Michelin-starred chef Robert Kranenborg at The Amstel, in Amsterdam announces, "I don't follow trends. I prefer to set them," as he orchestrates his brigade from the glass turret in the middle of his kitchen, while barges chug past on the canal.
The restaurant, La Rive, has a dream setting. On the lower ground floor of the recently refurbished Inter-Continental hotel, it has floor to ceiling windows on to the canal.
A water-born party of eight bumps up to the fenders for an early supper. The restaurant is packed by seven on a Monday evening. A pre-theatre crowd sup on bouillon of rabbit with vegetable ravioli, costing G32.50, (£12) followed by John Dory baked whole with summer savory and tomato concasse at G90 (£33).
"The older I get, the more I return to basics - the classical kitchen. But I do do my own thing," Kranenborg insists.
His "own thing" is very much in evidence with the risotto, dressed in green with two types of smoked eel - tender and crisp - costing G42.50 (£15). The smoker sits in the herb garden outside the kitchen door. "Eel is a speciality of mine," Kranenborg says. "This dish evolved from my time in Belgium, where 'green eel' is eel cooked with herbs.
"Here I have made a risotto with sorrel, marjoram, chervil, tarragon, parsley, chives and a little bit of wild spinach. I don't put cheese in it like the Italians do to make it thick, I like it smooth and light."
Amiable sommelier Ted Bunnek selects a Saint Veran, Domaine des Deux Roches 1992 priced at G68 (£25) to go with the grilled turbot steak and browned butter with pistachios and a hint of mustard, "a most classical combination," he smiles. It matches perfectly; full-bodied, fresh and juicy.
The dessert paired the striking Pedro Ximenez, which costs G8 (£3) per glass, with the warm chocolate pudding with coffee ice-cream that exploded bitter chocolate vapours on contact. "The Spanish serve it at 16ºC, but I serve it chilled."
The menu changes four times a year - with a few additions and subtractions throughout the summer depending on seasonality of the produce. Seventy per cent comes from Holland, 30% from France - the fish come from Brittany. "Langouste is my favourite, better than lobster or langoustine. It's the delicate taste and the things you can do with it," Kranenborg says.
Average spend in La Rive is G150-G170 (£55-£62) with wine. Kranenborg reveals 60% of the hotel's revenue comes from food and beverage. This includes the 90-cover fine dining restaurant, the upstairs lounge, room service and a healthy 400-cover banqueting operation. n
When Mike and Gill Staples bought Orestone Manor Hotel and Restaurant in Devon three-and-a-half years ago, the first thing they did was do away with two bedrooms, and double the size of the restaurant. Their next smart move was to appoint head chef Ashley Carkeet to put the property on the culinary map.
Carkeet was only 21 at the time, and the Staples admit they took a gamble. But it was a risk that paid off when a year later the restaurant was awarded two AA rosettes.
What distinguishes the 50-seat restaurant is the daily-changing menu which never repeats itself. Carkeet writes the day's menu each morning and claims never to have repeated a dish in its entirety in almost three years at Orestone Manor.
He bases his dishes around what is available from his network of small but willing local suppliers.
Carkeet says there is almost nothing he cannot get hold of easily. His fruit and vegetable supplier, a small shop in Totnes, makes two trips to Covent Garden each week, so exotics are easily accessible.
Seafood arrives fresh from the harbour at Brixham, while wild boar - a popular dish - is supplied from a farm in Honiton. A new product tried for the first time last month was elderblue pork - a cross between pork and wild boar.
Vin Sullivan's Canadian imported bison has been greeted with less enthusiasm by customers. "They can be put off by thoughts of herds of bison wandering the plains in Westerns," says Staples.
He describes the restaurant's style of food as fundamentally Anglo-French, with plenty of influence from other continents.
With an Anglo-Indian mother-in-law, it is not surprising that Carkeet adores spices. A typical Indian-influenced dish he put on the menu recently was a rack of lamb on a bed of lime pickled leeks in a Madeira and thyme sauce.
Carkeet claims not to have too much difficulty coming up with a new menu every day. If he finds the ideas are a little slow coming, he flicks through past menus looking for dishes he has marked as being good sellers, then adapts them by, for example, changing the sauce.
The only à la carte items on the menu are fillet steak and Dover sole, and even they are not served the in same way every day.
Carkeet and his two assistant chefs prepare everything on site, down to the canapés, bread rolls and petits fours. Since there are no other kitchen staff they also do the washing up and mop the floor.
The four-course (plus coffee) table d'hôte menu is £27.50. Average spend is around £30 a head.
The restaurant carries some 60 wines and caters for a range of palates and pockets. The list starts with basic German wines, moves through the increasingly popular New World wines, and extends to more sophisticated French wines. Prices range from £9 to £54.
The restaurant, in the village of Maidencombe, just outside Torquay, is in the heart of the West Country tourist area. Consequently it sees a distinct change of clientele at different times of the year. "In winter months we cater mainly for locals, but come Easter, when the tourists arrive, the locals disappear," explains Staples.
The restaurant closes in January for staff holidays.
Being three miles out of town, 85% of hotel guests use the restaurant every night of their stay. It does not serve lunches, apart from Sundays. "We can't compete with the very cheap lunch offers available elsewhere." n