Lunch in Paris

Saturday, January 02nd , 2016

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Chez Ami Jean is a bistro in Paris dating back to 1931. It is a crowded, noisy, bustling place with an open kitchen at one end. The lengthy tasting menu that we had was erratic, ranging from genuinely top-notch hare royale and very good Parmesan soup through to frankly poor octopus and tuna dishes. The head chef screamed at his kitchen staff in a rather disconcerting way at intervals throughout the lunch, but the food service continued smoothly enough.

Tokimeite is a Japanese restaurant in Mayfair that has taken the place of the long-established Sakura. Its press release and website trumpets the role of Yoshiro Murata the chef of Kikunoi in Kyoto, but in fact he is just consulting here. The chef actually in the kitchen of Tokimeite was previously head chef of the short-lived Chrysan. The restaurant has been expensively gussied up but the issues that plagued Chrysan seem to be repeated here. Sushi had fridge-cold rice, a cardinal sin, and the other food that I sampled was very ordinary. The wine list is an embarrassment, and the assistant manager had no idea from where in Japan the (very expensive) Japanese beef was from. This seems to me another drive-by restaurant from a big name foreign chef, designed to prey on the wallets of Mayfair residents.

Raunka Punjab Diyan is a Southall restaurant owned by an Indian sweet-shop business that supplies lots of other restaurants. Not surprisingly its desserts were the highlight, but I also enjoyed a methi chicken dish and black dhal, all at an extremely low price. There was one poor dish, but this was swapped readily, and overall this was a good value meal.

Parlour serves consistently excellent and inventive British dishes in the unlikely setting of an old boozer down an alley in Kensal Rise.  Its classically trained chef specialises in retro British cooking, making inventive use of non-luxury ingredients. This being Christmas, his signature chicken Kyiv became turkey Kyiv, and the cow pie was transformed into venison and labelled as “reindeer pie”. The salmon is smoked in the kitchen, the soda bread made from scratch, the salads are inventive and the soufflé would be worthy of any starred restaurant. A little gem that deserves more attention.

I had my 63rd meal at Hedone, whose food continues to focus on the very best of pre in its new tasting menu-only, 22-seat format. A great example of what makes Hedone so special was the salt marsh lamb from Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, probably the best regarded lamb in France. This had extraordinary flavour, served with date, lemon and almond puree, miso, black garlic glazed grilled aubergine and lamb jus. This was a genuinely memorable dish that could grace the table of any restaurant.