EWBC London gets nasty

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Blimey.  I travel all the way to London to meet up with a few EWBC fellows at Le Bouchon Breton for dinner and all I did was mention my controversial WART campaign…

Thanks to Daniel, the manager, for sharing a couple of super magnums of Châteauneuf-du-Pape with us.

The food at Le Bouchon was excellent and good value – much better than the “upmarket Café Rouge” it is accused of being, although the wine list seemed expensive (with due exception to the CdP!).

Hawksmoor fails to wow…

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

I realise I am risking treading on revered toes.  Almost every food blogger within Patriot Missile range of London thinks that Hawsksmoor is legend.  Esteemed mainstream critics from Jay Rayner to Giles Coren have extolled its fleshy virtues.  I was recommended, no, TOLD to go there by cheese lover, Ramsay denier and beefy beefcake Chris Pople.

In short I expected great things.  But whenever you set high expectations, it is inevitable that not everything lives up to the dream.  And a few things fell short for me.


Rules, Covent Garden

Friday, January 29th, 2010

It was like stepping into a Victorian hunting odyssey.  I almost expected a golden maned Aslan to stalk majestically through the lobby.  Or the wardrobe door to open to reveal Mr Tumnus the fawn hanging butchered, ageing for 28 days, or whatever fawn meat hangs for.

Lobby rules OK?


Roast, Borough Market (not meerkat)

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Sunday Roast.  Mmmmmmm.  A weekend in London and it’s been a while since the last legendary Wino Sunday lunch.  Time to make repairs but in a relaxed Sunday style.  A quick flight at my favourite London wine bar.  The Jubilee Line to London Bridge.  A soupçon of jazz.

Spit roast....for some reason


Piazza by Anthony, Leeds Corn Exchange

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Anthony Flinn is a bit of a food legend in Leeds.  His impressive CV includes a two year stint under Ferran Adrià at the world’s “best” restaurant, El Bulli.  Flinn’s own flagship restaurant, Anthony’s, is perpetually tipped for a Michelin star.  His latest project, Piazza, opened in late 2008, is situated in one of the most impressive, historically beautiful buildings in the North of England – Leeds Corn Exchange.  Anthony’s footprint includes an impressive 125 seater brasserie, a patisserie, bakery, chocolatier and delicatessen.  Wine, however, is another science.

Piazza pavement

My opening exchange with the waitress:  Gevrey Chambertin Domaine Heresztyn 2005 please – what temperature would you serve that?  “About two above room”. Ouch, no WART awards here.  Please can I have an ice bucket?  “Yes sir, no problem.”  Things are starting to improve already.  After all, the wine list looks well thought out, and superbly priced, and the menu looks bistro chic.


Wilde at the Westbury, Dublin

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

Posh hotel outside - "Wilde" inside

An attempt to impress the mother in law almost ended in failure.  Having tried to book places under the direction of Marco Pierre White and Richard Corrigan (and others) only to be told there was no room at the inn, we were suspicious that the Westbury could easily accommodate us at 8pm on a Saturday evening.  We shouldn’t have worried.  Wilde has the atmosphere of a posh but modern grill with the service of a well dressed regiment of polite bombardiers from nations far and wide and including an occasional Irish accent.  The food is as good as I’ve eaten in Dublin and, yes, I have tried Eddie Rocket’s.


Tribeca Grill, NYC “you talkin to ME?”

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Tribeca - full of meat packers, not fudge packers

With superstars like Robert de Niro sponsoring Tribeca as an upcoming area (and selflessly trousering a good portion of the profits of Tribeca Grill), despite the proliferation of convenient subway stops, there was only one way to arrive.  I asked our Taxi Driver why he was tanking down these Mean Streets like a Raging Bull.  He said that given the Heat, and whilst he was not the King of Comedy, he was a Goodfella and, put simply, The Mission was to Meet the Parents, and not least, The Godfather (Part II) before the Midnight Run.  Before I had time to Analyze This, it was Showtime – the waitresses were Flawless and it was time to Meet the Fockers.


Hank Marvin in the UK?

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

If you eat out in the UK you might be interested in a new website aimed right atcha… Here is the press release:

An online portal, which brings people with a passion for food together to share their dining out experiences, has been launched. iStarvin, a site that combines the convenience of a restaurant directory with in-depth content and eye-catching photos, connects individuals with an interest in food and dining, allowing them to follow each other’s activity or seek recommendations for a special occasion.

Unlike the launch of many of their competitors, iStarvin has already done an adept job of creating a highly comprehensive restaurant directory.  There are few, if any reviews yet, and there are one or two website glitches, but it looks like a great start.  Clearly they hope to create a community to contribute insights and recommendations, but the business model relies on restaurateurs taking the opportunity to embellish the offer (for a price) and include, for example, the facility to book tables online.  Like any advertising model this depends on Muggles like me and you using the service.

Being a mobile kind of guy, I rarely search a website unless it is apped up.  I am getting increasingly dissatisfied with Urbanspoon, Opentable, and AroundMe, so I hope that when iStarvin launches the iPhone app, it will be a truffle amongst mushrooms.

This is a well worn business model with no clear leader so I admire iStarvin’s balls in entering the market.  Having said that, they have learnt from their competitors’ mistakes and it looks to be the best attempt yet from a consumer perspective (and that is the critical success factor).

iStarvin is using social media well to publicise the new site.  I learned of it on Twitter from the excellently erudite Oliver Thring, one of the many food bloggers I met at EWBC.  If you are a foodie, you should also follow Niamh, Chris, Lizzie and Douglas, charming chaps and chappesses all.

Bangkok House, Restaurant Row, NYC

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

An open top “Tommy the tourist” bus in New York is indisputably the best place to learn about New York culture.  Well, if you believe the tour guides (and assuming that you tip them enough).  I learnt that if you want to eat cheaply in NYC there are two options:  McDonalds, or Restaurant Row on W46th St between 8th and 9th.

I tried the cock, but where was the bang???

Bangkok House is not McDonalds, but it certainly isn’t expensive either.


Keens Steakhouse, New York

Thursday, September 24th, 2009
Keen as mustard (available with your steak...for some reason)

Is there anything that could make me feel more at home on my first night in New York, than an old fashioned English Victorian style chop house that has been around since 1885.  However, comparing this to, say, Sam’s Chop House, is a bit like putting The Oxo Tower up against the Empire State Building.

They are both fine examples of art deco architecture but one is dainty and proportioned, whilst the other is just f##king massive.  I am not sure I have seen a restaurant with so many rooms, so many more covers  than the ESB has floors (there are 102 since you ask and 1860 steps if you walk up – I didn’t).  Keen’s is enormous.  And they serve meat portions to match.