Restaurants don’t fare well in this week’s round-up of What the Critics Say, with the Factory House in the City scoring poor ratings from both Jay Rayner and Joe Warwick.
Writing in the Observer, Rayner says the Factory House is one of the most irritating London launches of the past five years, while after reviewing the restaurant for the Metro, Warwick wishes time travel was possible.
Scoring the restaurant just two out of five stars, the Sunday Times food critic says former Gordon Ramsay Holdings chef Atherton offers plates suffering “from the most common defect of trendy kitchens: nobody eats them before they get to the customer”.
However, he admits: “The skill and the commitment and the sophistication are all there. There needs to be a lot less cogitation and a great deal more gurgitation.”
Meanwhile John Walsh, writing in The Independent, says there’s a great deal to enjoy at Pollen Street Social, adding that Atherton has clearly put his heart and soul into the restaurant.
On one of his main courses he enthuses: “These were vivid and extravagant flavours I’d travel miles to experience.”
He says: “The bizarre thing is that Barbecoa clearly could get it right because the two bits of proper ribbery on the menu are very good indeed. [...] But that was it. Just those two dishes.”
The Independent on Sunday’s Amol Rajan finds the food at the Curlew in Bodiam, East Sussex, is a triumph and totally deserving of its Michelin star, while the Sunday Telegraph’s Zoe Williams says nothing could be more perfect that the Star Inn, Harome, Yorkshire.
Rose Gray, the founder of the acclaimed River Café in London, with partner Ruthie Rogers, died yesterday aged 71 after a prolonged battle with cancer.
The restaurant, which has held a Michelin star since 1998 and has been the launch pad for the careers of Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Theo Randall among other chefs, is closed today as a mark of respect.
Gray and Rogers were recently awarded MBEs in the 2010 New year’s Honours List and Gray was bowled over by the news. “It’s really fantastic. We love the fact that we head the women’s honour’s list,” she told Caterer in January.
Gray was a keen home cook and a designer before launching the River Café with Rogers in Hammersmith in 1987. It immediately hit the headlines as being the place to find beautifully prepared simple, seasonal and carefully sourced Italian food – a total antidote to the nouvelle cuisine that was still prevalent throughout London at the time.
The River Café has spawned a host of imitators, but Gray and Rogers were never tempted to expand elsewhere. They became known as always being personally devoted to the restaurant.
In her last interview with Caterer, she said that it was always her intention to make the restaurant more special and even more interesting
“It’s a restaurant run by two women and we’re always there. That gives us the chance to make sure our personal vision is integrated into all we do. I think that’s what makes the River Café so special.”
What’s with celebrity chefs turning themselves into cartoon characters at the moment?
Bourdain’s show is a six-part animated web series, entitled Anthony Bourdain’s Alternate Universe. According to the Travel Channel’s website for it, it will allow viewers a glimpse into his “personal and unique view of the world that lives in his imagination”.
Here’s the trailer so you can make up your own mind.
Is Jamie Oliver planning another restaurant?
The famous cheeky chappie, who last year launched his Italian high street chain, Jamie’s Italian, has hinted he’s got a new concept up his sleeve.
Oliver, who is currently appearing on Channel 4 in his new TV series Jamie’s American Road Trip, has been talking a lot about how his travels have inspired him to broaden his culinary repertoire.
On the Jonathan Ross show last Friday he revealed that he plans to launch a new, small restaurant next year.
“In February next year we’re doing a little restaurant with charcoal and wood and we are going to do quite a lot of South American-inspired stuff,” he said.
Yesterday morning, on the Heart Breakfast radio show, he told listeners how much he loved the Mexican food offered in the US: “In England we don’t do Mexican food at all or we do it really badly.”
Could Jamie’s Mexican be on the cards?
The series opener saw the celebrity contestants faced with their first challenge, which was making a sandwich, and MPW said the task would give him “great insight” into their technical ability and personalities.
“If they make it simple and honest, that’s who they are. They make it flash, they’re flash,” he explained allowing us a glimpse into his profound culinary genius.
But, of course, not all of the celebrities were up to scratch and MPW took a very swift disliking to Linda Evans and Ade Edmondson, whom he “demoted to waiters” after they failed to impress with their culinary skills. Nice message he’s sending out to the front of house division of our industry there but then we’d expect nothing less from Marco.
But, of course, the true scandal always takes place behind the scenes, and according to the Mirror MPW dumped his girlfriend ahead of Hell’s Kitchen in a bid to “find his fourth wife by wooing female fans” who last time round sent him bras and knickers. Lurvely stuff.
“Everything Gordon does is contrived, unnatural, derivative,” he told the Daily Mail before calling Jamie Oliver “a fat chef with a drum kit”. “When he gets his first Michelin star I’ll take him seriously.”
I wonder how seriously they take him.
What a week it’s been for Jamie Oliver. First he cooked up a storm at Downing Street for the world leaders attending this week’s G20 summit and then his wife Jools gave birth to their third daughter Petal Blossom Rainbow Oliver today.
Congratulations Jamie and Jools!
While the heads of state were too busy announcing their $1.1 trillion rescue package for the world economy to comment on the feast they enjoyed on Wednesday night, the man himself assured us that all went smoothly.
“The dinner went really well. Everyone was chuffed, I am so proud of the chefs and apprentices from Fifteen. What a night!” Jamie told his fans via Twitter.
But his attempts to impress the heads of states with his culinary skills were yesterday dismissed by one of France’s culinary heavyweights, who was cooking for Nicolas Sarkozy and Barack Obama at the Nato lunch today.
Emile Jung, who runs the two-Michelin-starred Le Crocodile in Strasbourg, gave a theatrical pause before admitting to knowing Jamie, musing: “The British cook? Ah yes, I’ve heard of him.”
Oh pur-lease- don’t they have TVs in Strasbourg?!?
Jung went on to say that while he is sure Jamie has “good products and good technique” when it comes to cuisine, French is the most “exceptional in the world”.
“We have the best technique, the best traditions, the best memories, because to do good cuisine you need a (gastronomic) heritage,” he said.
French arrogance still alive and kicking then? What do you think?
While thousands of angry G20 protestors have gathered in the City of London amid violent clashes with police, a busy Jamie Oliver has quietly made his way to Downing Street ahead of the feast he’s dishing up for the world leaders tonight.
Our favourite cheeky chappy is cooking up a storm for the heads of states with the menu listing some lovely seasonal British produce.
For the starter there’s: Organic salmon from Shetland, served with samphire and sea kale, a selection of vegetables from Sussex, Surrey and Kent, and Irish soda bread, with a goat’s cheese starter for the vegetarians
The main course is: Slow-roasted shoulder of lamb from the Elwy Valley in north Wales, with Jersey Royal potatoes, wild mushrooms and mint sauce or a vegetarian option of Lovage and potato dumplings
The dessert is a simple: Bakewell tart with custard
But Jamie isn’t just cooking up a storm, he’s also keeping his fans in the loop with regular updates on his Twitter page as well as uploading photographs of how he’s getting on for everyone to view on his blog.
According to the Daily Mail Jamie will have his mobile taken off him once entering 10 Downing Street so we’re unlikely to get any pics of him in action there. But you’ve got to give him serious credit for embracing the whole social networking phenomenon so fully.
Poor old Jamie Oliver, he can never get it right, can he? There he was trying to help British pig farmers by encouraging consumers to buy the meat of well looked after British pigs instead of the poor old swine brought up under much worse conditions in other parts of Europe.
And what does he get in return? Two naked heavily pregnant campaigners in cages protesting outside Fifteen.
Most people can understand the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA) bugbears when it comes to foie gras or fur coats but targeting someone who’s actually trying to do something positive for the “ethical treatment of animals” does seem slightly misjudged.
Not in PETA’s minds, who argued: “The answer to saving pigs is not to buy British pork, it’s to go vegetarian.”
Does that seem reasonable to you? It certainly doesn’t to me.
Jamie’s spokesman seemed equally bemused. “They do seem to be protesting against somebody who is trying to help the situation,” he said.
“It’s a slightly odd place for them to be protesting but nonetheless they are welcome to do that. My main concern was that they would get cold.”