Five days, five cuisines

Saturday, October 19th , 2013

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Mari Vanna is a Russian restaurant in Knightsbridge, part of an international chain clearly aimed at the wealthy Russians of London. The kitsch décor results in a fairly cosy feel, but this was let down by the entirely unsmiling waiter that I had, whose warmth and charm were worthy of the Soviet era. I had a simple beetroot salad, and a distinctly ordinary dish of cabbage stuffed with rice and mince. It was edible, but at the sort of price point here I would hope for something a bit more than edible food and scowling service.

Marianne is an altogether more welcoming place, a little restaurant in Notting Hill that is sufficiently small that it feels as if you are at a dinner party. The chef was a private cook for the wealthy before setting up this operation, and with a manager who used to be at La Trompette the service is charming. Our meal was pleasant but there was some inconsistency in the cooking, albeit this was early days for the restaurant. Hopefully it will settle down in time, as at a fairly ambitious price point it will need to attract returning locals from this affluent area.

Tukdin was recommended by a Malaysian acquaintance as that rarest of things, an authentic Malaysian restaurant in London. It certainly had plenty of Asian diners, and it is cheap. Beef rendang was tender, but a dried-out sea bass dish was downright poor, with other dishes in between these two in terms of standard. Certainly London could do with more Malaysian restaurants, and this one compares well enough with other that I have tried here (such as Awana and Satay House). However I have yet to experience in London anything remotely as good as the food I have eaten in Malaysia. 

I had another good meal at Gaylord, an Indian restaurant that has been around for decades and is popular with Indian diners. The food here is very capable, though it is quite a lot more expensive than most Indian restaurants in London, yet despite this seems to attract plenty of regulars in its slightly off beat location. 

I had another meal at Hedone, my 39th visit since it opened about two years ago. The carte blanche menu offers a lengthy tasting menu of the very best the kitchen has to offer, and if you visit Hedone I recommend that you try this. The menu varies according to what produce the chef has obtained. Our meal went through duck egg with cepes, umami flan, tomato salad, langoustine with shellfish broth, superbly fresh scallop, Parmesan ravioli, Dorset lobster, poulet jaune de Landes and loin of red deer. The meal concluded with millefeuille, the delicate pastry made from scratch here. The Parmesan ravioli with Roscoff onion consommé and horseradish in particular is a truly stunning dish. The ingredients are impeccable, the kitchen technique top class. Add in the best bread in London and you have a really special experience. Anyone who loves to eat top quality food needs to visit Hedone.

I also added a new chef interview to the site; this one is with Tong Chee Hwee, head chef of HKK