Le Caprice, the canteen for celebrities, a home from home for hedge funders and a London restaurant institution, celebrated its 30th birthday this week. During the years, many famous faces have become regulars, including heroes (Princess Diana) and villains (Jeffrey Archer).
It is the sort of place to which people spend as much time talking about going as actually going, yet despite the paparazzi presence outside, the venue is not particularly showy. Those who venture through its unassuming doorway will find that the food, while adventurous enough, is homely and comforting. The prices are expensive enough, but not at a level which will drive people away during a recession. And while some of its older clients might not get as much food down them as they used to, there is always an aspirant generation following on.
On Tuesday, Jesus Adorno, the restaurant's director, told me he believed much of its success was down to consistency and high standards – from the menu, to the staff (Adorno himself started at the restaurant as waiter in 1981), to the decor.
What is also true is that the venue is bigger than its parts. It is also more than, as in some places, simply a chef's name above a door (although I should note that i's excellent Mark Hix (whose recipes you will find on p30) was formerly head chef there).
It was interesting to be able to compare the celebrations of a veteran to the arrival of a new pretender as I headed to The Bread Street Kitchen, Gordon Ramsay's latest offering to the world.
While Mayfair (Le Caprice's site) might have been the centre of London in 1981, Ramsay has chosen the City of London, where power and money is increasingly centred, in 2011. One thing is similar; they too have gone for homely classics on the menu in a faux art deco environment.
Like all restaurants, BSK is trying to create the perfect recipe, the one that mixes food, room, service and location sprinkled with timing in the hope of cooking up fashionability, profitability and longevity.
The difference in the quality of the food between the two is negligible (they are both consistently good), but many talented restaurateurs and chefs have closed many excellent, restaurants (Ramsay among them). It will be down to whether the team on Bread Street can get the rest of the components of the formula right that will prove whether or not it will see in a 30th birthday of its own.
Tracey MacLeod, page 30Reuse content