Archive for the ‘rip off restaurant mark-ups’ Category

Brasserie Blanc, Manchester (closed Feb 09)

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

Raymond Blanc, founder of high profile restaurant with rooms, Le Manoir aux quat’saisons, and currently starring in the latest culinary reality TV show from the BBC, The Restaurant, has another business interest, a chain of eateries.

I showed up at Brasserie Blanc in Manchester only to discover that Monsieur Blanc has not visited the place in two years.  The brasserie looked unloved and was almost completely empty.  Would this be a culinary delight, or should Raymond come and close his own restaurant?


Cornerhouse Grill, Dublin

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

When dining out, one well known restaurant critic makes a point of asking how the tips are distributed, always leaving cash, and encourages readers to do the same.  So I dutifully asked the MO of one waiter at the Cornerhouse Grill and was stunned by his response.

Cornerhouse - on a corner for some reason


A Maze in steaks

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

In sleepy Grosvenor Square, just a Molotov cocktail throw from the American embassy, is yet another Gordon Ramsay place.  It’s getting difficult to walk down a London street without seeing his name over some restaurant or other.

I was advised that Molotov was not on the aperitif list, but £12 for a tiny glass of Ayala champagne, even if poured at the table, set me off in an explosive mood.  I think the sommelier noticed my look of disappointment, nay disdain, as he left me with barely enough liquid to create a damp patch if I spilled it on my trousers (I didn’t).  I wanted to dislike this place – I don’t like being ripped off.

Dangerously close to US embassy but nice view all the same


Risky Rioja 2003

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

The Marqués of Risk Management

A mate, and former business client, used to take me to Rafa’s El Rincon in Manchester (I always paid).

When it came to whistle wetting tapas oil, Marqués de Riscal was our weapon of choice, partly because it was bloody good, partly because it was bloody and good, mostly because the bill payer knew it was bloody good value.

Taking good note of my cyber-mate, Rob‘s evaluation of the 2003 Rioja vintage, I popped into Sainsbury’s in Manchester and after a bit of mooching, selected a 2003 Marqués de Riscal Reserva at only £9.99, apparently £3 off (but I remember Rafa selling this stuff for less than 20 quid – not much of a mark-up!)

I wonder if the reduction is because most of Sainsbury’s customers had read Rob’s comments about 2003 and have already moved on to looking for the reputationally better 2004 and 2005 vintages.

I was not put off.  The wine, to me was top notch, tasting mostly of blackberry and apple crumble with cream and vanilla pods.  I always look out for Riscal in Spanish restaurants in Manchester, Spain and other places.

Lots of Rhubarb but no lamb

Monday, August 25th, 2008

We met Jeffo and (pregnant) Michele in Didsbury (Manchester) for Sunday lunch.  Jeffo knows these parts well and had tasted his “best lamb ever” at a place on Burton Road – Rhubarb.

Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb...

It was small and well packed with tables, but pretty full of happy looking customers.  A bistro type atmosphere but with the warming sense that you are visiting old friends.

We rejected the Sunday lunch special menu in favour of the à la carte.  We were only there for one dish, “is the rump of spring lamb on?” Jeff enquired and was advised that we could order anything from the menu.  So we ordered lamb all round.


The Criterion Grill rediscovers Gaul

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

We regularly use the plural when we mean the singular.  Nowhere is this more true than in Latin derived words used in a business context.  For example “can you tell me the single criteria for success?”.  Erm no I can’t, but I might be able to enlighten you with the criterion.

A gruff Yorkshireman with mixed ancestry by the name of Marco Pierre White clearly spotted that the single criterion for a good restaurant was to serve good food.  This is certainly a baseline, but in my view there are other criteria.  For one, there is history.  Criterion pre-dates Piccadilly Circus itself by 4 years putting a big red tick in that particular box.

Blimey it\'s like Piccadilly Circus round here!


Boxwood Café, Knightsbridge

Monday, July 7th, 2008

They call it Boxwood, Boxwood......Boxwood City Limits

Another weekend in London and another opportunity to knock off a “trophy” restaurant – this one from the effing Gordon Ramsay stable.  If you swear by food as much as I do, then you start to appreciate that London is really the place in the UK to do fine dining.  There simply isn’t the demand for it in Manchester, for example.  Not one Michelin star in the city!  Sure, there are plenty of good eateries, but the overall experience is just better in London, and surprisingly, not always that much more expensive.


Sunday Lunch at Scott’s, Mayfair

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

If Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, named this his favourite restaurant, and Adrian Gill, erstwhile restaurant critic of the Sunday Times, also raves about the place (albeit that he is presumably on a retainer for writing about the history of most of the major restos in Caprice Holdings Ltd), then any self respecting wino has to visit.  Sunday lunch is just the perfect time to eat oysters, and my rocks were from Malden.  I am embarrassed, though, to admit I had to ask the waiter to explain that Essex is where these crustacea were reared.  I am such a northern oik!

The service at Scott’s is obviously superb, highly professional and (unusually) English.  However, our waiter was having an off day.  I had to ask three times for my wine to be topped up.  You may be thinking “lazy so and so” but I would have had to walk about 300 yards to get to my bottle of Pouilly Fumé from where they parked it.  Talking of which can you spot our car in the photo below?

Mount Street money mmmmmm!

No I can’t see it either.


Le Café Anglais, London

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Armstrong and Miller in Gay Threesome Shocker” read the headline, admittedly only in my head, as the comedy pair walked past us with an unknown accomplice, perhaps a BBC commissioning editor?

“I didn’t know they were gay” Fred said.  “They aren’t” I replied, “so far as I know anyway”, although judging by their choice of fruity shirts one cannot be 100% certain.

Eat here twice nightly?

We had a decent table near the magnificent bay window atop the ageing Whiteley’s Shopping Centre.  The stars were enveloped by the bay.  The atmosphere is light and airy and the service prompt, efficient, courteous and professional.  Our mop-topped waiter looked like an early 60’s Beatle, so I assumed he was French (as a nation they do like old music – I mean, walk around any public space in France and Phil Collins persists like a 1980’s itch that is weeping puss).  When he described the cheese I realised his French accent was completely fake “erm….. I is Polish” he admitted.  Nonetheless, serve he did, and he was knowledgeable about wine as well as food.


Mio Modo, Leeds – highly recommended for teetotallers

Monday, May 12th, 2008

As Frankie once said, I did it myyyyyyy waaaayyyyyy, but he made the mistake of singing the song in English, at least according to the owners of this Italian resto in Leeds.

It must be hard to compete against Bibi’s but Mio Modo does so with panache, at least as far as food is concerned.  The wine list, however, is a different matter.

Decent interior - nice view of the kitchen spoilt by me.