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Experience the Magic of Chef Jesse Dunford Wood’s Table at Parlour in London

Experience the Magic of Chef Jesse Dunford Wood’s Table at Parlour in London

Parlour is already a hot spot for many Londoners in the Kensal Rise area, a gastropub whose humor is reflected both on the menu and in the décor. If you’d prefer dinner with a heftier dash of flair and “wow,” do look into Parlour’s Chef’s Table – an exclusive prix fixe menu experience best for couples and groups who enjoy their dining experiences to be full of surprises.

The Chef’s Table at Parlour is the brainchild of Jesse Dunford Wood, an acclaimed, well-traveled chef with previous stints that include Mall Tavern, Le Gavroche, and Balthazar. Wood devotes himself exclusively to his Chef’s Table patrons each night booked, bringing his charisma and delightfully zany cooking style directly to his guests.

The magic takes place in Parlour’s semi-private booth (seats up to seven) adjacent to the kitchen, fitted with an open porthole that allows regular passers-by to peek and gawk with envy. Guests are not told what’s on the menu beforehand; guests are not aware how many courses will be served – the only givens are to come with empty stomachs, and that the price is £50 ($75) per person, excluding drinks and gratuity. Wood tells guests upon arrival that they’ll never know how much is coming, and to prepare themselves for “a tsunami of food.” This tsunami, one will discover, usually consists of six generous courses and one of the most extravagant desserts one could possibly fathom.

The Chef’s Table menu changes at his whim, but guests can expect novel plates such as McTucky’s popcorn chicken nuggets (with real popcorn); chestnut hummus with rosemary flatbread; smoked salmon and salmon skin served on a large plank; and the raw vegetable ravioli: a pasta-less plate of goat’s cheese with beetroot, cranberries, capers, kohlrabi and red cabbage.

Though guests are entertained by Wood’s sharp wit and edgy charm throughout the evening, the real theatre begins once dessert is introduced. The chef briskly clears the table and hands his unknowing diners sets of wireless headphones, playing jingle-ready Willy Wonka and Mary Poppins tunes followed by a round of smoke enveloping the booth. He then lays out a table-length spread of tin foil and proceeds to lash its surface with caramel, raspberry, and chocolate sauces before he places his desserts. At the end of his dramatic, 10-minute presentation, guests are left with a confectionary extravaganza: rolled cheesecake; chestnut macarons; s’mores made on-site (with a blowtorch); four arctic roll variations; Eaton mess; rhubarb soufflé; “kosher” black pudding with nuts, rhubarb jello, spiced egg nog, and caramel custard with biscotti; green apple sliced in loops; shortbread with caramelized bananas; and chocolate truffles (this being a partial list).

If you’re one that wouldn’t mind a bit of theatre and unpredictability with your dinner, book Parlour’s exclusive Chef’s Table sitting post-haste…and be sure to come with an open mind and a ravenous appetite.

Best of 2016

And that’s it. 2016. Done. To you, dear reader, who continue to read blogs in 2016, thank you very much. Have a jolly Christmas and New Years, eat and drink till you drop and see you in 2017.

16. Christian Parra Boudin Noir with spring vegetables at Six Portland Road (Review, May 2016)

Small and beautiful situated in leafy Holland Park – a change from exciting East London prospects – and only newly trading since Spring. The team are mostly an exodus of Terroir alumni, led out West by owner Oli Barker (after he split from the Terroirs group). In the kichen, Pascal Weidemann lays on a simple yet decidedly considered menu using good ingredients – both raw and preserved – and cooked with heart and soul. Exactly the sort of thing that is conjured, when you think of hidden gems.

15. Smoked mackerel veloute, oysters, smoked eel toast at Elystan Street (Review, Sept 2016)

I remain a big fan of Phil Howard, initially shocked that he decided to sell The Square, but now glad that Elystan Street has got off to a flying start. The price tag attached to the dinner menu looks a little scary, but that is why you should drop in for lunch. I for one am keen on his Sunday roasts, from what I’ve seen so far, it’s fantastic.

Two visits in the first couple of weeks trading showed that Phil has lost none of his ability. He may be actively paring down his cuisine, but it is inevitable that the old Square magic will leak through. Like this smoked mackerel dish for example, a simplification of his 2012 GBM winner. ?% deliciousness.

14. Bavette tartare with mussels puree at Brunswick House Cafe (Review, Sept 2016)

I am pleasantly surprised by the quality from this restaurant attached to a salvage yard. Led by chefs Jackson Boxer and Andrew Clarke, they have crafted a constantly changing menu, sensitive to seasons and unshackled from tradition. Priced incredibly well, all the while delivering tasty food inside an interesting decor of mostly reconditioned trinkets. I have visited 5 times in the last quarter, each meal something different and each bite a delight, like the above pairing of texturally exciting chopped bavette with a puree from blitzed mussels.

The keen eye amongst you will recognise the rather swish table and chairs that were part of the maligned Aizpitarte project, Le Chabannais. Now in a better foster home I think.

13. Brown Butter & Honey Tart at Marksman Pub (Review August 2016)

This is the Bib’s pick for pub of the year and I think is a fully deserving accolade, if not also a full star to be restored to the co chef-owners, Tom Harris and Jon Rotherham, both ex-St John Hotel.

Of puddings this year, the brown butter and honey tart is hands down my favourite. From the impossibly thin architecture of the pastry base to the gravity defying wobble of the custard – exacting and sensational patisserie. It tastes great too.

They are a little understaffed for the moment, and turn over an incredible number of tables on Sundays, so just be wary that you may end up with an inconsistent meal. When they have the time to be on their game however, all of it is straight fire.

12. Bincho charcoal grilled Iberico pork loin at Neige d’Ete (Review June 2016)

I love Paris for gastronomy and bistronomy and in 2016, I think they (still) do it better than we do in London, on both sides of the bank. Of the ones that stood out for me was without question Hideki Nishi’s Summer Snow. The ex-Taillevent Chef works with the best of French produce, applying precision classic technique with just the right dose of Japanese heritage. Like this beautiful pork loin, grilled on the bone over Japanese bincho coals. SO delicious. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nishi san gets promoted by the Bib sometime in the near future. For me, it is a restaurant I must include on every trip to Paris.

11. Roast veal, salsa verde, fondant potatoes, girolles at Medlar (Review August 2016)

One of my all time favourites in The Smoke. David O’Connor and Joe Mercer-Nairn’s restaurant turned 5 this year, and is as strong as ever. The bib may have forsaken them, baffling because dishes like above stand head and shoulders above some starred restaurants in town. Although the lack of a star is probably a blessing in disguise. Five years on, it is still the best money (£35 for 3) you can spend anywhere for a decent lunch in London. If you have never been, now is the time to make it happen.

10. Crab, white asparagus, green tomato at Typing Room (Review May 2016)

I’ve been a Lee Westcott fan since his head chef days for Tom Aikens (at Elystan Street). And like Tom, this guy is quite the gifted chef, able to finesse seemingly humble ingredients into higher planes, through modernist methods as well as the naturalism of New Nordic to deliver a solid idea of what Modern British cuisine ought to look like. This Spring expression of Devon crab for instance simply dances on the palate. Where is the bib on him, I wonder.

9. Lobster two times at Les 110 de Taillevent London (Review Oct 2016)

And indeed it was, delivered across two plates. First, as roasted tail to a perfect mi-cuit and secondly with its knuckles folded into a ravioli. Both with full-flavoured bisques, each distinctly spiced from the other. I visited twice, the first was a Bretagne blue, the second a Cornish blue. Both times were fantastic. A little more than the lo-key brasserie image I think. The Chef is one Rapheal Grima, from the two meals I ate here, this guy looks serious about making Les110 a splash in London. At these prices and for this sort of execution, I’ll gladly eat live native lobsters in its own stock all day long. Two more please.

8. Jesse Dunford Wood’s Chefs Table at Parlour (Review April 2016)

Even more fun than it looks. Tucked away in a North West London pub is the talented Jesse Dunford Wood and whilst his standard menu at the pub is more than decent, it is his Chef’s table that’s special. For £70pp, Jesse will feed you, and feed you, tell you some stories, display his sabrage skills and finish the show with a nod/wink to that other guy who also worked for Charlie Trotter, or a dessert bar in Hong Kong depending on where you read it first.

7. Smoked Yorkshire Ham at 40 Maltby Street (Review July 2016)

This probably qualifies as one of the most delicious things London has to offer. Available on Saturdays mornings only. The rest of the menu is just as gorgeous and expectedly so since it is Stevie Williams (Ex-Harwood Arms Head Chef) who does the heavy lifting here.

6. Squid ink, smoked cod’s roe, egg yolk flatbread at BAM (Review April 2016)

San Francisco’s finest via St John Bread and Wine and mad love for Kiss. Nothing is what it seems, which is what makes Lee Tiernan’s Mission North London such a genius turn. Leave the earplugs at home and order everything on the menu.

5. Devon crab, apple, hazelnut at Hedone (Review July 2016)

I can’t exactly say I enjoy every thing Mikael Jonsson puts on a plate, but I do return every year and respect the risks he continues to take in polishing his cuisine year on year. I have to say I was bowled over by this crab dish, one reason why I thought the meal at Hedone this year was several notches above last year’s. Such purity of flavour, such respect for the ingredients – two types of crab Devon cock and (invisible) tiny velvet swimmer crab – something like this has to be cooked a la minute with absolutely the freshest and best you can get your hands on. The result is perfection. Perhaps the clearest representation of Mikael’s style of cuisine I’ve yet tasted. Like Medlar, Hedone also celebrates 5 years in the business, whilst gaining an international profile along the way. Quite some work Mikael and Aurelie have achieved in this time.

4. Roast Duck 3 ways at The Clove Club (Review May 2016)

Challans duck, aged in-house for 21 days, roasted whole and showed at the table. While it disappears into the kitchen to be carved…

…We are firstly presented with duck consomme, with a drop of 100 year old Madeira

Followed by the main event: Breast – perfect in pink – with fermented cabbage, beetroot and jus

Finally, the third act is hay smoked duck sausage, leg…

Perfect duck. Definitely one of the best in memory. Meals like this explain why Isaac Mchale is doing as well as he is in 2016.

3. Wild Northern Irish Eel Kabayaki (Kansai style) at Umu (Review May 2016)

Kayabaki eel in Japan can be broadly classified into two styles that relate to preparation and cooking method. Kanto/East/Tokyo style slits open the wriggler from the back, and the cooking process includes a steaming step, in addition to skewering, grilling and finishing with sweet tare sauce over bincho charcoal.

Where as the Kansai/West/Osaka style slits from belly (like ‘harakiri’ and because Samurais are mostly in Kanto) and the cooking skips the steaming, and therefore leads to crispier skin, like crackling, generally a better ‘sealing effect’.

The latter is sometimes referred to as being the more masculine style, the meat is firmer and more robust, more flavour, as it has not been softened by a steaming step.

I’m hardly the unagi expert, but I’m willing to take a punt and suggest that Umu’s unagi is prepped Kanto style, but grilled Kansai style. This I speculate is due in part to Chef Yoshinori Ishii’s training, beginning in Osaka and then moving on to the revered Kitcho in Kyoto.

For me, this is an incredible take on British freshwaters and one in which Ishii san has applied his considerable talents to adapt his cuisine to local produce, not to mention his efforts in bringing ikejime to the shores of Cornwall.

It costs an arm and leg (as it does in Japan), but it is absolutely worth sampling this, especially for ALC (£32 for eel + £8 for a bowl of rice, which you need). Meaty, fleshy, full of natural oiliness, comprehensively unctuous. Undoubtedly the best unagi I have had outside of Japan and unbelievably, this is unique to Britain because of the native eel. Reasons why he holds a brace of stars.

2. Game season at Bonhams Restaurant (Review Oct 2016)

Celebrating Game season at Bonhams this year was magnificent, taming the rich flavours of wild birds with a confit and roast technique that produced a fine expression of British Terroir. In September, a full flavoured mid-season Grouse in balance with damsons and a luxurious foie on toast. October was (my first experience) of Snipe, brain and all, executed with perfection, and finally in December, Woodcock breast,leg, head and heart with White Alba truffles, salt baked Jerusalem artichokes and pickled elderberries was truly the pièce de résistance.

My favourite new restaurant in 2015 is now my firm favourite in London. I think I’m on my 14th visit and each meal better than the last. Intensely seasonal produce is the point, with the Chef intervening to deliver maximum natural flavour. It takes quite some skill to do simplicity and in Chef Tom Kemble and sous Theo Clench, we have a cuisine that excels in the classy, subtle and delicate.

And they continue to develop and progress, most recently, an unveiling of Abalone two ways, that turned out to be an unadulterated pleasure. All those precious juices. I hope this catches on in London.

Nobody can predict what the Red Guide does anymore, though FWIW, I think these guys are on a trajectory towards Two Michelin Stars. I’ve been watching very closely. The future of British Gastronomy, here and now.

1. Veal cheeks at The Crown Burchettes Green (Review October 2016)

Simon Bonwick won a fresh star this year and I think he totally deserves it. Amazingly he works alone in his kitchen and yet he turns out plate after plate of proper delight with classical precision. A mere £25 for a menu choisi consisting five courses.

His son Dean runs front of house like a champ, and if you take a look at Father and Son’s combined resume, you will understand why their family restaurant is as solid as it is. A true practitioner of gastronomy and for these exact reasons, I think it deserves to sit at the top of my modest heap in 2016.

Best New London Opening

My pick for 2016 is Anglo restaurant. Opened by Chef-owner Mark Jarvis with head chef Jack Cashmore and FOH led by Nick Gilkinson. Two meals six months apart showed that the team have rapidly developed their cuisine, and yet I think there is more to come.

In a year which is again heavy on casual, concept-driven openings, it is refreshing to come across the ambition behind Anglo. It reminds me very much of Clove Club’s beginning days (Upstairs at Ten Bells to be exact), Chris John’s Antidote and also Merlin Labron-Johnson’s (also ex-In de Wulf) Portland.

A cuisine that is driven by British products, offered in a stripped down equilibrium of modern and classic, with interesting pairings here and there, and accurate balancing of flavours. The price point is pretty delicious too. It’s a good thing going and I do hope they continue to strive for improvement.

Though technically 2015 openings, I also enjoyed Jun Tanaka’s The Ninth, Noble Rot Magazine/Stephen Harris’s wine bar (the emphasis is on the wine, guys…) Noble Rot with Paul Weaver at the helm and Nobuhisa Takahashi‘s eponymous izakaya in South Wimbledon. All excellent additions to London’s scene.

I must also mention Josh Katz’s Shawarma Bar and its excellent short rib rice bowls (and roasted cauliflower) and to Hoppers, specifically the bone marrow varuval + paratha is a kind of perfection – More than enough words for a restaurant already over-showered with praise.

Other delicious things

To Tokyo, steak sandwiches at Hirayama and Shima were revelations, so too the ultra-tender tonkatsu at Narikura and Tonta respectively.

In Paris, I went to L’Astrance for the first time and found Pascal Barbot’s foie gras tarte to be a modern masterclass, but equally I was very impressed with L’Inconnu – Italian in Paris, by a Japanese chef, ex-Passage 53.

Back in London, I had a hugely enjoyable revisit to an old favourite Gauthier Soho and a double revisit to Ledbury this year revealed Brett Graham’s consistent form. Even though the menu is quite static, it is one that is executed with extreme precision. Is this still London’s best restaurant? Yes, I think so.

And we wave goodbye to Koffman’s, as the great chef takes his 2nd retirement. It was a fabulous run, I am glad I got to eat the trotters and souffle, one last time this year.

Finally to Abysse in Tokyo where young Kotaro Meguro’s (ex-Quintessence) fish-only restaurant delivered the complete wow factor. Mastery of modern and classic technique, perfectly executed with creative pairings that – for me – show a brave Chef carving out his corner of Tokyo. Loads of potential in the tank. One to watch for sure.

I’m keen to see where Leandro Carreira ends up as his pop-up was utterly fantastic. Here’s to Leo’s new digs in the new year.

What’s the future of fun in booked-up Britain?

As the pandemic takes its toll on our favourite bars and restaurants, how will spontaneous fun be possible in a post-lockdown world?

It’s the good times we shared, that’s what I’ll remember. Like that Tuesday night in November 2016 when I found myself stood next to Gary Lineker, David Dimbleby, and a man with candy floss hair, neon orange skin and tiny doll hands sticking out of his suit.

The hangover was a meanie, but if ever an event merited one it was the US presidential election party – just one of many great times I’ve had at Dinerama, a street food market in East London. When I heard Covid issues may close it this September, it was a visceral kick in the gut. Much as I love food, wine, cocktails, what I really liked about the place was spontaneity and anything-could-happen fun.

That same day, I also learned that my favourite local restaurant in west London is not going to reopen – the place, where I have celebrated successes and escaped after bad days, simply could not remain viable while following the 46 pages of instructions in the catchily named Government publication: ‘Keeping workers and customers safe during COVID-19 in restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services.’

I’m not alone. All over Britain, people are facing the loss of those bricks and mortar places where we have marked life’s highs and lows.

Historian Hallie Rubenfold has waxed lyrical about the closure of A-list celebrity chef Mark Hix’s restaurant, Tramshed: “I’m completely heartbroken. Like any good restaurant, it was an escape from reality… it gave life a buzz. I’m mourning.”

But even those left open are being forced to suck all the joy from the experience. Being subjected to a long list of dos and don’ts on arrival by a functionary with a see-through bucket on their head is hardly a warm welcome, even if it is for our own benefit.

We must now book slots in those places we once used to stroll into: swimming pools, bars – even your local pub garden has a waiting list as long as a Michelin starred restaurant. Who plans fun weeks and months in advance? Not me. That’s precisely what used to drive me mad about Michelin starred restaurants. but for the local boozer?

Many of those little dining places we once treasured have turned their business over to shops in an attempt to survive. Jesse Dunford Wood has turned the dining room of his gastropub, Parlour, in north London, over to a shop. His famous chef’s table, once booked months in advance, is now a bakery. Some tables for food remain. “We are trying to give people a fun experience but there are challenges. Despite all this, I think going out is still an important part of life. People like being served. And the pleasure of music will never be affected by distancing guidelines,” he says.

Or will it? “According to the guidance,” Rob Star, owner of the Electric Star group of pubs, tells me, “Music must be played at a modest level that does not encourage people to raise their voices and spit on each other.”

“Fun has been in jeopardy for a long time in this country,” he says. “Rates, rent, licensing, the economy and the internet all play their part. Now with Covid you see it accelerated.”

From today, those same local authorities have just been handed special powers by central government to close premises and stop events deemed a risk to public health.

Dinerama, my own little slice of fun, could have survived but for the landlord’s insistence on full rent, despite the world being turned upside down and it being closed for four months. Owner, Jonathan Downey, had spent £1.5 million on making the space an exciting one. “There’s what’s being called a rent apocalypse, a bloodbath, coming,” he says. Many landlords have refused to do deals with their tenants, insisting on payment in full for those months they could not operate. “We will see a mass exodus, ten thousand pubs alone could go,” he predicts.

Not just pubs. This week, two of Manchester’s leading music venues, the Deaf Institute and Gorilla, closed their doors. Horace Trubridge, the general secretary of the Musicians’ Union, told the culture select committee that half of all music venues will close in the UK.

So where will we have our fun? How can we escape the stresses of home or work, or, more crucially, working from home?

The super rich can still jump on yachts, jets or get a private chef to cook for little soirées. One high-flying event planner confided that he thought his business was over and done, until a new pandemic business opportunity emerged: building nightclubs in rich people’s homes.

Downey wonders what of the rest: “Are we meant to put up and shut up and be grateful for the 20p VAT discount at McDonalds?”

“There’s a sameness to life now, says Lucie Green, a British trend forecaster or‘futurologist’. She explains that while the Baby Boomer generation “at least have gardens, space, income,” more young people are turning to the space they know so well: the virtual one. “I think we will see more and more people escape into tech, teens especially. Netflix recently said that [computer game] Fortnite is more of a threat than all the competition combined,” she adds.

But she thinks the real loss will be felt “by those generations in the middle, particularly in cities”. She also predicts a rise in people wanting energetic high-octane fun: “I keep seeing people like me, trend forecasters, saying we are getting more mindful, meditating, doing yoga. I’m not so sure.

The trend for smashing things up as a form of stress release was once the preserve of spoilt rock stars. "In Korea and South East Asia, people are filming themselves smashing things up and it is seen as a form of healthy release. It’s entered the wellness self care space. The more restrictive the lockdowns, the more fun will be the antidote. After the Spanish flu pandemic you saw this wave of super hedonism in the Jazz Age.”

But what happens when fun is so unspontaneous, and so hard to come by? Does it shrivel and disappear? Or does it go underground?

For now, it is continuing to happen. Near me in west London, police helicopters recently buzzed over our houses night after night as a series of street parties popped up. In Manchester, the same. Human nature abhors a vacuum. “The thing is, the younger generations still want their late night adventures,” says Star. “If nightlife can’t survive, then the illegal scene will only grow”.

Experience the Magic of Chef Jesse Dunford Wood’s Table at Parlour in London - Recipes

A fantastic evenings entertainment in addition to a wonderful dining experience. Too many dishes to remember all of them. Walnut humus was stunning, pheasant eggs, popcorn chicken that really did have popcorn with it. Steak tartare with pickled carrots. During the preamble Jesse (Chef) warned us to expect a Tsunami of food, he wasn't wrong! The whole meal was severed very theatrically, with good use of props, in particular a large machete and blue tooth headsets. Completely brilliant evening. Omitted mentioning desert deliberately, if you want to know, you have to go.

Jesse, if you are reading this, coincidentally we know your publisher! Looking forward to the book.

109 - 113 of 264 reviews

My boyfriend and I decided on a whim to visit Parlour and we're both thoroughly glad that we did. The soda bread you're given at the beginning is free, although it may be the best free bread we've been given at a restaurant. Whilst it was a very busy Sunday morning, with lots of small children, the servers paid attention to all tables, and children were provided with crayons etc to keep them occupied (and quiet). Strongly recommend the chestnut hummus dish.

Visited this gastropub on recommendation last Saturday evening and had the Set seasonal dinner of two courses at £21.
Had the Goats cheese cigar which was fine followed by the Venison which was also acceptable without being a great dish.
Service was speedy but the staff seemed rather distant and there is a service charge added of 12.5%. Had to ask for the wine as the waiter had forgotten to serve it.
The decor was very scruffy and music too loud so wasn't the sort of place for having a relaxed meal. I won't be rushing back even though it is a local restaurant.

Dinner at Parlour 5 Regents Street, London NW10 5LG.

Five tips for this well below average establishment.

Well lets get stuck into this very odd place indeed, on arrival met by the barman who was making a cocktail, asked if we could see a wine list and was sort of told off bit like at school, he then gave me a drinks list, i asked for a bottle of house white, after some time nothing had arrived asked again … this time he was a bit more stern and said someone else would deal with it. well it arrived and actually not to bad. then sitting at the table the bread arrived, again the bread was not to bad very heavy Soda Bread, now with a heavy lump of bread like this you want some proper butter with a little salt in it, will they had Mr Whippy do some magic, what i got was a small dollop of tastes foam. HORRID , Tip 1 SERVE BUTTER and stop trying to be smart.

Next the menu arrives, OMG what a collection of utter nonsense and very poor descriptions. I will not bother to go through all but

Chicken Kyiv this was a ball of very dry tasteless chicken over cooked and bar the garlic no other taste at all HORRID Tip 2 don't mess with things unless you can make them better, this was terrible, start again and if you have no idea which you don't purchase a cook book or go on line.

Cow Pie with or without . whats that all about …. well its with or with out potatoes or cabbage … err is this a joke ? the pie was just ok. why be so clever with the menu, doing so means you have to ask the grumpy Mr Stern at the bar what on earth is “with or without” Tip 3 DO A MENU PEOPLE UNDERSTAND.

Steak Tartare pickled carrots and mustard, I love a Steak Tartare, this was a total car crash and beyond HORRID Tip 4 (as you don't have a cook book yet) to make a Steak Tartare you need to start with the very best Fillet Steak with little fat then banana shallots chopped very fine, egg yoke raw, a little capers, mustard, Worcester sauce, Tobacco etc. Now as this is raw meat and egg dish the quality of the beef and the way its prepared is important, so keeping it cold is a good thing, also its a wonderful dish as its full of textures and flavours that work in a very simple way.

If you are nuts enough to put a thick layer of pickled carrots over a coarsely minced fatty bit of meat with very little or non of the above ingredients your are asking for trouble, but PLEASE don't serve it on a hot plate.. bunch of tossers, it was sent back.

Going off-menu in a restaurant can cause problems for both kitchen and proprietor

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Halfway through their mains, the father on Table 9 calls me over.

"Could I get a little bowl of that sauce for my daughter's pasta," he says, pointing to the wild boar ragu covering his own gnocchi. "She's changed her mind," he adds, sheepishly.

Insouciantly, the little girl hands over the plate of plain tagliatelle she had been so very firm about ordering, and I take it into the kitchen so that the chef can dress it properly on the stove.

None of this is a problem. At eight years old, life is all about getting things wrong. How else are you supposed to work out what you do and don't,like? Besides, without a dedicated children's menu – a deliberate choice we made when we opened our restaurant, Ida in London – some of the dishes on our menu may look a little off-putting to a child's palate.

Next time she goes out to eat, that little girl will remember that tagliatelle with ragu is infinitely tastier than plain pasta, and that is good enough for us. But what I do have an issue with is being instructed to alter a dish according to an adult customer's whims. "Generally, I go to restaurants so that people who are more experienced than me and have better taste than me can, after much trial and error, offer me a set of dishes they know will work," says Jay Rayner.

"We exercise our will when we choose the restaurant. Surely after that the whole point is to select from what's available, not play fantasy menus?"

Ah, yes, fantasy menus. The ones where a customer walks into a restaurant, takes one look at the menu, and decides that it needs improving. We're not talking allergies or intolerances or religious dietary requirements here. No, my beef (excuse the pun) is with diners who treat menus like an exercise in virtual pick and mix. "Could you replace the goats' cheese with an avocado? Add chicken to the Arrabbiata? Please will you make me a fruit salad for dessert?"

Now, I'm no psychologist, so it's not for me to hazard a guess as to why people do this. (Though my hunch is that they are the same people who fire off emails to their hosts weeks before a dinner party as though an invitation were merely the opening salvo in a protracted series of negotiations.)

Felicity Cloake, a food critic and writer, thinks she knows the answer: "We delight in our self-imposed restrictions, substituting rice for potatoes, asking if the curry can be cooked without oil, requesting the anchovies be left off that salad. And why? To make ourselves feel that little bit more important."

People don't only go out to eat to enjoy great food. In a restaurant, customers want to be waited upon, and indulged, in a way that perhaps 100 years ago was the norm when middle and upper-class people had servants in the home, and nobody had to worry about doing the washing up. After all, it is not a coincidence that the term "hospitality" came to describe the industry that has grown around eating out.

Personally, I don't have a problem with making people feel special. The biggest compliment a customer can pay me is when they tell me they feel as though they are having supper in someone's house when they come to our restaurant. In fact, it's no coincidence that many of our dishes are faithful replicas of the food that my husband's Italian mother and aunts used to prepare for him when he was a little boy.


But because our restaurant is in west London, rather than rural Italy, we've had to accommodate the tastes of a huge number of 21st-century metropolitan diners. When we realised that many of our Jewish and Muslim customers were unable to enjoy Avi's mother's traditional Marchigiano ragu with beef, pork and gizzards, we decided to always offer a lamb or veal ragu as an alternative. Similarly, we always have a complement of vegan and vegetarian dishes, which are no way the poor relation of those containing meat. As far as we are concerned, we have tried to cover all bases without ever compromising the integrity of a dish, which is why we tend to look askance at substitutions.

I don't even have a problem if a customer asks for parmesan with Spaghetti alle Vongole. As far as we are concerned, the dish came out of the kitchen as Mamma (and the chef) intended – after that, it's up to the individual what they do with it. Plus, I'm the first to admit that Italian food can be a little formulaic and rigid. (God help you if in Italy you order a cappuccino after 12pm, or oranges in the evening – "too heavy on the digestion" – or butter with your bread, or anything but water or wine with your meal.) Though we draw the line at bulking up an exquisitely simple store cupboard classic like Spaghetti all'Arrabbiata with chicken – weirdly, it's always chicken – in an attempt to transform it into a full-blown meal.

Fatizah Shawal, the owner of Satay House, a Malaysian restaurant in west London, has an issue with customers trying to recreate something they might have tried during their travels. "They'll say to me: 'Surely it's no problem for the chef to rustle up a dish if the kitchen already has all the ingredients?' But we're in the business of training our chefs to make every dish exactly the same as the last, so I don't want to freak out the kitchen by letting guests create their own menus." And while she admits that "hawker food", ie stir-fries prepared on a wok, is designed to be modular, curries "have their own balance of flavours, which you shouldn't mess with".

Jesse Dunford Wood, owner of the Parlour restaurant in north-west London, is more sanguine about customers going off-piste. While he acknowledges that "this American style of eating is getting out of control, where anyone can have anything done in any style", he accepts that it is the reality of being a 21st-century restaurateur. "Chefs can be annoyed about substitutions but having worked in the front of house in New York for a year, I can often see where customers are coming from."

And not being bound by the culinary constraints of one particular nationality's cuisine (often with rigid do's and don'ts going back several hundred years), he doesn't mind if a diner attempts a menu hack. "We have a big space at Parlour that we want people to use all day. Therefore, we have to be accommodating. I've always got to remind myself that we're in the business of hospitality. And hospitality is about looking after people. And that not everyone shares my philosophy about food. Unless you're cooking at the very highest level, you have to be prepared to compromise."

While some upscale restaurants, such as Michelin-starred Hibiscus in Mayfair, are prepared to discuss substitutions, at least at the booking stage, restaurant critic John Walsh has witnessed first-hand what happens when a customer asks the chef for a tweak too far.

"I watched one customer order a main course of lobster tagliatelle with a bisque sauce in the River Café, and then ask the owner if she could serve it without the lobster. She was very tactful and said 'no'. First because it would be pointless to have the dish without the main ingredient – like Hamlet without the prince – and second because she couldn't possibly justify charging £35 for basically pasta and sauce."

Whether we like it or not, restaurants don't exist in some rarefied parallel universe. We live in a society of instant gratification, where consumers know their rights, and Burger King's slogan "Have it Your Way" has become a creed. Though, interestingly, the USA, where this style of build-your-own menu originated, is now experiencing a restaurateurs' backlash. Fed up with customers reinventing the wheel, "Substitutions Politely Declined" is often to be found at the bottom of menus – almost as though there is a kind of inverse premium on being told "no". I've yet to see those words printed on a British menu – though, who knows, it may just be a matter of time

Until then, for most of us restaurateurs, it's simply a question of going with the flow. No two days are the same, no two customers are the same, no two services are the same. What could be done one day, might not be possible the next. Sometimes, the customer isn't king. Unless of course, they're eight years old.


To fully understand the problems we are solving, our design team needed a real understanding of the lives of the people that use REKKI. We went into kitchens, coffee shops, bars, and warehouses to experience first hand how our users spend the majority of their day and what surrounds them.

Most of the spaces were industrial with plenty of stainless steel, concrete, wood and other raw materials. On top of that, they were packed. Not just with people, but with objects. From cooking utensils and supply boxes to machines of all kinds. It was no wonder the only elements of graphic design were the signs. With their strong vibrant colours and bold typography, these are spread across kitchens, making sure the rotating staff always know how to act.

The vast majority of brands are created with the purpose of selling a product. Products are designed to stand out against the competition. Whether on your shelf, your phone or a billboard, they constantly yell at us. The moment we buy them, they don’t just disappear into the background, they keep yelling.

We were going to create a brand to serve people, not advertise to them. A brand that stands the test of time and the battering of a commercial environment. We needed to exercise a profound economy of means, rejecting formalisms and making only the truly essential stand out.

We looked at transportation systems that exist to serve people. We were inspired by how their design guided people from A to B. People of any origin. People speaking different languages. Even distracted, we all find our way home.

A big part of multitasking is the context switch. For our users this switch is not only mental but also physical — chefs and kitchen staff often hold multiple objects at once. An empty hand will probably be wet and scarred. We looked for suitable interfaces to help in this environment.

Simple phones provide a glimpse into how to effectively distill a complex set of features into one main action. They require very little training: dial, connect and receive.

With these concepts in mind, we were now ready to start the design process. Notice how these ideas flow through the work that followed on.

Experience the Magic of Chef Jesse Dunford Wood’s Table at Parlour in London - Recipes

Dinner at Parlour 5 Regents Street, London NW10 5LG.

Five tips for this well below average establishment.

Well lets get stuck into this very odd place indeed, on arrival met by the barman who was making a cocktail, asked if we could see a wine list and was sort of told off bit like at school, he then gave me a drinks list, i asked for a bottle of house white, after some time nothing had arrived asked again … this time he was a bit more stern and said someone else would deal with it. well it arrived and actually not to bad. then sitting at the table the bread arrived, again the bread was not to bad very heavy Soda Bread, now with a heavy lump of bread like this you want some proper butter with a little salt in it, will they had Mr Whippy do some magic, what i got was a small dollop of tastes foam. HORRID , Tip 1 SERVE BUTTER and stop trying to be smart.

Next the menu arrives, OMG what a collection of utter nonsense and very poor descriptions. I will not bother to go through all but

Chicken Kyiv this was a ball of very dry tasteless chicken over cooked and bar the garlic no other taste at all HORRID Tip 2 don't mess with things unless you can make them better, this was terrible, start again and if you have no idea which you don't purchase a cook book or go on line.

Cow Pie with or without . whats that all about …. well its with or with out potatoes or cabbage … err is this a joke ? the pie was just ok. why be so clever with the menu, doing so means you have to ask the grumpy Mr Stern at the bar what on earth is “with or without” Tip 3 DO A MENU PEOPLE UNDERSTAND.

Steak Tartare pickled carrots and mustard, I love a Steak Tartare, this was a total car crash and beyond HORRID Tip 4 (as you don't have a cook book yet) to make a Steak Tartare you need to start with the very best Fillet Steak with little fat then banana shallots chopped very fine, egg yoke raw, a little capers, mustard, Worcester sauce, Tobacco etc. Now as this is raw meat and egg dish the quality of the beef and the way its prepared is important, so keeping it cold is a good thing, also its a wonderful dish as its full of textures and flavours that work in a very simple way.

If you are nuts enough to put a thick layer of pickled carrots over a coarsely minced fatty bit of meat with very little or non of the above ingredients your are asking for trouble, but PLEASE don't serve it on a hot plate.. bunch of tossers, it was sent back.

5 Ways to Eat Brunch in London This Weekend By Angelica Malin

Life’s too short for bad brunch. It’s time to get your global flex on, here’s 5 new, internationally-inspired ways to eat brunch in London this weekend:

What: Located in Borough , Arabica offers Levantine inspired food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, taking inspiration from the sun drenched countries of the Eastern Mediterranean including Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Israel. The menus offers a range mezze dishes alongside rare-breed meat and fish cooked over single variety English charcoal as well as stone baked pastries, interweaving authentic classics with modern dishes.

Eat: Armenian style lahmacun, flat bread with spiced lamb, tomato, peppers and pine kernels and Makale samak, spicy sesame beer battered cod with tahini tartare. Drink Middle Eastern inspired cocktails such as the Levantine martini – cold compound gin, dry vermouth, Kamm & Sons, preserved lemon brine – and Sassine Square – high-rye bourbon, date syrup, bitters.

Why: Self taught chef James Walters founded Arabica over 14 years ago, starting out with a market stall serving simple mezze in Borough Market . Following popular demand, in June 2014, James traded in his stall to launch Arabica Bar and Restaurant. Go see the magic for yourself.

Where: 3 Rochester House, Borough Market, London SE1 9AF

2. French Brunch: The Balcon

What: There’s a new brunch menu at The Balcon at the Sofitel St James the menu will incorporate the finest French and British flavours as well as some international favourites.

Eat: Begin with a melt-in-the-mouth, homemade smoked bacon, egg and cheesy brioche, or the classic brunch dishes with a surprising French twist, including Eggs Benedict with Bayonne ham, crunchy asparagus and runny duck eggs. For the ultimate boy’s brunch, try the Breakfast Burger, complete with sausage and black pudding patty, bacon jam and fried egg in a brioche bun and of course the ultimate Croque Monsieur with raclette cheese and maple glazed bacon. Those watching their waistlines have no need to fear, as a tasty selection of healthy brunch options.

Why: For patisserie… You have to try the raspberry macaroon Eton mess. There’s also a selection of irresistible desserts, brunch cocktails, Kir selection, inspired milkshakes and a DIY Bloody Mary menu.

Where: Pall Mall Barbers Trafalgar Square, 8 Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5NG

The new brunch menu will be available to hotel guests and outside visitors, at The Balcon, every Sunday from 12pm – 4pm , with prices from £20 per person for two courses.

3. Mexican Brunch: Habanera

What: Habanera is a neighbourhood restaurant serving Mexican Tacos & Cocktails with a seasonally changing menu of artisan tacos and burritos. Everything at Habanera is ‘house made’ daily, using the freshest ingredients from Covent Garden Market and a small number boutique local suppliers.

Eat: Mexican brunch, such as Huevos Ranceros, eggs, spiced tomato salsa and avocado, Chorizo feta scramble, scambled eggs, chorizo, feta on sourdough, and the Breakfast Burrito, scrambled egg, bacon, chorizo, cheese and salsa. A Bloody Maria, made with tequila and a spicy kick, is the perfect accompaniment. At weekends, enjoy a boozy brunch with fantastic brunch cocktails like a Cucumber Collins, Roast Red Pepper Martini or bottomless Mimosas.

Why: The restaurant also has a dedicated salsa bar, serving at least six salsas at any one time, including classics such as guacamole and salsa verde as well as more unusual creations such as Pina (pineapple, mango, mint, lime and chilli) all served with freshly cooked and gluten-free corn chips. For chilli heads after some serious spice, Habanera also has a ‘hot sauce’ menu. From mild to dangerously spicy, it guides guests through the diversity and varying heats of chillies used in Mexican cuisine.

Where: 280 Uxbridge Road, Shepherds Bush, London, W127JA

What: London’s favourite hangout, The Diner has launched their new menu and it’s bigger and better than ever. Boasting the finest ingredients from both sides of the Atlantic, the new menu features a carefully created selection of unbeatable favourites.

Eat: New additions to the menu include Eggs Blackstone, a twist on the classic brunch-time favourite Eggs Benedict, The Diner ’s fresh new burger – the Red Hot, a 6oz patty with tomatillo salsa, Monterey Jack cheese and jalapeños on a Rinkoff’s sesame bun and let’s not forget the Red Velvet Pancakes – back by popular demand.

Why: The Diner team have spent 6 months travelling across the USA, visiting the coolest neighbourhoods in Miami, Chicago, Bushwick and Williamsberg to explore, taste and draw inspiration for new dishes.

Where: 2 Jamestown Rd, London, NW1 7BY

What: This trendy all-day restaurant and bar dishes up a menu of contemporary comfort food and craft beers, and is fantastic for weekend brunch. The menu at Parlour is an all-day affair, open from 10 until midnight Tuesday to Sunday.

Eat: Start your day with Parlour’s quirky brunch menu which offers home-style-hash browns with eggs any style, the signature Back door smoked salmon with soda bread and scrambled eggs. However the winning dish is without a doubt The Full Parlour breakfast with free reign on the toast-your-own bread station.

Why: Jesse Dunford Wood is the brilliantly talented head chef, owner of Parlour where his theatrical cooking style is always the star of the show. Don’t leave without trying their quirky dessert that is, literally, spread over the table for the whole party to devour.

Experience the Magic of Chef Jesse Dunford Wood’s Table at Parlour in London - Recipes

Hungry in the capital? Look no further. London may be overflowing with places to eat but these pubs from the Top 50 Gastropubs list go above and beyond the call of duty to offer something special.

The capital’s only Michelin-starred pub, the Harwood Arms is a must-visit for those with a seriously indulgent side.

A ‘proper London boozer’ with an exceptional upstairs restaurant. Simple, delicious food cooked with great ingredients.

Widely regarded as one of the original gastropubs, the Anchor and Hope feels a little like a Spanish eatery – super relaxed, with a strict no reservations policy and a wine list to die for.

Perfect for a cosy winter dinner by the fire or a lavish summer lunch in its large garden, the Red Lion and Sun is well worth a trip up the northern line.

As well as having an impressive, locally-sourced menu often featuring ingredients foraged by the chefs themselves, the Bull and Last has an impeccable collection of gins for the discerning drinker.

Whilst by no means a one-trick pony, a visit to the Jugged Hare during game season is imperative. Animal carcasses are often butchered on site by the pub’s talented chefs and the freshest fish is brought in daily from London’s Billingsgate market.

With several years of experience working in Michelin-starred kitchens, head chef Elliot Lidstone pulls off some seriously clever cooking at this East London eatery.

Run by the same team behind the Anchor and Hope, the Canton Arms is an equally tantalising prospect. Show up early to avoid disappointment as this pub also operates a no reservations policy.

Jesse Dunford Wood’s Kensal Rise gastropub is one of a kind. His remarkable chef’s table, which begins with the chef opening a bottle of fizz with a machete and ends with what can only be described as a barrage of desserts, is better than dinner and a show in our humble opinion. In fact, it basically is dinner and a show.

Genuinely classy yet totally unpretentious, the Truscott Arms has one of the finest wine lists north of the equator. The team have recently refurbished the upper dining room, turning it into a fine dining restaurant offering a range of flawlessly executed tasting menus under head chef Aidan McGee.

The whole nine yards: what can your wholesaler do for you

With price inflation gathering pace and supply disruptions breaking out, caterers need wholesalers who can deliver economically and reliably. John Porter reports on what your wholesaler can do for you

It's fair to say that the economic signals being beamed at the hospitality industry are, at the least, cause for concern. While the Bank of England's most recent quarterly forecast, published in February, predicted 2% growth for the UK economy this year, at the same time the bank warned that consumer spending is likely to slow down as the combination of rising inflation and low wage growth hits disposable income.

Figures more specific to the catering sector have come from the purchasing specialists who work closely with industry wholesalers.

The CGA Prestige Foodservice Price Index reported that foodservice price inflation hit 3.7% in February, while the Lynx Purchasing Market Forecast analysis of a basket of goods routinely bought by operators showed a 9% year-on-year increase between March 2016 and March 2017.

Trade bodies have also weighed in. The Wine and Spirit Trade Association, for example, has warned that the combination of the post-Brexit devaluation of sterling and the Bank of England inflation forecast will add 46p to an average bottle of wine.

Eat, drink and be merry…
The prospect of times becoming tougher seems to have prompted some consumers to prioritise booking a table at the last chance saloon over longer-term spending. The Coffer Peach Business Tracker for February 2017 showed a 1.7% increase in like-for-like sales in managed pubs and restaurants. In contrast, retailers such as Next have bemoaned the fact that consumers are choosing going out to eat over purchases such as clothes.

Whether this is a longer-term trend or simply a blip is the key issue for operators and suppliers to predict as they plan menus. Stuck in the middle are the wholesalers, who have to manage the foodservice supply chain in circumstances that can change quickly.

"The eating out market has remained fairly robust," says Sarah Wilkinson, head of desserts, bakery, deli and meal solutions at Brakes.

"The worst fears around the Brexit vote have not materialised, and the UK economy has remained resilient, with GDP growth anticipated this year." But she warns: "The increasing cost of goods from Europe and beyond is likely to have an impact on food price inflation. While the scale and global sourcing ability of Brakes have, to an extent, mitigated some of this, the challenge will remain."

In the first few months of 2017, a shortfall in fresh produce from Spain and an industrial dispute in the Icelandic fishing fleet demonstrated how quickly problems in the supply chain can escalate in an inflationary market.

One issue for operators when such challenges arise is whether to stick with the wholesaler they know or to shop around for the best deals.

Jo Ennion, client services director at procurement specialist Procure4, advises operators to "keep the dialogue open with more than one wholesaler, so you get a consistent story on price increases. It is important, now more than ever, to keep a flexible supply chain so that it is possible to change product or supplier quickly.

Jo Ennion of Procure4 She adds: "Most importantly, ensure your wholesalers keep you informed of potential cost risks well in advance to allow you enough time to consider the supply options and make any relevant menu changes before the costs hit your P&L."

Wholesalers, perhaps understandably, advise operators to exercise caution before shopping around too enthusiastically. Chris Beckley, managing director of KFF, says: "When selecting a wholesaler, price is important, but almost secondary to service and the relationship a caterer will have with a wholesaler.

It's all very well purchasing the cheapest chip, for example, but if it is constantly out of stock or not delivered in time, it may result in caterers panic buying at higher prices, therefore in the long run it is not sustainable.

"Caterers should work together with their chosen wholesaler and see them more as a partner than a supplier. We regularly review our products to make sure they are the best in the market, which we offer to our clients at competitive, sustainable prices."

New product development is one key way for wholesalers to show they add value for operators over and above price. Alice Bexon, purchasing manager at Beacon, says: "We're seeing an increasing number of national food wholesalers, such as Brakes and Bidfood, investing significantly in development kitchens. Customers can come into the kitchen and spend time with the development chefs to get inspiration on new menu ideas."

Rob Owen, executive development chef at Creed Foodservice, sets out what a wholesaler partnership can do: "I provide ongoing menu and concept development support to our customers. I help them develop high-quality, on-trend meals and solutions, including street food and other hot grab-and-go options. I also assist with category and product reviews, pickup-point reviews, and the development of new serving concepts."

Farm to fork - fast
This added-value approach is echoed by Vernon Mascarenhas of First Choice Produce, based in London's New Covent Garden Market. He says: "Specialist wholesalers can give you what we call 'day 1 for day 2' - where produce comes in from the farm and is in the kitchen by the next morning. The difference is how quick we can harvest that veg and get it onto the plate. We are talking hours, not days."

Vernon Mascarenhas of First Choice Produce

st Choice customer Jesse Dunford Wood, chef at Parlour restaurant in Kensal Rise, London, says: "Vernon brings baskets of treats that we might not normally see. He knows what will be interesting to a particular chef, and that personal contact is key. Especially in fruit and veg, where produce changes seasonally, even daily, you need that direct link with your supplier. They know what's hot and what's not, what's high or low in price, and what to try. We are constantly introduced to new products, and that is so important for our menus."
For a supplier such as New Forest Ice Cream, the use of a network of wholesalers "allows us to logistically manage national distribution, supplying ice-cream to customers throughout the industry", says director Christina Veal. "We can ensure that our ice-cream remains frozen at all times because our chosen wholesalers meet strict storage regulations and deliver using the latest, highly insulated transport designed especially for delivering frozen produce."

Case study: Friska Food
Bristol-based café operator Friska Food offers 'healthy fast food' that's reasonably priced, globally influenced and locally sourced. With a range of standalone sites
and concessions in its home city, an opening in Birmingham meant Friska required a food wholesaler to service its existing sites as well as new ventures further north.

Friska turned to Creed Foodservice to assist it in consolidating supply. With depots in Gloucestershire and Ilkeston, Creed was ideally placed to serve both the existing Bristol businesses and new sites.

t now supplies Friska with grocery, and frozen and chilled produce, consolidating the operator's sourcing and the number of deliveries made to each of its sites.

Griff Holland, co-founder of Friska, says: "Managing the kitchen admin has been far easier since consolidating our ordering. As we expand, this will be even more important. Quality and responsible sourcing are really important to this business, and Creed's own values regarding commitment to quality, sustainable and ethical sourcing, and green issues are synonymous with our own."

&bullBestway Wholesale has released the Essentially Cleaning range - a set of 40 professionally formulated products focused on the foodservice market, clearly
colour-coded across seven different areas: kitchen, floorcare, dishwashing, bar and cellar, housekeeping, washroom, and laundry.

&bullBrakes has introduced a beef rib with salt and pepper (pictured), slow-cooked for six hours before it reaches customers to ensure the meat is tender and the flavour strong. The rib is reheated by the customer, removing the time and labour elements associated with preparation, but still delivering a premium product.

&bullFrom Country Range comes a trio of dressings targeting summer menus. Honey & Mustard Dressing is blended to give the perfect balance of sweet and savoury and can be drizzled over fresh greens or used to glaze gammon. Ranch Dressing has mild garlic undertones and a smooth buttery texture and can be drizzled over grilled prawn skewers, to add oomph to a club sandwich or used as a dip. Citrus & White Balsamic Dressing (pictured) has subtle sweetness and a peppery acidic finish for serving with crispy and crunchy salads or to give fish a
tangy lift. All are available in 2.5-litre jars in cases of two.

&bullKFF has expanded its Burger Bar offer with three Dirty Burger options. There is the D'oh-nut burger - two burger patties, streaky bacon, Emmental cheese, mustard, barbecue sauce and a couple of sugar ring doughnuts. The Black and Blue Part 2 burger (pictured) combines three buns, chilli, kidney beans, blue cheese, salsa, guacamole and a helping of sweet potato fries. And the Smokin' Swine is a hot and smoky burger piled high with two beef patties, Purple Pineapple BBQ pulled pork filling, spicy Mexicana cheese, jalapeÁ±o chillies, breaded dill pickles, soured cream and coleslaw.

Watch the video: The Magical u0026 Mysterious Chefs Table at Parlour (September 2021).