Putting this up in its lovely, pdf, newspaper-layout form. Sadly, that means it misses out on the 1,000 or so commenters. Nope I didn’t read ‘em all, got to about a hundred and gave up the ghost. But the gist seemed to be:
When this landed, it was amazing the number of people who didn’t clock the date. Metro was DELUGED with requests for the address, including from an astonishing number of people who fancied a job there. Manacling seems to be a far more popular pastime than I’d previously thought.
Was reminded of this while googling for pizzas near my flat. Right across the road, bold as brass on the map, is a ‘mistress and submission dungeon’. Who the hell knew? I wonder if it’s as popular as The Vault was.
I hated Embra when I studied there. As a Glaswegian it was everything I fought against: constipated, Anglicised, can-I-say-presbyterian-pinched-catsarseface. Didn’t go for years, actually got The Fear at the thought of Waverly Station. Then Mr and Mrs Smith sent me to 21212 and, whaddya know, it’s a bloody great city if you’re not seventeen and a half.
I’m going to still be going to Rules when I’m 80 I-should-live-so-long. It’s one of the reasons I love it so much. Last time I went there was an Indie-pop guy staggering through the restaurant, fag attached to lower lip, on a regular trajectory to the smoking pavement outside. He got exactly the same courtesy and charm from the retainers (I can only think of them as such…) as the astrakhan-coated rich luvvies at the next table.
En plus, their cocktail bar upstairs is my secret hideaway. Proper drinks, proper service, looks like it has been around for ever, remarkable for something that was crafted out of bits of the old Savoy only recently. I carefully didn’t mention in the review but am happy to share with the three or four people who ever read this wee thing.
I am honestly at a massive loss as to understand why the Guardian didn’t use photos of the Elles, Nadia and Lili, for this piece. So ridiculously lovely, so ridiculously French, they’re a gift to anyone with the slightest ability to snap. Hey ho.
Actually, I’m a bit unclear as to why so many restaurant photos are done devoid of people. Is it a rights thing? I’ve never come across a restaurant that doesn’t look better rammed with happy diners. But, as ever, what do I know?
Very remiss with this poor wee tumblr recently. But this piece for the rather gorgeous new website Civilian on my increasing love (well documented here below) for the old and quirky of the restaurant world has galvanised me to stick it on.
I want so much to go back to all of these, every one.
I really should put more actual work up here - it’s not like the paper version doesn’t get recycled along with everything else. This is my fourth for The Guardian and I’ve managed to survive the commenters thus far. Although I’m still quivering that it might just be honeymoon period.
I went to Alistair Hendy’s extraordinary set-up with talons sharpened, fully expecting to find it utterly ridiculous and fully pretentious. Instead, I came out bewitched. He really has created something quite extraordinary. My only disappointment is that staff don’t wear those brown coats a la Open All Hours.
This is only viewable if you have a Times subs, so it’s really for my own benefit. Huge fan of Giles and have always had a laugh with him on the rare occasions we’ve met, so our to-and-fro on the Twit took me by total surprise. All I fancied was a little pleasing Sunday eve argy-bargy about Italian food and… POW. Anyway, fabulous lunch, excellent company, hilarious review. All good.
My travel articles for Olive mag don’t appear online as such (they have an iPad app, so I guess that’s why). I’m not sure they’d be entirely happy about this being reproduced in its entirety for this random website (thank you for finding, @davidsim) but boy, it’s really made me want to go back to this most thrilling of cities. Or Tor Kor Market: one of the best food places on the planet.
A tweeter called @Mulia sent me this from 2000. Dear gawd, I can only hope I’ve improved since then. Still, joys of a newbie: it used to take me about half an hour to write these; now it takes bloody days.
I figured I was going to get lambasted by humourless veggies for my deliberate digs in this review of the rather excellent Gate in Islington. But instead it was the carnivores! I can’t imagine the opprobrium I’d have been in for had I hated the place.
I tell myself off for my shallow preconceptions. But hey, it doesn’t stop the readership feeling the need to do the same. *sigh*
… asked The Guardian’s Media Monkey. I do think they could have phrased it better.
I was reminded of this by the move of legendary west London Thai, Blue Elephant, to Saran Rom’s outrageous premises. I’ve occasionally been moved to wonder what happened to all that expensive carved mahogany and now have the answer: it has just been sitting there, gathering dust.
They never did contact me to get their money, by the way.
Didn’t realise this was online. Read it back and still agree with it. Sure, there’s a place for foraged foodstuffs - Ben Spalding, ex Roganic (v much looking forward to what he does next, real talent), used his finds judiciously and with a real eye to deliciousness - but too often, they’re done with a cackhandedness that makes you think only of pondscum.
So I knew this wouldn’t make me entirely popular. All I can say is that I did not embellish or overstate a single item: it really was this bad. I ran out of words, otherwise I might have mentioned the mulligatawny that came in a stainless steel flask with a band of tartan paper badly glued along the bottle for … I dunno? Verisimilitude? Or the handful of other diners, mostly solitary chaps who we took paranoidly to be bloggers or reviewers, overlooking the fact they were simply hotel guests without the time or gumption to go elsewhere.
The menopausal hordes of GW fans on twitter unleashed their wrath. My favourite signed off with the immortal line (her caps): DESPICABLE BYE BYE. I feel like forever signing off thus myself.
I have never had so many DMs in my life, mostly from people in the industry giving variations on ‘go you, he had it coming’. Seems like Greggy ain’t that popular amongst his, erm, peers. Oh, the stories I could now tell…
I got a whole lot of derision on twitter and IRL when I announced we were off to Madrid in August. Hah! It was brilliant! Ok, it was baking hot and all the big-hitters had buggered off for the holidays (and there was a spot of violent civil unrest, but we’ve kind of got used to that since it seems to follow us all over the world).
But all the oversubscribed tapas bars were ours for the taking. You didn’t need to fight for a table in so-hip places like Juana La Loca. And the Prado and other big cultural tickets were coolly air-conditioned and not the usual tourist-clogged scrum
When I wrote about Las Vegas for Olive magazine, I sadly didn’t have a large enough wordcount to mention our visit to this little doozy.
D made ‘the world’s finest pork sandwich’ for the children - slow-cooked pork belly, mirin-marinated cucumber, roasted red pepper, seared pork chop, chorizo from San Sebastian - which prompted them to remember the hash house.
Whadda place. My pork shnitzel took the whole of a serving platter. Huge, oval serving platters are used instead of plates, but the food still slopes off the edges. Seriously, the meat was about a foot and a half square, its large bun marooned on top like a comedy fascinator. It came with a bubbling vat of mac’n’cheese as a side because, well, we might have still been a little peckish after eating our own weight in breaded pork.
C had, as she always does in the States, pancakes. These were the size of frisbees, with a litre jug of maple syrup on the side and a Desperate Dan quantity of that thin, friable and horribly addictive American bacon. Waffles, dripping with more syrup, came topped with a KFC bucket of sage-fried chicken. Just look at that meatloaf thing! Even drinks - bathtub-sized Bloody Marys; banana latte topped with a tower of whipped cream - are reprehensible.
It’s all, of course, disgustingly delicious, despite making the joints in Divers, Drive-ins and Dives look like models of restraint. While we were there, a middle-aged couple arrived who had to be virtually winched in and out of their seats by the seen-it-all staff.
Hash House A Go-Go describes its offering as ‘Twisted Farm Food’. The only thing that was twisted after our visit were my internal organs.
Bad Tumblr person: haven’t updated in so long. It’s because of staggering round the world and being permanently exhausted. But wanted to put this up because the more of that world-staggering I do, the more I realise that I don’t actually want to sign up for the whole Michelin-y deal while I’m away. Recently, in NYC, I cancelled a starred and starry job in favour of a trip to Flushing. (Our concierges at SoHo House: ‘Where are you off to today?’ Us: ‘Flushing.’ Cue three jaws dropped to nipple level. Anyway, Flushing was a total blast.)
Am off to San Sebastian next week and am not making one single Michelin-starred reservation. I’ve been to Arzak (with a black eye, but that’s another story) and it’s wonderful, truly. But bizarrely I have no desire to go back no matter how extraordinary the food is. It’s all a bit too much of a… well, commitment is the best way I can put it. And, as I’ve said in this piece, I’m after the fun.
PS that commenter is right about gourmandises/mignardises. Am taking well-deserved rap on knuckles.
As I’ve pointed out previously, my Metro column rarely attracts comments (I think the sign-up process is too tortuous, or people just rant at me on Twitter). But my reasonably uncontroversial review of Gordon Ramsay’s new Bread St Kitchen - three stars = ‘good’, for Pete’s sake - has stirred up a wasp’s nest of ‘em. Look, I know it’s nothing like you’d get at The Guardian, but more than two for me constitutes a shitstorm.
My favourite is ‘Lord’ Richard Lester who appears to have nothing else to do other than comment in a righteous green-ink-athon of outraged splutter every time his hero’s name is mentioned. If you have bugger all else to do (just, it seems, like Lord Dickie) google his and Big Sweary’s names together: extraordinary dedication, I think you’ll agree. His Facebook page, where he lists the people he admires as M Thatcher, S Cowell, D Cameron and, yes, G Ramsay, is like something written by Armando Ianucci. Genius.
This is my second assignment for Mr & Mrs Smith, one of my favourite webites (and books) in the business.
I love Madrid and this wouldn’t have been my first choice of venue for a stay in this most gorgeous of cities. Shows how wrong you can be: it was an amazing base for a few days in a baking hot city. Everyone scoffed at the idea of us going in August, but in fact if you can cope with the heat, it’s not a bad time to go. Sure, a lot of the restaurants - especially the big, Michelin-y tickets - are shut. But on the other hand, the most wildly popular informal places are open and you can actually get a seat. I like a seat.
There are, I’m sure, plenty of people who enjoy eating their dinner while being deafened by a poor sound system (although kudos for including Kid Creole and the Coconuts), blasted with gelid aircon whilst being in, as I say in the review, a vast hangar with all the allure of a tyre depot. I’m not one of them.
As with Supperclub in West London, all of this is some kind of torture to me - though it’s fair to say Supperclub is exquisite, Inquisition-style compared with The Collection’s mere waterboarding - but there are plenty of improbably coiffed dames and vast, lurid watch-toting guys who will continue to give these kind of joints the oxygen of their custom. Go them!
I’m very pleased that ‘copping off’ is in this standfirst.
Here’s the extraordinary Supperclub to compare and contrast. With possibly one of the oddest headlines ever and a wonderful, ranty (and rare) comment: http://bit.ly/riminiwithrennies
The most butt-clenchingly awkward part of the meal for me. A pantomime of passive aggression. I try to shrink into invisibility when the chef comes round with, I must admit, some degree of success. Even when I went to Quince, where chef Silvena Rowe makes something of a big deal of gladhanding her adoring audience* we managed to avoid her swoop entirely. Thank god and all his holy angels.
Anyway, Jay Rayner gives his opinion from the viewpoint of the recognised. I’m staying off the telly, I am.
Here’s something I wrote for The Guardian a while ago on the same kind of theme.
I’m so glad my pal @RosBadger introduced me to Brixton Village. I’m finding it hard not to drag people down there by the hair to HAVE FUN WITH ME.
And I’m also thrilled that my twitter chum @Flashboy allowed me unlimited space - ‘go ahead,’ he said, ‘send in a novella if you like’. Which, for someone who is usually restricted to 600 words caused untold excitement.
Wonderful place, run with brains and creativity and boundless energy. Go.
This opening really was the most hyped-up in recent history - I can’t remember any other restaurant launch that got the meeja into such a pant-wetting uproar. Hell, the Times moved Giles’ review to get it in as soon as possible, though I suspect he may have written his fulsome praise not long after his lunch there, still tingling from his Heston hug. And even The Sun - not a paper given to restaurant reviews - had famous ‘cheesemaker’ Alex James waxing lyrical in its pages.
It’s a good restaurant, no doubt about it, but not one I’m in a tearing hurry to return to, even though - unlike the Fat Duck - the menu is due to change with some regularity. I didn’t see any sign of the nitrogen-fuelled ice-cream cart, which I was looking forward to, and the pal, not given to fayn dayning although a keen restaurant-goer, was simply perplexed by the whole experience, especially the long sermons from the waiting staff ‘I’ve come out for my dinner,’ she complained, ‘not a bloody lecture’.
Unlike last week’s review of the Riding House Cafe where my twitter chums felt compelled to tell me that I’m an idiot and everything about the place is great (I liked it! Honest!), all the feedback I got this week supported the review. All of it, that is, apart from the rare comment at the end of this piece. If only I knew what it meant…
When I was first asked to do this, I panicked - as Sheila Dillon of R4’s Food Programme said to me, ‘that’s not an article, that’s a PHD’. I can’t pretend that this is definitive, but I hope it gives a thought-provoking snapshot into some of our frankly weird attitudes to food nowadays.
As an aside, this is my first subjection to the world of actual online comments (for some strange reason, Metro doesn’t really seem to attract many online commenters, maybe because everyone’s reading it on the Tube). And crikey, there are some proper green-inkers out there, aren’t there? Who knew that the piece would provide a forum for people ranting about their vegetarian pets? Enlightening.
There is nothing more disheartening than the homogenisation of Britain - the identikit high streets, the out-of-town malls with their litany of H&M + Boots + Game + Costa + allthebloodyrest.
And when the corporations get their hands on exactly the kind of outfit - like Bill’s - which is resisting the march of the bland in its own delicious way, it’s properly depressing. I know why Bill sold out, I just wish he hadn’t.
I cannot believe that the Blueprint Cafe is 21 years old - and I’D NEVER BEEN THERE. I’ve been to all the other outlets in what used to be Conran’s ‘Gastrodrome’ but not this one and I’ve no idea why.
Still: remedied now. I’m the one with egg on my face. I’ll be going back, probably at the weekend when the amazing room isn’t quite so full of suits. Not that I’ve anything against suits, you understand, some of my best friends… *chunters on, tying self in knots for some sentences*
Jeremy Lee sent me a gorgeous and typically florid email (his Twitter feed @BlueprintCafe is a hoot) after the review appeared, something that rarely happens. I usually only get feedback of the ‘were coming after you with a cleaver’ kind. Everyone who talks about the chef does so with a huge grin on their faces - he’s clearly much loved, and I can understand why.
This is the latest in a series of four star reviews in Metro. Where have all the duffers gone?
(Flick to pages 18-19) I came back from Helsinki with a few things: an obsession with Oiva Toikka glass birds, a weird fondness for vorschmack (a curious, but delicious mix of meat and anchovies), a longing to live in the Ravintola Savoy, and an unabashed envy of the Finns’ ability to knock back the old hooch. Boy, they are hardcore.
We were there when it never got dark - the oddest sensation. It kind of totally discombobulates you that night never falls. No wonder they turn to the odd sherry.