In Rutland and London

Saturday, July 26th , 2014

 hambleton-hall 5472 view-crop-v2.JPG

On the way back to London from Yorkshire we broke our journey at old favourite Hambleton Hall (pictured) which served the best food of the entire trip. A guinea fowl dish was particularly impressive, but the whole meal was excellent, in many cases more two star level than the one that it has. The wine list here is also terrific, with mark-ups very kindly and with a few wines actually below their current retail price. If you are ever travelling through or near Rutland, this is well worth a detour.

There has been a flurry of up-market Indian restaurants opening in Heathrow hotels in the last few months, with Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen and Madhu’s at the Sheraton. The latest is Annayu at the Radisson Blu hotel, the chef having trained at the Taj group in India. The dishes that we tried were generally good, but the pricing was very ambitious given the location.

The group behind the wildly successful Burger and Lobster mini-chain (whose central London venues each regularly do over 1,000 covers each on busy days) have recently launched a curious Beast of a restaurant. In the evenings it offers a no-choice menu featuring Norwegian king crab (the “Beast” that gives the place its name) and steak for a chunky £75. This is served on communal tables with bench seating in a large Marylebone basement, and has all the potential to be a bit of a disaster. That it is not is due to the exemplary quality of the ingredients, not just the crab itself (shipped live from Norway) but also top-notch red prawns from the Mediterranean and Japanese beef.  Until just a few weeks ago there was no such thing as “real” wagyu beef to be had outside Japan, as exporting it was illegal, but this rule has very recently been relaxed. The wagyu I sampled at Beast was from an obscure Japanese prefecture, but even this was better than any of the wagyu I have eaten from the USA, Australia etc. It will be really interesting when the really top quality wagyu, such as that from Kobe and Matsusaka, arrives over here, though the price will be daunting. Beast is something of a curiosity as a restaurant, but there is no denying the quality of produce they are serving.

Talking of top quality produce, I notched up my 49th meal at Hedone, which continues to produce arguably the best food in London at the moment. As well as old favourite dishes like the liquid Parmesan ravioli and the umami flan, a highlight was a simple but stunning dish of wild sea bass with fennel, the quality of the ingredients really singing out. The chef also served some very tender 100 day aged Basque beef and a superb strawberry dessert. Then there is the bread, which as Fay Maschler recently wrote is the best in Britain. If you have yet to visit then I would encourage you to do so. 

The Michelin guide released another "special edition" i.e. one off guide, to an area of Japan, in this case Fukuoka and nearby Saga. These special edition guides are not updated (presumably it is not reckoned economic to do so), and their stars expire after a year, as happened with the guides to Hokkaido and Hiroshima. Fukuoka is the main city of the island of Kyushu, and Japan's 6th largest overall, situated at the western end of Japan. it is on the northern coast of Kyushu, with Nagasaki on the same island to the west. Both these cities have historically been trading ports, and Fukuoka was where the Mongols landed in the 13th century when they invaded Japan. It is actually much closer to Seoul in Korea than it is to Tokyo (335 miles compared to 678 miles) Two three star restaurants were named, a kaiseki restaurant called Sagano and a sushi restaurant called Gyoten. Additionally there were 11 two star and 41 one star places listed. The guide is at present only in kanji, with an English edition planned for the autumn.