Listening to old Genesis albums on Spotify is a good way of reminding oneself that simple things, done well, rarely disappoint. There wasn’t an enormous amount of complexity in Genesis’ soft 1970’s rock, but every musician (yes, even Phil Collins, doyen of French Europop radio) was packed with talent and, if the quality of the anthemic melodies are anything to go by, spent many hours learning their craft. And yet, whilst Trick of the Tail, for example, sounds like it is mixed on old chipped plates and rusty frying pans, and the electronic keyboards were played inside an old Heinz Beans can, it has stood the test of time simply because the ingredients are first class, and orchestrated with skill and care. You sometimes feel concern for the band’s collective mental health, but only in an English eccentric perfectionist sort of way.
A sunny Sunday in New York means one thing, a walk along the Highline. Well, maybe two: brunch at Standard Grill. But what about Sunday lunch/dinner? Where would you suggest? What is the third “must do” thing on an epicurian’s or wino’s agenda? One recommendation landed in my Twitter timeline, the sister of Gramercy Tavern. Can you guess what happened next?
A few tweets later and I’m booked in for a lazy and late lunch. To be served super food by extremely friendly staff.
One great example of the food, Blood Clams, were raw with a Bloody Mary poured in. A rare example of when shellfish goes with red wine. My choice of Long Meadow Ranch was apparently so insightful, it warranted a special inquiry (note the American spelling there) from the Sommelier. “Oh, I figured you must be a wino to order that”.
In fact, Californian wines are only just making it onto my bucket list. Frog’s Leap and Ridge being two examples. LMR is not far behind.
The interior design is funky and cool, the staff are brill, the food is inventive, fun and tasty, and you can get drunk on interesting, or expensive vino. What’s not to like?
Union Square Café
21 E 16th St
(between W Union Sq & 5th Ave)
New York, NY 10003
T: +1 (212) 243-4020
When you’ve been serving steaks since 1887, you’ve probably learned a thing or two. The legend of Peter Luger in Brooklyn hangs over most steakhouses in the world like a godlike presence. Observe, salivate, copy, hope.
They say you should never judge a book by its cover and I guess that goes for the title too. With the external look of a mid range café, and named after the second smallest room in a house (1930’s house at any rate), Kitchen W8 does not elicit Great Expectations.
It’s easy to be suspicious of restaurants that inhabit buildings with a past, especially those that use it as a theme. Former banks, embassies and even car showrooms have proudly displayed elements of their previous lives in the rush to find kitsch spaces for the entertainment industry of the zeitgeist.
Under 40s will find it hard to believe, but dining out has not always been so in vogue. My childhood caught the end of the movie-going era. Any self respecting date was played out in the back row while some Woody Allen film droned on in the background. Nowadays, sharing a rib of beef and some polite chatter has replaced a silent and clumsy fumble in the dark. How times have changed.
A bull at the door is a welcome nod to Wall Street riches, and I only wish my shares were stampeding a little harder right now. But as a promise of what was to come, the comedy doggie doo left under the hindquarters of the statue was a more accurate entrée to the Bloomsbury branch of Black & Blue.
If there’s one thing better than a pint of Black Sheep, it’s a pint of Black Sheep served in a cosy warm Yorkshire pub, after a long Sunday morning walk on the moors.
The Star at Harome is just such a warming and friendly establishment but with the added bonus of being a restaurant that serves game, fish and fine wines. Oh and it has won just about every “best gastro pub” award going including, at one point, a Michelin star. It’s grouse season and I might just be in heaven. I am going to pay a celestial price too, £111 (a Nelson) plus service is more than a trifle in this part of the world.
Anthony Flinn Jnr is blazing a one man trail in this part of the world. Not necessarily with his cooking, although we’ll come to that. No. Mostly in being the powerhouse behind saving the most beautiful building in this metropolis, Leeds Corn Exchange.
Not content with opening a bistro, a champagne bar, a fromagerie, and a café/patisserie, Flinn has now thrust American cuisine into this arty setting, otherwise populated by eclectic and bohemian shops of the sort your lost cousin from Hebden Bridge would sacrifice a goat to be seen in.
With the help of the Flinns (other family members are part of the team including his dad, Anthony Snr, who does “the finance”) and the retail footfall they have encouraged, even generated, this building is back to its beautiful, stunning, decadent self.
Sometimes a place is so impossibly, aspirationally, unattainably trendy that it is patronised by as many local dignitaries as international jetsetters, playboys and porn stars, and so in vogue that it sustains a shoe shine guy outside. Cervecería Catalana is such a place, that had been recommended by a quite well renowned chef from Barcelona (no, not that one). There was an hour and a half wait on the evening I went. So we decamped and came back for lunch the next day when the clientèle were nowhere near as cool, but at least we could bag a table.
Dining fatigue. It’s a disease I never imagined would afflict my jowly, portly and contented frame. Yet I piled on a couple more waistline inches at Corrigan’s recently with little spirit and less joy.
I can’t fault the food and, at £27 for three generous courses, it stands up to the Sunday lunch value test, in London at least. The service is also impeccable, if a little sterile. I will take issue with the wine list, which is expensive to the point of leaving you with the distasteful feeling of having been ripped off. £44 for a low rent, screw cap, Blaufränkisch that stings of balsamic and glacé cherries is poor value, even at the “cheap” end of the list.
The decor is a little strange but I guess, in an area of London where you can buy a shotgun and a pair of plaid breeches, from a shop next door to one that sells 7ft high Ming vases, the locals probably feel at home. But I feel justified in my disappointment at the lack of game, and notably grouse, on this late August menu, in a place where dark duck feather lampshades shed amber light over dingy booths (which, a couple of districts to the east would have illuminated illicit poker games), and pictures of Hooray Henries pointing their Purdeys all over the shop with gay abandon adorn the walls.
Sitting eating in Corrigan’s I could have been randomly transmogrified, without even noticing, to The Ivy, Scott’s or The Boxwood Café (RIP), although at least the surviving brace in that list have some defining quirks: In the latter case, the Star Wars shellfish bar, and the former, Gestapo style service.
Talking of service, on vociferous enquiry, I discovered that the mandatory “optional” 12.5% goes to the house, so I hope that, like me, you will have that removed and leave a cash tip.
Apart from that foible, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Corrigan’s if you like this type of stuffy high end dining (and I am far from allergic). I guess I just expected a bit more craic from an Irishman.
If James Bond were to dine in London today, he wouldn’t take his Danish bird to Corrigan’s. I suggest that, unlike a review quoted on the Corrigan’s website, he might still prefer Scott’s down the road, where he might at the very least meet the ghost of his creator.
£125.40 plus service for 3 course Sunday lunch for two with wine and coffees.