5 venues for Christmas

5 venues for Christmas – 2009 November is a critical month in the business life of any leading London restaurant. This is not so much to do with actual sales – European restaurants don’t benefit from the Thanksgiving Day celebrations that fill so many US restaurants at this time of year – as to how frequently the phones keep ringing and how often enquiries come via the internet. This is because November is the month when many of us, and in particular the more magnanimous companies, are on the lookout…






Waiting etiquette

Waiting etiquette – 2009 The waitress at Spruce in San Francisco was only halfway through her two-minute description of the charcuterie plate I had ordered while my wife and I caught up with an American friend after several years’ absence, when my heart began to sink. Why, I wondered, could she not simply deliver the food and let us get on with our conversation? The rest of the meal was punctuated by similar unnecessary intrusions to such an extent that, as we walked out on to the windy pavement, our…






Mixing it up with Robbie Bargh

Mixing it up with Robbie Bargh – 2008 Robbie Bargh bounded into The Bar at The Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane wearing silver trainers and black trousers with a white skull and cross bone pattern on them, greeted me warmly but immediately addressed himself to its manager. “Please turn the lighting down straight away. It’s too bright and it’s making everybody in here look far too old, including me”, he said. The manager promptly did what he was told and then led us both through the crowded bar to the…






Smoking in restaurants

Smoking in restaurants – 2010 In most restaurants today the food and wine have never been more skilfully prepared, represented better value, nor been served so enthusiastically. This sweeping statement is based on hard facts. The recession has prevented restaurateurs from raising their prices. The internet has fuelled creativity amongst chefs and raised knowledge and awareness among customers to a new level. And one factor that is still growing in importance, particularly in the UK and the US, is the lure to so many young men and women of a…






Giaconda News

Giaconda News – 2008 My fully justified, highly enthusiastic review of The Giaconda Dining Room just off Tottenham Court Road where Australian Paul Merrony is the only chef in a one-person kitchen did end by saying that the viability of the business rested solely on his broad shoulders. Fate has unfortunately intervened. Cycling home from work on Halloween after what he subsequently described as ‘a record week’, Merrony had an accident that has resulted in a broken right elbow. Fortunately, he is left-handed. The restaurant has been closed since then…






Dining in hotels

Dining in hotels – problems and pitfalls… – 2002 Restaurants are a constant topic of conversation almost everywhere these days but even I was surprised at the speed with which the subject of hotels franchising out their restaurants came up around our dinner table recently within a group made up entirely of enthusiastic restaurant goers. After a few moments I ventured my personal opinion. I have had excellent meals in the restaurants alongside the Kimpton hotels along the West Coast, who pioneered this association. Alain Ducasse manages to excite in…






The king of London restaurant design

Tea with the king of London restaurant design – 2005 When I called David Collins’ office to propose an interview with London’s most successful restaurant designer I was pretty confident of a good lunch. After all, Collins’ architectural firm has been responsible for the interiors of J. Sheekey, The Mirabelle, the bars and restaurants at The Berkeley and Claridge’s hotels, Locanda Locatelli and The Wolseley, among others. But it was not to be. “David doesn’t do lunch,” I was informed by his efficient, protective PA, “but he would be happy…






Lighting

How to get your lighting right – 2004 Arnold Chan is currently Britain’s greatest yet least well known restaurant export. So far this year he has fine tuned the opening of more than 15 top restaurants round the world including two new Mr Chows as far afield as Seoul and Mexico City. He is currently working on the soon-to-open KittiChai in the fashionable Thompson Hotel in New York as well as on hotels and restaurants in South Beach Miami, Los Angeles and the Maldives. Anyone who has eaten at The…






How to build a Nobu – 2006

How to build a Nobu – 2006 To demonstrate quite how complex is the infrastructure behind a modern, busy restaurant, Nigel Bowater took me on a steep climb behind the kitchens at Nobu Berkeley in central London. He pushed open the fire exit and ushered me on to a large, flat roof where a sight confronted me which more closely resembled a chemical plant than anything to do with a restaurant. Across an area 15 metres in length and in some instances three to four metres in height were a…