Saturday, December 27, 2014

Il Duca, Rome

Il Duca is an italian restaurant in Trastevere area of Rome. Opened in 1988, offering mostly pasta dishes, some of them with homemade pasta as well also risotto and meat. My memories of the menu are now restricted but I can remember well what we had. 

Trying to find a place to eat in Trastevere we came across the shooting of the new film starring Sarah Jessica Parker called All roads lead to Rome. A few buildings back it was Il Duca. 

Some of the dishes we had. 

Tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms 

Tagliatelle al ragu

Raviolo filled with ricotta cheese and spinach in white creme sauce 

See also:

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Grande Bretagne Hotel, gift shop

The most emblematic hotel in the Constitution square of Athens, facing the Parliament, opened in 1878. Inside the recently renovated hotel that cost more than 82 million euros you can find except from the luxurious rooms and restaurants (Roof garden, GB corner, GB winter garden) and bars (Alexander's bar and cigar lounge, the Cellar and the Pool bar) a small gift shop in the left corner of the lobby.

Inside the gift shop you can find, ties, swimsuits from Zegna, perfumes from Aqua di Parma, local and international newspapers, silver and gold souvenirs and Hasselbland cameras. It is the only place in Athens, Greece too that you can find these expensive digital cameras. While I was there, there were two models, one costing 1700 euros and one costing 6.700 euros. I asked the SA if they have already sold any, and she told me that as soon as they got them a Chinese guy bought one (the expensive one ) so they brought a replacement.

We went for the Greek products. There are some marmelades, Greek honey, tea, aceto balcamico and olive oil. All from producers around Greece selling exclusively to the hotel. 

We took a gift set of three different types of honey. Orange blossom, forest and fir tree. 

Also a bergamot jam. 

Hotel Grandre Bretagne
Open daily from 08:00 to 23:00

See also:

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Fortnum & Mason advent Calendar

Fortnum & Mason, the famous department store of central London in Picadilly street. 

Fortnum's began in 1707, when the royal footman William Fortnum set up a shop in St Jame's with his landlord, Hugh Mason. Starting as a grocery store store, now has been expanded, while more stores have opened, in St Pancras of London, also in Dubai and Hong Kong. The picadilly store went under a 30 million renovation, to celebrate the 300 years of operation in 2007.  

The main department store at 181 Picadilly, has many floors and about 5 bar-restaurants, from the more famous ''The Fountain'' to the ''1707 wine bar'' and the ''The Parlour'' for ice cream. 

There are many departments inside with various products, but I m more interested in the Food department. You can find anything from cheese or charcuterie, to deli products, confectioners, chocolate, fruits and vegetables. Coffee, tea and wine in a wide variety too but I think you can guess all that. Most likely their famous hampers filled with wines, champagne, other alcoholic beverages, Stilton cheese, preserves and cakes. 

For Christmas, you can find many products too. What really caught my eye was the Advent Calendars. The ''calendars'' to count down the days till Christmas. In Fortnum & Mason thought, they are made out of wood in various designs and are filled with many different sweets. About 1kg of them. Different versions of them are filled with small bottles of jin or whisky. 

The advent calendar came by a courier in a huge box. I worried if it will come damaged but Fortnum & Mason packaged it extremely well, huge attention to detail. 

Except from the Advent calendar I also ordered a woodland strawberry preserve. This marmalade comes from Scottish wild strawberries harvested once per year for F&M. It is quite good, maybe more acidic than normal strawberries jam, which take my vote. 

See my post about Harrods during Christmas here and for Lafayette here.

Fortnum & Mason
181 Picadilly street, W1A 1ER

See also:
Gordon Ramsay RHR (3 Michelin stars)
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal (2 Michelin stars)
Laduree at the Harrods, London
Bernachon, Lyon
Paul Bocuse, (3 Michelin stars)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

La Pergola, Rome (***)

La Pergola, the restaurant of hotel Rome Cavalieri, located in the 9th floor of this huge building overlooking Rome by Monte Mario. It is the only restaurant in Rome to be awarded 3 Michelin stars and one of 8 in Italy. For 2015 it has been awarded by the Gambero Rosso guide 95 points out of 100, putting it in the first place of the list alongside Osteria Francescana of Massimo Bottura.    

The restaurant serves only dinner and does one sitting per table. 
Trying to get a reservation can be quite difficult. I would suggest to book 2 months in advance for Friday and Saturday night, or about 1 month in advance for weekdays. You can book directly from their website by an email which they answer promptly. A reconfirmation is required 3 weeks in advance and a final reconfirmation the day prior or even the same day, until midday, of the meal. 

To get there it's a small taxi ride from the city centre. Maybe a quarter from the Vatican. 

Heinz Beck is the executive chef of La Pergola since 1994 in which he has been awarded numerous prices and awards. Under his command the restaurant was awarded the 3 Michelin stars in November 2005 and kept them since then. The 50 year old chef, born in Friendrichshafen, trained and worked in many famous restaurants like the Tantris in Munich, but then married to his Sicilian wife and left to Italy, where he mastered the Italian cuisine. Nowadays except from La Pergola he is also in charge of Apsleys restaurant of Lanesborough Hotel in London (1 michelin star) and  a new restaurant in Tokyo since 2014. He has published many culinary books of Italian gastronomy, although his speciality is definitely the pasta. As I have seen in some of his videos and interviews he always strives to serve light and healthy dishes, a modern twist of Mediterenean flavors.  

Entering the restaurant we were welcomed by a lovely lady and then got seated to a window table. As you can see the big long salle has big windows and views to the terrace, which is open for the warmer summer months. The heavy interior is classically decorated with wooden walls, blue carpets and big porcelain vases. You will find many art treasures around you, paintings, a rare Aubusson tapestry, Sevres porcelain, an 18th century bronze candelabra and a collection of hand blown glass by Emile Galle. In the center of the long room there is a 17th century Celadron vase decorated daily by the hotel's master florist. Tables are well spaced out with comfortable chairs and decorated with candles and flowers. The tableware consists of Vermeil cutlery and plates.

Photo from Rome Cavalieri
What really gets the attention of the guest though is the view beyond the terrace. The whole Rome is in a small distance, with the 140 meters high dome of St Peters in the front. In my visit the weather was rainy with lightnings and thunderbolts adding to the whole view. Inside the atmosphere was relaxed with my neighbour diners to be mostly from Italy (they were speaking Italian at least) while there was classical music playing in the background (I can still remember some Vivaldi).

There is the a la carte option as also a degustation menu with 7 courses (6 plus dessert) or a more extended one with 9 courses (7 plus cheese and dessert). Then there is the 20 years menu, the one made by Heinz Beck to celebrate La Pergola's 20 year jubilee, with 12 courses showcasing the milestones of his culinary art. If you would like to have this particular menu hurry up since it is available for a limited amount of dinners, 999 to be exact. 

La Pergola has one of the biggest wine cellars in the world, with more than 60.000 bottles of 3.500 different labels. It is divided in a number of individual air conditioned areas and rooms optimized for each type of wine. The crus range from 1888 to the present with rare vintages and labels from all around the world. Italian wines, french wines in normal sizes, magnums or 3lts. Some interesting and hard to find wines like Sassicaia (1985), many vintages of Petrus and Mouton Rothschild,  Barolo Granbussia  in 378cl (a traditional particular size for Barolos), Lafite from 1900, Margaux, Cheval Blanc, Gaja wines, Barolo Monfortino. Also many vintages of Chateau d Yquem as long as many dessert wines from Italy and Germany. It has been awarded the Grand Award from wine spectator since 2004, something that has been achieved thanks to La Pergola's sommelier, Marco Reitano, who has also been awarded the Oscar del Vino, as the best Italian sommelier.  

Except from the menu and the huge wine book La Pergola has also a water menu. Well, that's something new. Many pages with water bottles, mineral, carbonated, artesian and so on, from all around the world, Italy, Hawaii, Fiji, Japan, topping at 120 euros for a bottle of water coming from America if I remember correctly. We opted for Evian. 

To start we were offered butter and  some excellent olive oil from Lazio (they use 100ml bottles of the best olive oil they can find, so as soon as the bottle is opened the olive oil is used). With the olive oil, as you can see in the photo below, we had 3 types of salt; regular , smoked (the grey) and ground salt from Hawaii. Bread was of 4 different kinds, baguette, focaccia style bread, a poppy seeds one and butter bread. All of them were very good, served warm with the butter bread standing out. The waiter suggested that we try a piece of each bread  

The amuse bouche, a glass rectangular plate on top of some rocks, was beef with mushrooms, herbs, topinambur and coffee sauce. Not bad, but I found it a bit bland, especially as an amuse bouche. 

Spaghetti with scorpion fish, zucchini and sweet peppers.
One of the best pasta dishes I have ever had. The aromas from the vegetables and the fish were remarkable. Cooked very much al dente as I prefer (to the point that some would find them a tad undercooked) with a light olive oil and fish reduction sauce, nicely seasoned. The scorpion fish was stunning in texture and flavor. 

Fagotelli La Pergola.
The most famous dish of La Pergola and Heinz Beck, served not only in this restaurant but also in Apsleys of London. The fagotelli are filled with carbonara sauce (yolks, pecorino cheese, whipped cream, salt and white pepper), then cooked in boiling water and finished in the pan with some white wine, zucchini, veal stock and pecorino cheese. On the plate some crispy bacon is added. The idea of Heinz Beck behind this dish was to make the famous and traditional carbonara lighter and easier to digest, something that can be achieved by not overheating the eggs while cooking.  The result is pretty impressive. The thin house made pasta had liquid filling, so we were advised to eat them by spoon. Once you got them in your mouth, the pasta breaks and you get a mouthful of carbonara. 

John Dory in parsley crust with olive oil, garlic and chilli pepper. 
Three fillets of nicely cooked john dory with parsley and panko, garlic puree (garlic, milk and vegetable broth), pine nuts and julienne cut steamed green beens. The sauce was made by marjoram, shellfish broth and kuzu. It was garnished with espelette chilli and chopped purple tomatos.   

Loin of Lamb with mint sauce and pecorino puff. 
Two pieces of amazingly tender lamb fillet medium rare cooked, cream cheese filled (ricotta cheese and pecorino) artichoke and pecorino foam. The gelees were like a lamb stock reduction, made by the lamb's bones and trimmings, olive oil, white wine, madeira juniper berries, concentrate tomatos, celery, carrots, onions and garlic; the green sauce of mint. Even thought the lamb was pink  it was cooked throughout, so I suppose it was cooked sous-vide. The strongest part of this dish however I think was the quality of the lamb, absolutely stunning. (Gordon Ramsay's lamb was also as amazing as this). 

The pre dessert, banana coconut sorbet in an alcoholic liquid base was excellent. So aromatic and refreshing, I could eat 10 of these instead of the whole dessert. Amazing.

The dessert card was consisted of 4 cold and 3 warm desserts to choose from. We went for one cold and the famous Grand dessert of La pergola. 

Gianduja mousse with chocolate soft matcha tea biscuit and chestnut ice cream. 
Nocciola praline, a thin layer of chocolate, little figs and chestnuts, pink candyfloss and an airy matcha cake. 

Grand Dessert 
Some of the desserts required extra time to be prepared so we were advised to order them before our main course came out of the kitchen. That's almost a hint that a souffle is coming. 
The Grand Dessert consists of 2 parts. The first was a light skillfully made liquorice souffle, although I found it a bit too sweet , being just one of the 7 different parts of the dessert. On the left raspberries on a boat, or raspberries gratinee with almond amaretto flavor. To the right a liquid chocolate and coconut milk drink which was superb. 
The second part of the dessert arrived before I managed to finish the first 3 small plates. From left to right, chocolate Chantilly on top of warm chocolate and chocolate tears; champagne gelee with frais de bois, this was quite acidic and refreshing between the other more sweet preparations. Really liked that. The right part cannoli with mousse, pistachio and berries, very good too.
An extra dessert, a 7th plate with espresso granite and chantilly cream like a tiramisu was excellent. 

The mignardises were 12 different preparations presented in a heavy metal box. Every single one of them was good, while some were great. I remember a stunning chocolate ganache on top of a biscuit, a small tiramisu tart, strawberry biscuits, some sugared buns, two little cannolis with passion fruit, Palmier biscuits with chocolate. 

Lastly we were treated with 4 homemade chocolates. From left to right, nuts chocolate, dark chocolate with passion fruit ganache, milk chocolate with nugat filling and white chocolate with olive oil ganache(!). Again this was an idea of what a skillful kitchen can do. All four were amazing on par with the top chocolatiers of Paris and Brussels, some of the best chocolates I have ever had, definitely the best I had in a restaurant.   

Service throughtout the evening was flawless. The staff were very professional, fast and friendly. They will really try to make everything possible for the guest to feel welcomed and enjoy the meal. The cooking as I wrote earlier was light, but the huge portion of desserts got us stuffed, in a good way. 

To me this is a world class restaurant with a magnificent setting, view and cooking that merits its 3 Michelin stars, in other words ''worths a special journey'', so I recommend it to all food lovers that happens to be in Rome. Then again try to book well in advance. 

Tuesday to Saturday, 7:30pm to 11:30pm

See also:
Le Louis XV, Monaco (3 Michelin stars)
Pierre Gagnaire, Paris (3 Michelin stars)
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal ( 2 Michelin stars)
Paul Bocuse, Lyon (3 Michelin stars)
Jacques Genin, Paris patisserie

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mia Feta, feta bar, Thessaloniki

Mia Feta, feta bar is a family run bar-restaurant in the centre of Thessaloniki. As it appears in the name, it's all about feta cheese. You can buy dairy products during the day so it also works as a ''fromangerie''.  

There is big wooden table inside with about a dozen or so seats, plus some small tables outside in the sidewalk. 

The menu (not so extensive, but not small either) consists of dishes based on feta cheese. 

Melon soup served cold with goat cream cheese, black pepper, acrocolio (salted pig's leg) and ouzo froth. The combination may sound odd, but if you think of it, this is common in Italy, (melon with prosciutto). 

Mpatsos cheese with lime.

Chicken fingers with pistachio and feta cheese dip. Very good. 

Ravioli, filled with feta cheese and mushrooms and mushroom foam.  Nicely al dente cooked and flavorful.    

There are also many interesting wines to choose from by glass. We had Sigalas Vinsanto Santorini 2004 at about 3,5 euros for 50ml, a wine I was trying to find for quite a lot of time (scored 95 points from Robert Parker). 

14, Pavlou Mela str

Mia Feta website

See also:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Da Vinci, Hotel Nikopolis, Thessaloniki

Second post for DaVinci restaurant, (you can see my first post here )

DaVinci is the main restaurant (can seat up to 120 diners) of the hotel Nikopolis, a small distance out of Thessaloniki. The cooking is Italian, as is the whole menu.
The executive chef is Stefanos Stamidis.
There is a big salle inside and a big terrace with views on the hotel's  vast swimming pool.

The only option in my last meal was to go a la carte as no set menus were available.

We started with bread, butter and an amuse bouche. Bread was of many different kinds (baguette, brown, with tomatos etc) came hot and all of them were very good. Butter was served with pink pepper and fleur de sel. The amuse bouche semi cooked salmon with cucumber and sesame was the bad part of the meal, The combination could work well if the salmon hadn't got such strong fish flavor, like it was not very fresh. 

Next, the pizza with thin crispy base and 4 different types of cheese, some rocket leaves and tomato or beetroot based jam on top.

Beef cheeks with cheese filled cannelloni and rocket were very tender and tasty. The flavorful wine sauce was excellent. 

Linguine with tomato sauce and seafood was generously portioned as you can see in the photo below. Calamari, mussels, clams and prawns. I liked how the taste of the seafood was not overpowered by the tomato.

The first dessert, The olive. Edible chocolate bowl filled with lemon and thyme cream, white chocolate, bites of olives comfit and dark chocolate sorbet. Very good 

Jivara milk chocolate tortino with hazelnut praline and passion fruit sorbet. 

There is a big wine list with wines from many countries and prices up to 3 digits. There were also some options for wine by the glass, 2 Greek red wines, a Sauternes, porto etc.

I would easily say that this is one of the best Italian restaurants in Thessaloniki. 

See also:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Burgers in Thessaloniki

Not much to write about, just that it's one of my favorite foods.

Unfortunately in Thessaloniki I still havent found a proper burger. Ok I found a few (but not all of these down below). Not even once we were given a medium, medium rare beef patty, so nothing really came close to the top, like Patty & Bun or Bar Boulud.

For me the ideal burger is in a brioche with a medium to medium rare patty and little other things inside.

Το Μανιτάρι, BBQ burger with mushrooms. It needed something extra as it was dry. 

Sly Fox, Nicely cooked meaty patty and brioche. Bad fries and onion rings. (CLOSED)

Be, Excelsior Hotel. Bacon cheeseburger. Very good and nice fries. 

B restaurant. Burger with roquefort. Excellent hand cut fries.

El correo cucina argentina. Nice roasted potatos. 

Pax Homemade burgers. Very good burger with blue cheese. Nice fries with 1 euro extra.

Blacklime. Nice burger, but bad fries, so there it is, a salad. 

Brothers in law. Acapulco burger, beef patty, cheddar, tomato, black pepper and lime mayo, guacamole and bacon. I found the fries quite average but the burger was very good. 

Goodys, extreme burgers, Black pepper. Maybe not in the same category as the other ones, but I still prefer this over some poshier more expensive ones.

Foodporn, Proksenou Koromila str. Heseinburger. Black Angus patty in a brioche with smokey mayo lettuce tomato and prosciutto. I liked the smokey flavor but  the fries were extremely seasoned. Generally maybe my last choice from the burgers here. 

Canteen, Nice burger with very good patty and a huge portion of french fries. One of the best in the city. 

La Pasteria, burger with pesto, mozarella and gnocchi. The patty was very good, although at around 13 euros it is the most expensive.

Hyatt Hotel, The burger was nice with very tasty patty made ''a la greque''. French fries should have been fresh and hand cut, especially for the price of 14 euros. 

See also:
Mavri Thalassa, Revisited
Spondi (**)
Gordon Ramsay, RHR (***)