A tiny Japanese jewel in London

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   ‘My first wife was second cook in a third-rate restaurant on Fourth Street’ has been my favourite line from the movies since I first heard it spoken by the actor William Bendix in the film The Glass Key made in 1942. I thought of it again after an unusual invitation led to an exceptional dinner. It came from a Chinese friend in Hong Kong. Would I like to join her for a Japanese ‘kaiseki’ dinner, the multi-course meal that has…






Le Gavroche’s heart transplant

This article was also published in the Financial Times. Michel Roux Jr, long the chef/proprietor of Mayfair’s renowned Le Gavroche and, more recently, the face of BBC TV’sMasterChef: The Professionals and Food & Drink, was in a very relaxed mood when we met for dinner recently with our wives. He had just returned from a week in the sun, although the holiday had been somewhat spoilt by the over-zealous attentions of one fellow guest at his hotel – a consequence, he has come to realise, of his new fame. He…






Cafe Murano and its predecessors

This article was also published in the Financial Times. The clock on the back bar of Cafe Murano, which chef Angela Hartnett and restaurateur Chris Yates opened at 33 St James’s Street two months ago, had just turned 2.30 pm, marking another phase in every restaurant’s working day. Right on cue, because deliveries are never accepted during the lunch service, the front door opened and a small wine delivery was taken in by the receptionist. The front door opened again seconds later to reveal this time a young female cook…






Sally Clarke’s makeover

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   Few women will admit that after years in the public gaze they need a facelift. But that is precisely the conclusion chef Sally Clarke reached, professionally, three years ago when she began the radical overhaul of her restaurant and shop that has been a fixture of Kensington High Street, west London, since she first opened on 7 December 1984. In January 2013 her shop moved across and into Campden Street, 100 yards away. In August the entire restaurant closed for…






In praise of Saturday lunch

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   The time has finally come to admit to a secret addiction. The meal I look forward to most, the one that has engendered the happiest memories, is undoubtedly Saturday lunch. I have only a rough idea of when this habit began but I do know precisely who was responsible: it was about 25 years ago and the guilty parties were my wife and children. That was the era when a good Saturday lunch was a bribe. If, we pointed out…






Gymkhana – unbridled fun

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   As we turned off London’s Piccadilly and headed north for dinner at Gymkhana, the latest restaurant to open at 42 Albermarle Street, I was worried on two different counts. The first centred around quite how many restaurants had opened and closed in this particular location over the past 25 years. I could certainly cast my mind back to a time when Jams first opened here in the late 1980s with chef Jonathan Waxman, now based in New York, at its…






Return of Boulestin in name but not in spirit

This article was also published in the Financial Times. Nobody could have been more excited than I was to see the name Boulestin reappear above the door of a London restaurant. In its former incarnation in a basement off Covent Garden that is now a Deep Pan Pizza, I once enjoyed the only meal of my life that I can categorically describe as ‘life-changing’. It was November 1980 and I was a neophyte importer of California wines. My distributor called to say that he was coming to town and he…






High but not mighty – Oblix

The Shard, which now towers above the renovated entrance to London Bridge station, divides opinion as to its aesthetic merits. It is visible from any point in the city and is the result of an unusual troika: Londoner Irvine Sellar, Italian architect Renzo Piano and financing from Qatar. Later this month, Hutong, a Chinese restaurant will open on its 33rd floor followed by a hotel run by the Shangri-La group. But for the moment the building’s reputation for hospitality rests on Oblix restaurant and bar on the 32nd floor which…






A quiet corner of St James’s

This article was also published in the Financial Times. An email from friends in Australia presented me with an immediate, professional challenge. They were due to arrive in London in two days’ time; they would be free on only one busy weekday evening; and they wanted to have dinner around 8 pm somewhere close to Green Park station. I knew that, good food and drink aside, what we most wanted was a good chat. So where could I make a reservation at short notice where the acoustics were as agreeable…






London’s diversity under threat

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   In between a first course of poached lemon sole with mushrooms and a main course of veal, served as a blanquette and as two pink slices from a roast loin, I recently had to get up and sing for my supper in front of a room full of New Yorkers. The setting was the atmospheric cellars beneath St James’s Street in London of wine merchants Berry Bros & Rudd. Their premises date back to the late 17th century and parts…