Cavaillon is a culinary oasis in the desert

Saturday, June 12th , 2010

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This week I had a short visit to San Diego, which is not a city really noted for its restaurants (at least, I have struggled on previous visits). I was very pleased to find a very good French restaurant (pictured) called Cavaillon (hat tip to Kim for the recommendation and the company), lurking in a small desert community north of the city, the restaurant run by a French couple. The chef/patron worked in several Michelin starred establishments in France before moving to the USA, and it shows. The technique on show with the demi-glace with the main course duck, and the excellent dish of sole and risotto, was clearly of Michelin quality. This was the best food I have eaten in the San Diego area. There were also some serious wine bargains – below retail price kind of bargains.

While in San Diego I also returned to Georges At The Cove, an ocean-side restaurant and bar I had first visited eight years ago. It is an altogether less ambitious venture, producing relatively simple food but with an emphasis on local ingredients. The scallops that I tried were good, but there were some sloppy elements in the meal apart from these, and given the far from low prices perhaps the best thing to do here is sit at the bar and drink in the view.

I finally returned to The Painted Heron, a modern Indian restaurant that I tried soon after it opened several years ago and found disappointing, despite a fairly innovative menu. The food was better this time, and there was a level of care about the sourcing of the fish that is rare in Indian restaurants. Yet for me it was still barely around the 2/10 level, but its prices reflected the Chelsea location. It doesn’t have to be this way: Haandi is just opposite Harrods yet is much cheaper than this.

After enduring plenty of airline food this week I wanted something good to take the taste away, so revisited The Bingham in Richmond. On a warm summer’s night as this one it is a fine setting overlooking the boats rowing down the Thames, and I was in the mood for some fine French cooking. This only really manifested itself in the shape of a cauliflower risotto with lobster jelly, a dish that worked very well indeed. Otherwise, though the chef clearly has a flair for presentation, dishes came and went with surprisingly little impression, although technically well made. I found the seasoning too subdued, but above all the ingredients, especially the vegetables, were surprisingly tasteless. I wasn’t expecting the kind of vegetables that you see on the markets of the Riviera, but I had hoped for more than this. It was interesting to contrast the vegetables here with those at a recent meal at Gauthier, which had sourced English vegetables but had chosen far better tasting produce. The wine list is heavily marked-up and I found the bill simply too high for what was on offer.

I was quoted this week in that well-known food journal, The Moscow News (who appear to need a new sub-editor from what I can see) on the fate of the Berkeley Square site that Hakkasan recently out from. It will now host a trio of restaurants funded by a well-known Russian restaurateur.

Hardens Guide is now adding my reviews to its coverage, which until now have only been of the national print press. For example see Viajante and scroll to the bottom.