Dining: JW Steakhouse

I’ve been meaning to write this post for such a looooong time, and feel awful that I haven’t, as I’ve been keeping it a secret from you lovely lot!  Anyway, I’ve finally written it, and even if you’re not a carnivore, then I urge you to hotfoot it here anyway so you can sample the most incredible cheesecake I have ever tasted…and believe me, I’ve tried A LOT!  I might* have even sneaked a few mouthfuls for breakfast…..

You can find this gem of a restaurant in The Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane.  Being in situ on Park Lane, this place obviously isn’t cheap, but it’s worth every penny in my opinion.

We’ve been here twice for lunch and twice for supper, and never have we been disappointed.  (The only other restaurant I’m this loyal to, when our time in the UK is so precious, is Nobu.) The lunch and dinner menus differ, and whilst neither is extensive, whatever we’ve chosen has always been cooked to perfection.  The lunch menu offers lighter fare:  salads, sandwiches etc.  Whilst the dinner one has more substantial dishes available.  Our most recent visit was for lunch for my father-in-law’s birthday.  When I made the booking, JW Steakhouse asked if it was a special occasion and I said it was a birthday celebration, and didn’t think anything of it.

When we arrived, they had sweetly decorated the table with balloons and birthday confetti on the table.  A small touch that most definitely started our lunch off on the right foot.  The service is impeccable.  Nothing is too much trouble for the staff, who have the knack of making you feel as if you’re the only diners in the restaurant.  The Restaurant Manager came over to welcome us, and Giovanni our waiter for the day, was fabulous!  He was ebullient and chatty, yet managed to strike the balance between being friendly and professional, yet not being over-bearing, intrusive or too familiar.  He should set-up a waiter training school!

The restaurant is a large and spacious room – very like many American steakhouses we’ve visited – with floor to ceiling windows looking out onto a terrace that has views of Park Lane and in the distance, Hyde Park.  One of the Domestic Prince’s bugbears when eating out is the proximity of tables – thankfully, this isn’t an issue in JW Steakhouse.  The tables are close enough to each other to feel busy and bustling, but far enough apart that you don’t feel the next table is part of your conversation.  The perfect balance.

Image credit: JW Steakhouse

For some silly reason that morning we’d had a late breakfast (I know, what were we thinking?!), so in light of this, we didn’t have any starters, plus I was saving space for the cheesecake!

There were so many dishes I fancied as my main that unusually for me, I struggled to choose. I ended up opting for the Steak and Bourbon pie (another pie, I know!) and mash.  It was delicious.  Packed with chunks of tender steak and a rich-gravy with a hint of bourbon.  I’m a bit fussy when it comes to mash, so the mash is probably perfect to normal beings, but for this princess, I felt it needed some more butter, a dollop of cream and a good shake of the salt cellar. The Domestic Prince ordered  some grilled asparagus to go with his 6oz fillet, which was divine.  The Prince’s steak was cooked to perfection and could only be described as “melt in the mouth”.  My mother-in-law went for the Fish and Chips that was probably the best fish and chips I’ve ever tasted (yes, I had to taste everybody else’s!) outside a fish and chip shop.  Quite often restaurant fish and chips leave a lot to be desired; not the case at JW Steakhouse.  My father-in-law chose one of the specials of the day – the Shepherd’s Pie, which again was just delicious.  In keeping with an American-style steak house, the portions are massive.  Come super hungry!

Image credit: JW Steakhouse

When it came time for dessert, we didn’t even look at the menu, as The Domestic Prince and I were insistent that his parents absolutely had to try the cheesecake.  JW bill the cheesecake as “the best this side of the pond” – a bold claim, but one which they actually surpass!  I wouldn’t be lying to say that back in Bangalore, I often lament about this superlative cheesecake.  The crumb (a Graham Cracker one I believe) encases the vanilla bean middle and it’s finished with a sour cream topping that cuts through the sweetness of the middle.  The first time I had this cheesecake, I thought it would be rich and heavy, but it’s not – it’s incredibly light.  And there’s a massive 6 inches of it to enjoy!  Most people probably share this over-sized pudding – not us though.  We have one each and box-up what we don’t finish at the restaurant (there is sometimes!) to takeaway to enjoy back at our apartment.  I can’t tell you about any of the other puddings I’m sorry, as I only ever want the cheesecake…it’s THAT good.  Not even chocolate makes me cheat on this beauty.

Image credit: JW Steakhouse

Whilst choosing what we were going to eat we had a bottle of Champagne, and then The Prince and his Dad had a glass of red wine and I had a glass of Cloudy Bay with our main courses.

Domestic Princess tips:

  • If having a starter, I’d choose either the Maryland crab cakes, the tortillas with spinach & artichoke dip or the super-size calamari.
  • In the evening whilst waiting for your first course to arrive, they bring scrumptious hot buttered salt-and-pepper popcorn for you to munch on.
  • If bourbon is your thing, then JW have an impressive collection.
  • Diners with big appetites, should give the mahoosive 32oz “Tomahawk” ribeye steak a whirl.  I’ve heard incredible things about it!
  • If you’re visiting on a nice day /evening – ask for a table outside on the terrace.

*I did!!

If you’re after excellent steaks, a good atmosphere and impeccable service, then I really can’t recommend JW Steakhouse highly enough.

What’s your favourite steak restaurant?

With much love
The Domestic Princess
xoxo

Discover: Penderyn Distillery – a Welsh Whisky Masterclass

It’s been quite awhile since we’ve had the pleasure of hearing from The Domestic King on these pretty pink pages, but I’m delighted to say he’s finally back!!  So, without further ado, take it away Domestic King!

Birthday presents don’t come much better than this – a Masterclass at the Penderyn Distillery in South Wales! It was a wonderful surprise from the Domestic Prince and Princess who know my liking for a wee dram or two of whisky. My love affair with Penderyn Whisky began a few years ago – from the first sip of the straw-hued liquid I was hooked! So the Masterclass was a great way to find out what makes Welsh Whisky so special and distinctive.

It takes its name from its location, the tiny rural village of Penderyn sited just one mile inside the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park, about six miles north of Aberdare. It’s  easily accessible from the major cities and towns of the South Wales valleys via the Heads of Valleys Road. History buffs will be familiar with the village through Welsh folk hero Dic Penderyn, the legendary working-class martyr involved in the Merthyr Rising of 1831, who lived in the village. He was wrongfully executed for a stabbing he did not commit, his name forever associated with the Red Flag of social justice.

Established in 1999 by the Welsh Whisky Company, the Distillery released its first single malt on St David’s Day 2004, the start of a great Welsh industry success story. The secrets of “the smoothest wysgi on Earth” are revealed in the Masterclass in the Visitor Centre, housed under the same roof as the Distillery. Without a doubt, a ‘must-do’ experience for anyone wishing to know and understand more about a truly unique series of whiskies.

The Masterclass

Prepare for two and half absorbing hours as you embark on a fascinating journey of enjoyment and discovery. Our presenter was Euan, an amiable Scot of all people, a graduate biologist, and extremely knowledgeable with great communication skills. In the comfort of a smart, carefully prepared studio, we learned about the history of distillation in Wales, the characteristics of malt whisky compared with other types of whisky, and what distinguished malt from blended whiskies. This background information helped us to understand better the malt whisky production process, and specifically, the uniqueness of the Welsh whisky process. This part of the Masterclass unlocked the secrets of Penderyn’s superior quality! “Uniqueness” really does define Penderyn’s distillation process.

The malting, milling, mashing and fermentation process to produce the barley wash is undertaken for the Distillery by the famous Brains Brewery in Cardiff. This 8% ABV wash (Alcohol By Volume) is then distilled at Penderyn in a unique copper still that produces alcohol spirit called ‘newmake spirit’ measuring a huge 92% ABV. This is much higher than the Scottish distilleries where the average spirit is 65% ABV. The great advantage of the 92% spirit is it matures into saleable whisky at a much quicker rate when transferred to wooden casks. Its unique smoothness is also attributed to this process. At this maturation stage, very pure mountain water from the Brecon Beacons is added to the ‘newmake spirit’ pumped directly from a well beneath the Distillery. The whiskies acquire their unique flavours and colour from maturing in used Bourbon and Madeira barrels to produce Penderyn Madeira and Penderyn Sherrywood whiskies, and in used smoky Scottish Islay whisky casks to produce the Peated Penderyn.

Almost uniquely, Penderyn bottles its whisky on site, reducing its strength to 46% ABV by adding pure mountain water from its well beneath the Distillery. Now that must be unique! And as a proud Welshman, I am convinced it enhances the smoothness of this delicate straw-hued liquid gold!

The climax of the Masterclass was the tasting. Although an enthusiastic learner who enjoyed the whole of Euan’s presentation, it was the expectation of the tasting that excited my emotions! Euan quickly exploded the myth that it is a cardinal sin to add water to malt whisky. His advice was, it should be the tiniest amount, “a tear drop”! The best way to achieve this, he said, is to fill a whisky glass with water, empty it, and then add a measure of single malt. The effect is to release myriad aromas (a smell detection challenge!) as well as impacting on the flavour and drinking sensation. Great advice to someone who not a few times has ‘drowned’ the whisky with an equal measure of water, totally destroying the drinking experience! My Penderyn training will certainly ensure the tasting ‘protocol’ becomes a whisky-drinking ritual.

Euan concluded the Tasting Session by emphasising Penderyn is a small distillery producing premium quality whisky. The secret of achieving consistently excellent whisky, he informed us, lies in the Unique Penderyn Five! Go on, indulge yourself, or a loved one, and take a trip to Penderyn to solve the UPF!

It is no accident that the brand includes a gold flash melded onto each bottle above which are the letters ‘AC’, the abbreviation for ‘Aur Cymru’ – Welsh Gold, a gold liquid synonymous with the much sought after rare and precious Welsh gold.

In addition to the award winning Madeira whisky (a Gold Medal at the International Whisky Competition 2012) and the wonderful Sherrywood and Peated whiskies, the Distillery produces, from time to time, limited edition whiskies usually around 60% ABV cask strength. More recently, the Company has extended its spirit range to include a gin, a vodka and Merlyn Cream Liqueur. The Brecon Gin is on my buying list for the Domestic Prince. The Merlyn, which is delicious, will probably find its way into someone’s Christmas stocking!

The Masterclass was, in every respect, a wonderful experience! The Distillery and its staff provided a warm, friendly welcome, together with great hospitality, and sent us on our way with a generous gift of three miniature whiskies in a tasting set – Madeira, Sherrywood and Peated to savour at leisure. Like the whisky itself, the Masterclass has a wonderfully long and lingering finish!

Wow!  Sounds like The Domestic King had a fabulous day and I’m thrilled he enjoyed it so much!  If you’re not a Welshie and fancy participating in The Masterclass and are wondering where to stay, please drop me an email and I can recommend some wonderful places.  You could combine it with a walk in the beautiful Brecon Beacons.  And if this post has got you yearning to try a drop (or two!) of Penderyn whisky, then it can be purchased from their website, in many Waitrose stores, my spiritual home (no pun intended!) Harrods, or check their website out for worldwide distributors.

Are any of you whisky lovers?  And have you tried Penderyn’s offerings?

With much love
The Domestic Princess
xoxo

Dining: Bob Bob Ricard, Soho London

Hello Readers!  I’m back from my holibobs, although it wasn’t much of a holiday….it was quite possibly the most full-on trip back to the UK we’ve ever had.  It was non-stop.  In between the many health check-ups, sorting out our UK house, the Domestic Prince working, celebrating the Domestic Prince’s Granny’s 100th birthday, we found a bit of time to catch-up with some of our wonderful friends and to eat in some fabulous restaurants.  So, today’s post is a review of one of the restaurant’s we visited:  Bob Bob Ricard.

Image credit: Paul Winch-Furness

We first went to Bob Bob Ricard not long after it opened back in 2008.  At the time it was being positioned as kind of a cousin to The Wolseley.  It served breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner and you could order anything off the menu at any time.  I was in heaven!  Breakfast and afternoon tea for supper, yes please!  However, on our visit a couple of weeks ago, they’ve stopped serving breakfast and afternoon tea, so you can only go for lunch or dinner.

Image credit: Paul Winch-Furness

Bob Bob Ricard is lavishly furnished; it feels like you’re in an ornate makeover of the Orient Express.  Which is exactly what, world-renowned designer, David Collins, was looking to achieve.  He has managed to create a quirky space that feels like you’ve stepped back in time.   The whole restaurant is kitted out with leather banquette booths, complete with “Press for Champagne” buttons.  The booths aren’t too close to each other and it has a romantic and quite intimate feel.

 

We had a 7.45pm reservation and were told they would need the table back by 10pm.  This turnover time really irks me.  However, we ended up staying long beyond 10pm and not once were we asked to leave.

Service at BBR is attentive, without being over the top and intrusive.  Ahead of this most recent visit, I’d read a few reviews saying that the service was overbearing and that when pressing the infamous Champagne button, nothing happened.  However, when we pressed the button (you didn’t think we wouldn’t?!) our waiter appeared in seconds with the Champagne menu.  And just to be sure it wasn’t a fluke the first time, we tested it out again later in the evening, and like a genie from the lamp, our waiter appeared in moments.

The menu is extensive, offering a choice of thirteen starters, many with a Russian slant.  There are twenty-two main courses to choose from, with a great selection of fish dishes with a choice of twelve side dishes and ten puddings.

To start with, I opted for the prawn cocktail, which came on a bed of crunchy iceberg lettuce and a tangy cocktail sauce.  It was nice, but nothing to write home about.

For my main course, I was torn between the Rosemary Roasted Lamb Medallions and the Chicken Mushroom and Champagne Pie.  Now,  you all know my love of pies, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that I chose the pie.  What clinched it for me was the truffle gravy that was served with the pie.  I’m having a total truffle love affair at the moment.  Which is why I also ordered truffled mash potatoes as one of my sides, together with roasted carrots and parsnips.  The pie was sublime.  It came out with one of the best pastry lids I’ve ever seen; all golden and glossy, with the BBR stamp printed on the top.  It was a huge portion, which I’m sad to say defeated me.  The truffle gravy was delicious, as was the truffled mash.  I was slightly disappointed with the carrots and parsnips, which just weren’t roasted enough for my taste.

When the time came to order pudding, I was too full and in danger of popping, so unfortunately had to skip it.  If I hadn’t been so full, I would have gone for the Warm Chocolate Fondant, which receives rave reviews.

I’ll let my other dining companions post their thoughts on their choices in the comments section below.

Having ordered two bottles of Champagne, we didn’t order any wine.  Which is a shame, as BBR is renowned for their relatively reasonably priced wine list.  In fact, they actually make a point of highlighting the price other high-end restaurants charge for the same bottle of wine.  I have never seen anything like this before, but would wholeheartedly encourage it!   Supposedly, BBR never charge more than a £50 mark-up on any one bottle.  I really hope other restaurants follow BBR’s example.

With delicious food, impeccable service, quirky décor and Champagne at the press of a button…Bob Bob Ricard was an all round hit with us!

Have you been to Bob Bob Ricard?  If so, I’d love to hear your views on it.

With much love
The Domestic Princess
xoxo

Parky’s Pub – The Royal Oak, Maidenhead

Today, we have a guest post from the Domestic King.  As you’ve probably all guessed, the Domestic King, is none other than my wonderful Papa.  Now, if you were to write a list of what the perfect Dad looked like, you would undoubtedly describe the Domestic King, so I am honoured that he has taken the time to write this little post for me.  Hopefully, we’ll be hearing lots more from him in the coming months.  Over to you Papa….

On 24th February 2012, on our way to watch the Wales vs England rugby game, 12 close friends descended on a real gem of a pub – The Royal Oak in Maidenhead – otherwise known as Parky’s Pub!  The pub is owned by Sir Michael Parkinson and his son Nick, who runs it, and what a great job he does.  Understandably, its website proudly boasts the achievement of winning a Michelin Star for culinary excellence three years on the trot.  From the moment you drive into the car park you get a sense that you’re about to experience a pretty good place.  Entering the pub on our first visit, there, on the sofa, relaxed and supping a pint of beer with a friend was the man himself, which supports the claim that Sir Michael eats here “… most days of the week ….”  Although proud of its gastro credentials, the place also has all the hallmarks of a traditional pub, but one that benefits from loving care!

The customer will appreciate the welcoming climate, the well-stocked bar, comfortable seating, intelligent use of space, and skilful combination of brick and polished wood to complete the appearance of this tastefully finished pub.  The substantial dining area exudes the ambience of a friendly, organised and well-managed restaurant.

Our favoured drink was a superb pint of Fuller’s award winning London Pride.  A perfectly kept, well-balanced ale, distinguished by its malty, fruity flavour and its lingering bitter finish.  So good was the first pint, we couldn’t resist a second in preference to wine as an accompaniment to lunch.  If you did fancy a glass of wine, there is an extensive wine list, and to quote their website, “catering for all palates and purse strings.”

We opted for the fixed menu lunch offering two courses for £25, or three for £30, which included tea or coffee; most of the group decided on two courses combining starter and main course.  The food, all freshly prepared from produce sourced locally, was quite superb.  The staff are friendly, knowledgeable and helpful, and provide service that is courteous and efficient.  The choice of three starters, three mains and three desserts was sensibly limited, with an enticing basket of warm, freshly baked bread (refillable on request), an ideal companion for the wonderful London Pride as we awaited our starters.  The Iberico ham de Bellotta with a fried duck egg and Parmesan was cooked to perfection and a wonderfully flavoured starter.  My main course of black bream with creamed potatoes, fennel, citrus fruits and olive oil was mouth-wateringly good and beautifully presented.  Only one of the gang chose a dessert, the glazed lemon tart with raspberry sorbet that earned the accolade, “the best dessert ever”!  Excellent coffee and petit fours concluded our lunchtime gourmet experience.

A few of the gang intend re-visiting before the next England v Wales Six Nations meeting in 2014, mainly with their partners.  Some, however, felt the menu to be over priced and the portion sizes failed to sate their appetites.  They considered the 67% increase in price over the £15 fixed menu of 2010 to be quite unreasonable.  Obviously prices of produce have increased since our visit 2 years ago, but it pays not to lose sight of the ‘value for money’ concept, especially in harsh economic times, along with the need to retain customers.  That said, my guess is that The Royal Oak will feature on the itinerary for the 2014 reunion, if only for the wonderful London Pride!
Thanks for sharing this Papa!  We’ll definitely be popping in on one of our next trips to the UK.  I’d love to know what celebrity-run pubs have you been to?  Have they lived-up to the hype?  And, what do you think makes a good gastropub?  Do you have any recommendations for us to try?  Look out for more restaurant reviews over the coming weeks.

With much love

The Domestic Princess

xoxo

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