Posts posted by britcook
It's the troubles in his flagship restaurant that would worry me. Service that managed to be poor even with a restaurant crowded with waitstaff, poor table positioning (waiters constantly reaching in front of you), food that is average to overcooked (turbot), a total lack of excitement in anything. My comment was "Not the best meal I've had this year, not even the best meal I've had this week". Absolutely true as the week started at the excellent Purnell's in Birmingham which is currently better in any aspect you care to look at (well maybe not rare wines in excess of £500/bottle, but I can probably live without those).
Went there last Saturday and had the 7 course tasting menu, whatever it's called, with the wine flight. Most of the food has been discussed here so I'm not going to repeat, other than to say that is excellent, well worth the visit, but the wine flight at £38 is a revelation. Not only were the wines good in themselves but matched the food perfectly, I've never seen it done as well, and at the price a bit of a steal. 70ml pours which means you get enough to enjoy with the food but not so much that you're slurring through the last courses. Service was good, if a little patchy, especially trying to pay the bill, but always friendly and competent.
I went there earlier in the year, a very assorted party of 6, and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and presentation of the food, very clean, very simple abnd very tasty. The only thing that let it down was the service, very unevenly paced with a very long wait for the main course. I just wish I lived closer.
I was making a mental list in my head the other day of significant wine regions in the world, and realized that I had never had nor heard of any wine made/grown in the UK.
The UK is missing three of the 4 most critical elements to be a great terroir:
-it's not a temperate climate, it's damp and it rains way too much and Vitis Vinifera doesn't like that
-it doesn't have the proper soil, not enough lime which is THE most essential element among other for vines to prosper
-no wide variety of varietals and time (measured in centuries) to find where they do best
Why worry about it when there is so much great wine to be had across the channel?
Obviously geography is not a strong point in Shanghai, as England does have a temperate climate (at least in the south) and more limestone than you ever need. As for the third point, well we do lack a little sunshine so varietal variety is a little hard to come by, but we're working on it.
To paraphrase somebody or other, "It's all about the food, stupid". This is TV for the masses and therefore you have to have the smiley faces and the nice comments and the "personalities". Somewhere in the the programme there is a good idea trying to escape, and you have to ask yourself two questions, first, "Would I like to eat the food presented at the Gherkin?" and second, "Could I come anywhere close by cooking it myself?". If the answers are Yes and No respectively then there may be some point (however small) to the programme, the rest of the garbage you just have to live with.
I suppose my solution is only available to a fortunate few, which is to buy a house that used to be a wine merchant (sometime in the mid 19th century). Several bins (the lower level ones) have been racked out to hold around 4-500 bottles, the upper bins hold cases. Unfortunately the cask bins have been filled and bricked up and it would be too much hassle to open them up, especially as we have enough space already. Temperature tends to be around 55F year round with slight rises and falls for high summer and mid-winter, and just off-dry. I'm thinking of moving out next year so no reasonable offer refused!
Wherever you buy it it's going to be an expensive piece of kit and I would worry about guarantees and after-sales service with a non-UK sourced piece of kit. However low the price if it breaks and you can't get an economical repair what you're left with is an expensive piece of appliance-shaped junk.
what are 'baking bags'? ( .......Not familiar with them here in the UK)
You can get them in most UK supermarkets, but we call them roasting bags.
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.
I take it you've watched your last episode then? Yes the kitchen is only a backdrop, but it one that a lot of people can relate to because most people have one, albeit rather more modest than the TV version. I suppose in an ideal world we would get a cooking programme that eGulleteers could fully enjoy but I'm afraid that in the real world an audience of a few tens of thousands is not enough to justify it. So we take what we can get. It's a bit like watching a comedy, we'd like a laugh a minute but in the end we settle for a couple of good jokes and the occasional smile. For some (like me) the hit rate, i.e. the bits of real cooking/kitchen information we get, is enough to ignore the rubbish and z-list celebrities thing, for others (like you) it isn't, but that's just a matter of personal preferences and expectations.
Strangely enough until this series I had never been much of a fan of MPW (although obviously an admirer of his talent), but once you get past the wild hair and folksy sincerity I'm quite warming to him.
Jackie really was like that too- no editing required. She was sweet, but only in small doses and wide spaces- in an enclosed room it was like being faced with betty boop crossed with minnie mouse!
Nicely put! I think it was incredibly brave of you to hand over your restaurant to novices. As I explained to my wife, they took over perfectly good restaurants for a short time and turned them into disaster zones (and that was before the flood). Do keep us posted on the return to normality/
Anybody else watching this? At least it doesn't dumb down and suffer from the multiple repeats of recent cooking shows. A week was probably too short a time to get ready, but it shows it's a tough business. And for those who didn't see her post Erica Graham's Allium has been transformed into Ostrich.
There again the client list is fairly impressive, which might count for something.
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.
Not necessarily a disagreement but a different point of view. Firstly the small retailer, at least the efficient one, will only stock what sells in enough quantity to justify shelf space, the restaurant has to carry a wider range because at whatever price point they operate, certain wines will be expected to be on the list. And unlike the small retailer the restaurateur will be expected to have wines that are ready for drinking now, i.e. with some age on them. This means carrying a wider range for longer and meanwhile that's dead money tied up in stock. Secondly the restaurateur is in the food not the retail business, wine is something they have to sell as an adjunct to the food but it is not the primary focus of their business. Finally, and probably most telling, a restaurant has to have sufficient profit on the right level of turnover to stay in business. In the normal UK model, whether we like it or not, wine is a significant contributor to this, without this major income/profit source most restaurants as we currently know them would simply not survive. We've probably all seen in the past restaurants opening with a big feature of their "reasonably priced wines" policy, only to find that after a relatively short period those wines are mysteriously no longer quite as reasonably priced. It is unfortunate, but that's the way it is here, due in no small part to our lack of tradition of dining out regularly at decent restaurants. Going out for a meal is still, in many places, a trip to the local chippy or nowadays the Asian takeaway.
what you're really talking about is a fragmented industry, with few barriers to entry.
there are people who absolutely know what they're doing: David Page, Nigel Plats Martin, Sir Terrence, Jeremy Corbin etc.
and there are people who do not. But the fact remains, the failure of the industry is as much down to the participants as it is to the inherent risks of small business. When you add some of the odd customs and idiosyncracies of the restaurant business, then it becomes even easier to see the traps and pitfalls for inexperienced or deluded entrepreneurs.
Can't dispute any of that, but even people who "absolutely know what they're doing" can fail and even of those that do succeed very few of them reach millionaire status without TV and book tie-ins, so the customer is not being ripped off (at least not deliberately) even if it feels like that.
I can't help thinking that we are focussing on too small an area, maybe we need to step back and look at the whole picture. Now if all restaurant owners were swanning around in chauffeur driven limousines because of their outrageous markups on wine there might be good reason for an outcry, but in truth restaurants fail on a regular basis, often costing their owners large amounts of money. Even St Gordon of Ramsay is not immune to failure, and you have to admit he does know a thing or two about running a successful restaurant. In catering ingredient costs are on average around 30% of selling price and to stay in profit (give or take a few percentage points) you have to get that return. Wine is just another ingredient, albeit one that you don't have to do a lot with, and therefore selling it for 3+ times its cost is no different to anything else you sell. The market seems to be a little distorted in the UK because of the high initial cost of the wine (punitive tax regime) and the reluctance of the good ol' British punter to pay a reasonable price for the food. The restaurateur has to turn a profit to stay in business and so he has to take his profit where he can find it, and sadly for us it is usually on the wine, after all putting, say, an extra £10 on a bottle will have less of a visible impact on the diner than will putting the same on the main course.
So you did, that's an "ooops" then
A word of caution, popularity has its price, which is that the place is packed, a couple of friends went on spec Saturday lunchtime and couldn't get even a nibble.
I went to Sat's last year, never did get around to posting. The tasting menu (around 7 courses I think) was excellent and reasonable value for money, the dishes were full of little surprises as you might expect, especially now you've seen him on the TV. The only slight disappointment was the high cost of the wine, we had the matching flight, nothing special, tiny pours and high prices. So far not mentioned by anybody is the service (supervised by the splendid Mrs Bains) which is exemplary.
... I'd have chosen ham egg and peas (although the originality of that dish was grossly overstated...
Interesting comment, do you mean that it wasn't a Sat Bains original, or that the 'deconstruction technique' wasn't original, or that this sort of thing has been around for a while? Whilst it may not have been a true original, it certainly had a novelty value which wasn't found in the other offerings.
Also in Shaftesbury Avenue you could try Leon Jaeggi. On line nisbets.com has a good range although their prices are variable, sometimes very cheap, sometimes overpriced, shop with care. Mind you seeing your list you might want to read Mark Bittman in the New York TImes about "pro" gear .
Everybody seems to blame Jennie Bond (please note CORRECT spelling of her name) for the dreadfulness of this program when the real blame lies with the director and editor. She isn't the one who shows the same clip 3 times, misses the key cooking moments and shows the same dumb intro to the judges every night when once a week is too much, that's all down to the production team. Of course the fact that she's intensely irritating doesn't help either.
Picasso is still a great place to visit, the food is as good as ever and compared to some of the newer places is great value for money, especially as you can get the wine flight with it. Service is impeccable and friendly. Recent (mid-April) menu.
Maine Lobster Salad
with Apple-Champagne Vinaigrette
2005 Morgadio, Albariño, Rias Baixas, Galicia, Spain
Pan Seared U‑10 Day Boat Scallop
with Potato Mousseline and Jus de Veau
2003 Domaines Schlumberger, Les Princes Abbes Pinot Gris, Alsace, France
Sautéed Foie Gras
with Poached Lady Apple,
Roasted Walnuts, Apple Cider and Apple Cider Vinegar
2005 P.J. Valckenberg, Madonna, Eiswein, Rheinhessen, Germany
Sautéed Filet of Black Bass.'
With Fresh Asparagus, Sauce Hollandaise and Confit of Leeks
2005 M. Chapoutier, La Bernardine, Chateauneuf‑du‑Pape Blanc,
Rhine Valley, France
Roasted Aged Lamb Chop
with Rosemary Potatoes and Au Jus
2004 Dominio de Tares, Baltos, Bierzo, Spain
A Sommelier's wine pairing is offered for an additional cost of $53
One Hundred Fifteen
L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon is an approachable (and affordable) way into his wonderful cooking style, get a seat at the counter rather than the tables. This was so good we went twice in a week.
Obscure bargain is Rosemary's out on W Sahara, if you can find it it's worth the trip.
Looking forward to eating at Sat Bains when i get round to sorting a table out!
Well worth the trip, assuming you can ever find his somewhat obscure location, not as Jennie Bond says in "downtown Nottingham" but out in the wilds down what appears to be a farm track.
in United Kingdom & Ireland: Dining
Reads is fine, reasonably priced with a decent wine flight to go with the tasting menu (and for lovers of stickies a choice of two dessert wine flights). It's never going to set the world on fire but delivers consistently good food.
Age & Sons is truly weird, it is getting great reviews everywhere and I can't understand why. The food varies from the brilliant to the abysmal but the service always sucks. Seasoning seems to be a huge problem there, over, under, who knows which way it will go. If you're going to venture to Ramsgate try Bon Appetit on Westcliffe Arcade, Mark Way's cooking is excellent and always up to standard (not something you could say about the service). Michael Caines @ Abode in Canterbury is worth a visit, I've seen mixed reviews but my half dozen or so visits have always been a pleasure.