Are there many foodstuffs as contentious as foie gras? No matter who or where you are, you’ll probably have an opinion: it’s posh food, innit; it’s a horrific and cruel process; it’s delicious and I’d smear myself with it daily; it’s too expensive; it’s hard to get… And it seems opinions remain polarised worldwide. Come 1 July, California will see it banned throughout the state (although note Chicago did something similar a few years ago before changing its mind and New York thought long and hard about it) although other countries, particularly the French, natch, remain heartily in favour of its consumption. There is a high-profile, celebrity-rammed campaign in this country to see the sale of it banned and many restaurants feel forced off the fence and on to one side or the other, some even intimidated into banning it by threats of violence from campaigners. Read full post
If you’re a Londoner, you’ll soon find your favourite fast-food joint may not be as satisfying as it used to be. The imminent launch of the Healthier Catering Commitment scheme is looking to the capital’s fast-food businesses to reduce the amount of fat, sugar and salt in their food to help the unwary and frankly dim keep slim. If you live elsewhere in the country (and bear in mind the South-East has the lowest obesity rates in the UK) carry on gorging – no-one cares.
Fugu fans – rejoice. Tokyo are relaxing their ‘stringent’ rules on sales of the deadly puffer fish; where once a chef required special training and a licence to prepare and sell this Japanese delicacy, the powers-that-be have decided that, as death rates have fallen to an all-time low, you no longer require the afore-mentioned licence to process and sell. Um… isn’t that just asking for trouble? Read full post
Once again Michelin has found itself plunged into direst controversy over the recent news that celebrated Aussie chef Skye Gyngell has left her much-acclaimed quirky restaurant at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond because of the ‘Michelin curse’ brought about by her deserved star rating. She claims that customer expectations rocketed to unreasonable levels and complaints have soared – not, let it be noted, about the food, but about the rickety tables, the outside toilets and the greenhouse surroundings; ie, customers expecting the intimated level of opulence evoked by a star rating were disappointed at the ‘au naturel’ surroundings of a working plant nursery. It seems that Michelin ratings bring with them a certain level of customer expectation; the organisation has educated – indoctrinated – the once-naive customer to such an extent, the centre doesn’t hold when the framework is not adhered to. Read full post
At its inception, TripAdvisor was seen as a real Eureka moment for the hospitality industry. An opportunity for the customer to become involved, a foreshadowing of the now near-inevitable and constant interaction between provider and consumer, an exciting step forward into the world of on-the-ground civilian journalism – and it seemed to work. Now bestriding the world with 18 sites across 27 countries and 50 million users per month, the TripAdvisor behemoth looks solid as a rock… but the cracks are starting, not just to show, but to expose gaping-wide fissures in its supposedly morally unassailable structure.
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Unless you’re Michael Winner, or particularly au fait with each and every half-decent restaurant and possessed of an admirable persistence, it’s very hard to ensure you are given a really good table, or at least one halfway satisfactory when you eat out. You might think it not a matter of great importance; the service, the food, the wine are all much more significant factors to many of us but a poor table can ruin a potentially great night out. Obviously some quite like the busy thoroughfare quality of the toilet entrance – it adds content to the non-existent conversation – but for the rest of us, that draught from the frequently-opened door, the clash of cutlery at the work station, the looming pillar blocking your view of any helpful staff can make you unwilling to return. Read full post
Restaurant campaigns: what are they for? There, we’ve said it. An organisation somewhere, usually highly ethically minded, begins a website and endeavours to sign restaurants up to it, sending them window stickers in return, promising the proprietors this is what will increase custom. If you can give them sustainable sea snails, beef from the cow next door, knowledge that your leftover cooking oil is powering the pizza-delivery vans across the street, they will throng through your doors. And do we? Do we ever, ever pay any attention to these campaigns? Do we heck. Read full post
2012: The year of all things British. With the Olympics a mere 200 days away, national pride is set to soar. It’s time to show the rest of the world just how great Britain can be – and not just on the sporting front. Rumour has it they’re laying it on thick with the catering too, drafting in the heavyweights of British cuisine to show Johnny Foreigner we can cook. No, really we can. Read full post