That Riviera Touch

Saturday, September 28th , 2013

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The only restaurant to be promoted to three stars in France in 2013 was Vague d'Or in St Tropez. The restaurant is in a lovely spot overlooking the water and the entrance to St Tropez harbour. We had an elaborate tasting menu, but although there were some excellent dishes and a generally high standard, this felt to me more two star standard than three.

Louis XV is a legendary restaurant, and one at which I have been lucky enough to eat at many times over the years. Since I last visited there is a new chef de cuisine in the form of Dominique Lory, and I am pleased to say that the high standard here has not changed under him. Even by opting for the cheaper set menu, which obviously shuns luxury ingredients, the standard of cooking was enormously high. From a superb risotto through to dazzlingly good guinea fowl the kitchen was firing on all cylinders. This is without doubt one of the great restaurants of the world.

Chevre d'Or is in a scenic spot in the medieval walled town of Eze, perched high above the Riviera. We had a lovely meal here, from a fine courgette tempura through to an absolutely superb, clever lemon dessert. This was strong two star cooking, with the desserts in three star territory.

Back in London, Notting Hill Kitchen is the latest incarnation of the site that was once Leiths and more recently has been Notting Hill Brasserie. It has now switched to Portuguese food, but sadly the meal that I was served was far from an experience of love, actually. Desserts were actually quite good, but the savoury courses ranged from mediocre to downright unpleasant. The price point here is high, and on the evening I went the restaurant was virtually empty. I fear that this is the way it will stay unless they can radically overhaul the kitchen operation.

The UK and Ireland Michelin guide 2014 came out, the first of the new season. There was no change at the 3 star level. In the 2 star bracket Atelier Robuchon was demoted to one star (sensible) and both Dinner (kind) and Greenhouse (very kind) were promoted. For me it was a pity that Apsleys and Hedone, which are clearly operating at two star level now, were not recognised as such this year. At the one star level there were new stars outside London for The Samling (fair), adam’s in Birmingham, wilks in Bristol, Ormer in Jersey, and both Campagne and Lady Helen in Kilkenny.  In London there were stars for HKK (well deserved), Angler (fair), Outlaws at the Capital (kind), Story, Brasserie Chavot (a touch kind), Social Eating (kind) Lima (bizarre), Bo London (barking), Ametsa (utterly barking). There were demotions for Burlington in Bolton Abbey, Mallory Court in Warwickshire, Hamborough in the Isle of Wight, The Crown at Whitebrook (closed), Locks Brasserie in Dublin, Rhodes 24 (closed), North Road (closed and good riddance), Petersham Nurseries (finally), Rhodes W1 (closed) and Semplice (closed). Where were the stars for Sushi Tetsu and Clove Club, The Ritz or Dysart, or The Greenhouse in Dublin? Who in their right mind would rather eat a meal at Ametsa or Bo London than at Clove Club or Dysart? There has long been a theme of Michelin granting stars to chefs who already had them, but surely there has to be a basic standard maintained? This year I find the Michelin UK very disappointing in its choices, and in some cases indefensible. On a positive note, I was pleased that A. Wong got a bib gourmand.