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I venture off the tube map

Saturday, November 19th , 2011

coworth-park 3648 entrance-crop-v3.JPG

Coworth Park (pictured) is a very smart country house hotel near Ascot, re-opened in late 2010 after a lengthy and expensive refurbishment. The initial chef was John Campbell, formerly of The Vineyard, and the flagship restaurant features his name heavily, even down to the initials JC in the foam on the cappuccino. Such things make it tricky when, as happened, here, the chef leaves: expect a major rebranding at the end of November. Previous sous chef Olly Pierrepont is now running the kitchen, and his team produced a good meal for us this week, with quite technical cooking but using good ingredients and capably executed. The grasping wine prices are at odds with the relatively reasonable food prices here.

Roussillon has served Pimlico well over the years, but lost its Michelin star when Alexis Gauthier went solo in Soho.  The kitchen now has a new chef in the form of Shane Hughes, whose cooking I ate this summer at Ynyshir Hall.  The best dish was a foie gras terrine with beetroot, and overall it was a very enjoyable and acceptably priced meal, though I have the impression that the cooking has not quite settled down yet.   At present the menu is still very classical (and indeed Shane has plenty of classical training) but I wonder if he will be tempted to modernise things now that he is behind the stoves; a press release hinted at this, and if this indeed transpires I wonder how this will play to the Roussillon regulars.  For now I have left the score at 5/10.

The Duke of Sussex is a pub local to me whose food always manages to exceed my expectations.  The standard pub dishes like fish and chips are well made, but the main theme of the kitchen is Spanish cooking, and paella served in a cast iron skillet was one good example of the food this week.  It is not a destination restaurant by any means, but it produces consistent, good value food.

The Swiss Michelin 2012 Guide came out this week, with no change at the top. There were two new two star restaurants: Mesa in Zurich and Les Floris in Anieres. The list of 3 star places is here and a location map of all of them here.

The Italy Michelin 2012 Guide emerged, with a promotion to modernist Osteria Francescana in Modena to three stars, and promotions to two stars for Principe Cerami in Taormina, L’Olivo on Capri, Quattro Passi in Massalubrense (baffling based on my recent visit) and Oliver Glowig in Rome.  There were also no less than 33 new one star places.

The Chicago 2012 Michelin Guide also came out, and a slightly controversial edition it was at that. Until now the non-European Michelin guides have shown a steady increase of stars year on year, but not this one. L20, who had a chef change, was not just demoted by a star but reduced to just one star status, an unusual but not unknown ignominy (it happened in 2007 to Park Heuvel in The Netherlands, for example), while Chicago also lost one of its two star places, Avenues, which closed.  Grant Achatz’s wildly successful restaurant Next was not awarded any stars, at least this year – perhaps the inspectors couldn’t get a reservation. Overall Chicago now has 25 Michelin stars compared to 30 last year.

As in previous series of BBC2’s “Masterchef: The Professionals” I popped up this week as a guest critic. As always, it was a lot of fun to film, if not in all cases to eat the food.  If you missed this then you can, if you live in the UK, catch up on the BBC iPlayere here.

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