Dining in Denia

Saturday, September 21st , 2013

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In 2013 two restaurants in Spain were promoted to three star level, Azurmendi and Quique Dacosta. The latter is very much in the El Bulli tradition of molecular gastronomy, with its use of chemicals to coerce ingredients into unexpected textures and colours. Nothing is quite what it seems: a rose turnes out to be slices of apple, a black pebble really contains liquid Parmesan. Whether these games really work seem to me to be based on whether the trickery adds rather than subtracts from the flavour of the ingredients. It is fun to bite into a rose that turns out to be apple, less so when it tastes less good than it would have done without the process to morph it into this colour and shape. The best dishes at Quique Dacosta, such as a fine foie gras dish, good risotto and some lovely tuna, were very good indeed, but too many dishes fell short of this for me to feel it is really up there with the best restaurants globally.  

The Fox and Grapes is a Wimbledon pub owned by Claude Bosi of Hibiscus, who also opened The Malt House in Fulham. One would hope that a Michelin-starred chef would be able to do something pretty special at a pub: after all, Heston Blumenthal’s The Hinds Head in Bray has a Michelin star in its own right, as does The Harwood Arms, an offshoot of The Square and The Ledbury. Yet, just as at the Malt House, things did not seem to me to really gel at The Fox and Grapes. Fish and chips was the best of the dishes tried, but other dishes were very ordinary through to downright odd. The virtually empty dining room said it all. 

Suzu is a sushi restaurant near Hammersmith whose chef teaches sushi classes. Unfortunately she was not in the kitchen the day that I visited, and the chef managed to produce the sushi on cold rice, which is an elementary mistake that would be almost unthinkable in Japan. Tempura was fine, and it was a friendly enough local place, but was nothing more than that. 

The Ritz has become a regular haunt of mine, the food of an extremely high standard in recent years. It is not the sort of place to get attention from the social media, and Michelin has bafflingly spurned it, yet the cooking is of the level of a strong one Michelin star level, from the excellent bread through to the classy desserts. The grouse that I had at this meal was the best I have eaten anywhere, and the service is superb. This vast, very grand, dining room is pretty much always full, even on weekdays, which is a testament to the quality of the operation.

Madhu’s was back on service form this week with the return of its manager Ajay, who had been in India on my last visit. The restaurant is always packed out but the food is very consistent. This is hardly surprising given that Madhu’s is the largest Indian wedding caterer in the UK, so knocking out dinner for barely a hundred diners in an evening must seem a breeze compared to several simultaneous weddings of as many as a thousand guests apiece. Biriani is always good here, as is the achari prawn starter.