Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain was raw, brilliant and inspiring. He was adored. His death has seen an outpouring of public sadness usually reserved for music stars. Like many gone too soon, his work and spirit touched people more than they and perhaps he realised.

Born in New York City 1956, his Catholic father was an executive for Columbia Records and his Jewish mother, an editor at the New York Times. Early trips to France aroused a love of adventurous food. He was delighted to see his parents’ shock as he swallowed his first oyster straight from the sea.

“I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime ‘associates,’ food, for me, has always been an adventure”

Lanky and louche, the teenage Bourdain looked most destined to be in a punk band. Curtis Mayfield, The Heart Breakers and The Brian Jonestown Massacre formed the soundtrack of his teenage years. But it was in the restaurant kitchens of New York that he would find his rock’n’roll calling.

He started as a pot-washer in Flagship and witnessed his head chef having sex with a customer in the car park. That customer just so happened to be a bride. He would later write: “I knew then, dear reader, for the first time: I wanted to be a chef.”

Bourdain ‘whored himself out’ to restaurants all over town; Chuck Howard’s, Nikki & Kelly and Gianni’s. He wasn’t a great chef but he was hugely popular, organised and a charismatic leader. He amassed a group of disciple-like commis, cleaners and dealers who followed him from restaurant to restaurant, whilst he navigated, pirate like. Pissed.

Bourdain ‘wanted’ to become a drug taker and cocaine was rife in the kitchens. A devout Williams Burroughs fan, he viewed heroin romantically. He burrowed deep down a golden-brown rabbit hole, channelling his inner Iggy Pop, before eventually kicking the habit. They were tightrope years.

After a bruising and failed attempt to run his own restaurant, Bourdain began to consider becoming a ‘traitor to his profession’. He was 44, executive chef at Les Halles brasserie and unable to pay his rent or taxes.

Always a voracious reader, Bourdain could write too. Brilliantly. He penned a candid ‘reveal all’ piece on the secrets of restaurants which somehow found its way to the New Yorker. His irreverent, gonzo style and snarky sense of humour catapulted him to a new world. His first book was commissioned as an extension of this piece.  ‘Kitchen Confidential’ was a smash hit.

Kitchen Confidential – Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly was Fear and Loathing in the kitchens of New York. It revolutionised the entire genre of food writing. His truths were stranger than fiction. It’s a still a compulsive read today; He’s a funny, smart, hot-dawg-Yankee:

“In America, the professional kitchen is the last refuge of the misfit. It’s a place for people with bad pasts to find a new family. It’s a haven for foreigners—Ecuadorians, Mexicans, Chinese, Senegalese, Egyptians, Poles. In New York, the main linguistic spice is Spanish. “Hey, maricón! chupa mis huevos” means, roughly, “How are you, valued comrade? I hope all is well.” And you hear “Hey, baboso! Put some more brown jiz on the fire and check your meez before the sous comes back there and fucks you in the culo!,” which means “Please reduce some additional demi-glace, brother, and reëxamine your mise en place, because the sous-chef is concerned about your state of readiness.”

In 2002 he made his TV debut with ‘A Cook’s Tour’ followed by ‘No Reservations’ ‘Parts Unknown’ and ‘The Layover’. Each of these shows would revolve around Borudain in far and further flung corners of the world. The peripatetic cook (that we all wanted to be) was born.

Throughout Bourdain’s TV shows, the food serves as a window into the cities’ cultural living rooms. Bourdain eats everything, everywhere with everyone; authentically and exotically. But it’s never a gimmick. This was how he was wired.

But more than the countries, it’s the people he’s interested in. He dines with locals in cafes, pubs, boats and beaches – ice-breaking himself into revealing conversations about their lives, challenges, beliefs and truths.

Bourdain’s work became anthropologic. His sensibility allowed us to see, as humans, we’re not as different as we’re often encouraged to believe. He sought transparency rather than a filtered lens. He wasn’t overly political or preachy but he wanted the West to see that an abundance of food (on which most shows are premised) is unfamiliar in most parts of the world.

I recently watched an episode where Anthony goes out drinking with his colleagues in New York. He’s not exactly mobbed but everyone recognises him. Some fans are kind and polite, others are intrusive and entitled. This insight into a flip-side world of fame shows pressures one can’t appreciate until they’re there.

He will live on through his work, his sentiments and his soul. Big love Anthony. They broke the mould with you.

“I wanted adventures. I wanted to go up the Nung river to the heart of darkness in Cambodia. I wanted to ride out into a desert on camelback, sand and dunes in every direction, eat whole roasted lamb with my fingers. I wanted to kick snow off my boots in a Mafiya nightclub in Russia. I wanted to play with automatic weapons in Phnom Penh, recapture the past in a small oyster village in France, step into a seedy neon-lit pulqueria in rural Mexico. I wanted to run roadblocks in the middle of the night, blowing past angry militia with a handful of hurled Marlboro packs, experience fear, excitement, wonder. I wanted kicks – the kind of melodramatic thrills and chills I’d yearned for since childhood, the kind of adventure I’d found as a little boy in the pages of my Tintin comic books. I wanted to see the world – and I wanted the world to be just like the movies”

Uchi

The stereotypical Western-Japanese restaurant was showcased in the early 90’s by Homer Simpson’s ill-fated visit to Springfield’s Happy Sumo. The staff, shocked at Homer’s loutish ways, personify Japanese restraint, masking their indignation as he eats everything on their menu. With the head chef distracted, Homer is mistakenly served the whole poisonous fugu fish. He is told he’ll be dead by the next day. Conveniently, Happy Sumo’s menu has a map to the hospital on it.

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Japanese food is perhaps the most bastardised in the world. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but try telling that to a hocho yielding Itamae. During a trip to Reno, Nevada, I sat in a casino-hotel ‘restaurant’ with several friends. The waiter was foie-gras plump and endearingly stupid. He served us pancakes with syrup, eggs, bacon and, inexplicably, California Rolls (mayonnaise + rice – no fish). The ultimate ersatz. Whilst we greedily devoured the lot, a small part of us all died that day.

Japanese food in London is often like Tinder experiences: tasty pictures, less so the flesh. For every Dinings there are 25 McSushi’s. Each day from my office window I see a Japanese man, running full pelt, with a large cart, office to office, his sweat seasoning the nigiri. I tried it once. It was terrible.

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Uchi is a welcome neighbourhood gem; understated and beautiful – a firm swipe to the right. Entering through a set of traditional noren you are greeted by waitresses in denim jump suits amidst a backdrop of brushed gold countertops, hanging kokedama and a steamy, visible kitchen. It’s all very emblematic. And it works. Expectation jumps three notches.

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Uchi (home) is split in two. The back area is infinitely more comfortable. Large tables are perfect for big groups and you are given compulsory slippers to use the bathroom. And use it you will. Asahi is served in pints and sparkling sake with a nod and a smile.

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Standout dishes include: tuna crunch with shiso, daikon, spring onion & spicy mayo, hijiki seaweed salad with sweet beancurd, eryngii mushroom and spinach nigiri with black rice. These are served on impeccable Japanese ceramics and banana leaves. It’s as fresh as it gets. Simple washoku with few riffs and all the better for it.

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Uchi proves that if you go to the right places you can eat some exceptional Japaense food in London: Dinings, Sake no Hana, Chisou, Kiku and Sumosan are high end and worth it. Uchi is brilliant and comparably very reasonable (£40 per head). Take a Tinder date and order the fugu fish.

https://www.kobejones.com.au/why-it-takes-a-decade-of-training-to-be-a-head-sushi-chef/

http://sushischool.jp/

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2016/09/30/food/sushi-crimes-japan-polices-culinary-traditions/

Homer eats Fugu

 

P.Franco

Jon Favreau’s Swingers is a coming of age film for my generation. It’s Clueless for dudes. Set against a backdrop of sleazy LA nightspots and sleazier Vince Vaughn lines, the film is ultimately about friendship, the male psyche and the healing of time. Heartbroken Mike is dragged by horny Trent from bar to bar, his loyal encouragement falling on deaf ears. Bars represent failure and desperation in American cinema. But they don’t have to be this way…

Vegas baby, Vegas

P.Franco is an intimate wine bar resembling a Parisian caves à manger with Antipodean swag, cosmopolitan clientele and a Chinese cash-and-carry sign. That it can be all this with such insouciance signals Clapton’s rise from the murder-mile ashes and an owner joyfully creating his own rules.

P.Franco

These rules include only selling wine the staff love and rotating the chefs on six month residencies. Inside it ‘feels like a mate’s home’. There’s a solitary central table and a tiny two-stove induction hob.  Behind these culinary decks they’ve had: Tim Spedding, (formerly Clove Club) William Gleave (Garagistes) and Giuseppe Lacorazza (current).

Customers get their own shelf

The owner is called Phil Bracey, who reflects: “It’s almost like having a new restaurant every six months which I think is great for the community”.

Bracey’s care for the ‘community’ is endearing and has clearly spread by osmosis through the brilliant team. The community runs through the veins of P.Franco; the suppliers (Tutto, Elliot’s, Mons ) the neighbouring trade (Yard Pizza, My Neighbours The Dumplings) Clapton’s Round Chapel, the walk-ins, the walk on-by’s and of course the regulars.

Londoners rarely acknowledge strangers despite their ever-close proximity.  Passive aggressive manners are common. Restaurants, fun-bars and night spots encourage safety in cliques or the morning-after pill. P.Franco is comparatively radical. It’s full of people gratefully meeting new people: steamy windows, loud, intertwining, conversations. There is an energy here that isn’t the alcohol or the music. It’s the tempo, better yet the rhythm. Seductive and infectious. The community love it.

The menu changes too often to suggest any dishes. You can probably expect variegated creations such as Spedding’s: Brussels tops stuffed with pheasant, sea urchin Tajarin, and a clementine granita. 

I’m unsure if there’s ever been a dish more on trend but I’m pretty sure it’s what James Franco would taste like. If he were a dish. Which I’m told he is.

P.Franco. So money and it doesn’t even know it.

Our Trent

Sources:

https://www.folkclothing.com/blogs/journal/it-s-only-natural

http://punchdrink.com/venues/p-franco/

http://www.bonappetit.com/city-guides/london/venue/p-franco

https://munchies.vice.com/en_uk/article/inside-the-wine-bar-that-feels-like-your-friends-kitchen

https://wineninjas.org/2016/08/16/p-franco-review/

http://northeasteats.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/p-franco-lower-clapton-road-e5.html

http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2016/10/swingers-20th-anniversary-interview

Brawn

I moved to Bethnal Green in 2010 when everyone was havingnew-age- fun with a vintage feel’.  ‘Being a Dickhead’s Cool’ was funny and vaguely informative. Seven years later it’s eerily nostalgic to watch:

Today’s East London feels safer, more established and serious. At its heart though it’s still a glorious melting pot of people from Jerusalem, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Nigeria, Pakistan and Suffolk.

Take Ridley Road in Dalston. This is supposedly where EastEnders’ market was based. There may be more straight shooters here than Albert Square but it stubbornly refuses to lose its vibrancy as East becomes westernised.

beppe

Columbia Road began its life as a pathway to lead sheep to slaughter in Smithfield. The sheep have now been replaced by yogis, haberdashers and models wearing shearling jackets.  London is full of continuity if you know how to look.

Hang a left to Ravenscroft Street and you’ll find Brawn which launched as the sister restaurant of Terroirs in 2010 (before being recognised as the more gifted sibling.) East London’s restaurant scene at the time was percolating. Brawn turned it up to eleven and put it firmly on the map. It was completely of its time and still is today.

Now fully owned by the oenological don Ed Wilson, Brawn’s concept is to source the very best produce and let the combination of ingredients (rather than the cooking) do the talking. The pared-down menu is always changing and consistently outré; Duck Hearts, Duck Gizzards, Trotters, Andouillette & Brains. A gutsy sybarite’s paradise. There is also pasta.

hanibal
he’s a regular

London has more choice of quality restaurants than ever before. Paradoxically, though we gain in our quality of options, we lose out in what loyalty and familiarity can provide. Good or even great restaurants are ephemeral to our spoilt bastard collective. To keep going back means it’s got to be more than exceptional; it has to mean something to you. It has to be personal.

Brawn represents this rare personal restaurant to so many people I know. My best friend lives near and has been well over 250 times. He’ll soon get his own plaque. Brawn has a knack of making you feel at home and like you’re on holiday. I can’t explain its alchemy. Nick Lander writes about it most recently and best.

YouTube videos aside, it’s difficult to look back in time without using places like restaurants as punctuation and reference points. Many have come and gone and the importance of those that remain grows exponentially.

When a restaurant means something to you it ceases to belong to its owners. It becomes yours. A part of your identity. Brawn is a whole load of East Londoners, my friends and mine.

team
We all play synth

Sources:

http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/young-londoners-east-and-west

http://www.cityam.com/article/eastern-promise-lesson-meat

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/restaurants/8426726/Brawn-London-E2-restaurant-review.html

Square Meal

PattyandBun

1994 spawned an era of Britpop-infused excess in London. Back then eating out was not the preserve of the edgy cool youth (this would come later with wagamama). Either nothing tasted as good as skinny felt or you never really got round to eating.

kate-noel
🙂

But whist Hirst and Moss were experimenting with sharks and orifices (separately) something even more significant happened over the pond… Tarantino gave us Pulp Fiction.

For some it was about Travolta’s comeback, its quixotic soundtrack or that mysterious suitcase. For me it was about Sam and his Big KAHAUNA burger.

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Tasty B

What on earth was he eating?  We had prudishly been brought up on Wimpy’s Neolithic, grey beef-burgers served with a knife and fork.  Sam’s smutty, shiny hamburger looked other worldly. This was the remedial big bang moment for burgers as we now know them in London.

PattyandBun is the brainchild of Joe Grossman who cut his teeth on the pop-up circuit for two years gaining invaluable customer insight. Here he fine-tuned his ‘Ari Gold Burger’, Confit Chicken Wings and ‘Lambshank Redemption’ gaining credibility and justified hype. This patient devotion to perfecting his vision reveals a respect that’s absent from so many derivative concept restaurants. Joe’s punters have paid him back. He now has seven hugely successful venues in prime spots across the capital.

will
Will recreates the 90’s with his famous Ali G impression

The best burger joint in London’ is a redundant argument deliberated only by spotty nerds. But if I had to choose, then PattyandBun would be in the top two. PattyandBun is on point with each constituent part; the music, the service, the concept, the atmosphere, the presentation and the variety. The only other that comes close is the seminal Lucky Chip in the Sebright Arms. Like a long lost lover, did it really exist?

PattyandBun proves that something as maligned and ubiquitous as ‘dude food’ can still stand out as brilliant and beguiling when every element is made with love. It really is the difference. This is why the very finest Waitrose sandwich will only ever taste like it was made by a prostitute for her pimp.

Sources:

http://www.nme.com/eats-and-beats/big-kahuna-burger-recipe-pulp-fiction-1935500

http://www.esquire.co.uk/food-drink/news/a5048/burger-phenomenon-explained/

http://www.thelondoner.me/2013/02/patty-bun.html

Square Meal

Trust in the Hawksmoor.

Last week Eminem’s acerbic verbal assault on the Tango-faced, fat president of The United States was widely endorsed by the media, Hollywood, blacks and whites. It restored some trust in celebrity culture and the power it can sometimes do for good.

Trump-bashing is common. So why did Eminem’s excoriation of Donald’s Red, White and Blue strike a collective chord? His freestyle calls out his own fans and disowns those who follow Trump. This isn’t what an artist is supposed to do. The result? He’s unambiguous. We trust him.

Yes, this is a white guy talking about mostly black issues. But we know he was raised in a black neighbourhood, that his closest friends and contemporaries are black and that his love for the culture is defining. The dots join up. So, again, we trust him.

But still, why is this white guy the important interlocutor? Why not Jay Z? Because he’s not just preaching to the converted. He has a huge white following; many Trump supporters and plenty of fence sitters. He’s the swing rapper. His verses are accretive, lamenting lame distractions and rally against a ‘democracy of hypocrisy’. Moreover, he doesn’t dumb it down. We might find him offensive. But we trust him.

Eminem also raps about spitting on your onion rings, Doritos, Cheetos and Valium sandwiches. So, I wouldn’t trust him with restaurant advice. And due to the millions of readers A Lot Of Chop enjoys, I get asked, almost hourly, for suggestions. We all have our lanes.

A recommendation is your reputation on the line. There are only a handful of restaurants I trust, knowing they deliver every time. They are; Tayyabs, Brawn and The Hawksmoor.

The Hawksmoor was founded by Will Beckett and Huw Gott in 2006. Their quest was to be the greatest bovine restaurant in London. An Aberdeen Angus antithesis.

It started with a meaty pilgrimage to find the best supplier, covering every corner of the UK with a toothcomb. Their journey would eventually lead them to Yorkshire and the eugenic longhorn cattlebred, bred and butchered by the Ginger Pig. It still supplies them today.

Make no mistake, The Hawksmoor is all about the beef. Chateaubriand, Porterhouse, T-bone, Bone-in Prime Rib, Filet, Rib-Eye, Sirloin and Rump steaks are seared on Turkish Josper charcoal grills. They are smoky black-on the outside and sweet, pink and perfect inside. Which is as dirty as it sounds.

You can also have Salcombe crab on toast, Bone marrow with onions, Old Spot belly ribs, Whole native lobster with garlic butter, Triple cooked chips, Herb-fed chicken with wild grilled lemon & Béarnaise, and Pear & almond Bakewell tart, Sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream and their famous Salted Caramel Rolos.

It’s very difficult to describe how it all tastes without needing an ice-cold shower. I’ve never had anything I didn’t enjoy there. My friend Josh goes most weeks and only dislikes their tomato sauce.

Like a perfect partner The Hawkmoor is sensual, tasty and fun; their Ferrero Rocher pudding, Gregg’s inspired Steak Slice and Big Mac are cheeky winks to the low-end. McDonalds and The Hawksmoor are polar opposites in most areas but they have more in common than meats the eye. A Filet-o-Fish or Quarter Pounder with Cheese taste exactly how they did the first time you ever tasted them. This psychological effect hooks us nostalgically to our past. We go back to these places for comfort. The Hawksmoor is a Chesterfield sofa and the Cheers theme tune.

We don’t go to the The Hawksmoor because it’s new or creative or salutary. We go because we trust in their knockout, Shangri La food. And it’s the same, just as good, every single time we go.

Saucy Josh sent back the Tommy K

Sources:

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/eminems-takedown-of-trump-in-the-age-of-angry-white-men https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/08/07/upshot/music-fandom-maps.html

https://www.thecaterer.com/articles/346316/hawksmoor-the-return-of-the-steakhouse

Goodbye AA Gill

NPG x126300; A. A. Gill by Terry O'Neill

The greatest writer on restaurants has died after a short battle with cancer at 62. Gill has said that overcoming his alcoholism and ennui at 30 gave him a second life that he was eternally grateful for. His final (incredible) column in The Sunday Times revealed he had no anger with his condition and saying goodbye.

Many will know of Gill’s idiosyncrasies; massively dyslexic, he had to dictate his columns over the phone. He was a political leftie, whilst best friends with Jeremy Clarkson and no stranger to high society. He was an immaculate baroque dresser, who had lived homeless with drink and drug addiction. Unflinchingly harsh in his reviews yet praised for his compassion by nearly everyone he met (his brother has also been missing since 1998). He was famously thrown out of Gordon Ramsay’s heyday restaurant, Aubergine, with Joan Collins. Most pleasingly of all, Piers Morgan hated him.

First and foremost he was a creative genius in his writing. Gill had such a samurai sharp turn of phrase that by the time you had worked out what he meant, he was on to the next one:

‘’This was chalet girl cooking’’ is one of the most astute rebukes of a restaurant dinner you’ll ever hear. So on point. Nothing more needed. Perfectly offensive. It couldn’t have come out of anyone else’s mouth.

His reviews carried weight that only Fay Maschler could rival – but it was his writing that set him apart from everyone else. His style was gonzo, his cojones were gigantic, he gave no fuck for political correctness. Other writers embarrass themselves when doing so. Gill comes up smelling of roses (irony not lost on this writer). He was revered and feared in the industry. Even the most gnarly chefs would respect his unpredictable, acerbic critique, as if he were some sort of dominatrix.

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Here are some more of his best words:

‘Rolf Harris is a hard man to hate, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.’

‘..his whole demeanour was ironic, long before irony became fashionable. Mark appeard to be wearing himself as a costume’

‘When I joined the Sunday Times the people I was competing with were all 10 or 15 years younger, they all had double firsts from Oxford or Cambridge, they were all bright as new pins. But I’d spent that 15 years wetting myself and getting into fights and living a sort of subterranean life but it meant I had had 15 years more experience – which was incredibly useful, and meant that I just wrote better than they did. 

‘Pasta is eaten by happy, smiley people having fun with people they love or fancy and are about to shag. Noodles are eaten by people who have no friends.’

‘PizzaExpress is a sort of gastronomic post-modern version of the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special. We’ve all been here and done that… Only Hannibal Lecter would conceivably have a favourite Café Rouge or All Bar One, but everyone has a favourite PizzaExpress.’

‘Addicts and alcoholics, we tend to be a lot more observant of people. There is a lot about being an addict that makes you very duplicitous. I can tell very quickly when people are lying.’ 

‘Facts are what pedantic, dull people have instead of opinions’

I realise I don’t have a bucket list; I don’t feel I’ve been cheated of anything. I’d like to have gone to Timbuktu, and there are places I will be sorry not to see again. But actually, because of the nature of my life and the nature of what happened to me in my early life – my addiction – I know I have been very lucky.

If Gill’s writing was more electric than anyone else, his devotion to consistently tell the coldest truths, was a bolt of lightning in a world of drizzly, sycophantic falseness. We need more people like this.

AA Gill has inspired so many to write, to cook, to raise standards, to complain and to laugh. He will be greatly missed. I will miss his writing tremendously and read and re-read his back catalogue till it’s my time to go.

AA Gill’s rare double 5 star London reviews went to:

http://www.hedonerestaurant.com/

http://clipstonerestaurant.co.uk/

http://anglorestaurant.com/

Sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2008/may/25/recipes.foodanddrink2

https://www.thecaterer.com/articles/492920/aa-gills-best-lines

Where on earth to go when you’re not drinking?

Many people will be familiar with the subconscious mind phenomenon whereby you give something up only for it to suddenly appear everywhere. Just ask any member of the Clergy.

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opps

Like any self-respecting bon vivant I’ve occasionally turned to Dojo to find ‘the best stuff in the city’. This has unearthed such gems as: ‘South London’s ten hottest car boot sales’, a faux speak-easy in Chinatown (complete with authentic f-you NYC style service) and a plethora of break-up-worthy, dire café-ateliers in Paris.

Alas, I acquiesce with Dojo, and as I enter five weeks without a tipple, ‘Sober Dating’ naturally jumped right out at me.

Recently a friend of mine’s blind-date was 10 minutes late. During this window he managed to sink 3.5 glasses of wine in 10 minutes.  Needless to say he can’t remember the date too well, though he tells me it was “probably amazing”. The lesson, of course, is to always turn up on time for your dates and don’t trust men with beards.

To all those taking on an alcohol free patch and finding it a challenge, here are suggestions for places to visit:

1) Redemption Bar – Shoreditch & Notting Hill

redemption-bar
Glitzy

Aptly named Redemption Bar invites you ‘spoil yourself without spoiling yourself’.  Sadly this is no Ferrero Rocher Ambassador party – though I would fucking love to go to one of those. In fact it’s a twin set of dry bars (Notting Hill & Shoreditch) serving non-alcoholic creations. There is also a vegan menu. Esquire names named it one of its ‘where to take her in January’ places (sounds eerily Dojo-eque).

  • Super interesting fact: Patrick Baboumian, one of the world’s strongest men, is actually one of many vegans on the list. Sort of like a human hippo:
Patrick looks like he’s eaten quite a few vegans (technically cheating).
Patrick looks like he’s eaten quite a few vegans (technically cheating).

2) The Detox Kitchen – Soho & Fitzrovia

Lily Simpson
Lily Simpson

We’ve been waiting 12 years for Dr Dre to put out his Detox album. He needs to get on the beetroot smoothies ASAP and could do far worse than get his dose from The Detox Kitchen. Rumour has is, this is Elle Macpherson’s favourite place to grab a bite. Let face it, you should always trust super-models’ restaurant recommendations. Founded by Lisa Simpson, this makes excellent, healthy food – all wheat, dairy and refined sugar free. Take your most allergic friend for a risk free treat.

3) Counter Albion – Shoreditch

counter-albion
See you there

This is my favourite place on one of the sleekest streets in sexy, sultry Shoreditch. The breakfast is an absolute steal at around £6.  For this, pretty much all you can eat Sourdough Baguettes with Goat Butter & Organic Berry Jams, creamy Scrambled Eggs, Amaranth Porridge and Yogurts topped with Macadamia and Pistachio happiness.

This is healthy gangster’s paradise where the punters glow, knowingly. You’ll walk out with a halo and a flat stomach.

If none of these appeal, you can download Dojo here or just have a beer.

London’s top 5 most exciting restaurant openings – November 2016

1) El pastor. London Bridge

stoney-street
Stooney Street

When the people who brought you the impeccable Barrafina open a new place that they’ve put their heart and soul into, you take notice. El Pastor has long been a passion project for the Hart Brothers who have spent years travelling Mexico, claiming to have eaten ‘every single burrito and taco going’. (Nice work if you can get it).  They believe they have finally discovered the magic of perfect Mexican food and are bringing it to London.

Stoney Street is a stunning place for a stroll. Guaranteed Brownie points with your lady or man. Or lady man. Or just a mate.

2) Elystan Street – South Kensington

phil-howardx
Sexual

One of my greatest ever dining experiences was at Phil Howard’s The Square. I went with a best mate. We both took the Friday afternoon off for an indulgent love-in. The food was pretty much perfection. Spectacular on every level. I live my life for afternoons like that and will never forget it.

Phil has now left The Square after 25 years and opened Elystan Street. Former proprietor Tom Aikens (precocious talent who once burned a Commi with a knife at Pied a Terre) never quite got the wheels going with his eponymous restaurant on this site. But if anyone has the Midas touch it’s Phil Howard. (He’s also backer of The Ledbury, Kitchen W8 & GBM winner).

Importantly Howard will be cooking here every day (rarer than you might think). AA Gill says he’s ‘probably the best chef in London’. It promises to be way less formal than The Square, but you can still expect ‘ethereal’ flavours according to the Don, Fay Maschler.

Persuaded?

http://www.elystanstreet.com

3) L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele – Stoke Newington

Welcome to the family
Welcome to the family

There is an abundance of top notch pizza joints in Stoke Newington all within spitting distance of each other. For my money the best pizza in London is just round the corner at Soda Pizza. But still we demand more.

L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Naples is widely regarded – by those who know – as the top of the pile. The chefs at the Stoke Newington branch are all trained at the Naples HQ. The menu will inevitably be small but perfect. Early reviews? Pizza-oven, blisteringly hot.

4) Luca – Clerkenwell

luca
Award for best logo goes to Luca

The Clove Club was one of only three UK entries in San Pellegrino’s top 50 restaurants in the world this year. Isaac McHale and his team have just launched Luca in Clerkenwell next to culinary royalty: St. John, The Quality Chop House, The Modern Pantry and Hix Oyster House.

The focus here is quality pasta, with exceptional British ingredients from all around the isle: Shrimps from Morecambe Bay, Grouse from Yorkshire, Langoustine from Scotland and cheeses from across the country. Clerkenwell is a lucky neighbourhood.

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5) Aquavit. Piccadilly

aquavitx
Assemblance skills

Aquavit has been one of New York’s most well regarded high end restaurants for decades with 2 Michelin stars to its name. It made Marcus Samuelsson a legend and current head chef Emma Bengtsson is a sensation.

London is ‘super lucky’ (as the Swedes would say) to have Aquavit. It’s important to have another industry leading female Chef in the city.

Expect a replication of Bengtsson’s NYC menu: Atjes herring and quail egg; gravlax with asparagus; Arctic char with nettles, shrimp and peas; suckling pig with radicchio, apple and mustard; grapefruit and lemon dessert; “chocolate and texture” dessert.

Nordic food is dear to my heart. Very very excited to try this place.

http://www.aquavitrestaurants.com/london/

Happy hunting..

Ref:

‘Baraffina Boys’: http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/restaurants/barrafina-boys-sam-and-eddie-hart-10391539.html

‘Branding Row Chef’: https://www.theguardian.com/uk/1999/dec/16/audreygillan

‘AA Gill Reviews W8’: http://www.kitchenw8.com/wp-content/uploads/AA-Gill-review.pdf

‘Pizzaia comes to Stoke Newington’ http://www.hot-dinners.com/Gastroblog/Latest-news/italian-pizzeria-l-antica-pizzeria-da-michele-comes-to-london-at-stoke-newington

‘Aquavit in Midtown’ http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/27/dining/restaurant-review-aquavit-in-midtown.

Marco Pierre White

Perhaps the most enigmatic chef of modern times is Marco Pierre White. He is the first bona fide ‘celebrity chef’ from the UK, rising to prominence in an age that preceded reality television. It was his extraordinary skill as a chef and cut-throat, domineering personality that made him such a fascinating public figure. He can also be credited as someone who brought romance and a touch of cool to what had previously been seen as an unglamorous career choice. Like McCartney (but probably more Richards) he has inspired thousands to do what he did.

“He is one of the few people I can remember the exact moment of meeting. I walked in to his first restaurant, Harvey’s, on Wandsworth Common. I was wearing a tail coat and sponge-bag trousers. He was wearing a butcher’s apron and the look of a serial killer. I was on my way to a wedding, he was on his way to greatness.”

~ AA Gill

Now a brand ambassador and very successful restaurateur, he was first and most importantly, a chef. No ordinary chef either. He ran the seminal and legendary restaurant Harveys on Wandsworth Common (now Chez Bruce) and was the youngest British chef to ever win three Michelin stars (Hyde Park Hotel – Now Mandarin Oriental).

Marco trained under the biggest names in the restaurant world including Albert and Michel Roux at Le Gavroche, Pierre Koffman at La Tante Claire, Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons and Nico Ladenis. He also mentored Gordon Ramsay (who credits him as having the biggest influence on his career), Heston Blumenthal, Bryn Williams (Odette’s) and Mario Batali.

In the early nineties, there wasn’t today’s level of public interest in restaurants and chefs. Nonetheless, Harveys was famous in its own right due to its exceptional standards. Many knew of Harvey’s due to the press’s love affair with the character that was Marco. Throwing bankers and celebrities out added to the compelling rock and roll star image that was cultivated.

Marco always had his reasons of course:

‘There was always a reason. I was trying to create something special, and they were trying to spoil it. My pet hate, with customers, is those that think it’s all about wallets. You get four silly boys, spoiling it for some guy with his wife at the next table, so you ask them to behave, and they take the attitude: bugger you, we’ve spent a lot of money. Well, bugger them. They’re missing the point totally. Usually it’s City boys, these expense-account types who know nothing about food. Yes, I threw 54 of them out one night. It was an engagement party, but they were far too rowdy. They were dropping cigarette butts on the floor, for Christ’s sake.’

Famously, when a customer once ordered a side order of chips he hand cut and cooked them personally, but charged £25 for the privilege.

‘Well, yes, that’s true, a one-off. But this guy was just trying to show off in front of his City boys – there were no chips on the menu, but he asked for some. Fine. So I spent a long careful time on them – hand-cut, blanched, lovingly fried, served up with a little silver plate of sauce. An hour of my time. £25. He hadn’t thought to ask the price.’

This wonderful clip gives an insight into the man at 27 years old. It’s interesting how incredibly self analytical he is as men often are at this time. The intense pressure of running his own restaurant, coupled with his own self imposed levels of perfection, all geared towards the holy grail of winning Michelin stars, is obvious to see.

He’s described his 20s as being the most unhappy of his life, though they were the time he was at his most successful as a chef.
You can spot a spotty 22 year old Ramsay in the kitchen with him at the end. Gordon Ramsey was Marco’s protégé at Harvey’s. As often with protégées Marco saved some of the biggest bollockings for him. He recounts:

‘Gordon crouched down in the corner of the kitchen, buried his head in his hands and started sobbing. ‘I don’t care what you do to me,’ he said as he wept. ‘Hit me. I don’t care. Sack me. I don’t care.’

Bessie mates

As Gordon now admits, this helped make him the chef he became, not just in craft but also in man management skills. Marco and Gordon remained good friends after Harvey’s, until Gordon brought a film crew to Marco’s wedding to which he objected. They haven’t made up since, although they both frequently speak about the respect they have for each other work.

“I just want him to be the Marco that he was when I met him – when I was 19 and he was 25 and I got my fucking arse kicked and I got the shit beaten out of me but I loved every minute of it.”

~ Gordon Ramsay

Many years later they ran into each other at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck.

‘Gordon came into the garden and said, ‘Thank you very much Marco for ruining a nice day.’

“I said, ‘Why don’t you sue me for loss of enjoyment?’ He came back with, ‘You fat bastard. I’ve always wanted to call you that.’ I said, ‘Is that the best you can do?’ Gordon left. There was silence in the garden.”

Much like two boxers promoting their fight both men have benefited from raised profiles. The intensified public interest has meant millions of books and dinners have been sold from the back of this.

Marco Pierre isn’t French as often assumed. He was born in Yorkshire with English and Italian parents. Like many chefs he came from a poor background but developed a ferocious work ethic and his levels of perfectionism were a testament to such. After winning his second star at Harvey’s, he left to go to the Hyde Park Hotel as chef-patron of The Restaurant Marco Pierre White and won his third star. He was the youngest British chef ever to do so. Only Gordon Ramsey and Heston Blumenthal have achieved the same feat since.

“Marco is the best chef I have ever come across. It’s invidious to make these judgments, but in a critic’s life they’re inevitable. He wasn’t necessarily the most technically adept, and he didn’t have the keenest palate or the most inventive mind, but he did have all those things in the top 10%, plus that obsessive enthusiasm”

~ AA Gill

Marco retired as a chef in 1999, cooking his final meal at the Oak Room and handed his stars back to Michelin. He has always said that he was fed up of being judged by people who had less knowledge than him. His legacy is immense, he presides over 20 restaurants, and makes many TV appearances. For many though he’ll always be remembered as the best, most exciting and dangerous chef they’ve ever seen.

“Well… I wasn’t manufactured. I was cut from the cloth of the very old world of gastronomy. There was no such thing as celebrity chefs. Chefs were trained and I like to think that I still represent those old values from that world and the opportunities that I am offered I often say no to. I’m not really that interested.”

~ Marco Pierre White

“The day Marco stopped cooking was one of my stomach’s saddest.”

~ AA Gill

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