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This week I try Indian Zing and Mark Hix W1

Saturday, October 10th , 2009

 gavroche 3648 front-crop-v2.JPG

King Street, a short walk from where I live, is full of Indian restaurants, yet somehow it struggles to produce ones that you want to return to, or at least to keep the good ones going. Agni died, Ootupura died, yet some distinctly mediocre curry houses seem to prosper there. One of the more ambitious of the eateries in King Street is Indian Zing, whose chef used to cook at Chutney Marys. The meal we had this week contained some absolute howlers, including a stone-cold bhindi dish, prawns that were cooked to the texture of cotton wool, and some dismal chicken. In between this shambles were some very pleasant dishes, such as a nice dhal and decent naan bread. This mirrored a meal I had eaten there a couple of years ago. I am surprised that it survives given such wild inconsistency.

Mark Hix made his name as executive chef at The Ivy and The Caprice, and is well-known as a cookery writer. Recently he has opened three restaurants in quick succession, of which Hix W1 is the latest. Based on this early meal, the Ivy it isn’t.  In the old Aaya premises the menu is, as one might expect, a reasonably appealing set of British dishes, yet the food that arrived in front of us was a mixed bag.  Fish and chips was fine, even if they did use pollack rather than a real fish (I read that the head chef at Arbutus, when he was first asked to cook with pollock, had the reaction “but that’s what I give to my cat”).  Yet a pumpkin salad was distinctly unbalanced, and a squash soup was surprisingly under-seasoned and lacklustre, and prices are far from bargain level. I was expecting a lot more from someone with Mr Hix’s experience and reputation.

Local gastropub The Duke of Sussex continues to produce enjoyable food. The menu has a slightly Spanish hint to it, and this week they offered seafood paella, which was pleasant if distinctly under-seasoned. The menu is appealing and the prices lower than most gastropubs, and the cooking is hearty and generally capable.

I was in much safer hands at Le Gavroche (pictured), which for me is the most reliable high-end restaurant in London. The lunch here (at £48 including wine) is remarkably good value, and features course after course of perfectly executed classical cooking, with a few slightly modern touches thrown in. A mutton pie was particularly impressive this week, after a nibble of soft shell crab with an Asian dressing, and a fine stone bass dish. Service is always faultless here.

Last week my brief analysis of the Good Food Guide’s density by county seems to have piqued a lot of interest, so here is the complete run-down, from most GFG entries per head of population to the least.

Cornwall (best)

Cumbria

Greater London

Herefordshire

Somerset

Oxfordshire

Wiltshire

Gloucestershire & Bristol

Sussex

Devon

Suffolk

Norfolk

Worcestershire

Northumberland

Buckinghamshire

Hampshire

Kent

Berkshire

Yorkshire

Shropshire

Cambridgeshire

Warwickshire

Dorset

Nottinghamshire

Derbyshire

Lancashire

Hertfordshire

Merseyside

Cheshire

Leicestershire & Rutland

Greater Manchester

Surrey

Durham

Lincolnshire

West Midlands

Tyne & Wear

Northamptonshire

Essex

Staffordshire

Bedfordshire (worst).

 

It has been pointed out that perhaps the strong tourist industry is the factor that has boosted Cornwall and Cumbria, and perhaps the good local produce in these counties.  The difference between the top and bottom of the list is certainly vast, with Cornwall having more than 29 times as many GFG entries per head of population as Bedfordshire.  There are some curiosities, for example with Surrey languishing well below Merseyside.  It is probably best not to over-analyse what is after all a very crude measure, but it does throw up some interesting insights

The Michelin New York Guide came out this week.  The main news is that Daniel’s received its third star.  There were no demotions, so New York now has five three star restaurants, and it now has half a dozen two star places as well, with a promotion for Alto and a new two-star entry for Corton (which as it happens has an English chef).  Adour and Del Posto slink down to one star territory.  There are 44 one star places in all.  Michelin’s choices in New York seem oddly out of line with other sources at times.  For example, Eleven Madison Park has the maximum four stars (in its system) in the New York Times, alongside Per Se and the rest of the three Michelin star places, yet Michelin ignored Eleven Madison Park last year completely and have granted it just one star this year.  I am pleased for Daniel’s, though it is years since I have eaten there; I can still recall the taste of a stunning Jerusalem artichoke soup despite the considerable passing of time since my meal there. 

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