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10 posts from January 2008

31 January 2008


Tonight I had what I consider to be a really bad experience at Market, a newish restaurant in Camden Town. But, I have an inkling I might be being unreasonable and I'm interested in your views.

I left a message on their answerphone early this morning booking a table for tonight. Following the great review from Giles Coren last week, I half expected them to call back and say they had no space. They didn't and I got my table for the time I wanted it.

When I arrived, my father was already there, standing at the bar in discussion with one of the waitresses. It turns out the table they gave us was right by the door and was blooming cold as a result, not just cool, but full on brass monkeys cold.

There were several other tables for two that were empty but the waitress said she couldn't give them to us. It wasn't because those people were due any minute, it was for the far odder reason that they had reserved earlier than us. It seems that the earlier you book, the better the table you get. I know its normal and prudent practice for regulars to get better tables, but I hadn't appreciated the same was true for early-bookers. I suppose there is some sense to it from the restaurant's point of view, they firm up their bookings earlier. But if this is a policy, shouldn't they say so?

When they called to confirm my table, shouldn't they have said "Yes that's fine, table for 2 at 7:30 and because you booked today, you'll be on the shit table by the door"? I think they should. Or at least they should have said "Yes that's fine, table for 2 at 7:30 and just so you know for next time, if you book a month in advance you won't be sitting in Siberia." I wonder whether those early bookers got a verbal pat on the back when they booked.

The menu looked really good, so my father and I returned to the table just to check that it was as cold as we thought and decide whether we could brave it out. We couldn't, so we reluctantly decided to leave.

Before we did though, my father offered to pay for the bottle of sparkling mineral water he'd already started. They promptly brought over a bill for just under £3. I was stunned. I know that by all rights he owed them for it, but come on, we were clearly put out, comping us some water would not have been the end of the world and might have engendered a little bit of good will.

At the moment I'm firmly in the cutting off noses to spite the face camp, and don't want to darken their doorstep. I understand that not every table is great, but then to go and take £3 for a bottle of water seems petty. I think their arrogance and poor service is inexcusable.

Market may be part of the trend for 'British food' that started with St John and now includes Great Queen Street and Medcalf, but that doesn't mean it needs to lose itself up its own fundament.

But am I being unreasonable? Is my judgement way-off on this? I'd be interested in your thoughts.

Before I go, I'm not the only one to have experienced dodgy service. Time Out describes service becoming 'frosty' when they criticised the food. It's a restaurant, they should get used to it.

Google Maps
Google Earth (download)

Market, 43 Parkway, London, NW1 7PN, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 7267 9700

What others think

The Times - Market, where everything is free range and lovely jubbly.

25 January 2008

Bedfordshire Poultry - the start of something good?

A regular reader pointed me yesterday to the website of Bedfordshire Poultry. Today, there's an article about them in The JC.

As you'll see from their website, Bedfordshire Poultry are selling kosher free range lamb, chickens, geese and ducks.

I can't say I'm all that surprised by the ructions this is causing.  According to The JC, the London Board of Shechitah has retracted its hechsher because their butchers didn't get the supplies they were expecting.  Manchester Beth Din kindly stepped in, because one of their butchers, Titanics, did get the chickens.

And people try and argue these regulatory bodies are not political and commercial entities.  There's a quote in The JC article from the London Board's director, David Rose, where he makes no attempt to disguise his commercial - as opposed to religious - imperatives.  The London Board has retracted its hechsher because Bedfordshire Poultry is an unlicensed authority, erm but so are all the supermarkets that sell kosher meat, with a nice big London Board hechsher on them.  No wonder kosher meat is always so bleeding expensive. 

23 January 2008

Michelin 2008 tweets

I've been twittering (see the left hand sidebar) the Michelin UK 2008 results (pdf).

I'm really pleased to see The Goose has got a star, well deserved in my opinionSurely, they must now be able to sort out a website. Update: Thanks to Duncan in the comments, he pointed out they do have a (rather swanky) website.

It's a shame my local Indian restaurant, The Parsee has lost its Bib Gourmand, but to be honest I haven't been for a while so can't vouch for how good or bad it's been. Update: Thanks to Gavin in the comments he pointed out they're now shut.

The move to London has meant that Hibiscus has lost one of their two stars, but they must have known that was a risk.  They must be relieved though that they're on the espoir list (given the nod that they should get their second star back next year).

Could Ducasse blame his hubris for the lack of any stars for his new joint at the Dorchester, or is it simply that he hasn't been open long enough?

22 January 2008

Letter in the JC re kosher chickens

I was remiss in not posting this sooner.

It's my letter in The Jewish Chronicle in response to an article about the supposedly high quality of kosher chickens. As you might appreciate, I had some views on that.

The original article, in the paper a couple of weeks ago, appeared to be something of a knee-jerk reaction to Hugh et al.

Neither Stephen Grossman nor Rabbi Yehuda Brodie was explicit in their rejection of the possibility that intensively farmed chickens could enter the kosher food chain. Mr Grossman said that his suppliers grow birds about 20 per cent less densely than the intensively reared birds that Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall have been railing against.

He does not say his suppliers raise free-range hens and reject intensive-rearing farming.

In fact, at slaughter weight, Mr Grossman’s suppliers grow 14 birds per square metre. That’s not all that far off from 17 per square metre that got Jamie so exercised. More importantly, it is significantly more than the 12 per square metre, which is the maximum that Defra will allow for a bird to be labelled free-range.

Similarly, Rabbi Brodie says that a damaged bird doesn’t end up in the kosher food chain. By what measure does he mean damaged? I appreciate a bird with broken bones won’t, but what about one with hock burns, caused by sitting for extended periods in its own ammonia-laden faeces?

15 January 2008


Reading about the reincarnation of the 2nd Avenue Deli in New York has got me salivating after a good kosher deli. Even though I have a feeling my most recent meal at Bloom's was an abberration, I couldn't face risking it. Anyway, I was in the West End and since the not-so-sad demise of Zvika, I was left with Reuben's. I haven't been for a couple of years, but my lingering memory was of grumpy staff and a dull room.

This time the staff were a bit more welcoming but, as I twittered, that dining room is still thoroughly depressing. It reminds me of the dining room at my now departed Great Grandmother's nursing home. Not because of the age of the other diners, just because it is so sterile and institutional. There is none of the warmth one should associate with a restaurant that serves copious quantities of schmaltz.

But, that could be because the depressing room simply reflects the food. My chopped liver looked good, but was fridge cold and tasted flabby, as though it had been padded out with bread, or made with anaemic liver. My main course was a mix of tongue and salt beef. Again, the beef looked very good, but the taste was awful. Both meats were significantly over-salted suggesting someone had either forgotten to rinse the brine off the raw meat, or over salted the broth they were cooked in. They also managed to be very dry. That the slices of tongue were as thick as a doorstop. Silverbrowess' schnitzel looked like it had been cooked in a factory: the evenly golden crumb and uniform thickness were a bit spooky.

The only bit of the meal I enjoyed was a decently astringent sweet and sour cucumber. Doesn't really say much does it?

Google Maps
Google Earth

Reubens, 79 Baker Street, London, W1U 6RG, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 7486 0035

What others think

Time Out - Chicken soup was richly flavoured, with a good dark colour

12 January 2008

More organic problems

My article on organic food on the Guardian's Word of Mouth blog, received a bit of criticism for a basic error I made. I said that the Soil Association Ltd was the only body that could dole out organic certification in the UK. I was wrong and am happy to set the record straight. There are in fact nine bodies, the Soil Association Ltd being the largest of them.

In today's Financial Times, Bee Wilson writes an excellent - and well informed - piece on organic food in the UK.

I'm pleased to see she supports my thesis that the whole concept of organic food covers such a broad range of standards it is almost meaningless. Her example of milk is particular enlightening. She also makes the point that for many small producers, pursuing organic certification is often simply not worthwhile and for the more informed and careful consumer, it's not all that important.

08 January 2008

Down on the farm

When I took some time off work, I went to South America, saw a bit of Argentina and less of Brazil. I know variety is the spice etc but working on more than ten farms across our fair land, is a new one on me. That's what Andrew is off to do. He may have lost his mind, but if he has, at least we can read all about it on his new blog Eating Albion. I bet there's a TV programme in the offing for this former C4 employee.

You can follow his route here.