Archives for posts with tag: Pitt Cue

I think I am going to have to bite the bullet and get a Twitter account.

One of my current work projects involves a big rebrand and as a result we are considering the role of social media and how we need to use it to best promote the company. Sir Martin Sorrell recently said “Twitter is a PR medium, not an advertising medium” which got me thinking about the role it will play for us and also in the future. I think the lovely Mr. Sorrell may need to rethink his view over time.

Kellogs pop up Tweet Shop

This week saw the last few days of the Kellogs pop up Tweet Shop in Soho which is a real first and one that will have us all re-evaluating the role of Twitter in our social media campaigns. Promoting the new Special K cracker crisps, consumers were encouraged to tweet from a choice of three statements or make up one of their own and in exchange, they receive a box of their chosen flavour. Tweets are the new currency. This is a really clever move taking the power of social media and combining it with the ever growing strength of word of mouth.

In this age of Twitter, word of mouth (read tweet) is increasingly important. In fact, it has been said that 92% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know and that translates to up to 50% conversion.

It is the insight into the industry that I know will suck me in as soon as I have an account. I was looking up Tom Sellers to keep an eye on his latest venture and suddenly you get a glimpse at his choice of restaurants, suppliers, friends and food connections: Tom Kerridge, Nate Green, Adam Byatt, James Knappett and of course Chef Keller. The legend that is Thomas Keller has 202,151 followers. This compares to Gordon Ramsay who has 1,034,062 which only goes to show the power of TV. But both genius Thomas and dear old Gordon pale to insignificance compared to the media savvy, personable and very popular Jamie Oliver who wins hands down with 2,587,156 followers. Unbelievable.

For the food industry, the Twitter route has facilitated the growth of markets and pop up concepts, not to mention bums on seats with last minute availability making some of the best spots open to all. You only have to look at the entrepreneurs doing a great job in the industry to see how it is done. Pitt Cue Co continue to impress in this field, but others are equally strong: Mr. Jones tells me that The Ribman is doing a great job and so undoubtedly we will be eating ribs very soon. And if that’s anything to go by, then ribs will be closely followed by burgers, mussels, yum buns, doughnuts and lots more. Mr. J. is also talking about all the food markets, day and night, that we need to frequent and I am, as always a willing compatriot for that.

What is fascinating is how many people are following these guys and just how many tweets they clock up. The most committed is The Ribman who has clocked up over 25,000 tweets. He may have an unhealthy love of West Ham and a controversial taste in T-shirts but he also has a personality and a conversation that others want to hear. We follow the person as much as the food.

So, Mr. Sorrell. You may be the most powerful man in advertising, but maybe the power of Twitter will win out. Is this still only PR or do you as a leader in the advertising world need to think again?

Nick Jones is a clever man and someone who has his finger on the zeitgeist pulse.

He is one of those entrepreneurs that you cite when the debate about education comes up having left school at 17 with poor academic qualifications and an unsupported issue with dyslexia. He moved from school into the catering world simply because he had a love of food…and the rest, as they say, is history.

Babington House

Private Members Club Soho House was closely followed by Babington, a country house hotel and suddenly Mr Jones was on the radar. At the time, indulging in weekends away at a boutique hotel was simply a concept in the lovely Nick’s mind and yet some 14 years later it is positively mainstream. He developed an old country house with contemporary fixtures, flat screen TV’s and cosy dressing gowns in every room plus a lovely restaurant  and spa on site. So the Cowshed brand was born.

Now the Soho House Group has an international repertoire of houses, hotels, restaurants, cinemas, magazines, drinks and so much more. But what I find most interesting is how every time there is a new project it is on the money in terms of trend.

Pizza the Mozza way

The latest developments to hit the mark are the Pizza East restaurants. Created in the Tea Building, Shoreditch, they are wonderful spaces that took a pizza recipe from the iconic Pizzeria Mozza in LA and signature meatballs from The Meatball Shop in NYC putting the two together into a trendy setting with wood fired ovens, great ingredient sourcing, uber trendy staff with thick rimmed glasses and there you are….a recipe for success.

I have been going to Pizza East, Shoreditch for some time now, combining it with the lesser known rooftop garden at the Boundary hotel in the Summer and more recently going to Boxpark. When they opened their second site in Notting Hill it was wonderful to see how they had developed the concept from a huge open warehouse space into a local neighbourhood eaterie with a clever use of colour to differentiate the two.

So when Pizza East Kentish Town opened round the corner from me, I was fascinated to see how it would be further developed. What was clever about this iteration was the use of the site itself, which combines three concepts onto one site keeping rents down and footfall up…genius. First there is Pizza East taking centre stage, but below that is The Chicken Shop: a below stairs simple roast chicken restaurant and at the back, in a glorified car park shed lies the last piece of this jigsaw: Dirty Burger. Each place has a look, feel and venue that matches its identity perfectly. And each specialises in doing one thing well whether it is a burger, simple roast chicken or great pizza.

It strikes me that Mr. Jones has finally figured out how we as Brits embrace the whole street food culture. There has been much debate over the years how this can be done as the US led the way in clever mobile units of scrummy food but it never really kicked off here. More recently, and with the launch of British Street Food Awards, there has been some growth in that whole style of eating. This year, winners come from even further afield and underpin the quality and diversity of food that can come from passionate people who really do want to bring something unique to the market. But what happens then? How do you make a living selling one thing out of a mobile, however well you make it?

The options vary. In London, the Eat Street team do a great job of pulling together talented cooks and their street food. They have a consistent and prominent site in Kings Cross and together have more power to market themselves for events, catering and much more. Also going from strength to strength are the Pitt Cue guys who have become pin ups for the evolution of street food with their central London restaurant going from strength to strength. They are now breeding their own Middlewhite and Mangalitza pigs in Hampshire…who have their own twitter feed, should you be interested! So street food chef becomes restaurateur and evolves into food producer.

With his three concept site, Mr. Jones has found a way of offering customer choice without incurring crazy infrastructure costs. Mobile units are replaced with permanent sites but each one shares a third of the risk. The only challenge for me is the product itself. Whilst it came highly recommended, I found the chicken lacklustre. Maybe it was the early time we arrived (in an attempt to miss the queue) but our 6.30 meal was lukewarm, soggy skinned and a little bit dry. Even the sauces, which will surely become a foray into retail, were watery and lacking depth. Still, this didn’t seem to stop people coming and I found it particularly endearing to see so many male friends sharing a plate of chicken with simple sides. Me and my very own Mr. Jones found some comfort in the apple pie served directly to our plates from one enamelware pie dish but sadly it was not enough to compensate for the disappointing chicken.

A smokin’ hot smoker

You gotta love Jamie Oliver. He really is in touch with the food and cultural zeitgeist and reading about his latest idea just underpins my view on this. This week he posted a picture on Instagram of his newly adapted red phone box which is now a working smoker. So triple ticks for him them, tapping into the latest social media route, reflecting the fashion of all things iconically British and promoting a trendy way of preparing food.

Some of my favourite meals lately have included something smoked. Possibly the most surprising was the cigar smoked caramel ice cream which the guys at Chin Chin Laboratorists reckon is the next iteration of the whole salted caramel phenomenon. It was fascinating to taste the new flavour dimension that comes from that smokiness.Other memorable items include most things at Pitt Cue and a truly wonderful kedgeree with home smoked fish from Nikau Cafe in Wellington, New Zealand.

This chef brings new meaning to the whole BBQ method

Top of my list for the ultimate smoked experience is Asador Etxebarri. How could cooking over something as simple as a bespoke wood grill be listed as one of the world’s top 50 restaurants? I need to find out.  Please don’t go there as I want to be able to get a table!

Pop-a-cob: brilliant snack idea

The other thing I discovered this week is ZaraMama’s pop-a-cob. Now, I have always thought that popcorn was a great snack and believed it to be an opportunity for many retailers. In Cape Town, there was a stand-alone popcorn machine in the wonderful Food Lover’s Market but this product takes the whole popcorn thing to a new convenience. You simply put the whole cob in the bag provided and microwave for 2 minutes. As the kernel bursts open it pops off the cob and fills the bag. Genius!!

The bag is in the pack and microwaves perfectly

…and you are left with this!

Not only is this easy to use and a healthy snack but the corn variety is buttery and crisp making it just the best fresh popcorn. I urge you to go buy it and if my word is not good enough, take it from the Jamie Oliver magazine which calls it “one of the best snack ideas of the 21st Century” …. and you know what I think about him!

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.