I have been asked by a few of my more casual acquaintances how they might find the best places to dine whilst in town.
Well, the answer is quite simple really: never eat at a restaurant that has featured on TV, never eat at any establishment that is open for breakfast and never, never, ever eat anywhere with a flashing neon sign. I would also suggest avoiding anywhere with the word “hut” in its name, and give a particularly wide berth to anywhere with a nautical theme. But above all, do not, I repeat do not, at any costs, eat at any restaurant that specialises in Mexica, Moroccan, Asian or Oriental dishes – that is just asking for trouble.
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love my food. It is one of life’s little pleasures that I simply will not cut corners on. For me, taste is everything, the presentation just an added bonus. There are some people who can be very snobbish about their food, but not me. Amongst my closest friends, I am considered to be quite cosmopolitan in my approach to cuisine. I have often heard my old chum Cambridge say he would never eat any of that, as he calls it, “foreign muck”! Even I consider that to be quite a narrow-minded view; we all need to broaden our horizons these days. I myself have learnt the benefits of Eastern European cooking, thanks to my housekeeper, Mrs Kaczka, who is a veritable wizard in the kitchen. She often prepares traditional Polish dishes for me, and her cakes and pastries are simply divine.
On the other hand, on several occasions, dear old Nigel has tried to entice me into trying some Indian or oriental dishes, but I am afraid that I just have to draw a line in the proverbial sand over that idea. It is all well and good for those native fellows to eat such things, but for the more refined, civilised palette, I fear all those spices and other very un-European ingredients are just a step too far. Admittedly, Nigel seems to enjoy these hot and spicy dishes, but he is young and I am sure he will learn better eventually.
Indeed, one of my old school friends once tried one of those spicy Indian dishes after a fairly heavy drinking session during our college days. If you had seen the state of him the following morning you would not go anywhere near the stuff. We never got all the stains out of the furniture.
Now, I understand that although some of the towns and cities outside of London do have what might conservatively be considered to be fine dining establishments. However, I regret that I must advise great caution. You really can’t expect the same high standards and levels of culture and civility as you will get here in town.
In the end, there is no real art to choosing the correct place to eat, it is more about knowing which places to avoid. I have often found that personal recommendation is far more reliable than anything else.
Of course, the best places to dine are those where you know the chef or those that are owned by friends. But I have found that quite often having one of those TV chefs can mean dramatically increased prices for very little return in terms of quality or variety.
And one final thought: if the restaurant of your choice is fully booked, then that is the one you actually want. An empty restaurant is usually that way for a very good reason.