13 January 2010

A Lick of the Apple

The perfect macchiato at The Modern

London may have played catch-up in recent years but, when it comes to restaurants, there is still nowhere that gets the juices flowing, in terms of what’s on the menu and who you might see, like the prospect of a visit to New York.

The frustrating thing is that there are always so many new restaurants to try – not to mention the legendary ones you’ve always been meaning to go to. On my latest trip, I must admit, I only managed one newie: Maialino, Danny Meyer’s recently opened hotspot at the Gramercy Park Hotel. Luckily it didn’t disappoint. From the perfect glass of spicy Bricco Manzoni to the lightly fritti-ed baby artichokes, and my torn pasta with its creamy, lemony suckling pig and rocket ragu to the tiramisu with just the right hit of espresso.

Oh Pastis, I so wanted you to be terrific but, even though both Hugh Jackman and Alan Rickman were on hand to gawp at, the icy blast we felt from under our booth was only trumped by the fish in our fish and chips being almost entirely raw.

Lunch at Pastis

The Modern at Moma was frightfully grown-up, with hints of American Psycho about the place, but exemplary service and a starched white tablecloth is a lovely thing from time to time. Favourite dish: the butternut squash pannacotta amuse bouche with a zingy pomegranate dressing.

I'm still in the midst of an enduring affair with Balthazar and love eavesdropping on the conversations at the next table – this time it was a Bergdorf Blonde talking dirty with her Latino personal trainer – but it was my first time sampling their duck shepherd’s pie which was rich, meaty and delicious.

Cheeseburgers at Viand

A new discovery was Jack’s Stir Brew, a friendly gem of a coffee shop in the West Village, and for cheeseburgers we rarely veer from Viand opposite Barney's on Madison. The mix of mink-clad heiresses and taxi drivers is always intoxicating.

Next trip I need to try Momofuku, Locanda Verde, Peter Luger, The Breslin, The Donut Plant...... Sigh.

23 November 2009

The Alchemist

Photograph by Terry O'Neill

Like your favourite playlist or box of chocolates, Robin Bell’s Silver Footprint is a sublime pick ‘n’ mix of some of the most iconic and compelling images from some of the greatest stars of black and white photography.

Bell, has been one of the go-to printers for thirty-five years, tending to images captured by the cameras of Norman Parkinson, Lee Miller, Eve Arnold and other legends. But there are touchingly personal inclusions here too by the likes of Linda McCartney, Patti Boyd and Ken Russel, each accompanied by a poignant comment from Bell.

His passion for the art of silver gelatin film processing is just one of the reasons he is described in the introduction to the book, by Ritz Newspaper founder David Litchfield, as ‘a man to whom so many photographers owe so much.’

Oh, and I first met him at a Pink Floyd concert when I was sixteen and can vouch for the fact that he's as rock 'n' roll as they come.

25 October 2009


So, I clearly wasn't having a good day when I wrote my last post. More fork-grating-on-plate than platelicking. But there's nothing like a few crisp autumn days to brighten my mood. There's little not to like about this time of year apart from the shorter days. I mean, how good is the smell of autumn leaves, let alone how resplendent they look? Not to mention the promise of glowing pumpkins, bonfires and sparklers.

Restaurants are also cosier at this time of year, and there are two particularly convivial new arrivals in Soho. Mark Hix has opened Hix on Berwick Street which serves the sort of hearty British food made for this weather and is attracting all of London's restorati, who are particularly fond of Mark's Bar downstairs, where Joe Warwick recently launched his new mag Galley Slave. And then there's Polpo on Beak Street which is a buzzy little Venetian Bacaro run by former Caprice Holdings director Russell Norman, that oozes charm and character. Both well worth wrapping up for, making winter seem a rather pleasing prospect.

13 October 2009

Modern Life

Carry Phone: an early mobile phone

Wake up; turn off alarm. Turn on BlackBerry; switch to silent. Turn on computer. Open web mail. Sign in to Hotmail. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete... etc (vow to cancel all e-subscriptions). Reply. Reply. Make tea. Check Twitter. Check Facebook; delete, delete, ignore, accept, ignore, who??, delete. Check email. Take dog for walk. Check BlackBerry; delete ten messages. Delete same messages on computer. Write. Repeat all of the above several times, break for lunch and repeat until approximately 6.30. Cancel arrangements for that evening by text. Turn on TV. Press Back-Up on remote to remove 'Remind Me' in corner of screen around 79 times until bedtime. Turn off TV and Sky using remote. Switch off TV set. Turn off computer. Turn off BlackBerry. Turn on laptop to check email again. Turn off laptop. Turn on alarm.

9 October 2009

Cafe Culture

For as long as I can remember, spending a few hours in a well run, well loved cafe or restaurant has been one of life's greatest pleasures. My memories range from falling asleep on velour banquettes when I was very young - the adults voices and clattering of cutlery my lullaby - to a thousand putting-the-world-to-rights conversations with friends and family, picking over our plates, topping up our glasses and stirring our coffees. Good restaurants can make the world feel like a better place for a moment; oases of calm, indulgence and order when outside chaos reigns, or splashes of bright colour during an otherwise grey day.

I've been lucky enough to witness the restaurant scene flourish quite dramatically in the last fifteen years, and I've been even luckier to write about it. So I feel a certain pride, and pit-of-the-stomach warm fuzziness, that London now has its own Restaurant Festival, thanks to queen of the food critics Fay Maschler, her business partner Simon Davis and their team.

At the launch party at Quaglino's on Wednesday night it was heartwarming to see some of the pioneering old-school brigade like Terence Conran mingle with the new generation of chefs and restaurateurs such as Nick Jones and Francesco Mazzei of L'Anima, as well as swirls of critics and PRs who've helped to make London's restaurants swing.

It also made me nostalgic for some of the foodie figures who played a key part in upping the eating-out stakes in London and the UK, but are sadly no longer with us, such as everyone's favourite gunslinging gourmand Keith Floyd and the no less colourful PR Alan Crompton-Batt - the party would have been even more fun if they'd still been around.

If you didn't manage to bag a hot-ticket table at Pierre Koffman's rooftop restaurant at Selfridges, or a place for dinner on the London Eye I strongly recommend making the most of some great-priced menus and deals to be had in the restaurants listed on the Festival website.

It could be a memory you'll treasure for quite some time.

8 October 2009

Irving Penn (16 June 1917 - 7 Oct 2009)

In the same way that countless photographers and style-makers have been inspired by Irving Penn's iconic fashion photography, I was most inspired by his images of food, whether it was an immaculately manicured, bejewelled hand clutching a bloody steak or a more painterly composition like the one above. As well as having a nack for capturing the spirit and individuality of the model or the moment he also proved his point that 'photographing a cake can be art'.

7 October 2009

Definition of Platelicker

platelicker [playt-lickah] : one who metaphorically licks the plate of life, extracting the most pleasure possible from both the simplest and the most exciting experiences.

Does the world really need another blog? It's highly debatable, but I woke up this morning and, for some reason, decided to give it a shot, so here goes.

This blog will mostly be about food, restaurants and popular culture with the odd canine twist - as dogs are the ultimate platelickers after all.

There is also literal plate-licking, of course, which there should also be a fair amount of here.

So, watch this plate!