Review: Timberyard

25 October 2018

After last night’s calamitous “dinner” at Aizle, I was apprehensive about this evening’s dinner plans. I had another ridiculous busy day that took me all over the Lothians — including the magnificent Dean Cemetery. And again, having skipped lunch I was hungry. When I arrived at Timberyard on a misty evening, I was tired and hungry.

I was led to the bar, which was already busy. Oh well, at least some folks to talk to. I relaxed and looked over the menu, enjoying an opening cocktail, and hoped it goes far smoother than last night. As a worked on the cocktail a series of amuse comes through…

A1-snacks

The first plate was sad looking but the beet was nice, as was the sausage and the rather mauled pickle. The second was a nice local seaweed with a very tasty sauce based on oyster. The last was a good ol’ oyster, which was quite tasty too. A good start, and my cocktail was finished. A pour of a Riesling from Mosel and we start off with the crab dish.

1-crab_edited

Not bad, definitely a generous portion under the kohlrabi. A bit sloppy as I nearly broke a tooth, but that’s par for the course. Lovely flavour here, enhances the natural goodness of the crab. A good start. Then with an English (!!) wine, we have the mackerel.

2a-mackerel

Now this is nice. This has a distinct Japanese feel to it, and it was cooked very well. Lovely quality of one of my favourite oily fish, perfect skin. The daikon added to the Japanese theme, as did the really tasty broth on the side. I’m starting to feel confident here about this evening!

3-hen egg mushrooms_edited

Next up was hen egg with an assortment of fungi, from hen of the woods to truffles to chanterelles. A tasty selection of mushrooms for sure, the hen of the woods was particularly fantastic. Another winner here! Then with a beaujolais nouveau we have the partridge.

4-partridge

Nicely cooked, lovely flavour. I’m not the biggest partridge fan, but this was really nice. I enjoyed the chunk of celeriac too on the side, which was surprisingly delicious. The good dinner, albeit a little slow, is going very nicely. Good, well-informed staff made the time pass right by. Then with a aged chardonnay we have the hake.

5-hake

Again, hake not one of my usual favourites, but this was surprisingly good. The meaty fish was extremely strong, with a nice assortment of shoots to help it along. Another surprisingly good dish. I think I am sold on this place already, as we move to the final savoury dish — venison.

6-venison

Kudos to this kitchen for cooking this so well. Delicious, the meat sourced well and executed perfectly. I love venison when it’s cooked well, and this was indeed such an example. The beets and curd added to the richness of this dish, playing off the berry-based sauce very well. Indeed an excellent dish, I almost wished the savouries would continue!

Alas, no as we move into the latter segment. First up, a dessert based on cherry.

7-cherry

Very nice, the main ingredient presented in several ways, each of them delicious. The topping on the hazlenut ice cream is just wonderful. Then finally, with an ice cidre poured, we have the final item, their take on the bramble.

8-bramble

Again, a delicious assortment of items, from plums to walnuts, brought this traditional pudding to modern tastes. A nice close, and that ice cidre is just awesome… A wonderful dinner! The crew was very friendly so I stayed to drink for a bit, enjoying a few nice tipple before I ventured into the rain for the bus back to my hotel.

After last night’s mess I didn’t expect that much from tonight, but goodness I was proved wrong. What an awesome place here. Excellent cooking, friendly and efficient staff. And no disgruntled chef! Nothing to be disgruntled about, some fabulous items, especially the venison and mackerel.

This is how you do it! Highly recommended!

Timberyard
10 Lady Lawson Street
Edinburgh, Scotland

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Cluster… (Review: Aizle)

24 October 2018

Honestly I don’t think I’ve ever had an experience like I had at Aizle this evening in Edinburgh, and it was one of the most off-putting dining experiences I’ve ever had in my life. I contemplated not writing this review, but decided to at the end. You can judge for yourself, but needless to say I will never step foot into this place again.

After that dismal few days in London, I was happy to head north for a few days back in Scotland. I’ve been back to Scotland only once after I moved away from Aberdeen. This stop takes me to Edinburgh, a place I truly love. I arrived in the windy, cold city (my kind of weather!) and spent the day exploring places I’ve never really spent much time, including several of the cemeteries that are farther from the centre.

I was knackered, and having skipped lunch I was looking forward to a nice dinner. Tonight’s destination is Aizle, which is on everyone’s radar. I headed there and was given a nice table in the inner section as I relaxed. There’s no menu here, just a blackboard with today’s ingredients. Interesting stuff, and soon a dry cidre was poured and we start with ajoblanco.

A1a-ajoblanco

Not bad, a good use of cucumbers here, very almondy overall. I like the taste but considering for most people it’s a freezing cold night, a cold soup was a brave start to this meal. I like it. Then the next two items were nice wee bites.

A2-croquette

The croquette with XO was interesting, while the tartar in pastry was nice — albeit the horseradish very mild. A good start so far, and that cidre from Brittany was very tasty. Then a pinot noir is poured for the first proper course, a “pasta” of sorts…

1a-pasta

Hmmm, it looks a bit more like it after I mixed it up…

z

Nice tastes of mushrooms and onions here, though as you know truffles are not my favourites. But in an odd way, works okay. And the best part is the excellent bread, using a sourdough culture from when they first opened. Really nice. Then a Weißburgunder from Austria and we have the trout from the west of Scotland.

2-trout_edited

Lovely flavours here, the trout also cooked perfectly. Some of the assorted fried goods and the sauce were not really necessary as the fish was so strong here. Good stuff, enjoyiing the evening so far. Although the music is a bit on the edge here, which is fine, not my flavour, but whatever works. Then a temperanillo is poured for the short rib.

3-short rib

Well, didn’t work as well as the previous item that’s for sure. Really boring flavours, and the meat is not cooked as well as you’d expect. It’s a bit of a messy bit all forced on by the sauce.

At this point I was a little annoyed by the aforementioned music over the PA, as the rap they are playing now are openly using the N-word. Honestly, I do not like eating in a restaurant and hearing that word being used repeatedly. I can’t imagine others would too, but to be fair no one else was dining alone so probably didn’t bother paying attention to something like that. Or worse, people have become numb to it. I made a point to mention this to my server and tweeted my displeasure to this — which is a continuation of what I brought up earlier about my dinner at Michelin-starred Plumed Horse in California.

Then this is when things went all wacko. Chef Stuart Ralston apparently took exception to my comments and game out to have a verbal go at me. Really? Do you realise this industry is called hospitality? A chef venting like this at a customer is really unprofessional. I won’t recount what he said, albeit full of contradictions from one sentence to next, needless to say it was off-putting. His staff were very apologetic afterwards but that was futile.

I asked for the bill and walked out, despite the constant apologies of his staff. I suspect something similar has happened in the past, as they seem to know what to do when a customer walks out mid-dinner. This is ridiculous to say the least.

This reminds me of that jackhole Graham Elliot and his staff in Chicago confronting me when I tweeted that the tasting menu wasn’t going that great. Instead of asking me why, they came out to confront me rudely, and treated me like hell the entire night. It’s frustrating when people do not try to learn why customers are unhappy, but rather get into their face instead. I know how hard this industry is, trust me, but taking it out on a customer is not the right way to vent your frustrations over cancelled bookings that one tweeted about themselves earlier. You talk about how hard it is to run a small independent restaurant of quality? Yes it indeed is. But you shoot yourself in the foot when you play comedy like this for no reason.

I’ve got nothing more to say about this place.

Aizle
107-109 Saint Leonard’s Street
Edinburgh, Scotland

London: What Has Happened to This Place???

20-22 January 2018

You’d think an extended weekend in London would be wonderful for dining, right? Well, you thought wrong. Being a bit on the busy side, and knowing London’s booking nightmares especially on weekends, I decided for the most part to visit my long-time favourites. Having been a very frequent visitor and 2-time resident, there are plenty of places that are still around that I consider my “regulars” over the years.

After last night’s extremely excellent dinner at Kiln, I was hoping for more good stuff the next few days. I was running around crazy all day Saturday, so a quick drop into my “regular” kebab joint near Paddington, a place that I’ve used since 1997 (and have probably consumed several cores of döner in aggregation), sadly it’s just not right anymore. Terrible pita, a shadow of its former self… For dinner I headed out early again, to another of my all-time faves, El Pirata in Mayfair.

I’ve always had a soft spot for this place, which is not on the hipster tapas trail by any means, but has always been solid for me. But today it seems to not flow too smoothly at first, but that’s not unusual here. As I always do, the opener was some Cinco Jotas jamón ibérico

A-1-jamón ibérico

Good, but for some reason not as good as usual. I always wonder why they kept it in the kitchen, to absorb all the fried and plancha aromas, but that wasn’t the problem. Couldn’t put my fingers on it… Then a trio of items…

A-2-champiñones

Well, a mixed bag. The gulas (fake) is always done well here (especially for bread dipping), but today was especially oily — almost seems like they diluted the good olive oil here with something greasier… The riñones was not that good, definitely not as good as at my “other” usual (and old-school) Spanish place, San Miguel. And the champiñones were rather good, finally, as the oil had a nice spicy kick — and a quality that should have been for the gulas. Sigh…I hate when somewhere that has been reliable for so long — in this case, nearly 2 decades — is failing me… I gave them one last shot with the grilled sardines…

A-5-sardinas

Not bad at all, but nothing special. Any place can do this dish right frankly. It’s a bit of a cluster now and I wanted to go with another jamón for dessert (like I always do) but it was so chaotic I didn’t bother. Had a terrible sorbet and I found my way out the door. Sigh, what’s happened to somewhere that I’ve been to several dozen times in the last 20 years? Sadly, this is a sign of what’s to come for the rest of this London trip…

The next day had a busy morning, and was meeting with a friend in the early afternoon back in Mayfair, so looked around for something that was open, and I walked into the original location of Burger & Lobster. Bad move. Full of confused tourists, and the staff seem unfriendly and inefficient, as I heard 2 broken glasses within minutes of arriving — and not being served. I finally got one’s attention and ordered something. I had to finish quickly, so just decided to stick with this place despite the bad vibe. Bad move, as the so-called Holy F*ck burger was a hipster-driven joke…

B-holy fuck burger - 01

What is this obsession with burgers that one cannot eat without unhinging one’s jaw? The patty was basically a smashed meatball, and it was impossible to eat. Also total false advertising about the heat here, this is just plain boring. One of the most overpriced burgers I’ve had in my life, and it was piss poor. I would have taken a Wendy’s double just about at this point instead. Sad, pathetic example of hipsterism at its worse… I paid and walked out. Another reason London’s turned into a joke…

Luckily had a good afternoon drinking with friends, but I had to head back to my hotel to take a poorly-timed conference call (why on a Sunday evening?). And of course it ended in less than 10 minutes because 2 parties didn’t show up…geez, what a waste. So I looked to see where I could get a booking, and the nearby Hereford Road was available. It’s always been one of my favourites since I visited a few weeks after it opened. Chef Tom Pemberton’s work has always been amongst my London favourites, and I’ve had more than a dozen good meals here over the many years, though a previous visit when Chef Pemberton was not in the house was rather poor

And he was not, this Sunday evening. Place was empty, which is not a good sign. Dirty tables, which is inexcusable especially in a small and empty restaurant. Server was dismissive and not very pleasant, never offered bread, but I placed my order and just nursed my wine — so I don’t have to deal with her. The duck heart starter was piss poor. The beans were cold, and they taste like they’ve sat around for awhile. Poor quality, stringy. And the duck hears were extremely boring. What’s happened to this place? At one time this was one of the best kitchens in all of London.

c-1-duck heart

And the main, the Blytheburgh pork chop was almost as dreadful, with even worse beans if you can imagine. The pork itself was way overcooked, even as I asked for it not to be. Borderline sawdust stuff. Again, what’s happened to the once-always-reliable place? Is this what happens when Chef Pemberton is not here, again? This is just awful. I paid and left and never looked back…another one in the dust. What a damn shame!

What in earth is happening to London? Previously reliable places are all messy, like the steam has been taken out of the engine and they’re just going through the motions for money. The soul is gone, a hollow machine. I’m almost glad I’ve not visited for awhile, as it’s sad to see such a general decline in quality everywhere.

The next day that conclusion reached a horrible crescendo. I had a very busy day as it was my last full day in town, and some errands that I’ve put off could not be put off anymore, including an unpleasant argument at my (soon to be former) bank. But a long day, interrupted by some poor dimsum at another of my “regular” haunts, came to an even worse situation at what you’d expect to be good — Pollen Street Social.

I met up with a dear friend for dinner, both of us thanking our lucky stars to have survived a car crash the past year. We chose this place as it has always had a good reputation, but from the onset things were a mess. I had a bad feeling that my Michelin curse was gonna continue tonight.

Frankly, the night was so poor I didn’t even take pictures. Really poor service, forgetting wine and just sheer sloppiness. I’ve never seen so many spilled liquids on my table from supposedly-trained FoH staff. Not just one weak link, but even the sommelier was the sloppiest I’ve ever seen — not to mention forgetful. Boring series of amuse, and I’m glad we didn’t opt for a tasting menu. The snail dish was awful, undercooked, may be the worst snail dish I’ve had in my entire life. And the partridge was okay, but nothing to write home about. Definitely not cooked as well as the mallard at The Greenhouse in Dublin the other night. And just some overpriced, boring sorbet. A ridiculously overpriced evening for poor cooking and bad service. Definitely not worth any photos. This is another example of the joke Michelin is becoming. Keep away from this calamity!

Overall, one of the most noticeable things about London is the shocking decline in service. From small places to Michelin-starred eateries, I’ve not seen this level of poor service in years. I’ve also noticed that none of my servers spoke Polish or Lithuanian, as many have likely left London ahead of Brexit for greener pastures. They had brought, after a little time, a quite good level of service to London eateries across the board, but now it is calamitous. At Pollen Street Social, I’ve never seen such sloppy service in a Michelin-starred place. I can’t count how many times liquids were badly spilled by multiple members of the service staff.

I headed to Cambridge the next day, and frankly the BBQ I had there was better than any of the food I’ve had since that awesome night at Kiln. London is history for me. I probably should have planned better and checked out places I’ve not been, but when you have so many social obligations too, it’s hard to plan anything in advance for this leg. Lesson learned, and it’s left a permanent black mark in my head about this town I used to love so much…

Sigh…

El Pirata
5-6 Down Street

Burger & Lobster
29 Clariges Street

Hereford Road
3 Hereford Road

Pollen Street Social
8-10 Pollen Street
London, England

Review: Kiln

19 October 2018

I made it back to London, the first time I’ve been back in a very long time. It’s strange how you fall out of love with a city, one that had been home twice in my life. But since an unfortunate case of racist abuse post-Brexit vote diminished an already wavering interest in this town, I’ve all but tried to avoid coming back. But here I am, having escaped Dublin for a surprisingly functional Heathrow. Yes, I’m not writing “Deathrow” for once because it was actually functional…

I had a busy afternoon as I had to run a bunch of errands, it being Friday afternoon. But I was done early, so I went ahead with my original plan of dropping into the much-hyped Kiln in Soho. I’ve read so much good stuff on this place I couldn’t help to think it was overhyped. Once I arrived, I immediately relaxed, as the friendly staff talked me through the food and drinks menu.

It was still nice and quiet at 5pm, so I ordered a cocktail and some food and enjoyed the ambience.

LP player

The music is one of the best parts of this place, all played from a turntable at the corner of the bar. Vintage LPs…they’ll always beat the playlists at other places. I like this place!

1-lamb cumin skewer

I like this place even more now! I ordered all three of the starters, and this aged lamb with cumin skewer is just so good. The lamb, aged to give it a fuller flavour, really stood out after being perfectly grilled…

2-chicken

And this chicken, damn it’s meaty and tasty, with some perfect skin to boot. I’ve not had chicken this good since some expertly-grilled ones at my “local” in Tokyo, Hinaiya

3-issan tamworth sausage

Then this Issan-style Tamworth sausage is just delicious, love the spicy kick to it. This adaptation of the wonderful north-eastern Thai treat, together with the previous two, made for a wonderful start to this early evening. I know now to keep ordering!

I enjoyed another interesting cocktail as we went along, a fun crowd as well. It’s far less annoying than at counters that are way too overcrowded with questionably space allocation like the nearby Bocca di Lupo, so it made it much more enjoyable. I ordered a second set of food and enjoyed the ambience and excellent music. Ah, then the next set arrived…

4-red dry curry

Wow, this is stupid good. Minced Tamworth pork is cooked with a dry, southern Thai curry. Lovely kick to it, bringing out the wonderful flavour of the pork. I can east several plates of this, and the spice sweats now has really kicked in. Loving this! Then the next item, something that almost everyone orders here it seems, the clay pot glass noodles.

5-glass noodle pot

I hate to say it, but this was the weakest dish of the night. Tasty, with some nice flavours, but it’s insanely hard to eat especially if it’s overcooked. With a crowded counter, the hardest job is NOT TO SPRAY YOUR NEIGHBOUR trying to pull the sticky noodles up. It’s milder than the previous dish, so perhaps it’s also the procession order that was my mistake, but for me this was so-so, albeit very filling.

I was having too much fun chatting with the staff and other diners I decided to stay a little longer, but telling them that I am happy to move on whenever they need the space. I ordered another cocktail and a few last treats and enjoyed just hanging out as this place is now insanely busy — with waits at over 3 hours. I can now understand why!

7-lamb cumin skewer

And this is why? A last treat of two of the openers, first the lamb…as good as the first…then the sausage, which was even better.

6-issan tamworth sausage

Oh, this place is awesome, I have a new favourite place in Soho now! I had one last cocktail as the group of 3 I had been chatting with departed, and was also told they’ll need to seat a group of 4 here soon, so I relaxingly finished up and thanked them and took my leave.

I fought through the hoardes of human misery to Oxford Circus to get the heck out of the area. Thank goodness for that awesome food, or else this would have been just excrutiating. But Kiln is very highly recommended! Fabulous food, wonderful staff, excellent drinks, and just a cool ambience. Just please, no one spill anything (especially the noodle pot!) onto that turntable!

Hey, if I’d fight through a typically insane London crowd to eat here, you know it must be good. Easily the best thing I had in London during this 4-day stay, and everyone I’ve told about this place since has also raved about it, so it’s not just me! And people happily wait 3+ hours! So check it out — and if there’s no space, leave your number, head out for a few drinks, and come back and enjoy some amazing food!

Kiln
58 Brewer Street
London, England

Review: The Greenhouse

18 October 2018

I had a long day that took me to the northern edge of Dublin to the southern end, all done by the rather painful bus system. I was still shaking my head at last night’s less-than-satisfactory dining experience at Chapter One, and was a little concerned that my dinner destination tonight, the fellow 1-Michelin restaurant The Greenhouse, would continue my Michelin curse.

Long day over, I made my way to the restaurant, and already was greeted very cold at the door. Hmmm…worried from the first second, not a good sign. They were not forthcoming on offering an apertif or anything, and the FoH looked quite chaotic at this point. Again, if you cannot go full speed at opening, perhaps you should just open later — or make sure your staff is ready. No excuse when you have a Michelin star for this type of comedy.

Eventually I gave up on the apertif and the amuse series arrived…

00b-crab roll

Not bad, but nothing special. The Comté puff was okay, but the crab roll a bit boring, and the boudin noir and sweetbread bite was the nicest of the three. An okay start. But I have to say the bread, which came just after, was fantastic — some of the best bread I had on this entire trip. Then a Riesling from Mosel was poured and we start with the foie dish.

01-foie

I’m not the biggest foie fan, especially in such a prep, but it worked well with the apple. The whole dish was somewhat understated, but worked okay as a starting item. At this point, especially with a few more tables occupied, the FoH was flowing a bit smoother, thank goodness. Then an alvarinho is poured for the second fish dish…

02-turbot

Turbot, done pretty well, with some nice chanterelles. I had asked for them to leave out the Jerusalem artichokes (for my digestive system’s sake) and they thankfully done so. Perhaps that made the whole dish a bit understated in flavour again, but it worked nicely overall. Getting better. At this point my server brings out the mallard that would be my next course…

03a-mallard

Looks fantastic. I’m thinking I may have lucked out in doing the shorter of the 2 tasting menus. I chose this one partly due to both last night’s mess and how poorly things started this evening, but also with the eye on the mallard as it was the featured item for the shorter menu…

03d-mallard

And yes, I did. This was absolutely fabulous. The breast was perfectly cooked, retaining all the wonderful natural flavours of this bird. The BBQ wing was a nice little treat as well. One of the best mallard I’ve had in a long time, all working perfectly with the red from Languedoc.

A very nice closing savoury number for sure, and tonight has rescued the reputation of Dublin’s cooking. I ran into Chef Mickael Viljanen during a WC run and thanked him for that mallard, and we had a nice little chat. Glad to see a Finn giving Dublin’s over-infatuation with French cuisine a potkia aasiasi.

I returned and I enjoyed a nice single pot whiskey as they brought out the dessert…

4-chocolate

Oh crap, EDIBLE GOLD. WHY??? I spent time removing it from my plate…why this ridiculous waste? Easily the WORST FOOD TREND IN THE WORLD. But the chocolate dessert was nice, and aside from the Au distraction it was good and a nice close to the evening.

I stayed and had another nice peaty single pot whiskey as they brought out some last nibbles…and it had gold on it too, so I just didn’t bother. I finished my drink, thanked the now-friendlier staff, and headed out. Relatively happy with this evening, especially considering how poorly it all began. The cooking is far better than yesterday for sure, and that mallard was just fantastic.

I’d recommend this place over Chapter One any day. But honestly, I’ve had enough of Michelin-style cooking and it’s time to step away from it. After this trip, I think I will consienciously avoid Michelin/French places. It’s just not for me anymore.

Off to London in the AM…

The Greenhouse
21 Dawson Stret
Dublin, Ireland

Review: Chapter One

17 October 2018

I think I am pretty much done with Michelin-starred restaurants, and this may have been the final, albeit light straw…

A bit of a trying trek to Dublin from Düsseldorf, mostly due to the ridiculous hour-long back-up at immigration. I so hate leaving Schengen…but this saved me a possibly longer wait at Deathrow if I had gone into London. I always hate it when the immigration queue is LONGER than the flight… But back in Dublin for the first time in nearly 2 decades…

I had a few things that needed to be done that afternoon in town, so I skipped lunch. I was rather hungry by the time I got ready for dinner. When I was researching for my quick trip to Dublin I singled out a few restaurants, and Chapter One is one of them. This Michelin-starred eatery has often been named the best place to eat in town, so I went with this for this evening.

I arrived there after dealing with Dublin’s rather annoying bus system and was seated at a nice corner table. Seems like a very posh place, so I’m hoping for a good smooth evening with no service hiccups like last night at Tafelspitz. I happily went with the full tasting with pairing, so I left it all to the restaurant to do their best.

As I enjoyed a cocktail, the amuse arrived — a spelt crisp.

AB-spelt cheese

Nothing too special, with some local cheese. But I happily enjoyed my cocktail and when that was drained, the French sommelier came to pour a nice pinot gris from Alsace for my first course — the Japanese tapioca.

01a-tapioca

Pretty interesting, intense flavours courtesy of the St Tola goats cheese and the wonderful leek broth that worked wonders with the tapioca. The mushroom from the Ballyhoura Mountains was also quite nice, working well in combination. A good start with strong flavours that worked well with the pinot gris. A good start!

I was feeling quite confident at this point with this dinner, as the dining room was already filling up with second seatings. It’s certainly popular. Then the sommelier poured a nice white from New Zealand and we have the purple artichoke dish.

02-violet artichoke

Well, this was pretty weak to be honest. The flavour of the artichoke is good, but sadly the nature of this fickle item means that it’s not easy to predict the texture quality. Unfortunately, the lower portion was overcooked, thus mushy, and the upper section was tough and stringy. You can’t win on this one. The goat curd was quite nice, but the guanciale added absolutely nothing to this combination. A weak dish overall.

A little worried now, but may just be an anomaly. Then the sommelier returns with a Catalunyan Riesling, a pretty good pour again, and we have a local seafood plate.

03-herring crab

A nice assortment of seafood here, and I’m smiling again. The star here is the excellent herring, very lightly pickled, though the horseradish was a bit understated. The crab is also of excellent quality, working well with the wee buttermilk pancakes. Good dish, and the positive momentum is back. Then a pour of a chardonnay from Burgundy and we have a terrine.

04-veal chicken terrine

Well, I spoke a little too soon. Again, good flavours, but terrible texture for this chicken and veal terrine. It just tasted odd for some reason. The greengage was a nice wee treat though, and the sauce may have saved the dish from mediocrity. Then after a bit of a gap, a very weak pour of a Portuguese alvarinho for the scallop dish.

05a-scallop

Well, after Koks the other day, and also the excellent ones at Etika, Faroe Islands scallops have ruined me. But this was particularly bad, even worse than last night’s really weak item. This was bland and boring, with very little flavour on its own. Worse, it was poorly cooked, with one side overdone and the other nearly untouched. Poor kitchen work here. The seaweed was also rather fibrous, which is not an easy feat… Two weak items in a row here…

At this point I am getting worried. I started to understand more listening to an adjacent table asking for all sorts of substitutions for the dishes…why is it always Americans that have all these dietary issues — and yet, are the least healthy? Sigh… In any case, there was now a major slowdown in the evening, as it was nearly half an hour until the sommelier returned with yet another bad pour, this time of a Sicilian pinot noir, for the final savoury course.

06-chicken

Another weak course, it’s like the kitchen is overwhelmed. The chicken is really lame, parts of it sawdust dry. If there was no sauce this dish would be awful. It’s telling when a Michelin-starred kitchen can’t do a simple chicken dish right. Sadly my Michelin curse is rearing its ugly head here tonight.

At this point the service is turning into a cluster. They eventually bring out a palate cleansing lemon sorbet with other garnishes…

PC-lemon sorbet

It did its job, the sorbet clean and the cheese actually not bad. But I cannot get anyone’s attention as this FoH is just not coping well with the busy dining rooms. They then pour a dessert wine for their signature dessert, “flavours and textures of Irish milk and honey” that soon appeared.

07-milk and honey

Pretty good, I enjoyed the flavours here, perhaps not much of this texture for this texture-challenged kitchen. But now the FoH staff is just awful, and it took ages to get a coffee order. I’m sick of this place. A taxi is ordered and I was just waiting to get out of here.

Unfortunately, if this was the Chapter One of a book, I’d close it and never open it again. A few nice moments here and there, but way too inconsistent for a Michelin-level kitchen. The FoH seems to collapse under its own weight by its own set-up, with the sommelier not able to be at 3 tables at once. Poor wine pours and inattentive service contributed greatly to the whole poor experience.

I think I am pretty much done with Michelin-starred restaurants, and this may have been the final, albeit light straw… I just don’t have the energy nor patience to deal with inadequate service and poor food and keep paying the heavy bills they bring.

I had a quick word with the FoH manager on the way out when he asked if I enjoyed the evening. I pointed out some of the problems, and I hope they take it as something to work on. Frankly he seems like the only sincere person I’ve spoken to all night, so maybe there’s some hope.

But at this point, definitely not worth it. I would have been far happier with some traditional Irish fare instead of this pseudo French wannabe thing. Skip this, friends, this is the type of Michelin place that makes me shake my head.

Chapter One
18-19 Parnell Square North
Dublin, Ireland

Review: Tafelspitz 1876

16 October 2018

The next morning I had a few errands to run locally in Köln before I headed back to Düsseldorf. Once again no time for lunch, but last night’s beef extravaganza at Brücken easily fuelled me for the long day around both cities. Eventually I got to my hotel in Düsseldorf to get some packing and logistics done before dinner.

I had a few places to choose from for tonight’s dinner, but I went with Tafelspitz 1876, a 1-Michelin restaurant a few stops on the hybrid-Bahn from my hotel. I arrived on-time, a little early for dining here but I had an early morning flight tomorrow…

They offered a house cocktail and I went with it, despite me not being the biggest fan of bubbly. In fact, the older I get, the more I hate champagne… In any case, their menu is a bit odd in how many courses you choose and what you get, so I eventually made the decision and did the pairing too.

I relaxed, but frankly the service here is slack. Come on, I’m the only customer here! Eventually a nice assortment of starters arrived…

00a-snacks

Not bad overall. The “suckling pig” was pretty good, working well with beets. The corn foam was also nice, with unexpected roe underneath. The “lobster” sadly was the most boring, extremely bland. Anyway, then a very long wait before they finally appeared with bread and a rather skimpy pour of a Pfalz Riesling for the next bit of amuse, mussels.

00e-mussels

Sadly, a bit overbaked, as the lips were charred onto the shells and the flesh a bit chewy. I’m starting to worry why this place is completely empty with some of these starters… Eventually they topped up the Riesling for the first course, the scallops.

01-scallops

Well, it is a long way down from the awesome ones I had at Koks in the Faroe Islands — or even the sushi version at Etika the day after. Really poor quality stuff, the Faroes have ruined me for inferior scallops… The flavour was okay, with a dash of crab cream and potatoes. But rather mediocre. Then another weak pour of a Grauburgunder from Baden and we have the octopus.

02-octopus

This was surprising, as it was cooked quite well and of good quality. The sauce and sides didn’t add much to this, but the main item worked well. Perhaps a momentum change here? Finally other diners arrive, but still very quiet. This elderly couple was quite loud and indiscrete tho… Anyway, next up the white truffle dish…

03-truffle

Why did I go with this? I don’t like truffles in general, and this was a piss poor dish. The chervil root is awful, the cream is cold at parts. What is this kitchen doing? This place has a Michelin star? This is a puzzling item to say the least…but one of the worst dishes I’ve seen this year… Then a flimsy pour of a rioja and we have the venison.

04-venison

Again, when things look so bad the momentum flips, as this venison was excellent. Lovely texture, cooked perfectly. The flavours were nothing too strong though, from the mild mustard seeds and the rather unnecessary cacao crust. Meat done well, idea a little puzzling — once again. Oh well, I’m actually glad the savouries are done already…

A little time to relax as they were again quite slow. Unpleasant to hear the elderly couple talk about me, despite them knowing I speak German (since I’ve not spoken English all day)… In any case, a dessert bubbly is poured (why) and we have the dessert course…

z

Based on local apples, not bad. The condensed milk ice cream is odd but tasty. The fried item, based on hibiscus and mace, was odd… But at this point another couple arrived to dine, and her perfume has overwhelmed the restaurant. Even that elderly couple has now turned their attention away from me and towards them…geez. Still mostly empty, and sadly I sense why… A Nahe Riesling is poured for the last course, the “cheese” dish…

06-cheese

Not bad, though whatever the “Engelshaar” is made of is rather distracting. The cheese and sweetness underneath quite a nice way to close the evening, though honestly I’m still a bit hungry — but I’m not chancing anymore here. Plus I can barely breathe…

07a-nibbles

Some little nibbles to close, and we’re done. Mediocre evening really, I can’t see how this helps my impression of Michelin-starred restaurants to be honest. I headed out disappointed, and in search for a late-night snack…

Tafelspitz 1876
Grunerstraße 42a
Düsseldorf, Deutschland

* Ended up at a Croatian take-away, having a great chat with the proprietors in a German/Croatian hybrid about wines and Zagreb and so forth — and they comped me some šljivovica, so the night was saved to a degree…