A visit to Flanders

Saturday, October 15th , 2016

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Ghent is a university town in Flemish northwest Belgium that is much less well known than Bruges, yet for me is every bit as pretty (pictured). In this region are several interesting restaurants, one of which is Nuance in Duffel. Nuance gained a Michelin star a year after opening and a second the following year in 2010 – which is pretty rapid progress given that its chef was 26 years old at the time. The cooking is sophisticated and draws on the produce of the region, in particular the excellent vegetables grown locally. The meal that we experienced was impressive right from the nibbles, the terrific bread, through to the careful treatment of both fish and meat. Only at the dessert stage did things flounder a little, though even then there was one lovely dish. Service was charming and if you are ever in this part of the world then do yourself a favour and make a detour and head for Nuance.

Blandford Comptoir in Marylebone has an experienced chef and offers an appealing menu. There was a particularly good cep risotto, as well as good quail and enjoyable white onion and truffle ravioli. A particularly fine lemon tart rounded off a very good meal that was spoiled only by absurdly high noise levels, making conversation even to one’s dining companion quite difficult. Adding music to this cacophony was unfortunate. Prices were not excessive and the experience was very good other than the need for ear protection.

Citrus and Spice is a neighbourhood restaurant in Chiswick that recently changed hands and now serves Middle Eastern food. With the exception of one dish, the cooking was very capable – an iman bayaldi a very enjoyable rendition of this classic. The chef/owner has clearly gone to some trouble to source well, with surprisingly good Turkish bread and very good baklava. This is not trying to be more than a local restaurant but it was better than I was expecting and is a pleasing addition to the local area.

The inaugural Michelin Guide to Washington D.C. was released. There was much scratching of heads about this, since there would appear to be other areas of the US more deserving of Michelin's attention than the nation's capital. However Michelin is not a charity, and can be influenced by commercial considerations and, in some cases, tourist board money. The concentration of politicans in Washington would seem a natural explanation. There were three two stars and nine one stars, so the guide must be more a pamphlet than a book. The two stars were Minibar (the flagship of Jose Andre, who also runs the dismal and overpriced Jaleo in Las Vegas), Pineapple & Pearls and also The Inn at Little Washington, which is actually the best part of two hours outside the city, but has an excellent reputatoin.