Culinary Causerie

with Sarla Langdon

Whither tourism?

……What price the catering industry??

WINTER2015A.CulinaryCauserieSarlapic1

Every now and again it behoves us to stand back and take a considered view of developments around us, particularly in the industry that seems more vulnerable to political, financial and commercial vicissitudes than is the norm.

Living as we do in an area heavily dependent on tourism, the health of the hospitality industry impinges on all our livelihoods.

The tourism and catering industry is heavily labour intensive, with a high employee turnover in the smallest B&B, the smartest little restaurant, the most stylish wedding venue and the largest national hotel chains alike. From the employment strictures of the Maastricht Treaty – brought down on us by the then PM Tony Blair – to the latest Osbornian declarations of a higher minimum wage, the hospitality industry steels itself to meet each fresh staffing challenge.

Over an excellent breakfast of creamy scrambled eggs, Gower bacon and thick slices of toast from a noble cottage loaf, I asked Ian Williams, proprietor of the Oxwich Bay Hotel and one of my marketing consultancy’s longest standing clients, what his thoughts were on the state of the trade.

“The new minimum wage will certainly affect costs,” says Ian. “But it has its positive side as well. Better pay will hopefully result in better employee loyalty and we may find that staff turnover decreases as the job becomes more valuable.

“Hopefully, tax cuts for small business will help us offset these new costs, but undoubtedly, the industry has to take a strategic look at ways and means to improve productivity in the face of rising overheads on all fronts.

“I urge proprietors and managers of hotels and restaurants to start planning to improve footfall and margins at the same time as working out a strategy to trigger a rise in staff performance and productivity. We need to plan now and be in control of the situation.”

The youthful Ian Williams has been running the Oxwich Bay Hotel since he left school, combining investment and commitment to achieve an enviable rate of steady growth and customer loyalty. He has been chairman of the Swansea, Mumbles and Gower Tourism Association and has earned a place as a market leader in the hospitality industry.

In this edition Sarla reviews:

Jimmy’s – Swansea, Patrick’s – Mumbles and Rasoi Waterfront – SA1

When choice is paramount

Jimmy’s Buffet Restaurant

Dr Alexei Moozyckine is a distinguished scientist whose book on Cognitive Poetics has just been published in Russian. Even more baffling than his work is the fact that he is a staunch vegetarian. It is really difficult to find a suitable restaurant where he would be pleased with the range of vegetarian fare offered while his carnivore companions are equally well served.

The only place in Swansea to meet these opposing requirements is the newly opened buffet restaurant Jimmy’s, located where Peachy Keen’s used to be at the bottom of Wind Street.

Jimmy’s is fresh and smart, and the range of foods at the buffet truly awesome. Alexei was spoiled for choice and was able to make a satisfying selection from a variety of vegetarian cuisines. I am pleased to say I introduced him to his first dosa, a savoury Indian pancake made of rice and lentil flour, crisp and aromatic, stuffed with a simple potato curry and served with a thick coconut chutney and sauce.

The rest of the party had a choice from numerous starters and the range of main courses, representing China,Thailand, India, Italy, France and a host of other cuisines, made sure that all of us found food that we enjoyed.

Some of the dishes are cooked freshly in front of you—very chic and very pleasing, particularly if you like your food piping hot.    

I thought you can never please everyone: you can if you go to Jimmy’s. Full marks for keeping Alexei – and all of us — happy!

Jimmy’s Swansea, Little Wind St, Swansea SA1 1ED Tel: 01792 466444 / www.jimmysrestaurants.com

The working lunch

Patrick’s the perfect venue

The prerequisites for a good venue for a working lunch are privacy, unobtrusive service and a simple menu. Patrick’s in Mumbles meets these criteria and is, additionally, a very fashionable restaurant, very well appointed and very well-known.

On a Friday lunchtime, our business meeting went smoothly: the tables were spaced far enough from each other so that we could not be overheard as my client spelled out his plans for future growth. No time was wasted on making a choice of food as the menu was short and the choices for the three courses were pre-matched for quick selection.

And the service was impeccable. The courses were served at well-judged intervals guaranteeing the minimum of interruptions and our waitress was pleasant but not talkative.

Patrick’s is one of South Wales’ best restaurants, the winner of more awards than I can remember and an excellent place for a celebratory dinner or a fine evening out. It enjoys a considerable reputation for its superior food and exemplary service and I’ll be happy to join you there anytime.

Patricks with Rooms, 638 Mumbles Road, Mumbles, Swansea SA3 4EA Tel: 01792 360199

www.patrickswithrooms.com

Rasoi Waterfront:  

New ethnic restaurant in SA1

In India, restaurants are quite strictly regional and every city or large town has restaurants represent-ing each of the main geo-political regions of the subcontinent. I have learnt to accept British curry houses of Bangla Deshi origin – but I rarely patronize these establishments finding their menus a confusing mess of dishes that simply do not belong together.

The very smart new Rasoi Waterfront in J Shed has a menu not particularly representative of its Punjabi ownership but the food and service is of an overall excellence that transcends my native objections. The lunchtime menu is a triumph of variety and excellence, offering all the kormas, pasandas and bhunas you could dream of, and a few dishes you will never have heard of.

Try the cold starter Dahi Bhalla, savoury lentil dumplings in a yoghurt sauce served with piquant tamarind chutney; this is a great tiffin favoutite in India. Ringing the changes, in addition are crisp duck cakes, spiced shepherd’s pie, and Punjabi style fish and chips.

I have decided to return to Rasoi till I have sampled every intriguing dish on the lunch menu. Order at random – you will enjoy every beautifully presented and perfectly cooked dish. Such culinary virtuosity explains why the restaurant was full even at lunchtime.

Rasoi is staffed by polished and very presentable East European waiters and waitresses, adding to the truly international ambience of the place. Prices are very reasonable considering that breads and rice are served as part of every main course ordered. We swooned over the fresh and perfect Peshwari naans, prepared in front of diners and are determined to sample all the different side dishes in due course. Rasoi is an impressive new addition to Swansea’s culinary repertoire and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Rasoi Waterfront 3-4 J Shed, Kings Road, Swansea SA18PL Tel: 01792 462350 www.rasoiwaterfront.co.uk

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