Lately, not a day seems to go past without hearing about how restaurants are climbing over each other to be more simple. Rejecting anything that might be considered 'fancy', and instead stripping everything away until we are left with nothing to adulterate the ingestion of its ingredients.
But restaurateurs, how can you tell if your restaurant is simple enough? Are you still wallowing around in 90s fine-dining stiffness? Or flopping around in lost in some 00s nostalgia comfort-food retro theme concept?
My simple quiz might help.
1. Is your restaurant name:
a. Something like 'L'atelier de Francis de la Touche, with subconscious interaction'
b. A two word tribute to its owner's surnames, helpfully old-fashioned and Dickensian sounding and joined with a plus sign
c. A single word, evoking your dedication to nature, hand written in lower case.
2. Where do people read about your restaurant?
A. On an aeroplane in their leather bound company issue Michelin guide
B. On twitter
C. In an achingly honest piece in the Guardian food section, where they follow the head chef on a foraging tour of their home village, which will be a remote beach near Sunderland.
3. How is your restaurant designed?
a. A six month refit by a heavyweight interior design house, with specially imported materials, exotic wood marquetry and bespoke Italian marble inlaid panelled walls and Axminster monogrammed carpets
b. A whimsically retro throwback to a Victorian City bank clerk's daily eating house, complete with green glass shaded desk lamps, reproduction hunting prints and lots of simulated mahogany?
c. All white, with communal refectory tables and mix & match school chairs.
a. Individually spotlit tables, luminosity adjusted to best flatter both the food and the particular customer
b. Near darkness, apart from a few filament bulbs
c. Operating theatre bright.
5. How are your serving staff dressed?
a. Formal suits
b. Easy going Edwardian throwback waistcoats, loose ties, jeans, converse
c. Scandinavian designer asymmetrically buttoned overalls, in gunmetal grey
6. What food concept is it?
a. Concept led. The chef was once visited by a God in their dream and was instructed to continue their work in the form of food. What you are eating is the physical realisation of this dream.
b. Nostaglia led. Retro dishes, tweaked comfort food, English and American home classics with a twist.
c. Ingredient led. Pure and unadulterated dedication to nature.
7. How seasonal?
a. Always seasonal! We import this asparagus all year round from four different global timezones.
b. Totally seasonal. This hamburger is bang-on-the-minute-on-trend, so you're always 'in season'.
c. Highly seasonal. You've identified the sub seasons as you find the regular seasons too restricting
8. Who are your customers?
a. Jet-lagged global company reps
b. The London in-crowd, this week
c. Restaurant spotters, foodies with big cameras and Blackadder's puritan Aunt and Uncle
Your temple to vulgarity is not really getting into the 'simple' vibe, is it. Disappointed.
Your restaurant is better, but not really simple enough. Wincing at the nonchalant use of unrefined basic foodstuffs, and frivolous ornamentation you lavish your room with.
Congratulations, your restaurant is uncomfortably simple. Allow yourself with a firm pat on the back and celebrate with a glass of your home distilled early autumn sloe gin and relax by skinning a freshly trapped rabbit.