Category Archives: Travel

Gordon Ramsay at The LondonNYC

I had the opportunity to eat at Gordon Ramsay’s first American restaurant over the weekend in New York. The new LondonNYC Hotel (formerly the Rihga Royal) in midtown is where he is “based”, where he cooks for “Gordon Ramsay at The LondonNYC” (fine dining), The London Bar (breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner and a nice bar at night), and even the in-room dining (room service).

First let me say that I am spoiled, having eaten in my across several continents….

I stayed at the hotel and ate at from all of the above (fine dining, room service breakfast, and lunch in the bar), “covering” most of the menu/s :-). So here’s what I think….

All of the portions are small, but I like that; European in size, but it’s what actually should be eaten. Even after a 7 course tasting menu with a cheese course added (8th course, and a bon bon trolley), I was full but not uncomfortably so…. There was never anything that wasn’t perfect, even the room service that was delivered to the 47th floor :-). Oatmeal was still hot and the omelet was cooked to perfection and still hot as well! This was just breakfast, and an example of how good these guys really are; ’cause if they can do a room service breakfast that well (the taste was fantastic too), then just imaging what the rest of it is going to be like….

So before I went on my trip, I had tried to make reservations for fine dining, and they were totally booked (constantly sold out)…. After I checked in, the following morning, my contact at the hotel met me and we talked and she welcomed me…. In passing, I mentioned that I wanted to “fine dine” but couldn’t get in. She said it was really tough and that they had a waiting list for reservations of over 3000 people before the place even opened, and that they were booked months in advance, completely! Then she asked if I’d like to go in the back and see the restaurant and the kitchens…. I was like, YES!!!!

The room is beautiful, very sedate with muted colors and simple elegance. A nice touch are the dining chairs, they swivel like an office chair. Very comfortable so your butt doesn’t fall asleep over a long meal and there’s no fidgeting. Their heavy so you don’t move them “in and out” a lot, and that is where the swivel comes in. you literally can “turn” to look at and talk with your dinner partner, again, a really nice touch.

Then she takes us into the kitchen…! It’s gorgeous! And of course there is Gordon Ramsay’s #1 who runs the place when he isn’t. He’s been with him for 12 years. He’s taking small tastings of everything that they are preparing for tonight’s dinner…. I’m introduced and the conversation immediately changes from the $20,000 stoves that were installed and are the only one’s of their kind currently in the U.S., to the food. And of course, at this point I am not only talking about the food, but trying to impress and show my love by explaining that I have eaten with him before at several of the Gordon Ramsay restaurants in London, and that I love food so much that I have actually taken lessons, etc., just so I can cook for myself. Why was I doing this you ask…? Well, I next dropped that I would love to have the fine dining experience but they are booked. So as he is explaining what he is tasting and how it’s going to be prepared for the evening, he asks what night I would like to eat. I tell him Sunday night and he politely says he can’t promise anything, but that he will call me and let me know what he can do…. I get a message on my phone from Jean Sebastian, Gordon’s “Front of House” right hand man (Maitre ‘d, also having been with him for many years, and television shows…) saying that I have a reservation for 5:30 PM Sunday. A bit early, but I’ll take what I can get, beggars can’t be choosers ;-)!!!!

Sunday comes and I head down for the meal. OMG! I could go on and on about every different course, but you can see what it’s like here…
Prestige Tasting Menu. There are a few differences in that menu and what I ate… I had some rabbit as well at the first course, and didn’t have the beef for the entree, cannon of lamb and venison…. and of course I also got the bon bon trolley at the end (the best being the honeycomb and the vanilla cotton candy). What I can say about this meal, instead of the detail of every dish, is that this was one of the best meals I’ve ever had… It’s definitely on a short-list!

One thing I will comment on effusively is the apricot souffle. The taste, the outside finish, the inside consistency; it was all perfect. 30 seconds less or 1 degree cooler and it would have been runny… 30 seconds and a degree the other way and it would have been caky. It was the lightest softest texture with the brightest apricot taste (what apricot tastes like “in your head”); it was phenomenal!

Rarely do I go on like this, but if you have a chance, it’s worth going out of your way for this meal!

And if you can’t get in there, or don’t have the time (dinner finished at around 10 PM), you should eat in the bar, where the menu is equally as impressive. It’s prepared in the same kitchen by the same folks and you can get in :-)…
LondonNYC Bar Tasting Menu.

At the bar, I ate a number of dishes, all fantastic (about 6 I think). The detail about each isn’t necessary other than to say, eat here! Eat here often! Oh, and don’t forget the vanilla rice pudding… just smear it all over my hips ’cause that’s where it’s going (I actually wanted and almost asked for another order of it but couldn’t handle the calories on my eating extravaganza of NY)….

Oh, and did I mention the service during dinner? Unbelievable too… great wines, suggested and paired very well. They even go as far as to ask about the tasting menu, if there is anything that you don’t like, and then offer up a litany of possible substitutions (not just one or two, they’ll redo the whole menu to your liking if necessary), even including sweetbreads…

See, I just can’t stop talking about the experience. It’s kind of like the way I feel about “entertainment” these days…. whether it be a Broadway show, a movie or a concert, rarely do I feel that the experience/performance/product was better than or worth the price of admission (hell, a Broadway show is $110 these days, and few are worth it…), but eating with Gordon Ramsay is an exception to that rule, do what you can to eat his food!

OK, so I’ve been back for a couple weeks….

First let me say that it was an amazing trip! I would do it again in a heartbeat! While not everything was perfect, you can’t expect it to be over a month’s time, it was so amazing that anything that did go wrong was laughable.

The last week that I spent in Delhi was quite fun. I got to experience special events for Republic Day and meet totally interesting people at events and functions… and then there was always more shopping!

Anyway, when I got home, i got really ill. I got hit with a good fever and let’s just say I had to stay near friendly porcelain… no public restrooms for me :o)! All I have to saay about that is I am glad that I got sick at home and not while traveling. If I would have been this sick, fever for four days, other issues, etc. I would have been miserable! Gotta love western medicine and those great doctors at Cedars :o)!

In the mean time, I have to get back to my normal, decadent life, but I have to write more….

Agra and the Taj Mahal

Next stop, Agra and the Taj Mahal. A quick trip ’cause the Taj is the main attraction in Agra and that’s what we were there to see :o)! What made it interesting is that we drove from Jaipur to Agra. Don’t think that I was behind the wheel, there was a driver. What made it interesting was driving on what was deemed a “National Highway”, no joke. Well, let’s just say that according to American standards it would be considered a backwoods country road that has never gotten any maintenance, and that would be a generous classification!

Jaipur India

The next stop on the itinerary was Jaipur. This is not only the home to yet another *seriously* wealthy ruler of India, a Maharaja, but is also the center of India’s precious and semi-precious stone market…. Let’s just say that above and beyond the sights, the shopping was incredible. I totally lived up to the family motto, “We came, we saw, we shopped!”

We saw all the major sights… the city palace (where we saw the largest sterling silver “things” in the world. They are vessels to hold water from the Ganges and they are bigger than I am!). Also on the list of things to see was the Jantar Mantar Observatory. These are a bunch of instruments that track celestial bodies and the sun accurate to withing a couple of seconds, literally, and they were built 250 years ago! If you didn’t know that they were that old, when you walk into the garden containing them, you would think that you had just entered a modern sculpture garden. Truly amazing!

Then we went to the Amber Fort. It lies just north of Jaipur (while it might not be far as the crow flies, it takes about 30 minutes to get there due to India’s roads and driving techniques). Again an amazing place that shows not only India’s strength, but how absolutely wealthy these rulers were! While the fort and its surrounding structures were impressive, what I really liked here were the elephants. Before you freak out and go all “PETA” on me, these elephants are treated extremely well, this is India after all and they are revered as gods…. So these elephants are owned by individual families and this is what they do to get their required exercise. Their handlers (emplyed by the families) walk them to the fort where tourists pay (a government sanctioned fixed fee) to ride them up the hill to the Amber Fort. When they are at the top, they let the tourists off on a big platform (that has been used for this for centuries) and go down and do it again. Each elephant makes three round trips a day and the whole thing is done and over, with the elephants returning home by 11 am. So not a bad day :o)! The total income for the elephants is about 2000 rupies for these three trips which covers the copious amounts of fodder and water that they require each day. All in all a pretty cool thing. You can take a look and see some great pictures of the elephants and all their markings in my gallery (they get “drawn up” by their owners and handlers with chalk and little mirrors, etc. It’s really neat).

The shopping…. well it’s amazing. Jewlery that would cost you an arm and a leg in the states is actually affordable here. And not only is it affordable, but it’s actually economical. I bought way too much, with my mother asking me at one point, “Who is that for?” to which I replied, “I don’t know, but I might need it someday….” And just to show you how economical it was, she was in total agreement with me and started pinting to great stuff that I might be able to use someday :o)!

This posting wouldn’t be complete without a quick note about the hotel… Again, it was a former palace… A Taj Hotel called The Rambagh Palace. Yes it’s still owned by the royal family that ruled this area dna the queen mother still lives there. The fancy restaurant is located in what used to be their private dining room…. what an impressive place, I mean palace! The rooms were amazing, and the servicec even better. I would have to say that this was the best hotel on the trip, without a doubt. It was even better (room, facilities, food, service) than The Peninsula in Bangkok that has been rated as one of the best hotels in the world…. This place blows the Peninsula away!

Udaipur India

We flew to Udaipur and that was an adventure unto itself…. but the flying adventure gets even better later in the trip so I’ll expalin that one then :o)… anyway, we set off to the hotel, and what a hotel! It was the Lake Palace, a former palace of the Maharani of Udaipur. You may know it better as the home of Octopussy from the James Bond film. It sits in the middle of a man made lake and is pretty spectacular. What made it even more so was the room that they provided… Upon check-in they explain that they have done something very special… the room was the former room of the Maharani himself!

Took a boat cruise of that lake and saw a “party palace” that was used for the Maharana’s women so they could swim and dance in relative safety (but not “safe” from the Maharana himself :o)… ). Then a tour of his “city palace” that is built into the hill overlooking the lake… what a place! It’s so big that it has been turned into two hotels, a museum and a private residence. Why a private residence you wonder… well, the decendants not only still own it all, but they live there as well! These guys have some *serious* wealth!

Bangkok… catching up!

So here are my pictures of Bangkok! What an amazing city…. I spent 4 days there before heading to India. The things that I did… well, as stated before it all started off with a great airport pickup by The Peninsula Hotel driver. He was quite a nice guy named Domrong and intent on asking me if I was single. When he found out that I was, he also pushed for me to hire him to drive me around town and show me the sights. I didn’t do that (I got another guide), but he did go on about the women and what was “available” in Bangkok. He also made it a point to tell me that The Peninsula was one of the only hotels in Bangkok that didn’t charge and extra fee to have guests. But there was a notice in the little key-holder you get when you check-in that says “All unregistered guests are required to leave by 12 am”. I found that yo be very interesting :o)! But I should state emphatically that I did not partake in any “hotel guests” or anything of that sort…. I did go see Nana Plaza which is like a giant plaza/mall for a mans sexual appetite. And just like any mall throughout the world, pretty much anything is available. I just walked through though and a friend dragged me to go see a show…. It was kind of like going to a strip club back home but a bit more interesting (read “shocking”). While I can’t describe the whole thing in a public writing/forum, I can say that a woman was a great dart thrower and she didn’t use her hands… you do the math :o)!

Anyway, what else did I do in Bangkok? I got clothes made! I got a great deal on a butt load of shirts, some slacks, shorts and a couple of blazers. And the entire lot was less than half the price of a blazer that I had been looking at at home… so I think I got a bargain even though I am sure that they saw me coming and had “Tourist” written all over me :o)!

I also went and saw the sights… The Golden, Emerald, and Reclining Buddha (three different ones). All were quite impressive! I toured the royal palace, and even took a long-tail boat ride through the canals. That was a total trip. Basically it’s a 16 meter long skiff with a V8 engine attached to a long drive shaft with a propeller at the end. The whole thing is moved by the driver to steer the boat, engine and all. Think of it as a V8 on a stick! What a concept, and the things move, not to mention the rooster tail they throw up as you skim across the choppy river!

Most of the rest of my trip involved getting the clothes made (initial order/measurements and tow fittings, all done in 48 hours) and relaxing…. Then came the incident at The Peninsula! The rooms are totally computerized… quite cool. There is this console by the side of the bed that deal with it all. So I get back to my room one night and take a shower to get the humid stickiness off before bed (it was winter and it was 96 F during the day with about 88% humidity (rising in the evening to the 90’s)). I am naked and about to get in bed and I go and push the button on the console to turn off the lights and half of ’em stay on…. Now being the computer geek that I am, I try a couple of different things, test the wall buttons, etc. and nothing! So I push the “valet button” and wait… 15 minutes and nothing. Now I am sure that the system has freaked out! I call downstairs and they send the valet to my room who reboots that system and tries to get it to work to no avail. He then calls a guy from engineering who does the same things and more, even rebooting my room from a closet down the hall. They then explain that they have to replace the CPU card in the system closet and that will take a bit. I say OK as I sit in a bathrobe at 1 am in the morning reading my book with these guys trying to get my room to “work” (get the lights to turn off)! Well, after an hour of this, the valet calls the night manager and they have come to the conclusion that they will have to move me to a new room. The night manager (he introduced himself as Mr. Paul) wants to speak with me on the phone. I tell the valet no, he can come and talk to me in person (lazy bastard)! So he comes up and tells me that he is going to do something (and I am quoting) “very special for me”. So he moves me to a suite, all the while still telling me (even after moving me) that he is going to “do something very special for me”.

Come a couple days later when I am getting ready to check out, I am still waiting for that “something very special”. What can I say, a room upgrade isn’t “very special” in my world (sorry, but I’m spoiled… admitting it is the first step towards recovery, but I never said I wanted to recover)…. Anyway, I told the woman at the front desk and said since I was still waiting “for something very special” that I wouldn’t pay for the night that I was totally inconvenienced. That wasn’t going to fly with her and she didn’t have the authority to do that so she had to go check. She did and said sorry, but the upgrade was the “very special”…. Well, I kind of lost it at that point! I told the nice lady that Mr. Paul had promised something and not delivered and that the upgrade wasn’t “very special” in my world! She seemed a bit embarrassed and then went to go talk with Mr. Paul in a back room or something and came back… again not willing to comp the night, I gave her the choice, she could give me one night for free due to their room computer mishap or I would walk on the bill and they wouldn’t get anything…. Well, after that, she talked with Mr. Paul again and I got that night free! It’s not the money, it’s the principle. He said that he was going to do something and he didn’t… he didn’t even want to come to my room when the problem was going on, he wanted to talk with me on the phone. That is not what The Peninsula Experience is supposed to be about :o)! I think next time (and if you are going to Bangkok) I might stay at the Oriental…. So if anyone from The Peninsula is reading this, remember it! Service, service, service!

I am seriously behind in writing….

OK, so I am seriously behind in my writing for my travel blog, but there’s a reason… net access has been a bit flakey since Bangkok, and it wasn’t even that good there… :o(! So, what have I been up to, well here’s the list of things that I have seen and done and would like to write about, and will followup on as I continue to type….

Bangkok and my adventure at The Peninsula Hotel where my totally computerized room freaked out. I also got clothes made (what a deal) and saw the Golden Buddha, Reclining Buddha and Emerald Buddha….

On to Delhi India where I met my mom and spent two days at the Imperial Hotel before going off on a tour of Rajasthan, seeing Udiapur, Jaipur, then on to Agra, Jhansi, Orccha and Khajuraho. All of this I will write about in more detail, but some of the highlights are the old city in Delhi (Chadni Chowk), staying that the Lake Palace (where they filmed Octopussy, the Bond film), shopping in Jaipur, the Taj Mahal (amazing)…. and then the adventure started with a train ride, a drive (with a flat tire) on a national highway (more like a one lane road that is in *really* bad shape) and the Kama Sutra carvings on the temples at Khajuraho…. Oh, and let’s not forget the food, man the food… :o)! One other things that will have to be discussed at length is the airport security in India. It makes the US look like we don’t check, but then again, these guys do it so many times, but so poorly that I still don’t think it really makes that much of a difference other than to make every flight at least 30 minutes late due to loading the plane….

Ok, so as I said, I will write more about that later (most likely later today), but in the mean time, today is Republic Day in India and they are having this parade going down the main boulevard here in Delhi, attended by all the leaders, etc. It is quite a spectacle with more pomp and circumstance than you have ever seen… the soldiers marching in this high-stepping stride swinging their arms and all the military machinery. Very interesting, not only for the parade, but for what the parade has done to security in the city… armed military personnel everywhere with street closures and all of the other high security trappings

Arrival at the Peninsula Bangkok

So it took a bit of doing as my flight from Siem Reap Cambodia was delayed for a couple of hours, but I finally got here. The driver from the Peninsula Hotel was waiting for me and I said farewell to the family friends that I had been touring Cambodia with….

When the Peninsula took over, things got to a level that is near perfect. It started with the green Mercedes with the driver offering me a cool bottle of water and a towel after the flight. Then of course as I check in, it’s all done in my room and I never have to deal with with front desk. And the room is gorgeous! It’s also huge! And the entire hotel is beautiful…. So I checked in and the first thing I wanted to do was to get some clothes made. Of course the concierge was able to point me in the right direction…. Oh, and did I mention that the hotel has high speed internet access in every room? I just asked the concierge and he gave me an ethernet cable and I’m good to go!

The tailor that was recommended is top notch. They have all the best fabrics and they even have a tailor that comes to the states a couple times a year. What more could a clothes horse want :o)! Anyway, I spent way more than I wanted to, but I won’t have to buy any stuff for quite a while… I got 15 shirts, 3 pairs of shorts copied from my favorite pair, 3 pairs of slacks (again copied), and 2 sport coats. Now the question is, how am I going to fit this all in my suitcase…?

Tomorrow I am going on a tour of the city and its temples and royal palace. Should be quite interesting and beautiful… if I don’t melt first. It’s 94 degrees here and about the same humidity…. Feels like I am living in Houston all over again, and I left there and I left there and haven’t been back….

Leaving Cambodia, Next Stop Bangkok

So I am leaving Cambodia today and heading to Bangkok. What can I say about Cambodia other than it is an amazing place and I will definitely be back to bring other folks so that they can experience what I have. This is a place that is striving to not only make itself better as it moves into the modern world, but the people are actually interesting in your happiness! If you are planing and adventure, Cambodia is should be on your “short list” of places to go!

As for Bangkok, I will be there for four days and staying at the Peninsula. Yeah, I know everyone says that I should stay at the oriental, but I got such a great deal on the room that I just couldn’t pass it up. And it got better ratings in all the most recent travel magazines :o)! See, I can rationalize almost anything… :o)! And to top it all off, the GM of the hotel here in Siem Reap Cambodia (The Raffles) used to work with a gentleman who is now at the Peninsula, so he is going to contact him and let him know that I am coming…. What can I say, it’s all about networking….

Tonle Sap Lake

Went for a boat ride on the Tonle Sap lake, the largest lake in Southeast Asia. Very interesting once you can get past the smell…. You start on a small river/tributary to get to the lake and it’s not the cleanest thing in the world. Kind of reminds me of the canals in Venice… :o). As you are going by, you can see someone rinsing their toothbrush in it and then brushing their teeth/rinsing their mouth… and that is considered clean. But I guess it’s a good thing that they’re brushing their teeth.

There is a village and folks that live along the river and lake in floating houses. Very interesting…. Even the schools were floating and had enclosed play areas for basketball, etc. Pretty cool….

Even neater were the little kids that were floating in what we would consider a wash tub. they just sit in the large plastic basin and float around and paddle their way to where they need to go. One girl was floating along with her pet monkey, it was totally cute…

Later today we are going to see some silk production and then go for a balloon ride and see Angkor Wat from the air….