Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Stumped for Appeal; Restaurant of the Week

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Stumped for Appeal; Restaurant of the Week

Article excerpt

Byline: Fay Maschler


Crowne Plaza Hotel, 19 New Bridge Street, EC4 (020 7438 8051). Open for lunch Mon-Fri noon-2.30pm, dinner Mon-Sat 6-10pm. A meal for two with wine, about [pounds sterling]84 including 12.5 per cent service.

EATING dinner last week at Chinese Cricket Club, a new restaurant in the Crowne Plaza hotel beside Blackfriars Bridge, I said to one of my companions that at least the theme hadn't been hammered home too remorselessly in the decor. "That means that when they come to change the concept, they won't have to do much to the room," she murmured in reply. Camellia, who worked as the marketing manager for an international hotel group and over a 30-year period launched more than 40 restaurants, knows of what she speaks.

A restaurant in a business hotel in London, unless it operates apparently autonomously, is difficult to sell to the indigenous population. Why go to a venue where you risk sitting near diners communing with laptops and with the possibility of breakfast being laid up as you leave when there are many jollier independent establishments? I don't know the answer to that question but the Crowne Plaza also houses the Italian Refettorio on the same floor so they must believe there is a market.

City workers presumably provide some lunchtime trade.

Roy Ackerman's Tadema Studios (RATS) provided the concept for both Refettorio and Chinese Cricket Club. It was Ackerman who put Giorgio Locatelli (adviser at Refettorio) and The Churchill Hotel in Portman Square together, although it is only when you go to the lavs at Locanda Locatelli that you discover the connection.

Not having met the chefs at Chinese Cricket Club, but having tried their food twice, I would say that the recruitment coup in this instance is manager Tony Chan.

Chan, who has worked for the Royal China Group, can sort the oddly laid out and divided menu into a coherent meal and his recommendations are probably worth heeding. I shouldn't have been so headstrong. Executive chef, the press release reveals, is Australian Brendan Speed who launched Zuma in Istanbul. I went to Zuma in Istanbul last year and was not at all impressed by the food but maybe the necessary ingredients for a Japanese-y menu are difficult to obtain there.

Going back to the press release, it states: "Against a sophisticated yet relaxed backdrop decorated with a warm simplicity, Chinese Cricket Club offers a mouth-watering range of Sichuan specialities with a modern twist." This must take top prize in the competition for how many phrases that sap you of the will to live can be crammed into one sentence. For Sichuan the kitchen seems to have understood salty.

It is said about over-salted food in a restaurant that smoking may have blunted the chef's palate. …

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