​Camino, Oakland – a revolution in tipping

14 October 2015 Yesterday Danny Meyer, head of Union Square Hospitality and the most respected restaurateur in New York, perhaps the US, made a seminal announcement; that his many revered restaurants would successively stop optional service charges and, to benefit all members of the team, would be applying a standard service charge. I feel that being in New York when this was announced was the equivalent for restaurant correspondent Nick of my being in Hong Kong when it was announced in 2008 that wine duties were being abandoned. For that reason,…






LA animal

This is a version of an article also published by the Financial Times. There were palm trees to our immediate right while snow was clearly visible dusting the top of the canyons in the far distance off to our left. And all around us there were lines of traffic, most of it stationary. Welcome to Los Angeles. But on this occasion we were to experience this exciting city through very different eyes. We were there for less than 24 hours with our 24-year-old daughter, into whose hands we had consigned…






Manresa and Kin Khao

This is a version of an article published by the Financial Times. When I asked a friend whose years in San Francisco have brought him extensive knowledge of the Bay Area’s restaurants, how much time restaurateur Pim Techamuanvivit spends with her live-in partner, chef David Kinch, his response was, ‘Well, certainly not much over the past 15 months.’ This is not surprising because although they share the same profession, a distance of sixty miles separates their two restaurants. Kinch is the chef/patron of the long-established, highly regarded Manresa in Los…






Portland, city of food

The chef sitting opposite me in his restaurant in downtown Portland, Oregon, looked the epitome of the young American chef. He was bearded and wearing a baseball cap. He spoke enthusiastically of his passion for cycling. He spoke even more rapturously of the suppliers, farmers and food purveyors in this bountiful state in the Pacific Northwest. And his face really lit up when he talked about how, thanks to Franklin Jones, who created B-Line, two of these passions have been brought together in a sustainable delivery service that collects from…






Disappointment in Meadowood, California

A version of this article is also published by the Financial Times. Chefs shoulder a heavy responsibility, one that is unique among all professionals. They, and only they, are trusted to select, prepare and cook ingredients for our digestive system, everyone’s most personal and most vulnerable eco-system. We put our trust in those who cook for us on a daily basis in a way we trust no one else. In a restaurant the balance in this relationship can be restored by the presence of a menu that allows us to…






Lunch at Big Sur

Of all the restaurants in all the world, Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn on Highway 1 at Big Sur in California starts with the greatest natural advantage of them all. It has unquestionably the best view. There are other restaurants with great views: across rivers; across the skylines of our cities; and even, most peacefully but sadly increasingly rarely, across just a few beach shacks and the sea. But none in my experience can compare with the view from a corner table on the terrace of Sierra Mar…






From the concert hall to the kitchen

This article is also published in the Financial Times. The men around the table had had a hugely beneficial impact on how we eat and enjoy food. There was Johnny Grey, the highly respected kitchen designer; Simon Hopkinson, whose book Roast Chicken and Other Stories has inspired so many; and William Sitwell, food writer and Masterchef judge. But these collective achievements paled in comparison with those of the women sitting between them. At one end was Sally Clarke, whose restaurant has just celebrated its 30th birthday and who employs 40…






Capital style in DC

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   José Andrés at Jaleo (pictured), Jamie Leeds at Hank’s Oyster Bar and Eric Ziebold at CityZen in the Mandarin Oriental hotel are three chefs in Washington DC united not just by their obvious culinary talent but also by a good sense of humour.  While the capital’s politicians seem devoid of this crucial human trait, with visits to the Capitol cancelled and so many entrances closed that it takes my political acquaintance there far longer to get to his desk, these…






Heirloom Cafe – San Francisco

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   Dinner at the Heirloom Café in the Mission district of San Francisco left several strong impressions. The first was of our party of six, three Americans, two Brits and a Frenchman, sitting happily at one end of a large, wooden, communal table facing several bottles of what were to prove to be highly impressive California wines. The view of a room packed with other happy diners in what had formerly been a convenience store was equally pleasurable. There was the…






Seattle

Seattle – 2004 Seattle has bequeathed the world more than its fair share of modern icons: Boeing; Microsoft; Starbucks; Amazon and Costco are the most obvious. But as in so many other regions, money and expertise in one field have led inevitably and probably less profitably to the fields of food and wine. The wine club at Boeing was one of the first to lead the way when several of its leading members decided to put pastime into practice – Cadence, Nota Bene, Austin Robaire and Willis Hall wineries were…