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Gordon Ramsay at the London


johnder
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Right, it's almost a given in the traditional Michelin system that even the best restaurants will open at one or two stars, and then earn stars as they go though their first few years. There are a couple of recent exceptions -- I believe Ducasse opened Plaza Athenee to three stars its first year? -- but the standard is slow evolution.

I don't think Ramsay is any busier than Ducasse. How many restaurants does he have when you add up all his ventures? I'd be surprised if it's more than Ducasse. Ducasse does less TV than Ramsay, but I think he does much more in terms of publishing, education and consulting.

Robuchon's restaurant here is in a different category. It's not a signature fine dining place, as The Mansion in Las Vegas is. It's the equivalent of Spoon in the Ducasse empire. That's a different sort of opening.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Right. I want to eat there because, even if I were to accept Bruni's review as far as it goes, it doesn't really address what I'm interested in. At this stage of the development of a restaurant in the true European Michelin mold, what I'd be looking for is potential greatness. And I have no faith whatsoever in Bruni's ability to recognize that sort of thing.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Bruni's review is probably right on insofar as it goes -- it exactly reflects the reviews of people that I respect.

With that said, I have every intention of eating there...especially at the relatively forgiving price point (especially considering what you spend for a mediocre meal in the London Bar)

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The 3 course dinner menu is $80 - which seems like a bargain IMO - especially for New York.

I agree with Steve's posts - except for the part about Europeans (or others) doing things solely to help their PR so they can make a big splash when they open. Keep in mind that this restaurant is in a hotel - and that the economics of a hotel restaurant are usually a lot different than those in stand-alone restaurants. They can usually afford to take a longer term view of things (which I guess in New York is 12 months are opposed to 2 <sigh>).

Some of my best dining in recent years has been at hotel restaurants - and I'm sure that will continue (the 2 3 star Michelin reservations I currently have booked in Germany are both in restaurants that are in hotels - and - in fact - the same company owns both hotels). Robyn

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It's close to impossible to overcome strongly negative opening buzz. Ducasse was never able to do it, even though he operated one of the handful of best restaurants in America for something like six years at the Essex House. So, I maintain that in the New York restaurant culture, you have to be a risk-taker at opening. In addition, most critics won't grasp the nuances of your technical failures, or they'll forgive small missteps when the food is sufficiently exciting.

There's a difference, as well, between a "hotel restaurant" and a restaurant in a hotel. Locating restaurants in hotels is just good real estate planning, because hotels tend to have whole buildings with plenty of ground-floor space. But is Gordon Ramsay providing catering for the hotel out of his luxury outlet, or is that happening from a separate line? Most likely the latter, which in my mind makes it not a hotel restaurant, but a restaurant in a hotel.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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It's close to impossible to overcome strongly negative opening buzz. Ducasse was never able to do it, even though he operated one of the handful of best restaurants in America for something like six years at the Essex House. So, I maintain that in the New York restaurant culture, you have to be a risk-taker at opening. In addition, most critics won't grasp the nuances of your technical failures, or they'll forgive small missteps when the food is sufficiently exciting.

There's a difference, as well, between a "hotel restaurant" and a restaurant in a hotel. Locating restaurants in hotels is just good real estate planning, because hotels tend to have whole buildings with plenty of ground-floor space. But is Gordon Ramsay providing catering for the hotel out of his luxury outlet, or is that happening from a separate line? Most likely the latter, which in my mind makes it not a hotel restaurant, but a restaurant in a hotel.

Re the opening buzz - if it's correct - that is more New York's loss than the chef's IMO. Like I've said before - New York simply isn't the center of the universe like it used to be - in terms of restaurants - shopping or even finance (thank you Sarbanes Oxley). Sure - New York is closer to me than London - but going to London simply isn't a big deal for me or a lot of people.

Whether or not a restaurant is a hotel restaurant - or a restaurant in a hotel - I think the economics are different. And - with regard to restaurants in hotels - hotels are willing to cut deals with restaurants that other landlords might not be willing to do - if for no other reason than having a subsidized signature restaurant run by a third party is cheaper than running a restaurant in house at a loss. I'm no expert on the economics - but I think that the current trend in a lot of luxury hotels is to minimize their in house restaurant operations and get more famous chefs to operate those so-called restaurants in hotels.

Anyway - GR is in good company with his 2 stars. My favorite restaurant last couple of trips to New York was David Burke & Donatella - which also has 2 New York Times stars. Robyn

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But is Gordon Ramsay providing catering for the hotel out of his luxury outlet, or is that happening from a separate line? Most likely the latter, which in my mind makes it not a hotel restaurant, but a restaurant in a hotel.

Actually I think GR is providing the food service for the entire hotel. I know that he is doing room service, for instance. I'm not sure what you mean when you say "line." It is the same "line" if you mean food service under GR; it's not literally the same "line" of cooks putting out one dish for the dining room and another for room service.

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Robyn

With respect, I really didn't understand the thrust of the above post.

FWIW, my (recent, last week) meal at David Burke and Donatella was markedly mediocre.

Two stars for Ramsay is bad news, however one looks at it.

Actually - the post expressed a bit of disgust at the whole New York dining scene - especially the hype - and the perceived need for hype. I think it encourages what I'd call "shooting stars".

I was at DB&D in 2004 - and it was really quite good then. But - as with all shooting stars - there apparently was a big bang and then a fizzle (I've noted diners' comments since then).

I think GR will survive. As will AD. I suppose the moral of the story is don't go to outposts. If you want to dine with a chef who has an empire - go to his signature restaurant on his home turf. Better yet - find the home town people (whatever the town) who are less famous but nevertheless put out a great meal. Robyn

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If you go to a basic hotel, very often what you'll see on the room service menu is the same as what's on the restaurant's menu. Outside of the restaurant's normal service hours, there will be some sort of abbreviated menu. But during service you have all the food for the restaurant and for room service, as they say in the restaurant business, coming off the same line. Such an operation is also highly likely to be catering mostly to hotel guests, and the employees working there tend to think of themselves as employees of the hotel, not of the restaurant.

To me, once you go to separate lines for the dining-room food and the room-service food, and if only a couple of your tables each night are occupied by hotel guests, and if your labor situation is segregated from the hotel's labor, you're no longer dealing with a true hotel restaurant. You're dealing with a restaurant in a hotel.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Re the opening buzz - if it's correct - that is more New York's loss than the chef's IMO.
Well, it's the chef's loss too, because the chef often has some of his own money, and he certainly has his prestige, riding on the outcome.

On its own, a bad Times review isn't the end of the world. The Modern, for instance, still appears to be doing quite well, despite a two-star kiss from Frank Bruni. An even more extreme example is Asiate, which is still doing brisk business despite one star from Amanda Hesser. But I think both places have survived because of a strong consensus that the critic got it wrong. Ramsay has yet to wow any of the mainstream critics (though some bloggers, including me, have liked it).

I'm not sure I agree with FG that Gordon Ramsay is "a restaurant in a hotel," rather than a "hotel restaurant." The pre-opening press made a big deal of Ramsay's tie-ins to the whole hotel operation. I do understand that the main dining room won't survive solely on hotel guests.

Anyway - GR is in good company with his 2 stars.  My favorite restaurant last couple of trips to New York was David Burke & Donatella - which also has 2 New York Times stars.

DB&D operates at a lower price point and higher volume. For them, two stars wasn't a smackdown.
"Bruni has re-reviewed himself only once."

If that is true, it tells you all you need to know about the assumptions that underpin a reviewer's work and the environment in which he operates.

Yes indeed. This has been much discussed on the Bruni & Beyond thread. The current structure—with generally one rated review per week—means that the critic spends most of his time reviewing new restaurants. All of Bruni's re-reviews, except for EMP, have come after a very long passage of time since the last review. At EMP, there was a new chef, coupled with his strong view that the restaurant had improved dramatically.

Bruni's tastes aren't going to change. It's distinctly possible that Ramsay is doing exactly what he intended at this restaurant. It was widely promoted that GR at the London was meant to closely imitate the Michelin three-star GR at Royal Hospital Road. I doubt that Ramsay veered far from that successful formula. What do you do when the technique that made you successful is suddenly condemned en masse by the critics of a foreign city?

I think the closest analogy is The Modern. As far as I can tell, Gabriel Kreuther hasn't made major changes. The restaurant is doing well. Bruni has been back, and he just doesn't like it. Perhaps he never will.

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"Bruni has re-reviewed himself only once."

If that is true, it tells you all you need to know about the assumptions that underpin a reviewer's work and the environment in which he operates.

I don't know what you're talking about. There are many valid critiques to be made of Bruni, but that's not one. He's only been a critic for a couple years. He misses enough restaurants as it is; he can hardly be doing constant re-reviews.

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"DB&D operates at a lower price point and higher volume. For them, two stars wasn't a smackdown."

Exactly.

Are there any UES restaurants with three stars (granted in the last five or six years)? I'm sure DB&D would have loved three but I'm sure they were happy to get two. It is probably the best restaurant on the UES....of course, that's not saying much.

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I think two is pretty much on point..

:rolleyes:

Really, I dont see the fascination with this place. The food from my experience was really boring, the room is ok, its such a big to do for nothing special...

Edited by Daniel (log)
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"Bruni has re-reviewed himself only once."

If that is true, it tells you all you need to know about the assumptions that underpin a reviewer's work and the environment in which he operates.

I don't know what you're talking about. There are many valid critiques to be made of Bruni, but that's not one. He's only been a critic for a couple years. He misses enough restaurants as it is; he can hardly be doing constant re-reviews.

No, it's a critique of the environment in which he operates.

A case can be made that reviews without regular re-reviews are meaningless.

Also, as FG pointed out, the way the Times operates forces restaurants to go for "wows" out of the box rather than developing, as the Michelin system presupposes. And you could hypothesize that this attitude hurts restaurants in New York. Look at the discussion above of DavidBurke & Donatella. Like robyn, I went there shortly after it opened. Like robyn, I liked it a lot. And like robyn, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if it has slipped over time as its proprietors' attention drifted elsewhere. We've come to expect that in New York, that restaurants will get worse as they age. Contrast that with the European/Michelin model, where restaurants are expected to get better.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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Are there any UES restaurants with three stars (granted in the last five or six years)?  I'm sure DB&D would have loved three but I'm sure they were happy to get two.  It is probably the best restaurant on the UES....of course, that's not saying much.

Ummmm, Cafe Boulud?

Ummmm, DavidBurke & Donatella is better than Daniel?

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"Bruni has re-reviewed himself only once."

If that is true, it tells you all you need to know about the assumptions that underpin a reviewer's work and the environment in which he operates.

I don't know what you're talking about.

clearly

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I'd modify that to say we expect a bell curve, with most restaurants getting better for a year or two (because very few restaurants open well), then leveling off for awhile, then going into a decline. That's not the case with absolutely every restaurant -- some of them (Jean Georges) stay good and others (Gramercy Tavern is a recent example) have sine wave graphs. But most peak after the ramp-up, then slip both in absolute terms and relative to the newer restaurants around them.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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"No, it's a critique of the environment in which he operates.

A case can be made that reviews without regular re-reviews are meaningless."

That's completely inapposite. (it may be true, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with Algy's slur)

The critique was made specifically of Bruni. Since one or two reviews a week is a function of the Times' editorial policy (as well as a reduction in space for the reviews)...a policy which has been in place since well before Bruni (were Grimes or Hesser ever criticized for insufficient re-reviews? -- I think not)....to criticize Bruni for it is completely disingenuous...even perverse.

Come now, can you imagine the outcry among restauranteurs if Bruni dedicated 25% of his reviews to restaurants he has already reviewed over the last couple years? (btw, he has essentially done two -- re-reviews -- had Grimes done anymore at this point in his tenure?)

For that matter, I don't think it can be questioned that there are more important restaurants opening per year now then there were ten, let alone twenty, years ago.

I forgot about Daniel.

Edited by Nathan (log)
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I'd modify that to say we expect a bell curve, with most restaurants getting better for a year or two (because very few restaurants open well), then leveling off for awhile, then going into a decline. That's not the case with absolutely every restaurant -- some of them (Jean Georges) stay good and others (Gramercy Tavern is a recent example) have sine wave graphs. But most peak after the ramp-up, then slip both in absolute terms and relative to the newer restaurants around them.

You're right. I was going to go back and edit to say something like this, but now I don't have to.

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"No, it's a critique of the environment in which he operates.

A case can be made that reviews without regular re-reviews are meaningless."

That's completely inapposite.  (it may be true, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with Algy's slur)

The critique was made specifically of Bruni.  Since one or two reviews a week is a function of the Times' editorial policy (as well as a reduction in space for the reviews)...a policy which has been in place since well before Bruni (were Grimes or Hesser ever criticized for insufficient re-reviews? -- I think not)....to criticize Bruni for it is completely disingenuous...even perverse.

What algy said was (emphasis added):

"Bruni has re-reviewed himself only once."

If that is true, it tells you all you need to know about the assumptions that underpin a reviewer's work and the environment in which he operates.

(Note that I don't think algy lives in New York, or even North America.)

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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