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The best of Bordeaux is not only wine – Le Gabriel

To the romantic segment who are seduced by the ambiance an illuminated embankment can create, this place could not be more fascinating. Situated in the heart of Place de la Bourse, on the South side of the Garonne River, Le Gabriel doesn’t fall short when it comes to panorama. If you reserve with anticipation a table by the window, you could be witnessing one of the most magnificent view of the city of Bordeaux. All starts when the dark sky gets lightened up by the warm lights of this 18th century building which also reflect into the Miroir des Quais, the largest water mirror in the world. Spectacular the view, epic the feeling. But the aesthetic of the external architecture is only one of the reasons why Le Gabriel is among the most venerable Bordelaise fine dining institutions.

Place de la Bourse from the Miroir des Quais, Bordeaux

Place de la Bourse from the Miroir des Quais, Bordeaux

Inside is another story, still seductively classy. There are three different ambiance on three different floors: the bar, the bistro and the restaurant.

On the last floor, there is the Michelin starred restaurant, and the face behind it is the one of über-skilled chef François ADAMSKI who scraps off the fluffy visual complexity of contemporary cooking in exchange of sophisticated classicism with soft-toned, impeccably presented, never ordinary dishes which will keep constantly alive your pleasure of discovery.

Appetiser,Le Gabriel, Bordeaux

Appetiser,Le Gabriel, Bordeaux

And he started to provoke mine with a selection of green jewellery of biscuit praline with cucumber, green beans and mint pastry with a touch of edible gold and a tapanade bignet: shining half globes of different texture, all with a fantastically precise balance between taste and consistency.

After this we were taken to the restaurant on the third floor for our dinner.

It’s become de rigueur to begin meals with a shot of foam and this place is no exception. Mise en bouche of tomatoes and basil with a vodka foam opens the dinner. Accompanying it with a mini tomatoes filled bread and seaweed butter makes it irresistible.

Potatoes risotto with mascarpone and caviar, Le Gabriel - Bordeaux

Potatoes risotto with mascarpone and caviar, Le Gabriel – Bordeaux

A potatoes risotto with mascarpone and caviar remains the shining star of the evening and also the most architectural one. With a potatoes cylinder filled with caviar and covered with a thin layer of fried potato standing in the middle of a heavenly white mouse, this plate had a unique level of delicacy.

You could almost hear me groaning at the very mention of carrots and its presence in a fine dining menu but Adam took the chance to persuade my reluctance to this earthy vegetable with a superlative creamy carrot purée, finely textured to precision to accompany a sea bream with peas and grapefruit.

Main course, Le Gabriel - Bordeaux

Main course, Le Gabriel – Bordeaux

And when cheese time comes forget about the cheese soufflé and don’t even look out for the ordinary cheese plate. Here all the ingredients are veiled intriguedly like the goat cheese and ream with cheery compote resembling a dessert. Although unrecognisable, the detailing was exquisite. The real dessert thought was figs stuffed with spices and gingerbread. So far a good tasting and looking dessert but be prepared  but be prepared for a gustative shake off…the sweetness of the fruit is smoothed at the end with the hit of a dollop of white beer sorbet which creates an in-depth contrast. It is an interesting combination but can leave you with mixed feelings.

Dessert at Le Gabriel - Bordeaux

Dessert at Le Gabriel – Bordeaux

Ohh…I nearly forgot…Your dinner menu is a surprise you will discover dish by dish as they arrive. The hard copy menu here is a fugitive but the service is knowledgeable and impeccably detailed and will take you through your dishes meticulously.

For the rest, Le Gabriel ticks all the boxes as it has  all the romance of a traditional dining experience in an extremely elegant setting.  À bientôt !

Moi at Le Gabriel - Bordeaux

Moi at Le Gabriel – Bordeaux

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Happy 3rd Birthday LIMA LONDON

When I say Peruvian cuisine is the best in the world, people who know I am Italian look at me mesmerized and punctually say “This is a big statement!”. My mum after 8 years I started my love story with Peru is now used to hear me repeating the wonders of Peruvian food that she doesn’t even feel hurt anymore by my words (and she is a marvelous cook). If you have any doubt about my statement the culinary know-how of the kitchen team at LIMA London will demystify all of them. High cuisine orchestrated with creativity and flavour made this restaurant receive 3 accolades among which ‘Best New Restaurant’ at the Craft Guild of Chefs Awards 2013.

Today it’s LIMA’s birthday and all guests are offered a traditional Pisco Sour. The start is good.

Pisco sour and Aji Amarillo bread

Pisco sour and Aji Amarillo brea

An inviting list of Pisco based cocktails will be your first encounter with the national liqueur which production and testing is a marvel to experience if you ever end up in a Pisco tour in the Ica area of Peru. The service is relaxed but professional, the settings are classy but informal (yes, they can go together!), on the line of sophisticated comfort I would say, but the unfussy approach reverts fully when it comes to food where experimental flavours meet impeccable technique in each single dish.

The WOW factor starts with the bread: cubes of aji amarillo (yellow spicy pepper) bread with dips made of an infusion of algarrobina and another one of maca root. One of a kind. This appetizer says a lot about Peruvian biodiversity this restaurant promotes as algarrobina, maca and aji amarillo all bring the MADE IN PERU tag. I tell my friend that the  maca is an energizing root from the Peruvian Andes and is often used as an aphrodisiac. She instantly get excited at the news.

We start with the duck with Amazonian nuts plus the artichokes AMAZONIA with green lime, three tomatoes emulsion and molle pink pepper, and then the organic salmon ceviche. A visually stunning exploit of colours catwalks the table: cascade of shocking fuchsia run over the artichokes and the same hue comes in bubbles over my duck, and then vivid green, sunny yellow.

Duck, Amazonian nuts, giant Peruvian corn

Duck, Amazonian nuts, giant Peruvian corn

Artichokes AMAZONIA with green lime, three tomatoes emulsion and molle pink pepper

Artichokes AMAZONIA with green lime, three tomatoes emulsion and molle pink pepper

The table next to us has blue bubbles with asparagus from the famous Andean blue potatoes. This is art. Performance chromatic art at its best. The salmon ceviche has a unique savoury intensity, the duck and the artichokes are exceedingly tasteful. I know why Virgilio Martinez’s Lima restaurant CENTRAL has been awarded for two years in a row Best Restaurant in Peruand has just made it on the Best 50’s Restaurants of the World list. Now I know it.

The main was a black bream with seaweed which worked wonder on a bed of yucca. It was so good that made us forget to take the picture. The tuna ceviche was another masterpiece, evocatively summery, with finely cut tuna on a yellow spin which reminds me much of the Nazca lines and the ever popular Peruvian country brand logo. I can breathe Peru in each detail.

Tuna Ceviche at LIMA London

Tuna Ceviche at LIMA London

One of the chefs looked at us from the kitchen counter. He was looking for feedback. With my ecstatic expression there was no need for words but I decided to give him one: “Riquisimo”. William came to the table and introduced himself. Instant connection. I love when chefs come out of the kitchen to talk to diners. I found it terribly human and highly professional and this is something typical in Peru as it happens to me very often when I dine there. It’s another way that shows me chefs’ passion and care for what they do. William went to make our desserts and I was sure he was going to put even more heart in those. Our portions of dessert were more generous than the last time I came. A plateful of indulgence made by Chanchamayo coffee ice cream layered on finely grounded coca leaves, Amazonian herbs and grounded coconut.

Chanchamayo coffee ice cream

Chanchamayo coffee ice cream

But let’s go into the finesse of the sourced product. Chanchamayo is the coffee region of Peru situated in the centre of the country. The geology of the region is quite unique because is part of the Amazonia but it extends onto the Andes and this peculiarity provides great natural conditions for what has been categorized as one of the top best coffees in the world. At LIMA in my plate. The other dessert is a very delicate dulce de leche ice cream which leaves the beetroot emulsion and Andean maca root crust the authority to give a distinctive after taste.
This is not my first time here but if it is yours you should make sure you have the Pulpo Olivo, a beautifully braised octopus with one of my favourite and most delicate black olives bubbles, resting on quinoa. Last year I also had the crab allied with the one and only Peruvian 4000m huayro potatoes and purple corn reduction. Something utterly unforgettable which I am impatiently expecting back on the winter menu.

Braised octopus al olivo, organic white quinoa and botija olive bubbles

Braised octopus al olivo, organic white quinoa and botija olive bubbles

LIMA is the place for those who have fine-dining expectations. Its cuisine passes by far the golden benchmark that can be reached by such an exotic cuisine within the London confines. Executive chef Virgilio Martinez’s unorthodox approach to food let cutting-edge gastronomic creativity swirl fully, setting new boundaries in the kitchen while opening up a realistic European perception of Peruvian cuisine as first class.

 

 

Ametsa with Arzak Instruction – The Basque culinary revolution hits London

With all the connotations that the surname Arzak can have in the name of a restaurant, London’s Ametsa meets the highest expectations of the most sophisticated food connoisseurs. The imaginative combination of ingredients and sheer technique all come through the tasting menu, an exemplary interpretation of nueva cocina vasca, so brilliantly executed it snapped up its first Michelin star within just 6 months of opening. With the instructions of three Michelin stars Elena Arzak, Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef 2012, and her father Juan Mari, and the execution of Sergio Sanz Blanco, Ametsa has a strong potential to shine even more.

You can detect the inventive nature of the kitchen right from the appetisers: Kataifi with Scorpion Fishcake  on a skewer will simply amaze and you will remember the distinctive savoury intensity of the chorizo filling in the curl of banana chips for some time. The combinations inspire, both in the starter and the two mains.

The texture of the “spaghetti” on the king prawns with sweetcorn soup is intriguing in taste as much as it is visually. There is delicacy in a plate of grilled tuna with black squid “Mojo”  and sweet onions for everybody who, like me, loves raw fish and doesn’t mind the surprise of the rare cooking while expecting it to be grilled. The haute cuisine carries on with faultless cooked beef in a granadilla sauce and a mini brick of compressed potatoes layers accompanied with the popular roasted piquillo peppers, a sure-fire success as much as the first main. The desserts also burst with personality with a torrija de mango, French toast with mango coulis and pistacchio being an absolutely pleasing finale.

Sweetcorn soup and prawns

Sweetcorn soup and prawns

The dining room is über-cool. The high-gloss golden ceiling, created from 7,000 glass receptacles filled with spices, virgin white lacquered walls and an immense holed oak door as an entrance create a seriously handsome metropolitan chic ambience for this high-end restaurant in THE HALKIN BY COMO Hotel, in the diplomatic hub of Belgravia. The service is highly attentive, professional and Spanish friendly.

If you opt for the tasting menu or à la carte, expect a trendy menu with unconventional tasting notes and a variety of bold regional flavours. Tapas options are also offered, but not the typical unadventurous Spanish tapas, since innovative is the word at Ametsa. Stunning ingredients and fabulous modern ideas are at the forefront of this kitchen.The Arzak’s family confident take on the cuisine of their native Basque region has given a new essence and connotation to Spanish cuisine on the London gastronomic scene.

Grilled tuna with black squid “Mojo”

Grilled tuna with black squid “Mojo”

Beef with passion fruits coulis and potatoes

Beef with passion fruits coulis and potatoes

Banana crisps with chorizo filling

Banana crisps with chorizo filling

Torrija de mango

Torrija de mango

 
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