Here Are 50 Reasons Not to Eat Out on April 20: Gourmet London

Here Are 50 Reasons Not to Eat Out on April 20: Gourmet London
2009-04-14 23:00:01.3 GMT
By Richard Vines

April 15 (Bloomberg) — Here’s a tip: April 20 is the night of the year to avoid dining out in London. It’s the date of the S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards and you’re more likely to see a top chef there than in a restaurant.

Joel Robuchon will head to Freemasons’ Hall from Paris, Daniel Boulud from New York, Ferran Adria from Barcelona and Tetsuya Wakuda from Sydney. They will join U.K. counterparts who include Heston Blumenthal, Marcus Wareing, Rick Stein, Fergus Henderson and possibly Jamie Oliver — he’s filming. In case you wondered, Gordon Ramsay won’t be there. He’s out of the country.

It promises to be quite a gathering — there are 500 people on the guest list — for awards that are greeted in the food world with a mixture of both amusement and annoyance, as well as a touch of boredom.

The top three places have gone to El Bulli, the Fat Duck and Pierre Gagnaire — in that order — for three straight years. China and Japan don’t feature in the Top 50 and the Asian winner is usually Bukhara, an unexceptional eatery in New Delhi.

This year, new panelists have been named in an attempt to freshen things up. I am one for the first time. I have no idea who everyone else voted for, but I can tell you who will win the Lifetime Achievement award. It goes to Robuchon, Michelin’s favorite chef, the organizers said in an e-mailed release.

Red Eaters

There’s good news for steak lovers in London who can’t get enough even now that Goodman has joined Maze Grill, Hawksmoor and other restaurants that cater to those who like their meat red. Palm Restaurants plans to open a London branch on May 25 on the former site of Drones, on Pont Street. The look will be similar to that employed in the U.S., with banquette seating, hardwood floors and caricatures of famous customers. The menu will feature favorites such as lobster, creamed spinach, New York cheesecake and, of course, USDA prime-aged steak.

Blumenthal was one of the judges last week in the finals of the Roux Scholarship, which seeks to recognize and support the U.K.’s most promising young chefs. (The age limit is 30.) He’s busy after the Fat Duck, which won the Best Restaurant award in 2005, was closed for more than two weeks following a breakout of the norovirus. Blumenthal is popular in the industry and received plenty of sympathy from fellow judges who included four members of the Roux family — Michel, Albert, Michel Jr. and Alain — and chefs Gary Rhodes, Andrew Fairlie and Brian Turner. I was a judge, too, so I know. The winner, Hrishikesh Desai, of Lucknam Park, near Bath, stood out at London’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel on April 6 when finalists had to cook Brill Cherubin, an Escoffier recipe.

Miami Fab

Hakkasan, the Chinese restaurant known for being fabulous, is to open its first U.S. branch on April 19. Hakkasan Miami, in the Fontainebleau hotel, Miami Beach, will replicate the venue’s formula of fashionable food and cool cocktails. It’s more than a year since the restaurateur Alan Yau sold majority control of Hakkasan and its sister Yauatcha for $60 million to Tasameem, the property arm of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. There’s already a Hakkasan in Istanbul and Yau last month opened a second London branch of his budget Chinese eatery Cha Cha Moon at the Whiteleys shopping center in Bayswater.

Yorkshire Portions

David Moore, co-owner of Pied a Terre and L’Autre Pied in London, has opened an eatery in Harrogate, in northern England. Van Zeller — the chef is Tom van Zeller — uses local Yorkshire ingredients in its modern British cuisine. I’ve yet to make it there but I did finally try the cooking of another Yorkshire chef, Anthony Flinn, at Piazza by Anthony in the Corn Exchange, Leeds. Portions are large for dishes such as warm salad of Bury black pudding with a soft-poached egg, and fish pie with creamy mash. My family is from Yorkshire and I can’t say how welcome such good cooking is. In my home town of Doncaster, I’ve given up trying to find a restaurant serving food I would want to eat.

(Richard Vines is chief food critic for Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)


Fat Duck Sickness Complaints Jump to 400 From 40 in Food Scare

Fat Duck Sickness Complaints Jump to 400 From 40 in Food Scare
2009-03-06 00:00:01.7 GMT

By Richard Vines

March 6 (Bloomberg) — The number of people who have reported falling sick after eating at the Fat Duck has risen to 400 from 40 last week, when Chef Heston Blumenthal said he was temporarily closing his restaurant because of the health scare.

The Health Protection Agency and officials from the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead are investigating the complaints about the experimental eatery, west of London, which
is famed for dishes such as snail porridge and bacon-and-egg ice cream.

“This is a very complex outbreak,” Dr. Graham Bickler, the agency’s regional director, said yesterday in a press statement. “We are working closely with the restaurant and
with colleagues in the Royal Borough’s Environmental Health team to explain what happened and to ensure that the risks of it happening again are reduced as much as possible.”

The Fat Duck, which has three Michelin stars, was named the world’s best restaurant in the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards in 2005 and has been in the top two for the past five years. El Bulli, north of Barcelona, currently holds first place.

Blumenthal announced the shutdown on Feb. 27 after diners had called over a three-week period to report they had become ill. He said the next day he hoped to reopen this week and said tests hadn’t revealed any evidence of food poisoning. At the time, he put the cost of a one-week shutdown at 100,000 pounds ($141,000) and said he didn’t know if his insurance would cover it.

Food Tests

Health officials have conducted tests on foodstuffs from the Fat Duck and taken samples from diners and from staff members, looking for signs of contamination by germs — either bacterial or viral — which might have occurred at any time from being supplied to the restaurant to being served, the agency said.

“We’re saying 400 possible cases, not that 400 people have fallen sick,” Teresa Cash, a spokeswoman for the agency, said in a telephone interview last night. “When people hear something like this has happened, they may call and report something.” The complaints relate to meals since late January.

Blumenthal’s spokeswoman, Monica Brown, said the chef had no further comment while the investigation was continuing.

The restaurant has examined records of which waiters served which customers, which dishes the diners ordered and where they sat without finding any correlation, Blumenthal said in a telephone interview on Feb. 28. The Fat Duck has used an independent company, Food Alert, for four years to monitor hygiene and it is involved in investigating the complaints, he said.

The restaurant normally serves more than 80 people a day, and each spends on average about 220 pounds, Blumenthal said. The tasting menu costs 130 pounds for about a dozen courses such as the Sound of the Sea, where diners don earphones and listen to lapping waves while consuming seafood washed up on what looks like a beach. The sand is a mix of tapioca and Japanese breadcrumbs.

Matching wines for the menu cost 90 pounds or 165 pounds.

(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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Bo Innovation

He calls himself the “Demon Chef”.

He even tattooed “厨魔” (“Demon Chef” in Chinese) on his upper right arm.

He’s had no formal culinary training before.

His looks appears to be a complete opposite of that of a well-groomed gourmet chef.

And his restaurant has also been referred to as the “El Bulli” of Hong Kong with 5-star ratings from South China Morning Post, BC Food Guide and HK Magazine, a 9 out of 10 from Hong Kong Tatler, a “TOP 10” from Weekend Journal Asia and finally, “Best New Restaurant in Hong Kong” by Food and Wine Magazine.

Alvin Leung’s Bo Innovation, as odd as the name may sound, has been the talk of the town for quite some time now. The current location is Bo Innovation’s or Alvin’s third relocation (the first location was under a different name) and is located within the heart of Wanchai and its Urban Renewal Project.

His menu changes every month and each month, Alvin and his team would put together the most daring and innovative dishes. Check out my comments for each dish by clicking into the photos!

  • Century Egg
  • Marennes Oyster, Green Onion Lime Sauce, Ginger Snow Oyster Tofu, Seaweed
  • Smoked Quail Egg, Crispy Taro Crust, Caviar
  • Toro Paper, Foie Gras Powder, Dried Rasberry
  • Braised Vermicelli in Porcini Essence, Spring Onion Sauce
  • “Xiao Long Bao”
  • “Slow Cooked Cod in White Miso, Saffron, Braised Lotus Root in Beet Root and Osmanthus”
  • Crab Souffle
  • Slow Roasted French Pigeon, Foie Gras, Fermented Black Bean, Wild Honey, “Choy Sum” Puree, Drunken Pigeon Terrine, Pear Ravioli
  • Australian M9 Plus Wagyu Striploin, Black Truffle “Cheung Fun”
  • “Bo” Fried Rice
  • “Bo” Dessert

If you’re tired of having “traditional” cuisines and want something that really challenges your idea of taste together with texture (i.e. a certain taste goes with a certain texture), then give Bo Innovation a shot! Your taste buds will never send you the same message ever again.

However, at HKD 1,080 per person (plus 10% service charge) or HKD 1,680 (plus 10% service charge) with wine pairing, Bo Innovation doesn’t come cheap. Its definitely on the more expensive side, but was it worth the experience? Err, I’m tempted to say “yes”, and it probably was, but the damage has been done, lol … Its definitely worth a visit.

(Inside Joke: Nick, I can finally write this blog!)

Bo Innovation
X-treme Chinese Cuisine
Shop 13, 2/F., J Residence
60 Johnson Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
(Private lift entrance on 18 Ship Street)
Tel: +852 2850 8371
Website: www dot boinnovation dot com