After the Wall Street Journal ran a trend piece claiming that "the biggest thing in London's dining scene is New York City," British critic Jay Rayner tweeted: "Silly piece from WSJ about influence of NY on London restaurants... Told journo thesis was rubbish ergo I'm not quoted."
Since 140 characters were not nearly enough, and because apparently he had trouble commenting on our short piece about it, he emailed in his thoughts. Here now, Jay Rayner:
Kathleen Squires interviewed me for this piece. I'm not surprised she didn't quote me, because I told her in no uncertain terms that her story — that the biggest thing in London dining was New York — was total rubbish. Let's take the three key restaurants that she points to: As far as London is concerned Barbecoa is a Jamie Oliver restaurant. No one here has even heard of let alone cares who Adam Perry Lang is, or sees him as a New Yorker over here making it big. Spice Market - we've had Vongerichten in London before, when he opened Vong. There is absolutely nothing new about him being here.
That leaves Bar Boulud in the Mandarin Oriental. A big thing? Not really. Got some admiring reviews, but it has been completely overshadowed by the opening in the same hotel of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, which describes itself as cooking to an historical British agenda. Along with the opening of that and the St. John Hotel — another British stalwart — come new restaurants about to open from the likes of Jason Atherton and Marcus Wareing. The other big ones recently are Nopi, from the Israeli Yotam Ottolenghi, the Fox and Grapes from the Frenchman Claude Bosi, Brawn from the British team behind Terroirs... and on and on.
Let's now look at the other restaurants Squires lists to make her point. Three of them — Village East, the Garrison, the Riding House — are owned by the same British guy, who says he went to New York a lot. And I'm sure he did. They're nice places, not massively high profile but... one of those three hasn't actually opened yet. Indeed, the other four on her list — Sushisamba, the Ken Friedman/ April Bloomfield project (as you all know, she's British, famous for importing to New York the, er, British gastropub), the Standard Grill, and Balthazar are so far from opening work hasn't even begun. Both April's venture and Balthazar — a coproduction between two british guys, McNally and Caring — don't have sites. indeed if you phone up the PR people for Balthazar they don't want to talk about it.
You might as well argue that with the opening in New York of Gordon Ramsay, Soho House, Le Caprice, and April's original Spotted Pig, a British invasion has swept through New York. But I wouldn't write such a piece because it would, as we say over here, be total bollocks. Much like this rather thin piece by Squires.
A couple of other points to add: the Garrison, which is apparently of the New York vanguard, opened in 2003. Village East opened in 2006 (or before). And Brooklyn ales are available all over London.
You can all carry on now.
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