him. He was rather impressed with Lana's strong handshake as well :)

Oh yeah, while we were in the dining room, we heard a huge screaming match going on in the kitchen earlier in the night. Highly amusing.

Didn't have a chat with the current head chef. She looked highly stressed. Though I did want to thank her for Lana's menu. Oh yeah, Mark gave Lana a little present. Renee, if you're lucky and it's not eaten before hand, we were going to bring it for you on saturday night.

Back to the bar. Some chocolates, turkish delights, and a bit of dry ice trickery with some ice cream. Nothing too flash. And the waiter brings out a little ball of ice cream with a candle in it and sings happy birthday to me :) All cool.

Lana has some camille tea, I hit the whiskeys.

All up, the bill came to £300 for the both us. £88.09 for a la cart, £117.45 for Menu Prestige. Water, beer, wine and whiskey the rest. With a £33 tip.

All good, Lana enjoyed it much more than me. She couldn't stop talking about it and telling everyone she knew about it the next day. Again, her first experience of fine dining. I had the same epiphany on mine, all us food snobs do. So for those of you, who read this blog, and have no idea how you can spend 300 quid on a meal, you really don't know what you're missing out on. As I keep saying, once in a lifetime, once in a lifetime :)

The venue & crowd was a little too snobby for me (myself and Lana were easily the youngest there, average age was 50). But the service was impeccable (again, esp in regards to Lana's menu and allergies, that alone was worth the price of admission). Would I go back myself? Nope. But Lana's itching to go back, so for her birthday I'd probably drag her along.

I'd give it a 16/20. 9/10 for service (just needed a little more breathing room, but that's particular to me), and 7/10 for the food. Though again, I know that chefs struggle in winter. I think spring is the golden time to hit the good restaurants.

But now that I've proven that at a good restaurant the chef will tailor the menu to her, I think I might take her to Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons for her birthday. 5 star country manor, with a 2 michelin starred french restaurant downstairs...

10/01/09

Permalink 03:57:43 pm, by Brad Email , 1642 words   English (UK)
Categories: General

Claridges Chef's table review

Let's just start with me saying that this was the best meal of my life hands down. Both for the theatre & the meal itself. Unfrigging unforgettable. Great enough that I've signed up to go again near the end of March. It's also the first meal that I've had which has opened my taste buds to the joys of wine. Before I was always indifferent, this time the wines were all fantastic.

BTW, I might update this post later. They are going to e-mail across a copy of the meal & the matching wines soon. But just need to document everything before I forget. So I might be slightly off with my description of the courses.

Crew going was myself, Ben, Martin, Rob, Paul & Christophe.

Suited and booted for this event. Me, Ben and Rob get there first and met Christophe in the lobby. We check out coats in to a very friendly coat check guy, and wander into the main restaurant. It's around 6:30 pm now.

For the decor walking in, it's fantastic. Old style extravagance.

Walk up to the desk, tell them we're here for the chef's table.

Certainly gentlemen, we have a table reserved for you in the bar for some complimentary champagne. Sweet.

Sit down, and our waitress comes over to introduce herself. Yep, we have one waitress assigned just for us for the night. Just us, only table she's working on all night. Asks if we want to wait for the others or open the champagne now. Of course it's opened straight away.

Paul gets there, and they bring out the first canape course. We couldn't be stuffed waiting for Martin (plus we assumed he'd be late as usual). Some very thin bread, with 2 gorgeous dips. One of truffle's, one of olives.

Martin gets there, just as the next canapes come out. Warm course this time. 3 different ones, from memory one was truffle and cheese, one was goat's cheese, and I can't remember the third.

The Sommelier comes out, with what can only be described as an encyclopedia of wines. He goes into his little spiel, but this was a great spiel. We can order by the bottle, we can give him a budget and a number of wines we want. Or we can give him a budget and let him do the rest. Also no upselling here, said the lowest price wines he had were £30-40 and he was happy to go with that if that's what we wanted.
After a brief discussion we settled on a budget of £500 for wine (we wanted some room for the whiskey's at the end).

Waitress came over and asked if there was anything we didn't want to eat. Ben said no Foie Gras, and was instantly shouted down by everyone else. In the end there wasn't any Foie Gras course anyway, but hey.

Now the Sommelier escorted us through the dining room and into the kitchen. Told us as we were going through the dining room about how many seats, pointed out the cameras (so the chef's can see the pace of which people are eating to time the rest of their courses). Pointed out the private dining areas as well (which hold up to 30 people).

Now into the kitchen. Quick tour around, introduced to the head chefs, and shown to the table. The table is in the heart of the kitchen. On the right is a glass window which overlooks the patisserie area, straight in front of us is the main kitchen. Where you can hear and see everything going on. One of our most amusing things was everytime an order goes out, the rest of the brigade yells out a very loud "Oui".

Now here's the only so very minor negative of the experience. The tables a little high, so I ended up sitting on a cushion. And since it's a booth, to go out and take a piss, you have to shove people out of your way.

Which I'll have a little quick talk about the toilets. This is how posh the place is. So I had to go to the toilet, no idea where it was. Walk out of the kitchen (by this point I'm a little drunk as well). So am looking a little confused. A waiter escorts me to the bathroom (no he didn't come in to shake it). Then down to the urinals. Here's the kicker. Old full length porcelain urinals. At the bottom of the urinals was an angled piece of glass. This was so your shoes could go in all the way up to the urinal, and no chance of splashing your shoes. Genius I tell you. Never seen it before in my life. Plus all the other doodads, nice proper towels to wash your hands, a very subtle spinning air freshner machine. And no attendant. Gold. There was all the other stuff as usual with aftershave etc. But no attendant. Brilliant.

Back to the meal.

At the start of every course, the chef responsible came out and gave us a little chat about it and introduced it himself. Fantastic.

First course was a turnip soup with scallops. In the excitement, no pictures were taking. Just eaten :)
Here's a picture of the empty plate.

Second course was smoked salmon, smoked at the table. The bowl came out with the lid on and filled with smoke, so still going. Also beetroot caviar(!), blinis and a salad (which escapes me right now the ingredients, I think radishes).

Now our last big meal out was Fat Duck, so comparison's were being made. The waitress and sommelier are overhearing this and having a bit of a joke about it. At the moment, the food is good, not quite beating the Fat Duck, but definitely up there. But the wines are kicking the Fat Duck's arse. We mention this to the sommelier, who immediately lifts his game. The next wine was as he said one of which he only had 6 bottles left of :)

BTW, at the end I asked him about wine budgets and what most people do. He said £500 was about the norm, enough to pick some great wines and have some fun with the choices. Also said the largest budget ever was £20,000. Said that was a great night of dusting off bottles :) Forgot to mention at the start he asked about what wines we liked, and didn't like. Also in regards to red vs white and taste. So again, plus 10 for his choices.

Next course was an experimental dish. Quail breast, on a potato gnocchi (which looked like a scallop), and potato, with this very good subtle curry sauce.

Now we had a little break. Got a close up tour of the kitchen, walked around by one of the junior chefs. Shown everything. BTW, it's bloody hot in the kitchen itself.

Got to ask lots of questions, poke around. For a foodie like me, it was great to see how everything was done. BTW, in case you're curious, Gordon Ramsay checks out the restaurant at least once a fortnight, sometimes every week. Randomly. Last time he was there was on Tuesday, so we missed him by 2 days.

Back to our table for a surprise. 3 of the guys in our group were going to cook the next course. A fish course.

Ben, Paul and Christophe were up for the challenge.

They went into the kitchen, cooked it up, plated it and yelled for service. Great fun :)

It's halibut (can't remember the sauce). And amazingly was pretty good even if it was cooked by those jokers.

The next course was the gold dish of the evening. As I said before it was good, in my top 5 meals. But this course alone put it over by a large margin. For this course alone I would have paid what I paid. It was absolutely gold.

Pink veal, perfectly cooked at medium rare. One piece poached, one oven cooked. A whole garlic, roasted perfectly so the cloves melted in your mouth. Roast root vegetables, perfectly cooked and presented. And mash potato, so damn creamy....layered with black truffles. Ben licked the bowl of that clean.

As I said, this course alone was worth the price of admission. Unbelievable.

After that we moved onto the cheeses. Some fantastic, others not. But that was more to my personal tastes than anything else.

The first desert course was a type of cheesecake. But with layers. No pics taken here.

The final course was us making it. Myself, Martin and Rob were up for the challenge.

Martin drew the lines so straight and perfectly the chef was amazed. Think Martin can easily get a job as a pastry chef :)

I screwed up by blowtorching the cake too long, and ended up burning my finger. But hey, shouldn't give a guy a blowtorch after 8 odd glasses of wine.

And that was the last course. Followed up by petit fours (2 courses of those, since we loved the first one so much. And some whiskey's and 40 year old brandy's.

We ended up finishing around midnight (So roughly 5.5 hours for the meal). Never rushed, perfect service at just the right level of attentiveness. Got to find out the inner workings at a top level restaurant & have the best meal I've ever had as well. I'd give it a 9.5 out of 10 (just got to keep some room for even more perfection, or the search ends). Also I was stuffed. I had trouble fitting the last chocolate truffle in. And I had only eaten 2 small pieces of bread.

Here's the wines we drank.




And finally the bill....came to £300 a head (or £1800). But well worth it. As I said I'm doing it again in 2 months.

Btw, pictures are thanks to Martin. You can check the rest out at

http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/nautipuss/ChefSTableGRClaridgesJan09?feat=directlink#

08/01/09

Permalink 09:37:11 am, by Brad Email , 46 words   English (UK)
Categories: General

Masterchef

About a year ago we went to a restaurant called Wahaca. They were filming a series called Masterchef.

Last night we were on tv. See if you can see me :)

Screenshot from the show, only a couple of seconds shot. I'll upload a youtube vid later.

29/12/08

Permalink 06:25:50 pm, by Brad Email , 66 words   English (UK)
Categories: General

Cholesterol update

First the good news. I don't have to take pills. It's still high, but better.

Before:

Serum HDL Cholesterol level = 0.99 mmol/L
Serum LDL cholesterol level = 3.87 mmol/L
Serum cholesterol/HDL ratio = 5.81

Now:

Serum HDL Cholesterol level = 0.88 mmol/L
Serum LDL Cholesterol level = 2.97 mmol/L
Serum cholesterol/HDL ratio = 5.38

So basically I have to continue as before. But of course I bought a steak to celebrate :)

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A brief blog describing what is going on in the life of Brad Jayakody

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