Archives for posts with tag: Bubbledogs

I know I generally write about all things food but this week I wanted to share something a little different with you.

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Some time ago I saw a book called Letters of Note raising funding to be published through Unbound. This compilation of letters from across the world and throughout history was such a fabulous insight into many wonders. Not only was the content moving, funny, inspiring and stimulating, but also seeing the actual handwriting and letterheads connected you to that time in a way that we have lost in this modern era of snapshot bulletpoints and arial font typing. So I subscribed and helped in a very tiny way to get this masterpiece published.

Since then, Shaun Usher has published a second volume, progressed to Lists of Note and more recently Letterheady. But the most interesting development of all has been Letters Live, which I attended this week. See more here

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Set in the impressive, art deco Freemasons Hall in London, the concept began three years ago and has gone from strength to strength. Bubbledogs provide the catering, and there are papers donated by Monoset so that you can write a letter there and then which will be posted anywhere in the world by the team on the night. Money is also raised for literacy charities.

Hearing a letter read out loud brings a different dimension to it anyway and when you add in some of our most impressive actors to take the helm, the result is just magical. You don’t know when you arrive who is going to read and what letters are going to be shared but there is a sense that whatever the combination is going to be, it will be a good one.

The presenters for us were Toby Jones, Stephen Mangan, Tobias Menzies, Louise Brealey, Jarvis Cocker, Karen Dotrice and the inimitable Miriam Margolyes. They presented individually or together as each letter dictated and brought each character to life putting you right in the moment that it was written. From Napoleon to his beloved Josephine to a letter written this year by US presidential advisors putting forward a case why Donald Trump should not be elected president, there was something for everyone. When do you get the chance to journey in one night through the lives of Winston Churchill, Basil Rathbone, Iggy Pop, Tom Hanks as a kid, an Elvis fan, Rolling Stone, Che Guevara, Star Trek’s casting notes, MGM to Disney, Billy Connolly, JK Rowling and a particularly wonderful complaint letter to Continental airlines, plus a few more in between.

Topped and tailed by new musical talent, the star of the show for me was Ms Margolyes. Not only is her diction, intonation and general presence so impressive, but her timing is just fabulous. With one look she brought the house down. She is quite incredible.

So if you get the chance, go! and go again. I am sure each session will bring a different dimension and as one who had that inspiration, it just remains for me to bring back the art of writing letters. I vow to write one every month. This is a new addition for my 50 at 50 ambition – more of that in due course.

 

 

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It’s the little things in life that give me the most pleasure: a smile, a thoughtful touch, a flower in bloom in my garden.

A poppy from my garden

A poppy from my garden

In the restaurant world the equivalent comes under the service banner and in recent weeks there were some touches that really made me stop and think about that. It’s so easy to ruin a great experience and equally easy to make it the best if you have the right attitude to it. As I am working on a new restaurant at the moment it fascinates me to ponder how do you offer the latter each and every time and how do you both recruit and train people to just get it?

A couple of weeks ago I took Dad to a little gastropub I had read about near work: The Plough Inn at Longparish. Chef James Durrant won the prestigious Gastropub Chef of the Year award at this years Top 50 Gastropub Awards and so I fancied trying it, but it was most definitely the service which sealed the deal for me.

We were up against it for time and this did not phase the staff. When my plate of food was going to be ever so slightly late, they deposited a freebie crab salad centre table to make up for it, even though we had barely put our forks in that dish when my ordered plate arrived. But the thing that truly charmed me arrived when the bill came. Yes, there was a lovely plate of home-made fudge, but in addition, to celebrate Father’s Day, they brought a bottle of Tiger beer with a lovely tag just for Dad. How clever. It was so simple and yet so right. It sealed the deal for me and I will most definitely be back.

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Those chefs who have had the experience of time and understand their customers find their own way of exceeding expectations. At Koffmanns the bread comes complete with a little treat to add to the table. Last time I went it was a pissaladiere, but I suspect it is always something that makes the most of what is in the kitchen. And clever Jamie Oliver is never one to miss a customer facing opportunity so he ensures that even whilst queueing for his no-bookings Jamie’s Italian, the line is served with antipasti treats to keep the atmosphere positive. Jamie may be a chef but he is also a great marketer and always one of the people. He gets it so right.

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It is generally the sweets with coffee that are the added extras on a menu. At Restaurant Story they followed the latest trend to serve a mini Tunnock’s teacake, which I am told is also the petit four of choice at Bubbledogs Kitchen Table, Upstairs at the Ten Bells and also the Clove Club. But for the greatest of all, you have to go back to the iconic El Bulli. After our 23 course escapade we could hardly do it justice, but the last menu entry written simply as ‘Chocolate’ was a piece de resistance.

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Last night, I went to a lovely get together with the Wildish crew and friends before Sue jets back to Cape Town. I am not sure if it is the South African way, but these guys are natural hosts and the promise of a sausage braai with cocktails was spot on for me. Even the weather seemed in awe of our fabulous evening as it managed to stay dry and relatively warm for the majority of the day.

Sausage braai – simples

There has been a lot of publicity around the latest sausage phenomenon which started a while ago but has been given a new lease of life. The humble bangers and mash has now been usurped by the latest trendy offering, and one sad casualty in this revolution is the S&M cafe which closed earlier this year after 12 years of trading.

So what comes in its place? I hear you ask. Well, this fashion is chomping at the heels of Mishkins and Pitt Cue. The first rule is simplicity, with one primary foodstuff, namely the sausage but since it also ticks the American diner trend, they are now hotdogs. Don’t think dodgy dogs of the stripey roadside trolley era, as these babies are gourmet, home made, prime ingredients dogs from the hands of skilled and renowned chefs. And just to prove their worth in the trend stakes, they are paired up with equally gourmet drinks.

First on the podium of fashionable places stands Bubbledogs. Created by husband and wife team James Knappett and Sandia Chang, these guys have an incredible pedigree having worked at The Ledbury, The Berkeley, Noma and Per Se amongst others. Starting their own concept, they have opted for a small menu of 10 well designed gourmet hotdog dishes, such as the BLT -bacon wrapped dogs with truffle mayo and caramelised lettuce. You get the idea. And if that wasn’t enough to tempt, the Bubble element is Champagne. Grower Champagne at that, alongside well chosen Sparkling wines. This is about simplicity, sourcing and style. And just to confirm the fashion stakes, it has a no booking policy and has arrived in Charlotte Street, London. Look them up and get on their tasted counter. Go to www.bubbledogs.co.uk

Incidentally, it is worth noting that Mr Knappett is also offering a diametrically opposed offer at the same address. His Kitchen Table concept is reservations only lunches and dinners served in the kitchen by James who talks through the 3 or 5 course meal he is serving you.

In addition, and just up the road from me, comes Dach and Sons. Hot dogs again, made in house. Once again, it is a small core menu with guest dogs appearing daily and this time, the pairing is with American whiskey….plus some obligatory craft beers. Sides include home made pickles and bone marrow popcorn (of course) and the cocktails focus on Juleps with home grown mint plucked from their roof terrace. Once again there is a no-booking policy but don’t worry. You can slip through the restaurant to the speakeasy up the staircase to while the time away.