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Spice Market reviewed

Saturday, March 12th , 2011

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The Spice Market is Jean-Georges Vonvichteren’s return to the London restaurant scene (those of you with long memories may recall Vong). This new restaurant, in the W hotel, reminded me quite a bit of Vong, including the same maître d’, the excellent Bertrand Person. While the service was in good hands, the kitchen was all over the place at this meal, with dishes ranging from quite good to pretty poor. Hopefully these problems will be ironed out in time.

The Bull and Last is a really fine gastropub, and the only reason I don’t go more often is that it is a bit awkward to get to from where I live. This week it was on good form, with a particularly well-made linguine with chilli and crab dish a highlight.

While on the subject of gastropubs, the Hinds Head (pcitured) has a fairly new head chef, and on my visit this week I was pleased to find that it was firing on all cylinders. Kevin Love intends introducing some seasonality to the menu here (which has long been my caveat on this whole restaurant family), but the precise technical cooking was certainly in evidence this week.

Hakkasan Mayfair was quite a contrast to Spice Market, a remarkably slick operation where they just do not seem to have off days or problems in executing the menu, despite the considerable scale of the restaurant. The place was completely heaving even at an early dinner.

I am usually a creature of habit when it comes to dishes that I enjoy, but I tried a few different dishes at the Brilliant this week. Tandoori lamb chops were very good, spicy and tender, while fish pakora was a tasty starter. I even sampled a dish of lamb brains topped with little pieces of crisp fried spinach, which worked quite well.

I am delighted to add to the roster of chef interviews to the site. Daniel Humm is head chef of Eleven Madison Park in New York, and has cooked me two of the best meals that I have eaten in New York.

Also this week was a charity event called “Who’s Cooking Dinner?”, where a celebrity chef line-up of twenty chefs design separate menus and cook dinner for tables of ten, with the twist that there is a draw for who cooks at which table. This is in aid of the specialist leukaemia centre at Hammersmith Hospital, and each table can bid in an auction for the chefs to cook at the homes of the bidding diners. Thanks to the generosity of the bidders a remarkable £431,000 was raised in this one night, a terrific achievement. Rainer Becker (Zuma) achieved the highest bid of £26k, with Pierre Koffman next at £20k. A great event in a great cause.

The wine app is about to have an update (this will appear automatically in your app store if you already have the app) that will allow you the ability to compare local wine prices only with global average prices. This version also warns you if there is a problem with the mobile provider blocking “adult” content (which bizarrely includes wine sites) over 3G to your phone: this is a reaction to the block that O2 so helpfully put in place without warning last week (to actually resolve the issue you have to contact your mobile provider and get your settings changed).

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