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…






The Mushrooom Man

The Mushroom Man – 2006 My colleague Rowley Leigh’s eloquent eulogy to the morel mushroom a fortnight ago prompted me to make yet another call to Michael Hyams whom for the past five years I have known by the name of the company he runs – the Mushroom Man (www.mushroomman.co.uk). Early April should have been the start of the wild mushroom season across Europe – a season that begins with morels and St George’s mushrooms from Turkey and Bulgaria and then moves steadily west until the late summer brings girolles…






Neal’s Yard Dairy

The story behind Neal’s Yard Dairy – 2006 In 1980 the seemingly innocuous but soon to prove highly enjoyable phrase ‘A selection of British and Irish farmhouse cheeses’ began to appear on restaurant dessert menus across the UK with increasing regularity. I use the phrase ‘seemingly innocuous’ advisedly because serving top quality cheeses presents particular challenges for restaurateurs: they are highly perishable and neither very profitable nor that easy to sell, as many customers feel, with some justification, that it is the one dish they can do just as well…