40 | 30 Carry on up the Gherkin

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

The gherkin

I was going to review this place next year when I could have titled the post, 4030 2010.  But on the 40th floor bar of 30 St Mary’s Axe the view could not wait and, verily, it must be one of the most stunning in the whole of London.

Top of the (financial) world


32 Great Queen Street, London

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

I have a theory that the more a place is off the beaten track the harder it has to work to get custom, the more it relies on regulars and, therefore, the better the food and wine.

32, Great Queen Street is on, well, you’ve guessed it.  Just off the main streets of Covent Garden and close to the Freemason’s Grand Lodge, I suppose I could have negotiated a discount had I rolled one trouser leg up and hopped inside holding a kipper to my ear.

32 Great Queens and a restaurant for some reason...


Fung Shing, London Chinatown

Friday, June 19th, 2009

I’ve heard many reports of London Chinatown’s demise.  Shame when Manchester’s equivalent is thriving so well.  I found myself in The Big Smoke on business with nothing better to do than check out the rumours, so I selected a random place on Lisle Street just behind Leicester Square.

Fung Shing Hell - or not as it happens


Fitzroy Dolls, Hotel Russell, London

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Hotel restaurants always give me a slight sinking feeling. Reminders of 1980s boil in the bag meals; they always smell of stale cooking, probably because breakfast buffets are when they get 90% of their traffic.

The Hotel Russell probably counts early risers 99% of its clientele.  It’s easier to get a table at The Ivy than a breakfast table here.  Dinner, however, was predictably quiet.  A few lonely foreign travellers and one table of two couples from Yorkshire who were asking for more gravy – gravy shortages are punishable by death north of Watford Gap.

Grand old Dame


Snow business

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

On a day when a small flurry of snow brought chaos to most of the UK, and notably the South East, one has to look for small pleasures.  My amuse-bouche du jour arrived in the form of a quote from our capital’s Lord Mayor.  Not one red (or bendy) bus was used in anger today.

Snow way!  Weigh hey!

Parodying British Rail excuses from days of yore (when us Northerners dug ourselves out of a snow drift most Januaries just to escape our beds) and sporting a cheeky smirk, Boris Johnson reflected on how well Londoners had faced up to the snow.  “This is the right kind of snow, it’s just the wrong kind of quantities”.

Ever said that about a bottle of wine – red or bendy?

Trattoria Verdi, Southampton Row

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

On my new iPhone I have downloaded an application called AroundMe. It is totally brilliant.  Staying at the Grange, Holborn in London, I simply select Restaurants and AroundMe finds all the local ones, literally within a few hundred yards.  I can then locate my favoured choice on a map and ask for directions, shortcut to its website or quicklink through to dial its telephone number.

I was intrigued by Trattoria Verdi because it was founded in 1964, the year of my birth.  No resto lasts that long unless it has some loyal custos.  The waitresses however, were probably born thirty years later and wore the slightly supercilious, bemused, and yet knowing smile of the receptionist that served Alan Partridge at the Norwich Travel Tavern.


Gaucho Grill wine rip-off rages on

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

I’ve written before about the rip-off wine mark-ups at the Gaucho Grill (branches in London and Manchester).

Although the wine is outrageously priced, I do pop in occasionally for a top class steak.  And so last week saw me in the Manchester restaurant.  I thought it would be interesting to revisit the wine prices.

In my post of March 2007, I benchmarked a bottle of Susana Balbo Malbec (excellent stuff) at an eye watering mark-up of 250%.  The bottle, available at the time from the Wine Society at £11.95, was marked up to £42.

Time to check out the latest prices.  I checked the Wine Society website and, fair play, it is in stock and still £11.95.  Inflation rate = 0%.

When I checked out the Gaucho Grill wine list, the price has inflated by a Graf Zeppelinistic 22.6% to £51.50.  This now makes the mark-up (against retail price, and one assumes that Gaucho can buy much cheaper) a groin kicking 331%.  By far the highest I have ever seen in any restaurant.

The matured meat may be superb, but I would rather cut my pupils out with a serrated steak knife, than pay these prices.

By all means eat at the Gaucho, but when it comes to wine, just say “NO”.

Morgan M mission much more than a mere mouthful

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

Multi-talented Morgan Meunier arrived at our table after the meal, presumably looking for a round of applause for his culinary artistry.  “Was everything OK?” he wondered.  Super.  “Was there anything specific we particularly liked?”.  The seabass with crayfish and tarragon ravioli and lobster velouté was my favourite, but why were all his dishes so bloody complicated?


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.