According to some little-known but tacitly-agreed law, the British don’t see service (ie waiting on) as a career in itself. It’s long been acknowledged – and we’ve said it here too – that practically every other country in the world serves better than we do because it is seen as a valued job, rather than a drop-out pastime for disaffected youth.
So it is incredibly heartening to hear that thousands applied to take part in Michel Roux Jr’s new BBC2 series Service. He’s chosen eight 17-24 year-olds from diverse backgrounds to be trained in the arts of front of house in establishments ranging from high-street chains to Le Gavroche, the two winners going on to be trained as professional maitre d’ and sommelier. And these young people, ranging from graduates to teen single mothers, all see the value and longevity in a career in front of house. It makes you proud – and even optimistic – that these young people, many of whom have never even set foot in a restaurant and frankly didn’t know the difference between a starter and a main course, chose this profession to turn their life around. Read full post
What with it being the time of year for resolutions we thought it might be a good idea to nudge – or rather forcibly elbow – the restaurant trade into sorting out the mess that is tipping for 2011. You all felt strongly about the issue when we last addressed it The Tipping Point.. So have a look at this direct quote from the Department of BiS Voluntary Code from October 2009: “Our aim is to empower customers through clear information on what happens to the service charge, tip or gratuity they leave. The customer should know what is happening with his/her money and be able to make a judgement on its fairness.” Read full post
We’ve ranted before about the ‘Ramsayfication’ of London’s top hotels and restaurants — that disturbing process of homogenisation that has led to there being very few unique, doing-it-their-way establishment where you could be sure of a martini made just the way you like it in a place thick with the glamorous ghosts of riotous times past. However, The Savoy has relaunched the Savoy Grill under Ramsay’s direction – after Marcus Wareing jumped ship – to great fanfare and a curiously empathetic, well-judged nod to the past, retaining the much-loved meat trolley, dishes such as Omelette Arnold Bennett and lobster Thermidor and going loco on proper British meat such as mutton, steak, venison and veal. It seems that, here at least, Gordo’s back on form. Read full post
What a hoo-ha. In the blue corner, food bloggers The Critical Couple, taking the blows over their review of their disappointing experience at Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley; in the red corner, ladle swinging, Marcus himself who took such umbrage at the blog post he rang them personally to rant about it and – according to Mrs CC – made some rather personal comments, unbecoming to a supposedly professional chef.
Let the record show that The Critical Couple had previously been to his restaurant no less than six times , twice blogging their experience incredibly enthusiastically. This latest visit – a celebration birthday dinner, a fact completely ignored by the staff and their CRM system – cost them £600, no small amount. Their main gripes were the service – a new maitre d’ and poor customer relations – and the fact that neither Wareing nor his head chef were in the kitchen, a fact they feel showed in some under-par dishes in their (obligatory on a Saturday night) Tasting Menu. Read full post
You may not have heard of Malton in Yorkshire, but it’s looking to put itself on the culinary map. The usual slightly underwhelming array of restaurants of every ethnicity except British has clearly got the town’s grandees champing at the culinary bit for something a bit more ‘oop market.’ So they’ve put out a challenge: they’ve put together a competition – in conjunction with Restaurant Magazine – for an experienced chef to open a new venture, or indeed expand his existing one (which begs the question – why the competition then?) with an investment of £10,000. The winner will demonstrate culinary flair and a clear love of local ingredients; in short he or she will be a champion of the traders, the town and the region with all the hopefully concomitant publicity.
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Let’s set the scene: Hot date tonight, bit nervous, you’re thinking of taking him/her out for dinner; unfortunately your fine dining venue of choice is booked solid but lo, through the autumnal gloom you spy a familiar blue and white logo signalling food on the horizon. It’s a Pizza Express: at least it’s familiar and it won’t break the bank – and it means you can spend more time ooh-ing and aah-ing at each other rather than at the food, right? Along comes your waiter/waitress, shiny of hair and sparkling of teeth; they open with ‘Hi gorgeous… and what would be your fancy tonight? Do you want to get Sloppy with Giuseppe or shall we get down and make it American Hot? Oh and can I interest you in my doughballs?’ … Do you a) slap their face and walk out in righteous indignation b) smile bashfully, think they’re a much hotter prospect than your date – you’re in there! Or c) belatedly remember that Pizza Express have now trained their staff in the dark arts of ‘subtle’ flirtation and make a mental note to never darken their door again? Read full post
Is it time to call time on restaurant booking systems? For years we paying customers have struggled – and largely failed – to adapt to a system entirely constructed not for our benefit. Being offered a table at 6.15pm or 10.45pm, told you can’t have a dessert because someone else has booked your table (that you are still paying for), being made to wait 45 minutes in a draughty lobby without a drink because some **** refuses to vacate the table you’ve booked in all good conscience for 8.30pm. . .the list goes on and on. Read full post