Le Cinq

The Four Seasons George V takes luxury to the next level. We were staying in Le Meurice, which has a much more boutique feel and although it is still grand, it was like a Holiday Inn in comparison to this. The flower displays alone were enough to blow you away. We were greeted at the door and guided through to Le Cinq’s classy dining room.  It had a much more relaxed and warm feel than Le Meurice, and with plenty more diners having lunch there was a much better atmosphere as well.

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Immediately the champagne cart was wheeled over and we all started with an excellent light glass of rose. Then came the star of the show. Not the food. But the waiter. Julien he was called. He quite literally was the best waiter I have ever had. From the moment he came over and realised we were Geordies his chat started. Over the course of the meal we covered football, films, traveling and of course the food. It was the perfect blend of unbelievable charm with flawless professionalism. He quite literally made the meal.

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The Market menu was three courses for €110, which felt like a bargain after the previous two meals we’d had. There was a choice of two starters, mains and desserts, so if you didn’t like pigeon and liver you were pushed towards the fish choice of Whiting.

To start things off three little amuse bouches were all a little bit strange. The egg shell was filled with what tasted almost like a cappuccino cream. Then there was some fish with apple  I can’t remmeber the details). And the final one was a little pastry filled with ricotta and a fish paste that tasted a little bit like sweat but in the best way possible.

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Then came a choice of excellent breads came with a stunning Sicilian olive oil, and an even better seaweed butter from Brittany. I was happy with the new Lurpak slow churned butter, until I tried this.

A pumpkin and ginger soup followed, and it was a really refreshing way to prepare for the meal. The pumpkin seeds gave an added crunch, and served cold this really was a fitting dish for the warm Spring weather outside.

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The Octopus and Prawn starter was a thing of beauty and tasted as good as it looked. The seaweed crisp and vegetables gave it a pleasing variation of textures, and the flavour of the octopus, which had charred flesh, was stunning. The side of a thin anchovy, buratta and jalapeno pizza  slice was a delicious little treat. If only takeaways started doing a 12 inch version.

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The Watercress soup (served cold) came with a Muscadet jelly and a side pastry with Mediterranean vegetables on top. It was a beautifully light starter, with such a clean and fresh flavour. The jelly brought a sweetness that really worked with the watercress.

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For main I went for the Pigeon coated in sesame seeds and foie gras, with liver and spinach inside. It was kind of like a Pigeon Wellington, and was a good portion for a lunch menu. There was a lovely balance between the richness of the foie gras with the earthiness of the liver. The celery were coated in a cocoa crumb, which seemed a little bit random, but gave a nice hit of sweetness.

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The Whiting was perfectly cooked and had an almost butter like taste and texture. This was just a flawless main course, and easily the best fish dish I have tasted.

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A grapefruit sorbet with champagne and mascerpone was a lovely palate cleanser. The tang of the grapefruit was perfectly offset by the creaminess of the mascerpone. I would have been happy with this for dessert.

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I went for the Green Apple combination which had a light candy floss on top and a lovely sorbet. But the further I went down the sweeter it became, and I couldn’t finish it all. The liquid at the bottom was a bit like a shot of Apple Sourz and tasted almost artificial in its sweetness.

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My parents had the chocolate and cherry dessert with coconut ice cream. Hot chocolate sauce was poured over it to melt the dome of chocolate (a trick I’m a bit bored of) but this was much better than the Green Apple dessert and the plates were as good as licked clean by the end.

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Then came the petit-fours, which were all delicious, although again quite sweet. There was lemon meringue pie, an orange cream one and the last was something like a cherry profiterole.

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If that wasn’t enough, truffles, nougat and sweets followed with the coffee. The waiters then gave us a box of our choosing to take home. They also took a photo of us and gave us each a printed version before we left. It was these little touches that made it the best dining experience of my life.

The food was excellent, and definitely worthy of 2 Michelin stars. It felt much more deserving of a third star than Le Meurice. The dessert was the only course I wasn’t blown away by, and it was hard to find a fault with any of the other dishes. What made the meal though was the service. They made it a pleasure to be dining there, and also had great patter which made it into a surprisingly laid back and fun lunch. Something you don’t tend to associate with fine dining.

It cost just over €260 a head, but that included two excellent bottles of a vintage 2008 Chablis (€130) and a bottle of rose champagne. This is of course a lot for lunch, but it still managed to feel like great value (for Paris that is) as the lunch market menu at €110, gives you all of the extras, making it more of a 6 course meal. I promised the waiter that I’d return next year, and given just how good this meal was, I definitely intend to.

Food: 9/10

Service: 10/10

Atmosphere: 10/10

Value: 8.5/10

Overall: 9.5/10

31 Avenue George V, 75008 Paris, France

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Picture

Fitzrovia is that place you pass through in a taxi. Unless you work for one of the trendy companies in the area, there really is no other reason to go. So it’s hardly the first destination you think of for dinner. Of course there’s a handful of great places to eat in the area, like Roka and Lima, but they’re all grouped together over by Charlotte Street. Picture stands alone on Great Portland St, and at 7.15 on a Friday night, we arrived to a fairly quiet restaurant, and I was worried that it wasn’t going to be an evening sort of place. For the first 45 minutes we were one of only a handful of tables in there, but thankfully by 8 the place had filled up and had a lively buzz.

First up credit needs to go to the team behind this place. Three young guys who started out at the Arbutus Group have obviously really learnt their trade. Everything about the restaurant has the feel of a place owned by people who know the industry well. From the reasonably priced menu, to the exceptionally warm staff, this really is a crowd pleaser of a restaurant. From the moment we entered we were warmly greeted by the front of house, who is one of the three owners, and he set the tone for a relaxed and enjoyable meal. The way the staff casually chat to the customers really fits the informal vibe of the place and it has has a similar feel to 10 Greek Street. It was a shame not to find it absolutely packed, because no doubt with a better Soho location this would be a place you’d happily queue for.

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The menu is focused on seasonal ingredients with modern European touches. We were told the best way to do things is to choose one from each of the vegetable, fish and meat sections. And with 4 to choose from on each there was just the right amount to get excited by. It’s quite an interesting concept which invites you to share. All of the dishes are at the £7-£9 mark, and so it’s like having three starters. There’s also a 6 course tasting menu for £35, which we were told we could mix and match to make it more to our liking.

We decided to stick with the main menu, and started with a couple of the Lamb bites (£1 each) which are about the best little bites of food I’ve had in London. They are right up there with the arancini at Cafe Murano. With a good dollop of ailoi these are little bites you’d happily snack on all night. A mini warm baguette to mop things up made this a strong start.

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From the vegetable section I had the Ravioli of Italian greens, ricotta and chilli (£7). This was a beautifully fresh and light dish with a lovely tang to it. The chilli was lost on me though.

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My partner had the Risotto of chestnut mushrooms, Pecornio and soft herbs (£7) and again it was a lovely starter with shavings of fresh mushroom. The scent alone was intoxicating. It could have done with a couple of extra dollops of the risotto though.

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From the fish course I had the Lightly cured Scottish salmon, cucumber, sea lettuce, creme fraiche (£9). It was beautifully presented, almost like the sea floor, and there was a range of textures that made it exciting to eat. But it was just a tiny bit bland. The slamon didn’t have a strong enough flavour to stand up to the rest of the ingredients and the creme fraiche didn’t bring the dish together in the way I was expecting. It could do with taking a leaf from Jason Atherton’s book and adding an extra hit of flavour, maybe some citrus or horseradish, just to bring the dish together and make it more interesting than just a range of textures.

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The squid with peppers and a romesco sauce (£9) was appearing on the menu for the first time. The squid had been slow cooked which kept it tender but there wasn’t a great deal of it. This just felt like a dish that hasn’t quite find it’s final execution yet. It still needs something to bring it to that next level.

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Now to the meat. I had the Crisp pork cheek, celery, apple and hazelnuts (£8) on the reccomendation of the waiter and it really was good. At this price it represents great value, as I remember having a very similar dish at the Gordon Ramsay restaurant in Claridge’s last year for almost three times this pirce. The pork was perfectly tender with a crisp outer crust, and the crunch from the different textures of apple and hazelnuts only enhanced this. It really was a lovely small plate of food.

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My partner had the 28 day aged beef, roast onion, curly kale, salsify (£9). Again a dish with each component cooked to perfecting, and everything just worked. I just would have happily paid a bit more to have some more of the beef.

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To finish a Vanilla panna cotta with Champagne rhubarb, gingerbread (£4) cleansed the palate.

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The Spiced fruit and almond pie, frozen yoghurt (£5) had the flavour of a Christmas pudding, but the sharpness of the yoghurt freshened it up and made it a comfortable but still fairly light pudding.

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The bill came to £125, which sounds a lot, but we did basically have 2 bottles of wine (Chenin blanc at £22 a bottle) and a 4 course meal. It could easily have been around the £40 a head mark, and for that price it is great value for money. And although the fish courses were a bit of a miss, it was still a very enjoyable experience, that was really helped by the excellent staff.

Picture has a great deal going for it, and more people really should hear about it and give it a try because the kitchen is serving up interesting dishes at reasonable prices. They seem to be confidently getting on with their business, and I feel that after a couple more years of refining what they already have here, that they could easily up the stakes with a better location and have a huge hit on there hands. I know I’d certainly be queuing up.

Food: 7.5/10

Service: 9/10

Atmosphere: 7/10

Value: 7.5/10

Overall: 7/10

110 Great Portland St, London W1W 6PQ

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