Tag Archives: restaurant

What the foc…?

I don’t pretend to be a food expert (much). But I’d like to think that, as my career progresses, I’ll be well on my way there, and I’m certainly no novice now. That’s why during dinner last night, I died inside just a little.

My would-be in-laws had descended on us with a few others in tow. The Incident happened just after we’d settled in at the restaurant I’d booked to their specifications – those specifications being, ‘Somewhere in Mayfair, nowhere pricey, but a place that does excellent quality seafood’ (gulp). Perhaps they didn’t realise that a modicum of expertise is needed to book anywhere decent at all at short notice for 8pm on a Saturday night, and were unaware of the foodie feat I’d already performed smoothly behind the scenes.

In any case, the Spanish conversation was flowing. Let me just reiterate an important part of that last sentence: the Spanish conversation. There I was, holding my own as we discussed, among other things, books we’d read, the meaning of the word ‘synergy’, prime number theories – none subjects I would list as within my realm of specialist knowledge…

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S is for Steak. And Suicide. (In that order.)

It’s January, so, because I live in London, almost every other tube journey I take will be hindered by a Person Under A Train. Perhaps I’ve heard too many drivers’ deadpan announcements, but I have no sympathy for those who’ve jumped, only self-pity as I and thousands of others shuffle-queue and elbow our way home in their selfish wake.

I just don’t understand it: who, instead of just sticking their head in the oven in the comfort of their own home, would go out of their way to make everyone else’s January more depressing than it already is? Here we are: it’s grey and damp, not a bank holiday in sight, pay day’s a mirage, and we’re feeling twice the people we were before Christmas, battling into skinny jeans every morning only to inch home cursing our migraine-inducing waistbands – and the idiot who decided to meet his maker with an audience.

Perhaps those who recently lost the will to carry on had all visited one of the clutch of Aberdeen Angus Steakhouses that, inexplicably, still litter the capital’s streets almost 50 years on. Like poisonous mushrooms, these tenacious curiosities are a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I ate at one this time last year, despite every fibre of my being screaming at me to go directly to jail without passing go. It is, and will always, remain lodged in my consciousness as the very worst meal of my life. To be honest, the only reason I didn’t join the suicide statistics straight after the experience was because I couldn’t face the prospect of my much-fetishised Last Meal being a criminally-priced cow’s valve camouflaged with a thin veneer of grey meat, frazzled onion rings that got too up close and personal with a vat of rancid oil and potato skins covered in what appeared to be the fruits of a vigorous and productive annual oven-cleaning session. Would that I could turn back the clock and reconsider that particular decision.

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And the winner is…?

(I wrote this in July 2008. Unfortunately, funds didn’t stretch to my own analysis of which is the world’s best restaurant.)

Best Restaurant awards generate as much hyperbole as they do consternation. As awards and accolades become more commonplace, what’s the point in point scoring, who’s counting – and who are the real winners?

FOODIE LEGEND has it that when then Restaurant editor Thom Hetherington went for an after-work drink with his mates one evening, the conversation turned, inevitably, to eating out. Soon the friends were involved in a passionate debate about which restaurant was the best in the world.

Hetherington, renowned for his maverick style and originality, decided to run a light-hearted round up of the top fifty candidates in his magazine. Grabbing a discarded cigarette packet, he jotted down the list as the rankings were settled.

Spanish chef Ferran Adrià’s restaurant El Bullí came out on top. The list, published in 2002, was seized upon greedily by the press. It still provokes excitement, derision, incredulity and fierce debate seven years on.

“They sent out a press release and people stupidly believed this kind of nonsense,” explains Guy Dimond, editor of the restaurant section of London’s Time Out. “People don’t think of the criteria of how it’s judged. There’s no substance to it. It got Restaurant magazine tonnes of publicity. And the next year they thought ‘oh my God, we’d better do it properly’.”

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