Coming up to Christmas

Saturday, December 22nd , 2018

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Beck at Browns marks the return to London of the talented Heros di Agostinis, formerly head chef of the late lamented Apsleys. Heros continues to cook his sophisticated Italian food at a high level. The star dish of my latest meal here was a remarkable winter green risotto with white truffle, the rice enriched with veal broth, Madeira sauce and Parmesan – the whole meal was excellent but this dish was extraordinary.

La Buvette in Richmond is tucked away near the tube station, serving quite traditional French food since 2004. This is quite simple and old-fashioned fare, so expect to see bistro dishes like fish soup, terrine, onglet and fries and the like. The menu is appealing and priced quite low, appealing to a mostly local audience. The wine list could have a lot more range but had the virtue that the mark-ups were modest, and the dining room is quite cosy. This is very much a local, neighbourhood restaurant, but a pleasant one.

The Brilliant in Southall has been serving Punjabi food since 1975, and I have been eating regularly there since I moved to west London in 1991. It has expanded several times in that period but the food has maintained a consistently high standard. Star dishes include the various tandoori chicken variants such as jeera chicken and chilli chicken, along with aloo tikki and methi murgh. They are one of the few restaurants in London that serve romali roti, ultra-thin bread cooked over a steel hemisphere and folded multiple times. The restaurant is usually full of Indian families and on a Saturday night will do at least three packed sittings. There are many good restaurants in Southall but this is my favourite. As a bonus the prices are very low: a large portion of papri chaat was £5 and popadoms are just 50p.

Someone posed a question to me the other day about the best and worst meals of 2018.  This year I travelled to New Zealand, Australia, the USA, Singapore, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Greece, Germany, The Netherlands, France, Scotland, Italy, Taiwan, China and Japan. Over the year I ate in seventeen 3 star Michelin restaurants. My best meal was at Schwarzwaldstube in the Black Forest, whose new chef has taken the food to an even higher level. The worst 3 star meal was at Grand Palais in Taipei, and the worst meal overall a complete shocker at two star Michelin restaurant Schlossberg in the Black Forest. It was a meal of stellar levels of incompetence in both food and service. I also reviewed 64 London restaurants this year.

I would like to wish all my readers a very happy Christmas!