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Everything posted by naebody

  1. Time Out provided a peerless Zone One pubs guide a few weeks ago. As for Smithfield breakfasts, I prefer Sir Loin to the Cock. (These are places that pre-date innuendo.) It is nevertheless worth remembering that the average greasy spoon breakfast is, not to put too fine a point on it, repulsive. If your goal is something edible, the Wolseley (Piccadilly) and Roast (Borough) both do their best to reinterpret the processed-meat-and-lard theme, albeit at a price.
  2. Alright - I'll break the silence. Haven't been in a while, but I doubt it's changed fundamentally in that time. I have a sneaking like for the place. The basement room's a wee bit different from the average and, no matter what you think of the boss, the charity angle has to lend a scintilla of goodwill. Unfortunately (and for understandable reasons) what leaves the kitchen can be hit and miss. You're prepared to forgive this of the similarly staffed Hoxon Apprentice up the road, but when you're laying down an obligatory £60 per head at dinner it turns into a gamble I' not rich enough to repeat all that often. Oh, and the wine list features perhaps the most aggressive mark-ups of any London restaurant -- a remarkable feat for somewhere that doesn't make a profit. The tattoria upstairs seems a lot more successful, in that it uses quality ingredients that nobody has the chance to bugger about with.
  3. Yes, I'm sure they're crying out for modish French bistro food in Walthamstow, Snaresbrook and Daggenham Heathway. I certainly hope they've not thought of attempting to bring quality in a polo-shirt hellpit like Richmond, or are going to make some ill-advised attempt to reinvent the country house. It'd be much more sensible to buy somewhere within 15 minutes walking distance of the wheel, do a similar menu at an identical price point and call it Tupello, or Laburnum, or Persimmon, or whatever. I'm sure it'd be ... er ... poplar *. (* Sorry.)
  4. How about Anomalanthus, or maybe Anthopteropsis - keeping it in the Ericaceae family. ← Madrones (the North American genus of the arbutus) is a nice name, although it would probably create confusion with some place in Belgravia. As to the "can London support Arbuti", I'd say that the answer is: "possibly". Its great advantage is it's a top-class local restaurant that just happens to be in the centre of town. Another one would thrive somewhere like Covent Garden or Green Park. But if its offspring appear in one of the affluent patches of Zone 2, it'll be competing with other solid local restaurants (think Vascherin, Ma Cuisine, Abingdon Road, etc. etc. etc.) and would therefore lose some of the USP.
  5. Indeed, although that great menu has now accompanied Morgan Meunier to the wrong end of Islington. What remains is the usual combinations of goats cheese/wild mushroom/beetroot ravioli/gnocci/risotto (delete as applicable). Okay if you get a deal, but not worth making a detour for otherwise.
  6. You're right, London's not Paris, so you can assume that most places will be able to do a couple of vegetarian options without resorting to steamed veg and cold quiche. Having said that, the really serious veg-friendly places (Morgan M, Rousillion) are a bit far into zone 2 and too far up the price scale. It's my experience that herbivores tend to like mezze or tapas, perhaps because the communal ordering of lots of small stuff means they don't look quite so fussy. Salt Yard and Tapas Brindisa are excellent but chaotic and noisy, meaning you'd probably be better with Noura Central or Fino. Of course, if it's you and your girlfriend who are the vegetarians and your dad's a strict steak and chips man, then the admirable thing to do would be to go here, here or here. You won't starve.
  7. Shut between 3 and 5 every day, and not even open on Sundays. They're taking the piss, right?
  8. Just scanned back to the reviews of the time and, disappointingly, it seems that the answer is yes. I can' t find a single lukewarm review of Harveys, never mind a negative one. Here's few selections from within 6 months of him opening: Egon Ronay: "I was astonished that a humble, small place, run on a shoestring, beset with operational nightmares, its kitchen staff hardly out of their teens, run without previous managerial experience, should, so soon after opening, attain such a high degree of excellence." Jonathan Meades: "The fact that Harvey's is, within three months of opening, booked up a week or more ahead may of course testify only to the efficiency of its PR. But I think not. It is the genuine article and one which demonstrates, moreover, that the way forward is to be discovered through a judicious reworking of the past - albeit a past that belongs to another country, another kitchen." Jonathan Meades again, in a different review: "He is the most gifted young chef in the country, even though his cooking is not that of a young man - by which I mean that it has none of the gimmicks that young cooks often indulge themselves in. He is a technically assured and audaciously inventive virtuoso and although he appears to have learned his craft in the majority of England's major kitchens, he is very much is own man with a style that is bold and clean. He conjures zingingly fresh flavours, and he presents his dishes with outrageous aplomb. ... Recently I had a meal there which was breathtaking: oysters with tagliatelli, caviar and shreds of cucumber; sweetbreads with scallops and an ultra-thin potato galette; lobster ravioli sauced with tomato, fine oil and a fish reduction; good cheeses (if all too similar); a slab of chocolate marquise the size of a paperback." Can't say I get the same impression from Frankie's ...
  9. Would it be fair to say that the average well-travelled restaurant diner will usually build up a level of resistance to the nasties that routinely crop up inside a commercial kitchen? Also, there's a big "I'm not a doctor" disclaimer around this, but I'd have thought that if something routinely objectionable enters your system, it will tend to find its own way out pretty quick. There's some really interesting statistics on Wikipedia about this, eg: there are 26,000 foodborne infections annually in the US per 100,000 people, compared with 3,400 in the UK and just 1,210 in France. So is American food preparation generally less hygenic, or does the average diet reduce their tolerance? Edit: I guess a third possibility is that Americans are often hypocondriacs who are keen to apportion blame, while the average Brit remains stoic even when the world's falling out of them.
  10. Is there a thread on this place still in existence? Was there last night* and it was packed, yet it seems to live under the radar of most folk. (* In summary: the lobster was sold out so I paniced and ordered badly. Dull, tasteless crab lasagne starter followed by a lamb main that was like like something you'd sweep off a butcher's floor. However, the date's langoustine starter and scallop main were both very good. I don't doubt Patterson's is a solid restaurant, but perhaps a lack of consistency stops wider recognition. That, and the wierd claustrophobic atmosphere of the room.)
  11. A nice, ordinary pub that's been completely undermined by its clientelle, all of whom seem to insist on spreading themselves over a dozen chairs and broadcasting at volume 11 their importance. I spend every visit fighting the urge to shout "class war" -- something I'd be more than happy to do if the food were not quite so aggressively priced and so instantly forgettable. The Fat Badger, a new place at the wrong end of Portobello market, offers better quality and a more convivial atmosphere, along with a pleasantly original take on Britishness. (Pay particular attention to the upstairs wallpaper.) Places like Smiths of Smithfield and Hawksmoor are fine, but they're basically copying templates invented in New York, which'd make it a bit of a busman's holiday. St John, Vinoteca, Tapas Brindisa and Anchor and Hope are a bit more unique, and worth the effort. (Of the three, only St John takes bookings.) This is probably the definitive, albeit a bit dated, thread for London through the eyes of a septic.
  12. The former is the Peoples Front of Judea and the latter is the Judean People's Front. Splitters.
  13. Careful. By suggesting an alternate meaning here, it could be considered that you've committed libel. After all, anyone with access to Google would still be able to find the relevant review. My two years of media law training can be summed up as follows: it's fine to say that a chef's soup tastes like shit, but not if you say it tastes of shit. You "publish" everywhere something can be read, with local law applying. The physical location of the servers is irrelevant (unless the defamed party tries to sue the ISP, at which point it gets extremely complicated).
  14. I was actually referring to your tendency to think that a 168-hour working week is the bare minimum the job requires. Kitchen Rat denied its earlier claim that Ollie was to leave, so I guess we have to believe that Robert is in Kitchen at the moment to help out.
  15. That's a very good point. Interesting that his longest-standing employee is the sommelier, and the kitchen at his new place is run by his twin brother. Perhaps it's best not to speculate about specifics. But, generally, it may be plausible that if an employer tends not to trust his employees to do their jobs properly, he tends to be left with employess that are not worth trusting. Vicious circle. Dont understand this comment? Spoken like a true chef. If I were to work 20 hours a day, seven days a week, and insisted on overseeing every single aspect of my business, the basic quality of everything I did would suffer. And it would not be too much of a surprise if I started accusing people of stealing teaspoons, or attacking co-workers with pallet knives.
  16. As it happens, I talked to Tom about this a month or two after Tom's Kitchen opened. He said he was running service Monday to Friday at the eponymous place until all covers were on desserts and coffees, then heading down to Tom's Kitchen to "help out" until gone midnight. He was also doing full shifts in Tom's Kitchen every weekend, but promised he'd look to give that up once the place was ticking over efficiently. That was at the same time he was promoting the book. Tom, I'd suggest, takes perfectionism to the point of an obsessive compulsive disorder. He seems completely unable to delegate. I'm not in the least bit surprised that he has a problem with staff turnover -- it must be a nightmare to work for him, stuck in that tiny basement kitchen where the boss is always looking over your shoulder and telling you exactly what you're doing wrong. If all the "empire building" is taking a toll on quality (and I'm not convinced that it is), then it's most likely to be because he is in his kitchens far too much, not too little.
  17. Well "recently worked at the River Cafe" actually translates as working there for 15 years, being head chef and a partner in the business(TRC has been open 19 or 20 from memory). ← Matt, I think that might have been a joke, or at least part of one. The clue was that the surrounding paragraphs were funny. I'm afraid I can't offer a first-hand opinion, as I've never been a fan of the River Cafe's superannuated rendering of Italian peasant food. It reminds me too much of Marie Antoinette, walking around her de-shitified toy farm with a sheep on a pink silk bow. Also, I vowed long ago not to spend another moment in some beige room in Park Lane, feelng guilty for the half a dozen glum American couples, one of whom always seems to be trying to supress thoughts about the greenback value of their draughty room, lumpy bed and anaemic steak. These two factors in combination make TR at the ICH perhaps London's least attractive dining experience of the moment.
  18. Is that true? It's certainly not the impression given here. Not sure I'd agree with your point about Maureen Mills either. Google suggests she only did the PR from around 2001, and she looks after plenty of duds (see: FT). It'd be like saying Jimi Hendrix became famous because he had Max Clifford as an agent. (Edit: and why is it that one in three threads on this board, no matter what subject, descends into an argument about Heston?)
  19. It's rather unfair to compare any new venture against Fat Duck: the thing about exceptional places is that they are exceptions. Nevertheless, perhaps a quick summary of the press coverage may indicate how quickly somewhere can achieve destination status, as well as bringing us back to the original subject. The answer, it seems, is three years. Restaurant opened summer 1995, with MPW acting as the unofficial PR man. Prices, according to the history on the website, were <£5 for starters and £10ish for mains. First (extremely positive) mainstream reviews I can find are by Fay Machler. She wrote about it every six months or so starting April 1996. First national review was from Jonathan Meades in The Times, October 2006. ("5/10. Less is more and keep it simple are the maxim and the injunction this place should take to heart.".) The first article about Heston, as opposed to a standard restaurant review, appeared July 1997 in the Daily Telegraph. ("The chef at The Fat Duck might be a bit crazy - but there's no doubting the sanity of his food"). It received the honour of a visit from Michael Winner in April 1998. In the same month, Heston is named among the "People of the Year" in the Evening Standard. AA Gil pitches up in August 1988. He quotes £13 for a starter and £20 for a main. By October 1998, the restaurant has become news by itself ("Fat Duck gives village a double helping of fame" - The Times) It's listed among the four Sunday Times restaurants of the year in December 1998. (Others are Brown's Hotel, Club Gascon and the Hotel Bristol in Paris, incidentally). Wins its first Michelin star in February 1999. Reviews and features start arriving at a rate of about two a month. Guardian names it restaurant of the year in December 2000. The red-tops begin to run the now-familiar stuff about the wacky science-chef. By 2001 articles are appearing at a rate of about two a week. But it takes another four years for wacky science-chef to become famous enough to be referred to in headlines only by his first name ("Heston's gastropub gets the chemistry right" - Independent, December 2004).
  20. I'd like to add: that's not true. The world does not need another business running at a loss in the false belief that it can put its prices up once the competition go to the wall. Given two-thirds of Britain's M3* restaurants happily co-exist in one village, then I'm sure the Tandridge area can cope with a posh place and a Pizza Express. All you need to do is show the punters that the former provides value equal to or better than the latter.
  21. Given that you mention above that you don't have a business manager yet, much of the criticism in this thread seems a bit mean-spirited. Nevertheless, as everyone else has had their tuppence worth, I may as well join in. This is from the perspective of a journalist (Mar's advice re. press is excellent, by the way) who knows a lot about business and a little about dinner: 1. Track down the Ramsay's Food Nightmares episode featuring Abstract in Inverness, where Walnuts uses lessons learned about why his venture in Glasgow failed to stop a hugely talented French chef's ambitious folly going the same way. (It's from back when the show hadn't fallen into rigid format, so is actually quite useful.) 2. The menu looks great to me, with loads of stuff I want to order. But it will look daunting to my father, who likes a steak, and will make my vegetarian sister feel awkward (you put "vegetarian options on request" on the bottom of the menu without including a veg option or two in the main text ... Are you assuming that, because they don't eat meat, they won't be interested in what they might be eating?) Therefore, you've lost my custom for any family get-together type of event, which I'd assume would be your mainstay given your location. 3. There doesn't seem to be a novelty. Everywhere needs a unique selling point, and I'm failing to spot one at the moment. Haunted bedrooms, a whiff of scandal, snail porridge, whatever -- yes, I know it's cheesy, but if you want to attract journalists you have to give them a hook. For starters, who's Alexander? 4. Unless you're doing 60+ covers a night, the menu's far too long. Keep the populars (bet you're doing ten chickens for every venison ordered) and introduce the other stuff as "specials" when you know you're going to be busy. That should reduce the shopping bill, as well as helping to keep the local cathment area interested. 5. The much-discussed scollops and the venison by royal appointment ... great, but even I could make ingredients like this taste good, and I struggle to boil water. 6. Aren't there any local suppliers worth talking to? 7. I think you're rather missing the point about the tasting menu. It doesn't matter if you're actually providing 68 courses, there's only so much food you can provide without it all going Mr Creosote. And £68 is probably too much for dinner, price elasticity-wise. Knock out a few of the mid-couses, cut it to £50 and include a coffee at the end, and you'll sell three times the number (keep the full monty as a "menu prestige" if you want). Yes, I know it's a bit lame to include coffee, but people genuinely do believe they're getting better value with "all in" deals. 8. 300% mark-ups on wine don't win you any friends. Good luck, and apologies if it seems like we're all getting at you.
  22. "Jamie's Chef, made by Oliver's own production company Fresh One ..." To misquote AA Gill: Mr Oliver is a difficult man to hate but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.
  23. There's a defunct Slug & Lettuce near me that's being used as a toilet by the local tramping community. Does that count? Anyway, in answer to the original question, the place is called CellarDoor, does jazz and cabaret nights, and is owned by a Chelsea-based company called Babylon Bars. "Imagine 30's Berlin meets NY jazz dive", apparently.
  24. I doubt the people milling around Hammersmith backstreets of an evening would be drawn in by the promise of monkfish with spuds at £28 a pop. The River Cafe can be forgiven for being a tad awkward at the booking stage given its peculiar locale. It cannot be forgiven, however, for its shameless money-grubbing and shoddy treatment of anyone who's not Jude Law. (Anyone care to estimate the profit margin on an £11 cup of zuppa di castagne?) As previous posters have noted, the answer would be that we all stop going. Unfortunately, Londoners still seem to believe that awkwardness equals exclusivity -- look how much milage The Ivy gets out of being impossible to book, even though it's dead easy to get a table. The non-sleb visitors seem not to mind getting pushed into crappy time slots because they only really visit on special occasions, so the palaver (and expense) involved is simply confirmation that they're mixing with the beautiful people. It's all designed to inform the casual visitor that they're interloping above their station. Some may consider this as proof that food quality remains a minor concern for the average London restaurant customer. (Within walking distance of the River Cafe there was a little Italian place opened by the same people who run the highly-rated Snows on the Green. It did honest Tuscan cooking with well sourced ingredients at decent prices, with mains from the specials board topping out at about £15. It lasted six months.)
  25. Just a guess, but is it anything to do with LSE? Seem to remember they were refitting the Underground Bar to make it a margin less toxic. Incorporating a toilet would definately be a step forward, providing they kept the original fittings. Other examples in the converted-toilet genre include Public Life in Shoreditch and Ginglik in Shepherd's Bush.
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