Saturday, August 16, 2014

My 100th Blog Post! What a Journey.

With this post I mark a milestone in my restaurant review career. This is my 100th post! Nearly all of those 100 are restaurant reviews. That is a lot of eating out. When I started I didn't think I'd have the patience to create 10 blog posts, let alone 100. But I've persisted and I've loved every minute.

As I approached this achievement I began to think about how to commemorate it. Surely I should go to one of the best restaurants in the world? No, maybe I should do a piece on the top budget eat, or trendiest food market? Wouldn't going to one of my first reviewed restaurants and doing an updated blog be the way to go?

In the end, I decided not to go to any restaurants. But instead, to stay home and write what I've learned over the last five years and 100 posts.

First of all, restaurants are echoing the divide between rich and poor. The top Michelin starred restaurants, run by A-List celebrity chefs rake in millions every year. Their booking lines ring off the hook, often to deaf ears. Getting a table at some of these restaurants is tantamount to winning the lottery. Recall my incredibly strategic, almost military plan to secure a reservation at The French Laundry?

It isn't just the 3 Michelin Star restaurants that are hard to get into anymore, it is nearly every single trendy restaurant owned by anyone who can afford to hire top notch PR firms.

It is because of this fact that my tastes have changed. I am tired of patiently waiting on the phone while some snooty teenager tells me that there aren't any reservations for that date and perhaps I should call back on the day, the phone lines open at 9am and maybe, just maybe they will have had a cancellation.

I've almost completely lost interest in molecular gastronomy in the last five years. Although it is still going strong and Heston is still doing nearly the exact same tasting menu as he was when I proposed to my wife at The Fat Duck in 2007, it is not something I have much interest in anymore. Instead, I prefer food done in a simpler approach.

Take Tom Kerridge's The Hand and Flowers pub in Marlow. He's earned 2 Michelin Stars by making simple food taste the way food should taste. He coaxes out the best of every single ingredient until there is nothing more that ingredient can give.

When deciding where to go for my wife's birthday this year, my thoughts turned more towards lobster rolls out of a van in Borough Market than La Gavroch, a restaurant I hold in high esteem. Right now I feel that the restaurant business has simply become too expensive and too stuck up for me to care much anymore. And let's be honest, a plate of perfectly cooked Thai food from a van tastes nearly as good as a 25 course tasting menu at Le Big Snoot Trois Attitude. Sure, we don't go to 3 Michelin Star restaurants for the taste alone. We go to be wowed and awed. To have flames coming out of chocolate dragons and eat foam that looks like the sand on a beach and tastes like soy lecithin. I think it is soy lecithin actually.

Of course, knowing me, this could all change tomorrow. But for now, I am very happy to search out and eat in restaurants that do one thing; prepare and serve excellent food in a relaxed atmosphere.

The below are a selection of some of my top meals, not restaurants, just meals. As I have learned in the last five years, favorite meals and favorite restaurants can often be completely different.

Thank you to all that have read and hopefully enjoyed my little blog. I look forward to the next 100 posts!

Beautiful Foie Gras Ari Gold Burger-Patty and Bun Truffle Foie Gras
Lamb Chunky Beef Hummus Dinner Heston Blumenthal Steak Chips Confit Duck Panang at Oli's Pulled Lamb Sandwich River Cottage Canteen

Monday, July 14, 2014

The George Inn, Alfriston: A Perfect South Downs Way Stop!

The George Inn, Alfriston Inside The George Inn Chips at The George Inn Lamb Duo Trout Close up of Trout Beautiful Trout
There are some villages in England that truly take one's breath away. And there are some pubs that transcend time and are so old that you can't help but sit in awe and wonder what it looked like back then. Alfriston is such a village and The George Inn is that pub. Opened in 1397 The George Inn was one of the first pubs in England to be granted a license to serve alcohol. It's foundation can be traced back to 1250 when tunnels beneath were used by smugglers. In fact, Alfriston itself was home to a gang of smugglers and it's ground is riddled with tunnels built to escape any unwanted callers.

With such a rich history Alfriston has become one of my favorite English villages and I can now call The George Inn one of my favorite English pubs. The food is simple and traditional. There is no chefy-cooking here, only honest, true cooking using the best local ingredients available.

My Duo of Lamb: a Pan Roasted Loin with a Braised Shank Parcel and served with Cabbage, Chestnuts and Red Wine Jus was a very tasty dish indeed. Brimming with flavor and perfectly cooked. My dining partner for the day; Simple Foodie had the Fillet of Trout on Red Lentils, Vegetables and Chorizo, with Braised Fennel and Saffron Sauce. A lovely, sophisticated dish that would please any Fish lover.

If I'm speaking plainly, The George Inn isn't a foodie pub in the way that The Griffin Inn or The Ginger Fox are. People flock from all over the region to dine at these highly revered pubs and for good reason. However, while I dined at The George Inn I couldn't help feeling that I was part of a unique club. A small band of wannabe smugglers that have visited this tiny, but exceptionally beautiful little village and an even smaller group of people that have dined at The George Inn.

If I have one complaint it is that the prices are a little steep for what you get. Looking at the menu for the first time I was reminded of the prices at The Hinds Head in Bray, which has a Michelin Star. However, I'm not sure you can really put a price on dining in such a place. And I have no regrets.

The George Inn is the quintessential English pub and I highly recommend a visit if you're anywhere near Alfriston. See the village, fall in love and have a great meal.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Hummus Bros, SoHo: New Favorite Cheap Eat in London

Hummus Bros, SoHo London Chunky Beef Hummus Falafel and Chunky Beef Hummus Falafel Hummus Chunky Beef Hummus Vegetable Salad Hummus
I am constantly amazed by how many restaurants there are in London. Correction, I am constantly amazed at how many very good to superlative restaurants there are in London. They are popping up at a rate that no food blogger, unless connected to an oligarchy with unlimited funds, could possibly visit. So, one must pick and choose accordingly.

On this particularly sunny day in London I chose Hummus Bros.

The idea is simple; produce world class Hummus and top it with a mouthwatering array of fresh ingredients. Simple yes. But the best ideas usually are. Hummus Bros is an understated joint. It reminds me of a mini cafeteria. The lines are long, but go quickly. Hungry patrons whiz past the checkout, their palates ready to get stuck into Hummus that has been perfected over the years and is, in my opinion, perfect! It's hard to pinpoint exactly why their Hummus is so lovely. Perhaps it's the precise ratio of Chickpeas to Tahini. Perhaps it's the texture, smooth and creamy and not weighed down by the oil. And definitely not grainy as most Hummus is.

Like a 1982 Saab, their Hummus just works. Toppings like Falafal, or Fresh Salad just enhance the flavor of the Hummus, it doesn't take away from it. This is worlds apart from your ordinary shop-bought Hummus.

My favorite? Chunky Beef of course!

Their menu changes often and on this occasion it was a toss up between Lamb Rogan Josh and Chunky Beef, but I've eaten more Curry lately than I care to mention. So, the Beef won out. And it was gorgeous!

I left feeling a bit like a school girl who just got a kiss from One Direction... all of them! Right now I'm all about cheap eats done really well. And Hummus Bros delivers on that order in spades!

To see my professional food photography please visit my website: Taylor Young Photography

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