Chips at Comptoir Gascon


These chips were disappointing.

What else can I say? Well, lots, actually.

At Comptoir Gascon they serve you spectacularly delicious wine. We had some excellent red wine, and it was glorious.

“At Comptoir Gascon they serve you spectacularly delicious raisins”


At Comptoir Gascon they serve you spectacularly delicious starters. I had a crackling soft duck egg in a bed of truffled polenta. It was absolutely delicious, with the warm, aromatic polenta delivering a mushroom, woodland, dreamy background to an oozingly soft duck egg, perfectly poached. Rachael has scallop, artichoke and oyster tartare – a dish as fresh and marine as anything you’d find at the seaside and which brought out – impressively – the individual flavours of the constituent molluscs and subtle vegetable.

Both were presented beautifully as well.comptoirpolenta

At Comptoir Gascon they serve you spectacularly delicious burgers. I had the ‘duck burger classic’ where Rachael opted for the deluxe version. The difference: 100g of foie gras. I thought it would tip the sandwich over the edge of the too-rich cliff, and I was right. But the whole concept – duck ground, grilled and stuck in a bun – is one I must admit to having been sceptical of, but I was proved wrong. Spectacularly delicious.


But at Comptoir Gascon their french fries, cooked in duck fat and liberally drenched in salt, were… disappointing. Limp and rather tasteless – beyond the salt – they would have let down an otherwise perfect meal, if the rest of the food hadn’t been so damn good that even with these fries you could only drop it a notch back down to ‘perfect’.

In a world of triple-cooked, molecularly-calibrated chips, these don’t cut the mustard. They’d even provided a huge bowlful (thankfully we were warned, so only ordered one portion) – so concentrating on quality over quantity would be a wise move.

That said…

At Comptoir Gascon they serve you spectacularly delicious raisins. Spectacularly, spectacularly delicious raisins. We had a portion of the ‘raisins dorés’ – soaked in sauterne wine and coated in dark chocolate. It is almost impossible to describe the feeling on biting into one of these. The raisins are almost candied, with a tingly, almost sherbet effect. Sweet but tangy and instantly moreish. I’d go back for these alone.

But the chips were disappointing.

Pulled pork, burger, chips, fried pickles at The Sir Garnet


The recently refurbished Sir Garnet pub on Norwich’s Market Square (formally the Sir Garnet Wollesley) is home of @thebaronofbeef, purveyor of locally-sourced culinary goodness, in the form of the best burgers in Norwich, thin chips, deep fried pickles and daily specials.


I was just about to go for the umami burger (a new addition to the menu), in fact going as far as to order one, then deciding the time for the fifth taste could wait, since pulled pork graced the specials board and it’s a favourite of mine. This fabled burger features miso infused into the meat and kim chi garnish. Next time!

I made the right choice. The fluffy, eggy homemade bun was filled with meltingly tender smoked pork bathed in Carolina-style sweetly sour (or sourly sweet) barbecue sauce, along with the Baron’s classic slaw. Delicious!


The thin chips were, as ever, superb, crispy, moreish and (bar the coming heart attack) the perfect accompaniment. The table next to us nearly abandoned their dinner reservation elsewhere on seeing these chips – they’re that good. They eventually settled on the pork scratchings (yes, homemade), and a promise to return.


I’ve ordered the deep fried pickles twice before. The first time was on the Garnet’s opening night, when “they’re not on the menu yet”. The second, they were off the menu. So these have been a long time coming.

For those who’ve not yet had the delight, the concept is the battering and then deep-frying of still-crunchy pickles. The Baron of Beef pairs his with blue cheese dip. Perhaps the whole concept sounds wrong to you? But they are delicious – crisp, comforting, acid, smooth, mmm…

I’ll confess, when chef asked how these were, he also said he’d been working on them for weeks now. They were an awesome take on the dish, with almost fritter batter. I think they could be even better with a thinner, crisper tempura-style batter, but that would make a very different side.

Okay, this food isn’t perfectly balanced nor five-a-day, but, then, we all go out for dirty American food every so often. You might as well make it to-die-for delicious food every once in a while when you do!

Lobster Roll at Burger and Lobster


Wow! Perfection! I genuinely cannot fault this dish. In fact, if anything, the complaint to be made against this restaurant is that it should ditch the flawed ‘Burger and Lobster’ craziness, rename to ‘Lobster Roll’ and be done with it! Oh, and move to a food van, because, frankly, this is blissfully simple, naughty fare, and could easily be sold out of a hatch at a festival.

Where to begin? Well, obviously lobster is delicious, we all know that. But it’s not without its issues.

Firstly, lobster is fiddly. I’m one of those people who fears having a meal of diminishing returns, where you have a delicious mouthful, but find yourself scraping around in claws and tendrils with less and less joy rewarding you. This meal solves this by doing all the hard work for you, and providing all the meat with none of the implements. And there wasn’t a mislaid shard of shell in sight.

“The result was crispy, but melting, delicate but flavoursome, subtle but with real wow-factor. It’s possible this is the perfect sandwich”

Secondly, lobster is just too damned delicately flavoured. Pair it with anything with more taste than soggy cardboard and it can be overpowered. But here they match it with a sourly-sweet toaster brioche roll, fluffy Japanese mayonnaise, and, well, nothing else. It’s paired with chips (or rather, fries), and a small Caesar salad, but let’s be honest, neither of these are what the queues are lining up for.

Thirdly, lobster is expensive. Okay, so I’m more of a seven-to-fourteen-pounds-per-main kinda guy. Well, actually, more seven-to-ten-pounds, but who’s counting? So I could easily have blushed at the £20 price tag attached to this (and the burger, and the simply-steamed lobster), in a way that the clientèle who I shan’t say anything about because, er, I was one of them yesterday, presumably wouldn’t. But along with the fries and salad this was a generous meal, and one that filled me up – so in fact I’d say it was pretty good value, and way above, say, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, where you’d pay the same for a similar amount of food.

The result was crispy, but melting, delicate but flavoursome, subtle but with real wow-factor. I pity the fools who’d asked for the burger (though I love a burger) or the lobster (though I love straight-up lobster), but will have to go back with others to order those so I can have a taste. It’s possible this is the perfect sandwich.

Cocktails, at £9.50 were strong and delicious, but £9.50. Service at the table was super-smiley, but sadly a little frosty before we were seated.

The only (small) criticism I’d level was that the desserts were a real let-down – disappointingly served in cardboard pots from the fridge. Chocolate brownie mousse was passable chocolate mousse on top of passable chocolate brownie served too cold to really taste, and I doubt it would have been especially thrilling even if it had been at a more appropriate olfactory temperature. Desserts, rightly, aren’t where the fireworks are supposed to be in the restaurant, and it would probably be a shame if they stole the thunder. In fact, I reckon they should just not bother with puds at all.

I’ll definitely be back. Potentially often.

10/100 of the best dishes in London.

Fish and chips at Poppies


They certainly have the decor in Poppies. Presumably, when this place opened its location, just off Commercial Road, placed it firmly in the heart of run-down East London. It has kept its heritage, with photos and Cockney Rhyming Slang expressions around the all (perhaps trying a bit hard).

“I was surprised it had been selected”

The fish and chips – good sized portions; I was surprised given complaints online – was fresh, a little expensive, and probably along the best I’ve eaten in London. Share the mushy peas between two! Among, however, is right, I reckon, and to be honest I was surprised it had been selected as one of London’s best dishes. The decor and staff might make it one of the best meals / locations for a quick bite out, but the dish was not anything amazingly special. The Sea Shell in Lisson Grove, or even Fish Club would give the food a run for its money.

60/100 best dishes in London.