Critics Top Ten →
How nice. No. 3. Up there with the big boys like Giles and Jay. (Anyone who’s spoken to me in person over the last year will immediately recognise that last phrase and why I’m totally lolzing at it.) Anyway, am delighted. And more so at one particular omission. Sense prevails.
The Vault, Vauxhall. →
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...
21212 makes me like Embra again. →
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.
Rules. It Rules. →
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…)...
'Why do birds suddenly appear?' Entranced by Chez... →
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...
Hold the Pulitzer - interview of me by Yugnich... →
Yugnich is my favourite blogger, a man of wit and subtlety, of sophistication and razor-sharp palate. When he asked for an interview, how could I say no?
More on the thrill of the old →
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.
WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? And what did poor yellowtail sashimi do to deserve this treatment? Possibly the oddest presentation I’ve ever encountered in an equally odd restaurant. If I didn’t have this as proof I’d be inclined to suppose I’d dreamed it after a surfeit of vacherin. I was clearly so taken aback that I videoed instead of snapping. But hey - it kind of deserves...
A G HENDY HOME STORE: A MOMENT OUT OF TIME →
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...
GILES AND ME SITTING IN A TREE →
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...
POSTCARD FROM BANGKOK →
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...
BABY STEPS - ONE OF MY FIRST EVER →
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.
ANYTHING TO DO WITH VEGETARIANISM HAS A STRANGE... →
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....
"IS THIS THE WORST RESTAURANT REVIEW EVER?" →
… 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...
MY LOVE LETTER TO SOHO →
Another one I didn’t realise was online - from ES Food Mag, a song of love to the area of London that has seduced me most since I first landed all those years ago. When Fay Maschler commissioned me to write the piece, she recommended West End Girls by Barbara Tate* about the ‘models’ who lived up those rickety staircases in Soho’s seediest heyday. It’s great. ...
FORAGING - WALK AWAY FROM THE WEEDS →
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. Anyway, here it is. And...
GREGG'S TABLE: LAAAHVLY IT MOST CERTAINLY AIN'T →
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...
MADRID: MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN →
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...
THIS IS WHY YOU'RE FAT →
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...
ON FINE DINING. OF WHICH, BOAK →
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...
WOODWORK SQUEAKS AND OUT COME THE FREAKS* →
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...
A SLEEK SWANKPOT IN SALAMANCA →
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 COLLECTION. NOT OK, YAH. →
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...
ANOTHER REASON WHY I LIKE BEING ANONYMOUS →
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. ...
BRIXTON VILLAGE: MY FAVOURITE NEW URBAN PLAYGROUND →
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...
DINNER BY HESTON BLUMENTHAL - A GOOD HOTEL... →
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...
THE WAY WE EAT NOW →
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...
BILL'S CAFE AND PRODUCE STORE - A BIG, FAT FAKE →
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...
BLUEPRINT CAFE: ROOM WITH A VIEW - AND MENU TO... →
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...
SOUTH EAST SICILY. IT'S TRUE LOVE →
It’s a long long time since I’ve been anywhere so comparatively accessible that’s knocked my socks so far off. What a feast for the senses this part of the world is - quite extravagantly beautiful. And the food: woah mamma indeed. I thought I’d replaced Italy with Spain in my affections, but it seems La Bella Italia has quite a few tricks left up her sleeve yet. (Pages...
HIP, HIP HELSINKI →
(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...