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Andy Hayler

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About Andy Hayler

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  1. Have a good time in London, my home town. The restaurant scene in London is probably best in its diversity, with a wide variety of ethnic cuisines. You have limited time but a few ideas follow. Best fine dining experience: Ledbury or Hedone or The Ritz (but jacket and tie for that one) or Gordon Ramsay. Best Italian: Beck at Browns. Best Indian: Indian Accent. Best Chinese: Hakkasan for "posh" Chinese, Royal China Queensway for a more down to earth experience. Best pizza (at least near your hotel) is 50 Kalo di Ciro Salva. Best Spanish: Cambio de Tercio. Best pub food: Harwood Arms, which specializes in game, some of it shot personally by the owner. Enjoy your trip. Details of all these places with reviews and photos are on www.andyhayler.com --- Harwood Arms (zgast)
  2. Cheers. To be honest I am not really qualified to answer this. I have a WSET advanced qualification in wine so am comfortable to talk about wine lists and wine pairing, but I don't know a great deal about cocktails I'm afraid. The other beverage that is interesting to pair with food is Japanese sake, which I am still learning about. I'll leave the cocktails to others that are more knowledgeable about them. Thanks Don. It has been very kind of you to invite me to participate in this forum and I would especially like to thank all the forum members that contributed so many interesting questions and responses to my answers. It has been a real pleasure and I would like to wish you all very happy dining in the future.
  3. That one is in the 2019 guide (the 2019 season of guides has just started), and I will going there in the spring. I have only been a couple of times to Washington D.C., and last time I came I couldn't get in to minibar, so to be honest I am not sure. I did enjoy my time in DC, in particular at Komi. I will certainly do my best to try minibar and Pineapple and Pearls on my next trip. One thing about Michelin producing new guides is that it does encourage me to travel!
  4. I have been travelling to the USA since the 1980s, and stopped counting my visits a long time ago when I passed 100 trips there. It is difficult to make sweeping generalisations as there will always be some exception or another to generic statements. However I was discussing this very subject with an American gourmet friend a while back and he observed that in general even the high-end US restaurants tend not to do desserts quite as well as top restaurants in France. To be fair the same statement could be made about just about any country, since a French pastry section in a top class restaurant like Pic in Valence is pretty much unmatched anywhere. Related to that he observed that he was often disappointed in bread in high-end US restaurants compared to France, though I have noticed that less than he had. Technically there are clearly fine chefs to be found anywhere, as can be seen with the inventiveness shown for example Alinea in Chicago. Beyond the pastry section issue I think it is tricky to generalise. In terms of Michelin, if we compare across countries then I think that although they supposedly have the same standards everywhere, in reality, the guides seem different in different countries, as I mentioned elsewhere in this forum. My observation with the US guides is that they tend to be on the generous side when dishing out stars compared to some other countries (Germany for example seems generally to be marked quite hard by Michelin, by way of contrast). Incidentally, I find the UK to be quite kindly marked too. It is easy to become patriotic about stars, and I have noticed in the UK that many chefs are overly enthusiastic about the standards in British restaurants compared to the reality that I encounter when I travel.
  5. Good question. Personally, I find Indian cuisine to be one that is generally underrated, though to be fair the standard of it can be pretty ordinary outside India and the UK. If you travel to India you can experience the tremendous diversity of the regional cuisines, from coastal areas like Kerala and Goa through to the more rugged dishes of northern India (Punjab etc) through to the quite different dishes in the south and indeed the northeast of the country e.g. Bengali dishes. The sheer variety is impressive and is particularly good at finding creative ways to showcase vegetables. Doubtless everyone has their own favourite cuisine outside of the mostly French and Japanese places that dominate fine dining these days, but Indian is mine. If I had to eat just one cuisine for the rest of my life I would choose Indian, even though I recognise that there are no Indian restaurants (yet) that have really broken into the upper echelons of fine dining.
  6. In short, no, I have no way of knowing the internal kitchen processes or staff practices of a restaurant. I am a diner and so can judge the end result on my plate, but have no clairvoyant ability to know whether a chef has an energy efficient approach, is good at recycling or is nice to his (or her) staff. I don't see how any outside dining inspection process, whether that be Michelin or another guide, could realistically be expected to have such insider knowledge. Such things are the purview of investigative journalism. Some things can be gleaned from authorities granted such access e.g. in the UK there is a food hygiene rating for every restaurant that is public, and you can look this up before you head to a particular place. This sometimes yields some interesting results, as I discovered a few years back after getting in after eating in a Michelin starred restaurant that turned out to have a surprisingly poor hygiene rating. However that is only possible because the hygiene inspectors have the authority to do surprise kitchen inspections.
  7. Indeed I rate "meals". Some restaurants I return to regularly, and in such cases you will find many reviews e.g. The Ritz in London. Of course it would be ideal to go to a restaurant many times before writing a review, but as you say that is impractical unless you have a whole team of inspectors like Michelin, and as we have seen that causes its own issues of inconsistency. I think that a single visit to a restaurant is enough to form an opinion, even though multiple visits would be ideal. Food is supposed to be consistent at a restaurant from service to service, and the higher up the dining scale you go then the more true this is. Sometime I will return to a place where I had a poor meal if enough of my readership suggest that the experience I had was unusual. Sadly it often transpires that a place that can deliver one poor meal is perfectly capable of delivering another one. As an aside, that dish pictured was indeed a joy to eat, and every chef I have shown it to has been impressed with the knife skills required.
  8. 1. In terms of change, there has definitely been a move towards lighter dishes. I recall eating around France in the mid 1990s and there was so much butter and cream that it felt like the restaurants had been sponsored by an association of cardiac surgeons. This has changed a lot, and now top French restaurants like Pic employ much lighter sauces. Another change has been the spread of international influence, partly influenced or enabled by the internet. Now a chef can see pictures of a dish just about anywhere, and many are swift to borrow ideas from the other side of the world. In recent years this has meant that a great many high-end restaurants n Europe and the US have been influenced by Asia, and especially Japan, with Japanese ingredients and techniques popping up all over the place. An example is in 3 star Christian Bau's restaurant Schloss Berg in Germany, where some dishes could pass for Japanese, and yet the chef has actually not worked there. 2. This is an excellent question. Over the years I have built up a good contact network of foodie pals, whether bloggers, professional food writers or enthusiasts. I try that network first e.g. if in Rome then Katie Parla has great local knowledge, If you are not plugged into these personal networks then you need to try other guides. The "Top 50" is well known but is by definition limited to a small number of places, and anyhow rewards a certain type of modernist, trendy restaurant. In some countries then Gault Millau is good (e.g. Austria, where Michelin pulled out due to poor sales). There is also the online site "Opinionated about dining", run by a New Yorker, a voting site where thousands of gourmets contribute votes. Then there are many blogs, but of course depending on where you are talking about the specifics will vary. In some countries, there are well established local guides, like Gambero Rosso in Italy or The Good Food Guide in the UK. Finally, there are the crowd-sourced sites like Yelp and Tripadvisor, though these can be dubious e.g. the top places on Tripadvisor in London are mostly nonsensical.
  9. I would choose pizza in my "sin food" category. I wouldn't say that "even bad pizza is good" by any means, but it is at least usually edible.
  10. This is a good question to ask but a tricky one to answer. In terms of the absolute best sushi I would say that Sushi Saito is top. People in Tokyo agree with me, since it has a near perfect 4.89/5 score on Tabelog the main Japanese restaurant website, and is the highest rated on the site in the city, out of 4,190 (!) sushi restaurants in the city. The next best to that for me has been Sushi Arai, which I went to recently. It is a rising star with a young chef and is "only" 7th out of 4,190, but for me was essentially indistinguishable in standard from Saito, and will doubtless rise in the rankings in time as its reputation grows. As it happens Saito speaks pretty good English. Many of the Japanese sushi chefs speak some English, but are often rather shy about speaking it, so they understand more than they appear to. However there are not many, like Saito, that speak it well. However Saito's stellar reputation means that getting a reservation is now nightmarish, as to be honest it is at most of the highly rated sushi places, including Arai, as well as others like Sawada. The only way around this is to sign up for one of the various paid concierge services who have arrangements with the restaurants to deal with the occasional inevitable cancellation. By nature these are unpredictable but they do happen, and if you are flexible in terms of your travel dates then you will be able to find a way in even to Saito through this route, eventually. Alternatively try for a slightly less popular place like Sushi Yoshitake (also 3 Michelin star, but with a mere 4.23 on tabelog) where your odds improve of getting a reservation. I wouldn't factor in the English skills too much since the chefs will at the least know the names of the fish in English that they present to you. I remember in one place that they kindly brought out a little book on fish and the waitress turned it to the correct page with each new course that appeared.
  11. Thanks for the question. I only score the food in my reviews. Service is such a personal thing (one person's "attentive" is another's "intrusive") and is going to vary more from waiter to waiter, from service to service, than the food ever should. Naturally service is a key part of the overall dining experience, and certainly charming service can greatly enhance the enjoyment of an evening in a restaurant, just as bad service can spoil it. I was given a bit of training on how to write professional reviews way back in 1990, and the one thing that was drilled into me was to separate the food from the service, as the two things are separate. When I find diners reporting a bad experience in a restaurant, in 90% of cases they complain about a waiter or the table they were given, or some other service issue. It is rare indeed for me to get a comment saying "the turbot was slightly overcooked and under seasoned" - it is almost always service issues that stick in the mind of most consumers. I like all sorts of low brow food: pizza, sandwiches, curries, tonkatsu in Japan, you name it. Well made simple food can be just as enjoyable as a tasting menu, and a lot cheaper.
  12. Hi there. I have certainly had some disappointing three star meals. A place called Hamadaya in Tokyo was incomprehensibly given three stars in the first Tokyo Michelin guide, but they demoted it quite quickly. I would say that 3 star Gaon in Seoul was my most disappointing overall though. It was desperately ordinary food e.g. Jerusalem artichoke porridge and chewy octopus, but at wild prices. I paid $349 per head for my meal, including a small bottle of Estrella beer at $23.
  13. I think it is a blend of things. Certainly there are some geographical and climate issues, so it is easier to grow top notch tomatoes in southern Italy than it is in, say, the UK. Such differences cause cuisines to adapt e.g. in Scandinavia many vegetables are fermented and pickled because of the short growing season in their climate. One aspect though would be a history and culture of food e.g. in Emilia Romagna you find Parmesan, balsamic vinegar, Parma ham etc, and there is a tradition of prizing these things and valuing them. Another factor is economic. A restaurant of any kind is a luxury, and so for restaurants to thrive there have to be enough customers willing to pay for that experience. However it is not a straight correlation, or places like Qatar and Luxembourg would be crammed full of great restaurants. For a restaurant environment to thrive you need sufficient people willing to spend money on food, combined with good ingredients and a culture or history that values food. You see that in Japan, where even the strawberries in local supermarkets are superior to the ones I can buy at top delis in the UK, and where there is a great depth of food culture, with people willing to spend their spare money on food at all levels.
  14. When reviewing restaurants I simply rate the food experience; as a diner I have absolutely no way of knowing what the working environment of a particular restaurant is like. Obviously, everyone wants staff to work in a positive, respectful environment, and every normal person wants people to have equal opportunity to progress. As a reviewer, though, I simply cannot tell whether a head chef or owner is promoting a positive, nurturing environment to their staff or not. Certainly there are not enough female restaurateurs and head chefs, so it is always a pleasure to review good restaurants that happen to have a female or ethnic minority head chef.
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