You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘restaurants’ tag.

In 1999, Anthony Bourdain wrote an article for The New Yorker on dining out.

‘Don’t Eat Before Reading This’ is a must-read article.

He was talking about top-end bistros and restaurants, but he raised insider facts which will interest aficionados of the dining scene.

I saw the article thanks to this tweet about steak …

… which led me to this one (click on image to see the full text):

I’ll come back to that in a moment.

Fish

I nearly always have fish when eating out. Here’s the truth for fish lovers who dine out at the weekend or on a Monday (emphases mine):

The fish specialty is reasonably priced, and the place got two stars in the Times. Why not go for it? If you like four-day-old fish, be my guest. Here’s how things usually work. The chef orders his seafood for the weekend on Thursday night. It arrives on Friday morning. He’s hoping to sell the bulk of it on Friday and Saturday nights, when he knows that the restaurant will be busy, and he’d like to run out of the last few orders by Sunday evening. Many fish purveyors don’t deliver on Saturday, so the chances are that the Monday-night tuna you want has been kicking around in the kitchen since Friday morning, under God knows what conditions. When a kitchen is in full swing, proper refrigeration is almost nonexistent, what with the many openings of the refrigerator door as the cooks rummage frantically during the rush, mingling your tuna with the chicken, the lamb, or the beef. Even if the chef has ordered just the right amount of tuna for the weekend, and has had to reorder it for a Monday delivery, the only safeguard against the seafood supplier’s off-loading junk is the presence of a vigilant chef who can make sure that the delivery is fresh from Sunday night’s market.

Generally speaking, the good stuff comes in on Tuesday

Steaks

I cannot emphasise enough this bit about well done steaks. For those who missed the tweet above:

In many kitchens, there’s a time-honored practice called “save for well-done.” When one of the cooks finds a particularly unlovely piece of steak—tough, riddled with nerve and connective tissue, off the hip end of the loin, and maybe a little stinky from age—he’ll dangle it in the air and say, “Hey, Chef, whaddya want me to do with this?”What he’s going to do is repeat the mantra of cost-conscious chefs everywhere: “Save for well-done.” The way he figures it, the philistine who orders his food well-done is not likely to notice the difference between food and flotsam.

Vegetarians

Apologies to any vegetarians reading here, but this is what chefs think. Bourdain prefaced this by saying serious cooks find preparing brunch dull:

Even more despised than the Brunch People are the vegetarians. Serious cooks regard these members of the dining public—and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans—as enemies of everything that’s good and decent in the human spirit. To live life without veal or chicken stock, fish cheeks, sausages, cheese, or organ meats is treasonous.

Butter

Whether we realise it or not, a good restaurant will use butter — and a lot of it:

In a good restaurant, what this all adds up to is that you could be putting away almost a stick of butter with every meal.

Leftover bread and butter

Speaking of butter — and bread — you might wonder (as I did) what happens to whatever you leave on your table.

It gets re-used:

Recently, there was a news report about the practice of recycling bread. By means of a hidden camera in a restaurant, the reporter was horrified to see returned bread being sent right back out to the floor. This, to me, wasn’t news: the reuse of bread has been an open secret—and a fairly standard practice—in the industry for years. It makes more sense to worry about what happens to the leftover table butter—many restaurants recycle it for hollandaise.

Food handling

If you’re wondering (as I did) if line cooks and chefs wear gloves in the kitchen, the short answer is ‘rarely’:

As the author and former chef Nicolas Freeling notes in his definitive book “The Kitchen,” the better the restaurant, the more your food has been prodded, poked, handled, and tasted. By the time a three-star crew has finished carving and arranging your saddle of monkfish with dried cherries and wild-herb-infused nage into a Parthenon or a Space Needle, it’s had dozens of sweaty fingers all over it. Gloves? You’ll find a box of surgical gloves—in my kitchen we call them “anal-research gloves”—over every station on the line, for the benefit of the health inspectors, but does anyone actually use them? Yes, a cook will slip a pair on every now and then, especially when he’s handling something with a lingering odor, like salmon. But during the hours of service gloves are clumsy and dangerous. When you’re using your hands constantly, latex will make you drop things, which is the last thing you want to do.

Hair

Bourdain says that toques or other head coverings are not generally worn:

For most chefs, wearing anything on their head, especially one of those picturesque paper toques—they’re often referred to as “coffee filters”—is a nuisance: they dissolve when you sweat, bump into range hoods, burst into flame.

Bourdain’s conclusion

Despite having raised the hairs on people’s necks by revealing all this insider information, Bourdain is adamant that a top restaurant kitchen is cleaner than that of the average home:

The fact is that most good kitchens are far less septic than your kitchen at home. I run a scrupulously clean, orderly restaurant kitchen, where food is rotated and handled and stored very conscientiously.

My conclusion

Having read Bourdain’s article, I am happy I do not eat out all that often — at most, 10 to 12 times a year — and always in good restaurants.

I would dispute that their kitchens are cleaner than mine at home.

And finally, although I disagreed with his politics, I am sorry that Anthony Bourdain is no longer with us.

Advertisements

At the end of May 2018, I wrote about the splendid dinner my better half and I enjoyed at Villandry Great Portland Street in London.

We had planned to return this month. Unfortunately, only yesterday, we discovered that all three Villandry restaurants — including the one in Bicester Village, Oxfordshire — closed on August 9.

What awful news. The one in Great Portland Street offered exceptionally good value, especially on wine.

Investigating, I found that London Eater had a post on August 6, based on a Sunday Times article. The post said, in part:

Accounts made up to March 2017 show that Bicester — lost to the site’s landlord in return for a “substantial payment to the company” — made up 47 percent of the group’s entire sales annually. Paired with a 100 percent rent increase at Great Portland Street and a 16 percent increase at St. James’s, losses amounted to almost £1.5 million, compared to £683,564 the previous year.

London Eater noted that Villandry was not the only mid-market restaurant group in trouble:

In the last week, steak restaurants Gaucho and Cau have been lined up for sale, while burger chain Byron admitted that its finances were in serious trouble despite wholesale changes to operational strategy. Villandry, open since 1998, has introduced “pizza and prosecco” and bottomless brunches in an attempt to improve sales, but the news suggests that these innovations aren’t doing enough to account for such a sharp rise in costs.

On August 9, Eater announced that the restaurants had closed:

Eater first learned of the closure from a tipster, who reported that the Great Portland street restaurant was being boarded up this morning. Later, both the Great Portland Street and St. James’s reservation lines rang dead …

Eater reported that the restaurants were struggling last week, with recently filed accounts showing substantial losses. These were mostly accounted for by the closure of a restaurant in Bicester, which had accounted for 47 percent of group turnover 2016-17. Coupled with a doubling of rent at Great Portland Street and a 16 percent increase at St James’s, the restaurants simply could not survive.

Villandry’s final tweet appeared that day, announcing their closure:

On July 10, Time Out posted a brief review that captured the essence of Villandry Portland Street perfectly (emphases mine):

It’s not often you find a restaurant where diners are happy to eat alone, but this is one such place, owing to the unshowy, affordable menu and the chance to sit unhurried and unjudged by easy-going staff. The menu covers all bases: burgers, salads, steaks, plenty of fish and seafood, and weekend brunch. Duck confit was tender and moist, and plum crumble a deliciously fruity concoction topped with chantilly cream.

Villandry seems genuinely happy to accommodate your whims, whether that’s a simple quiche in the restaurant or takeaway chocolates from the compact grocery area. It seems they’ve thought of everything: come summer, there’s a juice bar and a counter serving frozen yoghurt and ice-cream.

We are sorry to see this loss from the London restaurant scene. I wish Villandry’s former employees well.

Recently, my far better half and I had dinner at Villandry in Great Portland Street.

This central London restaurant is conveniently located near Great Portland Street Tube station.

With a Bank Holiday (three-day) weekend coming up, it is worth mentioning to those who are looking for a great lunch or dinner in town.

Overview

There are three Villandry restaurants at the moment: the one in Great Portland Street, Villandry St James’s and another at Bicester Village.

The restaurants use locally sourced ingredients wherever possible:

All our ingredients are ethically sourced and, wherever possible, local to London. Our meat comes from The Rare Breed Company and our fish comes from the Cornish coastline. We use free-range eggs and organic milks. Our sourdough organic bread is from Astons Bakery.

Although Villandry’s history blurb says that the first restaurant opened 20 years ago in Marylebone, I remember a Villandry café there in the early 1990s that was open only at lunch. My then-boss used to go there because it was close to the office where we worked. I left there in 1993. I recall that a Frenchwoman opened it. Menu items included pastries and high-end sandwiches. My boss liked it because it was one of the first cafés to prohibit smoking on the premises. That explains why I never went.

So, I do not know how to reconcile that part of Villandry’s history with the following (click on From the Business in the right hand column), other than to say that perhaps the current owner bought the business from the Frenchwoman:

Established in 2011.

Villandry’s first restaurant opened in Marylebone 20 years ago. Since then it has stepped away from the strictly French, dark wooded format, and has created light, modern Mediterranean inspired restaurants. The last 3 years of new ownership have been devotedly spent working on improving and evolving Villandry’s offering. We offer a light flexible all day dining menu at reasonable prices and our food is predominantly local and seasonal. Currently we have three Grand Cafés and several more are planned for Central London.

The Marylebone location closed and re-opened in Great Portland Street several years ago.

Villandry Great Portland Street serves breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and weekend brunch. (All include healthy options.)

Two types of dinner menu are available, based on whether you have booked a table for the café or the restaurant. The same holds true for desserts (café, restaurant).

Menus are seasonal.

Pastries and cakes are still very much part of Villandry’s identity. If you are lucky enough, you can buy some to take home. They were already sold out when we went.

To get a better idea of Villandry’s restaurants and atmosphere, check out their Twitter feed.

Reasonably priced wine list

Incredibly, especially for central London, Villandry Great Portland Street has a remarkably reasonably priced wine — and cocktail — list.

Our bottle — ordered from the ‘From the Cellar — Once it’s gone, it’s gone’ page (8) — of Chateau Pey La Tour 2014 Réserve du Château Bordeaux Supérieur (Vignobles Dourthe) was £45. It’s no longer on the list, because we bought the last bottle.

Incidentally, we liked it so much, we ordered a case from a wine merchant the next day!

Villandry charged only a three-times mark-up on that bottle. Many London restaurants put a four- to five-times mark-up on wine, which is why SpouseMouse checks the wine list before we book anywhere in town. Restaurateurs make up for low food prices with high prices on wine.

I prefer the Great Portland Street wine list to that of their St James’s location, although the latter has better descriptions.

Our dinner

We booked in the restaurant and enjoyed dishes from the Winter menu. Depending on when you read this, that might have changed.

Both of us started with squid, both reasonably priced at £9 each.

SpouseMouse enjoyed the Salt and Pepper Squid, which was lightly floured, then deep fried and coated with the two seasonings. The tartare sauce was excellent and appeared to be home-made.

I plumped for the Chilli Squid with harissa mayonnaise which was a knockout. That was prepared similarly to the other squid dish but dusted with hot spices, which the mayonnaise complemented perfectly.

In fact, the harissa mayonnaise was so good, our waiter offered to bring me more with the ‘pail’ of sweet potato fries with my main course.

Now on to the main courses, both classically French in preparation.

SpouseMouse enjoyed the roast breast of Guinea fowl with coq au vin garnish and creamed potatoes, although the meat was just bordering on overdone.

I wanted fish and, rather than the sea bass, had the grilled lemon sole meunière, which came with buttered baby new potatoes. The two of us shared those.

The sweet potato fries were superb and came coated with plenty of cracked salt and pepper. The harissa mayonnaise complemented them perfectly.

The sole meunière was perfectly done in the traditional manner: lightly coated in flour and pan fried in beurre noisette (brown butter). I’m still thinking about it. One thing to note is that it arrives at table on the bone, but comes off easily. Be sure to turn the fish over to get to the meat on the other side. I was not asked whether I would like it off the bone but imagine that, if one asked nicely, the waiter would honour such a request.

Both of us would highly recommend our dishes, all of which were perfectly seasoned — a rarity in the current low-salt era of dining.

We did not have room for dessert.

With wine (£45), our dinner came to £126. Money well spent. We would definitely return.

Atmosphere

It was quite interesting to see how Villandry Great Portland Street uses their space.

The display counter with the baked goods and chocolate is round and sits in the café area. From there, one walks through the bar, which accommodates those going for brunch. The bar leads to another room, which is a goodly sized restaurant. Off to one side of the restaurant is an alcove with plush booths.

We would recommend booking the restaurant not only for the menu but also for the traditional linen napery.

It was nice and quiet, too. We were given a choice of two tables, which is always helpful.

Our table overlooked Bolsover Street, which has really changed since I worked near there. Wow. It was definitely worth going out for a digestif ciggy break to wander around. Particularly intriguing was the Bolsover Hotel across the street. There’s so much going on in what used to be a rather sedate thoroughfare.

It’s also worth mentioning that the loos, located downstairs, are sparkling clean.

See TripAdvisor’s reviews for more information.

Service

We arrived on time and were welcomed by name, which added a pleasant touch.

Our junior waiter brought us menus, bread and water. There was no problem in asking for tap water.

Then there was a bit of a wait, but we noticed that the maître d’ was also delivering food.

After he took our order, things went at an improved pace and he took the time to talk about the wine, bring me harissa mayonnaise and enquired as to whether we liked our courses.

There is no need to tip as a 12.5% service charge is automatically added to the bill. I mention this, because I have read that some London restaurants have stopped this traditional practice.

Note on St James’s

Having looked at the Villandry St James’s menus and wine list, I would prefer to return to Villandry Great Portland Street for a better selection of both.

TripAdvisor’s reviews have more information.

Final notes

You can book a table directly through Villandry, which is what we did. It might be better than booking through a third-party site or app. Also, if there is an option to choose either the café or the restaurant, we would recommend the latter.

Incidentally, the wait staff wear traditional clothes and our maître d’ wore a jacket and tie.

Even though there is no dress code and people were very casually dressed in the café, we were in business clothes. That might have got us more attentive service in the restaurant. We noticed our wine was poured more often than at the tables where the couple wore more casual clothes.

In closing: go, go, go! You’ll have a great dining experience!

Donald Trump and his family shared dinner at New York’s 21 Club on Tuesday, November 15.

That would be fairly unremarkable were it not for the fact that his spokeswoman Hope Hicks told the press they could go home earlier that evening because the president-elect would not be leaving Trump Tower.

As luck would have it, one of the diners at the 21 Club when the Trumps arrived was a Bloomberg reporter. Perhaps out of courtesy to the Trumps she tweeted the wrong name of the restaurant:

This is the interior of Keens, which is in midtown Manhattan and further away from Trump Tower than Club 21, or 21, as those in the know call it.

In case you’re wondering what’s on the ceiling in Keens, those are pipes from their frequent diners, which include many members of the great and the good. Each pipe is labelled to identify the owner, and waiters were able to bring the pipes down for after-dinner enjoyment when smoking indoors was allowed. But I digress.

Anyway, Big Media went into meltdown. Hope Hicks said she was unaware of the Trumps’ dinner plans. I can imagine she was just so he could have time with his family outside of Trump Tower.

To the Daily Mail this signified:

that the President-elect’s team is in disarray and unprepared for the process of transition.

No, they’re just boxing clever.

NBC was on the verge of alarm:

In a highly unusual move, President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday night left his Manhattan residence without notifying the reporters covering him or giving any indication of where he was going.

The maneuver seemed to deliberately limit access to the media.

Is it any wonder, after everyone has treated him so horribly?

MSNBC during Rachel Maddow’s broadcast was even worse (H/T to The_Donald):

 

 

The Huffington Post‘s Sam Stein was not amused:

Yes, many of us probably cheered. So what?

As for Stein’s accusation of ‘terrible violation of protocol’, giving the press the slip was perfectly acceptable when Obama was first elected. No one minded then.

Look at the fair and balanced story from Politico eight years ago when Obama and his family took a secret trip to Sea Life Park in Hawaii (emphases mine):

It was the first time Obama’s motorcade has traveled without his protective press pool during his vacation and perhaps since the election. Obama has largely avoided the press during his first half of his 12-day vacation on Oahu, and has not spoken to the reporters following him daily.

Obama’s press aides sent reporters home for the day around 9:30 a.m.

Around 11:15 a.m., reporters on pool duty received an e-mail saying that they were to meet again in the lobby of the hotel where they are staying because the president-elect was going somewhere. They made it to the amusement park at 12:10, an hour after Obama arrived there

The press pool was not allowed inside the park, and Obama did not pose for pictures or talk to reporters.

Big Media are such hypocrites. They deserve to fail, epically.

Donald Trump would say, ‘Sad!’

The Trump campaign returned to Detroit shortly before the November 8 election. They asked Don Studvent, chef and owner of 1917 American Bistro, to cater an event for one of Donald Trump’s sons.

Everything went well until the business owner was caught up in a photo op at the end of the evening. On November 11, Blackbusiness.org reported:

His picture taken with Trump’s son ended up all over Facebook, and people started reacting in a way that was never expected.

People began accusing him of “selling out” and postings on Facebook started to appear calling for people to boycott his restaurant and catering service.

Studvent believes that business is business and has nothing to do with politics, but the public has turned the event into a political issue. They are saying that because of Trump’s rocky relationship with the Black community, no Black-owned business should do business with him or his family members.

But Studvent has explained that he doesn’t take political sides when it comes to his business. “This is my living,” he said. “And it’s not just my living, my employees as well.”

The bad publicity has left Studvent’s restaurant almost empty lately. He is hoping it all blows over soon and he gets his customers back. He says that the whole thing is unfair, and very hurtful to his company and his employees.

The menu looks great and their Facebook page has photos of the food. I’m getting hungry!

Anyone living in or near Detroit might want to help Don Studvent and his staff out either by eating there or buying a gift card.

Readers of The_Donald are looking into buying gift cards and possibly arranging crowdfunding to help Studvent during the boycott period. Let’s hope it’s a short one. After seven successful years, he deserves continued business.

There is also no evidence whatsoever for ‘Trump’s rocky relationship with the Black community’. In fact, Donald Trump has been a big supporter of civil rights in the United States.

Trump opened up his Mar-a-Lago club and resort to everyone, much to the consternation of old guard Palm Beach residents.

Jesse Jackson also spoke publicly praising Trump in 1998 and 1999 for helping the Rainbow PUSH Coalition by donating office space to the organisation.

The NAACP also gave Trump a medal for helping to further the cause of civil rights:

No one ever said Donald Trump was racist until he decided to run for president on the Republican ticket. We have read and heard 16+ months’ worth of lies, which persist even now that he won the election! Sad!

A few days ago I read a news item from Paris about food truck owners who have opened their own bricks and mortar restaurants.

It seemed odd. Surely a food truck is less of a headache than a restaurant. Not really.

Four food truck owners in Paris — Le Camion qui fume (‘The truck that smokes’), Le Réfectoire, Cantine California and Leoni’s Daily — now have fixed locations in addition to continuing with their mobile businesses.

Valentine Davase started Le Réfectoire in 2012 and says that the ability to have a restaurant saves money. She told Agence France Presse:

Having a fixed restaurant means having a big kitchen, storage space, a garage to park and clean the truck, to do all the production in one place …

We optimise charges [and] costs which really helps our day-to-day organisation enormously.

Davase’s career pattern is ideal for a food truck owner. She started out in communications, then worked in events before becoming an apprentice at the Ritz. She has what it takes to be a successful food truck owner: enjoying people, knowing how to market products and being a great cook.

She pointed out that running a food truck can cost between €80,000 to €120,000 in repairs if one has to have them done professionally. Other problems include working:

in the wind, in the rain, sometimes with power cuts. It’s hardly the ideal restaurant format.

Since she opened her restaurant in September 2015, she has noticed that not only do people appreciate eating indoors but they also spend more. Average spend at the truck is €10. In the restaurant it’s €14 to €15.

Former Los Angelena Kristin Frederick is the pioneer of food trucks in France. She started Le Camion qui fume in 2011. Parisians loved the concept. Although she invested €2m for a fixed location, Frederick says that owning a restaurant has helped her reduce costs. She points out that location is also essential. Hers is in Montmartre. She hopes to open another two locations in Paris by this time in 2017.

Frederick’s four trucks still operate in Paris. Altogether, she employs 50 people.

She is also the president of the association Street Food en Mouvement. She told AFP that half of food truck owners go under because of lack of customers. Bernard Boutboul, a restaurant consultant, said that, while Paris has expanded parking locations for food trucks, he expects the capital to reclaim those places as more food trucks go out of business in the coming years.

It’s hardly a promising prospect.

The trend of food truck owners moving into fixed locations is well known in the United States. It makes sense for newcomers to the food business to start small and establish their brand before moving into the restaurant scene. This is why I was surprised to read about the French experience above. Presumably, those food truck owners have made enough money to finance their restaurants. Yet, they made it in such a short time period.

Mobile-Cuisine has an interesting rationale for starting with food trucks before opening a restaurant. Their six reasons in support of a food truck for newbies includes cost comparison:

The costs involved in opening a restaurant vary based on the concept you develop. Opening a high end dining establishment can start at 500K and can run into the millions. Opening a food truck using the same style (only smaller) of menu can cost as little as $50,000. By starting small, you will learn many of the same lessons in a truck as you would in a restaurant. Operating any food service business is risky, but if your idea fails, would you rather have a smaller investment to lose than a much larger one?

Even then, food truck owners have a lot to do in order to make their businesses viable. Food Truckr asked readers to write in about ‘What I Wish I’d Known Before Starting My Food Truck’. Fifty owners shared their experiences. It’s an excellent article.

The biggest bugbears are regulations and permits, including the requirement to be parked near a public restroom, truck maintenance, starting out without a proper business plan or budget and the realisation that owning a food truck will take up nearly all of one’s time.

The food truck contributors recommended:

  • Knowing what is involved before starting up: legal issues, city ordinances, trucks, menu;
  • Putting together a serious and thorough business plan;
  • Being a people person who can be nice to customers and promote the business;
  • Making sure you are on every type of social media;
  • Knowing what events to go to.

One of the contributors wrote (emphasis in the original):

Catering for a food truck is where the big bucks are.

Intriguing.

Although we see food trucks as being individualistic and maverick, ultimately, they are a business just like any other. And the idea that a number of food truck owners are going into the restaurant business indicates that owning a mobile business is not as easy or carefree as it looks.

Anyone with food truck or restaurant experience is especially welcome to comment below.

© Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 2009-2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? If you wish to borrow, 1) please use the link from the post, 2) give credit to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 3) copy only selected paragraphs from the post — not all of it.
PLAGIARISERS will be named and shamed.
First case: June 2-3, 2011 — resolved

Creative Commons License
Churchmouse Campanologist by Churchmouse is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://churchmousec.wordpress.com/.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,241 other followers

Archive

Calendar of posts

February 2019
S M T W T F S
« Jan    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
2425262728  

http://martinscriblerus.com/

Bloglisting.net - The internets fastest growing blog directory
Powered by WebRing.
This site is a member of WebRing.
To browse visit Here.

Blog Stats

  • 1,446,041 hits
Advertisements