RIP Juli Soler

The public face of the world’s most famous restaurant finally succumbed last night to the neurodegenerative disease that so unfairly blighted his last few years. The following is an extract from The Art of the Restaurateur, Phaidon, 2012. Juli Soler is the restaurateur who made El Bulli famous. It was his partnership with the far better known chef, Ferran Adria, which took El Bulli to heights that no other restaurant has ever reached and, quite possibly, no other restaurant may ever emulate. www.elbulli.com records that over 2,500 articles have been written…






Getting the most out of eating out

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   An evening in a restaurant can last longer than a night at the theatre. At certain restaurants dinner for two can be more expensive even than two tickets in the stalls of the grandest opera house. And restaurants, I know from experience, can certainly divide opinion as much as any new exhibition or recently released film. Yet in all these cultural media there is far more explanation, dialogue and even an audio guide designed to allow the customer to maximise…






The menu is the message

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   ZUNI CAFÉ, SAN FRANCISCO  This menu excites me visually on several fronts. Firstly, I can immediately spot those dishes that I would only want to eat sitting here in the California sunshine: the house-cured anchovies with celery; the bowl of polenta with mascarpone; and Zuni’s longest-running dishes, their Caesar salad and the roast chicken for two cooked in the brick oven. Then this menu effortlessly takes me on a tour of those farms which, if they have passed the scrutiny…






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…






Robyn Roux gives her first interview – 2003

Robyn Roux gives her first interview – 2003 Robyn Roux, the Australian-born wife of Michel Roux whose restaurant, the Waterside Inn at Bray, has held the coveted maximum three Michelin stars since 1985, responded to my initial request for an interview with peals of her infectious laughter. My second call prompted her to say that she would have to ask ‘the Frenchman’ before she finally agreed to meet me in the lounge of Le Gavroche, Mayfair run by her nephew, Michel Jr. ‘I just don’t do interviews.’ she explained. ‘It’s…






Nigel Platts-Martin on wine lists

Nigel Platts-Martin on wine lists – 2007 When the media picked up yet again on that old chestnut of ‘exorbitant wine mark-ups in restaurants’ a couple of months ago I decided to seek out the views of a London restaurateur who over the last 20 years has built up a company of five successful restaurants as well known for their wine lists as their food. But it is not easy to sit down with Nigel Platts-Martin who controls The Ledbury, The Glasshouse, La Trompette, Chez Bruce and The Square, where…






Alan Yau

Alan Yau – 2004 At the end of this month three modern icons – fast cars, striking architecture and urban food – come together in a former Post Office by the vegetable stalls of Berwick Street market in Soho. The Igeni building, created by Richard Rogers, will emerge from the cladding to house the offices of the design team behind the next generation of Ford motor cars. But most of the ensuing publicity will revolve around the ground floor and basement which will house Alan Yau’s latest and most egalitarian…






The trouble with success

The trouble with success – 2002 Mid April may have marked a significant turning point for many restaurateurs, their first ray of optimism for several months. 2001 was not a particularly good trading year and the last quarter saw a significant downturn in corporate entertaining and international custom, trends that carried on during the first quarter of this year. But the combination of warmer weather, the beginning for many of a new corporate financial year after 1 April and slightly improved hotel occupancy does seem to have heralded an upswing….






The role of the restaurateur

The role of the restaurateur – 2002 The first of what I hope will be many columns for Business Life – which I intend to make as fun and didactic as possible – gives me the opportunity to make a confession. Because, or in spite, of having spent the past 20 years in and around the restaurant trade, as restaurateur, columnist and consultant to several arts organisations keen to improve their food, wine and service, I do not have a favourite restaurant. This is not because I am difficult to…






Trying to open a restaurant in London

Trying to open a restaurant in London – 2002 No chef in the UK is better placed to dream of opening his own restaurant than 23-year-old Brett Graham. Three weeks ago he walked off with the Young Chef of the Year award, testimony to his innate skills honed by two and a half tough years in the prestigious kitchens of The Square, Mayfair. Yet Graham is the first to admit that this is likely to remain a pipedream. ‘I am on £30,000 a year and unable to save a penny…