Sunday, July 28, 2013

And The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon In The Park Launch

My first day off in the summer holidays and what better way to spend it than by eating cake and relaxing in the sunshine? Fortunately Bailey and I were very lucky to have been invited to the launch event of And The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon's brand spanking new pop-up café, and therefore were able to do just that.

That's right, our old favourite West Didsbury bakers have 'popped up' in the Pavillion at Didsbury Park and will be with us all summer. It really is a great little venue and the adjoining garden is great little sun spot; we really think the people of Didsbury are going to go mad for the place!

Feeling rather heroic after walking there all the way from Levenshulme (not actually that far, whatever), we had definitely earned a nice slice of cake. However I was really excited to see that the team have added some savoury treats to their repertoire for the pop-up, making a trip to And The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon In The Park a really decent lunch option as well. 

Feta and Pomegranate Salad made with quinoa was fresh and delicious, bursting with vibrant sweet and savoury flavours. Mushroom and Gruyere Tart was awesome too - I loved the crispy pastry and tasty filling.

Finally it was cake time (unlike silly Bailey who'd already had savoury and sweet on one plate, pfft) and I couldn't resist snapping up one of the Dish's famous brownies - Gooey Double Chocolate on this occasion. Gorgeous!

I also indulged in a wholesome little scone and a wonderfully moist Rose and Pistachio Bar which I later found out was gluten free. Great food all round and all made in-house from fresh ingredients.

The launch event was intended to showcase not only some of the tasty food that will be on offer at And the Dish Ran Away With the Spoon In the Park but also some of the events they'll be hosting. I was really excited to take part in a vintage fascinator-making workshop by Silver Sixpence In Her Shoe and saw a lot of mums enjoying the Baby Signing. Speaking to owner James it seems they will be looking at putting on a range of events to suit all age ranges.

So we discovered that not only is And The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon In The Park a great little place with good food and a lovely atmosphere, we also discovered that a share of the profits from the café will be donated to Didsbury Good Neighbours who do allsorts of good things in the local community - you really can enjoy that brownie with a clear conscience! So what are you waiting for? Get yourself down to Didsbury Park and check out this pop-up before it pops down!

And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 27, 2013

New Himalayas Restaurant

Living in Rusholme for three years and having the Curry Mile a stone's throw away, we were really spoilt for places to eat out (in case you're wondering, our favourite is Mughli). In fact, truthfully, I am bitterly regretful that we didn't take more advantage of it when we lived there, and now have to live vicariously through Manchester Foodies (who do make the most of where they live and have loads of great tips for you over on their blog). We will always love the Curry Mile but since moving to Levy we've been on the lookout for our new local favourites.

We've fallen head over heels for Sindhoor but that's actually in Burnaaage and not really in walking distance. Another obvious choice is Nawaab - officially the most imposing building on the A6, but we haven't visited as yet - I'm too scared of the entrance hall, it looks like the Overlook Hotel. I do really want to go though, as soon as we do you will be the first to know.

Where we've really struck gold though is New Himalayas Restaurant, bang opposite Nawaab but refusing to cower in its shadow. This place is an absolute treat. Our first visit there was one of the most fun times I've ever had in a restaurant and that was down not only to the food but to an amazing waiter who is simultaneously one of the most interesting and one of the most crackers people I have ever met (his topics of conversation included what he would do in the event of a meteor shower and which is the best country to buy a pair of Pepsi shoes...). He is brilliant. The rest of the staff are really nice too.

Goooooood poppadoms
The menu is also ace. It is impossible to choose anything because all of the descriptions are written in such an enthusiastic way that you feel as if you simply could not resist ordering them.

This particular occasion was our second visit and we had my parents with us. We were rather excited to order some tasty starters especially as we knew that, judging by how much we'd enjoyed them on our previous visit, Roy Morris was going to absolutely bloody love them. First up were the Vegetable Momo - a curious starter of spicy, chewy little Nepalese dumplings in a rich sauce. These remind Bailey and me of a cross between a potsticker and a samosa.

We also snapped up a portion of Mixed Vegetable Pakora, described by the menu as "The Real McCoy", these were crisp, light and tasty.

We followed the advice of the menu and 'smothered' our Pakora in the sauces provided; these were an absolute revelation. Roy loved the green chilli one and couldn't get enough.

I usually try to avoid always having the same thing every time I go to a restaurant but there was no way I could resist revisiting the delights of the Vegetable Thali, especially as it comes with rice and roti -such good value. All three curries I got were lovely, my favourite was the spinach and paneer. A little different from last time was the yoghurt sauce I got which had some rather nice little gelatinous balls in it - maybe tapioca? Very unusual.

Hayfever-ridden Bailey was forced by his ailment to choose something he wouldn't normally - the Chooza Makhani, a mild and creamy chicken tikkia curry with tender meat and a sauce that was neither too creamy nor too rich. 

His Cheese and Garlic Naan was hot to the touch, crispy and packed a mean punch of garlic which meant it was the perfect partner to the simple Chooza Makhani.

We left New Himalayas with full bellies and big smiles; food-wise this second visit was actually EVEN BETTER than the first. As our favourite waiter wasn't in, the service lacked the magic of last time but was still very efficient and friendly. We are so happy with our brand new local and will be sure to make the most of it this time. Being the kind souls that we are, we don't mind you coming and using our local too though, as long as you don't steal our waiter off us. 

This is how they decorate your plate! SO charming!!

New Himalayas on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 26, 2013

Le Temps des Cerises

It was the Sunday of our family weekend in Paris and we were after a delightful lunch spot on the Île Saint-Louis. We really had no idea. Normally when Bailey and I find ourselves in this situation on holiday we follow our noses to whatever looks like the most popular, least touristy local eatery, however it didn't seem fair to do this while carting the family around who, unlike us, don't spend their entire lives thinking about where their next meal is coming from. I tried my usual first port of call Twitter, but to no avail. Our guidebook wasn't much help either. Finally I did something I don't normally do and took to Trip Advisor, an activity of which I am usually very untrusting indeed.

Well this time Trip Advisor played a bloody blinder as the little gem we discovered, Le Temps des Cerises, was an incredibly cute, family run, honest little bistro. It is a little off the beaten track; it isn't actually on the Île Saint-Louis and not as picturesque a location by any stretch of the imagination but at least this meant the place wasn't packed full of tourists.

I decided to treat myself to a nice glass of house red as a Sunday in Paris treat and was very pleasantly surprised by the wine I was presented with. A good start. The waitress then came to take our food order and was extremely lovely and very patient when faced with a number of confused people speaking to her about the menu in three different languages.

Once we'd all deciphered/translated the menu, we were able to establish that Le Temps des Cerises had on offer a great variety of traditional French dishes with some great sounding modern twists. I chose the Mille-Feuille de Thon - an intriguing sounding tuna version of the French pastry classic.

This was a beautiful plate of food - huge slices of luscious pink tuna served in between crunchy deep fried 'feuilles'. A smattering of sesame seeds, some sprouts and an amazing salty savoury sauce and I'm thinking this is surely one of the best Sunday lunches I've ever had the pleasure of shovelling down my neck.

My fellow diners were also very pleased with their food. My dad didn't stop raving about his Papillote de Sandre (pike-perch?!) au Citron Thai, Auntie Ruth stated the duck was the best she'd ever had and my mum was so impressed with her Risotto de St Jacques Lardées.

A mum pleaser
Bailey ordered L'Entrecôte Paname which he described as "brilliant". The steak was such a good quality piece of meat they'd have gotten away with doing nothing to it, however it was served with a delicious shallot sauce and perfect chips.

This charming little eatery was a cracking find and we really enjoyed our experience right down to the bowls of cherries they had out on the bar to match their name (no seriously this was actually really exciting for my auntie who isn't used to seeing fresh cherries in Colombia, only the cocktail or glacé type ones). Although not wanting to take anything away from our also very good meal the day before, we were all in agreement that this was our favourite restaurant of the weekend. Le Temps de Cerises gets my much coveted (*ahem*) seal of approval; in fact, the only downside about it is that I'm having to eat my words about Trip Advisor being a load of shite. Tant pis!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Spanish Inspired Breakfast

They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach and while I'm not one to bandy sexist, old fashioned theories about, this one is actually very true of Bailey. Then again, Bailey has wooed me with many a dish himself so it clearly works with both genders. The other Sunday, Bailey most definitely deserved a treat as he had redefined the word "good'un" by spending his week looking after me while the inspectors were in at school, working hard to spruce up the garden for the nice weather and making me a variety of smoked barbecue foodstuffs.

I'd been planning to cook him a "Spanish inspired" breakfast for some time after hearing him say that no breakfast could be made worse by adding chorizo. Having said that, I've always found breakfast in Spain to be fairly simple - the heartiest thing you're going to get your hands on is a tortilla sandwich. Although Spaniards may not take breakfast too seriously, me and Bailey certainly do and there are so many Spanish ingredients we love that could be put together to make a great brekkie.

Apart from the initial idea, I can't say my Spanish Inspired breakfast was particularly original. The baked eggs you will notice are rather Ottolenghi-esque and the stuffed bread is an old favourite from my friend Iain.

I also had some brand new Pimentón de la Vera hot smoked paprika that my fabulous friend Nat bought me from Épicerie Ludo and I was just dying to open, but seeing as we already had some inferior brands of smoked paprika already open in the pantry, I couldn't justify opening this bad boy for any old reason. Posh breakfast for Bailey however = the perfect excuse. It's amazing stuff by the way. Get yourself down Beech Road and pick up a pot.

I was really pleased with how the breakfast turned out and Bailey said he really enjoyed having such a hearty meal to set him up for a day of wood fired oven building. Maybe we should change the old phrase to "the way to a person's heart is through chorizo..."

One half portion of Iain's Stuffed Bread, stuffed with 30g Queso Ibérico and 2 slices Jamón Serrano and topped with rock salt and black pepper

For the Paprika Baked Eggs
2 smoked garlic cloves
1 bunch spring onions
1 sweet pointed red pepper
2 bay leaves
A pinch of saffron
2 tsp hot smoked paprika + 2 pinches
1 tsp stevia sweetener
5 tomatoes
The juice of a lime
4 eggs
30g Queso Ibérico

For the Fried Chorizo
2 tsp olive oil
170g chorizo

For the Garlic Mushrooms
2 cloves smoked garlic
200g mushrooms
1 tbsp parsley
4 thyme sprigs
5 sage leaves
The juice of a lime
A pinch of chilli flakes

Start by preparing the half portion of bread as per the instructions in the blog post. Put to one side to rest.

Meanwhile, roughly chop the garlic and spring onions and fry in a pan. De-seed and chop the peppers and add to the pan along with the spring onions and garlic. Add the bay leaves, saffron, paprika and sweetener and fry for about two minutes.

Add the bread to the oven at this point on the top shelf. Bake for around 20-25 minutes.

Chop the tomatoes and add to the pan with the rest of the ingredients. Squeeze the lemon juice in. Allow to cook over a very low heat for around 10 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft and the whole thing is nice and saucy. Take two large tapas dishes or large ramekins. Divide the paprika sauce between the two dishes.

Using a teaspoon, make a little hole in the sauce on one side of the dish and crack one of the eggs into the space. Do the same on the other side of the dish. Repeat until both dishes contain two eggs. Place the dishes in the oven beneath the bread. The eggs will need about 10 minutes before having the cheese put on top. Take the bread out of the oven after it's been in 20 minutes.

Now prepare the chorizo. Peel the skin off and chop into bitesize chunks. Heat the oil in the pan and fry the chorizo until lovely and crispy.

Meanwhile, prepare the mushrooms. Finely chop the garlic and fry off over a low heat for a few moments in a saucepan before adding the mushrooms.

Chop the herbs and add to the pan with the mushrooms and squeeze in the lemon juice. Cook until soft.

Take the Baked Eggs out of the oven and grate the cheese onto the top of them. Finish off with a pinch of paprika and place back in the oven until the cheese is melted.

Arrange everything on the plate. If you like, spoon a little bit of the chorizo oil out of the pan onto the baked eggs!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Should bloggers write bad reviews?

Bloggers and chefs/restaurant owners can sometimes have a dicey relationship.  Most of the time we enjoy a harmonious partnership, chefs go about their business cooking up great food and bloggers exercise their passion for writing by blogging about quality eating experiences before sharing their recommendations with their readers.  Not only that but Twitter gives both parties a chance to converse which is a pleasure for all, bloggers get to talk to their esteemed food heroes while restaurateurs get some clear feedback on what works in their establishments.  The world is a wonderful place.  That world though is occasionally rocked when a blogger has less than kind words to publish about the cherished work of the chef.  At this point a familiar story can play out, blogger posts review, chef/owner is outraged and attacks blogger, other bloggers wade in to protect their comrade adding additional criticism to the chef/owner's restaurant as well as their conduct on Twitter, chef/owner states all bloggers are arseholes and have no clue what they are talking about, more bloggers get involved and tempers flare, fellow chefs wade in confirming that all bloggers are arseholes, chefs and bloggers issue short sharp arguments in less than 144 characters that barely make sense before every one gives up and goes to bed.  As an ageing nerd I can confirm that this kind of unpleasant situation is called a flame war.  In these instances I always try and stay away from emotive language and just ask questions to try and get to the root of the unhappiness, sadly this never gets past a few well seasoned arguments about why bloggers shouldn't write bad reviews.  As I've never got the detail from the horse's mouth I thought it might be good to write a post on the subject and give my thoughts (for what they are worth!) on the matter as a starting point for discussion.  I would love it if people could comment on this post at the bottom of the page with some full, clear responses to the points raised both for and against hopefully without anybody dropping the c-bomb.  I will understand if owners/chefs would prefer to remain anonymous and I would prefer anonymous feedback rather than no feedback.  With that said let's have a look at those arguments against...

Bloggers are not experienced/knowledgeable enough to give public opinions
Let's take us first.  When it comes to food we are learning every day, we are still seeking out new experiences in all areas of food.  We don't have an encyclopaedic knowledge of spices, we're not particularly clever when it comes to exotic produce and I can tell you we are still, despite all our best efforts, complete ignoramuses when it comes to wine and I think we have always been very honest about this.  That said we've both worked in the industry at all levels in different positions in varying establishments plus we certainly cook and eat out more than anyone I know with the exception of other bloggers.  So what gives us the right to hold an opinion on a restaurant?  In my opinion it comes down to the fact that we are customers and that gives us an undeniable right to criticise the food we eat. If an owner/chef doesn't think we are qualified then neither are the guests that come in every day as we will know as much or more than 99% of their clientèle.  This argument, and my defence, both hinge on the idea that you should be an expert to express an opinion on food.  I find this notion quite uncomfortable as I'm completely against elitism in any facet of my life.  The general opinion from unhappy chefs in this position are that the only people that should be allowed to criticise are those people who have owned a restaurant or worked as a chef.  I'm afraid I just can't accept that, telling people that have eaten in your restaurant that they don't know enough to give you feedback is a terrible example of food snobbery.  A clever person actually managed to get this argument summarised in a single tweet - "I've never owned a car manufacturer but I know there's a problem when the wheels fall off".

Now there is a further question that is not quite as clear cut and that is what gives us the right to publish those opinions?  Free speech is an easy get out, yeah sure everybody should be able to say whatever they want on the internet about whatever subject comes to mind.  Within reason I would stand by that and that alone justifies our online ramblings but there is a plumper, fleshier reason than that.  We should be able to publish our opinions because customers and potential customers want to hear our opinions, I believe that some people value our opinion for that very reason that some chefs say we shouldn't be allowed to blog: we aren't experts, we don't know everything, we are on the same level as the reader which makes our writings accessible for many, more so than the articles of some incredibly talented food writers.  If people want to hear our opinions we should publish them, what right have chefs/owners to stop that communication between foodies?  As a blog reader I would also say that I don't value blogs that don't write critical reviews, it devalues everything else they write and as a result I don't follow them.  I would go as far as to say that bloggers have a responsibility to publish a negative review if they have a negative experience.  At the same time in the chefs' defence I understand it must be incredibly frustrating when a blogger doesn't "get" something, misses the point of a dish and criticises it as 'wrong' when undeniably the chef knows the best way to prepare that plate of food.  I do feel a little weird criticising the food of Simon Rogan or Ferran Adria because I'm pretty sure they know what they are doing.

Bloggers damage restaurants/livelihoods with their negative reviews

Negative blogger reviews are commonly referred to as 'harmful', it is frequently said that negative reviews can ruin a business overnight and therefore destroy the livelihood of all those employed at the restaurant.  I'm willing to be proven wrong on this but I'm not aware of any restaurants been closed due to one bad review.  I've really tried to find out as well, expending a significant portion of my Sunday leisure time rooting through restaurant reviews and news, but I'm yet to find a clear cut case.  Negative reviews will have varying effects depending on who wrote them, how established the restaurant is and what the current mood around the restaurant is.  Let's look at a couple of examples and my (non-expert) estimations of the impact...
  • A restaurant run by a well respected and established chef has been open for 6 months, receiving universal praise from bloggers and food critics.  It receives a negative review - Sod all effect, no one cares about one review in a sea of positivity especially when the chef already has a great reputation.  This would in no way stop me visiting a restaurant and I don't know anyone who would be deterred.
  • A new restaurant has been open one week, there have been no reviews or feedback and the owner/chef has no history in the area.  It receives a negative review - This will probably knock a few potential guests and could knock a bit of wind out of the sails of the launch.  As long as it is followed by positive reviews there will be no significant impact on the restaurant.
  • A restaurant that has been well established for many years has been on a slide of public perception over the last year, negative comments from guests are easily found on Twitter, there have been a string of poor reviews from bloggers all reinforcing the same issues and nothing is being done to correct them.  It receives a negative review from a well established blogger with a decent local readership - This could be the final nail in the coffin for a restaurant causing a significant loss of guests, unless something drastic is done to counter this review and the prevailing negative mood caused by poor food and bad service the restaurant will not last forever.
In summary I believe that a good restaurant will be unaffected by a single blogger's review.  Restaurants that are not performing on the other hand will have issues that are compounded by bad blogger reviews.  I don't believe that is the fault of the blogger, like I said before in these circumstances I feel it is a blogger's duty to point these establishments out.  These days money is tight and I have felt that pain of spending money in a restaurant only to realise that it was a waste of cash because the owner, the chef and the staff couldn't give a toss about providing good service or food.  I wish somebody had told me so I could have spent my wages in a good restaurant where people were passionate about delivering a great experience.

Let's also not forget that bloggers really don't have a huge audience, even the biggest bloggers will only have readers in the thousands unlike critics who will have readers in the hundreds of thousands.  The maximum impact of a blogger is severely limited by this.  I do believe that in London town the previously mentioned talented food writers probably do have the power to make a dent in somebody's business but not bloggers, we're talking about comparing giants with ants.

When I asked for examples of businesses damaged by reviews on Twitter I actually got a couple of examples where a bad review had turned a restaurant around.  The owners sat down and addressed the issues that had been pointed out, worked hard to reverse popular opinion and are now sitting pretty as well regarded restaurants.  One in particular is easily one of my favourite restaurants in Manchester, so hey it's not all bad news.

There is one slightly different scenario that we should consider...
  • An established restaurant receives a negative review, the 'flame war' I described in the first paragraph plays out, all the bloggers who witness the comments from the chef/owner swear that they won't visit the restaurant and retweet any nasty comments they can get their hands on, all their followers have a negative view of the restaurant and it is less likely that the negative review will be followed quickly by a positive review as less bloggers will be paying a visit - Out of all the examples this is the worst outcome as the heat caused by the spat increases the readership and attention of the original review disseminating the negative message much further than it should have been, as a secondary impact word of mouth is overwhelmingly negative amongst those people who witnessed the fallout.  This still won't have a huge impact but will reduce the number of visitors over a short period of time.  This restaurant is not going out of business as we are still talking about a limited number of people involved.
When it comes to negative reviews from bloggers some chefs are their own worst enemies but I must say the majority of chefs/owners will take comments on board graciously or at worst not respond and I do understand that in some cases they have put their entire life (financially and otherwise) in to the establishment which is being criticised therefore it is understandable that they feel their security is being threatened.

Bloggers only write negative reviews to boost their own egos/they are jealous of chefs

Again I'll tell you about us as a starting point.  The reason we blog is for our own amusement, we treat our blog as our personal diary and probably read it more than anybody else.  At the same time it's a challenge, we are trying to become better writers and I'm not sure what we would do without this creative element in our life.  One final unexpected benefit that we love is that through writing about food in Manchester we have met so many people that share our passion.  For us ego has never really come in to it, we don't have millions of readers and we never write anything with the intention of increasing that readership, the only selfish reason we publish our posts is so that we can discuss them with other people, be they food consumers or food producers.  Essentially I've got nothing to gain from a negative review.

I can't speak for other bloggers but I believe those that we have spoken with share a similar motivation to us.  Negative reviews are a common discussion topic when bloggers get together but I am yet to meet a blogger who enjoys writing negative reviews, it's actually pretty torturous especially when you know a restaurant is trying but failing.  I don't know a blogger that I would describe as negatively biased, I have read blogs that I find positively biased but they are not for me.

Sincere apologies to critics but I would doubt the motivations of critics more than bloggers and that's because their motivation is very different.  Critics have deadlines, they have word counts, they have regular submissions and most importantly they have to write entertaining pieces every bloody time.  Logically this means they are going to edge towards a polarised opinion rather than a middle of the road judgement.  Nobody wants to read a 'meh' review from a great writer, popular critics are much more inclined to either love or hate a restaurant with a strong message attached to it.  We have no such pressures.

If bloggers have an issue with a meal they should give details of this to the restaurant before they leave to allow them to make amends

I think it's a pretty well accepted fact that most people don't complain in restaurants, instead they walk out of the door unhappy, never return and tell their friends all about it.  I'm one of those people, I've probably only ever complained in a restaurant a handful of times when I experienced the most extreme examples of bad service or crappy food.  I'll tell you why I don't complain, it's because it's not a pleasurable experience.  The best case scenario is that you are going to have a difficult conversation with a restaurant manager who will be  apologetic and might give you some money off your bill, not a good experience.  The worst case scenario is that you are going to have a difficult conversation with a waiter who doesn't want to fetch a manager, followed by a difficult conversation with a manager who doesn't give a shit and the quality of service and food will actually go down, a horrible, night ruining experience.

It isn't quite as simple when you are blogging a meal though.  In regards to poor service, it's absolutely unacceptable and if a member of floor staff is consistently bad I'm going to put that in my review without complaining to a manager.  The general manager is responsible for employing that person and the floor manager is responsible for managing that person, that's three people in a row that don't care about service or made a mistake.  At that point it isn't my job to provide feedback.  Of course I do draw attention to late food/drinks/bill and my unhappiness over poor service is written all over my face which should be picked up by any good waiter or waitress.  In regards to poor food if there is a an obvious mishap like I get the wrong item I will of course send that back but if it's visibly poor food then again it's been cooked by a chef, sent by another chef and brought to the table by the waitress.  This has passed by at least three people who didn't care whether or not I enjoy my food.  Not my job to fix that.  Why should I go to the trouble of giving you feedback on the day and making my experience even worse?  At the end of the day I am still a customer who has paid to enjoy their meal and will not be financially benefited from writing a review, unlike a critic who I do think has more of a responsibility in this area.

So I'm only replicating what people do every day but of course instead of telling my friends I go on the internet and tell anyone who will read about it.  I do understand the frustration this might cause chefs and owners but like I said it's not my job, sorry.  That said on the flip side chefs get more feedback now than they ever have done as it's not only me who is more comfortable sharing their thoughts after the event.  Everybody does it, as soon as they are out of reach of the perceived wrath of the restaurant floor staff they are straight on Twitter tweeting "disappointing meal @restaurant", instant feedback from someone who previously would have disappeared never to return and if handled properly can not only win that customer back but stop that negative feeling from going any further.  Absolutely the same with blog posts, the restaurant gets its right to reply even if it is a little bit later than they would prefer.  Again if handled properly they can win new customers instead of lose them.

So that's it for me.  I think I've said enough regarding what I think about some chef's arguments.  As you can see I'm pretty overwhelmingly in favour of bloggers posting negative reviews but it does come with quite a big caveat.  Those reviews should be written in a responsible manner, now this is entirely subjective (and I am not talking about any particular reviews!) but for me this is what makes a responsible review...
  • It's all true - it may sound silly but if any part of the review is made up or exaggerated then it isn't responsible, I don't think I've ever heard of this happening but its still worth pointing out.
  • Criticism should be constructive where possible - A review shouldn't just be 50 different words for shit, there should be some justification as to the criticism.
  • Serious complaints shouldn't be trivialised - This is one I'm probably guilty of and is a symptom of not liking to write negative reviews.  We are talking about somebody's work that they might be very proud of, jokes are sometimes not the best way to deliver measured criticism.
  • A blogger should be prepared to expand on their comments - It should be a dialogue and if a chef/owner has some specific questions about the experience the blogger had then they should be answered.
So are all bloggers perfect?  Nope, sometimes we make mistakes but I think generally we're a good bunch who love food.  Are all chefs aggressive monsters?  Nope, I don't believe any of them are monsters, they are very passionate people but I have to say anybody who bullies or threatens a blogger and directs abusive language towards an individual for posting a review is never ever going to see me in their restaurant.  There are ways to deal with people and that isn't it no matter how passionate you are.

As I said at the beginning I'd love to hear other peoples' opinions on this, I realise that I'm not speaking for all bloggers here and at the same time I'm open to changing my opinion so please put your comments below and lets see if we can't spread a little bit of empathy and understanding.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Le Bouillon Chartier

Bailey and I recently had a gorgeous weekend break in Paris. Although we do like to think we are pretty fancy, we don't often fly off for weekends in Paris... this was a very special occasion as we were meeting up with my aunt Mary and great aunt Ruth from Colombia as part of their whistle-stop tour of Europe. Mary had never been to France before, let alone 'the city of light', so when it came to eating I wanted to take them somewhere really French where they could see all the stereotypes in action.

Fortunately my friend Heather had just the recommendation for me, Le Bouillon Chartier - a restaurant so stereotypically French you could have put a beret on its head and sent it out shopping for a baguette to carry under its arm. In all seriousness it was a truly beautiful restaurant with the most magnificent interior that hadn't changed a jot since it first opened in 1890.

The menu was exactly what I had hoped as well - proper traditional French nosh, no messing. Think celeriac remoulade, foie gras and beef tartare. 

No stereotypical French restaurant would be complete without the curt service and we had this too, in the form of our efficient but somewhat abrupt waitress. She was not afraid to show us how impatient she was getting with our failure to give the entire table's order in under 4 seconds and my dad's polite questions in French. Not ideal but another interesting talking point regarding the French restaurant experience.

I started the meal with a lovely bottle of cider and a Celeri Remoulade. I absolutely love this simple yet delicious dish and always try to get my hands on some when I'm in France. When I was on my year abroad in France and didn't have a kitchen, I used to live off the Auchan own brand version of this stuff, which was good but this one was better.

Bailey went for the Salade Frisée aux Lardons. This was one of the best salads Bailey has ever eaten, although to call it a salad was generous - it was mostly meat and croutons.

Like the silly English that we are we also ordered a portion of Escargots. I eat snails on an annual basis to set a good example to the kids on the school trip (yet another way in which I am the worst vegetarian in the world), and always quite enjoy the wee beasties. However these were in a different league - super garlicky and not at all chewy.

Roy Morris eats a snail. Lol.
Main courses arrived very promptly and I was on the Truite aux Amandes. When I first saw it I wasn't too sure about the pool of oil my trout was swimming around in, however the taste was beautiful. The fish was soft and perfectly cooked and I really liked the crunchy almonds. A lovely, simple dish that I'd love to recreate at home.

 Bailey went for the Bœuf Bourguignon which he said was deliciously rich but distinctly lacking in veggies.

We were all too full for puds but I had a good nosy at some other diners' which looked ace and I have no doubt they'd have been brilliant in a very traditional French sort of way. Food overall was excellent.

Having paid the bill, we still had a bit of cider to finish off. However we soon realised that we were not going to be able to hang around having a leisurely post-meal rest as Bailey spotted the manager telling our scary waitress to chuck us the hell out of there; we of course fled from the restaurant faster than you can say "Bonne journée". 

As we scuttled out of the restaurant, it was easy to see why they wanted shot of us - in the hour and a half we'd been inside, a huge queue of hungry punters had formed outside. A popular spot indeed - get there early!!

I was so pleased with our visit to Le Bouillon Chartier, despite the service issues it really was a brilliant experience. Despite the 'Frenchness' of it all, it didn't feel touristy and was actually full of French folk. I'm really grateful to Heather for the recommendation and I in turn would recommend it to anyone going to Paris and looking for an authentic eatery. 


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