A few London notes ...

  • I have over the past 11 years of writing for the Financial Times received more than my fair share of ridiculous, oleaginous and downright stupid press releases.

    However, the following is undoubtedly the worst in so many respects that I am reprinting it in full so that everyone can laugh or cry at its contents. Just to think that a tree was cut down to impart this information makes me sad....


    ... but then he always did.

    Marco has long been a fan of Planet Hollywood and he and his family are regular visitors to both the restaurant and screening room.

    Marco has taken the opportunity to introduce two of his signature dishes made to his specification and under his supervision by the Planet Hollywood chefs.

    It is intended to develop Marco's role in their development of Planet Hollywood but in the meantime you have the opportunity to try his introductory dishes alongside all the other Planet Hollywood favourites. In due course Marco will add more dishes and has also helped with Planet Hollywood's special Christmas menus.

    Sample Dishes

    Organic rib eye steak, served with sauce bearnaise and French fries (with a double yolker an extra pound) £12.95p

    Mediterranean Chicken Brochette, a skewer of farm-raised chicken grilled with extra virgin olive oil and oranges served on a bed of seasonal leaves £9.95p

    Has anyone out there read anything more exciting – or do I mean nauseating?

  • For many years Magno's Brasserie, 65a Long Acre, was an extremely useful venue in Covent Garden pre- and post-theatre or the opera and it is a pleasure to report that its reincarnation, Le Deuxième, is more contemporary and comfortable but just as useful.

    Firstly, and perhaps most importantly at the moment, there is an extremely good value set menu – two courses and coffee £9.95, three courses £13.95 – available weekday lunches and early evening, Saturday daytime and all day Sunday. An excursion into the more expensive à la carte menu brought prompt service and highly professional renditions of tempura of fresh water shrimp with Thai dressing; a tian of crab, tomatoes and avocado and a fillet of grilled Arctic char, more commonly seen on New York menus, with a light curry sauce. Finally, whilst the main wine list is catholic and fairly priced the restaurant's reserve wine list includes several underpriced gems. (Le Deuxième, 65a Long Acre, London WC2E 9JH, tel 020 7379 0033.)

  • A trial meal in WESTSTREET, which opened last week, proved a strange affair as the builders who were supposed to have finished and left the building, instead took a tea break downstairs before returning to work through the night to complete on time.

    Their presence did not seem to affect the professionalism of the front of house or the kitchen which, under chef Rowley Leigh's eagle eye, delivered perfectly grilled partridge with pine kernels and spinach and an unctuous pannacotta with passionfruit. With an emphasis on English food given an Italian twist this neighbour to The Ivy should ensure that West Street is even more the province of chauffeurs, paparazzi and satisfied diners. (WESTSTREET, 13/15 West Street, London WC2, tel 020 7010 8700.)

  • The Real Greek was highly instrumental in the rest of London, if not the world, finally finding its way to Hoxton, London N1, and despite all the changes in the surroundings Theodore Kyriakou's cooking remains as exciting and authentic as ever with a good value two-course set lunch menu at £14.50.

    The restaurant has now expanded sideways into 13/14 Hoxton Market (once a Christian mission hall and soup kitchen) where the emphasis will be on mezedes, small dishes, and the growing number of increasingly good Greek wines served by the carafe. (The Real Greek, 13/14 Hoxton Market, London N1, tel 020 7739 8212.)

  • September sees the arrival not just of a plethora of different game birds for the table but also the first of the restaurant guides. The Zagat 2002 Guide £7.99 which covers London and the most notable country spots was the first on the shelves closely followed by Charles Campion's Rough Guide to London £7.99. Richard and Peter Harden have followed with their annual restaurant guide £8.99 and their occasional, but invaluable Party Guide £12.99 which lists the wide range of venues, caterers and party services available across London.

  • Attending last week's Speciality Food Fair last week felt like being at one of those matches blithely described as 'a game of two halves'.

    Upstairs Lord Whitty, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at DEFRA, was giving an uninspired speech announcing the measly extra handout to Food from Britain to boost the marketing of British produce overseas after foot-and-mouth. On the ground floor, the farmers and producers who have survived the past nine very difficult months were putting a brave face on what could still yet prove to be a very problematic future.

    Some like Rutland farmer Jan McCourt were wondering whether a call on their mobile would confirm the return of the disease within the county and again threaten his rare-breed business and diversification into top-quality ready prepared meals. Fortunately his fears proved groundless and his meats are still available at Borough Market, London SE1, Friday and Saturdays, Food Lovers' Fairs this autumn (www.foodloversfair.com) and directly via www.northfieldfarm.com.

    One of the most distinctive ranges of produce on offer came from Yattendon Estates whose 3800 acres produce the flour that makes a range of ready-to-bake products such as Berkshire butteries, olive rolls, Kentish huffkins and onion starvealls. This range combines high-quality produce, design and packaging and is increasingly widely available in good food shops across the UK.

    Less surprising was the continually high standard of smoked salmon, particularly from less polluted waters around Ireland (Ummera and Woodcock smokeries near Cork, www.ummera.com and sallybarnes@ireland.com respectively) and the range of smoked produce from a company new to me, Glangwili Home Farm, near Carmarthen in Wales (www.welshsmokedfoods.co.uk) who smoke salmon, chicken and trout.

    Down in Dartmouth, Devon, the kitchen at The Carved Angel has been making what many consider to be the very finest Christmas puddings since May with total production expected to reach 5000. Those who do not want to be disappointed should order via www.thecarvedangel.com quickly.