Creating a successful restaurant is very, very hard, as David Ramsden discovered when his bistro Rogue was forced to close last month. Here, Ramsden says he only has himself to blame, while screenwriter and food critic Charlie Fletcher argues that Ramsden is too talented to be out of the business for long.
s I am sure eyeryone is aware. this column is designed to he a writing opportunity tor the writer. Well. it shotild come as no surprise to those who know me that I‘m going to ‘rogue‘ it. The only subject ol this exorcise will be me. l'ntil l‘riday II .\'o\emher. I owned and operated two restaurants in lidinburgh: I'it/llenry & Rogue. Both were meant to be enjoyed by as many as chose to make the journey. My job was to make that journey as worthwhile as possible by creating the most attractiye destination possible. Both tailed. I write this to offer an explanation. llaying spent much time working on a concept. I decided in both cases simply to ol-lct' a good product at a lair price with some light entertainment thrown in. Ilow‘eyer. what I failed to see was that the nature
of my character would driye me to involve myseIl'
SHOULDIHAVE actiy'ity. 'I‘hat was Yes. it was my I own personality I did the damage. There can be ho was to giye the city the best I could. That which I helieycd Iidinburgh deserved. and was ready for haye always taken customers' comfort and enjoyment \‘Cl'_\' sei'iotisly. Should I haye been more mean to offend: it was just my way. I honestly belieyed that the quality of ey'erything else would at times were crippling. But that was my job.
'I‘hings didn‘t always seem so prohlematic. In the (‘hannel 4 researcher with a yiew to including the restaurant in the (iordon Ramsay's then upcoming busy Saturday ey‘ening. that exciting it was so full on that I didn't get the opportunity to sit with her researcher was l'rustrated. Her Verdict was that there was scant material for an episode. She could not might need Ramsay ‘s help anyway.
It turns out she was wrong. Despite all the hard prices too high‘.’ Possibly. so I introduced a reduced rate menu a year ago. which receiyed great reviews
in ey'ery aspect my undoing. RESPECT FUL? and character that other explanation. I really didn‘t mean it. My aim Should I haye been more relaxed'.’ Maybe. btit I respectl'ul'.’ (Bosh. I don’t think so. I really didn‘t haye compensated. The focus and discipline required second summer at Rogue. we were yisited by a series Ramsay’s Kitchen .\"i'g/itniun'x. She came on at until the may end of the night. By that time the lind fault and was confused as to why the restaurant work. I just couldn‘t make it stack up. Were our in the press. btit didn‘t quite boost reyenues enough.
10 THE LIST ‘ti Ila-v .‘
Was Rogue in the wrong location'.’ Some journalists were sceptical about our site. but it was just as accessible to eycning diners as. say. Martin \Vishart. Was the interior decor wrong for Iidinburgh'.’ .\'ot according to the yast majority of people who came. and commented on how much they liked it. Or was the food not tip to scratch‘.’ I‘m conyinced that the quality ol our offering was right tip there among the best in Scotland. and The Lisl's own [fut/Ire Al Drinking (iiii’ilt' described our food as ‘sublime'.
It's difficult to escape the conclusion that the biggest obstacle to my restaurant's success was me. Ironic giyen that my aim was to aspire to excellence r aspirations which were initially recognised in the press. with no mention of my own unsuitability' tor the task. 'I'hat judgement. it seems. rested solely in the minds of the public.
0" Location, location, location. End of story. Rogue was the only reason to venture into the Western Extension. that gimcrack architectural attempt to make Edinburgh, a city that looks like nowhere else, look like everywhere built on a budget. Rogue was a theatrical space. a restaurant in the round. and the menu was similarly all-encompassing: like all great brasseries it had something for everyone (and Rogue was at its heart a modern brasserie that couldn't - because of its location - fulfil its destiny and offer its services from breakfast to past midnight). Whether you were on a budget or a splurge you got the same exemplary double-damask service, and you were treated democratically: to paraphrase Shaw. it wasn't how David Ramsden treated people (well and exuberantly, to my eye) as much as that he treated everyone the same. be they Duchess or dust-man. Maybe this didn't go down well with Edinburgh's aspirant suiterati who do like a good bit of sucking up with their service.
Brutally. Ramsden‘s ability to conjure that pleasing gestalt where food. ambience and service work seamlessly wasn't enough to fight the big problem of an eccentric location with no real walk-past.
It is hard to tell an egomaniac that it isn't all about him.
But it really isn't.
It is just about location. I know that's pedestrian and unglamorous. but Rogue on George Street? He'd still be beating them off with clubs. I know that sucks, but that's how things work. The good news is that I think we should watch this space. If Ramsden has the grit and stamina to get beyond this. I know he's still got the magic. Which would be great for us. because we could all have another great place to eat out at. The one thing about location? You can change it. What Ramsden has, as a creator of great restaurants, is something rarer and more immutable: vocation, vocation. vocation.
PlUCKIIIG FRUIIS FROM THE CULIURAl BUSH
I James Cameron has swem aside all those iatjing
Claims that he Will never work in sci fi again by announcrng that his next project WlIl indeed be within the genre. The multi award Winning director of lit/e Lies. Titanic and fire Terminator is provmg that he can actually make films that don't begin With the letter T by turning a bunch of Japanese graphic novels into a 26th century-set CG and live action fiesta called Battle Angel . . . Costing marginally less than that will be the Little Britain stage show which trundles our way next November With dates at the Edinburgh Playhouse and Clyde Auditorium. This will be the first time Matt Lucas and David Walliams have toured the UK together since 1997 and, while here. they are threatening to ‘confiscate people's shoes' . . . Ex-Friend Lisa Kudrow will be dorng the art imitating other bits of art thing by playing a onetime sitcom star in future HBO project. Comeback. This s the first new comedy to be commissioned by the iconic US cable channel since Sex and the City climaxed earlier this year . . . Turbonegro are working on a new album in sunny Oslo. Next year's Baby/on Forever will be the follow-up to last year's Scandinavian Leather and will feature an array of tunes. Cuter described by the band as ‘beautifully negative Switchblade serenades‘ . . . Speaking of which. Moby has a new album out next year, too. You can check into Hotel any time yOu like around March, but trust me. you will never leave.