Friday, July 19, 2013

One O One Fish Restaurant - Fine dining or a Pub? Who knows?

We do like eating fish when in Europe. You get a wide variety of fish which is treated with the dignity it deserves both as far as preserving and storing it but also in cooking. Rarely will you get fish that has been boiled to death in an over spiced curry or fried within an inch of its life in a heavily spice batter.

So, it seemed that One O One Restaurant would be a good choice. The restaurant has a highly acclaimed Chef Pacsal Proyart on the stove, and, if you believe in awards, it has been voted Britain’s fifth best restaurant in 2012 by the venerable London Times.

The restaurant is located in the horribly ugly by any standards, Sheraton Park Tower, in the heart of Knightsbridge. We have had mixed experiences with restaurants located in hotels. Pierre Koffmann in the Berkeley is outstanding. Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester and Galvin Windows at the Intercontinental had good food but were disappointing experiences overall. Helene Daroze at the Connaught and Restaurant St. John at Hotel St. John were a disaster. In India, all restaurants in hotels are disasters, the sole exceptions being some of the ITC signature restaurants.

We arrived at 7.30 the time we had booked and were welcomed in. Blazing summer, no overcoats to be whisked away, we were offered a table and sat down. The restaurant looked lovely from the inside. It was well lit, modern decor, almost Art Deco like, and the chairs were very comfortable. You felt good. Champagne was offered and accepted. One single menu with four sub sections was given as well as a wine list. We stuck with the a la carte.  We were asked if we had any allergies to anything, to which our answer was no.   

While waiting we got an Amuse Bouche of Salmon in a Marie Rose Sauce and a Melba toast. A sort of Prawn Cocktail. Pleasant though unremarkable. Three types of bread were offered, a Focaccia, Brown and White along with an unsalted butter and butter flavoured with Seaweed. Nice touch, I thought and good butter too.

The Amuse Bouche

The Seaweed Butter in the top right. Unsalted butter bottom left

HRH the Queen of Kutch ordered Yellowfin Tuna Tartar with Crispy Soft Shelled Crab Tempura, Sushi Rice and Wasabi Sorbet, Wakame Salad. A knockout of a dish if you ask me. Absolutely brilliantly conceived and beautifully presented. Totally Japanese in ingredients but completely French in execution. Tuna Tartar is raw Tuna dressed with Onion, Lime and Herbs. A crisp soft shelled crab gave the crunch and the heat in the dish. A roll of Sushi Rice with a Pipette of Soy Sauce which was squeezed and topped with Wasabi Sorbet. Do you not eat Sushi by adding some Soy and a hint of Wasabi? To complete the Japanese concept you had cubes of Gari Jelly the Japanese pickled Ginger. Stunning dish.

Yellowfin Tuna Tartar with Crispy Soft Shelled Crab Tempura, Sushi Rice and Wasabi Sorbet, Wakame Salad. 

I ordered a more ordinary starter.Scallops with Quail Eggs, Summer Truffle Potato Mousseline and Jus Gras, Crispy Pork Belly. Well cooked Scallops and soft boiled Quail Eggs combined well with the crisp salty Pork Belly. The Potato Truffle Mousseline which was a very liquid foamy mashed potato flavoured with Truffles went very well. Again, a good dish but nowhere as stunning as HRH the Queen’s dish.

Scallops with Quail Eggs, Summer Truffle Potato Mousseline and Jus Gras, Crispy Pork Belly

For our main course we had decided to have a whole Seabass Baked in a Crust of Brittany Sea-Salt, Shellfish Champagne Butter Sauce, and Sea Lettuce Mash. This was a dish for 2 people.  A whole fish covered in sea salt was brought to the table. Our plates were kept on the side. On the plates was a Razor Clam shell filled with Clams and other Shellfish with the Champagne Butter Sauce. Running parallel to the Razor Clam was Mashed Potato. You had three spinach leaves with small Orange and Lemon segments.

The Hostess then started to remove the salt crust, remove the skin and fillet the fish tableside. Job was done skilfully. The fish fillets were placed on the leaves. The fish was totally perfectly cooked; it was steaming hot and very moist. Eating the fish as is was entirely possible. The Champagne Butter Sauce strictly was not needed but then the fish would have been just a steamed fish. I put some Champagne Butter Sauce on my fillets and ate. Beautiful, really really good food. The sauce was just so lovely, light and foamy that I mopped up the remaining sauce with a piece of bread. The Orange and Lemon segments combined with the fish was a touch of genius, and, so correct, citrus goes extremely well with fish. Here was an example of a quality ingredient, skilfully cooked and served. No fancy masala to hide dodgy fish, no deep frying, no bones. A whole fish baked in a salt crust. Work of skill. You have no idea if the fish is cooked. Master at work in the kitchen.

Deserts were essential after this. HRH the Queen of Kutch chose a Chocolate Soufflé with a Vanilla Crème Anglais and a ghastly Grapefruit Sorbet. The Soufflé was nice the Sorbet almost un-edible. I ordered a Lemon Tart with an Ile Flottante or Floating Island. You do not normally get these together but what the heck. Decent, though I have to say that HRH the Queen of Kutch makes a far better Lemon Tart, tangier, more lemony and altogether better.

So, all in all some great food. The Chef is really good. But there was a problem, a big problem. The restaurant is part of a Hotel. This means that any and every punter who is a guest in the hotel can expect to come to the restaurant, without a reservation, without any sort of dress code and without a care in the world. No rules apply to hotel guests eating in the restaurant. The results are quite a disaster. We had an Oriental family with daddy in shorts, keds [trainers as they are called in the UK] and no socks. There was a table with two Russian moms and two daughters. The daughters were 12 -15 years old if not older. They wanted to eat pizza and pasta in a fine dining fish restaurant! Incredibly, they were given a children’s menu with Pasta Bolognaise, Fish and Chips and other child food! These were my dining companions while HRH the Queen and I ate high end fish! Very upsetting, to say the least. As the number of children increased the demands on the service staff mounted. Here was a restaurant hostess who had skilfully carved and served us our Seabass in Brittany Salt Crust explaining to guests in the same restaurant that yes she could give them Spaghetti Bolognaise! I mean this was not a f**king pub, this was a really good restaurant with fine wines, finer food and a brilliant Chef and service staff being reduced to the level of a pub. The Oriental woman shook off her flip-flop crossed her legs and waved her bare foot around! In a 150 pound a person restaurant? To make matters worse, while the lovely serving staff were running around apologising for no pizza, etc, we had to sit with empty wine glasses for over 10 minutes while our wine sat in a wine cooler by the bar as there was no one to attend to us! Just not on folks. We complained. HRH the Queen has shot off an angry email to the Chef. As I write, no response.

In conclusion, great food, but atmosphere and fellow guests with the tastes and clothes befitting a Pub. Go at your own risk.       

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