Monday, 28 October 2013
Is your latest restaurant just today's X factor hit?
The selling of Gay Hussar has got me (and a few others I see) thinking. Yet another crumbling old haunt, supposedly loved, but forgotten, and eventually forced to close.
'Use them or lose them' we hear. Well yes, I agree. But equally, I don't believe in 'using' something in a charitable sense, if what you are buying isn't actually good. I don't want to book somewhere and grimace my way through an awful evening just so the sodding place won't close.
But that's not my point. I believe we've all become a little bit obsessed with the new and different, and maybe lost touch with what a long-term relationship with a restaurant can offer.
People speak about the latest opening in gushing cries of 'at last', 'finally!' as if this new place is the first restaurant serving hot food since before the war.
But the novelty of the new is very short lived. I wonder how many places will survive being the X Factor winner of restaurants. This month's talk of the town is last month's forgotten 'currently residing in the where are they now file' nobody. Because just like X Factor, what really separates the ones having their moment?
And the time window of fame is getting smaller.
I could name (but unusually I won't, because it's just a bit mean) plenty of 'must-gos' of 3,6,9 months and a year ago that I'd honestly have to check if they were still open for lack of tweet chatter (generally the thing that got them the hype in the first place).
And it's damaging - I truly believe that the void of post-honeymoon love, where all the fad-fantatical scenesters leave you for the next one-hit wonder, is far more detrimental to long-term business than if you never hit that dizzy place-to-be 'cool' status in the first place. I mean, who wants yesterday's papers?
Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be cool. I do. We all do. Being at the latest place is great for your ego, just like having the latest fashion, art or whatever. But my advice is this. You can all make anything cool. Don't rely on twitter or the latest restaurant reviews to guide your decisions, give your favourite old places a little more love, and new places time before you go.
What's cool for me, is booking that family run neighbourhood bistro on the corner you've been going back to for years.
Cool is when the waiter remembers you love a certain table or their creme brûlée.
Cool is building these relationships over time. It's a two way thing, remember.
Cool is leaving a tip because of how you want to be treated next time, not how you were treated this time.
Some cool restaurant things I actually try to do as much as possible and I hope won't ever go away:
1. Breakfast at Simpson's in the Strand. Where your breakfast arrives wheeled on a trolley under a cloche, and the world's Honduras mahogany supply is stashed, panelling its walls.
2. Dragging a first date into a back corner table at Andrew Edmunds at 10pm (has to be one of London's all-time most romantic gestures).
3. The box of truffles they bring to your table at Como Lario, Belgravia.
4. Taking a group of friends to Vecchio Parioli (Aldersgate St) or Carprini (Waterloo) for utterly lovely service and super-cheap hearty Med classics.
5. Big Easy Crabshack Kings Road, serving super-fun burgers & lobsters to the children of Sloanes for years.
6. Crepes Suzettes made at the table at La Barca, alongside local family parties in Waterloo
7. Pizza, the guy on the piano and a bottle of Montepulciano at Ciao Bella (if you can get a table…. you just try it).