Laissez Fare

Adventures in Food Wine & Travel

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D is on a mission to go to all the places I’ve been to without him, not that he feels hard done by or anything. Today’s choice is La Petite Maison, a Mayfair sleekster that I gave a rare 5 stars to back when it opened, a rather gushing review brought on in no small part by its whole blackleg chicken stuffed with foie gras. Thing. Of. Beauty. 


Sometimes when you revisit the scene of an earlier crush, the result is embarrassing all round. Not so with LPM: it’s every bit as lovely as it ever was, the interior no longer new, but wearing beautifully, seemingly suffused with permanent Nicoise sunshine (predictably, my phone snaps don’t do it any kind of justice).  


It’s busy busy busy, even early on a Sunday lunchtime. They ‘squeeze us in’, but not on the lusted-after mews terrace hahaha no chance.  Everything operates as smoothly as the bottles of Piemontese extra virgin olive oil on every table glug their contents onto the white crockery. Also present on the snowy tablecloth are two ruby tomatoes – no longer the plum variety I described on my first visit as ‘testicular’ – and a nubbly lemon.  It’s rusticity for the utterly loaded, a touch of the pure Marie Antoinettes.


And loaded the clientele most certainly is: the place is full of women with expensively ‘worked’ pillowfaces and those outrageously spendy designer bags that would look so yesterday in any other London environment. The men sport open-necked tailored blue shirts and suspiciously black moustaches. We figure we may well be the only native Londoners(ish) in the place. 


Everything we eat is bloody lovely. A deconstructed ratatouille with cubes of salty feta and chunks of smokey aubergine; baby squid, greaselessly fried in smoked paprika and scattered with paper-thin slices of madly hot chilli; emerald green, skinned broad beans dressed with olive oil, black pepper and shavings of a young pecorino; a mosaic of octopus with a kind of parsley-free gremolata, both punchy and ineffably delicate – and that’s just for starters.  Our waiter recommends we order two or three – well, he would, wouldn’t he?


There are some of the best lamb chops I’ve had, blood red and smoky from the grill (I suspect a Josper). We can’t have the blackleg chicken again, sadly, because it needs to be ordered an hour and a half in advance and we’re playing hooky from our children. I know what I’m doing if I go back. 


So it’s still love after all these years. Even though we’re rammed up against the prep station where we can virtually inhale the fish carpaccios being expertly sliced wafer thin for the equally wafer thin women.  Tables are so Frenchly close together that my arse is too large to allow me to actually leave my seat without sweeping next door’s wine and glasses into oblivion. And we have to beg for more of the ravishingly lovely, freshly-baked baguette. ‘You want more BREAD?’ the waiter goggles, as if we’d asked for newly-slaughtered infant. But, yes, still gorgeous.


Waaaaait a minute: here’s the bill. £165 notes for two WITH ONE GLASS OF WINE. ONE.  GLASS.  A salad with burrata and tomatoes – starter – is @16.50.  No wonder the mews outside is clotted with the sort of cars that would buy you an entire terrace in Margate. Porsches are clustered like bluebottles.  There’s an armoured Rolls Royce, ffs. And one particular numpty in a silly orange job that looks like it’s made of Transformer who takes about 12 minutes to manoevre just so we can admire him at our leisure.


This is a supremely confident restaurant: the food is great, the environment delicious. As we leave, we’re shown Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookery book: ‘She comes here all the time,’ we’re told, ‘and even though she’s so slender, she eats like a pig.’ Way to make me love her even more.  Evidently, to dine here with equanimity, you have to have the bank balance of a Hollywood star. And to be the kind of person who doesn’t find tinny-looking orange supercars perfectly ridiculous. 

UPDATE: Have just been told by @GaryMarshall that the ridiculous orange thing is a Lamborghini Murcielago - hey, let’s call our car something that sounds like a disease of the nasal passages - which sells for about 250k.  *laughs hysterically* 

Great mini-review!

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A to Z Pinot Noir 2008 #Fail

                              A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir 2008

So I had read all about this great-value 2008 Pinot Noir from Oregon from A to Z Wineworks. It seemed to be making everyone’s lists (Wine Spectator Top-100, etc.) and it was about $20 so I figured I’d try it.

We opened it up and found it very light in color. It didn’t smell that inviting and it tasted, well, horrible. In fact, it was undrinkable and we ended up pouring out the whole bottle. Given all of the glowing reviews that it’s been given, I assume there was something wrong with this particular bottle. There was no hint of bright fruit; rather it tasted almost sour. There was way too much acidity and it had no length to speak of.

Now, I know it couldn’t have been corked as it is a screwcap bottle. Perhaps it had just been stored poorly and subjected to extreme temperatures, or large variations in temperature…I don’t know.

Has anyone else tried this wine and had a similar experience?

Many thanks for your thoughts.

You can tweet me @laissezfare or leave a comment on my main blog.

I haven’t figured out how comments on this tumblr thing work…if they do at all.

Filed under a to z wineworks pinot noir oregon screwcap faulty wine

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A Dilemma over Service & Attitude


I recently visited Greenwich, CT on a sunny winter afternoon. We go there quite often, not because Daniela’s Gelateria (no website, sorry) serves the best chocolate around - pretty much the best I’ve tasted outside of Italy - but also because the main avenue is very pleasant to walk down.

We fancied a nice pastry or similar type of treat for our now-customary afternoon goûter. We had brunch in a pleasant enough cafe a few weekends beforehand and remembered that they made their own pâtisserie. So we stopped by the place - it’s called Versailles if you care to know ( - to see what was on offer.

They had a number of tarts plus some classic French pastries, many of which pretty much looked the part. We asked the snappy guy behind the counter a few questions and, after a bit of vacillation, my wife ordered a Paris-Brest while I went for a thin little apple tart.

This is where things began to go a bit pear-shaped, to use the British term.

The guy asked if we wanted to eat them in the cafe, but we said ‘no’ as we wanted to walk down the street with them, as is our wont. He then asked if we wanted a plate or something to eat them on, and again we said ‘no’, indicating that a paper bag or something along those lines would be fine. He took both of them out of the cooler and handed my wife’s selection to her on a thin piece of paper, and placed mine down on the counter in front of me on the little paper base that the tart was resting on already. 

He then went to the cash register and said that our total would be $14. Thinking there must clearly have been a mistake, I said “Sorry, how much?” He repeated the figure and told us that we were actually very lucky as that is cheaper than the price would would pay if we were eating in. We both stood there in complete shock. I looked down at my fairly sad-looking apple tart and asked him how much each of these pastries cost. Somehow, my wee apple tart was $8 and my wife’s pastry was $6. 

After a long silence and awkward glances, I said that I was not going to have my apple tart. But he said that they couldn’t take it back because I had already touched it. This was in fact not true as I was only cupping it from underneath and touching merely the paper in which it was sitting. My wife had made the unfortunate decision of tasting her Paris-Brest already, which was not even close to being the real article, especially as the pâte à choux inside was extremely hard. She asked whether it was fresh, and the now rather surly server said straight away: “Yes, they are baked at 7.30am each morning.” [It was now 4.30pm or so]. 

I explained to him that I hadn’t touched my apple tart at all, but he said that I had. I said that they should put prices in the display (as there are no prices anywhere). I said that I’ve never heard of a small apple tart (believe me, it was very small) costing anywhere near that much in the immediate vicinity (by comparison, at our normal place, which is much better in terms of quality anyway, two pastries and a tea costs less than half of what this did). None of it mattered, though, they were going to force us to pay.

Stupidly and complacently enough - probably due to the shock - I did end up paying and huffed and puffed as we exited, surely never to return to the establishment again.

The guy had insisted it was management policy, and that while he couldn’t say he agreed or disagreed with it, he assured us that this is what they would make him do should a member of management have been there to deal with our clearly evident displeasure with the situation.

In hindsight, of course we should have just walked out and left my pastry on the counter plus (maybe) $6 for my wife’s already part-eaten letdown of a pastry.

It would be one thing if the specimens in question were from a well-known institution such as Ladurée or Pierre Heremé: a certain level of quality would have been assured and the brand has the luxury to charge more luxurious prices. But this place obviously neither has their quality nor the weight of their brand.

Had the pâtisseries been exceptional - or even really good - we probably wouldn’t have felt so cheated, but the Paris-Brest was very mediocre at best and my apple tart was ‘good’ at best.

They were very unreasonable, pretty confrontational and we found the whole thing to be downright rude and manipulative.

I am in flummoxed as to what to do over the situation. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Filed under pâtisserie versailles greenwich daniela's gelateria bad service attitude cheated dilemma

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My Recent Lunch at Torrisi Italian Specialites in NYC

This place has gotten a ton of hype. I happened to be at an event a few doors away on Saturday, so ventured down to see what it was all about.

I had to wait in line for a few minutes, then wait for it to be made for a few minutes, then try to snag a table in the very small dining room (which has maybe 30 covers at most)…luckily an elderly lady grabbed one and asked me if I wanted to join her…how sweet :)

Anyway, here’s what I had:


Eggplant Parmesan Hero. They use their on mozzerella (which is very nice), and the sandwich was satisfying but not amazing.

Cauliflower side dish. Very tasty, nice breading, loved the kick of the red onions.

Broccoli rabe side dish. Better than the cauliflower, it had a lovely and not so timid hit of spicy red pepper.

A kind of Italian-American coffee cake. Much lighter than it appeared it would be, not too sweet & went went with my pretty decent macchiato.

The aforementioned espresso macchiato was pretty good, not overly bitter, not overly sweet. The right dollop of (what I assumed to be full) milk too.


It was a nice lunch, but didn’t blow me away. Especially considering that pre-coffee & dessert it was pushing $20.

I returned for dinner a few days later…but more on that later.

Filed under torrisi manhattan nyc italian-american restaurants hype

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I am (also) here…

I am finally giving this tumblr thing a try. As most of my normal blog posts tend to be a bit on the lengthy side, I thought this might be a handy tool for more abbreviated - but hopefully still interesting - content.

Hope it proves to be useful and fun…let me know if you have any ideas for my tumblr.

Best regards,