The Digest

How To Close A Restaurant & Other News

26th May 2018

Words: James Hansen

Also in this week’s food media round-up: the rise of Laotian cuisine, breeding a new apple from scratch, and a new food temple gets a hiding

For Big Hospitality, Alex Rushmer writes about the eventuality many restaurateurs fear. Reflecting on the opening, success, and closure of his Cambridgeshire restaurant The Hole in the Wall, Rushmer recounts the moment at which he knew it was time: “It was a Saturday, the end of the month. Lunch service had been busy and chaotic … Rest would be short, the taste of toothpaste still on the tongue when it was time to wake up.” Rushmore is as frank about the closure process as he is about the end it entails, recounting the myriad relationships that will be affected and must be honoured.

At Popular Science, Amal Ahmed talks to horticulturist Bruce Barritt about developing a new apple varietal. It’s brief but enlightening, and breaks down the highly laborious evaluation that goes into cultivating a new fruit. “You can’t eat thousands of apples a day. So I would walk down long rows of hundreds and thousands of trees, and when I found an ­attractive fruit, I’d bite, chew, spit it out. Most were terrible.” It’s most refreshing to see an article that, despite its brevity, accounts for the work and time these processes require, instead of the wistful chef evangelism that has recently dominated the sustainability conversation.

Brian Reinhart explores the growing presence of Laotian food in Dallas for Dallas Observer. “Unlike Thailand and Vietnam, its neighbors, Laos is rarely represented in American popular culture and presented on the news,” wrote Michelin-starred Laotian-American chef James Syhabout and food writer John Birdsall in their 2018 cookbook, Hawker Fare. Dallas’ demographic history is centred on Laotian, Thai and Cambodian immigration, and as such it is where Laotian traditions are most able to thrive and evolve. Reinhart interviews numerous restaurateurs and a common thread emerges: a cuisine that has unfairly felt the need to hide is coming into the light.

Speaking of hiding, Marina O’Loughlin doles one out for Hide at The Sunday Times. Mercurial and gifted chef Ollie Dabbous’ new restaurant monolith is three stories strong and drips with money and anticipation; it also leaves O’Loughlin decidedly cold. The curse of large-scale perfection is homogeneity: the “intoxicating” idiosyncrasies of the menu are lost and limp in the execution, “while dishes verge on flawless, there’s a production-line quality, a robotic perfection”. An unsavoury experience in a bar that looks “like somewhere Alan Partridge might take a date after the owl sanctuary” seals the deal: slickness and polish makes no odds if they veneer an empty soul.

On Twitter, Jeannette Ng explains how word choice means more than it might first appear. Focusing on a 2011 article from LA Weekly, her thread reflects on how sentences like “viscous, with a somewhat phlegmy appearance … speckled with rice and yellowish bits of eggs” frame a certain perspective and decentre another: “Those techniques of othering can be used to make familiar objects and situations seem strange and creepy. The reverse is also true, unfamiliar customs can be made to feel cosy and welcoming.”

Posted 26th May 2018

In The Digest


Words: James Hansen

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