February 21 2012
I just finished my first day back in the kitchen after a week away – a fairly busy time spent catching up with seemingly every member of the team; never a bad thing, but certainly time-consuming. It was nice to be away, but great to be back and have the weekend with my family. They all seemed pleased to see me on my return, although to three children who don’t see much of Dad during the week anyway, it was a fairly normal week.
Our usual Monday routine kicked in. My wife Jane was up first to take Jake, aged 10, to school swimming club; then back by 7.20 to relieve me of my dressing and breakfast duties with Archie, aged seven, and Jessie, aged four. All went smoothly this morning – although it’s never very predictable when Jess is in the mix – so I was at my desk by 8am.
My week away – a rare trip for me – was spent in Tokyo. I had been itching to go for a while; it’s billed as the city with more Michelin stars than any other, so I was eager to try all the food myself. My furthest-away destination to date remains Australia, but this was quite a way – and culturally it seemed much further.
What an amazing city. Everywhere it’s spotlessly clean; on several occasions I witnessed young men picking up wrappers or small pieces of paper that they had inadvertently dropped on the ground. I perceived in everyone an overwhelming sense of respect for each other and their surroundings.
I was lucky enough to have a (very necessary) local guide – a chef who worked for me at The Savoy Grill a number of years ago. This chef lives and works in Tokyo, and was eager to show me the sights. We dined at a couple of two-star Michelin restaurants and a three star, in addition to a traditional Japanese restaurant. All excellent, and all very different to what I am used to. On Valentine’s night I ate alone, but enjoyed the company of the head chef, who proudly presented me with his favourite dishes.
One of the funnier moments of the trip occurred when I spotted some stunning table lamps in one of the restaurants; when I enquired where to buy them, I was told they came from The Conran Shop, in London. The world really is a small place. It seems restaurateurs are all alike; I, in turn, came away with some bowls and plates to use at The Chef’s Table at Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley – a small but significant memento of my trip.
At 4am on Thursday morning I was taken to visit the world-renowned Tokyo fish market. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. The expert butchers treat the huge, stunning fish with reverence. They wield knives the length of my eldest son with incredible dexterity. I sampled the freshest and creamiest tuna fish I have ever tasted, scraped straight from the bone as I watched.
Now I’m back. My sons love their Japanese baseball caps, and my daughter her kimono pyjamas. I will certainly be scheduling a return trip soon – and it makes me wonder where else I should go. A brief visit to Brazil is already on the cards for March and a much-anticipated trip to New York later this year.
Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to Tuesday – it’s pancake day.