Well it’s time to say a fond farewell to 2014, and what a year it’s been. Pop-ups selling human flesh burgers and cafes serving nothing but cereal (only in Shoreditch!), technology takeovers as Instagram photos become currency and iPads replace waiters, and some chin-stroking as Gordon Ramsay blamed chef scheme-hatchery for an empty restaurant on opening night. From scathing reviews to exposés and intrigue, here are some of our favourite stories from across the web this year…
“Few restaurants sum up the shameless, disfigured, toxic economics currently at work in certain central London postcodes as much as this one… a pallid fart of mediocrity, priced for some dodgy clientele that’s ripped off the gross national product of a small impoverished nation and is now domiciled in London for tax reasons.” Careful of those claws Jay, or you’ll never tickle those ivories again…
Head of marketing James Lewis wasn’t having any of it when he was contacted by a blogger allegedly looking for a free meal and published the inquiry on Twitter. “There’s been an ugly development in recent times that I call the food blagger, which is someone who uses the food blog as a platform to gain free stuff under the disguise of a review,” he told The Independent.
Could even the hippest hipsters stomach concepts like these? Death Row Dinners (tagline: eat like it’s your last meal) in Hoxton was cancelled after threats against the organisers and complaints over their macabre menu design, showing mugshots of actual prisoners. And then things got even more outlandish with a pop-up on Brick Lane selling burgers that supposedly taste like human flesh.
The millionaire chef sent tiny 40-seater Melbourne restaurant, the Fat Duck Cafe, a letter threatening legal action unless it changed its name. He said he was ‘protecting his global brand’. It later transpired he had plans to move his rather more famous Bray restaurant of the same(ish) name to Melbourne for six months in 2015.
Two bearded blokes opened a cafe in Shoreditch selling bowls of cereal for £3 a pop, the media went crazy and the Cereal Killer Café inadvertently became the poster child for the pros and cons of gentrification. One good thing did come out of it though, it gave Giles Coren this idea: “Boiled? It’s that place that only serves eggs…. You boil an egg at home, then bring it here, then queue outside for three hours until a seat becomes available on the distressed packing crate in the middle of the concrete floor, then take a photo of it to post on Snapchat, then leave. You may not eat the egg. Eating is not the point.”
The sweary chef suspected foul play when only 40 of his 140 bookings for opening night at the Heddon Street Kitchen showed up. But who can have been behind such shenanigans? As the Standard pointed out, Gordo has ruffled the odd feather on his way to the top…
The Standard’s reviewer was firstly unimpressed by the service…and then the food came. “The watery Thai green curry placed on soggy bok choy was like the last meal in a Dignitas clinic to reassure people there really is no point.” Ouch!
This idea (from none other than Birds Eye) got Manchester Confidential thinking: Why do these brands bother? “It’s as though marketeers for basic fodder providers such as Birds Eye feel left out by all the other ‘exciting’ promotions out there and just have to do something, anything.” Further attempts to cut those pesky human beings out of restaurant service were made in London where the Goodman Group’s Rex & Mariano introduced iPad ordering. On the upside you only have to pay a 5% service charge instead of the usual 12.5%; on the down side Giles Coren may well be right, next we could be invited into the kitchen to cook our own meal.
Find out what else we liked in 2014. Read our lists of the best new restaurants in London and across the UK, plus find out what’s got us excited for next year.