Restaurants & Bars

Rick Stein The Seafood Restaurant glass frontIn the past year, the Rick Stein story has been turned up a notch as this well-known ‘Brand’ has been developed and promoted throughout the UK, as one  new restaurant after another has sprung up in every affluent town.

Our first encounter was at Sandbanks, notoriously known as having some of the most expensive real estate in the world, and then at what was ‘The Depot’ a well-loved riverside restaurant in Barnes, where it is now ‘bedding down’ nicely as a new Rick Stein.

Bearing in mind the extraordinary success of the Rick Stein brand, we thought we would go to where this empire was launched, the internationally recognised Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, Cornwall.

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Rick Stein at Barnes view of the River Thames

We had heard mixed reports about Rick Stein’s new restaurant in Barnes, situated on Mortlake High Street.  The Depot had been a much admired restaurant with a fine reputation frequented by a loyal clientele who would be bitterly disappointed if the Rick Stein team fell short of their expectations.  It was by recommendation of a friend and local that we tried Rick Stein Barnes as he had had some mixed experiences with this restaurant under its new management but hoped that by the time we visited those initial inconsistencies in service and food would be corrected.

Just a word to the wise to readers unfamiliar with the area and travelling to the restaurant by train, do not alight at Barnes Station but continue to Barnes Bridge from which the restaurant is only a few hundred yards away.  We unfortunately did the former so then had no idea where we were and had to stand by the busy road, in the rain, hoping a free taxi would pass which actually was not a frequent occurrence!

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The marble lobby of The Savoy London

The Marble Lobby of The Savoy – a portent of the delights of Kaspar’s Seafood Bar and Grill 

There are  hundreds of new places to go and be seen in all over London, but it is worth remembering, once in a while to frequent those icons of excellence, such as The Savoy Hotel because their reputations have been achieved for good reason.and this particular landmark building has been the beneficiary of a multi-million pound make-over.

Some might feel intimidated by such grand surroundings but amongst the grandeur is a dedicated staff that are proud of the excellence and reputation of The Savoy and are at pains to continue working to the same exacting standards for which the Savoy has been famous since Cesar Ritz was appointed General Manager by Richard D’Oyly Carte in 1889.

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Rick Stein Sandbanks Hot ShellfishHot Shellfish with parsley, chilli, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice, mussels, brown crab claw, langoustine, whelks, scallops, cockles, winkles, razor clams,oyster and clams –

One of the Inovative Dishes on Offer at Rick Stein Sandbanks

Recently we were in the magical county of Cornwall where we were fortunate enough to time our visit with an unprecedented period of sunshine filled days.  To be precise we were in Trebrethrick only a few miles from Rock and a short boat trip across the Camel estuary to Padstow, now fondly known as Padstein due to the predominance of Rick Stein eateries.  However, sadly for us on this trip we were unable to try any of Rick Stein’s emporia but on our return we travelled to Sandbanks in Dorset to try the latest establishment in his burgeoning empire.

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Le Caprice is owned by prolific restaurateur Richard Caring as part of Caprice Holdings bought in 2005 from Jeremy King & Chris Corbin who in their turn bought it in 1981 and throughout all this time it has been a firm favourite with the rich and famous, celebrities and media types alike.  Le Caprice is one of those eateries that continues to thrive whatever the economic state the country is in.  Its ideal location in Mayfair certainly helps but I believe its secret ingredient is that it has remained true to its original ethos.

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Le Caprice Mayfair London

This is the first in a series on ‘Establishment Eateries’, in other words, those  restaurants which have achieved iconic status, and, having just experienced the ‘Wiltons effect’, I can see why this establishment has enjoyed such lasting success.

Wiltons is the  ‘restaurant of choice’ ; the ‘default’ for the Aristocracy, Captains of Industry, Tory Grandees, Kings in Exile, Dukes and assorted Celebrities.

It is an impressive Establishment stronghold, reeking of confidence, and full of self-belief, but not self-satisfied or pompous; it remains endearingly accommodating, and welcoming, and the whole place runs like a well-oiled machine, its wonders to perform.

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Who can resist this charming Southern Italian region? Be it the sea, the sand, the sun, the food or the wine, in Puglia, you name it, you get it!

Having a Mediterranean climate, little annual rainfall and the fertile soil, Puglia is heaven for farmers and wine growers and paradise for wine lovers. What’s better, the natural condition makes it easy for farmers to practice organic agriculture.

I visited a few wine estates in southern Puglia last year and was hugely impressed by the organic practices many have adopted and the modern interpretations of the local native grapes: Negroamaro, Primitivo, Susumaniello, Malvasia Nero, to name just a few. One of those traditional wineries with a modern twist is Masseria Li Veli  

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The Depot is a riverside restaurant in East Barnes where small terrace houses cost a million pounds each, so there is no shortage of customers for this highly desirable eatery.  It is also a great place from which to watch the final stages of the annual Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race.

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The Depot Conservatory overlooking the River Thames

It is possible to drive from Winchester to Chagford, on the edge of Dartmoor in two hours, but the final few miles to Gidleigh Park hotel can take another half an hour if you make the same mistake we did of relying on SatNav to take us to our destination!

Do not make the same mistake. Follow the instructions which the hotel give you, and you will avoid a veritable ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ of the ludicrously narrow lanes in this part of Devon, and the ire of your wife, or partner, and any passengers.

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Gidleigh park Chagford Devon

Because of the nature of The Vintage Magazine, we tend to review restaurants in the West End of London, and in Mayfair, St.James’s, Belgravia, Chelsea & Kensington, but we seldom venture south of the River, so it was with some trepidation that I was tempted down, south of the river, to Roast, which is an extraordinary restaurant located in an architectural gem called the Floral Hall, which is built on the site of the old flower market of Borough Market.

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Roast Restaurant Floral Hall Borough Market London