Category Archives: food

Tipping Tyranny

Service charges, gratuities, tips in restaurants – call them what you like, they need to go.

When I’ve looked into the justifications for the existence of this antiquated convention one that comes up frequently is that it supplements the income of poorly-paid waiting staff. Another popular one is that it allows you to reward exceptional service.

Allow me to demolish both.

If restaurants are paying staff so badly that waiting staff are obliged to solicit (or at least tacitly hope for) supplementation from customers directly, it sends the message that the restaurant isn’t paying its staff a living wage. I’m not comfortable giving my custom to a business that incorporates inadequate wages into its business model. Neither do I want to see a separate “service charge” on my bill. I don’t see a “service charge” when I buy my groceries at the supermarket and I don’t want to see one at a restaurant. I’m not interested in the costs of any other aspect of a particular restaurant’s business model. Just incorporate the cost of staffing into the price of the meal and spare me the hassle of umming and ahhing about how much to tip when I’m in a hurry to leave at the end of the meal.

As for rewarding exceptional service, that logic risks over-attentive, obsequious and artificially “friendly” behaviour by waiting staff desperate to impress. I want waiting staff to provide very good service as a norm because it is the house policy to do so. If an individual goes above and beyond I’ll reward it with good feedback in social media and, most importantly, repeat business.

Magnus Nilsson and the restaurant at the end of the universe

Looking forward to seeing Magnus and Valentine at the Abergavenny Food Festival, so reblogging the Festival’s post.

The Abergavenny Food Festival Blog

We are all incredibly excited at the prospect of the young Swedish chef  Magnus Nilsson speaking  at this year’s festival in conversation with Valentine Warner.

At just 29 years old he has already achieved a remarkable reputation in the food world.

His restaurant Fäviken seats just twelve diners and is located near the edge of the Arctic Circle. Everything on the menu throughout the year is produced locally.

For the second year running, Fäviken is included in Restaurant magazine’s  The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Magnus is cited as one of Europe’s Top 10 young chefs.

René Redzepi of Noma is quoted as saying: “if I had a chance to go anywhere in the world right now, I would go to Fäviken.” Endorsements don’t come much better than that.

Magnus’ cookery apprenticeship included three years in Paris at  3-Michelin Star restaurants L’Arpège and  L’Astrance before returning  to Sweden…

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Pancetta or bust

Months, literally months after attending a curing and smoking course at River Cottage I got around to making some of my own pancetta. It was easy: the hard bit was worrying that I had made something that would make people sick, but this didn’t happen. These are the pics I took during the process.

CuringRolled

Charcuterie frenzy

When I was a teenager I had phases. There was the cars phase, then computers, followed by tropical fish and logically enough, girls. With middle age it appears that phases are coming back and this year’s seems to be charcuterie: eating, producing and consuming it. When you buy a new car, you suddenly notice how many other wise people have also bought the same model as you. Well, in a similar vein, since becoming interested in charcuterie, I’ve noticed how surprisingly available locally-made cured and smoked goods are in and around Monmouth. So pleased was I by this that did a vaguely arty Instagram photo of some pancetta, smoked pork belly and salami that I bought within ten miles of Monmouth.

My kingdom for a Choucroute Garnie

Sometimes serendipity or perhaps Providence plays a role in the delivery of a meal. One such is a Choucroute Garnie I cooked today. Chance encounters with ingredients that, on their own, don’t promise much, bubble away in my subconscious until I have an “Aha!” moment in which I realise what they could become together.

So it was with the piece of smoked belly pork and kielbasa suasages on special offer at Lidl this week. Buy some then think about about what to do with them. Being a semi-German household there’s always a bit of sauerkraut available. It must be Choucroute Garnie. Of course. Google some recipes. It’s obvious that there is no definitive recipe: it’s probably one of those dishes that exists as a meme, a set of principles. In this case, it’s essentially smoked pork cuts and sausages slowly simmered in sauerkraut, then served on a monstrous platter in its steaming Rabelaisian glory.

But do we have the ingredients? Riesling? Juniper berries, spare ribs, bay leaves, duck fat? Yes to some and no to others. Belt down to Waitrose to get the missing bits and cure the spare ribs overnight. In the morning, I am reminded that Keith Floyd (hallowed be His name) had a recipe for a Choucroute Garnie in his Second Epistle to the Gastronauts, Floyd on France. No spare ribs there. But wait! He adds liver dumplings. I’m about to leap into the car to go and buy some liver when I am reminded by my wife that we have leberknoedeln in the freezer. As one does.

Monmouthshire: the foodie’s paradise (via monmouthshirecc)

A bit of a reblog. But it’s about food and where a live. Two things I love. So there.

In anticipation of this weekend’s Abergavenny Food Festival and to celebrate some of the local businesses that make Monmouthshire so great for food and drink, here’s a video celebrating Monmouthshire’s food heroes. Local food blogger Bill King writes the blog ‘Local and Great’ and interviews some of the Monmouthshire food stars who were kind enough to let us visit and film them. (You may need to boost the volume until we can improve the sound qua … Read More

via monmouthshirecc

Restaurant/hotel review: “The Drawing Room”, Powys

We stayed here recently and I though it might be worth sharing our experiences.

More a restaurant with rooms or a boutique hotel, the owners of The Drawing Room set very high standards of presentation, decor, comfort and cooking, without being stuffy or overly formal. If you are staying in the area and can afford it, I’d recommend this over one of the larger hotels in Builth or Llandrindod Wells, particularly if you like elegance and peace and quiet.

The rooms are decorated in pastel shades with hand-made wallpapers and furniture in keeping with the archtiectural era of the house. Sumptuously thick materials suggest no expense was spared in getting the curtains and bedcovers right. There were more pillows and cushions than I could imagine using. Bad luck meant we weren’t able to get one of the larger rooms, but ours did not feel cramped.

As for the food, starters of a sort of crab timballe and a seafood meunière were competent and tasty while not dramatically good. The main courses delivered on their promise though. I had a Tournedos of Welsh Beef with caramelized Shallot “Tarte Tatin”, Potato and Root Vegetable Pavé, Horseradish and Parsley Cream and Beef Jus with Oxtail while Mrs Monnowman had a haunch of venison with sweet potato and asparagus. Both were very good, though of the two I was glad I had gone for the beef: the shallot tarte tatin was a revelation.

Cappuccino Mousse was a very grown up (read: “not too sweet”) dessert for Mrs M. while I went for the Toasted Pine Nut & Honey Tart with poached Figs and “Glaslyn” Estate Wild Flower Honey Ice-cream: a delightful combination of flavours and textures.

The passion of the proprietor chef for good, local ingredients, sympathetically cooked, is obvious in the richness of flavours delivered without the food becoming over-contrived in that fashionably- Michelin-starred way.

Only quibbles were the request in the literature not to drink your own alcohol in the rooms (you are asked to buy their -very expensive- stuff); we could easily hear our neighbours in the adjacent room; and the hostess, when serving food, said “thank you” too often!

But these are minor niggles. We really enjoyed our stay and the food was very good: recommended.