This week was all about endings and beginnings. Markers in the sand. Moments in life that demand reflection and resolve. The first was the final goodbye to Collier's Garage, the old Citroën car repair workshop where my business has been running since November 2011.
What an incredible journey this has been. I used to know the garage when I took my car there to be serviced, little knowing that one day I'd walk into this vast, empty and distinctly oily shed and transform it into a successful pop-up restaurant. Week after week over almost two years, my amazing team and I fed thousands of customers who seemed to enjoy it as much as we did.
All the equipment and furniture we had acquired had to be shipped on to a new site we are leasing in Covent Garden. So this is the beginning of another new adventure. Another venue where we can continue to feed people who like what we do. This time with a few more home comforts.
Talking of being homely, I was really struck by AA Gill's review in last week's Sunday Times. Something really touched a chord in me. His complaint is with fashionable claims for a faux authenticity around what is British cooking and eating.
For a while I tried serving food on tin enamel camping plates in the restaurant, until I had a revolution in the kitchen. We want beautiful food to look great. This idea of downplaying style, drinking out of jam jars and serving up giblets might give restaurants a sort of Mumford & Sons throwback to the gold rush realness. But it doesn't make them authentic. Like everything in our culture, the food we eat is a hotchpotch of cultural influences and, as Gill says, a rogan josh is at least as British as the kind of weakly mimicked St John manqué menus you find in every gastropub. The Belgian hates going to expensive restaurants where they serve the bits we used to throw away (something to do with his working class roots).
Nostalgia is a big emotion for cooks. We are often guided by food we remember, as well as the dishes we aspire to make. Earlier this week, I used gooseberries, red and black currants for a summer pudding; everyone started getting teary round the table about how they haven't seen gooseberries since they were kids. Try Waitrose, I thought.
We work hard to create an atmosphere in our restaurants that makes you feel at home. It's not fine dining. But the balance has to be against ruthlessly efficient service.