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Everything posted by naebody

  1. "Gastropub" would be stretching it. Grand Union is a pub chain (unrelated to the excellent Grand Union in Westbourne Grove, confusingly) that does acceptable burgers etc, but not much more. You're possibly best to go to Camden, then take a take a taxi or a quick tube ride. Solid choices in that area include Café Corfu (modish Greek), Cottons (atmospheric Carribean), Mango Rooms (posher Carribean) Gilgamesh (absurdly lavish E&O-style Asian) and El Parador (tapas).
  2. It's certainly worth a go, but note that the head chef, Chris Payne, recently moved to the Duke of Sussex in Chiswick. There's not much else in the area immediately around the Dirty Water Club. It's most notable for having both of London's superior Ethiopian places, Lalibela and the Queen of Sheba.
  3. Appalling, yes. Plus they've spelt it "Ramsey". You can browse around a bit by going here and putting "street" or "road" in the search box, with all the other ones blank. If you're viewing by star order, it may be judicious to skip around by editing the number on the very end of the URL. (ie: "null&start=1430" would take you to number 1430). For example, you can do a London-wide sweep of the 300 or so Street-addressed zero-star establishments by starting here. It's more manageable if you limit to an area, eg: road-bound zeros in Westminster start here. Through this method, I've discovered that all the five-star places are almost exclusively sandwich shops, cafes and work canteens. Chains such as McDonalds and Cafe Rouge also score very well. With a few exceptions, most of the serious restaurants get two or three stars. The nul points tend to be Chinese or Indian, with a peculiarly high proportion in Upper Street, Islington.
  4. No. But Luna Rossa on Kensington Park Road does a pizza that's authentic enough to compensate for the kitch interior, unforgiving prices and crappy service.
  5. Are you after a private room or just a big table? If it's the former, I can second the recommendation for Boxwood, which has a nicely unthreatening atmosphere for groups. Or, if you're prepared to travel a bit, The Gun in E14 is terrific. If you go with the big-table option, the excellent Morgan M in the arse end of Islington does an good job with groups. Or, if the venue's party credentials count more than the menu, how about Levant? Or Boisdale? Or, to take it to the other extreme, perhaps one of the alcoves at Dover Street Restaurant? None will blow your culinary socks off, but you're unlikely to care by sunset.
  6. Apologies if this pre-empts your conclusion. But if we assume that the 56 three-stars average about 50 covers each, that's approximately 2,800 seats worldwide -- about the same as Lundy's in Brooklyn during its heyday.
  7. Just to tie up this loose thread, Paul Wootton has now taken over as editor. He was previously ed at Class, "the magazine of bar culture".
  8. If Glasgow counts as Northwest, you could try this lot.
  9. Dismissing the whole of Brick Lane makes me a bit uncomfortable. There are, no doubt, quite a few places where your £6-a-head, BYO meal may not be of the highest quality. But the street also supports one of London's biggest Bengali communities, as evidenced by the twin menus in places like Gram Bangla and Cafe Naz Express. This whole "Brick Lane is all just touts and watery curry" stereotype is playing into the hands of those who want to see it become the next Starbucks frontier. Anyway, Mr Gagit ... having read your online savagings of places I'd previously considered rather good, such as Gaig and elBulli, I'm not overly keen to direct you towards any Indian restaurants in London (or indeed in India). If my recommendation did not meet your criteria, you would see me as a failure. And if it did, I would consider myself to have failed. It's a no-win, basically.
  10. Luddites can find a PDF menu here, which features delights such as muesli and "fisherman's infusion". Don't all rush at once. Two questions: 1- Deya disappeared pretty quick, and Fiore has been shut for ages. Is Claudio Pulze okay? 2- How can anyone justify spending half a million quid on turning a quite posh restaurant into a quite posh restaurant?
  11. Yes. In a taxi yesterday, I was inflicted to half an hour with Radio One DJ Scott Mills. He was having one of those DJ chats about his meal at Hells Kitchen the evening before. Memorable quotes included: "I had to order the scallops, whatever they are", and "I know tinned strawberries, and those stawberries were definitely from a tin". This, I guess, is what Marco does now: he cajoles people obsessed with celebrity into feeding those not interested in food. It's just like Planet Hollywood, except less honest.
  12. Watched last night, and was left annoyed at myself for wasting an hour on such glib, railroaded nonsense. I genuinely cannot understand why there's a thread on here to discuss the continuing adventures of a few nonentities, who are learning to cook a couple of dishes by rote. They could switch the basic setup to a garage, a hairdressers, or pretty much any service industry and the programme would be identical. The kitchen is nothing more than a backdrop. So are we supposed to be watching because of Marco? Is he really worth the effort because of what he achieved a decade ago? I found it a bit sad, like watching a pantomime where the understudy is trying to mug through the part of the villain. Nevertheless, some good yet may come of this unedifying spectacle: 1- Marco pays off his debts, so he can return the kitchen without fear of losing his kneecaps. 2- A tabloid does a full expose on some dark corners of Marco's life, leading the show to be pulled and Cracker reruns to be put in its place. 3- He punches Angus Deaton. What are you suggesting here? That he's a class fraud because he doesn't talk like Alan Bennett (rather than fellow Leedsonians Peter O'Toole and Jeremy Paxman)?
  13. Simone is indeed head chef at RHR, whereas Mark is executive head chef of Gordon Ramsay Holdings. Josh Emett, meanwhile, is chef de cuisine at NYC. Walnuts himself is chef patron of both RHR and NYC. If anybody knows what the frick any of these titles actually mean, please contribute.
  14. Last year, Hardens' press release said Sweary's influence was stifling the restaurant scene. This year, using a nearly identical list, we're told that the empire is crumbling because Walnuts is spending too much time on TV. Hypocrisy aside, you really have to admire the Harden's publicist for bashing up a story out of such unpromising material. I'd note that RHR continues to be voted the "top gastronomic experience", which is surely the only category that counts for the city's main food-as-themepark venue. For best overall rating it loses out to Petrus, which perhaps reflects its new-found, Michelin-inspired "destination" status. (Harden's speculates that its victory is because Marcus Wareing spends his time in the kitchen -- even though he executive-s two other restaurants and makes regular appearances on all those "Breakfast with Frosting" shows. I'd bet Mark Askew, executive chef at RHR since 2001, spends a lot more time at the pass than Marcus). Meanwhile, Chez Bruce, London's long-term "favourite restaurant", also gets the "best food" vote this year. This, I'd argue, tells you more about the changing tastes of Harden's voters than it does about top-end London restaurants. In summary: tabloid hyperbole with a dash of tall poppy syndrome, applied for the selling of guidebooks.
  15. The Bacchus is the kind of place that divides people: you either accept that there's some out-there stuff on the menu that may not appeal to your own taste, or you dismiss it all as pseudish bumwash. That's why the reviews tend to be either glowing or scathing, with little inbetween. Oh, and while the neigbourhood can't be described as pretty, it's not particularly threatening or dangerous, and is a mere 10-minute walk from the ironic t-shirts and oblique haircuts of Hoxton Square. Perhaps The Providores? Haven't been there for ages so you may want to solicit a second opinion, but it would certainly tick the "innovative" box.
  16. Bistrotheque and Green & Red are fun and closeby. The Empress of India is worth a go if you're heading east. You're also in westerly walking distance of the City (the financial district), where there are hundreds of options. Search for "liverpool st" and "spitalfields" to turn up some ideas. Quoted menu prices always include tax, but not service. A gratuity of about 12% will usually be added to the final total to cover service (it will say so on the menu). If it is, there's rarely any reason to tip on top of that.
  17. There's no mention of kushikatsu on the menu of Bincho, the OXO Tower place. But Soho Japan does it, and is arguably superior to Nobu, which has turned into the Hard Rock Cafe for the monied classes.
  18. So, went along for their first Friday night to see how things were shaping up. It was close to capacity by 9pm, although most of the customers seemed to be French and extremely monied so I guess there must be some Aubergine carry-over. Was saddened to note that they've opened directly opposite a reliable old-school French local called Pere Michel, which has been ticking for about 20 years but is suddenly looking a bit dowdy and forlorn. Hope there's enough business around for both places to survive. Anyway, the room's in a belle epoque style, with a few bits of the old pub still showing through. It's horribly over-lit and there are too many tables for the space, but otherwise it's quite glam. While there's no hints anywhere as to who's doing the cooking, Thierry Tomasin has his name on everything (the signage, the menus, the website, etc). Service, as marshalled by the man himself, was was chatty, flirty and very French, rather than starchy formal. The problems -- 45-minute waits between courses, a sommellier who wasn't 100% sure of the cellar, a bill snafu -- were probably just first-week teething troubles. I suspect training was "on the job", as there seemed to be lots of waiters knocking around but not much actual waiting going on. And so to the food. The menu's pretty long -- eight or so choices per course -- and aims a couple of notches higher than brasserie. Pricing looks to be in bargain territory at the moment, but bear in mind that portion size is miniscule. Seriously: add a couple of sides to your order if you don't want to stop at the chippie on the way home. Either that or get pissed: the wine markups looked to be less than 100% versus retail, even on the lower slopes of the list. Like most other diners, I kicked off with a "foie gras creme brulee" (£7), which was precisely as you'd imagine, and no worse because of it. The Date made enthusiastic noises about a jewel-like artichoke ravioli with a poached egg and hazelnut oil (£6). Then came six spindly ribs of lamb flanking a small knot of carrots (£16), all of which looked lost on the plate but demonstrated that the kitchen knows how to do medium rare. The Date's vegetable and mushroom casserole (£14) was a lot better than it sounds, albeit with a portion size bordering on comically mean for what is essentially rabbit food. A warm chocolate tart with caramel brittle and ice cream (£9) was required to avoid the chip shop, and was about as good as such things get. Overall, it's an excellent local in an area otherwise full of tourist traps. It's certainly worth making a detour before the critics file their copy, at which point the booking line will go mental and the prices will rattle up. In summary: a B+. (It would have been an A- if they'd invested in a dimmer switch).
  19. My first thoughts were "ailment", then "lament". But then, I don't know Latin, which I guess would put me in the minority in Cambridge.
  20. He's better than most, certainly, and I'm sure there are some economies of scale involved in operating five very similar restaurants in close proximity. Yet a bottle of 1996 Château Labégorce Cru Bourgeois Margaux will still cost £60 at La Trompette and £18 at the off-licence across the road. Not my definition of "amazing value".
  21. So I'm overcharged to pay for his afternoon tasting sessions and to fund his cellar speculation? I'm bearing a premium in order to benefit from his irreproachable taste? Wow. Now, I can understand why most people haven't taken the time to read about the economics behind such matters. But for a guy who owns a chain of restaurants to still be trotting out all this the delusional bumwash about food subsidies and glassware costs is terrifying. It only takes a moment's thought to figure out that cost and prices have little relaton -- I can pay wildly different prices to eat an identical meal if I choose to have it on a weekday lunchtime, a saturday night or a Valentines Day. This is not because the costs involved alter significantly, but because the perceived value of the product changes. The wine list is basically a refinement of this, as it allows restaurants to operate a multitude of price points simultaneously (economists call this targeted pricing). It means you can attract the skinflint, glass-of-house-and-a-jug-of-tap-water people while giving customers who are not price-sensitive the rope with which to hang themselves. You make more money from the latter group than the former, but there's no "subsidising" involved, just as the Valentine's day crowd does not subsidise the lunchtime diners. They just provide differing margins versus empty seats. The second thing to note about wine is that the restarateur is in posession of all the information, while the average customer has barely any. I'm quite often confronted with a wine list where I don't recognise a single name within my price range, and I doubt that happens unintentionally. Now, keeping your customers in the dark (or information asymmetry, as it's known in economese) may appear to benefit the restarateur. It's doesn't -- what you get is a dysfunctional market where nobody benefits. Why do most people buy the house or the secnd-cheapest bottle? It's because most diners assume they'll be buying a lemon, so minimise their expenditure (those on a date have the same instinct but don't want to look cheap, so buy the No.2). Sorry to sound like a lecture, but this is relatively important stuff in the scheme of things. Everyone seems to agree that the current restaurant pricing model doesn't actually work very well. As many posters have pointed out, it's a hard business in which to make money, yet the perception among customers remains that you're profiteering. Shouldn't someone in the hospitality industry be looking at ways to fix this?
  22. No it's not. Firstly, it's much more expensive than other ingredients, which has a distorting knock-on effect when we start talking about percentages. Secondly, there is a wide variety of grades and price points offered within the same establishment with negligible wasteage, unlike most other ingredients. Thirdly, the marginal cost of storing and serving wine remains identical across all the grades and price points, unlike most other ingredients. When the wholesale price is discounted, wine is essentially a fixed cost that's being charged at a variable rate. This is not a question of whether restaurants are profiteering, or whether their business models are sound. This is a case of customer perception of value -- which is surely the benchmark by which businesses should be judged. And if you perceive that you're paying a £20 "location charge" on the house wine, what kind of sucker would be expected to pay £100 to receive an identical service on something further up the list? In fact, I'm going to take this to the logical extreme. Restaurants are not justified in charging above the recommended retail price for wine. They essentially have the same storage and purchase overheads as small retailers, which are covered by the over-the-counter profit margin, while the cost of service is encapsulated in the "optional" charge that's added to the bill. Restaurateurs, start your bleating.
  23. Apologies: I know this has been explained repeatedly both on here and in articles such as this, but I guess I must be bit slow. Fixtures and fittings are fixed costs. Likewise the cost of a corkscrew and a condecending waiter to pour the stuff. So why does it make sense to make £165 profit on a bottle of Comtes Lafron when you're only taking £10 on your house bottle of Banrock Station? Surely, in an over-stuffed and novelty-hungry restaurant market like London's, there is a gap in the market for someone to introduce a wine list priced at retail plus a fixed corkage charge?
  24. So. First visit tonight. In summary: underwhelmed. Bad start. The large tray of bread had obviously been sitting out for a couple of hours. Not a good indication when you arrive at 6.30pm. Pick of the starters was a cauliflower soup that was on the set menu. On the a la carte, a sprinkling of white beans with pancetta and a tomato crostini was nice enough, but underwhelming for £9.50. And so to the mains. Now, I salute Anthony's persistence with pollock. It's admirable that he's perseveres with something that's not on an endangered list. I just wish it tasted better. The latest incarnation was obvously trying really hard to distract you from the pollock: it came in a little copper pot filled with leeks, potato, sauce vierge, possibly chard and a whole bunch of other random odds and ends, including a lump of chicken that I suspect had sneaked in from another dish entirely. I didn't raise this possibility with the waiter, as the chicken was by some distance the best part. From the a la carte, a rigatoni arrived looking like something you'd get at a motorway service station. I felt no compulsion to try it, but the date said it was "acceptable enough", which does not seem effusive praise for a £14 plate of vegetable pasta. To finish there was a textbook strawberries with ice cream and a brief but awkward dispute about a mistake on the bill. Having been a fan of Arbutus in the early days, I now find myself going a lot less regularly. The pricing's steady creep upwards over the past 18 months has moved it out of "bargain" territory and into "mid-range", where there's a lot more competition. Wild Honey seems to be starting at the "mid-range" level in what is undoubtedly a trickier area of town of an evening, where the lack of passing trade and pre-theatre business means it will have to be more of a destination than a convenience. On one night's evidence, it will have to raise its game.
  25. There's an exhaustive list of options here. Some of the lesser-known possibilities include Denise's (1970's retro-French next door to the British Museum that serves until 2am), Costa Dorada (a hen-night-honed tapas place near Oxford Street that ticks until 3am), Yas (an Iranian stuck out in the western Zone 2 badlands that shuts at about 4am) and Isis (a hedge-fund-manager-filled Lebanese in Green Park that claims to serve until 6am). The default choices are Cafe Boheme and Balans, both in Soho, which will do you unthreatening bistro food until 3am and 6am respectively on weekends. Of the 24-hour places, Vingt Quartre in Chelsea (eggs benedict) is probably better than Tinseltown in Farringdon (burgers), although both are inferior to a visit to the Brick Lane Beigel Bake to pick up a hot salt-beef for the taxi home. If you can make it somewhere before 12:30-1am the options widen significantly, eg: Gilgamesh (pleasantly benign pan-Asian in absurd Camden surroundings) Sketch Gallery (a misfiring kitchen lost inside Mayfair's flagship folly), Noura Central (glossy Lebanese just off Piccadilly Circus that's not nearly as much of a rip-off as you'd expect) and Joe Allen (luvvie-friendly American comfort food in Covent Garden). Oh, and some of the top-brass boutique hotels such as The Gore will be happy to feed you if you ask nicely at the bar.
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