Some New Reviews, and Michelin France appears

Friday, February 06th , 2015

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The Truscott Arms is a Maida Vale pub that has recruited a chef with a serious background, and is aiming for something higher than typical pub fare. Its owners have also put together a really exceptional wine list, one full of unusual and interesting wines, and priced very fairly indeed especially at the higher end of the list. The food that we tried was good, the dishes from a short but appealing menu well executed.  This is somewhere that is well worth a look.

Monkey Temple is a Nepalese restaurant in Shepherds Bush. It is modestly priced and has friendly staff, though based on the meal that I had the food was pleasant rather than anything remarkable. It is certainly a cut above many of the local Indian restaurants in the area, but that is not setting the bar very high. It would be worth trying if you were in the area but is not somewhere to journey to.

The Portland (pictured) in Marylebone has casual décor but offers up fairly ambitious dishes, some of which worked a lot better than others. Game pithivier was enjoyable and the dish of the meal, whilst a sugar tart was also very successful. On the other hand, the other dessert I tried and a couple of the vegetable side dishes had some issues. It is a measure of the confidence of the place that they feel no need to offer a concessionary menu at lunch, but that means the prices at lunchtime feel quite high, and mistakes are less easy to forgive. If the restaurant could achieve greater consistency then I think it would be even more successful than it already seems to be.

In other news, the successful Shake Shack burger chain set up by Danny Meyer (of Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe et al) in 2004, held an initial public offering (IPO) of its shares. The valuation achieved will have every celebrity chef pondering how to set up a fast food chain. The average restaurant group in the USA trades at 3.5 times sales and 21 times its annual earnings (profits). Shake Shack, on its first day of trading, reached 14 times sales and a price to earnings ratio of 325 (MacDonalds is 17), with a valuation of $1.6 billion on annual sales of around $117 million. This kind of valuation would make a high-flying Silicon Valley technology company envious. Mr Meyer, with a 21% stake, has made more than $300 million from the IPO.

The France Michelin Guide was published. There was a new three star in the form of the alpine restaurant la Bouitte in St Martin de Belleville, 200km east of Lyon. Ledoyen, now under Yannick Alleno, retained its third star, but the recently reopened Plaza Athenee only managed two stars, a blow to Alain Ducasse. L’Arnsbourg in Alsace was delisted since its head chef left at the end of December, and Cote St Jacques (Michel Lorain) was also demoted. This leaves France with 26 three star restaurants. There were six new two stars: L’Atelier d’Edmond in Val d’Isère, La Table du Lancaster in Paris, Le Casadelmar in Porto-Vecchio on Corsica, Le Neuvième Art in Lyon, La Grand’Vigne in Bordeaux and finally L’Auberge du Cheval Blanc in Lembach. There are 80 two stars in all in France now, and 503 one stars. At this moment there are 111 three star restaurants in the world, one more than there was in June 2014. Incidentally, Paul Bocuse (88 years young) notched up fifty years at three stars, a record. Based on my recent visit there the third star seems distinctly kind in objective terms, but given his status in France it would be a brave Michelin editor that took his third star away.