"Where”, said my non-Jewish friend, “can I take this man for dinner? He is observant and sophisticated. I want the equivalent of — oh, I don’t know, Le Gavroche, or Galvin la Chapelle.”
“Ah,” I said. “You mean, it has to have tablecloths and matching china.” And I thought, and thought, and finally came to the conclusion that there is no such thing in London as proper, full-on, kosher fine dining.
Which is, when you look at the many disparate communities which feed (pun intended) into Anglo-Jewry, something of a disgrace.
Oh, sure, there are many feeding troughs, or fast-food outlets. But their clientele is not, for obvious reasons, accustomed to eating out. We get the restaurants we deserve for the most part; ugly areas, rude staff, a lack of attention to detail and a customer base which often does not know how to behave.
Example one: an establishment which is a magnet for young mothers and offensively large baby buggies, which they drive into the eating area, careless of other customers, as though they were pushing Chieftain tanks.
I ate in this place the other week. The acoustics meant that all conversation was conducted in a steady yell, while behind me one tiny baby, entirely unchecked by its parents, built up a mountain of debris on the floor. No wonder the waiting staff were rude.
Example two: after the cinema one night, a friend and I found a kosher eatery still open, and ordered. The manager insisted that all would be wonderful, in which prediction he was largely mistaken. Cold food, long wait, food returned and replaced with almost identical portions, and two men at the next table waving their chips in our faces and commenting on our food.
Now compare with the kosher place I went to in Miami. It was just fabulous, beautifully fitted out, attentive waiting staff, no yelling and screaming, proper silver service. It may well be that the food was no better than that available in London, but the ambience made for a really great experience.
We need and want beautifully served and presented kosher food. We know it exists. Just ask the caterers.
London is meant to be a sophisticated world capital. Kosher fine dining would only add to its lustre.