What’s it all about then?
If you know me then you probably know about my little
obsession. Welcome to my version of train spotting!
It started over 15 years ago. I was working in
at the time, and taking maximum opportunity of being on expenses. I
found myself in some memorable places for nosh. I specifically remember the
night out at the
The Frog and The Peach in New Brunswick, a University town in New
Jersey, and also being taken to
(owned by Robert De Niro) in uber chic downtown Manhattan, and being
blown away by how lucky I was to be going to all these cool places.
At this point I found myself creating a little spreadsheet
to note things down and tell Mum and Dad when I got back…….and the rest as
they say, is history. So, 15 years, over 2000 meals @ 1,500 restaurants, and
a grand total of £45K spent (and only £14K on expenses) and here is the
latest incarnation. This database is the cause of constant ribbing by many
(you know who you are
Ian) , but that said, I regularly get phone calls: "What’s the best
Indian in Marlow", "Can you recommend anywhere in
New York" Well - it’s all “web self-serve” now (as they say in my
What’s your favourite restaurant?
I’m often asked what my
favourite restaurant is.
Tough one. As you will see, I rank the meals both on the food, and also
the overall experience for that evening. Funny thing is – when I look
back at the stats, I’m not sure I agree with myself. One things for sure
– favourites are all relative. What I used to think makes a great
restaurant I’m now not so sure. OK, so I do like posh nosh, but
posh expensive shite nosh is a no-no. There are plenty of places
where you can get really great food without paying the earth. In fact,
rather amusingly, Lou and myself left a pub in the
West End recently having decided to go to
TGI's for some ribs (hey – I’m no food snob. I also like a cheeky
Fillet'O'Fish). We couldn’t get in, and so started to walk home. In
doing so we passed the
Ivy. Why not? we thought – we’ve tried it before, and got in, and
tonight was the same. Granted, it was the small table in the corner as
you go in – but the Ivy nether the less. I had the
Ivy burger. One of the finest I have eaten, and I’m sure much
cheaper that TGI where we were planning to go to. The point is great
food does not have to have inflated prices, and there are lots of gastro
pubs around the country that need to remember that.
So, off the top of my head – memorable meals. Well
absolute top was definitely the first time at the
Fat Duck. Now I know this sound contradictory, given the expense
(£200), but a couple of points help me justify this. Firstly, this is
not a meal in any obvious sense of the word. Heston Blumenthal is
fundamentally a scientist. If you think about what your eating, if you
care about how it comes together, if you are happy to spend all night
simply discussing the amazing things that come onto your plate – then
this is the place for you. I'm not going to spend any time going on
about Egg & Bacon Ice Cream – that’s all been done. What I will observe
though – is that despite the food being ‘gimmicky’ – it all tastes
amazing. Heston would not put anything ‘strange’ on the menu without it
really tasting excellent, and it does. Check out this about
and you’ll get the idea. The other reason I’m happy to state the Fat
Duck as being my favourite meal, is that I’m also happy to state it’s
been a source of
I’ve been back a few times, including with
Lou for her birthday, and we ended up stuck in a drafty corner near
the kitchen entrance. Much of the tasting menu was the same – three
years later. Snail Porridge is not so great third time around and when
you are paying £230 a head for the privilege!
So, as I’ve said it’s not all about poncy meals. To me,
the great places to eat are that unique combination of food &
atmosphere. Whilst working in
Jamaica I used to regularly go to a small jerk place on a main road in
Our Place. I loved
it – plastic tables, dominos and amazing Jerk food. I had my leaving do
there and the locals were amazed at my choice. I also remember fondly
Chester. A great
French bistro and one day they came up and said “Please choose your
cheese now. We unfortunately have to store it in the fridge, but that’s too
cold to enjoy cheese. So, choose now and we can let it come up to room
temperature. No commitments – if you don’t want it – don’t have it”. Great –
proper dedication to food. Not sure why I should remember that - but it
struck a chord, and I still remember it when I get crappy or indifferent
service in non-descript places.
has to get a mention also. The most amazing curry restaurant turned up
one day in the parade of shops where we used to go to school. Proper
cuzza in High
Wycombe. Who’d of thought! I also love
St John and St
John's Bread and Wine. Fergus Henderson is a genius. Simple, white
washed room in an old bakery, and a bowl of
roasted rabbit and baked garlic to smear over it! Proper eating.
Anyway – there’s plenty more favourites, so take a
On a different note – I can state that the worst meal was
at The Old Forge
in Worthing for one of Mum’s birthday’s. It was due to be a great family
occasion – but was totally ruined by terrible ‘pub food’ and indifferent
service. I remember arguing with the waiter and
Mum in tears…..not good – so don’t go there!
Well – there we go. Have a look – see if you can find
yourself, or where you’ve been – and drop
me a line if you have any comments.
PS: Yep I know my spelling is terrible!
PPS: I found myself working back in New Jersey a few
years ago. I decided to pay a homage to the place that kicked it off -
The Frog and The Peach in New Brunswick. It wasn't a bad meal - but
I'm buggered if I actually remember it. Maybe 15 years, over 2,200 meals
& £45K does that to your brain!
PPPS: Anyone happening to read this
and can see that I obviously have a passion for restaurants
and can get me a table at El Bulli - then please
drop me a line :o)