SARS-CoV-2 (that's COVID 19 to you) has played havoc for nearly two years now. One of its most insignificant consequences is the impact it's had on Tom Eats! Writing restaurant reviews avoiding takeaways has been a challenge, though it did give me the opportunity to revive some golden oldies, and it did introduce you to the Strangers' Dining Room in the Houses of Parliament, and to my ancestor Binkie Johnston.
What's that I hear you say? You are pointing out that eating places are now open more or less as normal, so why this waffle? Well, I'm coming to that. This past week should have seen the column stuffing its face in the Austrian capital, Vienna, currently home to many an important person, not least eldest daughter R, her partner T and grandson E. Oh, the plans we had! An elegant lunch en famille in a grand fin de siècle establishment: a dinner of style in a modern Austrian cutting edge dining room: and, of course, more wiener schnitzel and sachertorte than you could shake a pot of sauerkraut at.
The net result is I am three columns light. While we'll close down soon, it's a little early for the review of the year. Instead, I decided to speculate where I might sample culinary delights next year, and to invite your suggestions.
Let's begin in London. I'm sure Jay Rayner didn't mean to rub my nose in anything, but on Sunday his review was of a place called Schnitzel Forever in Stoke Newington, wherever that is. It sounds amazing, and Jay touts it as The Next Big Thing - not that that's necessarily A Good Thing. You can read his review here.
Another must do is Noble Rot in Soho's Greek Street. Dan Keeling and Mark Andrew are restaurateurs like no other. Dan was formerly managing director of Island Records and Mark's background was in the wine trade. I forget the chronology, but they set up a fine wine importing business, Keeling Andrew, then Noble Rot the magazine, then a restaurant of the same name. Dan has now won numerous awards for his food writing. The magazine comes out four time a year. I commend it highly to you, or as a Christmas present for the food lover in your life. The first restaurant was set up in Bloomsbury a few years ago. It was reviewed in the old website and scored 21/25. The Soho branch opened last year on the site of the former Gay Hussar. Executive chef is Stephen Harris of The Sportsman, who contributed the Christmas pudding recipe for Tom Cooks! last month.
The final ambition in the Big Smoke is for when the Premium Bonds or lottery numbers come up. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, in Chelsea, flagship restaurant of the eponymous sweary one, has always been on my list. Unlike many I'm not put off by the stage persona. I've eaten in his ill fated Amaryllis in Glasgow and his place in Dubai, and been impressed. While he has fallen out with a few of his sometime protegés, I've yet to meet anyone who has worked with him who has anything bad to say about him.
This article started life as a space filler, but has grown wings. End of Part 1. As a result of another cancelled trip, expect normal service next week, instead of the planned early close down. In the meantime, would you like to share your favourites with me, anywhere in the UK? If they are places I haven't reviewed, even better.