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…






The Hawksmoor service primer

This article was also published in the Financial Times. Ten days before Will Beckett (pictured left by Fred McGregor) and his partner Huw Gott, both 35, officially opened their fourth and largest Hawksmoor restaurant on Regent Street, Beckett sent an email to his wife, Maria. It read, ‘I love you very much but sadly I won’t be seeing you for the next fortnight.’ I know this because I was standing beside Beckett as he sent it, an hour before the restaurant’s soft opening when they were offering 50% discount to…






How to name a restaurant

Each profile in The Art of the Restaurateur is followed by a relevant rumination on one aspect of the restaurant business. In the book, Maguy Le Coze’s profile is followed by this consideration of ‘Restaurants and their names’. Gilbert and Maguy Le Coze (pictured here by Nigel Parry) may have been young and naïve when they first opened for business 40 years ago but their restaurant began life with one great advantage – its unforgettable name, Le Bernardin. This is a name that fits all the criteria any restaurateur could possibly…






The eight seasons of the year

This article was also published in the Financial Times. See great reviews for Nick’s new book in The Economist and LA Weekly Today, the adjective ‘seasonal’ exerts a vice-like grip on British menus. Every press release I receive about a new restaurant makes it very clear that this will be this chef’s distinctive approach to preparing his dishes, while the same philosophy dictates what is on television cookery shows (within the constraints of scheduling) and the recipes in cookery columns. A seasonal approach has many virtues. It means that the…






When you just can’t book

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   Over a glass of Dom Pérignon 2003 at the Room to Read dinner in Sydney, which raised over AUD1 million for this estimable charity, I heard something that will delight restaurateurs everywhere. The comment came from Katie Jacobs, whose job selling Dom Pérignon in the US and now in Australia has taken her to many a restaurant. We were discussing the increasingly common practice of restaurants operating a no-bookings policy in the evenings, a policy that has had the not…






Russians, restaurants and roubles

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   When my Russian grandfather finally arrived in the UK in 1910, at the impressionable age of 15, he did so with a very different view of his former countrymen than the one he had set out with. On the last stage of his journey, by boat from Hamburg to Hull, he had watched as his fellow passengers had played cards, gambling away or, in a few instances, doubling the small amounts of cash they were travelling with. Russians, he learnt,…






How to design a kitchen – 2011

How to design a kitchen – 2011 As I drove across central London, James Lee gave me a very particular tour of the buildings we passed. At the sight of almost every significant restaurant, hotel or club, Lee talked about their kitchens, why working on them had been particularly tricky, how awkward it had been sometimes to get paid and, most consistently, how much fun he had from his professional involvement in them all. Lee, 51, occupies a unique position in the British restaurant trade. For the past 30 years…






Fire; the flames chefs fear – 2008

Fire; the flames chefs fear – 2008 Fire defines the chef’s profession but also closes numerous restaurants, Nicholas Lander discovers. Fire is obviously the element which defines the chef’s profession, as it defined the vital stage in mankind’s evolution thousands of years ago. But it can also close down restaurants with more frequency and more serious consequences than any other. My call to book a table at Limòn, a highly regarded Peruvian restaurant in San Francisco, elicited no more than the ringing tone and I was to learn subsequently that…






The importance of design – 2007

The importance of design – 2007 I was recently talking to a very successful restaurateur who was trying to come to terms with an unprecedented professional quandary. He had just been shown by a developer what he described as ‘possibly the best location in town’ but, in what appeared to be its only possible layout, it was operationally unworkable. The location is so commercially attractive because it is on a very busy, pedestrianised thoroughfare that would offer its customers great views across London and it is in an area that…






A trip to Davos – 2008

A trip to Davos – 2008 As I climbed into the funicular on the way down from the Schatzalp restaurant above Davos, Switzerland, I was joined by someone who, like me, had not been offered the choice of a toboggan ride down to our hotel (that was only available to guests of the Barclays Capital dinner next door). Instead, we had had the pleasure of the best meal in town. In fact, as my travelling partner was to disclose, he had just had the best meal he had ever had…