Small, unbookable and very busy

On the Monday before Christmas I walked from Covent Garden and into Soho and past several well-known London landmarks. The crowds around Leicester Square tube station; the relative quiet at 11.45 am outside Maison Bertaux on Greek Street; and then, turning on to Old Compton Street, I caught a glimpse of three Japanese chefs scurrying out of Dozo restaurant for a quick cigarette before their lunch service got under way. I then turned into the bottom of Frith Street and was immediately made aware of one of the biggest changes…






Aussie brekkie rules

This is a version of an article also published by the Financial Times. Restaurant business buzzwords to have caught my attention recently include ‘elevated casual’, ‘natural wines’ and the ‘Aussie breakfast’. The first particularly strange combination refers to the style of restaurant many are seeking to open today, somewhere that is comfortable and professional but informal while giving the customer the opportunity to spend well. The second is a style of wines currently favoured by many young sommeliers although I rather like the comment of one Australian winemaker that these…






To Kabul and Tehran for dinner

This article is also published by the Financial Times. As the South African-born osteopath was about to apply painful pressure to my lower back in an ultimately successful endeavour to reunite it with the rest of my body, I explained why I had arrived late. It wasn’t cowardice, I assured her, rather that I was caught up in what is now a major weekly event in London, albeit one I had not witnessed before. My bus skirted Regent’s Park at lunchtime just as crowds were streaming out of the lunchtime…






The ancient art of Chinese noodling

This article was also published in the Financial Times. This noodle bar looks just like one of the many that dot every street of every city, town and village across China. Its frontage is no more than five metres wide with its front window almost invariably coated in the steam that rises from the range of woks in the kitchen just inside the front door. The pavement is home to a few plastic stools and to two small round tables, each of which sports a container of fiery Shanghai red…






Sniffing out the Beagle

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   Although the season for the annual award ceremonies in food and wine writing and restaurants has drawn to a close on both sides of the Atlantic, I would now like to propose a one-off award. It is on behalf of all those who currently relish the excellent British produce on offer in some of London’s most evocative restaurants. Sadly, the recipients, all male, have long passed away and their names are therefore unknown. But if there is anyone still alive…






A Wong – no place like home

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   As I watched Andrew Wong calling out the orders from behind the open counter of his restaurant, A Wong, a five-minute walk from London’s Victoria Station, I wondered whether he was fully aware of the diverse nature of his customers. There were two elderly men, one of whom had a short snooze before his food arrived. They were sitting next to a single female diner who ate with chopsticks in her right hand while a mobile was firmly wedged under…






Spending more than a penny

When an old friend who combines a good sense of humour with a penchant for good coffee said we should meet for a chat at The Attendant on Foley Street in Fitzrovia, that relatively unspoilt area of central London whose boundaries for me at least are the Newman Street Tavern to the south and Honey & Co on Warren Street to the north, I was intrigued. I had set my sights on a grilled black pudding sandwich at Fernandez & Wells, but the one disadvantage of my job is that…






First Wasabi, now Kimchee

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   71 High Holborn is a large, bright corner site close to London’s four Inns of Court that in two different incarnations has provided contrasting insights into how restaurants are enjoyed. The first was several years ago when it was Matsuri, a Japanese restaurant where I shared a meal with the late Anita Roddick, the ebullient founder of The Body Shop, who had bid to have lunch with me as part of a charity auction. When the dessert menu came, Roddick…






Honey & Co – a modest dream realised

This article was also published in the Financial Times. When a close friend announced that she was about to spend several months in and out of University College Hospital, London, as she underwent stem cell replacement, I was able to offer her one crumb of non-medical comfort: she and any visitors would be just round the corner from Honey & Co in Warren Street. Honey & Co is a recently opened small café and restaurant where I have enjoyed numerous good meals. These have ranged from a cappuccino with a…






East End bread

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   I had just sat down to dinner, having cooked a marinated duck breast from Paula Wolfert’s ever-reliable The Cooking of South West France and my Romanian grandmother’s pureed aubergines, when I gleaned a significant insight into the economic impact of a new restaurant from Ed Wilson. Wilson is the talented chef who, alongside his partner Eric Narioo of wine merchants Les Caves de Pyrène, opened the highly successful Terroirs near Trafalgar Square, then Brawn in east London followed by Soif…