I like to eat out. I’m sure that comes as no surprise to any of you.

I ate at Pitt Cue this month. I haven’t been there for a while and every so often I like to remind myself of how good they are at what they do.

Last month I ate at Lockhart. It is Southern American food cooked by a Southern American chef. Unpretentious, bang on trend, super tasty and very affordable; needless to say, I highly recommend it.

Before that, I’ve recently eaten at Dabbous, Koya, Bocca di Lupo, Dirty Bones; and there are many more restaurants, street vendors and back street Gods on my culinary bucket list. Problem is these places all have one thing in common; they are in London. I don’t live in London; I live in a village 43.6 miles south of Parliament.

The distance is not necessarily a problem; I enjoy the travel ‘up town’ most times (and luckily, so does my wife). The problem is that these places are far and few between, outside of the City.

I went to a friend’s charity dinner and auction last month which was held in a very beautiful hotel just outside my village (yes, it is mine). I paid £45 for a 3 course meal that I would like to forget (and fortunately the alcohol consumed that night, might have just done that). It was depressingly bad! Dated, ill conceived, poorly executed, tasteless and showed no desire from the kitchen. Apart from one smart, slightly inebriated, quip to the waiter, I kept my mouth shut… it was a charity event after all.

This is not an isolated event. I have been to lots of different places to eat, outside of London, where I’ve had a similar experience; staff Christmas dinners being a particular Bete Noir of mine. I’m not even that fussy. I have 3 simple requisites;

  • – It should be fresh
  • – It should represent value for money
  • – Is should be made with care

These rules apply no matter whether I am eating from a greasy spoon or starred restaurant and I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I understand that not everywhere uses seasonal, local produce or adopts the latest food trends or cooking methods so I try to appreciate any food considering these conditions, even if I don’t like the flavour!

I’m not suggesting that everywhere outside of London is bad or that London is all good, but there is a notable and marked difference between them.

London is now regarded as one of the food capitals of the World; a far cry from its status only 20 years ago, but it’s taking too long for this attitude of great food to filter into the rest of the country.

We have a heritage of great quality ingredients, innovative chefs and a diverse culture of foods that we should be singing about, but too often they are not represented as well as they should be.

In short, I struggle to find somewhere locally that I want to eat. There are some great ‘special occasion’ restaurants out of London, but where are the Pitt Cue’s, the Lockhart’s or Dirty Burger’s that I want to eat in regularly? When people ask me where they should go for a great meal, I have very few suggestions. I feel like a snob sometimes, but if that means expecting more, then maybe I am. I would love to see us all demand and expect better and be part of an entire food Nation, not just a food Capital, which is revered around the world.

Until next time…

Darren Collier
Development Chef