Thursday 1st May 2003 11:46
Angel beats Eagle but Walnut Tree was first
Fiona Sims claims that the Eagle in Clerkenwell was the blueprint for the gastropub phenomenon ("Pubs compete for wines prize", Caterer, 10 April). The Angel at Hetton has been operating as a "gastropub" for 20 years, and many would consider it the leader of the movement.
The Angel twice beat the Eagle in the final of the Guinness Pure Genius Pub Food Awards in the early 1990s, and 10 years ago was one of the first pubs to receive a Michelin red M for its food.
The Angel has just won the AA's Best Pub Wine List Award for the third year on the trot, and has now built an extremely successful wine retailing business on the back of its fine food reputation.
For a small country pub, six miles from the nearest shop, I believe the Angel is considered something of a phenomenon by many in the trade.
However, if we are searching for the real blueprint for the gastropub, we should look further than either the Eagle or the Angel. The Walnut Tree at Llandewi Skirrid near Abergavenny, under Franco and Anne Taruschio, was turned into the country's first fine-dining pub, 15 years before the Angel or Eagle arrived on the scene.
Certainly, Franco was an inspiration to me, as he has been to many other chefs, and I still believe that he is one of the great unsung heroes of our industry.
He showed us what was possible and gave us the ambition to achieve.
Denis Watkins, Proprietor, Angel Inn, Hetton, North Yorkshire
Place knives in the rack, not your colleague's back
How on earth is it that the industry is still suffering from a lack of communication between the kitchen and the restaurant (Caterer, 24 April)?
I left the Scottish Hotel School in 1963 to find that chefs regarded such communication as the natural state of affairs. They were proud of the tricks they could play on "the enemy" on the other side of the servery.
I worked in the USA for two years and found the situation wasn't the same there, and I decided that I would try to solve the problem when I had the power to do something about it.
When I opened my first hotel in 1972, I insisted the chefs should do a few days in both reception and the restaurant. Likewise, head receptionists and senior waiting staff had to work in the kitchen and the restaurant. As the saying goes: "Walk a mile in my shoes..."
In showing staff the problems of other departments, it solved any antagonism there might have been between the departments.
Couple this with weekly management meetings and having each of the departments elect their own representative, with whom I met every month, and the problems just disappeared.
Christopher Dale, Claymore Training, by e-mail
Wrong man in the wrong place sets us to rights
Your article about the sommelier at Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck (Caterer, 20 March) included a menu from the Fat Duck, with wine pairings. Unfortunately, the menu was not from the Fat Duck and the wine pairings were not made by the sommelier there. I know - I am that sommelier.
[Sorry, that menu was a Heston special cooked for Nigel Howarth at Northcote Manor earlier this year. Apologies if this was not made clear. - Ed.]
OK, well, for your information, my own wine pairings for that menu would have been as follows:
* Snail porridge, jabugo ham: Bourgogne alignote 2001 Jean-Philippe Fichet.
* Crab biscuit, roast foie gras; marinated salmon, crystallised seaweed, oyster vinaigrette: Silvaner Spätlese trocken 2001 Iphofer Kronsberg Hans Wirsching, Franken, Germany.
* Poached Anjou pigeon breast, a pastilla of its leg with cherries, pistachios, cocoa and quatre épices: Collioure 1998 Clos du Moulin Domaine du Mas Blanc.
* Mango and Douglas fir purée, bavarois of lychee and mango, beetroot and green peppercorn jelly: Goldackerin 2001 Beerenauslese Willi Opitz Neusiedlersee, Austria.
* Delice of chocolate, chocolate sorbet, cumin caramel: Banyuls 2001 Cuvée Leon Parce Domaine de la Rectorie.
This is my modest suggestion from a great number of possibilities, but so far it has brought a lot of satisfaction to our guests.
Emmanuel Defever, Head sommelier, Fat Duck, Berkshire
BSA sets standards for perfect percolations
May I inform Jim Ainsworth (Caterer, 10 April), and fellow coffee drinkers who may be suffering in silence from poor coffee, that the Beverage Service Association (BSA) is dedicated to ensuring the very best standards throughout the out-of-home beverage industry.
Our membership is drawn from the entire spectrum of retail operators, manufacturers, distributors, suppliers and service organisations.
Jim Ainsworth asks: "Is there any group or organisation that can help to distinguish real from fake?" The BSA can, through training programmes and meaningful qualifications for people and businesses that really care.
In the meantime, I suggest to anyone that they complain when they are served inferior espresso, return it and refuse to pay.
Ronald Paterson, General secretary, Beverage Service Association, Northwood, Middlesex
Get your head level and give SSC time
I'm not sure whose head is buried in the sand, but it may well be Clive Robertson's, rather than that of the proposed Sector Skills Council ("Will SSC's head stay buried in the sand?", Caterer, 24 April).
The rules of the SSC game, laid down by the Government, are that it has to be entirely employer-led - hence the make-up of the Steering Committee, which is currently pitching for an SSC for the hospitality, leisure, tourism and travel industry.
Clive needs to address his concerns about this to the Government, not to the industry.
Even so, we value the input of the representative of college heads, who has been a member of the committee from the beginning.
In no publication have we "celebrated" the exclusion of other stakeholders - rather, we continue to emphasise the prime responsibility of employers for training.
Of course, the industry has to work in partnership with other stakeholders, particularly the education system, but the SSC is not yet established. Give it time.
It is pleasing, however, that even at this early and very formative stage, educationalists are so keen to influence its direction and to guide employers' responsibilities in this area. Equally, the employers on the SSC look forward to working with Clive and his colleagues when it is established.
Bob Cotton, Chief executive, British Hospitality Association, London