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This week I try the Cadogan and Eastside Bistro

Saturday, October 03rd , 2009

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The Cadogan Arms is sister of the Botanist in Chelsea and the well regarded gastropub The Gun.  I had a most enjoyable meal there, with ingredient sourcing of a much higher standard than one has any right to expect in a gastropub: Dexter beef carpaccio (pictured) in particular was genuinely good.  A line-caught sea bass main course was carefully cooked, and again showed a care for ingredient quality that many a grander restaurant might well emulate.  This meal effortlessly elevated the Cadogan into the upper echelons of London gatropubs in my view.

Bjorn van der Horst has an enviable reputation as a chef, and his Eastside Bistro is a really enjoyable example of what a talented cook can do in a bistro setting.  Above all the impressive thing was the depth of flavours on display in the savoury dishes, from the bold seasoning in my duck to the great depth of garlic flavour in a prawn starter, putting it a class above normal bistro cooking in London.   It is not especially cheap, but you are getting cooking of a superior level.  In many ways I enjoyed this just as much as the fancier food in his main restaurant.

Zafferano was on good form this week.  A starter of courgette flower stuffed with barrata was accompanied by three superb langoustines and tasty diced tomatoes.  The cheese filling for the courgette flower was rich and worked well with the vegetable (6/10).  For main course I had a superbly cooked risotto of sage, Gorgonzola and squash- taking a full 20 minutes, this was made from scratch rather than being partly pre-cooked, and the rice was excellent, having absorbed high quality stock.  The sage in particular worked well (7/10).  Mandarin sorbet with just a hint of oregano was served with mandarin slices and had lovely texture; the oregano was very restrained (6/10).  Every now and again I have a merely decent meal at Zafferano, but then a fine meal such as tonight reminds me why I come here so regularly.

I again helped out with the quarter finals of Masterchef Professionals on BBC2 this week. If you missed the episode then you can catch it for a few more days on the iPlayer.  As an aide, Ludovic’s food was easily the best of the four quarter-finalists in this round.

I was browsing through the 2010 Good Food Guide and wondering about the density of restaurants in different areas of the UK.  I analysed the number of entries in the Good Food Guide by county and divided this by the population of each county, with some interesting results.  Greater London does not in fact have the highest density of Good Food Guide entries per million people, as I had expected.  This honour is held by Cornwall (49 restaurants per million population), followed by Cumbria, with London third.  The worst place to live in England by this measure is Bedfordshire, with a miserable 1.7 GFG restaurants per million people, 29 times worse than Cornwall.  Not far behind is Staffordshire, with Essex next worst, with one twelfth the GFG restaurants per head of Cornwall.   Of course this is a crude measure, but nonetheless the sheer gap between the worst and best counties is very large.  Prosperity seems to have little to do with it (Cornwall and Cumbria are hardly rich counties, Herefordshire comes fourth, while wealthy Surrey is ninth-worst).  Those of you who have struggled to find a decent restaurant in Essex (as I have over the years) now know why; apart from having the third worst GFG density in the UK, its highest rated restaurant is 3/10 (only Staffordshire manages to top this, with just two entries in all, its highest entry a 2/10).      

The second Miele Guide to Asia came out this week.  It shows some signs of immaturity as a guide in my view: for example who in their right mind thinks that the formulaic Atelier Robuchon in Hong Kong is better than the genuinely superb Robuchon Galera in Macau, Robuchon’s very first (and best) overseas venture?  There are other oddities e.g. the under-representation of Japan and the omission of Made in China in Beijing.   It is nice to see a different guide, but for me there are too many oddities at present for it to present a real challenge to Michelin, which presumably is the idea.

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