Gourmet Traveller: Recommended Food & Restaurant Blogs

Continuing with the theme of restaurant and food blogs that I enjoy reading, here’s a Q&A session with Debbie from Gourmet Traveller.

Name of Blog and Blogger:

Gourmet Traveller, Debbie

How would you describe your blog?

An equal mix of restaurant reviews (both London and further afield) and recipes, with some other food and wine related titbits thrown in for good measure.

What’s your favourite restaurant in London?

I’ve been going to The Ledbury for years and have yet to have a meal there that is less than superb. The restaurant is refined yet unstuffy, and Brett Graham’s well-considered plates are absolute works of art. For days when I’m seeking something more low-key Sakana-tei is a favourite.

What makes the perfect restaurant for you?

Good food is a given, but the service and ambience is just as important. I do plenty of cooking at home so when I eat out I like to be looked after and given the chance to unwind – places like Bob Bob Ricard and Scott’s do this impeccably.

What’s next on your hit list?

Having perhaps already tried THE opening of 2011 (Dinner by Heston), and being slightly disappointed, I’m now currently on a stint of revisiting old favourites but I also want to get down to New Cross for burgers at #Meateasy, and of course, Jason Atherton’s highly-anticipated Pollen Street Social when that opens in April.

Are you excited about any new openings during 2011?

I am quite excited by the rumours that French Laundry & Per Se’s Thomas Keller will be doing a pop-up restaurant at Harrods sometime this year.

If you could give a new restaurant advice before opening, what would it be?

Location, location, location. The amount of restaurants that pop up and disappear within months due to poor research of the area and demographic constantly baffles me.

Which of the newspaper reviewers do you like / hate the most?

Hands down my top pick would be Marina O’Loughlin. I really enjoy her writing style and the fact that she doesn’t take herself too seriously. Unlike A.A. Gill, who I just cannot bear.

What’s your favourite post on your blog?

I’m not sure I could single one out, it’s seems wrong – like having a favourite child! I’ve had much positive response to the London BYO List and Sushi in London series of posts, so perhaps those.

What’s the future direction of your blog?

More of the same really. I have a couple of eating trips lined up to the US (San Francisco, Napa and Vegas) and San Sebastian, so will be covering those in a series of posts in the near future.

Which other blogs, food or otherwise, would you recommend?

LondonEater for the sumptuous photography and thoughtful reviews, Bincho Yakitori’s Blood+Wasabi is one of the most interesting restaurant blogs I’ve read, and Cooking Issues – the French Culinary Institutes’ blog that feature riveting in-depth posts on everything from unusual citrus varietals to instructions on making stretchy chewy ice cream.

Hollow Legs: Recommended Food & Restaurant Blogs

Continuing with the theme of restaurant and food blogs that I enjoy reading, here’s a Q&A session with Lizzie from Hollow Legs.

Name: Lizzie, Hollow Legs

How would you describe your blog? I would describe the blog as food experiences, recipes, restaurants and ramblings.

What’s your favourite restaurant in London? Favourite restaurant in London is a mighty tricky one, but I guess I would say The Ledbury; it’s the only place I’m happy to repeatedly drop large wads of cash. Usually with other fine dining establishments once I’ve been I tick it off the list, but this place… I go back time and time again.

Photo: The Ledbury

What makes the perfect restaurant for you? This would depend on the occasion. A meal, for example, with family would be very different to a meal with a date. However, I think Polpo or Polpetto in Soho are pretty perfect restaurants to me though; lively, buzzy atmosphere, wait staff that always make you feel comfortable, and delicious food. And wine! Wine served by the carafe. Brilliant.

What’s next on your hit list? Next on my hit list is Le Wei Xiang, a little-known Northern Chinese restaurant in Lewisham. I’m big into my local places; I have several places lined up in Deptford and Elephant and Castle that I’m going to try.

Are you excited about any new openings during 2011? I’m not hugely up on what’s opening in 2011. Pollen Street Social maybe? (The new venture from Jason Atherton, opening in February). For me, 2011 is going to be mostly about decent cheap and exciting eats.

If you could give a new restaurant advice before opening, what would it be? Hire a really, really good chef and source your produce wisely.

Which of the newspaper reviewers do you like / hate? I like Marina O’Loughlin best. I’ve always read her reviews avidly; she’s acerbic and witty and the anonymity is something I really respect about her. I also like Jay Rayner, but I am rather ashamed to admit they are the only ones I read. I haven’t got any strong feelings against others, but I lost a lot of respect for Matthew Norman when he said “The last thing you anticipate from even the finest Chinese chef is the showing of respect to the veg.”

What’s the future direction of your blog? I don’t have a game plan for my blog; I’m just aiming to keep discovering new things and keeping it honest and interesting.

Which other blogs, food or otherwise, would you recommend? Other blogs I love are Cheese & Biscuits, Food Stories (some might say I’m biased as they are very good friends of mine!), Cooking the Books, Tamarind and Thyme and An American in London. Otherwise, I read a few blogs about advertising but that’s mainly for my job.

Restaurant Blogs: Hugh Wright’s TwelvePointFivePercent

Readers of this blog have a great interest in restaurants, therefore I thought I would introduce you to some of my favourite food and restaurant blogs. Here’s the first Q&A session with Hugh Wright from TwelvePointFivePercent.

Name: Hugh Wright, TwelvePointFivePercent

How would you describe your blog? A wholly selfish endeavour which enables me to combine two of my very favourite pastimes, eating out and writing. That a (seemingly ever-increasing) number of people appear to enjoy reading the self-indulgently wordy results is a very welcome by-product indeed.

What’s your favourite restaurant in London, Hugh Wright? Such a difficult one but at the moment I would say it’s neck-and-neck between Cecconi’s and Dean Street Townhouse as both so perfectly combine all the things I look for in a restaurant (see next question for what that is!).

However I also absolutely love my local Mexican, Cafe Sol Dos in Clapham, as I have been eating there regularly for the last ten years and never, ever had a bad meal.

Cecconi's Mayfair

What makes the perfect restaurant for you? Eating out for me is all about the whole experience; food is a big part of that but not everything. I’m really not bothered about food being gourmet, or perfect, or innovative, as long as it’s good.

I can forgive so-so food if the room’s amazing, the service impeccable and there’s a great buzz (e.g Dean Street Townhouse), but if you served me the finest food in the world in a crappy space with no atmosphere and snooty staff I’d be miserable. Very, very few places get the mix exactly right.

What’s next on your hit list? I’m less interested in getting to new restaurants than I am in trying established places that are new to me but have great reputations: The Greenhouse, Pied A Terre and Galvin La Chapelle are all high on that list, I’m itching to get to L’Anima, and I am really hoping that one day a rich man (or woman!) will want to take me to Umu.

Of recent openings, I’m keen to get to Cassis Bistro as I’d like to see how it compares to Cigalon, which I loved.

Are you excited about any new openings during 2011? Honestly – no. While I do take a keen interest in restaurant news and what’s happening on the scene, I’m not generally ‘excited’ by it. I’m interested to see if Corbin & King bring anything new to the scene with their touted The Delaunay on Aldwych but that’s the only one that springs to mind.

What has been your worst restaurant experience? It was before I started blogging but I still remember Corrigan’s in Mayfair being a huge and expensive disappointment. I’d loved Richard Corrigan’s cooking at the Lindsay House (now Gauthier Soho) and had high hopes for his eponymous restaurant but was left completely underwhelmed by the food and particularly the disjointed, disinterested service.

I don’t feel bad about saying this either, because I gave the restaurant the opportunity to put things right at the time and they were completely apathetic.

If you could give a new restaurant advice before opening, what would it be? Don’t be over-ambitious. Be realistic about how many covers and sittings your kitchen, waiting staff and reservations team can handle to a high standard and stick to it.

Which of the newspaper reviewers do you like / hate? I love and revere Marina O’Loughlin (Metro) and Fay Maschler (Standard) and actively look forward to Wednesdays and Thursdays when their reviews appear.

The ladies’ occasional stand-ins Andy Lynes and Andrew Neathers are also very entertaining. Tracey Macleod in the Indy is fab, and I miss Terry Durack, ex of the Independent on Sunday who’s moved back down under.

I don’t ‘hate’ anyone but I do think that A.A.Gill’s Sunday Times reviews, the style of which hasn’t changed in all the years he’s been doing them, are now the oldest of old, old hat and he should be put out to pasture.

What’s your favourite post on your blog? I think my favourite one is always the one I’ve just written. I had lots of fun with my recent post on Hibiscus though it combined a bit of reportage about the London Restaurant Festival with the review of the restaurant, which was a bit of a departure for me.

What’s the future direction of your blog? More of the same to be honest; it really is just a hobby to me, not something I’m actively seeking to grow or develop but if time allows in 2011 I’d like to blog more regularly as it’s rather sporadic at the moment.

Which other blogs, food or otherwise, would you recommend? Other than yours of course, my favourite blogs are about one of my other loves, fashion. I absolutely love www.anastasia-duck.com for the wit, quality and originality of the writing and the often captivating photography.

Another great one is www.thedashempire.com which is as entertaining as it is informative. Food wise I generally tend to enjoy blogs about food more than other restaurant blogs; Luke Mackay makes me shriek with laughter sometimes and James Ramsden is just wonderful.

I’m in mourning still for Dave Knockles’ utterly obscene blog I Am The Client which sadly is no more. Lastly I love every single word that The Uncommon Client writes about luxury; I live vicariously through this exquisitely eloquent young man’s take on all things fine and fabulous.

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