Monday, June 28, 2010

Menu Change

It's that time of the month again.

We generally change our menus every calendar month in all the restaurants. The logic behind this is to keep the food as seasonal as possible and also because as we run small menus, it gives our regular customers something new to try. We think its better to run small menus that change often than have big menus that change little. If a menu has twenty main courses you can usually tell the food will not be as fresh as you want. The most important thing for a good chef is to get produce in daily and then sell it by the end of service that night.

Lots of celebrated and busy restaurants do not change the menu at all or very rarely. When was the last time you went to your favourite curry house or Chinese and found that Chicken Tikka Marsala was no longer on the menu? When we go to ethnic restaurants we generally know what we are going to order before we arrive.

Other restaurants are so well known for certain dishes that customers make special journey just for that particular dish. The Tour d’Argent is Paris is famous for its roasted duck with a sauce made from pressing the carcass in a silver press. The restaurant gives you a certificate telling you which number customer you are in ordering the duck. They have so far sold over one million ducks.

There is another restaurant in Paris that serves just one starter and one main course. Le Relais de L’Entrecote in St Germain will only serve a walnut oil salad to start and Sirloin steak for main course. We went one evening because we just followed the queue which extended onto the street. The only question they ask you about the food is how you would like the steak cooked, as some of you will no doubt know, most steaks in Paris come in shades of rare. The meal we had was great and the atmosphere terrific.

We try to stagger the menu changes at our restaurant so that either Pamela or myself can be there. The Fox menu changed on Wednesday and the others change next week. We try to get all the staff to attend. This is a great opportunity for staff to see what they are going to be serving and also gives them a chance to ask questions on particular dishes, is the chicken free range? where do the scallops come from? are sweetbreads testicles? that sort of thing. It is also valuable for chefs to get some feedback from people who like food before dishes go on the menu.

Most good chefs see a finished dish in their head and then work back from that to create the dish. The dish might look great on paper and work well in the head but until you actually cook the dish you don’t know how it will taste. There are a few basic rules that we try to stick to when writing menus, a soup, a red meat and white meat, a chocolate pudding, a salad and so on.

We get market reports from most suppliers and generally get the heads up when new produce become available. Nurturing good relationships with suppliers is very much part of the head chefs job. At this time of year the food tends to be a little lighter in style with fewer heavy sauces. Peas, broad beans, mint, new potatoes, new season lamb, rabbit, Wild sea trout, berries and stone fruit should all feature heavily. Maybe a chilled sweet corn soup with crab as a starter or chilled raspberry soup with vanilla ice cream for dessert.

At The Ginger Fox tasting we had a near full house turn out which was a surprise in itself considering England were playing Slovenia. Everyone was happy with the menu and hopefully it will be well executed by the kitchen. The Sweetbread starter and stuffed Rabbit main course proved popular with us but we will have to see which dishes sell well with our customers.


  1. Hi Ben

    As a customer I always look for a short menu and never have trouble finding things I want to eat off the menu at Norfolk Sq. Couldn't agree more on this.
    Staff are always knowledgeable and helpful but as well as 'where do the scallops come from' I also wonder how they were harvested: hand-dived or dredged. Is this important to you? Maybe a subject for a future blog on food miles and ethical production?


  2. Hi John,
    I plan to do a blog on seafood next and talk about the whole sustainability thing. Thanks for your kind words.