Franco-Italian Dining @ Les Terrasses de Lyon

Perched atop Fourvière Hill, Villa Florentine is a five-star hotel reminiscent of a Mediterranean villa which boasts some of the finest views Lyon has to offer. Though it may be bit hard to reach by foot, the hotel is easily accessible by taxi and is ideally situated between the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière and the UNESCO heritage district of Vieux Lyon. 

Keeping in line with the hotel's Mediterranean motif, their restaurant Les Terrasses de Lyon serves up Michelin-starred Franco-Italian cuisine within its ornate Florentine interior. I was greeted with smiles and offered an Amuse-Bouche (not pictured) after having placed my order for the five course menu entitled Saveurs à l'Italienne, meaning a Taste of Italy.

The first course consisted of a Velouté with Egg of Quail. This delectable and all-rounded dish, enriched with the yolk of the egg, proved a promising start to the meal. I especially loved the use of chives in the dish which added a hint of freshness, reminiscent of the Mediterranean to which the restaurant draws its inspiration from.

The second course was a Mantecato de gamberoni. The succulent prawn tails were placed on a tomato-scented jelly with shredded prawn meat. The dish was served with a pecorino cromesquis, which left quite an impression on the palette. Together with the tomato purée, the combination of pecorino and tomato made for a quintessentially Italian pairing, and the watercress purée added a lovely element of vigour to the dish.

Our third course was a Risotto Arborio al dente, with shavings of parmesan. The risotto was of an perfect consistency - creamy, yet with much texture to it. The tone of the dish was set by the parmesan, followed by the nuttiness of the beurre noisette which complemented the earthiness of the mushrooms perfectly.

The fourth course to arrive was Slow-roasted Burgundy chicken. The chicken was accompanied with a Conchigli pasta shell stuffed with Italian artichokes, and cuttlefish jus. Rarely do I have chicken so beautifully cooked - moist and succulent, yet firm and cooked through. The pasta stuffed with artichokes proved an appropriate accompaniment, reminiscent of a seashell on an Italian beach.

The dessert course was an Amaretti, topped with edible gold leaf. I always knew that chocolate and orange were flavours that went hand in glove, but the miraculous combination of orange, chocolate and coffee in this dish was something I found difficult to fathom. The dish was very creatively put together, with decadence in every bite.

As I sipped my coffee and gazed upon the lit skyline of Lyon, I indulged in a Petit four selection of decadent yet light Opera cake, a fluffy choux pastry filled with hazelnut cream, a spongy almond cake filled with passionfruit curd, and a chewy chocolate lollipop with almond flakes. My taste-buds remained tantalized even until the very end of my meal.

My experience at les Terrasses de Lyon could have continued should I have opted for an additional course of pan-fried foie gras or roasted scallops. Did I mention the selection of cheeses from their Maître fromager Affineur? However in the state I was in, the waiters would have had to roll me into my room. I simply could eat no more.

'La dolce vita' would be a phrase that I would use to sum up my experience here. At €98, isn't a meal that one would have everyday - but the quality of food and creativity of the chefs were thoroughly impressive, and the service and ambiance was charming. The head chef greets all diners as they leave, and I simply could not pass the opportunity to commend him for a lovely night well spent. 

Address: Les Terrasses de Lyon, Villa Florentine, 25 Montée Saint-Barthélémy, 69005 Lyon, France

Presentation: 8/10

Ambiance: 7/10

Service: 8/10

Overall Taste: 8/10

General Impression: 8/10





My Food Diaries - Lyon's Restaurants

Known as the culinary capital of France, the city of Lyon is strategically placed to receive only the gastronomical best France has to offer. Restaurants are abuzz, offering traditional and not-so-traditional Lyonnaise and French cuisine - therefore much research is required before visiting this city to discern the traditional eateries from the tourist traps. Here were some of my favourite places:

This establishment located at the iconic Les Halles Paul Bocuse (a review of that to come soon) in the district of Part-Dieu, serves up a wide array of fresh shellfish. Whether you're in it for a Plateau de Fruits de Mer, or for some oysters - you can be assured of a wide selection to chose from and friendly faces to be serving you. They also seem to have a decent selection of complementing wines available.

Allowing my health to take a backseat for the night, I had myself Two-Dozen Oysters with Bread and French Butter. Simple yet absolutely satisfying in itself, if you adore your shellfish like I do. One could arguably get cheaper shellfish elsewhere, but you can rest assured that an establishment's quality and freshness will always remain stellar when located at Les Halles Paul Bocuse.

Address: 102 Cours Lafayette, 69003 Lyon, France

Literally meaning "Like Mathilde's Home", this establishment in the rather touristy UNESCO district of Vieux Lyon is a diamond in the rough - and provides an open invitation for a person to experience unpretentious, pre-Escoffier French food stripped to its bare essentials - and believe me, such stripping is worth lusting over.

The ambiance of the place is truly remarkable - blending in perfectly with the district of Vieux Lyon. It almost reminded me of visiting a grandmother's decades-old house in an old French countryside town. Absolutely no souffles or foie gras here. Instead you will have to make do with some rustic soup, or a French cheese platter.

I had myself an Assiette de Jambon, served with a side salad and some baguette from the self-service station. The waiters took time to explain each variety of meat, with each possessing its own flavour. Comme Chez Mathilde is a great place to experience authentic French charcuterie for a light lunch.

Address: 66 Rue Saint Jean, 69005 LyonFrance

This bakery located outside the metro station in the district of Croix-Rousse seemed to have a reputation that preceded them, judging by the long queue which filled overflowed onto the streets. I was naturally drawn towards the queue, coming out with some viennoiserie and little cakes called 'bouchons'. The pastries were lovely, but the bouchons were mind-blowing!

Having finished whatever I had in hand, I queued in line again - only to end up with 30 of those bouchons to bring back with me - call me crazy, but I don't care. You would do the same too. These bouchons come in a myriad of flavours: from nutella to raspberry, strawberry and salted caramel - and are perfect for munching on as you stroll through the nearby market, or Traboules (alleyways) of this charming district.

Address: 159 Boulevard de la Croix-Rousse, 69004 Lyon, France

Nothing touristy remains about this market by the French, for the French. To be frank, if you have no command of basic French, you WILL struggle with basic communication. It is what I'd call an honest market: honest produce, at honest prices, brought to you by honest Frenchmen, who honestly don't speak much English. 

I was fortunate enough to have had some prior experience with conversational French, and so I was able to immerse myself in the sights, smells and sounds. If you are a fan of pork, then you might notice a giant plate with just about everything pork-related. Take your pick, sit down and indulge in finger-licking porky goodness. 

Alternatively, for Muslim visitors who are unable to indulge in pork or those who adore Middle Eastern or North African cuisine, there are many stalls (not pictured) operated by those of Algerian or Moroccan descent offering halal alternatives - such as authentic couscous and tagine stews.

If you love your cheese, look out for this friendly woman who certainly knows her stuff. I simply told her what I was hoping to use the cheeses for, and she instinctively brought out varieties which proved to go amazingly well with the potato gratin and sandwiches I had made upon returning from France.

Address: Boulevard de la Croix-Rousse, 69001 Lyon, France (Closed on Mondays)

Have a look at two of my other posts on Lyon, one of a lovely Michelin-starred restaurant I visited which boasts some of the best views the city of Lyon has to offer, and another about Les Halles de Lyon - and some of what it has to offer.





Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

What could be more quintessentially English than afternoon tea, and what better place to have it in, than at The Ritz? This iconic hotel on Piccadilly played host to Margaret Thatcher during her final days, featured prominently in the film Notting Hill, and regularly provides catering services to Prince Charles who has since, awarded it a Royal Warrant for catering services.

Afternoon tea takes place in the The Palm Court, which keeps in tune with the hotel's Louis XVI style architecture. Tea here requires a reservation be made way in advance and compliance with a strict dress code. One is entitled to a two-hour slot where you are allowed to eat to your heart's content. Needless to say, my friends and I starved the entire day in order to ensure we got the most out of it.

Afternoon tea began with a selection of rather traditional sandwiches. The Scottish Smoked Salmon with Lemon Butter remained a personal favorite, with the Ham Sandwich with Grain Mustard Mayonnaise coming in close second. Both of these were highly satisfying and got us craving seconds. 

The Chicken Breast with Horseradish Cream was alright, though the Cheddar and Chutney, Egg Mayo and Watercress, and Cucumber and Cream Cheese sandwiches were rather disappointing. I expected more refined a taste and more superior a quality for a place as esteemed as the Ritz. 

We were then served some Plain and Raisin Scones with Jam and Clotted Cream (pictured below). These were undoubtedly one of the best scones I've had. Cutting through them were like through knobs of butter - a smooth and clean slice. The marshmallow-like texture magically transformed into a crumbly satisfaction upon it hitting the mouth. With the Cream and Jam, it was simply divine. 

There are a wide variety of traditional tea blends - about 16 in total. I had ordered myself the Darjeeling First Flush - a delicate floral flavor - to begin with, ending with the Ritz Royal English - a deep malty blend consisting of Assam and Ceylon teas. It was definitely satisfying and up to a standard that one would expect from the Ritz. Quality silver teapots and bone china helped keep it warm and drinkable.

We were then offered a selection of delicious patisserie.  These desserts were decadent, yet light - encapsulating a multitude of flavors and textures within each bite. The Rhubarb Dome proved to be our ultimate favorite as mousse, cake and jam went hand-in-glove. The Salted Caramel Macaron with a chocolate disk sandwiched between was also another favourite of ours.

There were trays of cakes being wheeled around by waiters in tailcoats, as we were offered a choice between Lemon Drizzle and a Pecan Cake with a Toffee-Cream Frosting. I was too full to have tried the lemon drizzle, but zesty scents of it emanated from every slice my friend had made. My pecan cake was dense and deep in flavour - incredibly satisfying but quite the belt buster!

As we munched on our dainty morsels in the gilded surroundings of the Palm Court, we were surprised to have found out how quickly two hours had went. What happened as a result was what I was most disappointed with: we were simply handed our bill, and the card machine brought to us without question. It was unfortunate that such an enjoyable experience was brought to an abrupt end. 

I understand the rationale for this, seeing as The Ritz is often considered 'the' place for afternoon tea - but traditional London hotels such as Goring and Claridge's often do not have such limits, as afternoon tea is generally regarded a leisurely activity. In conclusion, afternoon tea for £47 per person at the Ritz would definitely be worth going for once. But think twice if you plan on coming back again. 

Address: The Palm Court, The Ritz, 50 Piccadilly, London W1J 9BR, United Kingdom

Presentation: 7/10

Ambiance: 8/10

Service: 7/10

Overall Taste: 7/10

General Impression: 6.5/10





Kings Road Steakhouse & Grill by Marco Pierre White

Marco Pierre White was the celebrity chef that arguably started it all, mentor to Gordon Ramsay himself. And though he may have descended from the heights he used to reach, his name stops in their tracks those familiar with the British culinary scene. Therefore I was very much looking forward to the opportunity to dine at one of his restaurants  - the Kings Road Steakhouse in Chelsea. 

It was all warm smiles when we were greeted into a restaurant with an ambience that simply exuded elegance and class. I could not help but feel a little under-dressed in my leather jacket. The restaurant serves up honest British fare, albeit with a little bit of pomp and class, or so it seemed. As we were quite hungry, we decided to forego the staters and saddled up with the mains and sides instead.

I had ordered myself a medium-rare grilled Ribeye Steak with a roasted tomato and mushroom cap. It arrived just a tad-bit overcooked - more medium than medium-rare, but reasonably tender nonetheless. It was served up with a side of béarnaise sauce, the tanginess of which aptly accompanied the steak.

My friend had ordered herself a Gammon Steak. Upon having tried a piece of it - I found it a little bit tough for my tastes, and without any accompaniment - proved to be somewhat of a disappointment. I'd have expected a pineapple chutney or something sweet to have been served with it, which to have cut through the flavors of the gammon.

We had ordered ourselves some Mashed Potatoes and Onion Rings (not pictured) as side dishes, because who needs greens right? The creamy potatoes were rich and smooth, but noticeably lacking a form of garnish. Some chives with it would have been perfect. Our onion rings were seasoned perfectly a crispy coating and were satisfying.

I had a Sticky Toffee Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream for dessert - an English classic which was executed wonderfully. The pudding itself was dense and moist, its flavors lifted by the sweetness of the toffee, which in turn was lifted to even greater heights by the smooth vanilla ice cream. Needless to say, I was on cloud nine!

My friend had herself a Bread and Butter Pudding with Custard. Theres a fine line between rustic and burnt, and I believed the dish's surface might have crossed that line ever so slightly. The consistency of the pudding was satisfactory, though I was seriously expecting more from an establishment associated with Marco Pierre. Maybe consider infusing it with a hint of nutmeg next time? 

The bill between the two of us came up to about £50, and all in all proved satisfying for me. I doubt my friend left feeling the same way though. Our time there seemed to have been a hit and miss experience, and I was expecting more finesse in all honesty. It was good, honest food we had that day, but for the price that we were paying, good just was not good enough. I mean, its Marco Pierre White we're talking about!

Address: 386 Kings Road, London SW3 5UZ, United Kingdom

Presentation: 6/10

Ambiance: 8/10

Service: 7/10

Overall Taste: 6/10

General Impression: 6.5/10





Eye-candy @ Galvin at Windows

Perched on the 28th Floor of the Hilton Park Lane, Galvin at Windows promises - arguably, one of the best views of London on offer. With Hyde Park at one corner, the Thames at the next, and the City skyline edging in between - the establishment gives new meaning to the phrase 'eye candy'. Their floor-to-ceiling windows help lighten up the chic art-deco interior. But does their food match up? 

I visited on a very busy weekday afternoon. With a michelin star under their belt, I had high expectations. The service was courteous, considering the fact the staff seemed to have a lot on their hands. I would admit, the number of diners then made me feel a bit like I was in a department store cafe. But  as I snacked on my warm bread and creamy French butter, my expectations remained high as I eagerly awaited my entrée.

May entrée of Teriyaki-cured salmon, Avocado, Pickled kohlrabi and apple had arrived promptly, and certainly did not disappoint. The contrastingly different flavours of the fish and teriyaki sauce provided a vibrance to the palate, which was subdued with the richness of the avocado. The apple and kohlrabi seemed a bit out of place with me, but did not serve to make anything worse either. So no complaints.

This was followed by a Braised lamb belly, féve, Charlotte pomme écrasée & herb lamb jus; undoubtedly the star of the show. The lamb belly was as tender as tender could be, and the crushed potatoes stuck the ideal balance between mash and chunk. The carrots and broad beans were cooked wonderfully, with all elements of the dish subtly brought together with the herb lamb jus. Bravo!

Desert consisted of a Baked egg custard, Rhubarb compote, Chocolate foam and Honeycomb. It sounded incredible on the menu - and the sweetness of the custard, tartness of the rhubarb, and bitterness of the chocolate encapsulated every flavor a great dessert should possess, but I thought it lacked a bit of texture despite the crunchy honeycomb, and required a more eye-catching presentation.

To finish off, I ordered myself a decent cuppa which was accompanied by some delicious  Chocolate and cloud-like Marshmallows - some of the best I've had. I was tempted to nick all of them back home with me, but resisted the temptation. Our bill per person had came up to about £40 per person, and  by the end I was simply too full for words.

Galvin at Windows certainly proved to have matched my expectations, and I enjoyed my experience there. It makes for a great place to take someone special to for an intimate meal or a dear friend coming visiting London, as you immerse yourself in culinary finesse whilst soaking up some lovely views. Just head on over when there aren't as many people there, so that you can appreciate the atmosphere even more.

Address: 28th Floor, Hilton Park Lane, 22 Park Lane, London W1K 1BE, United Kingdom

Presentation: 7/10

Ambiance: 7/10

Service: 7.5/10

Overall Taste: 8/10

General Impression: 7.5/10