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Terry Durack

The restaurant critic for the Independent on Sunday, Terry Durack is currently the Glenfiddich Restaurant Critic of the Year and the 2007 World Food Media Awards Best Restaurant Critic. He has written six books including Yum, Noodle and Hunger.

Michelin fails London, nails Hong Kong

Posted by Terry Durack
  • Monday, 19 January 2009 at 05:56 pm
The 2009 Michelin Guide to Great Britain and Ireland is not officially released until this Friday, but already word has leaked, with the results now posted on the Michelin website. Mostly, it is predictable, with the majority of the new gongs going to French restaurants and French chefs, including the likes of Alain Ducasse, Joel Robuchon, Helene Darroze and Jean-Christophe Ansanay Alex.

But if you are going to get all Frenchy about it, get it right. Excellent that Claude Bosi at Hibiscus gets a second star, appalling that Antonin Bonnet at The Greenhouse doesn’t. The fact that Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester can get a seemingly automatic, immediate two stars as well as being tipped as a rising three star, while Pierre Gagnaire at Sketch (The Lecture Room & Library) stays with one is simply depressing. I had an extraordinarily good meal at The L R & L last week, in which thrilling food, razor-sharp service and Sketch’s playful sense of style combined to steal my heart. There is nothing original or fresh about Ducasse at The Dorchester, and everything original and fresh about Sketch. Hence my depression.

The last Michelin guide to be released – the first ever for Hong Kong and Macau - was much more exciting. Hong Kong has long had a place close to my stomach, not so much for its post-colonial outposts of global celebrity chefs, but for the delicacy and wonderment of its traditional and modern Cantonese cuisine. Yes, the likes of Joel Robuchon and Pierre Gagnaire and a couple of luxe Western restaurants get recognition, but by far the majority of Michelin stars go to Chinese restaurants with Chinese chefs. Well, hallelujah. That Restaurant Magazine could not find a single Hong Kong Chinese restaurant worthy of making it into their World’s Top Fifty List always said more about their judging process than about Hong Kong.

Twelve of the fourteen one stars are Chinese, four of the seven two-stars are Chinese, and, most exciting of all, the only chef in Hong Kong to rate three Michelin stars is Chan Yan Tak (that’s him on the left), chef of the Four Seasons Hong Kong’s modern Cantonese restaurant, Lung King Heen.

Canny Independent on Sunday readers will already know about Chef Chan from my review of Lung King Heen nearly three years ago, under the headline: Is this the best Chinese restaurant in the world?

While Chef Chan is not averse to the odd bit of truffle, caviar or gold leaf, he does no fusion mish-mash; instead, offering refined, subtle, clear-flavoured Cantonese cooking of the very finest order. I still dream of the silky, full-bodied beef brisket hot pot; the flawless lobster and scallop dumplings, and the delicate egg-white and seafood dumplings that were like eating clouds.

A simple, modest man in his late fifties, Chef Chan is not your usual three star Michelin chef. He has risen to fame without a television programme, newspaper column, or range of cookware. He has no sous vide machines or paco jets in his kitchen – in fact, he barely uses a deep-fryer. And when the New York Times asked him to comment on his three stars, all he could say was that he was grateful to the Four Seasons and that he would keep cooking for them. Bless.

Spice Temple: the hottest restaurant in Sydney

Posted by Terry Durack
  • Wednesday, 14 January 2009 at 11:36 am
Oh, lucky Sydney. While all of England scrabbles for the coins in the back of the sofa in order to pay for a little more heating fuel to keep out the cold, Sydney basks in the heat.

I’m not talking about the sun. Who cares about the sun? I’m talking about the hottest new restaurant in Sydney, Neil Perry’s Spice Temple, which will have them gasping for breath with its chilli-laden range of dishes spanning the fiery regional cuisines of Sichuan, Yunan, Hunan, Jiangxi, Guangxi and Xinjiang.

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Move over Nigella, here comes Natasha

Posted by Terry Durack
  • Friday, 19 December 2008 at 03:23 pm
The beauteous Nigella Lawson is one of the few celebrity chefs who doesn’t rate a mention in one of this year’s coolest cookbooks, In At The Deep End, from Hampshire’s Botley School.

In an effort to raise funds to save her school’s run-down 38-year-old swimming pool, 9 year-old schoolgirl, Natasha Coe rounded up some of the biggest foodie names in the business, including Gordon Ramsay, Delia Smith, Anthony Worrall Thompson, Mitch Tonks, Tom Aikens, John Burton Race, Mary Berry and Ainsley Harriot.

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Another pop-up pops up in Melbourne

Posted by Terry Durack
  • Sunday, 23 November 2008 at 10:50 am
Having done London’s new pop-up restaurant Flash (see review in today’s Independent on Sunday), it was interesting to pop over to Melbourne this week, and pop into the new pop-up bar and cafe in Federation Square.

The Greenhouse is the creation of flower artist and waste wizard Dutch-born Joost Bakker, in collaboration with events organiser Corina Baldwin and Melbourne chef, Shannon Bennett.

Quite frankly, it shows what a pop-up café can, and should be; created from nothing to be something that makes you smile and makes you think.

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The new burger king?

Posted by Terry Durack
  • Friday, 14 November 2008 at 02:24 pm

There is life beyond the Big Mac and the Whopper.

In New York, all the big-name chefs are falling over each other trying to create the all-time, ultimate, with-the-works burger. It all started with Daniel Boulud's iconic DB Burger at DB Bistro Moderne, which combines ground sirloin with a filling of boned short ribs braised in red wine, foie gras, black truffle and a mirepoix of root vegetables for US$32.

Now everyone's getting in on the act in London, too. This week's Time Out features a survey of London's best burger purveyors. Top marks went to Ground in Chiswick High Road, Haché in Camden Town, and Gourmet Burger Kitchen in Soho.

They missed a trick, though, by not listing the latest contender – Pascal Aussignac's Duck Burger Classique at Club Gascon's oh-so-bustling Croque Gascon at the brand new and scarily busy Westfield London megaplex. For £8.50, you get one-all-duck-meat-patty-special-tomato-chilli-sauce-shredded-lettuce-Pyrnenean-cheese-Bearn-bacon-pickles-sweet-onions-on-a-handsome-lightly-crunchy-French-bun. (There is also a deluxe "signature" burger with pan-fried foie gras for £14).

It feels weird eating a burger that is actually made up of real, beautiful produce, but I guess we can get used to it.

I went to Devon and all I got was this lousy Devonshire tea

Posted by Terry Durack
  • Sunday, 2 November 2008 at 10:47 am
Go to Devon and you expect to have Devonshire tea with plates piled high with freshly baked scones, trays of golden clotted cream and big pots of sticky, home made jam. But I went to Devon and all I got was a nasty dry scone with the bitter aftertaste of bicarb, some okay clotted cream and a plastic sachet of commercially sweet jam. A. Plastic. Sachet. For. God's. Sake.

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