The Bread Street Kitchen is a big restaurant near the Mansion House, brought to you by Gordon Ramsay’s big rage; he is the man who, at one point or another, has owned 13 Michelin stars, millions of TV viewers and a turkey called Nigella, which he may or may not have murdered and made into a turkey burger. In fact, he had a shed of celebrity turkeys: there was also a Gary (Rhodes), a Jamie (Oliver), a Delia (Smith) and, most unkindly, an Ainsley (Harriott). At this point someone should really have called Chefs’ Anonymous.
The Bread Street Kitchen opened nine months ago, which gives us time to see if Gordon Ramsay Holdings, an empire of breadsticks and butter pats, is failing after a series of scandals and crises. These include fights with his father-in-law/former managing director, food prepared off-site and, apparently, feeding ham to a vegetarian. (That one sounds made up.) Through a theatrical curtain and up a golden spiral staircase and it is ghetto chic — double-height ceilings, miniature mental-hospital tiles, exposed ceilings and lots of brass pipes, carrying Gordon’s emotions around, putting us all in a big screaming Gordon hug. He was always the neediest and most interesting of the TV chefs. Marco Pierre White, his former mentor, is more remote and filthy, spending his days leering at women in stock-cube adverts, while Ramsay’s facial crevasses get deeper and his restaurants larger — this one cost £5 million and seats 230. It is polished but sexless; it feels a bit like being inside an enormous food processor, which it is. It is full of people shouting, none of whom are Ramsay. He doesn’t cook much any more; he prefers to swear at people on TV, viewers being more delighted by swearing than pastry chefs, father-in-laws, or critics. Grills, you see, don’t write in.
Each restaurant has its pitch — some are for sighing, some for grunting, some for croaking, some for dying. The Bread Street Kitchen is for screaming — for Ramsay — and it is full of men sitting at round tables, screaming at each other, probably about money, and wiping the blood from their mouths, shifting their big bums on the mustard banquettes. And if they are worried no one will hear them scream, there is a glass wall for voyeurs. I suspect they are all City boys: good bones with fatty jowls, good haircuts, good suits, glittery dreams of glittery money — bonuses, yachts, whores, ice-cream. A few tables have only women, and pink balloons for birthdays, but they are also screaming at each other. There are no couples. This is a restaurant for packs.
The food is not harmed by Ramsay’s commitments from the Savoy to Claridge’s, from the desert to the sea. Jamie Oliver’s Barbecoa opposite should feel scared of decapitation, like the celebrity turkeys; you remember what a fine cook Ramsay is. The menu is divided into Raw Bar, Hot Kitchen and Wood Oven — there is lots of seafood, a hint of Italian and Weird English Food, that is, things with beetroot.
A handsome, cheery waiter brings asparagus and hollandaise, perfectly judged, and a caesar salad which chokes slightly on its dressing but, unlike the celebrity turkeys, survives the experience. The service is swift — this crowd won’t wait for anything as prosaic as food; one man screams ‘25 per cent!’ at something, which makes me wonder if he ate the other 75 per cent. A chicken and foie gras terrine is soft, tasty; an egg with anchovies yields, wobbles and expires. A crusty poussin doused in lemon is served splayed out and strangled with herbs — perfect. I have no complaints about the food at all; merely that the Bread Street Kitchen needs a big, screaming chef, a sort of screaming conductor to marshal the screaming orchestra. Without him, it feels like a palace built for nobody.
Bread Street Kitchen, 10 Bread Street, London EC4, tel: 020 3030 4050.