I judge a TV dinner

Saturday, August 11th , 2007

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I returned to Pearl this week, and had a pork dish, but this does not mean I was casting a pearl before swine. The pata negra cutlet was excellent, well matched with a chorizo salsa and bed of puy lentils. A John Dory was also beautifully cooked, though a summer salad, though looking pretty, had vegetables that lacked great flavour. I retain my overall 15/20 rating here, although some dishes are clearly 16/20.

E&O must be a money making machine, it is always full of trendy Notting Hill media types, and buzzes with energy. The pan-Asian food here has always been good, and while one would suspect somewhere like this would relax and just coin it in, the cooking seemed better to me this week than before e.g. distinctly lighter steamed dim sum, and terrific tempura of soft shell crab.

For a long time I have felt that Haandi is consistently perhaps the best Indian restaurant in London, with excellent tandoori dishes, great vegetable curries, good paratha and well made curry sauces. A different style of chicken tikka this week (murgh nilgiri, made with a coconut-based marinade) was genuinely good, while aloo gobi and channa were as good as ever. 

Its competition at the top of London Indian cooking shrank by one this week, as Deya closed its doors. Athough the phone message says "closed for refurbishment", I have it on good authority that it will be replaced by a French restaurant. This is a great shame, as although a hotel is a odd place for an Indian restaurant, the cooking here was top drawer. I just hope the kitchen team finds a good home somewhere else in London.

Regular readers will know that I have been bemoaning the lack of ambitious London openings in recent years (ambitious in terms of shooting for Michelin stars, rather than starry gross margins). One piece of good news is that Alain Ducasse is set to open in London in October in the Dorchester Hotel. Given the very high standards of his other restaurants it is certainly possible that this will be the best opening in London this year (Hibiscus coming to the London in September is the other candidate).

I also did some work filming for a new BBC2 documentary called Back in Business, the first episode of which is scheduled to air on September 3rd at 21:00. The show takes a "young v old" challenge in four different fields, in this case two trainee chefs wanting a job at Pied a Terre. One is fresh out of catering college, the other a grizzled navy cook. As part of their trials I judge a meal cooked by both. Who will get the job? Tune in and see (this episode will probably be aired on Monday 17th September, but I will try and get confirmation of this nearer the time).