Richard Vine’s Retirement Party at M Restaurant – Threadneedle Street
I was invited to the most wonderful retirement party for my friend, Richard Vines the former Chief Food Critic for Bloomberg and I wanted to share the evening with you. I know many of you are currently in lockdown, so a virtual escape may lift the spirits. I would like to pay tribute to my friend, the venue (I love a function and this one was star-studded and exceptional) and share the canapé menu that was served. I have added a few ideas from the canapes served to incorporate into your next cocktail party.
I would like to give you a flavour of the people that were there through the establishments that they own, the beverages that they make and sell and the art they produce. This may lead you to seek out their recipe books, give an inspired gift to friends, find a new TV series to watch or you can add their restaurants to a list of where to dine next. I will be honest, most of you will already follow and know the guests and in that case, you have great taste, literally and figuratively.
Richard Vines The Man of the Moment
I think we should start a hashtag that says Retire Like Richard Vines! Richard may not carry the official title that he has held for the last 25 years working for Bloomberg a financial information, software and media company and of those 17 as their Chief Food Critic. However, when you look through his Instagram account (and that is worth following) he is still invited to all the new restaurants on preview night in London and further afield. To me, he is as hard-working as he was whilst being employed and perhaps that is the secret to retirement? I am, however, missing his articles and recipes from the industries most respected chefs that he wrote about weekly. I told Richard he was irreplaceable when I heard he was leaving Bloomberg and I was right. He was personally called by Michael Bloomberg to ask what they could do to make him stay. How valued must you feel to get that call! Richard told me he felt it was time to enjoy the slower pace of life that lockdown had shown him. The psychological hurdle to willingly give up a role like this, for a quieter lifestyle, must have been difficult. Probing a little more in the back of a cab one evening, I learnt that no one is taking over his role. It was an ‘I told you so moment’, I had said he was irreplaceable and to that Richard shyly responded with a dipped head and a humble grin but no words. I will continue to read his wonderful US counterpart, Kate Krader’s, articles and enjoy his colleagues’ articles under the Bloomberg Pursuits banner.
I call Richard a gatherer of good souls and his Retirement Party was just that. The room was filled with the most hard-working restaurateurs, chefs/patrons, front of house legends, industry greats, comedians, musicians, artists and me! To maintain friendships as a food critic must be unbelievable hard. I have not met the other long-standing food critics, however, I assume like a chef, people don’t voluntarily want to cook for you or invite you around. Richard, on the other hand, is the paradox, in every photo people are genuinely happy to be in his company and over the years they have all become true friends, not just colleagues. The photos that I have shared below validate my last sentence and were taken by the talented Alister Veryard the multi-award-winning photographer that captured our evening.
Richard has a deep and multifaceted understanding of the hospitality industry that he distills into each article he wrote and they were such a joy to read. He once told me that he has to visit each establishment on three separate occasions, to get the feel of the place. That must be difficult for him as a food critic and daunting for most restaurateurs, front of house staff, waiters and chefs/patrons. However, what I have heard and witnessed is a deep appreciation for Richard’s support. Richard was acclaimed alongside his Bloomberg title, he was a judge for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. The list of accolades held by Richard is long and all are held close to his chest, there is no wiki page on Richard, I am, however, working to get him to contribute to one. Richard is knowledgeable, honest, yet never scathing. I have not read an article that he has written that has damaged a business financially or otherwise. Coming from a financial background, he studied economics at the LSE and working for Bloomberg, he, more than anyone understands that with one stroke of a pen, he could leave a business in a wake of financial devastation. However, he is just not that kind of a man or food critic. Richard has a deep understanding of the essence of the industry, his clean writing, without too many adjectives, which is my personal criteria, was such a joy to read every week.
Richard rises and sleeps as if he were a trader in the Asian markets, so I could not see him retiring as you would imagine retirement to be. I was sitting at dinner with Richard, Pierre & Claire Koffmann, (I know how lucky am I!) when the plan unfolded to launch Richard and Pierre Koffman’s new site. The name has been formalised and it will be called Koffmann and Vines. More of that will be revealed when they officially launch, I’ll keep you in the loop.
The Retirement Party Guests:
All who surrounded Richard at the event and in life are humble, gracious, kind and super easy to talk to and lovely people to be with. Remember, I am no longer in this world and it was a wonderful reminder of all the things I miss from the hospitality industry. The people are collaborators, champions for charities, open-hearted, in the limelight on shows like Ready Steady Cook, Saturday Kitchen, Sunday Brunch, they own restaurants and restaurant chains, procure the best wines, write recipes, books and newspapers columns, label and craft their own teas and drinks and have OBE and MBEs! Let’s be honest no one had to talk to me, yet they all had time to chat and were down to earth and wonderful to converse with. I did have to be composed rather than gushing, although I missed the target on that a few times and again that was met by the wonderful people I was speaking to with such grace. So if any of you are reading this article, thank you for indulging me and your kindness!
A wonderful woman at the event said to me ‘show me your friends and I will tell you who you are’. Richard surrounds himself with dancers, musicians, artists, he is business savvy like all the operators of million-pound restaurants he writes about, he is kind, generous and hardworking, like the chefs who he dines with. I salute all the facets that have made you the best Food Critic that any reader could ask to bring into their weekly world. Thank you, Rich, I will miss your articles, but I will enjoy reading and using the Koffmann and Vines Restaurant Guide.
Now onto the Venue – M Restaurant, Threadneedle Street
London is studded with wonderful venues and the farewell was held at the intriguing M Restaurant, Threadneedle Street in the City of London just behind Bank Station. An area that Richard, as a resident, has championed for years. Martin Williams the generous co-host of the evening thanked Richard in his speech for all he has done to attract and champion the new calibre of restaurants now in the City.
Having worked behind Liverpool Street in the 1990s in my Investor Services days, it was the highlight of the week to go for lunch with colleagues to somewhere noteworthy. There were, however, only a handful of places to choose, now the City has restaurants like Coya, Ekte and 1 Lombard Street to name a few.
I have always loved Gaucho’s since it opened and Martin Williams opened them all. M Restaurant and Gaucho are now under the banner of the Rare Group, with Martin at the helm. At Gaucho there is always wonderful attention to detail, everything is on point and stylish in a contemporary clean-lined, yet luxurious way. A few statement pieces that you wish you could incorporate into your own home, are strategically placed to draw your eye into different directions.
M Restaurant is all the above and more! On entering the restaurant the space feels light, airy, with triple volume ceilings, styled and sectioned in an understated way that I mentioned above. The room flows and lures your eye in different directions leaving you wanting to discover more. I was redesigning the restaurant into a home (I am the only one that does that when you walk into a wonderful space? I’ve moved my family into the Cinnamon Club and so many gorgeous boutique hotels and wonderful restaurants in my mind’s eye, I digress back to the venue). There is the main dining area at the front of the restaurant, numerous private dining areas, a private members space (at £500 a year per person or £400 for corporate membership), a wine shop and bars. This all sits comfortably within 15,000 square feet of space.
I was fortunate to see Mike Reid, the Head Chef and Culinary Director of the Rare Group on Sunday Brunch with Simon Rimmer just the day before. Mike was cooking an amazing brill dish, which if you don’t fancy making and are fortunate to live near either of the two MRestaurant’s, it is currently on the menu. Mike has a truly unique work-life balance straddling his life in Melbourne with his wife and family and working in the UK for 20/22 weeks a year. He was telling me that the new menu was demonstrated and the staff trained all via Zoom! Now that takes talent and an unbelievable skill to communicate without physically being in your team’s presence, especially when there are 18 restaurants in the group!
The party was in the wonderful space which is called The Den, usually a private members area from what I read on the website. We were greeted with trays of Ferrari Trento sparkling wine, as seen on the podium of F1. In my opinion, this was far too drinkable to be celebrated with after a race! I learnt that Richard loves F1 and that was something Martin tuned into when they were planning the event and surprised Richard, with an eight-track scalextric track for us all to enjoy. The room is large and the track formed a unique and memorable gathering point for us to compete and chat around throughout the night. It was such a fun and clever addition to the evening. Everyone enjoyed having a race, getting competitive and laughing like carefree children.
Richard and I chatted over the phone and I heard how easy this function was to attend as a co-host. Martin and Mike’s team took care of it all. RSVPs went through to their efficient MRestaurant team, they secured Ferrari Trento as the drinks sponsor and arranging the scalextric track. This team have been behind events like the Polo for Gaucho’s, where the bar is set high and everything has to be slick and this event was no different. Next time I am in the City I’m going to pop in and dine with friends, as they are open all hours and even on weekends.
The canapés were served on beautiful lipped embossed plates, under cloches filled with apple smoke. Every individual canapé styled and just as perfect as its neighbour, the attention to detail was phenomenal.
I always love to share with you the little touches we can add to our home repertoires from events and below is the menu served with my tips and ideas. Sadly I was chatting too much to take photos of all the plates. I checked in with the team at M Restaurant and the wonderful photographer Alister Veryard Photography was kept busy front of house and he too did not capture the canapés. Note to self remember your readers, I do apologise.
The reception was held between 18:30 – 21:30 which denoted a leaning to serve substantial rather than light canapés. The menu was balanced with elegant one-bite morsels, each intriguing with a little something wow and elegant to eat.
The M Restaurants Richard Vines Canapé Menu:
-Chicken Liver Parfait on croutons
The croutons were cut into rectangles rather than squares, which in itself was clever. They were smaller and taller which is easily achieved at home, with a loaf of uncut bread and a steady hand. This touch gave the canapé height and styled with a piped swirl, looked fantastic.
Try my Quick & Easy Mushroom Pate recipe, which can be made for vegans too and serve them on rectangular croutons for an easy and elegant canapé.
– Cured Carabineros Prawns Wrapped in Shiso leaves
Marissa’s Tip: The prawns were wrapped in a shiso leaf and threaded onto an extra long bamboo stick. The shiso complimented the prawn without being overpowering and looked beautiful on the embossed plate. Try and find the largest prawns you can for a more impactful canapé.
– Mini Flatbreads with Whipped Cod Roe
Marissa’s Tip: These were very clever, 4cm round, light mini pillows of flatbread, rolled into perfect circles and baked individually. The patience, thank you to the person on bread that day! With the whipped cod’s roe, beautifully pipped onto the bread, you can easily recreate and enjoy this canapé at home.
– Beef Yakitori, Yuzu Koshu Mayo
Marissa’s Tip: This was my favourite, long elegant bamboo sticks, again the length that would hold a BBQ main course, with a wonderful 5cm square of flavoursome beef. Each square of meat was individually seared on all sides on a hot grill, capturing a hint of BBQ smokiness. A neat round of the yuzu koshu mayo on top of the beef added flavour and was aesthetically impactful. In your home, you could use a squeeze bottle to dollop a little yuzu mayonnaise onto each piece of beef or a thick slice of portobello mushroom for vegan friends. Yuzu is easily found in supermarkets and if you can seek out Japanese mayonnaise it is even thicker than Hellmans and has a sweeter taste. If you can’t find that on the shelves use Hellman’s. Their vegan mayo is fantastic too, it is unrecognisable as a vegan product, it tastes like mayo and is slightly thicker than the egg version, it is delicious.
– Wagyu Tartare spoons
Marissa’s Tip: These were served on a lovely silver teaspoon, the ones we have in our drawers at home, with an elegant round of tartare in the middle and on a black textured plate. The garnish was thin slices of apple and when I say thin, I am talking paper-thin. This can be achieved by using a mandolin and then cutting each slice into even diamonds. The spoons were brought out under a cloche of apple smoke and the glass cloche lifted when a small group of guests were gathered to experience the reveal. This is such a good way to offer your guests a mouthful of something luxurious and add drama. I wouldn’t look to add smoke in a domestic environment, however, I will take my garnishes to the next level and cut them paper-thin. Another handy idea is all your favourite canapé mixtures can be served on teaspoons rather than on cucumber rounds or bread, which also helps if you have gluten-free friends.
– Mini Baos
Marissa’s Tip: Ba0 buns are always delicious and these had a perfectly round meatball in the centre with a little pickle for crunch. M&S sell ready-made bao buns, I buy mine via Ocado if you fancy trying them. If you choose to make them at home, I would pull out your bamboo steaming basket and line the base with greaseproof paper. For crunch add my https://www.marissa.co/quick-no-cook-pickled-cucumbers/to the bao, it really is easy. If you peel ribbons instead of cutting batons from your cucumber and carrots, this looks and tastes wonderful.
– Confit duck legs- Miso mushroom skewer- Carrot roasties, fermented carrots- scallops tartare on tapioca crisps
I missed the above canapés, I must have been chatting or playing scalextric, I’m so sorry! I do love the idea of a vegan canapé using portobello mushrooms marinated in miso and grilled. I would thread them onto the long bamboo sticks and serve them with a dollop of the yuzu mayonnaise that we chatted about above.
Below are the names of the people I managed to either chat to in person (a real pinch me moment) or seen across the room, not everyone that was in the room is listed. Perhaps when you are looking to discover a new restaurant or recipe book, a musician to listen to, or you need to add art to your walls, you may love horses or need a new gift for a horse obsessed friend, the list below will be one to use and refer to:
Below are the photos generously shared with me by Richard and taken by acclaimed Alister Veryard. Alister has done an amazing job to capture the elation in everyone’s faces whilst they celebrated Richard and reconnected with their friends.s
Richard, Martin. Mike and the team a very big thank you to you all it was a memorable evening and a fitting farewell to an industry legend.