Sunday, 23 January 2011

January Update

Chef Magazine

Congratulations to Rosie Birkett (editor) and the publishers of Chef Magazine.  Ive just received my first copy - new look, new size, new format, new title.   Great interview with Giorgio Locatelli whom I was privileged to meet some years ago in London.

Wine Flights

An interesting article on wine flights, something we are about to introduce here at The Market.  A wine flight is a way for diners to sample an assortment of different wines. With each wine designed to pair with a different course from the menu.

Restaurants in wine regions tend to offer wine flights as a way of allowing diners to sample a variety of wines from that region.

Restaurant wine flights have an added bonus of usually consisting of freshly opened bottles, since the wines offered as flights usually turn over quite quickly.

Wine flights provide smaller pours than normal, because of the amount of wine being offered. Generally a pour will be approximately 75ml, giving more than a simple tasting, but less than a full glass. Longer wine flights may give slightly less wine per pour, while shorter flights may be closer to full glasses.

Chef Magazine I'm trying to follow you on twitter @ChefMagazineUK but can't seem to find it??

The Week Ahead

Tuesday to Thursday eveings and Friday and Saturday beore 5pm we have our Two courses for £15 offer running.

Tuesday of next week we're looking forward to welcoming some wine enthusiasts from Astra Zenneca.  Stephen Lane from Enotria (one of our favourite suppliers) will be guiding the group through wines from Piemonte with a five course  supporting menu provided by Head Chef Chris Peck.  I may try to gate crash!

Just to remind me of the quality of Piemontese wines from Fontanafredda supplied by Enotria; tonight it's the Barbera 2007 Wine Spectator 90 pts.  I've had this bottle since 2008 and I have to say it was great in 2008 but it's outstanding in 2011!  Only another three left - must see what my friends Francesco and Rita think.

Thursday brings the first "Sweet Meets" of 2011 The Market Restaurant's own pudding clu.  A complimentary drink on arrival is followed by a small main course and five full sized puddings.

Unil the next time!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

We love all our guests. Some we love when they arrive and some we love when they leave!

Today's reflections on service and guest expectations.

The Market Restaurant is quirky and unusual.  The 300 year old building itself provides many challenges.  We try very hard here to exceed our guests’ expectations but we don’t always get it right. Staff are trained and empowered to take action when things go wrong. Feedback from guests is very important, however, I stress to staff that they should never take things personally and on the rare occasion that we get it wrong we do all we can to repair the situation for the guest and use it as a learning opportunity for the staff.

In a book written in 1996 by Chris Daffy “Once a Customer Always a Customer” he observes;

Satisfied Customers
  • Continue to purchase from you as long as nothing better comes along
  • Are likely to provide you with 3 to 5 referrals over their lifetime of purchasing
Dissatisfied Customers
  • Stop purchasing from you (or start looking for an alternative supplier)
  • Tell 9 to 10 people about their bad experience (2 to 3 times more than satisfied customer referrals)
  • Exaggerate bad stories
  • Tell your competition (who then spread the word to your other customers)
  • Usually don’t tell you (only about 1 in 25 causes of dissatisfaction get reported)
  • Generally don’t come back (90% never return)
Delighted Customers
  • Stay loyal to your business for life (even when there are problems)
  • Tell 17 to 20 people (about twice as many as dissatisfied customers)
  • Up to 90% become even more loyal after recovery than before the problem

The whole nature of the restaurant business is changing guests are becoming more demanding and operators are being forced into becoming more innovative with ingredients are more resourceful in trimming prices.

Most staff in this industry start off with a desire to delight the guest and quite frankly if you haven’t got that desire you won’t last long.  It is a privilege for us to share in the important moments in peoples’ lives; birthdays, the first date, engagements, Christmas, Valentines Day, Mothering Sunday, graduation, family gatherings etc.
That brings me to the hospitality industry.  I believe there are three categories of people in this industry;

1. Hospitality Professionals – those rare individuals who make hospitality their lifetime vocation (sadly in the minority in this country and rarely taken seriously). 

2. People in transition — students, actors, writers and creatives needing a job to pay the bills. 

3.  People who can’t get anything else. 

All front of house staff, however, dread the question, "So what else do you do?" Sometimes we’re not doing anything else! This is it! That question usually implies that being a waiter/ress isn’t a "real job" and that we must be doing something that’s more "worthwhile."  Whichever category there is no excuse for guests not treating them with respect.
The other day I went to collect a parcel from the Royal Mail Sorting Office on Oldham Road and whilst waiting read a notice about the Royal Mail policy of “Zero Tolerance” to staff abuse.  Similar notices are displayed in Piccadilly Station and Shude Hill Interchange.  In fact Ian Johnston Chief Constable of the British Transport Police was recently quoted as saying said: "People should be able to go to work without fear of being assaulted, spat at or abused."   Well I guess we all agree with that.
A brief search on google surprised me though because the first five result pages on verbal abuse by customers related to the NHS and brought up The Health and Safety Executive’s definition of violence at work as: - “Any incident in which an employee is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances arising out of the course of his/her employment”.  Incidents do not need to cause physical harm, and could for example include a receptionist who was verbally abused by an irate patient annoyed for waiting too long. 

It seems to me to be wrong that organisations should need policies to defend staff from customers!  Verbal and physical abuse of staff can never be justified though.  Defending and supporting staff in such circumstances is a management imperative.

Front of house staff must know their limits and must show the true picture of what they can and cannot do. Never must they give the wrong impression to guests.  As a member of the front of house team one must be sensitive and actively play a role in promoting and retaining guests and not viewed solely for attending to requests only when there is a need. FoH staff  must always be proactive and not reactive.

In a recent customer review I was described as Basil Fawlty because I attempted to support a 19 year old member of my staff in dealing with a thoroughly unpleasant customer.  As a matter of policy in over 30 years the Market Restaurant has never responded to the few negative customer reviews we have received on internet web sites until now!

This customer and his friends on the neighbouring table had purchased heavily discounted vouchers from a web based discount site. We have dealt with many such guests and the majority have been charming. Not in this case.

This customer's expectations were not met and the resulting situation was not particularly well handled. However, I don't believe that provided valid grounds for him to constantly verbally abuse staff who were trying their best to recover the situation and embarrass other guests; for no apparent reason other than to show off in front of his friends. I'm not sure if the three bottles of wine consumed by his table influenced his behaviour or not? 

There was no way to please this customer so for the benefit of the surrounding guests  I apoloised, promised to investigate and take appropriate action and invited his table of four to enjoy their meal at my expense and pay only for their drinks.  None of this was mentioned in his subsequent review.  Which he felt necessary to entitle “Basil Fawlty alive and well in Manchester”.  Quite frankly I don't know what more they expected or what he believed he achieved.  All we can do is take it on the chin. 
Until the next time!

Friday, 21 January 2011

The Wines of Chile

Every month we have a wine tasting in our Elizabeth Raffald Room (upstairs at The Market Restaurant).  It provides me with an excuse to research some wines, widen my knowledge, match them with food and experience a very pleasant evening with staff and customers as we journey through the world of wine.

It’s not pretentious as many tastings are and it is very much targeted at the amateur with great enthusiasm rather than the professional with loads of knowledge and experience. Our most recent tasting was a snap shot of Chile. 

Most people have come across Chilean wines in their local supermarket along with the concept of stack it high and sell it cheap came the Chilean Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.  However, as we discovered there are some really high quality wines now coming out of Chile.  The problem is we have been conditioned by the supermarkets and many amateur wine enthusiasts are not prepared to take the risk on a Chilean wine which may retail at £10-£15 a bottle.

Vines first arrived in Chile around 500 years ago with the Spanish conquistadores, but a fashion for all things French in the late 19th century had a significant influence on the wine industry.  The result was major plantings of the Bordeaux grape varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

In recent years, with international investment and expertise, the industry has revolutionised with large new wineries, sophisticated technology, and large, successful brands. The country now produces some of the most keenly priced, well made varietal wines in the world.

With the Atacama Desert to the north, the Antarctic to the south, Pacific to the west and Andes to the east, this long thin country is one of the most geographically isolated in the world. This has had one major benefit; the phylloxera louse which destroyed most of the European vineyards in the late 19th century and still has the potential to cause serious problems, has never made it to Chile. In fact Chile's vineyards have managed to remain relatively disease free and are among some of the healthiest in the world. The country has developed some what of a reputation as being a grape growing paradise; perfect light, ideal climate and protection against disease.

Over the last few years Chile has been restructuring its industry to make the most of what the French call 'terroir'. This is where the ideal climate and soil type are matched to each grape variety. Look out for the wines from the Southern cooler climate area of Bío-Bío for  the more aromatic varieties such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer, or the northerly area of Casablanca where the Pacific influences give it a cool climate perfect for producing some lively, zesty Sauvignons as well as good quality Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.

The largest production area is the Central Valley which encompasses areas such as the Maipo, Rapel, Curicó and Maule Valleys. This is where the majority of the red wines, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chile's own signature grape, Carmenère, is produced. It is also worth looking out for Chilean Shiraz, which is showing a lot of promise and the San Antonio Valley, which is a relatively new but exciting area.

Despite nearly 500 years of existence, Chile's wine industry is fresh, young, and evolving to meet the needs of today's ever more demanding world markets. 

We tasted five wines, four of them were from Viña Errázuriz.  They have been producing the highest quality Chilean wines for more than 130 years.  Don Maximiano Errázuriz founded Viña Errázuriz in 1870 in the Valle de Aconcagua, 100 kms north of the capital city, Santiago. Recognizing that this valley, with its cool, rainy winters, hot, dry summers and moist Pacific Ocean breezes, was ideal for growing grapes, Don Maximiano sent for the finest clones from France and with tenacity and perseverance transformed this barren land into a world-class vineyard.

Today, the tradition of quality lives on with Don Maximiano’s descendant, Eduardo Chadwick. Eduardo is the fifth generation of his family to be involved in the wine business.  Eduardo has overseen the modernisation of the winemaking technology at this historic estate while maintaining a distinct identity for its wines. Dedicated to producing estate grown wines of superior quality, Errázuriz has built a reputation as the “Best of Chile”.

Errázuriz’s philosophy is best expressed by Don Maximiano who said, “From the best land, the best wine.” As an estate winery, Viña Errázuriz strives to produce the finest wines by controlling every stage of the winemaking process, from grape growing in the Aconcagua, Casablanca and Curicó valleys, to winemaking with the most natural techniques. An emphasis is placed on the delicate handling of the wines, with the aim of producing wines with elegance and complexity. It is his dynamism and passion for wine that has made Errázuriz such an internationally respected producer of quality wines.

The Wines

1.  Montes Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2009/2010 Leyda Valley  13.5%
Made under the expert eye of Aurelio Montes, this is a showcase for the true character of Sauvignon Blanc. Intense aromatics and a concentrated palate of tropical and citrus fruits are the result of cool temperatures and extended ripening time for the grapes.

2.  Errazuriz Chardonnay 2009/2010 Casablanca Valley 13.5%
Cool maritime breezes allow for a gentle and prolonged ripening period that makes the valley an ideal place for growing Chardonnay. Good aromatic intensity with fresh pineapple, mandarin orange, and papaya, along with stewed pears, and toasted notes that add complexity to the wine.

3.  Errazuriz Pinot Noir 2009 Casablanca Valley 13.5%
Winemaker Francisco Baettig limits the oak ageing to just 7 months for less than half the finished wine to retain typical fresh, fruity Pinot Noir characteristics. Ripe blackberry, floral aromas and a smooth, silky mouthfeel make this an excellent partner to roast pork or fillet of salmon

4.   Errazuriz Carmenère 2009/2010 Aconcagua Valley 13.5%
Deep and lively burgundy in colour, the aromas of freshly ground black pepper and grilled red peppers complement the tobacco and chocolate notes that blend seamlessly with hints of smoky oak. On the palate, this medium-bodied wine is structured by big, mouth-filling tannins. Spicy notes linger on the palate through the long, pleasant finish.

5.   Errazuriz Merlot 2009/2010 Aconcagua 13.5%
The fruit for this wine was sourced from a range of sites across the Aconcagua Valley, where the Mediterranean climate and cold nights encourage good fruit purity. Only 50% of the wine has been aged in French oak for added complexity, while retaining fruit character.

Youthful in character with a bright crimson colour. A fruit-driven nose, with plenty of soft plum and bramble, and the merest hint of vanilla and spice from the oak, and the blend's 15% Carmenere. Equally at home with pasta in simple tomato-based sauces, as it is with red meat, grilled chops or sausages.

Next month we’re off to Bordeaux!