A busy week revisiting some old favourites

Saturday, October 22nd , 2011

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The Ivy has been serving food since 1917, though in recent years it has been come something of a celebrity haunt, and a very hard table to reserve. I haven’t been here for many years, but nothing much has changed: the menu still has its long list of appealing comfort food, and the service is welcoming whatever your celebrity status. The wine list is highly marked-up, and this can send your bill northwards very rapidly.

I thought it would be good to give Bistro Bruno Loubet another go after a poor meal just after opening, now that the kitchen has had a chance to settle down.  It was indeed a lot better, and I have nudged up the score to reflect this, though I still have a slight sense of unease regarding the value for money factor here, as there were still some inconsistencies, though far less than on my first visit.

The Mall Tavern has a playful retro menu but the team in the kitchen can actually cook. The salmon here is smoked on the upstairs balcony and is superb, the bread is made from scratch and the deconstructed pork pie was excellent. As at my previous visit, desserts were relatively the least successful course, but still entirely pleasant, and prices are very fair indeed.

The Bull and Last is another serious gastropub, this week delivering excellent soft shell crab with macaroni, good stone bass and pleasant venison. The chips here are superb, and although the mixed fish starter was inconsistent (with over-peppery potted prawns) the desserts were very good indeed e.g. fine bread and butter pudding.

Amaya serves excellent tandoori food at a high price, and delivered some good dishes this week, especially a lovely tandoori prawn (pictured). Service was unfortunately intrusive and inept. Our waiter insisted on interrupting our conversation to deliver his lines about the concept of the restaurant, despite my saying that I had been several times previously. The wine service was dire: on choosing a Gewürztraminer the waiter confidently said “ah yes sir, a red wine” and then promptly whisked the bottle away, with topping up just a distant dream. Eventually we asked for the bottle to be left on the table. I really do not mind topping up my own wine, but if a restaurant is to do this themselves then they need to do it properly, not leave empty glasses for minutes on end, repeatedly.

Michelin released their western Japan guides (Tokyo comes out in early December), covering Kyoto, Kobe, Osaka and, new this year, the old capital of Nara (a particularly pretty place to visit, incidentally). At the three star level, there was no change in Kyoto but promotions for Fujiya 1935 and Koryu in Osaka, and a new 3 star in Nara called Wa Yamamura. There were seven new two star establishments in Kyoto, with 31 two star restaurants now, and 71 one star places compared to 56 last year. Osaka now has 15 two star places compared to a dozen last year, and 88 one stars compared to 59 in 2011.  Kobe has two extra two star places, with 12 in all now, and 44 one star places, compared with 38 last year.   As well as its solitary three star, Nara has three two star places and 21 one star restaurants. The current three star list is here.

I have now completely revamped the maps on the website.  These now use a more modern mapping technology and have been completely updated. There are maps for London, the UK Michelin starred restaurants (this one is a work in progress for now; it is incomplete at present but will be filled in fully soon), all 3 star restaurants globally and a map of all restaurants that I have reviews for.   Please let me know if you spot any anomalies (there will be some) or have any feedback on this.

Next week I will be eating mostly Italian food.