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Posts posted by PhilD

  1. No-shows I think are a whole different ballgame. Your only hope is a walk-in. Now I've managed to get into quite a few restaurants even after calling them and being told they were fully booked, but obviously they had no-shows and I have the utmost sympathy for that.

    But Paul isn't this the real issue. People who are polite enough to call and cancel with notice re fine, it is the very last minute cancellations or the no-shows that are the big issue that make deposits/credit cards sensible.

    Obviously the cancellation window depends on a restaurants situation. I have been waitlisted a few times and called a few hours before service and rarely can I change my plans at short notice. I often have other reservations and so am reluctant to let others down. So whilst the theory that a Heavily booked place can fill cancellations easily the reality may be different.

  2. I'd much rather pay a extra few bucks to offset no shows than get charged a big number if I have to cancel. That would infuriate me.

    I know that's illogical since I'd end up paying more in the long run.

    I honestly don't understand why restaurant owners risk pissing us off with charging for missed reservations when they could have their damage mitigated permanantly with a small price increase that would go unnoticed.

    Sent from my Droid using Tapatalk

    I really do resent paying for other peoples bad manners and selfishness. I also resent paying for shoplifters etc. Just because shops do doesn't make it a logically transferable model.

    I rarely cancel my reservations, and if I can't honor a reservation I always call with as much notice as possible. I will happily provide my credit card details and never really think twice about it - although Waku Ghin in Singapore made me swallow hard at £230 per head.

    Why do we object to this practice at resturants? Hotels charge for no shows and alway take credit card details. Airline and train tickets will have charges for changes or no-shows unless you book premium tickets at a high price. Think how popuar "lastminute.com" is, they carge full freight up-front and no refunds if plans change.

    Making the link between restaurant bookings and shop theft is ilogical and invalid: In the shop model it is more cost effective to put a small amount on the cost of goods rather than paying far more for greater numbers of staff or higher technology solutions. I bet it is far less expensive to accept some "shrinkage" rather than police zero tolerance. But the restaurant model is different it allows a simple remedy, you pay a deposit if you want to book. If you don't accept the terms you don't book and you don't go. In effect you exchange a verbal contract at the time of booking, you don't when you walk into a shop. That said it would be good if resturants compensated me for lengthy waits for tables rather than trying to extract more money by depositing me in their expensive bars - remember there are some dodgy practices here as well - comping a drink may be a nice gesture if I have to wait for a tardy diner to vacate my table (although often there is no tardy diner!).

    I was interested, but not surprised, by the credit card companies stance in this area. Do they really support the mongrels who try to wriggle out of these charges? Maybe on-line booking is the way to go with explicit T&C's that are agreed to at the time of booking, I assume that gives far less wriggle room.

  3. Stores figure in shoplifting losses. I don't think that promotes shoplifting.

    But anyway the restaurant wouldn't tell people that they figure no shows into their pricing

    Sent from my Droid using Tapatalk

    My local pub in Bath (The White Hart) was full most nights and often turned the tables. But iwe often observed cancelations or no shows on Friday, usually big tables. It is a busy pub so a high probability of reselling the table, however often to fewer people and with lower odds of turning other tables. What was interesting was to observe ( I often sat at the bar) how deflated the staff were when they learned of a cancelation. They're a great professional team and I am certain it didn't detract that much but it was still there an would still have had an impact.

    Given the competitiveness of the restaurant trade adding a few pounds to your price may just push you over the price point the market will bear.

    Personally, I am happy to give my card details. If I have a genuine problem and the restaurant stiffs me I won't return. Sat's stance seems fair - if he resells the he refunds. In the Far Duck example a four going to a three is different proposition: how do you resell one seat? I assume the tack the restaurant for the optimum number of people based on the party sizes thus a single drop out from a table is a tricky proposition to recoup. And given it is set pricing they won't make it up by upselling a few side dishes.

  4. I beg to differ with most responses. It's none of their business. I have eaten out many times, including at very high end restaurants, when one person did not eat, usually because they had a huge lunch, or had to leave a bit early, etc. I eat out alone myself quite a bit: one diner, what's the difference as long as you don't have a table for 4? If anyone so much as glanced sideways at my party if one wasn't eating, I'd have a word with the owner. You do not owe them a call.

    But I agree with the advice to rebook when your girlfriend is well so it's a treat for both.

    A lot of things we do out of courtesy to others aren't things that are strictly required or "owed".

    My guess is as Janeer writes from the US she has no idea what la Gavroche is all about and thus the advice lacks any relevance. My rule of thumb is to treat all resturants with respect and you will reap the rewards - they are staffed by people not machines, do a little bit of common courtesy goes a long way.

  5. Oh dear. There seems to be a theme emerging here and in other posts, that chefs are getting a little peeved with bloggers and bloggers are

    Feeling hard done by that they are being challenged and treated " badly" by chefs etc. I find bloggers are deluded by their perceived rights and feel any challenge to their fragile food egos should be publicised. I would hate to be a chef in these times, bad enough having food critics judging but having every subjective palate pontificating on what is right or wrong publicly must be relentless.

    Isn't the theme here that Mickael can't seem to take criticism? I have read other reports of him being very rude to anyone who dared to suggest a dish wasn't perfect (Lanchester in The Guardian so not all bloggers). Hedone was on my must visit list for my next visit to London, but I am going to pass based on reports similar to RDB; on comments that the sourcing may be wonderful but the execution can be patchy and often quite simple; and, finally, zero response to an email question on opening times over Christmas. From what I can see of the prices they don't have the excuse of low prices, one of these concerns wouldn't have put me off, but the combination makes it too risky given the few days I am in town.

    Not using PR may be laudable but not understanding the power of reputation maybe be a mistake.

  6. I did a little piece of analysis on how many Michelin stars there are in the biggest cities of the UK (looking purely at city population sizes and not wider surrounds for the sake of a fair

    Not certain I agree with your methodology, wouldn't counties be better? (I think Andy Hayler did tht once). I think that wiukd be better as smaller cities tend to have good restaurants in the surrounding countryside which are in easy reach of the city I.e. The Pony & Trap just outside Bristol.

    I would also say Edinburgh seems the top spot - one star per 86,000 as opposed to London with one per 130,000. Obviously Edinburghs large tourist population swells the numbers but London has far more tourists plus it has the massive influx of communters so for every 100,000 available punters London is probably even further down the chain.

    That said, this really shows how mediocre food is in most big citie in the UK.

  7. I think Tony Naylor has some good comments on this years guide in WOM.. I must say he sums up my thoughts very suucinctly.

    For what it's worth, I don't buy any of that. Michelin gets things wrong. Every guide does. But it approaches its work with a rigour and a seriousness that mean, certainly when it comes to judging the fantastical top end of the restaurant trade, its judgements still carry a unique weight. The steady, sober (boring, you might say) tone of this year's guide is testament to this. Hot on the heels of its 100th anniversary edition, keen to drum up publicity, the new guide could have opted for a radical break with the past (God knows people are urging it). But, no. Where other guides stand accused of hype, Michelin carries on regardless. It may be aloof, anachronistic, elitist, but in these hyperventilating PR-led times, that steadfastness is, kind of, admirable.
  8. The flipside of course is that poor service can taint the enjoyment of the overall experience, which can reflect on the food.

    I totally agree, and maybe this is the subtle point here. In the past service was thought of as "Michelin style service" with all the associated formality and bells and whistles. Similarly the "Michelin room" was perceived to need stiff line, deep pile carpets, quality silverware etc etc.

    Is the "it is about he food on the plate" statement designed to change the paradigm that you need to conform to a Michelin model, to more of a "service/ambiance need to support the food" model. So if the experience is designed to be a grand palace the food is judged in context, if it is meant to be pared back, and basic to let the food shine through (3rd for the Sportsman anyone?) it is judged accordingly and no longer marked down because it lacks the Michelin accoutrements.

    But that doesn't mean bad service and a dodgy room that gets in the way of the food won't lose marks etc - IMO it is bloody difficult to divorce good food from the environment it is served in. A great musician in a hall with bad acoustics will never deliver a great concert; a great chef delivering great food in a crap restaurant with dodgy service will never deliver a great meal - and hopefully Michelin reflects that.

  9. Given the speed "Restaurant Jean-François Piège" made the French guide I wonder it they have upped the cycle time. Could Hedone could make it - that would be very interesting.

    Dinner may also be interesting, not been, but the initial buzz seems to have worn off and it appears there are a couple of must have dishes amongst many that are only good. Given the number of new openings at the top end of dining it will be interesting to see who gets what - especially since so few of them are French.

    Marcus only four for Ducasse why not five? Assume they will have to give him the extras as there are so few other French chefs opening in London this year to take up the ones reserved for them.

  10. However, the recent reviews for the restaurant itself on tripadvisor are mixed, both for food and service.

    Trip Advisor is not a great source for food reviews - lots of inexperienced diners. I have had great meals at the WT and recent reviews on places like Andy Hayler's blog indicate it is still great. Also good to book in at the Hardwick whilst you are there. Also good but contrast as it is far more rustic.

  11. For all the criticism I think these two are the hottest ticket in food at the moment. At their now legendary "dinner party" this time around not only did they have Alyn Williams cooking, but the diners included Pierre Koffman, Bruno Loubet, Richard Vines, Simon Hermanos ......

    Their dinners do seem to be very good and as you say they are attracting interesting guests. More interestingly they have some very good chefs cooking at their soirees. How did they achieve it? Anyone with insight?

  12. ... Two Sunday supplements run the same article, on the same day, highlighting the same trend, plugging the same burger wagon and featuring the same BBQ burger recipe:

    Edit: I've just noticed they're both actually by the same journalist! Tell you what if I was the features editor at the Guardian or the Indy I'd be asking for my fee back! (links amended to reflect this)

    The Guardian: Street food: the latest rage; Richard Johnson

    The Independent: Van-tastic! Why street food is this year’s hottest trend; Richard Johnson

    There's an easy enough answer for why it goes in two supplements at the same time. If you'll look at the pieces, you'll see the reporter is ID'd as being with the Observer. Observer pays him, runs it first, then puts it out on the news service wire to which they subscribe (Reuters, AP, whatever), and other papers are free to pick it up for the price of their subscription to said wire. Pretty common journalism practice.

    It just sucks when you run a feature in a supplement the same day your competitor (if they're competitors) does.

    So nothing to do with the Richard's new book then...?

  13. Is your restaurant too upmarket for the broader population in your area?

    The food concept looks great; local and real. The chef seems to be good at delivering, and the food must be good because you get good repeat business. And then you say you offer great value (marketing 101: never use the word cheap it creates a negative image).

    But then you look at the food pictures with Michelin style plating, OK great in a restaurant with aspirations but maybe out of synch with your restaurant ethos. Certainly don't change the food but maybe tweak the presentation, less cheffy and more rustic seems to be a common factor in rural/local restaurants. Your niche competitor market at this price point is probably the gastro pub segment and a lot of very average places do well. But the very good ones - Harwood Arms, The Sportsman, The Star all have simple plating.

    So what are the other features of the good ones? They keep it simple: they have bare tables and without table clothes, maybe a little vase of local flowers from the garden, and some tea-lights (the romantic touch) making the experience more casual and relaxed - a nice place for a bite to eat on Saturday lunchtime rather than a destination to dress up for on Saturday night. You can still maintain high standards but by simplifying the presentation you may make the place more welcoming.

    Redraft the menu, it is poncy aspirational menu speak which doesn't reflect the provenance of the food. In fact the menu reads like a tired old suburban restaurant doing euro-food. It doesn't read like a proud scottish restaurant doing local food (and I really hope the menu is a simple sheet of A4 printed out clean each day and not some tacky plastic or faux leather menu binder). Best to use simple straightforward language that doesn't need to list every ingredient and technique, diners often like an element of surprise, and by leaving room for questions it allows a dialogue to develop with the staff. Some thoughts:

    • Local Perthshire ribeye of beef from XXX cows on YYY farm, served with seasonal vegetables from ZZZ, with an added French twist.
    • King scallops from the west coast of Scotland with home made black pudding and slow cooked pork belly
    • Farmer Jocks lamb two ways contrasted with spicy red cabbage and a surprise soup
    • XXX farms free range chicken served three ways with pureed and creamed local vegetables.

    This isn't dumbing down what's on the plate but it is about moving the menu descriptions forward. You also need to change the menu every few days if you want to keep regulars happy. Keep the favourites as core items but keep it seasonal by changing at least 50% on a regular basis. Also where is the haggis? You are in Scotland you need famed local products - but don't do haggis for tourists make your own and serve it with a twist.

    And WTF is the Bluegrass menu - it put me off! OK now I see it is something to do with a local festival - great, but maybe on a sign board not the website. Interestingly the menu reads better than the poncy french one - more in keeping with the USP. Please update your Offers page - it is so negative to tell me I missed, in fact I am a bit pissed off I missed your special dinner offer and so won't bother booking. The offers page is the place for the Bluegrass menu not the main page

    Are you and your partner welcoming enough? This may sound personal but it needs to be said, your web site has a picture of a dodgy used car salesman in a suit, a women who appears to be avoiding the press as she leaves court, and a very serious chef who appears to have cut off his thumb. Nobody is smiling! Face the camera, look happy and look welcoming!

    I also don't want to read your CV - I want to be tempted to try your restaurant. Are you passionate about local food, is Gawaine and collector of great wines and whisky nut or something interesting to a prospective diner rather than employer - if so bring out the personality not the dull CV. Your home page is similar it is again like a CV - and the layout is wrong the big slow food and beef bits get in the way, and then you don't even mention them in the narrative. In fact the home page hardly mentions you are a restaurant with great food.

    Jonny's CV is also a bit too accurate (and beware his journey through many hotels and restaurants makes him look a bit unstable) I have eaten with many chefs who worked as chefs with Ferran Adria at El Bulli, OK I know they did a short stage and were not really part of the core team but that is not how PR works Jonny has cheffed at the restaurants not simply staged. It would also be good to understand his food philosophy, and I can't work out why he has come full circle unless Perth is now in Northern Ireland

    What do your staff wear? Hopefully not traditional scottish aprons and pinny's? Set standards, but keep it simple, don't dress the staff like a Michelin restaurant dress them in a relaxed style.

    Finally how many places do you try yourselves? Check out the popular competition, head South the famed gastro-pubs (The Star in Yorkshire isn't that far) or take a trip to London and try The Harwood and others (and take Jonny)

    PS - not a food professional I simply eat in restaurants a lot both for pleasure and whilst travelling for work.

  14. I realise this goes against the grain but we had a very off experience when we last visited.I do not believe it to be anywhere as good as le manior, Square Lebury etc (which is where I reckon the bacon brioche bread idea comes from but not in same class as Ledbury). We went along on a Friday night and the restaurant was near empty all night. We were part of twelve covers. The restaurant just seems off, takes itself far too seriously, which makes the atmosphere very cold and clinical. The dining room does nothing for me. Its so blinking bright, its a wonder it cannot be seen from space! Our service was poor, to the point of non existent. They really didn't bother with us all night, apart from delivering the dishes, with no explanation. I get the immpression it is a place that if you are known to them, then you are treated in different manner, which seems apparent from certain other threads here. Visited three times now but cannot understand why it is held in such awe. Is it because it holds on to Michelin star status, what ever that stands for nowadays?

    Richard, I thought I was the only one, we had a similar experience a few years ago. When I still lived in the UK I was thinking about revisiting it but the idea was always vetoed by my partner who hated the service and the room. The wife of the chef who is FOH pays attention to some tables but we were not one of them, maybe this is the "known to them" syndrome. I came away think it would be a better restaurant with a change FOH, and dimmer switches!

  15. Even more interesting is what happens if multiple sets of people arrive at the restaurant claiming to be "Mr X" and none of them can actually prove that they made the reservation, or that it was made on their behalf...

    I think this is the biggest reason is there is nothing physical to sell, thus it can be sold many times. Would you take the risk? It would be a fraudsters paradise.

  16. Interestingly two different spellings: Salmagundi at the Sportsman and Salamagundy at Dinner. My googling seems to indicate Stephen has the English spelling whilst Heston has gone all US on us. Or is it historically a different dish? IIRC every review of it at the sportsman has been good whilst at Dinner it is getting a lukewarm reaction.

  17. I thought Tony's article was better. The problem with WoM articles is that success seems to be measured by the number of responses so lots of tabloid style articles. If you read the comments many, if not most, are from people who hate poncy food thus dislike Michelin. It is a "class war" with much inverted snobbery, I assume that is bang on with the Guardians demographic and thus hits the spot from an editorial perspective. I also thought William Sitwell's "Michelin Stars: The Madness of Perfection" was in a similar vein, although interestingly the premise he presents at the start of the programme then confirms in the conclusion doesn't seem to be supported by many of the interviews; again the tyranny of having to appeal to the masses?

    I am intrigued by the allegation of French bias. Is it simply a correlation without any real causal link? Or is the real reason that there are, and always have been a lot of talented French chefs, working in the UK so the talent correlates with the number of stars, rather than Michelin having an innate bias? If we look back a few decades a lot of British food heritage seems to be French - the Roux's, Koffman, Blanc etc. So why shouldn't this trend continue, after all the UK must be seen as a lucrative market when compared to the highly competitive market in France (after all emerging markets are usually more attractive than mature ones). I also thought it interesting that Jay's list of the places they missed seems to have quite a few non-english chefs: Koffmann's, Launceston Place, L'Anima and Bistro Bruno Loubet.

  18. Royal Mail Hotel (LH and RMH for my girlfriend's birthday).

    Ate at RMH just after Christmas. It was very good indeed with some very strong cooking and I would eat there again if it wasn't so far away. We tried both menu's with my partner going veggie. The veggie menu had some highs especially the very deep broth and the mushrooms. But there were some lows one especially where the dish was the same as the omnivore menu but with tofu substituted for the fish. The fish worked but the tofu didn't I understand it is tricky to do two menus from a small kitchen but this seemed a little lazy.

    Two other gripes: the wine pours were generous and quick, so we were nearly through our first bottle after only one course, I like my wine but needed to walk home. The second one was the pacing, I like long meals but 45 mins between a course was too much.

    We didn't stay at the hotel (very exy) but stayed at a small cottage a 10 minute walk away - very pleasant.

    You could also add Beechworth to the list of good food destinations, lots of great variety and we had a cracking meal at "Provenance" - very very good.

    • Quay
    • Aria
    • Pier
    • Guillaume @ Bennelong
    • est
    • Marque
    • Flying Fish
    • Sake
    • Four in Hand
    • Becasse

    It is quite a staid lit with the usual suspects, and I would not add Tets to it, I think he needs to refresh the place/menu. That said I have not been for years but had found each visit was less enjoyable than the last and so it dropped from the list. Sake was a big disappointment for me, service misses and the food didn't wow (and it should at the price). Aria wasn't memorable, it is busy and popular and I would say a safe choice for business entertaining.

    I would add Sepia which I believe is heading for the top league (ex Tets chef), I would also add a few of the new "casual" diffusion places. One of my most enjoyable meals last year was the new "Duke Bistro" (young chef of the year ex Sepia), also in this genre is "District Dining" (Assiettes second), and "Cotton Duck".

    For good inexpensive "proper" lunch near Circular Quay try Tony Bilson's "Bar One" classic French in a wine bar, or "Etch" in the Intercontinental which is Becasse's second), or even the "Customs House" as it has a great view (but avoid in the evening as it is full of office celebrations) and quite decent food for the area.

  19. Our dinner at Number 6 in September was definitely our favourite meal during a short stay in Padstow. I found the dishes very clever and delicious, plus the staff were attentive and extremely friendly without going overboard and 'hovering.'

    I agree - I remember our meal there (two years ago) very well. I thought it deserved a star then, hope he gets the recognition. But even with a star it will still be easier to score a table at No.6 than many of the Stein outlets....the power of TV!

  20. A thought occurs though - can foreign visitors reclaim VAT on their purchases, including meals? If so, and if he had got a VAT receipt, the service charge would be a larger percentage of the VAT-exclusive amount. That would be familiar to Americans who usually tip in the US on their bill exclusive of sales tax. My maths are lousy so dont know if that might account for it.

    You obviously can't claim VAT back at the airport like you can with goods you export, however they would need a VAT receipt if they intended to claim tax back through their company, as the person in question was hosted this seems likely.

    On a side note I rarely rely on second hand stories, which I believe this is. Often the retelling of the story exaggerates, distorts, or simply fails to comprehend the subject.

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