June 30, 2009


My dear readers, I was recently having a little chat over the viral fence (as you do!) with the delightful Melissa at SUNBONNET COTTAGE. We were talking about food for the brain and it occurred to me that you might like to hear my deeply profound thoughts about FOOD! In fact, ‘cos I want to share some of my FAVOURITE restaurants with you, you could call this post “brain food!

And so just for you, dear readers, my latest culinary scoop!


surprisingly Spanish!

EL BULLI: Gnocchi of polenta with coffee, saffron yuba and daisy buds

EL BULLI: Kumquat and mint cocktail with pumpkin oil emulsion

Now as you know, dear readers, Mediterranean cuisine is often described as the healthiest in the world (aah, all that fish, garlic, olive oil), and Spanish chefs among the most creative. But what you may find more surprising is that, according to RESTAURANT magazine’s latest poll, four of the world’s TEN best restaurants are owned by Spanish chefs!

For the fourth consecutive year, the number one slot has gone to EL BULLI (above, plus some famous dishes, top) owned by Catalan chef, FERRAN ADRIA, who recently picked up his award at a gala organised by the leading British trade magazine at London’s Freemasons Hall.

The other three Spanish restaurants to make it into my (and Restaurant Magazine’s) top ten of the world’s best fifty establishments were MUGARITZ, owned by Basque chef Andoni Luis Aduriz (4th place, above), Catalan chef Joan Roca’s EL CELLER DE CAN ROCA (5th below),

and ARZAK, owned by Juan Mari Arzak (8th below).

But my dear readers, did you know that Spain according to the magazine has more restaurants on the list than any other country - including France, my country of origin?! And that Adrià’s El Bulli, established in Girona and with three Michelin stars, was voted number one by a panel comprising 800 international chefs, food critics and culinary experts?! (P considers himself a bit of a food expert following the infamous Nora-bun-débacle - more below - but swears he didn’t receive his invite in time…)

Adrià is, of course, known around the world as the “alchemist of the kitchen,” experimenting with liquid nitrogen - like his British protégé, HESTON BLUMENTHAL (above), owner of 3 Michelin-starred (and 2nd place) THE FAT DUCK. (Oops! Wrong pic again, Nora!) Quick, back to Heston and The Fat Duck!

However, long before Adrià and Blumenthal rolled out their mass spectrometers, kitchen scientists had been busy working on quaint recipes such as the egg-free custard invented for his allergic wife by ALFRED BIRD. The huge success of his instant custard (below), not to mention the huge profits cooked up, sent the food industry into a floury flurry of freeze-drying and homogenising experimentation from which it’s basically never looked back!

And, as for Adrià’s gaff and The Fat Duck, have been to both a couple of times with Nora and P but wasn’t impressed. Snail porridge (below)? Can take it or leave it! But then, I prefer my Bonio biscuits and dog chews any day! But what do I know? Neither Nora or I possess P’s unrivalled, unquestionably exquisite culinary palate…

P.S. WARNING TO THOSE OF A NERVOUS DISPOSITION! First put yourself in the emergency brace position, next take a long, deep breath, then prepare yourself for the WORST, MOST BLOODCURDLING SIGHT EVER.. Nora’s Most Notorious, Culinary Pièce de Résistance to date (below):

Well, my dear readers, I did warn you…!! (And In case you were wondering, they’re hot cross buns…)



Heavenly Housewife said...

Oh lola, lol, you are without a doubt, wonderful!
I have to admit, I have never been to any michelin restaurants. Your list is very impressive. But truth be told that kind of food scares me a bit. I cant imagine spending oodles of money and then to my horror have a slimy little snail dripping on my plate. I would feel like I was robbed. To me, a lot of this michelin type food is very emperor's new clothes. I need to feel satisfied after a meal, and that means leaving with a full belly :)
Please tell Nora not to give up on baking. It can be so satisfying and fun.

ModernMom said...

The only one of those I have ever heard of is The Fat Duck. Always thought that was great name for a Restaurant.
RIP hot cross buns.

Anonymous said...

Great post , but forgive me as my attention was drawn away to your adorable dog

Melissa said...


You are a Sweetheart for mentioning me. Thank you.

And the food, muy delicioso.

My father's family was originally from Spain. Ahh, the food we used to eat, was oh so good. I miss those days, with all of my father's relatives cooking and talking.

Have a marvelous day, my sweet friend.

Love Melissa

Nora Johnson said...

Hi HH!
I totally agree about Michelin food, having come to the conclusion the smaller the portion the more expensive the dish. A sort of inverse culinary ratio!
Hi ModernMom!
Terrific name isn't it? And yes, RIP buns!
HI Gingeyginge!
Many thanks for stopping by. Sooo pleased you like moi!
Hi Melissa!
You're most welcome! See you again soon!

Duchess of Tea said...

Oh! this makes me hungry and dinner isn't for another 5 hours, even teatime is two hours away!! I love visiting your site and now I know why.

gypsywoman said...

dinner at your place?

dustjacket attic said...

First off Lola, let Nora pick the pictures cause her's are far more alluring than your's! (shirt off would have been even better).

Oh right, were talking food aren't we? Yes well ... ummm ... okay, don't let Nora in the kitchen again, hire a cook. You could end up in emergency! Not a good look Lola darling. xxxxx

Brunch at Saks said...

Yummy choices! The Gnocchi from El Bulli looks amazing :)

French Fancy said...

that last photo is so silly :)

Our favourite local restaurant here has just got its first Michelin star and I can't imagine tasting better food anywhere - never mind the fact that you can find 3 starred places

Nora Johnson said...

Hi Duchess of Tea!
Yes, totally agree! I'm feeling hungry too (don't tell anyone about the diet I'm supposed to be on...!!)

Hi Gypsywoman!
You're most welcome for dinner (but don't hold your breath after the bun fiasco!)

Hi Moonspinner!
Will pass on all your good advice to Nora (thank goodness I don't have to rely on her to bake my Bonio biscuits...) And as for the photos, I'm not going there...!

Hi Brunch at Saks!
Yes, the gnocchi dish does look wonderful, doesn't it? I'm really intrigued by the saffron yuba and daisy buds!

Hi French Fancy!
I've come to the conclusion that 3 star Michelin food (apart from being over-priced to compensate for the exotic silver service, dome removal ceremony & assorted flunkies) is over-refined to the point of loss of its ORIGINAL flavour. And such small portions! Agree with you that one star restaurants are far more reliable!


Melissa said...


Thank you and may you have a great week.


Nora Johnson said...

Hi Melissa! You're welcome - and have a great Thursday!

LOL LOLA & Nora:)

Jessica Cangiano said...

Lola darling, you have a fantastically well-defined and sophisticated palette! My stars, I should think you more than adorable enough to score a table at El Bulli any day sans the need for even so much as a reservation ;D (Wildly wishful thinking perhaps.)

Your list was a delight for the eyes and taste buds to read, thank you very much, sweet Nora and Lola dears!

Oodles of hugs (and an open invite to supper at my house at any day!),
♥ Jessica

Nora Johnson said...

Hi Jessica!
You're sooo kind! Be over at your place in a tic!

Heavenly Housewife said...

Dear Lola,
Yes, I have been to Patisserie Vallerie :). When I first came to london about 10 years ago --before I was living in the UK, it was absolutley gorgeous, but it has changed a little over the years. Its still nice, but it has turned into a big chain and doesn't have the same factor that it used to. Its now part of the Druckers chain. Its a bit of a shame. I go for the strawberry tarts there :), though its been a while. If you ever go to London's Regent's street, there is this place, Cafe Concerto. Not as fancy as vallerie, but does the most amazing strawberry tart. I need to blog it :). Lola, if you are so inclined, you can even share a little with nora as a reward for good behaviour :D.
Love, HH

Nora Johnson said...

Hi divine HH!
Been away from London for a couple of years now so wasn't aware Valerie's is now part of a chain! Left little message for you at yr place!

Marie Antionette said...

What a fantasic post on food,food glorious food...LOL. Since I'm Spainish and French with Scot Irish to boot,you know I love good food.
Thank you so much for stoping by and I will be visiting again.Hugs Marie Antionette

Melissa said...


Congrats on your awards too.

Happy Weekend.


The Vintage Kitten said...

Happy 4th of July Nora & Lola! X

Nora Johnson said...

Hi Melissa & Vintage Kitten!
Many thanks for stopping by!
Yes, Lola was thrilled to get TWO awards PLUS her own link by Chronically Vintage!
Have a wonderful July 4th!
xxLOL Nora & LOLA:)

Melissa said...


Have a marvelous time at the party. Say hello to all of your American friends for me.


Shopaholic said...

Wow! I'm quite surprised at the spanish topping the list, I'd have thought french or even us brits! I go to spain virtually every year and can't say I've ever eaten spectacularly, mind you, I wouldn't have eaten in any of these places!!

Nora Johnson said...

Hi Melissa!
You're so kind! And will do!

Hi Shopaholic!
Totally agree with you about "ordinary" Spanish cuisine - grills, stews and paella! The ones on the list are really quite unusual experimenting with liquid nitrogen etc!! I firmly believe though you can eat far, far better in the UK or France! Look forward to seeing you again!

LOL LOLA & Nora:)

Holly Loves Art said...

You make me laugh... and I am feeling hungry now - at least for "some" of the foods you wrote about!! Hope you're having a wonderful day!

Nora Johnson said...

Hi Holly!
Left a little message for you at yr place!
Love to Alfie,

Rose Red said...

I love your blog. Lola is so cute. I have a bichon poodle mix named Harry and if he could still make babies, theirs would be beautiful.

Nora Johnson said...

Hi Rose Red!
Many thanks for yr visit. Have left you a little message at yr place!
xNora & Lola:)

Heavenly Housewife said...

Lola, I didn't realise you had to have your delicious bonio biscuits shipped! You know lola, this is just another thing we have in common. We were both taken out of our environment and forced to make do elsewhere. Sometimes we have to scour for little goodies that remind us of home. And thats fine, because we are worth it. To the rest of the world, we just need to explain, "don't hate me because I'm beautiful."
*kisses* HH

Nora Johnson said...

Hi HH!
Left a little message for you at yr place!

jordiegirl said...

Oooh Lola

I wondered what they were glad you shared the answer with us.

I thought they were Yorkshire Puddings!!!

Anonymous said...

Oh you are speaking my language! I recently came back from Spain and ate at Mugaritz (very good) and Arzak (very disappointing). Could not get a res at El Bulli to save my life but I'm going to keep trying!

Thanks for stopping by my blog today! I'll be following you from here on. :)