Saturday, March 24, 2007

Eating London

The latest cookbook has flopped on to my desk and it is the well researched tome by Terence Conran and Peter Prescott – Eat London. It is a soft cover book with a fabulous slip cover made of a folded map of London showing the location of the featured London eateries. The book contains a fine collection of food markets, delicatessens, gourmet emporiums, gastro pubs and restaurants. Obviously it’s not like a standard guide as it is much more based on the particular opinions of the writers and previously having had a conversation to that effect with Sir Terence I know we don’t always agree on what makes a fine restaurant. I brought up the fact that I was pleased with Marcus Wareing achieving what I considered to be a worthy second Michelin star, I learnt quickly that he is a not a fan of Gordon Ramsay and his various enterprises and particularly bemoans the loss of the traditional hotel restaurants of yore. He believes they’ve been Ramsayfied; and are no doubt more profitable and busier but in his mind all the poorer for the transformation.

Amongst the eighteen chapters each featuring a different part of the capital, some of my favourite do have a fine billing though. For example, the Blueprint Café and the “imaginative cooking” of the “charismatic Jeremy Lee” of which I am an enormous fan is considerably and rightly praised. Two other city places I have enjoyed are 1 Lombard Street next to Bank and The Bleeding Heart close to the sparkling diamonds of Hatton Garden. I know H had a bad experience of service at her last visit to 1 Lombard Street but my only visit was thoroughly enjoyable and the exceptional French cheese board and suckling pig served ‘four ways’ of the fantastic deep red hued Bleeding Heart are both fond memories. Richard Corrigan of Lindsay House gets much deserved accolades for his "earthy and robust food in a very sophisticated style with a large dose of Irish flare" and John Torode of Smith's of Smithfield has his recipes for Steak Béarnaise and Slow Roast Belly Pork with Salsa Verde featured.

Some of the entries feature recipes but I was amused to see that Lidgate Butchers (undoubtedly a fine butcher) is given full page, a picture and a larger entry than the two short paragraphs the enviably three starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay warrants. In fact part of 'the review' is dedicated to mentioning the Chelsea Physic garden which is adjacent to Gordon's exemplary establishment.

I think I may detect a little understandable favouritism to the canon of former Conran restaurants that now are owned by the D&D group. I guess this is understandable as Peter Prescott worked with with Terence on building up this estimable empire so clearly would have a deep affection for each of their former charges. I'm not entirely sure what Gordon Ramsay and all his acolytes have done to them but they seem to want to commit to the merest and at best faintly dismissive entries like the "if you want to eat carpaccio of gherkin, (Petrus) is the place to do so" or "Gordon Ramsay has made (Claridge's) a place for footballers and their wives of girl/boyfriends. Over decorated food, too complex ann service rather too unctuous of everything in a place where elegant simplicity once ruled". Miaow, I'd love to know what Gordon did to upset Sir Terrence? Angela Hartnett and the Connaught doesn't even get an entry though there is a slightly derogatory mention in the foreward. Poor Angela, too harsh I think! Boxwood Café and Maze get no mention at all either.

I am looking forward to exploring more of London eateries with the aid of this book,okay they are subjective some say biased but there's still some fantastic little gems in here and it's much livelier than Harden's or Square Meal or guides like that. Sir Terrence does know a thing or two about successful restaurants after all.

Eat London, okay I don't mind if I do.

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