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Everything posted by naebody

  1. None of the cool kids ever got me. Anyway, as I say, Green & Red (out east, in a plasticly edgy area) is quite good but can sometimes feel like gatecrashing a Hollyoaks wrap party. Mestizo (sp? On the Zone 1 side of the Hampstead Road) claims authenticity, so you have to assume the occasional dish tasting of sweet tar and barbershop sweepings is meant to be that way. Santo (up the wrong end of P'bello Road) is mechanically ordinary and Taquera (in Notting Hill's franchise prototype testing zone) is a cheery canteen-ish place that's cheap enough not to worry about its habitual misfires.
  2. A cynical person might look at this thread cynically. Terry Conran is trying to sell his 51% stake in D&D, having appointed Goldman Sachs a few months ago to tap up every sovereign investor, vulture fund and oil-rich foreign Johnny willing to pay for a social standing in London. There was a rather ugly drop in the press a few weeks ago about D&D "beating the credit crunch" with revenue up 18% and operating profits ahead 10% to £4.6m. (Oddly, it forgot to explain that "operating profits" only include ongoing operations, so the figures would have been inflated by the opening of Skylon and acquisitions of Places Kensington and Launceston, but would not reflect the death of Zinc.) The press plants also mentioned that Sir Terry was after more than £100m for his stake; a realistic valuation would be less than half that. Given D&D is likely to be under new ownership very soon, any promise made by current management should be treated with as much caution as you'd adopt when ordering the set lunch at Meza.
  3. It's perhaps the most over-reviewed restaurant in modern history. In short: it's generic. If you liked it before, you probably won't like it now. (But if you liked it before, the majority outside SW3 don't seem to like you very much.) It was closed for atmosphere retooling in March, and this bit of PR massagement appeared in one of the Sunday red-tops towards the end of April.
  4. Personally, I found the "pick your own" story hilarious. There's plenty written about how honour systems work, and why they fail. It's not really the public's fault if some moaning farmer (a moaning farmer! Well I never!) chooses not to read it. Man sets up a business using his own wild assumptions about how a market might work, gets burnt, and loses a few quid. Tough. As for restaurants: the waitress/customer relationship already creates an awkwardness that shames a majority into accepting things they didn't order, eating the inedible, paying "optional" service charges irrespective of how the service was, not querying that complementary glass of Cava when it shows up on the bill as vintage champagne, and saying "lovely, thanks" on every single check-back. "Pay as much as you can bear" is just their next logical step in exploiting the acquiescent.
  5. Bernares currently holds the title for "least edible thing I've ever been served, by design rather than by mistake, in a restaurant" (a baked gourd thing that may well have been vinegar-soaked lugworms drowned in Pritt-Stick soup). If you're keen, then go for lunch. It might still be rubbish, but at least it's cheaper.
  6. It's not the first time Walnuts has been to the bank, but it's the first time he's had to seek an emergency bridging loan because the business has over-extended itself. So that's a refinancing of existing debt, which wouldn't have been paid otherwise. So there was no working capital left. Ever since Claridges, the GRH model has been for Blackstone (a big, terrifying New York private equity house) to pay for the hotel then install a Ramsay nameplate on the restaurant with a ten-year lease. The Camden Folly is a different prospect entirely, not least because of the capital requirement. And it has quite clearly ended up biting R on his much-discussed bollocks.
  7. Just Around The Corner, in Golders Green. There's a theory that it makes about 10% per head more than the average, perhaps because its catchment area tends towards uptight and sober types who don't want the shande of underpaying. Mju, in Knightsbridge, also tried this a few years ago. Unfortunately for them, tourists have more chutzpah when it comes to paying zero.
  8. You may be overestimating how much GRH charting its own path, Tim. Though the company specialises in restaurants, it's basically a small-scale niche property developer, so will be suffering exactly the same problems as its sector. Property investment depends entirely on the cost of capital. For a business to work, the value of assets has to be greater than the debt used to access them. As we all know, property valuations are falling and consumer confidence is fragile. As a result, lenders are becoming scarce, and those willing to lend will only do it on some pretty savage terms. Those terms will include some very specific earnings targets either for the business as a whole, or for each individual venture funded. GRH is a privately owned company, so does not have to tell us how much it has borrowed to fund its expansion and on what terms. However, it'd be fair to assume that at least some of the debt that has funded its expansion over recent years has suddenly become more expensive, while the leases are not being renegotiated. Meanwhile, even Walnuts may not be immune to weaker spending. (Sure, Claridges and Maze are still booked every night, but the dwindling supply of expense account lunchers and upper slope wine list browsers will have had an effect.) Highly indebted, fast-growing, consumer exposed businesses don't always end up in the shit when debt costs are rising and revenue is on the slide. But such conditions almost always force companies into changing gear. That takes time. In short, it wouldn't be a surprise if GRH was running close to its banking covenants. Working capital is likely to be very tight at the moment, which means the business may have had to mothball some of its more cash intensive projects while new financing is sought. Disclaimer: the above is composed entirely of uninformed speculation. Any resemblance to businesses living or dead is purely coincidental.
  9. Not sure it's fair to talk about subsidies in such locations, as it's inevitable the start-up costs will be shared and the calculations when deciding ground rent are fiendishly complicated. Also, Walnuts' contract with BAA is for ten years; an early break could only really happen by mutual consent if the business was not performing. As promised, here are some pictures (they're linked, for the preservation of bandwidth among those not giving a monkeys): Subtle branding. The menu and winelist. Could you hijack a plane with these?
  10. There's a "tasting menu" at Maze where you get a pre-selected run of dishes, or you pick exactly the same thing from the ALC. Either way, you'll have to work hard not to spend £100 per head and leave with a gnawing sense of regret. The dress code is charcol and peroxide.
  11. I had lunch at Plane Food a few weeks ago, back when T5 was running at about a tenth of capacity and was empty, more or less. The flight was delayed and I was very very bored, so took photos of the menus, the decor, the wine list, the comedy dollhouse cutlery, everything. I'll endevour to upload a few tonight. In short: ordinary. Too ordinary to remember in detail. But if you're in situ and the plane's not on the departure board yet, it'll do. Cauliflower soup with pine nuts and truffle oil (probably) was about the same standard as a Covent Garden carton, and had the raw overheatness of the microwave. Salad involving feta, melon and suchlike was disappointingly leafy. A prawn and tomato pasta thing was the kind of assembly you do yourself when it's late and you can't be bothered to cook proper. Lamb chops, from the specials, were several bits of very good meat marinaded properly and nicely grilled. The half-raw curried potato wedges it came with would have shamed JD Wetherspoon though. A bottle of okay Duero was £24 I think, versus £8 in my local offy. Staff were over-matey and keen to chat, as they always seem to be in Ramsay places. Bill came to £35 a head or thereabouts. In truth, there's nothing interesting you can say about Plane Food. It's machine tooled in its ordinariness, which I guess is the point. It could slip effortlessly into every airport, trade fair site and mid-range hotel lobby in the world without anyone noticing or caring.
  12. If only to delay death by expurgation, it's worth using this thread to catch up on a few recent developments - the most intereresting of which is the continuing abasement of Jason Atherton. First up, Maze clearly didn't have enough international brand recognition so it's now Maze Gordon Ramsay. This is, quite frankly, shamelessly cynical; even Joel Robuchon had the decency to do a bit of menu work before rolling out L’Atelier. Walnuts likes to use the old analogy about not expecting Christian Dior to stitch your jacket himself, but this ratchets up the degree of separation by a notch. It's like taking a Helmut Lang jacket and gluing on a Dior label. Meanwhile, Atherton is currently manning the pass at Maze Grill, GRH's B-level flesh franchise. And we have to assume he'll be manning the pass at half a dozen Maze Grill openings a year, meaning that'll be the full extent of his job from now on. <joke>Appropriate for a grill, the reviews have been mixed.</joke> (Richard Vines, the voice of corporate bloodlust, is a fan. Guy Dimond, representing the artichoke heart liberal, isn't. Meanwhile, Jay see meat. Jay see fire. Jay like.) But everyone agrees that it's just a steakhouse. From ElBulli to this peer group inside a decade; as career paths go, that puts you in David Caruso territory. Atherton had become little more than the foreman to Maze's conveyer belt cookery, and the resultant drop in quality means he may not have cared when his name was scratched off the door. Nevertheless, it defies belief that he'll now be spending his days pressing a thumb into charred lumps of meat, like an NVQ trainee on work experience. I can't think what more humiliation GRH could cumber, beyond getting him to cook his own knackers on the charcoal robata grill. So how is Ramsay managing this reverse-Pygmalion trick? Surely it can't just be the money.
  13. Look, I don't know what more I can tell you. Eels. Baby ones. Can't tell you if they were cooked live, freeze dried, tinned or desiccated from the top of the Crystal Palace transmitter. Can't tell you if they were tickled out of the salty depths of the Nervión or scooped illicitly from the Thames estuary with a pokey shovel. Quite a few people here seem to be able to justify travelling into the depths of Atxondo-Butfuck just to beg for a bowl of the proper stuff. I'm sure the same people will own a higher fidelity hi-fi than me, and get their wallpaper mezzotinted by Toru Iwaya. Personally, I'm happy to pay £6 on the Brompton Road for a heaving pile of something approximately right, just as I'd rather shop at Ikea and spend my spare cash on CDs rather than electrostatic speakers and flux dumpers. This is why I will never be able to contribute to, or indeed understand, this thread.
  14. I was wondering that myself. But they were damn tasty so didn't appear to be those fake things made of moulded surimi gunk. Perhaps they were using the specials board to shift a batch that failed to move at their posher restaurant across the road. (Scarfing huge piles of baby eels doesn't seem to be acceptable in Kensington, judging by the reaction of horror at neigbouring tables.)
  15. Tendido Cero, Old Brompton Road. Four big slices of garlicky toast absolutely heaving with hot elvers. £6. Not saying it's better. But it's cheaper and much less of a fag to get to (the C1 bus goes right past the door). Therefore, using Top Trumps theory, TC becomes the 44th best restaurant in the world.
  16. If you're prepared to travel a bit, perhaps RSJ. If you're prepared to shout a bit, perhaps Salt Yard. Otherwise, it's perhaps safest to default to a crowd-pleaser like Patara.
  17. The six course, £45-a-head jobby at Launceston Place gets an interesting write-up in today's Metro.
  18. Quoth Ramsay: Actually, sir, I suspect Michel will probably be in a kitchen for most of those days. Interesting theory. According to Jung, you should have made peace with your own mortality by the age of 40, which will allow your mind turn in inwards in an attempt to re-experience what you'd previously found in the outer world. I'd suggest that the only turning inward Ramsay (41), Heston (42) and Rhodes (48) are demonstrating at the moment is in relation to head and arsehole.
  19. There's only one Sushi Hiro, and in every respect it couldn't be further away from Mayfair. The only place I can think of in the locality is Kiku, which is a fair copy of those overbright places lonely Tokyo businessmen go to get drunk. All the other Japanese in that area are deep into expense account territory: UmuUmu and Matsuri would bust your budget, but Sumosan may sneak under it.
  20. Easy. If you want to stick to French (at least in method) there's Pattersons or Wild Honey. (Should probably note that I've been disappointed by both, but accept that I'm in a minority of one.) If business friendly is the priority, I quite like St Alban, although the food's undeniably better at The Wolseley. Alternatively, I've just heard that, if you ask nicely, the IoD might let you in to their very nice private dining room. If going non EU, the best Indian in the area is probably Tamarind.
  21. Ha ha ha ha ha ha .... You mean apart from me? Chris Hutcheson, Ramsay's father-in-law, is CEO.
  22. Seriously? Collagen casings are not allowed? What about rennet in wine? Glycerine in toothpaste? Bone meal on your sprouts? Shellac varnish on the restaurant table? Bloodied carcass of hell, I give up. I'm afraid that, once you escape the Hare Krishna recruitment camps*, Britain can offer nothing untainted by flesh except perhaps the air (so long as you avoid Newcastle). Sorry. * ETA: man alive .... just checked, and even the Krishnas are cool with dairy. So you'd best rule them out as well.
  23. Yes, that was my initial assumption too. But I googled vegan "puff pastry" and was returned with 50,900 hits, so assumed that the store-bought stuff was made of turnips or sawdust or something. Or am I thinking of phyllo?
  24. Once took a vegetarian to St John - long story - and they did a main course bean concoction that was almost certainly vegan and actually pretty good. Anyway: In Scotland, avoid all attempts at meat-free haggis (pointless, like alcohol-free whisky) and go for the classic white pudding supper. You get a fine example in Anstruther. Puff pastry's vegan, right? You'll find the ale pie all over the place. Mildreds, an otherwise unimpressive diner in Soho, does a decent mushroom and Guinness example. (May I politely suggest that you eat at Mildreds, then swing into Andrew Edmunds opposite so your chap can have something bloody while you both plough through the wine list.) Given Muhammed is now the second-most popular boy name in Britain, we can probably claim Middle Eastern as cuisines-in-law. Momo for atmosphere, Noura for quality, Taz for value (I think it has the edge on the Maroush and Sofra chains at the moment; others may disagree), and anywhere up Edgware Road for authenticity with a slightly threatening but unspecific undercurrent. Finally, if there is one bit of advice to offer, it would be this: never expect the good stuff to find you. As a nation, we've never been particularly good at hospitality. Good places do exist, but the further away you travel from London the tougher it gets to eat at a whim. By the time you reach Yorkshire you're more likely to be hit by lightning than to chance on that "wonderful little place" of holiday anecdotage. It really is best to do your research, find places you want to visit, and phone ahead to book. On that theme, take a browse of Matthew Fort's "Around Britain with a fork" column in The Guardian, which may offer some interesting starting points.
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