Published in Feast, issue 45 – April 2020.
What do you think of restaurant critics?
I have been on the receiving end of both glowing and less complimentary reviews, so I know only too well what a massive effect – positive or negative – a review by a professional critic can have. The rise of sites like TripAdvisor means that critics have lost some of their influence, but in general they still count, because unlike the often anonymous comments left on reviews websites, professional critics generally know what they are talking about (well, some of them) In his one-man show, Jay Rayner admits that a bad review will always sell more papers than a positive one, so you have to bear that in mind. In the end, it’s just one person’s opinion, and it’s the opinions of your customers which really count.
Heston Blumenthal recently said he was considering banning customers from photographing their food. What is your view on this?
This has never been too much a problem at my restaurant, and in these days of Instagram, you have to accept that people want to photograph and share pictures of their dishes. We make a lot of effort to ensure our plates look good, so I suppose we should view it as a compliment.
I do understand where Heston Blumenthal is coming from though, because it can go too far. People who spend so long snapping their food that it’s cold by the time they come to eat it, and those whose photographic antics are disruptive for other diners, are out of order.
Part of me wishes that people would simply enjoy life in the moment rather than trying to document every living minute – but if someone has paid for their meal and wants to take a picture of it, as long as they are considerate to other diners, who am I to complain?
What do you do to stay on top of food trends? Can you give an example of a current food trend which is influencing the food you serve?
If you stay in your own kitchen you can get quite insular, so I try to eat out at lots of other restaurants, which helps me keep my finger on the pulse.
Undoubtedly the most important trend at the moment is that people are eating less meat, and my menus reflect this. I offer a complete vegetarian tasting menu alongside the carnivorous one, and it’s interesting that even committed meat-eaters are attracted to meat-
I think people want simpler, fresher, uncluttered dishes, with less dairy, fewer heavy sauces, and less on the plate generally (which is why the taster menu is so popular).
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