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Tim Hayward

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Everything posted by Tim Hayward

  1. As an ex adman I can only vouch for the clubs that would happily extend membership to single-nostriled pondscum. I used to be a member of Century a regular at SH and an occasional at the Groucho. All serve a roughly interchangeable menu - a sort of unchallenging irony-enriched, steak and fat chips for people who've been a bit lost since the Ivy and sockless loafers were the cutting edge. Century's rooftop bar/dining area is the only exceptional bit. Competent gastropub food can be just the right thing when you've sunk a few martinis and the stars are out. All have lovely smooth flat tops on their cisterns.
  2. I’ve just come back from lunch at Wahaca a place serving “Mexican market food” just south of the Covent Garden Piazza and I have a problem. The food was great, the bill was a very reasonable £14 but the entire experience took 16 minutes. Here’s my difficulty. I’m English and, last time I looked, male. This means that I am genetically programmed to act a certain way in the presence of highly spiced food with a rice or bean base. I don’t know why. I keep trying but no matter how many stars a Chinese, Thai, Indian or Mexican restaurant effects, no matter how much they are aiming to ‘change the way people look at XXXX cuisine’ the minute the first bite passes over my gums I go into a feeding frenzy. If I was one of those mad-eyed NLP guru’s I’d believe that the highly characteristic spiciness was a trigger for the memory of an entire life’s worth of lager-lubricated Ruby blowouts. If I applied a bit of food science I could postulate that the combination of appetising spicing with designed-to-fill peasant ingredients was a sure specific for overeating. Whatever the cause, I simply can’t push my chair back until food spray covers my shirt and the tablecloth and the final mouthful is pressing upwards against my glottis with worrying urgency. OK, I have no self control. The second part of my problem comes with the design of the restaurant ‘concept’. I now live in terror of the waiter who asks “Have you eaten at XXXX before?” because I know I will say no, and I know that there will follow a detailed description of why the food will not arrive to my convenience but to that of the kitchen, the floor staff and the business model. They often dignify this with the get-out clause “… you know…. like tapas!” to which I always want to reply “…you know…like battery hens!” Keep these facts in mind. I walked down into Wahaca and was genuinely impressed by the interior. An enormous amount of money and design effort has been spent on a fantastic, purpose-built, mass catering room. There’s an expensive open kitchen, and, most costly of all, a battalion of helpful, attentive English speaking staff. As it’s now imperative for a restaurant to have some kind of caring ‘mission statement’ it was declared all over the walls that the food was prepared from fresh English ingredients wherever possible. The overwhelming impression was of a job terrifically well done. (Which oddly, and as an aside, raised my third problem. The much touted head of this operation is Thomasina Myers, who won Masterchef in 2005 and apparently became interested in ‘market food’ while travelling in Mexico. If only out of bitter jealousy, I’d love to know who stumped up the millions this must have cost on the basis of the gap year observations of an amateur chef . The story is terrific PR but, please God, there has to be more to it than that.) I ordered pibil pork tacos, a black bean quesadilla and a Sonora salad. The pork was a pulled chipotle-y barbecue like mound of juicy shreds on a puddle of beans and a thick, firm corn taco. Admittedly I’d missed breakfast and sat through a two hour meeting with an editor but this probably one of the nicest things I’ve eaten in months. I have some history in Mexican restaurants. My first job in London was as a KP at a place we called Break For The Bathroom. I remember unloading giant sacks of precooked ‘Meximeat ’ into vats and grating lumps of EC cheese-mountain plastic cheddar into buckets to make ‘Monterey Jack’. I know how many ways a quesadilla can be bad and believe me, this wasn’t. It was light, neither overcheesed nor beaned, creatively seasoned and at a temperature that avoided both congealment and palate immolation. The salad, though delightful, was served in a bloated monstrosity that looked and tasted like a deep-fried coffee filter. It was the only disappointment… the sort of cheap Tex Mex gimmick that should have died with leg warmers. The meal was brilliant: I sat, all the way through it thinking… “This tastes fantastic, I want to bring all my friends here to taste it too. I want to tell everybody to taste this fantastic food”. And then I realised that 16 minutes had passed, my stomach was groaning, the bill was on the way and that nothing would ever change. If food this good was ever served in a market in Oahaca, it should probably stay there. Though this place produces stuff that tastes so good it could potentially change the way we think about Mexican food, it reinforces every stereotype by making it fast. Serving it ‘tapas-style’ and ‘canteen-style’ just forces us to experience it as fast, throwaway food. How could I take anyone to Wahaca unless it was for some awful, intra-meeting refuelling stop - So we could snork down a plateful of Meximeat while lying about the sales figure for the North East region before hurtling back to the office for an afternoon of dispeptic lying and bilious recrimination. The only way I could take friends out to Wahaca would be to make an evening of it… to go out mob-handed, spend six hours in a vertical drinking hutch throwing cheap beer down our necks then barrel in, reeking and howling, and spend the last half hour before closing demanding tacos and tequila. The food at Wahaca is great, I just can’t work out how to eat it.
  3. I found it while I was looking for the one that said "I've just laughed myself into a rectal prolapse".
  4. Jesus, what a possibility. Dorian Grey was a guilded youth and his picture was unimaginably repellent. What hope is there for a man who appears to the public with a face that has not so much been 'hit by a bus' as held hard into side of one while it passed at speed. Christ what must the picture look like? On balance I reckon there's no magic and no surgery, just a mix of silicone bath sealant and Touche Eclat applied with a small spatula dipped in hot water.
  5. I watched 'Kitchen F'ing Nightmares' last night for the first time in ages. OK, I admit, I was arsholed, knackered and bored. But through it all, a strange, almost mystical revelation took place. As I stared at that famous, crumpled brown face, so often compared to a scowling scrotum full of walnuts, it seemed that it was changing. True, the deep tramlines at the corners of his manly lipline were as pronounced as ever but, was the drink confusing me or did it seem that the corrugations of his noble brow were somewhat lessened? Where were the crows feet? Whence this strange plumping of the telltale crepey skin around the eyesockets? Where once I'd beheld something that might not have looked out of place in the left cup of an extremely tanned granny's bra, there was the face of a young, vital man, brimming with youthful hydrolipisomes (or whatever the fuck it is that Jennifer Aniston puts in that stuff). Sadly eG rules prevent me putting up before and after Gordo shots but I'd have to ask if the man looking a bit like 'Sting' in this picture is the same as, for example, this one.. Perhaps the damage to his testicles (posts passim) has engendered an enormous surge of hormonal activity? Perchance he's on the monkey glands or could it possibly be, whisper it low, that Gordo's had work done? This is only a theory. I can't be sure. I was, after all, lying on a sofa as fucked up as a stabbed rat when I formulated this paranoid nonsense so I beg you, fellow Gordo-watchers, put my mind at ease. Watch next time he's on and tell me it ain't so.
  6. Repellent, but perhaps we shouldn't blame the food writers for that one. It's part of a larger cultural shift amongst advertisers to confuse chocolate based products and sexual fulfillment in the eyes of female consumers. How many times have you seen an ad in which an unintimidatingly ordinary woman is offered advances by a range of attractive men, all of whom she rejects in favour of a steaming mug of chocolate texture enhancer drink with a 'hint' of some ghastly chemical flavouring? Mmmm! Yes, even though I'm as homely as a bag of spanners I'm going to turn down a spectacular and protracted rogering by all of these beautiful men because chocolate is better than sex. (There's actually technical name for the genre - they're called 'turndown ads') I'm trying to imagine any other culture than the British who could view ads like that in anything other than stupified amazement. Mmmmmmmm! Indulllllgent! Barf!
  7. Brilliant!!! Sod the sauce, bugger the albufera, stuff your coco - lets dob the upstart French buggers in to the Revenue :)
  8. I think the answer to your question is that it was by Matthew Norman - for anyone else who wants to take a look it is available online here. Personally, I only skim his reviews to get some idea of whether or not there might be an interesting restaurant to visit. Mostly his whole approach simply annoys me and I certainly wouldn't use his recommendations (good or bad) when deciding to visit anywhere. ← C'mon. That's a great review. Read it. Laughed. Don't have to waste my money going to Texture. That pretty much ticks the boxes. Agreed it has a faint anti-elitist whiff to it, but I find that rather endearing from a bloke on his salary.
  9. I particulrly liked... Now there's loyalty.
  10. I clearly shouldn't have bothered with such in depth journalistic research. Looks like Ramses just made it up.
  11. (LOL at the link) ...or, indeed sets fire to his testicles. Aside from the aggressively managed spin which somehow conspired to make it a result of his astonishing sexual potency, how the fuck did he manage that? Ignorance of rudimentary kitchen safety, a 'senior moment' or did his fragrant Missus just pour coffee down his jammies in a moment of blind rage? (ETA) How tall is he anyway? I've just spent twenty minutes in the kitchen slapping my privates at the range and I'm damned if I can work out how he did it. Either the man's 7'8" or he climbed on a chair to drop his leathery cods into the skillet.
  12. Certainly not - I'm just a little awestruck by the perspicacity of your observations. My lips were moving... little appreciative grunts were coming out, but this is the first time I've been able to make a coherent response The GRH publicity machine has obviously made strenuous efforts to suppress any public discussion of the more questionable elements of Rambo's behaviour. Can we assume that the great financial behemoth it will become will be immune to any revelations?
  13. Both the Devonshire and the new Coach and Horses (working title) in Camden were independent gastropubs that appear to have run out of money close to launch or soon after (I don't know the Warwick well enough to comment). GRH have ridden in like the cavalry and inherited boxfresh operations in interesting areas without much effort or as much investment as one might expect. Rumour suggests there are at least 8 other gastropubs in their sites but the intriguing bit is that they're all in slightly off-the-beaten-track locations. Are they actually intended to succeed or are they a cheap way of making a statement?
  14. There are politics junkies who watch the words or actions of the big players, trying to extrapolate from the merest, possibly unintended slip what the parties are going to do next. It's based on paranoia and groundless speculation but it's compelling if that's what you're into. Me? I'm a Gordo watcher. I'm fascinated by every move he makes, the motivations behind his personal and business decisions, the machinations of the Death Star that is GRH. There's never, in the whole history of food and cooking, been an individual so high profile and surrounded by such carefully created and managed image - the comparison to a high profile politician is not lightly made. So, as the web is the natural home for conspiracy theory and ill-informed speculation, I wondered if anyone else had any theories about what's going on Chez Ramsay. There's definitely something happening. His missus has been set up in a nice little earner of her own. Gordo has spread himself wide in product endorsement. The debate about how many pass bars he can regularly attend seems to have gone off the radar. GRH seems to be almost stealth-opening gastropubs. The big GR hotel restaurants are closing. The individual 'proteges' are being permitted higher billing.... and the list goes on. I'm not suggesting that these things are related to any single event but I think might be intriguing to speculate on the strategic directions behind any of it. To me it seems like a general exercise in capitalisation on the GR brand whilst subtly creating elements that are insulated from dependence on the man himself. Why? Have they reached a stage where he simply can't be stretched further? Is he about to change personal direction? Is his relationship with GRH going to change? Any suggestions, guesses?
  15. Far from it, Norman. Both my mum and my Nan (now 98) are great fans of a 'nice bit of neck'. It's one of those cheap, old fashioned cuts like 'scrag end' that rarely makes polite recipe books. I've seen neck two different ways. There's a kind of 'agneau dans la guillotine' slice-of-neck chop which looks exactly like you'd imagine then there's the longitudinal strap which, I guess, is the extreme and neglected end of the fillet. The lovely thing is the marbling. The strap is about as thick as two thumbs but but with a series of connective tissue/fat layers in a herringbone pattern. Cut across the grain into big chunks it's the absolute favourite cut for stews. (Hotpot and Irish stew purists will argue with that), it also takes well to most of the obvious Maghrebi treatments and - God, I'm letting myself slip here - pressure cooking. It might be just me, but I find it much more strongly flavoured than any lamb fillet. I keep a neck fillets in the freezer for stews and tagines - though only when Farmer Sharp can't provide me with mutton backstrap. That's a whole different thread
  16. After threads passim about the God awful state of affairs in Camden Town, things are finally looking up. I've just got back from dinner at Market a new British restaurant half way up Parkway. The place used to be the New Cultural Revolution noodle bar, long beloved by the donkey jacketed denizens of NW1 for its socialist ambience and broad choice of malign bacteria. Now, it's been stripped of plaster, low lit and occupied by a likely couple forged in the crucibles of Shoreditch and lately returned from a tour of duty at the estimable Medcalf of Exmouth Market. God, but it's good. I have to keep reminding myself we're still in Camden I had devilled kidneys to start, but only after torturing myself with the possibility of whitebait. It takes an assured hand at the stove to ensure this dish doesn't taste like squash ball and piss curry but this was good enough to remind me that foie gras is merely the other organ meat. (Remember - You're still in Camden) Al had a Roquefort tart which, in itself struck her dumb, but was accompanied by a throwaway salad that mixed citrus fruit, pears and leaves in a way so calculatedly cunning as to redefine raw herbage. (Remember - You're still in Camden) Al's main was an onglet, black as a priest's socks on the exterior from a rich and intellectually rigorous marinade accompanied by chips that would make your great grandmother weep great soft tears of nostalgia. (Remember - You're still in Camden) Mine was a shoulder of lamb which yielded to the barest nudge of fork yet retained both form and moisture thus defying physics. Alongside were crisply fried gnocchi. Yes, that's right. A starch both innovative and sublime. It's gnocchi... fried! Eating it was like being told "Yes, you can see Uma naked - but only if you lick the chocolate off first". (Remember - You're still in Camden) Puddings looked great but defeated us. Wine (not my area of expertise in any sense but its disposal) was a Valpollicella for which the adjective 'superiore' was, for once, an understatement. £75 for two (of which £32 was the wine). Service was attentive, friendly and expert. They soft opened on Monday so they're still quiet and are doing no PR. They said they'll offer a 10% discount to anyone mentioning eGullet. Drop round the corner to mine for a cuppa afterwards. I'll be the one on my knees, thanking God that the curse of Camden is broken.
  17. God, yes! The screaming, tooth-itching, acme of utter bollocks. 'Fine Wines' always sounds like it should be pronounced by an egg-stained 50 yr old regional sales manager from Chelmsford, with terminal haliotosis, who's trying to wheedle his way into the knickers of his PA with a 'snifter' of petroleum brandy the size of his balding, flaking head and a 'slim panatella'. Are there yet greater depths to be plumbed?
  18. Can we chuck in 'sourcing' for an honourable mention? It's unbearable enough when it's used by a consultant getting tenders for supply of eighteen thousand anti-static mousemats. For a magazine reader going out to buy a bit of fish it's absurd.
  19. Pah! In your cupped hands, dammit. If you were a real man.
  20. You reduce me to quiet sobs. If there's one man I idolise more than the fantastic Alan Coren it would have to be that polymath scourge of the crystal bucket, Clive James. Now Alan's gone, do you think we should get a small party of us together to go round to Clive's and check he's OK? If he weren't so proudly antipodean he'd be our finest remaining national asset. Naebody, if you want eaterie, mate, you can have it with pleasure. Just for reminding me of the greatness of Clive. I herewith rescind my fatwah on eaterie.
  21. Aaaargh! Don't get me started on roasting. We used to have roast potatoes, roast lamb, roast bloody monkfish and roast beef. For chrissake, according to the French 'Rosbif' is our defining national characteristic. But it wasn't enough. Some pewling tit with temporary power over menu typing and with literary ambitions exceeding his skills started referring to 'roasted potatoes' and it was suddenly all over the place like a fungal rash at an orgy. Recently I was offered 'pot-roasted chicken' at some mercifully forgotten shitehole. It is but a short, miserable and inevitable slide from pot roasted to pan-fried. And that way madness lies.
  22. Well, if we're going for the comprehensive list... 'Suppers' (usually qualified with 'quick', 'speedy' or 'simple') 'Indulgent' and any mention of 'Busy Mums' We seem nationally unique in our desire to couch everything in the patronising tones of a women's magazine And, of course, we can reserve a small corner of the foodie Room 101 for the 'ness' suffix when used with 'combines', 'cuts through' or 'contrasts' as in This particularly vacuous tic is shown at its best in the now de rigeur 'get an idiot punter's opinion' section in shows like Heston's. My particular favourite was the knuckle-dragging mouthbreather in the pizza episode who said he liked "...the way the breadiness of the base combines with the cheesy tomatoeness of the topping". Great. Thanks for that.
  23. I sit here, all day, trying to find words to describe food so it's probably unsurprising that my perspective gets a little out of kilter, but sometimes the red mist rises in my eyes and word rage is upon me again. I've ranted at length, on these very boards about certain words that should be expunged from the foodwriter's vocabulary by a wrathful God. Anyone who refers to an eating establishment as an 'eaterie' should be blinded with brochette skewers and people who type the word 'simply' or 'pop into' should have their fingers fed slowly through a blunt mandoline then plunged into lemon juice - such matters are now generally accepted. <RANT> ...But the time has come to speak out again. Recently, a hideous corruption of the language has crept into common use and unless we act in a concerted and organised manner will become a permanent part of our usage - floating in the limpid waters of our glorious language like a turd in a swimming pool. I refer - of course you are ahead of me here - to the term 'Flavour Profile'. If 'Flavour Profile' is intended to indicate something more complex than simple flavours then we have the perfectly acceptable English 'taste'. But unfortunately there is more. 'Flavour Profile' implies a sort of graph or visual tool which, in some way tames the unruly sensations of the mouth into a measurable and exchangeable absolute. It implies that the complexities of mixed flavours can be quantified and passed around like so much filthy currency. Next time you feel you're going to type 'Flavour Profile' try this simple thought experiment. Think of another simple human need that, like eating, can be raised to the level of sublime pleasure - think about sex. Would you be comfortable describing your reaction to sexual contact as an 'Erotic Response Profile'? Certainly not - At least not if you anticipated anything other than a restraining order and counseling for your second date. Attempting to express sexual response as a 'profile' makes one sound like an emotionally stunted sociopath. I would argue that 'Flavour Profile' is symptomatic of a life-draining trend to turn the sensual pleasure of eating into a form of competitive, joyless, scientific 'connoisseurship'. It is the final humiliation that we've taken this accretion to our bosom enough to replace the 'u'. Brillat-Savarin had no need for 'Flavour-Profiles', no more did Elizabeth David. Let's stop this right here. </RANT>
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