There’s a world full of tricky customers and we know the best way to kill them...

with kindness.

Here are some SUPER SERVICE pointers to make sure you get extra, well earned money after a hard shift in London’s restaurants!

1) Introduce yourself
You’re a real person serving other real people. Ask them how their day has been so far and for God’s sake, smile!

2) Give a damn
‘Have you been here before? Is this a special occasion? How come you chose to eat here today?’  - These are all really good hook lines that lead to a genuine conversation.

3) Efficiency is key
Taking ages to take their first drinks order. "Aint' nobody got time for that!" Get this done within the first five minutes after the customer has been seated.

Take your time and repeat the order back to the customer. It’s not only you who has to read this - so does the chef - do them a favor and make it clear!

5) Prep your table
Anticipate anything the customer is going to need or is missing. Condiments? Steak knives? To really get brownie points, ask the table if they would like a new round of drinks with their meal.

6) Serve correctly
Remembering people’s orders will indicate you were genuinely engaged with the customer at the start of the service. It's also important to know who to serve first. This may depend on the establishment. At Wagamamas it’s first come first serve - which we love - BUT if you’re at the likes of The Wolseley or Rules, serve the eldest lady first to the youngest man last.  Always from the left.

7) Choose your moments
It’s important to ask how the food is and if they have everything they need but choose a good moment - not when the customer is gulping down a two foot burrito.

8) Clearing questions
‘How was it?’ is fine BUT even better than that, emphasise how glad you are they enjoyed it. Be really positive and excited that customers have enjoyed your food. If they haven’t asked why and deal with the criticism with ‘thank you for letting me know’. Stay positive!

This is a brilliant time to showcase your knowledge of the menu. Dessert is fun and naughty so you can have a light joke with the customer and recommend something yumtastic.

You might want to mention a great bar where they can go after to encourage more fun for your customer. Definitely tell them you look forward to seeing them again soon!

Written by Roberta Morris published 29th March 2017

Restaurant critics - truly impartial?

"I personally feel that it is unethical of you to review in the @guardianfood one of your direct competitor. Not in a national newspaper. Bad"

It was the above tweet by Alexis Gauthier, owner of the eponymous restaurant in Soho, that begged the question, are restaurant critics truly impartial?  

He's referring to the fact Guardian critic Marina O'Loughlin invests in restaurants, yet reviews restaurants. She has money in London Union, the street food project headed up by Jonathan Downey, and also in Noble Rot wine bar and restaurant in Clerkenwell. Her review of James Cochran EC3, in the eyes of Alexis, was blurring the lines between right and wrong.

As much as we love Marina, he does make a good point. 

Let's call a spade a spade, she might be the only restaurant critic out there who is truly anonymous, but unless she signed the contracts with a paper bag over her head, surely some of these restaurateurs now know what she looks like.

She's not the only one at it. Giles Coren, restaurant critic for The Times, told Roz Lewis in a recent article for The Telegraph "I invest in restaurants within the Enterprise Investment Scheme, with the hope that I will make millions later on down the line."

Other critics such as Fay Maschler, who has been reviewing restaurants in the Evening Standard since 1972, has, understandably, made some of her nearest and dearest friends in the industry. But it's reviews like this one of Blixen that show you can still have an impartial view on a friend's establishment.

It all falls down to transparency and trust. We trust Marina, we trust Fay, hell, we even trust Giles, to write openly and honestly.  But it's understandable that every now and then, someone raises the question 'are restaurant critics impartial?'

Written by Dominic Rowntree, published 27 March, 2017

Hiring Waiting Staff? Choose an Actor!

YOU graduated from drama school, featured on Doctors once and have seen more fringe than you’d like to admit to your agent BUT  -


How on earth is an actor supposed to survive in such a relentless climate when they’re not even recognised by HMRC’s vague self employed tax brackets.

Where can one find flexible work with low commitment but a fun atmosphere? HOSPITALITY - that's where. The Holy Grail of side careers seems to offer an abundance of casual work on zero hour contracts but establishes an environment of like minded people that all share the ethos ‘this isn’t my forever job, but I’m having fun whilst doing it’.

I spoke to Hamish Colville, a Mountview Academy Graduate from 2013, about his experience in hospitality. He told us 'it's the flexibility and understanding in many agencies that compel actors to work in hospitality. Also, there is scope for personal development.'' Hamish is now the best bad ass barista south of the river.

In fact some performers have been so familiar with the whole waiting game, they've incorporated the service industry into their shows.The Undercover Waiters will cunningly serve guests just before springing a fabulous song on the crowd! SURPRISE! 

Furthermore, the marriage of actor and hospitality is being recognized by many venues as Tom Oldroyd, owner of Oldroyd in Islington tells us:-

''The restaurant floor is very much a stage, usually showing twice a day. Midday for lunch and 5.30 for dinner. We rehearse our steps of service just like any play except this one is interactive. And as the curtains go up there's nowhere to hide. It's all smiles & charm, everyone is a reviewer.

Actors, of course, may apply within.''

So keep on keeping on Actors! There's a bounty of options for part time work out there...


Written by Roberta Morris. publish on 23 March 2017.

A spotlight on: Flat Iron Square


As much as we love eating a beef brisket bao sat on a damp pavement it's good to have a dry bottom every now and then. Flat Iron Square has brought the good people of SE1 a railway arch to house some of London's best street grub and we've rounded up the best:  


These guys are doing Spanish grub with a twist. Their 'Spanglish' burger with a side of sweet potato bravas is totes lush. They're on Deliveroo too.

Savage Salads

The lack of healthier choices at street food markets made friends Davide and Kristina come up with their own salad street food venture and it's a hit. Their halloumi is the nuts. Healthy doesn't have to be boring y'know.  

Manti by Mike + Ollie

Not familiar with manti? Well they're Turkish dumplings and they're lush. They fill 'em with seasonal British ingredients like spiced lamb shoulder and pumpkin and serve them with yoghurt and deep fried breadcrumbs. They also have a stall on Broadway Market too. Wahey. 

Cantina Carnitas

If you're looking for filling Mexican food to soak up a beer or four this is your place. Just look at that burrito. You'll find them serving from  huge red, white and blue waggon below their giant inflatable taco.

South West Social Club
'A small syndicate of farmers and cooks serving street food' - what a good idea. It's all served from a silver Air Stream (named Sylvia FYI) and you can expect vegan and vegetarian offerings as well as free range rotisserie chicken.


Bye bye cash?

Bye bye cash?

It was at a Talent Deck team lunch at Japanese Canteen the other day when we saw a sign hanging in the window which read: “Due to recent burglaries, we no longer accept cash payment. Card payments only.” And it got us thinking…

Are we done with cash? 

Sure, the UK has just been given freshly printed £5 notes and there’s talk that all £1 coins will be replaced by 2017 to help get rid of all the fakes. But with the rise of online banking and contactless payments (I can’t remember the last time I popped to the shops and entered my pin) maybe cashless restaurants aren’t as ludicrous as they sound. 

Around the world, South Korea’s Central Bank by is leading the way by setting a target of eliminating coins altogether by 2020. In the Netherlands, a whopping 98% of the population own a debit card. And in India, they’ve even removed 500 and 1000 rupee notes from circulation in a bid to tackle corruption and push people into the digital age.

Here in the UK, chains like Tossed are pushing the boundaries at every opportunity. In March 2016, they opened their first cashless shop where customers purchase takeaway salads from self checkout tills – something which had otherwise only been seen in supermarkets. And it was a success – especially when combatting the manic lunch rush.

It’s not just affecting the takeaway sector either. Tom Oldroyd, owner of Oldroyd restaurant on Islington’s Upper Street told us “We take almost zero cash. Works out roughly 90% of people pay with their card.”

With service charge automatically added on to the bill these days, the need to leave a cash tip is redundant. And with bigger shops having no minimum spend on card, it's looking like cash is out, and card is in...


Written by Dominic Rowntree, published 16 March, 2017

A quick chat with George from L'Escargot

'A quick chat with'

The ever elegantly dressed George Pell was appointed MD of London's oldest French restaurants, L'Escargot, and With the help of owner Brian Clivaz, he's turned this flailing beaut into Soho's hottest hangout - there's even a members bar on the top floor.

We have 'a quick chat with' George to hear his thoughts on the hospitality industry...

How did you first get interested in hospitality?

I grew up on a fish farm in the west country and my parents grew pretty much all our own fruit and veg. My mum put me to work from a young age harvesting stuff so I guess that started a love of all things food related!!

My uncle was a chef over in Jersey and holidays to visit him were inspiring, thats probably when I first stepped foot in a "proper" restaurant. Everything about them was exciting, staff running around, people drinking exotic booze, pretty theatrical for a boy whose best friend was a goat called April.

What was your first job in restaurants?

George Pell

I worked in a number of hospitality jobs prior to my first job in a restaurant and I still think they were hugely influential on me. 

I was a cook for a high end events company that did all sorts of fab events across the south of England. It was brilliant, got to spend my weekends on the road, usually sleeping on site, making lush food, and getting paid in cash!! Plus the waitresses all seemed to be gorgeous blonde girls on their gap years... Never got better than that really.

Then I worked in my local deli, that really taught me the basics in getting to know your regulars and caring about them. It was the epicentre of the community, plenty of gossip! We also focused on using local suppliers and producers so learnt the basics of maintaining those relationships.

How does it feel being an MD of L'Escargot at such a young age?


Well it really is a mixed blessing i suppose!! What a great opportunity to run one of the most iconic restaurants in London... On the flip side you do sometimes worry that you are doing that legacy justice, not every restaurant has had Marco Pierre White, the Galvin brothers, and Alastair Little running the kitchens!! 

Describe L'Escargot in 3 words.

Homely, flamboyant, eccentric

How long have you been at L'Escargot? And what was your first role there?

This is my 4th year... Honestly started as a handyman when we first took it over to try and knock the building into shape!!

A career highlight?

Very much becoming the MD of L'Escargot

Would advice would you give anyone thinking of a career in hospitality?

George with owner Brian Clivaz

Never feel entitled, never feel like you have stopped learning, never take it for granted.

Best bits of the industry?

It is full of amazing people, i think it really is one of the last widly creative environments left. Everyday is a new scene in a play or a new picture


Watching people treat young enthusiatic staff badly. This really is an industry where you learn on the job, we need to support that

What changes have you seen in the industry over the past few years?

Well for me I think the consumer is now spoilt for choice and always on the hunt for something new... So now more than ever we need to work bloody hard to give our guests a wondeful experience, make them feel special, and pray they come back!! 

Written by Dominic Rowntree, published on 14 March, 2017

Cooking with Cancer...

The Big C

These days it's a worrying fact that most of us know at least one person suffering from cancer. In 2014, 163,444 people in the UK died from the big C and just 42% of all reported diagnoses were preventable. One death which shocked the world of food was Sunday Times critic AA Gill, who died from 'the full English of cancers' and wrote publicly about his illness. 

It's common for those living with cancer and going through chemo/radiotherapy to have their sense of taste dampened. Some even lose their appetite altogether . Food stylist and writer Ryan Riley is launching Life Kitchen which will offer free cooking classes for those living with cancer, something which is close to his own heart after losing his mother to the disease.

Ryan Riley

Ryan, pictured left, explained on BBC Radio 4's Today programme that when she was going through chemo, "losing her sense of taste upset her most". Something I'm sure many people can relate to that.

Evening Standard critic, Grace Dent, a supporter of this new project, wrote "Ryan is addressing a problem close to thousands of hearts, including mine. At the exact point where we should be feeding the person we love, our inspiration to cook disappears". 

Supporters also come in the form of TV glamour chef Nigella Lawson who tweeted a link to the Life Kitchen GoFundME page to her 2,050,000 followers. Ryan is looking to raise £10,000 to fund this project. To donate and make this dream become a reality, visit his page here.

Written by Dominic Rowntree, published on 10 March, 2017

International Women's Day

International Women's Day

The gastronomic map of the world is peppered with fierce female chefs who are cooking up a  storm in our restaurants and across mainstream media. The British public have fallen deeply in love with female chefs for years as they garnish our prime time tele with the likes of the decadent Nigella and iconic Mary Berry.

But on the front line of new culinary conquests, we have the likes of Dominique Crenn winner of the 2016 Best Female Chef in the World's 50 Best awards and Ana Ros Winner of the same award in 2017 who are making groundbreaking recipes as well as delivering impeccable classics. However, the question that constantly arises is:

Why isn’t it just ‘Chef of the Year'?

As women, we obviously want to celebrate all we have a achieved as a sex, however the aim, as always, is for equality. It would suggest that even though there are hundreds of amazing female chefs out there, they struggle to oppress the notion that there is a difference between a male chef and a female chef

For International Women's Day, we catch up with Lucy Pearce at Rawduck in Hackney to gain an insight into working in the industry

Lucy, who inspired you to be a chef and why? 
My parents’ love of food from an early ages. I was always cooking from about the age of 10

Lucy Pearce

Where did you train to be a chef?
I am self taught apart from a month training at Leiths cookery school in West London, I worked on superyachts for a year traveling and cooking on the boat for a family

Tell us about a challenging experience when you first started out?
The shock of the brutality of the kitchen; the ‘if you can't handle the heat get out of the kitchen’ mantra.  Adjusting was hard but worth it as it teaches good discipline

What are you most proud of during your career? 
I'm proud of myself not giving up easily and getting through some tough years and coming out better for it

Have you faced any blatant sexism at work?
No, the industry is very good to women in the kitchen, I think it is because of the stigma that surrounds women (which I do not agree with). It's equal

Best part of your job?
Cooking and seeing people enjoy my food 

The unforgiving hours 

How has the industry changed since you've been in it?
There's not so much of the idea that you have work 100 hours a week to be a good chef anymore. The industry is more fair to staff nowadays

If you could offer advice to an aspiring chef what would you say? 
Work really hard in the first 4 years and don't complain 

What's on the menu tonight?
Monkfish with iberico tomatoes (I'm off tonight ha!)

Written by Roberta Morris, published on 8 March, 2017

🎵🎵 The best pies in London! 🎵🎵

Ok, ok, that's a line from Sweeney Todd but forget about demon barbers and flesh pies (gross) to celebrate #NationalPieWeek we've rounded up the very best London has to offer. You're welcome.

1) Holborn Dining Room
Exec chef Calum Franklin is a pastry mastermind - just follow his Instagram to see for yourself. The pies on offer at his restaurant Holborn Dining Room inside The Rosewood hotel change frequently. On at the moment: curried mutton with mango salsa. Quite incredible.

Holborn Dining Room

2) Pharmacy 2
This is the collaboration between legendary restaurateur Mark Hix and artist Damien Hirst inside his Newport Street Gallery in Vauxhall. This Launceston lamb and kidney pie has a pastry so thick and buttery you'll be dreaming about it for months later. Read a write up over on Samphire and Salsify.

Pharmacy 2

3) Berners Tavern

Jason Atherton's food inside an Ian Schrager designed dining room inside the London Edition hotel? Go on then. The room is stunning. And so is this pork pie starter served table side along with a whole host of pickles and mustards. 

Berners Tavern

4) The Guinea Grill
This old school Mayfair pub has a brilliant steak restaurant hidden out the back which not everyone knows about. Their steak and kidney pie (a three times national champion no less), with its frilly ruff, a pint of bitter's best friend in the whole wide world. Hence why the recipe hasn't change since 1985.

The Guinea Grill

5) Goddards
There are plenty of cracking pie and mash shops in London but Goddards of Greenwich has a special place in our heart. The family have been making pies to the same secret recipe since 1890 and their two story restaurant means you're more likely to get a seat than other places. A double double (that's two pies, two mash) is pure perfection.


Did we miss off you favourite pie? Tell us off @talentdeck

Written by Dominic Rowntree, published 8 March, 2017

London's hottest bar openings

1) Untitled

Tony Conigliaro, he's the chap who owns Termini in Soho and 69 Colebrooke Row in Islington, has taken his tiny but delicious cocktails to Dalston. A stripped back room, cocktails with names such as Rice and Violin and Asian-inspired bar snacks. Super trendy yah.

Tony Conigliaro

2) Swift

Oriole and Nightjar are the sisters to this new cocktail bar on Soho's Old Compton Street. The ground floor bar area looks pretty ordinary but head down to the basement for a cosy and romantic getaway.


3) Nape

Cured meat chaps Cannon and Cannon in Borough Market have headed to Camberwell to open this wine bar cum bottle shop cum charcuterie bar. Britisher cured meats and organic wine on tap? Yasss.


4) Grind

This is their latest opening on Exmouth Market and although it's more of a restaurant now, come night time the central bar is the perfect place for London's finest Espresso Martini. Trust us, we've had enough to know.


5) TT Liquor

The Kingsland Road in Dalston gets this exciting new bar and liquor store set over 3 floors. But it's the basement cocktail den that has really got us excited here at Talent Deck HQ. They even do cocktail making masterclasses.

TT Liquor

Written by Dominic Rowntree, published on 3 March, 2017