The Palomar, a lesson in schmoozing

This article also appeared in the Financial Times. To schmooze, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, means ‘to talk intimately’, and its origins lie in the late 19th century Yiddish word shmuesn, ‘to chat’. My grandparents, who spoke this now almost forgotten language, would certainly not recognise its relevance today as to how best to look after a customer in a restaurant. But this style of communication is what every good receptionist or maitre d’ ought to employ as they escort you to a table. It is the approach a…






Ember Yard – situation vacant?

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   I booked a table for dinner at Ember Yard, the predominantly Spanish charcuterie, bar and grill that recently opened just south of Oxford Street, principally for amorous reasons. It was my wife’s birthday and I knew that she would appreciate the fact that here she could enjoy a wide range of different foods and wines by the glass without being subject to massive servings. My professional interest was also piqued. Ember Yard is the fourth restaurant Sanja Morris, formerly in…






The Deep South – by Marble Arch

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   My one and only trip to the southern states of America left very strong and very happy memories. These range from breakfasts in Savannah to sunny lunches in genteel Charleston. They encompass particularly long ‘cocktail hours’ in New Orleans, under the tutelage of the late RW Apple Jnr, of the New York Times, and my introduction to proper corn bread and muffuletta, the thick, spicy sandwich of various boiled meats and cheese, a dish introduced to the city by Italian…






The French – outside France

This article was also published in the Financial Times. Restaurants are, in my opinion, the most expressive examples of one particular human trait: that while so many live and work outside their native countries, their inherent and very distinctive national characteristics never leave them. To take examples from my recent reviews on these pages, the McDonalds have exemplified American Southern charm at The Lockhart, while the Takagis have exuded Japanese precision at Shiori, despite their restaurants’ being in central London, thousands of miles from where they first learnt these skills….






Bibendum a quarter-century on

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   A recent lunch and then dinner at Bibendum restaurant in London’s South Kensington, which opened in August 1987 thanks to the diverse talents of designer and restaurateur Sir Terence Conran, the late Paul Hamlyn, publisher and philanthropist, and Simon Hopkinson, its original chef and now cookbook writer and tv presenter, was inspired by a friend’s innocuous question. All he had wanted to know was for quite how many years I had been writing this column. The realisation that 2014 marks…






Doing London’s West End with children

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   I asked a doctor friend what I thought was a fairly innocuous question – whether he was particularly busy in the run up to Christmas – but it had him roaring with laughter. ‘You don’t understand, Nick. I have to be. Our children are still under 10 and these particular holidays are very expensive. It’s not so much Christmas Day as the weeks either side. They want to go skiing, to show off how much better skiers they are than…






End of an era at Ransome’s Dock

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   ‘I am reeling from the news about the imminent closure of Ransome’s Dock’, emailed a former banker who since her move from New York to London has grown increasingly impressed by her adopted city’s restaurants, ‘although I understand the rationale’. And she is far from the only one. Many who enjoy excellent food, a great wine list and very fair prices (on the current menu the only main course over £20 is the 30-day aged sirloin steak and chips) will…






The new fish and chips

This article was also published in the Financial Times. Fish and chips, that quintessentially British combination, is a dish that works on many levels. There is the crispness of the batter, the freshness and flakiness of the fish, the irresistible nature of the chips, particularly if they are straight out of the frying pan, and, finally, the extras. Salt and vinegar, and yes please to plenty of both for me, though I have no time for the mushy peas that are a traditional accompaniment in British fish and chip shops….






London’s Balthazar – via New York and Paris

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   Balthazar, the French brasserie that has played to full houses since it first opened on Spring Street, Manhattan, in 1997, has finally transferred to London’s Covent Garden. It boasts an intriguing cast. First and foremost is the English-born restaurateur Keith McNally, 61, who has now spent over half his working life orchestrating not just Balthazar but other successful restaurant openings in Manhattan, including Minetta Tavern, Pastis and Schiller’s. McNally explained that he had initially decided to settle back in London…






How to serve 678 in a day

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   Just after our plates had been cleared away, and what felt like only minutes after they had respectively sported slip soles with hedgerow garlic and caper butter and smoked haddock with a poached egg, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Turning round, I faced Tim Hughes, who had just come up from the basement kitchen of J Sheekey, the long-established fish restaurant off St Martin’s Lane in central London. Although Hughes carries the title of chef director of Caprice…