Our world constantly changes for the better!! Sometimes there exists grey areas that need to be addressed again with a more opened mind. Take for example The Harwood Arms, which is a modern British Gastro Pub which shares common ownership structure with the highly praised Michelin 2 Starred The Ledbury (London). At gastro pub level, the dishes served here were expectedly more than affordable but it was the overall package which really amazed I instantly fell in love with this pub, and kudos to the Michelin Guide UK for giving here recognition as it is due.
**************************** - Normal A La Carte Menu - There is also a Pub Food menu and daily Lunch Set Menu. All are worth exploring as they carry diff items.
- Nice Communal Gastro Pub Setting. Totally my style of dining. Although I do enjoy Fine Dining once in a while, this is just so MOI !!
- Bread and Butter - The bread was superb, it was addictive with that strong wheat flavour and crisp external texture. Definitely very fresh bread. It still baffles me as to why bread in Europe is just so much better in general. They don’t need to come in all fanciful shapes, as long as they taste right! ~ 9/10
- Grilled Cod Cheeks with Fennel, Radish and Chanterelles - Pounds 8.0 The fish cheeks were done 2 ways, one fried and one grilled. The mushroomy fish broth was excellent, so was the fish texture and overall balance. The chanterelles with fennel didn’t over power either. Very great starter. ~ 9/10
- Venison Scotch Eggs - Pounds 3.50 Herbed judicially, the venison meat was still moist and so was the slightly runny egg yolk inside. This was gorgeous stuff and not found on the normal menu. This is only found on the Pub Food menu, thanks to other local regulars who know to order this by default. ~ 9/10
- Rabbit Shoulders Cooked in Cider with Spelt Dumplings, St George Mushrooms and Mustard Butter – Pounds 7.50 I couldn’t believe how cheap this dish is, it is really value for money for a Rabbit dish cooked 2 ways. The whole Rabbit shoulders and rabbit legs were brilliantly cooked, what more can you ask for? ~ 9/10
- Cheek and Jowl of Middlewhite Pork with Grilled Celeriac, White Cabbage Puree, Breakfast Radish & Crackling – Pounds 17.50 Another 2 way cooked dish with the famous UK Middlewhite strand of pork. The version I ate here was heaps and bounds better than the lifeless version I ate at equally Michelin 1 Starred - St John (London) not that long ago at much more expensive. At least the crackling was bubbly crispy here, the pork had Middlewhite pork taste and also tender, although the pork cheek was a little dense and can be improved. Overall, a very memorable dish bar the cheek. ~ 7.5/10
Heston Blumenthal. Ding ding ding ding ding ding ..ding ding.. blu er blu er wa aaa … Ever watched his shows on TV? Several years ago I was kind of contemplating on whether to pay him a tribute, afterall he was once voted as the top restaurant in the world. Which is ironic enough, as the offshoot Dinner by Heston has shot right up into the Top 10 restaurants whilst the original and much more sophisticated Fat Duck dropped slightly outside of the podium, so to speak. For me, the attraction to finally book a table here was more influenced by reading some recent reviews of here and the food seems to have evolved and culminated into a more settled form.. Has it lacked it’s lustrous glory ? Has it already fallen out of trend? At least not going by the 3 months advanced booking I have had to plan well ahead and when all the tables for 3 months later, all became gone within 2 minutes on the online booking platform. It is quite stressful to dine out sometimes, if u think about it.
- Liquid Nitrogen Poached Aperitifs -Vodka and Green Tea with Gin Tonic and Lime Scent, Campari Soda with Freeze Dried Raspberry Powder.. What became interesting was how these turned out to be more like frozen meringues than a smooth ice cream texture, but they were definitely refreshing. OK, nitrogen stuff are cliched and done to death these days at least for the past 10 years… but flavour combination wise, these were good. I just didn’t think the presentation was that appetizing itself, or am I spoiled by pretty quenelling nowadays? ~ 7/10
- Red Cabbage Gazpacho, with Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream - Although different, colours wise this kind of clashed with the 1st amuse bouche of purplish Beetroot sponge. Is that being harsh? I liked this combination of flavours though, but it wasn’t exactly 3 Dimensional in flavours either. Let’s just keep it simple? ~ 8/10
- Jelly of Quail, Crayfish Cream. Chicken Liver parfait, Oak Moss and Truffle Toast with Pea Puree - (Homage to Alain Chapel) The forest smoke and the oak moss strips from the Listerine like plastic containers were definitely the centre to this dish.. The truffle toast was meant to evoke memories of the forest. I did in my mind questioned why crayfish cream was present in this foresty dish.. The 2nd problem I had with this whole dish structure, was that I couldn’t actually taste much of the described flavours individually bar the oak moss and chicken liver parfait. ~ 7/10
- Snail Porridge - The famous signature porridge is made from Snails, Oat Meal, with Shaved Fennels, Parsley sauce and Iberico Bellota ham. Add in a bit of Mushroom and Almond. A nice enough combination if not a little bit too heavy on the sliced fennel in the end. This was quite enjoyable! ~ 9/10
- Mad Hatter’s Tea Party - Mock Turtle Soup with a Gold Medallion Pocket Watch, which then melted to become part of the soup. With toasted cutlet sandwich with eggs and cucumber, truffle, anchovy, and a crumbed bread filling. I really liked this dish. It was a little theatrical, but may be I have always been a fan of the Mad Hatter and his mercury induced insanity. This was rather fun as a dish and that Medallion and that eggy panna cotta in the mock turtle soup was pretty to look at. One of the most memorable dishes here… ~ 12/10
- Salmon Poached in Liquorice Gel, with Asparagus, Vanilla Mayonnaise, Grapefruit & Golden Trout Roe - A dish that polarize the customers but has been on the menu for as long as I remember reading about it. I liked this but the liquorice coating was a little too thick and sticky & almost like a candied jelly layer. It was slightly lacking in seasoning and became a little too sweet in hindsight. ~ 7/10
- Macerated 2 Types of Strawberries, Olive Oil Biscuit beneath, Chamomile and Coriander - With a chequered flag sugary blanket. It was designed to evoke a picnic experience. Pretty fun concept indeed, and probably summarizes the intents of dining here ! ~ 9/10
- WhisK(e)y Wine Gums - The gummies are made with different regional Whiskies from purely Scotland origins, which are known to have differentiated styles within a macro window. Indeed, very interesting dessert and memorable for the loyalty to the original whiskies taste. ~ 12/10
Quite a late comer to the London Fine Dining scene, but under Chef Brett Graham’s guidance it took no time at all for The Ledbury to gain its 2nd Star in 2010, equaling its sister restaurant The Square’s best effort. To seasoned haute cuisine diners, this restaurant might not initially surprise you in terms of extraordinary food design and presentation – afterall, there are no Botanist-Chefs scattering about their micro herbs and foliage or moss line up, glamming it up with enough colour appeal to fool the eyes and the stomach into submission. Nor are there course after course of deconstructed then recompiled and sewn up food accompanied by molecular chemical by-products offered by chef Dr. Frankenstein!
- Foie Gras Tart with Red Almond and Ginger Bread Crumb - Lovely starter, no oddly combo'ed flavourings here ~ 10/10
- Walnut Bread - Very British bread, incorporated with raisins and a sweetish taste underneath…
- Fried Katafi Pastry wrapped Quail Egg with Marmalade & Chestnut Cream - Another excellent appetiser, this was just perfect for Winter ~ 9/10
- Raviolo of Grouse and Partridge with Cepes, Elderberries and Brown Bread Sauce - Kill 2 birds with 1 raviolo? This was quite an earthly dish, another good treat. The heaviness from the brown bread sauce, creamy foam and the gamey birds were well balanced by the side add-on of elderberries sour/sweetness ~ 9/10
- Truffle Toast and a Broth of Grilled Onions, Hamphire Buffalo Milk Curd with Saint-Nectaire - Beautiful presentation in hay and appropriate for what it’s aiming for, smells as good as it tastes ~ 9/10
- Shoulder of Pyrenean Milk Fed Lamb with Jerusalem and Chinese Artichokes, Winter Savoury Milk and New Season Olive Oil - There are actually other main dishes I was keener to try, such as their signature Loin of Roe Deer baked in Douglas Fir. But my dining companion was unfortunately stuck at work and dining just by myself that night, I could only pick one and the Pyrenean milk fed lamb was tempting as I did not try any, despite staying in that region for a few days. WOW – this was cooked very well indeed, in a traditional type of way, yet reinvented with a modern twist. Lamb Skin was crispy, meat was tender and balanced in gamey-ness. Jerusalem Artichokes puree balanced the richness with its slight gingery & root vegetables flavour, the Crosnes gave it texture, a splash of winter savoury milk giving smoothness to align with the milk fed lamb, and olive oil was very Pyrenees. This might look simple on paper, but rethink again to consider how all of these ingredients were binded so well together. This is the result of an expertly crafted dish. It is exactly the type of food I ardently crave for. Down-to-earth, but never boring. Amazing ~ 10/10
- Eucalyptus Honey and Spiced Bread Souffle, Dunked on top with Thyme Ice Cream -
Sometimes I do wonder if any place in Hong Kong apart from Pierre makes a proper souffle. They should be airy and moist, ‘light as a wind’ and a professionally baked souffle would never collapse too quickly as soon as its brought out of the oven and then the steam providing its rise, runs off into the atmosphere… a question worth pondering on indeed, as most souffles served in HK dessert houses are just so wrong in texture, it’s not even remotely funny! I don’t actually expect anyone to understand what I am babbling on, as we are brought up thinking Tai Ping Goon’s version to be a souffle. But that to me, is a CAKE!
This souffle was done exceptionally well, the egg whites climbing up the ramekin beautifully with a flat fluffy top, rather than like a disruptive volcano eruption or a pimple on the forehead. I am having a self chuckle right now thinking of the shits being handed out from HK dessert houses, that they even dared to call it a souffle ! [IMG http://lh4.ggpht.com/_Dth5_szw9Kw/TTcxcm2mZlI/AAAAAAAACTs/ieK28o_hN_A/titter_thumb%5B1%5D.gif?imgmax=800] You might be able to get an approximate pizza here, an approximate rum baba, approximate espresso or approximate fried tonkatsu. But there is not even anything close to an approximated souffle in town, and now that’s really a tragedy ! ~ 10/10
- Petits Fours of - White Chocolate Almond Ball, Earl grey Macaron, Mandarin Pate, Dark Chocolate with Eucalyptus, Violet Marshmallow - Lovely rather than exceptional, served on top of a pile of cocoa husk (rather than cocoa nibs), which are also edible ~ 7/10
Most International foodies would have heard about Fergus Henderson through one way or another for his Nose to Tail dining approach philosophy. The story goes that if we are slaughtering the animals for our consumption, then we should therefore respect their carcase and sacrifice of life and not create any more non environmentally safe food wastages during the process - and by employing this socially responsible concept and traditional British cooking techniques, each part of the animal could potentially be turned into some scrumptious dish. ON THEORY ANYWAY.. We have pre-booked this table a month ahead as it can become quite crowded at night, but I was a little disappointed at the lack of so called offal/innards items on their menu on the day, made worst by many executional errors and overly simple recipes of many dishes… especially discovering as an afterthought back in HK that it is considered to be worthy of a Michelin Star status…
- Sourdough and Rye Bread, served cold as expected. But of very high quality in freshness (though mixed thoughts about cold bread in Winter) ~ 8/10
- A bottle of St. John’s Cabernet Syrah red, from France’s Chateau Lascaux, Pic St Loup of Languedoc region ~ 7/10
- Rabbit Offal & Radishes - This dish mentioned radishes, but I can only find 1 type of French breakfast radish so it must have meant plural in terms of how many you get! Unfortunately, this was the only 1 memorable dish, as things got progressively worst on all fronts ~ 8/10
- Roast Bone Marrow & Parsley Salad, capers and gently pickled onions and grey sea salt - This was outright disappointing in execution, probably the worst roasted bone marrows I’ve ever eaten. You couldn’t begin to imagine how sad we were looking and prodding with the obviously under-baked marrows, which hasn’t even started to melt and develop its intense flavours. There were also a lot of empty air pockets and bony bits inside each hollow out, meaning we had trouble extracting even enough marrows to topple up half a slice of toasted bruschetta loaf… ~ 2/10
- Roasted Middlewhite & Chard - A specialty British pork and one of 3 most treasured breeds, sought after even from all the way in Japan, the Middle White is simply named after its size and supposedly the best tasting of the available pig breeds including Berkshire. Unfortunately, despite Britain being famous for Roast Pork and St John even more famous for their Suckling Pig, this roasted Middlewhite was a disaster. The meat arrived dried yet cold, with a lot of fat beneath the hard cold skin crackle. The pork itself was bland and tasteless, the whole thing doesn’t even have ANY flavours developed during its roasting ‘mallaird’ process. There wasn’t even any interesting sauce to salvage this dish. For 24 Pounds, can I get something that tastes better than hospital food? May be Chef Ferguson should visit and eat La Luna’s Roast Pork (Melbourne) to see what a good roast is like, and that’s only a neighbourhood corner steak house! ~ 3/10
- Welsh Rarebit - A traditional British styled grilled toast made with dark ale, mustard, cheddar and Worcestershire sauce, this was too under-toasted and a bit aggressive with its dowsing of sauce, which means it became completely soaked & soggy in the middle. The flavour was very good mind you, but the execution not so ~ 6/10
- Eccles Cake & Lancashire Cheese - A traditional food pairing to be eaten together according to the staff.. although occasionally you see Eccles Cake sold without the cheese. Filled with currants. The St John’s version has a slightly more flaky and light pastry case than the more normal commercial versions. ~ 6.5/10
The local food markets around the globe, I do find somehow reflects the overall society and their current expectation in daily life. It can be a good indicator of how advanced the economy or local food scene is within a particular city. Borough Market is interesting as it has one of the most diversified offerings on offer, whereas my other beloved markets in Spain seem to be more concentrated on mainly raw produce such as the amazing array of seafood and vegetables and Jamon ham. I wished Hong Kong can also have similar quality wet markets too, but sometimes it will be hard to compare as the local HK Markets would be more Asian oriented in feel. But anyway here’s a summary of my latest London Borough Market finding. *Minus the Neal’s Yard Cheese room photos, as I seem to have dislocated them somewhere for now!.
- Chorizo and Red Pepper Rolls being prepared..
- Raw Seafood
- A Popular Stall for Meat stuffed into Bread or Wraps - I could do with some of these too.
- Gourmet Baguettes - With Grilled Halloumi Cheese marinated in Lemon, Parsley & Garlic, with Sausage of Venison, Wild Boar, Red Wine & Apricot… With a myriad of exotic sauces to be added on top for free. Trivial Question: When was the last time you have seen me eaten a hotdog in Hong Kong?
- Big dishes of Paellas and Stews - Not a rare sight in Europe and even Australia nowadays. It is all about what the customers expect and the information gap separating us, but one prob wouldn’t find this in a HK market. But they at least they do serve something local?
- Raclette Cheese served with Potatoes and Pickles, and Cheese Toasties - This stall is very famous in Borough and I have eaten these on a previous visit. Simple but it is exactly what a crowd pleaser needed to be. If I had more stomach room I could fit in like 10 of these, if not 5 minimum.