When you just can’t book

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   Over a glass of Dom Pérignon 2003 at the Room to Read dinner in Sydney, which raised over AUD1 million for this estimable charity, I heard something that will delight restaurateurs everywhere. The comment came from Katie Jacobs, whose job selling Dom Pérignon in the US and now in Australia has taken her to many a restaurant. We were discussing the increasingly common practice of restaurants operating a no-bookings policy in the evenings, a policy that has had the not…






Mothers’ boys taste Fleet Street success

This article was also published in the Financial Times. Daniel Land and Jeremy Sanders have been each other’s closest friends for 25 of their 28 years. They were separated only by stints at different universities and briefly afterwards when Land went into investment banking at Merrill Lynch while Sanders attended INSEAD Business School, Paris, before working as a consultant for Bain & Co. At 5am every weekday now, however, they meet near Baker Street for a bus which 15 minutes later drops them outside their first branch of Coco di…






Le Pain Quotidien and other cheap eats in London

Le Pain Quotidien and other cheap eats in London – 2005 For the growing number of self-employed, the first half of February is the most financially painful time of the year. A cheque has just gone off to the Inland Revenue which puts into the shade anything spent over the Christmas period and, although this is sadly a bi-annual affair, somehow sending the second cheque off at the end of July, when the British climate is less grim, is bearable if certainly not enjoyable. Happily, there has been a cluster…






St John Bread and Wine

St John Bread and Wine – 2003 Where customers once paid in cheques bakers bake and chefs cook; the former safe is now a dry goods store (the three-inch thick door was too expensive to remove so it is left permanently open); and where documents were housed is now home to buckets of fermenting starter, initiated three months ago, so that they can now yield magnificent, crunchy wholemeal, rye and sourdough loaves. This is St John Bread and Wine, formerly a bank, opposite the rapidly changing Spitalfields Market with as…






The Honest Sausage

The Honest Sausage – 2003 Michael Lucy has the most enjoyable walk between restaurants of any restaurateur I know. He starts in Hyde Park by The Honest Sausage close to Speakers’ Corner, (which provides the logo for his sandwiches Free Range – Free Speech), and within ten minutes is at a window table of The Dell Café with a splendid view across the Serpentine. Lucy deserves these bonuses because over the past decade he has set standards for eating out in the Royal Parks for the competition to follow and…






The man behind Ping Pong

The man behind Ping Pong – 2006 The growing number of Ping Pong dim sum restaurants across central London offer good food, good design and good value. Their creator, Kurt Zdesar, explains how he has achieved this. Kurt Zdesar decided to leave his highly paid job as GM of Nobu Restaurants in Europe because of an advertisement he saw for a Jaguar car. “The car was on offer for sale in the US at the same price in dollars as it was in pounds in the UK although it was…






Throgmorton’s

Throgmorton’s – 2004 Over the past decade Fontaine, as chef/proprietor of The Quality Chop House in Farringdon Road, EC1, cooked in equally modest albeit more characterful premises. But after selling the Chop House to his partner and then travelling for a year, he has fortunately resurfaced in the rather wonderful Throgmorton’s in the City. Fontaine and his business partner Farika Skilton are the first to admit that the initial allure of this vast complex of deli, bars and restaurants (they reckon it is just under a kilometre from the front…






Good value on the Edgware Road

Good value on the Edgware Road – 2001 The journey from Kandoo to Maroush takes about half an hour if you are a quick walker. Despite these enchanting names and the fact that along the way you pass Babylon Stores and the Cleopatra Unisex Hair and Beauty salon it is not a particularly romantic journey. Nor is it as dangerous as these unusual names may imply. The most hazardous aspect of this trip is crossing the road as the various double-decker buses come hurtling down the Edgware Road from Maida…






New ways to lunch in London

New ways to lunch in London – 2007 Restaurateurs are fully aware that the current unprecedented demand for their tables is not necessarily being translated into unprecedented profitability. Selling alcohol at lunchtime is increasingly a thing of the past with one successful London restaurateur wistfully reminiscing to me only last week about how, when he began in the late 1970’s, the barmen had to pre-prepare jugs of Bloody Marys to ensure that they could be served quickly enough. And that was before what was the common occurrence then referred to…






Coco di Mama

Coco di Mama – 2011 Daniel Land and Jeremy Sanders have been each other’s closest friends for 25 of their 28 years. They were separated only by stints at different universities and briefly afterwards when Land went into investment banking at Merrill Lynch while Sanders attended INSEAD Business School, Paris, before working as a consultant for Bain & Co. At 5am every weekday now, however, they meet near Baker Street for a bus which 15 minutes later drops them outside their first branch of Coco di Mama on Fleet Street….