Angelina, Paris

Angelina

Angelina was recommended by a friend as a "must visit" typical salon de in Paris. In fact, I believe her exact words were, "everyone should experience Angelina at least once in their lifetime". As it turned out, Angelina was right next door to our hotel, Le Meurice, and managed to garner a further recommendation before we got round to sampling its delights - from one of our taxi drivers, who echoed my friend's sentiments that the chocolate drink here was, quite simply, the best in town.
We went for afternoon tea on the second day of our visit to the French capital, a bit surprised at being able to walk straight in having spied the lengthy queues there every time we had passed by the day before. I suspect we managed to get in, entirely by chance rather than design, at an opportune in between time, after lunch but just before tea, as the queues had returned by the time we left some 30 or so minutes later.

Le Chocolate à l'ancienne dit "L'Africain"

We, needless to say, ordered trois Le Chocolate à l'ancienne dit "L'Africain", and also got a few cakes to share:

Le Mont-Blanc Meringue, Chantilly Légère, Vermicelles de Crème de Marron - Meringue, Sweet Whipped Cream, Chestnut Puree Vermicelles

Le Mont-Blanc: Meringue, Chantilly Légère, Vermicelles de Crème de Marron - Meringue, Sweet Whipped Cream, Chestnut Puree Vermicelles

Millefeuille à la Vanille Bourbon Fine Pâte Feuilletée Caramélisée, Crème Légère à la Vanille Bourbon - Thin layers of Caramelized puff pastry, Bourbon Vanilla Cream

Millefeuille à la Vanille Bourbon: Fine Pâte Feuilletée Caramélisée, Crème Légère à la Vanille Bourbon - Thin layers of Caramelized puff pastry, Bourbon Vanilla Cream

and, from the new collection,

Carla Mousse Aux Marrons Glacés, Gelée de Myrtille, Cheesecake à la Crème de Matton, Biscuit Sablé aux Marrons Glacés, Glaçage Chocolat Blanc et Marron - Marron Glacé Mousse, Blueberry Jelly, Chestnut Cream Cheesecake, Shortbread with Marrons Glacés, White Chocolate and Chestnut Icing

Carla: Mousse Aux Marrons Glacés, Gelée de Myrtille, Cheesecake à la Crème de Matton, Biscuit Sablé aux Marrons Glacés, Glaçage Chocolat Blanc et Marron - Marron Glacé Mousse, Blueberry Jelly, Chestnut Cream Cheesecake, Shortbread with Marrons Glacés, White Chocolate and Chestnut Icing

The chocolate drink was über rich, but yeah, it was good, if not quite as good as advertised. It's not something you could drink on a regular basis, mind, or even something I could finish on the day, so thick and heavy was it, but it was certainly nice, and well worth trying. Amongst the cakes, Le Mont-Blanc was Angelina's signature dessert, and was lovely; the Millefeuille was disappointing - too much heavy cream and pastry that was far from light enough; but the best was the Carla - a delightful chestnut mousse atop a chestnut cream cheesecake, a crunchy meringue base, finished with a coating of white chocolate and chestnut - beautiful.

AngelinaAngelina

In a nutshell...

I can't say I loved the chocolate drink - it was good, but also far too rich, dense and heavy for my liking, so much so that only the first couple of sips were really enjoyable. The cakes were above average, but nothing all that outstanding; and given the prices, it lacked in the refinement I would have expected. It was fine for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I don't know if I would return too often, even if I lived just around the corner.

6/10

Angelina
226 Rue de Rivoli, 75001, Paris, France
+33(0)142608200
Average Price: €15

Chip+Fish, London

Chip Fish

The story of how Chip+Fish on the Balcony at Westfield London came to be is a rather amusing one. Starting life as Croque Gascon, a casual, fast food outpost of 1 Michelin Star Farringdon establishment Club Gascon, and its sister bistro Comptoir Gascon, it served classic French dishes such as rillette and cassoulet, alongside a very respectable duck burger topped with foie gras. In a venue not exactly replete with quality dining options, Croque Gascon provided a presentable meal, living up to its tagline of "French.Fast.Good". Sadly, it did not attract much favour from the Westfield patrons, eventually necessitating a change of tact a couple of years ago and a reinvention as Chip+Fish, a traditional fish & chip shop. By all accounts, it is now doing a roaring trade but one can't help but wonder if Monsieur Pascal Aussignac, the man behind the Gascon brand is a bit indignant at having to resort to serving the most basic of products - battered fish, to turn a profit. I certainly got a "When I signed up to work for a Michelin-starred chef, I wasn't exactly expecting to be deep-frying fish all day" vibe from the French lady who served me. Anyway, I digress.

Line caught east atlantic cod fillet in batter, mushy peas, chips, tartare sauce

I had a Line caught east atlantic cod fillet in batter, which came with mushy peas, either salad or chips (chips for me, of course), and one sauce - any additional sauces charged at 20p. Charging extra for sauces always annoys me, but never mind. The chips were just okay - no better, no worse; the mushy peas were quite decent; and the cod - well that was pretty good actually, with a light, airy batter that was let down only by the fact that it was applied too thickly in certain parts. It wasn't the best battered fish I've had in town - that's still Kerbisher & Malt, and Geales, but it was light years ahead of some of the old-fashioned, unfathomably high-rated, chippies such as Golden Hind, Rock & Sole Plaice and Seashell at Lisson Grove.

One final point to make - when you request tartare as your one included sauce, you get a packet of Heinz's finest. I mean, seriously?! C'mon, show some pride - make your own tartare sauce for crying out loud!

In a nutshell...
So, despite its, dare I say, reluctant origins, this was actually a rather reasonable fish & chip meal - comfortably mid-table in London. But I'm docking it a point for dishing out packet tartare sauce - no self-respecting fish & chip outlet should do that!

5.5/10

Chip+Fish
Westfield London Shopping Centre, Ariel Way, Shepherd’s Bush, London, W12 7GB
+44 (0)2087494152
Average Price: £10

Le Stella, Paris

Le Stella

Le Stella, on Avenue Victor Hugo in the 16th Arondissment, was my choice for our first meal in Paris because it is a traditional brasserie, and there can be no better example of a quintessential French eatery to make you feel like you've truly landed in Paris.

Gros escargots sauvages de Bourgogne

The absence, from the menu, of a classic French onion soup was a disappointment to at least one person in our party, but unperturbed, I went with the old favourite, Gros escargots sauvages de Bourgogne to start. The snails were plump, so big in fact that dislodging them from the shells they came in proved to be quite the task, and the garlic sauce was tasty - an above average rendition; nothing to fault, if nothing exactly to wax lyrical about either. Another starter, Terrine de foies de volaille was just as good - the terrine smooth as silk.

Sauté d'Agneau et Haricots Tarbais

Onto the mains, and a daily special of Sauté d'Agneau et Haricots Tarbais came so highly recommended by the gentleman who took our order that I felt almost obliged to order it, despite not knowing much more about it than that it was a lamb dish. It turned out to be a casserole with herb crusted pieces of tender lamb, and beans - it was a reasonable enough dish, but not one I would remember, or necessarily order again. The Saucisson chaud du Beaujolais, pommes à l'huile main, on the other hand, was absolutely delicious.

Saucisson chaud du Beaujolais, pommes à l'huile

We skipped dessert because a.) it was a late lunch and b.) we had a much anticipated dinner at Le Jules Verne in a few hours that we absolutely did not want to be too full for.

In a nutshell...
A decent meal. Nothing really to fault, but nothing to write home about either. I can't help but suspect that there are better traditional Parisian brasseries out there.

5/10

Le Stella
133 Avenue Victor Hugo, 75116, Paris, France
+33(0)156905600
Average Price: €30

Le Jules Verne, Paris

Le Jules Verne

There can be few more glamorous, inspiring or evocative venues for a meal than at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. We visited Alain Ducasse's Le Jules Verne on our first evening in the French capital, primed for one of those experiences you spend your lifetime reliving. It all started well too - we were delighted to find that our request for a table by the window had been adhered to, and a Pumpkin Velouté with diced bacon and croutons amuse bouche was delicious, kicking things off on an almost perfect note.

FOIE GRAS ET VOLAILLE cuisines ensemble, salade de legumes croquants, pain de campagne toaste - Duck foie gras and poultry layers, crunchy vegetables salad, toasted country bread

Our Menu Degustation then began with FOIE GRAS ET VOLAILLE cuisines ensemble, salade de legumes croquants, pain de campagne toaste - Duck foie gras and poultry layers, crunchy vegetables salad, toasted country bread; and here came an immediate, and sharp, downturn that, sadly, would last for most of the evening. A thoroughly passable if wholly unexciting terrine of foie gras was alternated with, and totally ruined by, pieces of boringly bland poultry that added absolutely nothing( positive) to the dish, in a pairing which completely failed to mesh texturally.

SAINT-JACQUES doree, pomme de terre, sucs de cuisson au Mont-d'Or - Pan-seared scallop, potato, cooking jus with Mont-d'Or

Next, SAINT-JACQUES doree, pomme de terre, sucs de cuisson au Mont-d'Or - Pan-seared scallop, potato, cooking jus with Mont-d'Or featured a sweet, well-seared scallop, and a light, but slightly over-salted sauce - not terrible, but imminently forgettable.

Blanc de TURBOT a la plancha, cresson/caviar, sauce Champagne - Pan-seared turbot, watercress/caviar, Champagne sauce

The fish dish, Blanc de TURBOT a la plancha, cresson/caviar, sauce Champagne - Pan-seared turbot, watercress/caviar, Champagne sauce, elicited much the same response - a steadfastly run-of-the-mill dish that would be forgotten before the next course was served, even allowing for the special surroundings in which we were eating.

CHEVREUIL Grand-Veneur, garniture d'hiver - Grand-Veneur style venison, winter vegetables

CHEVREUIL Grand-Veneur, garniture d'hiver - Grand-Veneur style venison, winter vegetables was dry, a bit over-cooked, and not particularly flavourful either. The best thing on the plate was the vegetables - a lovely mix of apple, pumpkin, chestnut and pear.

So of all the savoury dishes, the amuse bouche, and the vegetables accompanying the meat dish, were comfortably the best elements, and that should tell you everything you need to know about the quality of the cooking on display.

SABLE AUX FRAISES DES BOIS, fromage blanc acidule - Wild strawberry shortbread, lightly tangy fresh cream cheese

Things did pick up with the desserts so the meal at least finished on a relative high. SABLE AUX FRAISES DES BOIS, fromage blanc acidule - Wild strawberry shortbread, lightly tangy fresh cream cheese was delicate and delightfully light; L'ECROU AU CHOCOLAT et praline croustillant, glace noisette - Tower bolt, dark chocolate praline, hazelnut ice cream presented in the form of a bolt in a nod to the fixture that is such a key component of the tower's design, was a tried and tested, fail safe, if somewhat uninspired combination. It was nice, very nice in fact; just that I've had it so many times before. In any case, it was far too little, and came far too late, to redeem what had come before it.

L'ECROU AU CHOCOLAT et praline croustillant, glace noisette - Tower bolt, dark chocolate praline, hazelnut ice cream

In a nutshell...
A meal atop the most iconic of Parisian, for that matter global, landmarks, the Eiffel Tower, in a restaurant run by Alain Ducasse, arguably the best French chef of this, or any, generation, should, quite simply, be one of the greatest experiences of one's life. That it didn't come even remotely close is a travesty bordering on the criminal. This should have been a meal that excited and stimulated all the senses; instead we got the exact opposite - food so insipid that they could hardly have made it more forgettable if they had tried. This wasn't just a dining experience that did its dreamy location a complete disservice, it flat out insulted it. Never mind inspiration, there wasn't even any appreciable effort, or evidence of thought, that went into the composition of these dishes. Not once was I moved to say, "oh that's clever". When the height, by a considerable distance, of creativity on show is the shaping of a chocolate cake in the form of a bolt, you know you've got a problem. You know what, never mind ingenuity, just serve some classics and do them well. Heck, just serve food that actually tastes of something and that would be an improvement.

The Menu Degustation, at EUR 200 was, needless to say, not cheap, but eating here is not about the price; it's about the romance and mystique of the Eiffel Tower, of magic carpet rides and faraway lands. The name, Le Jules Verne, was a perfect choice, and indicated an understanding of how special and unique this location is; unfortunately the actual restaurant, and more to the point the food, failed, spectacularly, and scandalously, to step up to the challenge. If this restaurant was anywhere else but where it is, I would, admittedly, not be this harsh. It would have been just another non-descript meal to go with the many other non-descript meals, Michelin-starred or otherwise, we have all had in our lives. But with the great honour of hosting a dining institution at the Eiffel Tower comes a duty and responsibility; one that Le Jules Verne failed miserably to uphold. I have thus marked it down accordingly.

3/10

Le Jules Verne
Tour Eiffel, Piller Sud, Avenue Gustave Eiffel, 75007, Paris, France
+33(0)145556144
Average Price: €200

MEATliquor, London

MEATliquor

Meatwagon, the brainchild of Yianni Papoutsis and Scott Collins, was the burger van that inspired dozens of blog posts and a cult following, leading to a pop-up restaurant, #MEATEASY, in New Cross where the hype only grew stronger. To many a knowledgeable judge, this was, beyond any doubt, the best burger in town. I never made it down to either the van or the pop-up, but now that the Meatwagon burger had finally landed at a permanent spot, I had to give it a try.

MEATliquor, conveniently located just behind Debenhams on Oxford Street is a dark and dingy venue - a very typical American bar scene, complete with red "mood" lighting. By all accounts, the place gets absolutely rammed at peak times, with queues going around the block - the restaurant operates a no reservation policy – but I visited early evening, in the inbetween zone, and was able to walk straight in. My choice from the menu was a simple one - the Meatwagon Classic, the cheeseburger, and a Chilli Cheese Fries.

Meatwagon Classic & Chilli Cheese Fries

The burger, a bit on the small side, especially alongside the humongous chilli cheese fries, was a lathering mess - no complaints about dryness or the lack of a special sauce here! That's not to say that I didn't have any other complaints - I mean c'mon, it's me! I joke, of course - I might complain often, but it's never (I hope) without basis. On this occasion, my displeasure started with the meat - though reasonably well cooked in the middle, the edges were burnt to a crisp and seriously hard in places. The bun held together well, despite the moisture, and unlike the Hawksmoor Burger, but it lacked softness as a result. I realise there is a fine balancing act between something so soft that is just disintegrates a la Hawksmoor, and something that absorbs any and all moisture but requires a hammer to get through, and MEATliquor certainly did a better balancing job than the aforementioned Hawksmoor, but the bread at both Goodman and Bar Boulud was better, for my money. The sauce also left something to be desired. Yes, it did add moisture, which was good, but didn't exactly deliver on flavour - compare it to, yes here I go again, the Shake Sauce at New York's Shake Shack and the difference was night and day.

The chilli cheese fries, on the other hand, were very good, thanks to the delicious spicy ground beef chilli. It was one of those things you know isn't particularly good for you, but once you've started, you just can't stop.

MEATliquor

In a nutshell...

MEATliquor was a letdown. It wasn't a bad burger by any means, but it certainly wasn't the best, or anywhere close. Would I go again? Sure. Would I queue for an hour, as is apparently not uncommon? Hells no!

6.5/10

MEATliquor
74 Welbeck Street, London, United Kingdom
+44(0)2072244239
Average Price: £10-£15
Worth Noting: Closed Sundays and Mondays

MEATliquor on Urbanspoon

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