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Everything posted by rjs1

  1. Given the shocking habit punters have of booking at several places for the same evening and then deciding which place to go to on the night, without having the decency to call to cancel their reservations at the others, it's always worth trying on the off-chance. When Alastair Little was at its peak and booked solid every night, I lived nearby and could almost always get a table by turning up at the door, asking if there were any no-shows and promising to return within two minutes if they telephoned me. I guess it would work at Maze too.
  2. Complete with singularly charmless barman on the only occasion that I ate at the bar.
  3. Very decent lunch at the Phoenix Palace in Glentworth Street today, and for once no need to queue. Full of Chinese as usual on a weekend lunchtime, perhaps attracted by the authenticity of specials such as duck tongues and chicken claws (not in the same dish, I hasten to add). The kitchen rustled up a chicken dish for our five year old who is allergic to egg and to nuts, and the rest of us had some fine dim sum. Standout was steamed wasabi prawn dumplings; the bright green wrap had wasabi paste mixed into it and the dish acted as a brilliant palate cleanser. Another steamed prawn dumpling dish had chives, very fresh garlic and (I think) waterchestnut. The seafood is all very fresh here. Service is friendly and efficient, and we came away with a handful of helium-filled balloons, which never happens when you leave a Gordon Ramsay joint (I imagine). A reasonably filling lunch for two adults and two children was £45.10, including soft drinks and service. I think it's streets ahead of Royal China, roughly in the same league as Pearl Liang (and the seats are a lot more comfortable).
  4. I got my (English translation, just about) copy at Books for Cooks in London W11 - www.booksforcooks.com - their webiste says they deliver anywhere in the world.
  5. Having spent time over the last five years trying and failing to find a good meal in a restaurant in Ghana, can't say I'm surprised. Home cooking is great, though.
  6. Grazing's a bit of a trek from Grosvenor Square just for breakfast, though might make sense if you go to Borough Market afterwards. Do you mean Bincho in the Oxo Tower or Bincho in Soho? I think that the Bincho in the Oxo Tower has folded, hasn't it? That's a cursed site, as my bank manager could confirm.
  7. Had dinner there a few weeks ago. Very nice people, lovely room, but so dark I couldn't read the menu or the wine list. It was also pretty dead on a Friday evening, although they did say that they had had eight cancellations on the day and they had been full the Friday before. The food I thought was "good but not great", and although I wasn't paying I think it was quite an expensive evening (although to be fair we did drink a lot). It might be an indication that the fish menu with matching wines is £119 PP, + £8.50 supplement PP for cheese. For that kind of money you could eat almost anywhere in London, surely?
  8. How about Maze (not Maze Grill, it is very different), Wild Honey, or Corrigans. All close to your hotel. ←
  9. Bit of early Marco, (circa 1990) Notice The Foul Mouthed One in the background. and Richard Neat, I think? ← I missed Richard Neat. Met him outside Pied A Terre, as we were leaving, bout 11 ish I think. He had just finished service He was on his way to Paris to work in some other top chefs kitchen,( Robuchon?) What a talent he was He had a reputation of being a bit of a nutter Aiden Byrne used to work with him , and tells a wonderful story of him (Neat) losing it with a burly kitchen porter. Seems that service that night was tense and the porter was on the end of a string of expletives, took great offence, and knocked him out with one punch. They had to walk over him to get the food out! Those were the days eh!!!!!!!!!!!! Wonder where he is now? ←
  10. Bit of early Marco, (circa 1990) Notice The Foul Mouthed One in the background.
  11. Ah, if we are allowed to include those establishments which have gone to the great deep fryer in the sky... Fish Bar on Fernhead Road W9, by the junction with Harrow Road, was pretty perfect in its day, but I guess the area was never going to support something that high-class.
  12. Well, it was published on 3 April...
  13. I'd never heard of this place, despite having lived nearby for nearly seven years, until I read about it in the Guardian on Saturday, recommended by someone called Valentine Warner: "This place in Maida Vale is owned by Xen...it's like walking into somebody's house. It's all very haphazard, with plastic tablecloths and his children's bikes leaning against the wall...If you want a beer and he's not around to serve it, you help yourself. When he cooks, though, it's phenomenal food. Greek salad, halloumi, lamb kleftiko. I've no idea how he tots up the bill but it's always very cheap. (5 Marylands Road, W9; 020 7286 7896)". Sounds like it could be interesting. Anyone been?
  14. How about: Hand of pork from Ginger Pig - about £6 a kilo - great for slow roasting on a rack with a ground-up paste of fennel seeds, dried chilli, sea salt, peppercorns, garlic and olive oil. A 2.5kg joint done for 15 minutes at high heat, 6.5 hours at low heat and a final 15 minutes at high heat again works well. The fishmonger is Furness, I think. Wild Beef people are Richard and Elizabeth Vines, from Devon - always good quality beef, sometimes have produce from neighbouring farms as well. Best value I know for veg is Church Street in Marylebone - can stock up for a week for a family of four for £11 - £12.
  15. Only went once, but it was atrocious. Shame, because it was great when it was in Upper Street.
  16. £2.5m for an Italian restaurant in Leeds? In LEEDS?
  17. A pertinent point is raised here. Let's just think about it for a moment shall we... Gary Rhodes, an alleged "celebrity chef" endorses margarine. That is MARGARINE by the way. Factory distilled chemical kak with no natural, let alone redeeming, features whatsoever. God help us all! ←
  18. Don't most of the larger outfits put service charges through the PAYE system though? (Or in some cases actually make up the wages to minimum out of tips ) ← AIUI, there's a difference between the 'compulsory' service charge, which for tax purposes is treated as if it were part of the normal wage bill once dividied, and is the responsibility of the employer, and the tronc which is totally separate, and is legally not regarded as the responsibility of the employer in any way. NI and PAYE are paid on the former through the normal systems, while on the latter it is up to the employee. I would wonder, then, how many people would put extra service on top of the 'optional/compulsory' service charge in top-end places? WHich might suggest the accounting figures do include the majority of service amounts. ((Some employers try to have it both ways, not paying NI and tax on tips, but claiming them as contributing towards minimum wage...)) ← It's right that a compulsory service charge is just part of wages, but of course rare to see a service charge not described as "optional" for that very reason. The tronc is a separate employment. There should not be any NI, but PAYE on the tronc is not simply the responsibility of the employee. There have to be one or more troncmasters, elected by the staff and not imposed by the employer. The troncmaster operates a separate PAYE scheme, and has to deduct Basic Rate tax on 100% of any tronc on payments by credit card, debit card or cheque. This is paid over to HMRC, and the troncmaster is personally liable to HMRC if this is not done. Each scheme member gets a P60 at the year end (or a P45 if they leave during the year). They can claim tax overpaid back, or have to pay Higher Rate tax as appropriate. Cash tips, on the other hand, can go directly to the employees without deduction of tax, and they strictly should declare put it on their tax returns, but in practice I doubt this happens very often. I think that most people would agree that ideally menu prices should include service, as in France and Italy, and customers should just leave an extra "pourboire" in cash if they have been particularly happy with the service, but it simply won't happen here while the PAYE and NIC systems are so arranged against all-inclusive prices. I think that the government is planning to restrict tax advantages for employers using the tronc to make wages up to the minimum wage, but it's perfectly legal for the moment.
  19. Clearly that must mean a LOT of people on VERY low wages - but nevertheless it'd be interesting to hear just how that average was calculated (accounting for staff turnover, 'part-timers', etc). If its wages divided by full-time headcount, then actually rather more than half are going to be getting below that 'average'. ← Remember the tronc, though - which wouldn't appear in the company accounts at all (since each tronc scheme is treated as a stand-alone employment). If they are adding an "optional" 12.5% to every bill (and that's to the total bill, including VAT), and distributing it fairly among the staff, that could bring the average wage figure up quite significantly. I guess they get most of the 12.5%, even though it is stated to be optional - say 11.5%?
  20. Corrigans sounds good, but my host wants something with the kind of culinary fireworks Pied a Terre used to have in the 1990s, and I want somewhere where I know at least one member of the team FOH or in the kitchen, so I think we are now chosing between Maze and Texture. Any views?
  21. Your right about the Foliage lunch,absolute top quality for the price £28? ← They also do, or used to do, accompanying wines for about £8 to £9 a head more (not mean with the pouring, either). Do they still have that offer? If they do, I think it's up there with Aubergine for value at lunchtime. ←
  22. Thinking of going this Friday. Anyone been recently?
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