Wednesday 25 February 2015


Rising star

Portland, photo from management

Portland, a brand new opening on Portland Street, not far from the BBC Broadcasting House, is the talk of the town at the moment with the owners already having a great understanding of the London dining scene with experience at Quality Chop House and 10 Greek Street. Personally, I usually avoid restaurants when they've just launched, the first few months will be driven by PR hype (which mean hard to get a table) and the restaurant itself is at a learning stage of testing as to what works and what doesn't. Look no further than Fera at Claridges, the 16 course tasting menu was reduced to 6 courses within the space of a few months. But, I love both Quality Chop House and 10 Greek Street, with an ex Michelin chef running the kitchen, it sounds like a winning formula to me.

Monday 23 February 2015


Chop chop

Blacklock, photo from management

Blacklock is yet another meaty opening in Soho, we had Smoking Goat launched not long ago followed by Bo Drake which was just launched this month, it seems like Soho just can't get enough of BBQ meat! However out of the three that I found, Blacklock has the most simple but fun concept, serving skinny chops cooked on a homemade charcoal grill at affordable prices, sounded so appealing, and especially from former Hawksmoor Gordon Ker who I am sure knows one or two things about fine meat.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Bo Drake

Eastern BBQ

Bo Drake

Bo Drake is a brand new restaurant that just opened in Soho, the concept is all about BBQ meat using slow smoking and grilling methods from inspiration around the world. With Jan Lee in charge who used to be Ex Roka and is no stranger to western influenced Asian cuisine. The format of the menu is more or less a la carte style with choices of smalls, meat, vegetables and sides.

Tuesday 10 February 2015

L'Autre Pied

Unique quality

L'Autre Pied, photo from management

My 5th visit to one of my all time favourite restaurants in London, this Michelin starred restaurant in Marylebone has been delighting local as well as destination diners for many years. Head chef Andy McFadden is now part owner of L'Autre Pied having gained shares of the restaurant from restauranteur David Moore. So what is so special about Andy's cooking? Well it is just simply unique, light and fresh with refined textures that really stood out, this is the kind of cooking I just absolutely adore.

Sunday 8 February 2015

The Shed

Notting Hill's gem

The Shed, photo from management
Notting Hill is blessed with all kinds of wonderful restaurants and bars, from the trendy Rum Kitchen and Honest Burger, to the legendary double Michelin starred Ledbury. Locals are spoiled with a variety of restaurants and it seems the goods just keep on coming. The Shed, opened in 2013 by the Gladwin brothers: Richard and Oliver, champion local produces with nose to tail cooking in a fun and casual setting. The summer style decor with barrels and colourful furniture make it feel like it's a seafood restaurant by a sunny beach.

Saturday 7 February 2015

The controversy of food blogging

Something has been bothering me for a while, and that is how ethical and reliable can a blogger's restaurant review be when the meal is paid for and arranged by PR or the restaurant. Some bloggers are actually arrogant enough to command free meals from restaurants or write to PR companies to request freebies. This kind of behavior is unfortunately more common than people would expect. In March 2014, The Independent published an article "Gauthier Soho has ranted against 'food blaggers' - so can we really trust online reviews?" which documented a new wave of bloggers out there setting up their blogs purely trying to score some free meals one way or another. For me, this kind of attitude of wanting something for nothing has damage the reputation of food bloggers dearly. 

But is it just me or do the majority share my view? To try to address some of my doubt, I created a questionnaire and interviewed 200 people on the street on my lunch breaks, one single question and it was a simple yes and no: 

Would you find a blogger's restaurant review that was arranged by a PR company/ restaurant with a free complimentary meal less trustworthy than a blogger's review that was paid by the blogger and dined anonymously, and if it is a no, why?

Yes: 97% (194)

No: 3%(6)

And as expected, over 95% of the interviewees ticked yes and the remaining 5% stated that free complimentary meal reviews are only trustworthy if it is done by a blogger who has years of experience either in journalism or hospitality. 

Some bloggers stated that when it is a free complimentary meal review, to claim its honestly, they have a disclaimer to inform the readers that the meal was paid for by PR/ restaurants. But this raised another question, can you be brutally honest about your review? Would you not down play the negative and champion the positive to please the PR company that invited you in the hope of trying to get another invite in the future? Since I had my very first free invite two years ago, I figured out this could lead to a conflict of interest and decided not to give my complimentary meals any rating and sometimes I still feel that is not enough.

A common way for bloggers to disclose free meals

But let's assume if the blogger is professional enough and can come up with a totally honest review, is the average diner going to get the same cooking and treatment compared to the complimentary meals? From my experience, it would be a no. Some of my free complimentary meals, not only would I sometime be given bespoke menus, I even had the waiter inform me that I would get a better cut of a meat than what usual diners would normally get. Once I was taken to a tour of the kitchen, only to find out my order note to the chefs had a massive bracket written "VIP, please take extra care", gosh- part of me just died when I saw that, I decided that there was no way I would publish a review of that restaurant because clearly normal diners would not get the same kind of food so what is the point?

Lets look at the situation from the restaurant/PR point of view, the main agenda, to send out invites to bloggers is to gain positive reviews in the hope of the those reviews attracting new customers. As an account manager, you do whatever it takes to protect your client's reputation to make sure the client feels the investment is worthwhile. Running restaurants is a business after all, if you don't earn enough profit then you will fail to survival, one way to avoid this is to have as little negative reviews in the public domain as possible, so if that means instructing the restaurant manager to give out "special treatment" to bloggers to increase the chance of a positive review, so be it. 

There is a reason why most chefs in the world rate the Michelin Guide so highly, over any other bloggers and restaurant guides. The anonymous system ensures restaurants don't know when the inspectors are going to dine so therefore they simply can't prepare in advance or give out special treatment. Now I think about it, there seems to be one simple solution, restaurant owners, chefs, I encourage you all, to treat all diners as inspectors, no matter if they are bloggers, critics or customers who come in just for a set lunch. Treat them equally, win their hearts and turn them into repeat customers. It is hard work for sure but at the end of the day, it is the customers that pay the rent and wages, not bloggers who hunt for free meals. 

Inspiration and reference:

The Independent

Gauthier Soho has ranted against 'food blaggers' - so can we really trust online reviews?

London Piggy

When you’re a blogger, is there ever such a thing as a free lunch?

The food judge


Sunday 1 February 2015

Rex and Mariano

Seafood smash and grab

I pad menu

Yet another restaurant concept by the Goodman restaurant group, the Goodman boys really have make a big impact to the London dining scene in the past few years. Burger and Lobster proved to be such a smash hit and now operating as a mini chain with more openings on the way. Smack Lobster takes the lobster to a whole new level and priced it at street level which no one has ever done before, while Beast went to the other end of extremes, offering steak and crabs at outrageous prices.