Poole on Restaurant Guides
Chez Bruce has received numerous positive write ups
in various restaurant guides. Has that been good for
We're busier now than we used to be but I'd like
to think that's because we're good at what we do. We
work hard at making it better, looking after our guests
and giving them what they want. Saying it's down to
the guides is putting the cart before the horse.
do make a difference but it's very difficult to say
how much, I don't think the research has been done.
were busy from the start, before we were included in
any guides. We got reviewed by the papers very early
on - Emily Green was the first and she gave us a blinding
half page review in the Independent - and that helped.
But I'm confident we would have been busy anyway. There
was a strong market for a good neighbourhood restaurant
in the area. The guides just speed things up a bit.
Would you say that you're ambivalent about restaurant
I'm slightly ambivalent about the guides, but not
nonchalant. Circumspect and cautious would be more accurate.
Never for a moment do I think that just because a guide
gives us an award that we've arrived.
always been very happy for myself and the team when
we receive an award because we see it as a reward for
our hard work - being named most popular restaurant
in London by the Harden's guide is a big and prestigious
thing and I'm delighted to have it. But it's a double
edge sword because it cranks up the pressure. It increases
customer expectation and we have to deliver.
wouldn't want to give the impression that I don't care
how we do in the guides. If we started to slip in all
the guides then I would know something was wrong. I
take each guide entry as it comes but pay more attention
to their collective message.
Do you think there's a danger of some chefs paying too
much attention to the guides?
Getting good write ups in the guides is a good thing
for up and coming chefs to aim for because it's something
tangible, but only as long as you are aiming to please
your customers at the same time.
Can the guides have a negative influence?
They can at the rarefied, highest levels. The difference
between 2 and 3 stars and 1 and 2 stars in the Michelin
guide is not always reflected well in the food from
the customer's point of view in my opinion. The award
of a second star doesn't always mean that the food will
deliver more pleasure. From the customer's point of
view, a chef at one star level may cook better food
than at the two star level.
Is there a danger of becoming a headless chicken trying
to please all the guides?
Each guide is generally looking for the same things
but they go about it in a different way. With experience,
you discover over time what they are looking for, but
it's not something you can learn overnight. You're unlikely
to be able to please Michelin and Time Out at the same
time for example. Just because we get an award from
one guide doesn't mean we'll get it from another. I'd
rather rely on my own judgement and that of my senior
staff as to where we're going.
Do you have a favourite guide that you personally rely
I don't have a favourite guide at the moment. There's
a gap in the market for a slightly more highbrow restaurant
guide; they all seem to have come down to the lowest
common denominator with stars and marks out of five
and that sort of thing.
Poole is chef / proprietor of Chez Bruce
2 Bellevue Road, Wandsworth Common, London
020 8672 0114 - www.chezbruce.co.uk