​The art of the bar chef

This is a version of an article also published by the Financial Times. Although the style and service of food have changed fundamentally since restaurants first emerged in Paris in the second half of the 18th century, the names and titles of those who work in restaurants have barely altered. The words chef, commis waiter, sommelier, maître d’ and restaurateur are as recognisable today as they were then. But recently a new role, and with it a new title, has emerged. The name is perforce a hybrid – bar chef…






Lunch with Ferran, dinner with Danny

Lunch and dinner last Thursday on the Fourth of July will go down as professionally the most memorable in my career, even if not necessarily for the food. The former consisted of a grilled cheese sandwich with leeks and a glass of lemonade at Fernandez & Wells café in Somerset House; the latter was a series of first courses, a bottle of Fleurie, and strawberries and shortbread at Quo Vadis, Soho. But my lunch guest was Ferran Adrià from elBulli on the eve of the opening of his exhibition, The…






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…






First courses – first and second

This article was also published in the Financial Times. The price my guest would have to pay when he texted a second time that he was still stuck in traffic and would be arriving even later for our lunch at The Cinnamon Club in Westminster was, I responded, that I would choose what we were going to eat. No sooner had he sat down than I called the waiter over and ordered two mango lassi and one each of the six first courses on the à la carte menu. The…






The female chefs of Paris

The female chefs of Paris – 2006 Gilles Pudlowski’s book Great Women Chefs of Europe has, since it was published at the end of last year by Flammarion, prompted two distinct reactions. The first and most obvious is the desire to visit all of the restaurants listed which range in alphabetical order from Elena Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain to Luisa Valazza in Soriso in northern Italy, something I hope to achieve one day. The other, more serious, has been to give some thought to why there are not more…






Liam Tomlin and the best of the Cape

Liam Tomlin and the best of the Cape – 2005 In today’s restaurant world chefs travel as widely as the ingredients they use. But it is unlikely that any have travelled quite as extensively, enjoying en route such success followed by such professional heartbreak, as Liam Tomlin who was in London recently to give copies of his new book Season to Taste to his friends, many of whom are now top chefs across the capital. When I met Tomlin I began by asking whether he had any idea of quite…






Albert Roux

Albert Roux – 2005 Last week Silvano Giraldin, the highly respected maitre d’ of Mayfair’s Le Gavroche, made an unprecedented and unusual faux pas when he over-booked the restaurant not by the odd table but by a factor of four. Instead of the usual 60 customers enjoying what is probably the best-value lunch menu in town there were 250 friends, suppliers and chefs holding on to their glasses of Mumm champagne and nibbling away at miniature versions of copious Le Gavroche dishes: oysters in champagne; grouse pie; artichokes with foie…






Washington Park and its chef

Washington Park and its chef – 2004 Washington Park, which opened in the spring, provides several excellent reasons for a visit, as any new restaurant must in these straitened economic times. The first is a welcome return to the stove for peripatetic chef Jonathan Waxman. Then there is his partnership with Wall Street trader Ray Welland who has not only helped to finance the $1.5 million redesign but also magnanimously folded his extensive personal wine cellar into the restaurant to create a stunning wine list that runs to over 1000…






Lunch with 47 three-star chefs

Lunch with 47 three-star chefs – 2004 A gloriously sunny autumn afternoon found me standing on the steps of the Plaza Athenée Hotel in Paris’s chic eighth arrondissement having just had lunch cooked for me and 47 of Europe’s 49 three-star Michelin chefs by Alain Ducasse and his talented brigade. I was talking to Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck outside London Julio Soler from El Bulli in Spain when Jean-Pierre Tuil, France’s food and wine PR supremo, scampered across to let us know that photos of this exceptional event…






Bruce Poole

Bruce Poole – 2007 “What you have to understand about chefs,” Bruce Poole explained as he served me the large dish of cassoulet we were sharing at The Anchor & Hope near Waterloo Station, “is that we are all insecure. We want our customers to like our food and in deciding whether they do or not means forming an opinion about us.” Poole’s admission came half-way through a fascinating meal to which I had invited him after we had had dinner in his restaurant, the highly admired Chez Bruce in…