Getting fresh in central London

Freshness in a dish is an unquantifiable but important ingredient that I seem to crave more and more – and this sensation is due not just to the onset of August. This highly desirable quality is far more than simply an amalgamation of fresh ingredients, and my respect for those chefs who transform the individual items of any dish firstly by cooking them but then apparently adding more by ostensibly doing less, continues to grow. Japanese cooking first alerted me to this sensation and then it was the turn of…






The discreet charm of a French market

Nick writes a JR.com exclusive to remind us of a lovely summer now that we are back at our desks in London. Not strictly about restaurants but I love it. He returns to the FT next Saturday. Over the past 24 summers I have made the trip to the fruit and vegetable market in the Place Carnot in the centre of Carcassonne, a 25-minute drive from our Languedoc house, three times a week. These sorties have yielded lots of wonderful ingredients, a string of unforgettable faces and numerous bargains. And…






2013 – a great white truffle vintage?

This article was also published in the Financial Times. I was standing on the terrace of Palas Cerequio, once a series of farm buildings, today a small, elegant hotel on the outskirts of La Morra in the province of Barolo in Piedmont, northern Italy. My view in every direction was of one of the crops that make this region so appealing. Vines spread out on all sides as alongside me, Pio Boffa, who makes the renowned Pio Cesare wines, explained various particular sites. As he did so, he confessed that…






East End bread

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   I had just sat down to dinner, having cooked a marinated duck breast from Paula Wolfert’s ever-reliable The Cooking of South West France and my Romanian grandmother’s pureed aubergines, when I gleaned a significant insight into the economic impact of a new restaurant from Ed Wilson. Wilson is the talented chef who, alongside his partner Eric Narioo of wine merchants Les Caves de Pyrène, opened the highly successful Terroirs near Trafalgar Square, then Brawn in east London followed by Soif…






The modest pleasures of Japanese nimono

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   Among the many clouds that have characterised this damp, cool and gloomy British summer there has been at least one professional silver lining: I have come to appreciate and enjoy nimono dishes in Japanese restaurants. And I have even learnt how to cook some of them at home. Nimono, according to Richard Hosking’s indispensibleDictionary of Japanese Food, translates as ‘simmered food’ and appears at any meal in Japan other than at breakfast. It is a technique that can be used…






Through northern Italy with Luca Monica

Through northern Italy with Luca Monica – 2003 Luca Monica eats in more than 200 restaurants and travels over 80,000 kilometres around Italy every year for his food business which he runs on one simple principle. ‘I only buy and sell the best,’ he confessed. In profile, which is how I saw him for most of the 36 hours he drove his Mercedes over 1000 kilometres and through four different Italian regions, Monica resembles Jack Nicholson with thick black sunglasses and his hair swept high over his head. He spends,…






Where Britain’s top chefs go shopping

Where Britain’s top chefs go shopping – 2006 I have never seen the rather unprepossessing, small Somerset village of Barrow Gurney, on the A38 between Bristol and Bristol Airport, mentioned on any British restaurant menu I have come across. This is surprising as it is the source of some of the best fish which ends up being filleted and cooked at Le Gavroche or served as sushi at Nobu; all the suckling pigs roasted at St John as well as their confited ducks’ gizzards; a great deal of game currently…






Whole Foods

Whole Foods – 2007 Upstairs, the simply-named, eating-in floor of the 80,000 sq ft Whole Foods on High Street Kensington, seats 350 which makes it one of the largest café/restaurants to open in London this year irrespective of the two vast floors of food retail beneath it. And it was there shortly before it opened that David Lannon, President of the North Atlantic region of the Texas based company, outlined their systematic approach to opening in the UK. “We bought Fresh & Wild, a small, organic food company, a few…






Proscuitto

The secrets of the best proscuitto – 2002 Thirty-five years ago Pio Tosini, who died earlier this year aged 95, lost an argument that has had a profound effect on menus all over the world. Tosini was one of the pioneers of prosciutto, the silky air-cured ham that is equally delicious with melon, figs, draped around breadsticks or eaten on its own with an aperitif. He argued then that this ham should be marketed and sold as ‘prosciutto di Langhirano’, the town 20 kilometres east of Parma where its production…






Thai food in the UK

Thai food in the UK Globalisation is playing strange tricks with Thai food. Whilst French-born chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten delivers his interpretation of Thai dishes in chic Vong restaurants in New York, Chicago, London and Hong Kong, more basic Thai restaurants are the fashionable additions to a growing number of pubs across London. And in July Australian chef David Thompson, who used to own the renowned Darley Street Thai in Sydney before being invited back by the Thai Government to consult at their premier cooking institute, Suan Thai in Bangkok, will…