I had an exceptional lunch yesterday at Inside, Greenwich South Street. It's hard not to be too enthusiastic about this place: excellent food, really good value for money with its lunch time set menus and friendly customer service. No wonder this is many people's favourite restaurant in Greenwich.
The Peninsula restaurant in Bugsby's Way has been handed a fine of £13,500 by Woolwich Magistrates.
The hefty fine was issued last Monday after a number of food hygiene breaches were found in an unannounced inspection by Environmental Health officers at Greenwich Council.
During the inspection, officers found:
- Dirty equipment, walls, floor and ventilation ducting in the kitchen
- Food storage containers in a poor state of repair
- Failure to protect food from contamination in the refrigerator
- Inadequate procedures were put into place to control pests
- Mouse droppings were found in the storage areas
- General cleanliness of the premises was below standard
Peninsula restaurant, which is in the same building as the Express by Holiday Inn hotel, pleaded guilty to the offences and were charged £13,500 and ordered to pay the council's costs of £6,800.
Councillor Maureen O’Mara, Greenwich Council’s Cabinet Member for neighbourhood services, said: “The Council will continue to carry out unannounced visits to food businesses and will take necessary action to safeguard customers’ health. It is essential that food businesses take all the appropriate steps to ensure general food hygiene standards are met".
SO THERE I was, standing in the Somerfield checkout queue, when the phone rings. "I'm gonna f*** you," says a voice. Now, as it happens - you may not be totally surprised about this - it's not the first time I've had a threatening phone call, so I wasn't all that bothered. "Who is this?" I said. "You've always had it in for me," said the mystery caller. "You and your little blog, you c***. I'm gonna sue you."
After a few more servings of abuse, I finally worked out who it was. "Is this Frank Dowling?" I said, incredulously. It was. Frank, for those of you not aware of him, is the American businessman who now owns roughly half the pubs and restaurants in central Greenwich, including the Trafalgar Tavern, the Spread Eagle, the Admiral Hardy, the Coach and Horses, the Bar du Musee, the George delicatessen, the Greenwich Park Bar & Grill, the Inc Bar, the (now-closed, and not even slightly missed) Lani Tiki Lounge - plus a whole load of concept outlets at that shrine to high catering, the 02.
You can't tell their ownership from their names - they've kept their original titles. But you can tell, if you're a regular Greenwich eater, from their almost universal mediocrity. As I said in the March 2008 Evening Standard review which cemented my very special relationship with Frank, "none is exactly bad, but all are somehow dispiriting. The food is not disastrous, but it is bland. Both it and the staff seem interchangeable between 'outlets.'" This verdict was described as "absolutely correct" by the leading London restaurant critics and publishers of Harden's Guides, Richard and Peter Harden, on their blog.
But though Frank's grub may not be all that good, he's certainly a better class of nuisance caller than my usual kind. They normally tend to be assorted scrotes that I've turned over in print somewhere or other, not local multi-millionaire businessmen. I pointed this out to Frank and said I was a bit surprised at his behaviour.
The cause of the latest food-fight was a column I did for greenwich.co.uk about three weeks ago, listing the local restaurants and takeaways which had failed the council's hygiene awards inspection - meaning, in the council's words, that they were "not up to standard" for cleanliness.
Among them were three of Frank's - the Coach and Horses in the Market, plus Inc Brasserie and Union Square at the 02. I highlighted them - along with Rhodes Bakery, the local branch of the Prezzo chain and three non-Frank pubs, the Mitre, the Richard I and the Gipsy Moth - as well-known places which charge quite fancy prices but which have all failed the hygiene test. I didn't make a special feature of Dowling's emporia - I even pointed out that his one halfway decent restaurant, the Spread Eagle, had passed the inspection. But if you are Frank Dowling, I suppose you have good reason to be sensitive about your coverage.
The phone call ended with Frank promising to sue and demanding the documentation for my story. I pointed out that the piece contained a link to the council's food hygiene awards report, which is carried on its website.
Two and a half weeks on, I'm still waiting for the writ, though I did get another couple of kindly texts from the great entrepeneur saying: "Why don't you go away. You have no clue about real people, real lives. You seek to destroy everything you touch...I got something for you. I will send you a picture of it when it's done. You will love it." Still no sign of that, either - and I can't wait to see what form the "something" will take.
Maybe it'll be a repeat of a threat made during one of our previous spats, when Dowling said he would ban me from all his properties. I did point out that this was perhaps not the most spine-chilling prospect for a person who has publicly written that he would rather eat in McDonalds than any of the Dowling establishments.
Rather than ringing up and ranting at me, Frank, the best way to stop people attacking your empire is to raise standards a bit. And until you do, I'll go on knocking you, from time to time.
MANY OF Greenwich’s best-known restaurants, pubs and takeaways have been officially judged “not up to standard” for cleanliness and have failed council hygiene inspections, greenwich.co.uk can reveal.
The outlets which the council found did not have a “good standard of hygiene” include:
- Rhodes Bakery.
- Three of Frank Dowling’s Inc Group restaurants – including the Inc Brasserie and Union Square at the 02, and the Coach and Horses pub in Greenwich Market.
- Another restaurant at the 02, Cheyenne Spur.
- Three well-known Greenwich pubs: the Gipsy Moth, the Mitre and the Richard I in Royal Hill.
- The Greenwich branch of the well-known Italian chain, Prezzo.
In total, 59 of SE10’s 194 catering outlets failed the inspection – they are listed at the end of this article. What's notable, however, is the spread of failure – with a surprising number of upmarket and expensive places alongside the usual-suspect kebab houses.
The Union Square, for instance, is described by Inc Group as its “flagship restaurant” and a “destination eatery in its own right.” Main courses at the restaurant run to as much as £26 for a steak. It failed its inspection just last month. Rhodes Bakery, too, which failed in October, is far from cheap.
The best three restaurants in Greenwich – Inside, the Rivington Brasserie and Dowling’s Spread Eagle – all passed, as did most of the local chains, including Pizza Express, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Nando’s, KFC and McDonalds. Most of the pubs also passed.
However, other well-known central Greenwich restaurants – including San Miguel tapas bar, the Pier fish and chip shop, the Organic Café opposite the Picturehouse, the new Biscuit ceramic café on Nelson Road and other Nelson Road outlets Café Sol, Pistachios and Saigon – failed. The popular Wing Wah Chinese buffet on Woolwich Road also failed, as did the Queen Anne coffee shop at the University of Greenwich in the Naval College.
The outlets were inspected at various times over the last 18 months as part of the council’s “food hygiene award” scheme. According to the council: “The scheme is about ensuring that food at catering premises is handled and prepared safely.” Outlets which met its standards were awarded a “food hygiene certificate.” Those without an award are, in the words of the council, “not up to standard.”
Embarrassingly for the council, three of its own school kitchens also failed the hygiene test – though none were in Greenwich itself. We haven’t included these or other outlets from other parts of the borough, though there were also substantial numbers of failures in Eltham, Charlton and Woolwich.
Greenwich restaurants have, of course, always been pretty mediocre – the ceaseless flow of tourists means that restaurateurs don’t have to worry about people not coming back. None of the places that failed would have been my top destinations for a meal. But this survey was about cleanliness, not quality.
The full borough-wide list of restaurants which passed and failed – which runs to 102 pages – can be downloaded here
Here are the failures, set out by category.
RESTAURANTS WHICH FAILED
|Cafe Sol||Tex-Mex||13 Nelson Road||8.1.09|
|Cheyenne Spur||American||The O2||9.2.09|
|Inc Brasserie||Modern Euro||The O2||27.2.09|
|Kum Luang||Thai||326 Creek Road||15.5.09|
|Organic Cafe||Mod Euro||285 Greenwich High Road||3.11.08|
|Paprika||Indian||131 Vanbrugh Hill||7.8.08|
|Peninsula||Chinese||85 Bugsby's Way (at Holiday Inn)||20.3.09|
|Prezzo||Italian||35 Bugsby's Wat (by Odeon)||16.2.09|
|Saigon||Vietnamese||16 Nelson Road||4.12.08|
|San Miguel||Tapas||18 Greenwich Church Street||28.10.08|
|Tai Won Mein||Chinese||39-41 Greenwich Church Street||22.1.09|
|Union Square||American||The O2||1.7.09|
|Vietnam||Vietnamese||17 King William Walk||15.4.09|
|Windies Cove||West Indian||135 Trafalgar Road||30.10.08|
|Wing Wah Buffet||Chinese||4-6 Woolwich Road||23.6.09|
PUBS WHICH FAILED
|Belushi's (St Chrisotpher's Inn)||189 Greenwich High Road||5.1.09|
|Coach & Horses||Greenwich Market||28.10.08|
|Gipsy Moth||60 Greenwich Church Street||3.11.08|
|Hardys (not the Admiral Hardy)||92 Trafalgar Road||4.6.09|
|Mitre||291 Greenwich High Road||28.8.08|
|Pelton Arms||23 Pelton Road||14.1.09|
|Prince Albert||72 Royal Hill||27.1.09|
|Richard I||52 Royal Hill||22.7.09|
TAKE-AWAYS/ CAFES WHICH FAILED (ALPHABETICALLY BY STREET)
|Green Chillies||110 Blackheath Road||13.5.09|
|Kebab & Burger Bar||111 Blackheath Road||11.1.08|
|Burger Stall||Fountain Food court||28.9.08|
|Phillies||9 Greenwich Church St||16.6.09|
|Pier Fish Restaurant||19 Greenwich Church St||4.2.09|
|Cutty Sark (the cafe not the pub)||38 Greenwich Church St||11.11.08|
|Real Taste||243 Greenwich High Rd||28.10.08|
|Gaucho Son of Pumpa||Greenwich Market||28.2.09|
|Just Coffee||Greenwich Market||19.7.09|
|Love Me Tender||Greenwich Market||13.6.08|
|Teriya Kiya||Greenwich Market||4.7.09|
|Pizza Hot Express (not Pizza Express)||129 Greenwich South St||5.6.09|
|Le Popadom||141 Greenwich South St||8.7.08|
|Ultimate Pizza||143 Greenwich South St||9.9.08|
|Paul's Cafe||18 Haddo St||11.9.08|
|Kiosk||8 King William Walk||18.3.09|
|Rhodes Bakery||37 King William Walk||28.10.08|
|Beijing Express||79 Lassell St||19.11.08|
|Biscuit Ceramic Cafe||3-4 Nelson Rd||11.2.09|
|Pistachios||15 Nelson Rd||12.11.08|
|Diner||Outside North Greenwich Stn||20.4.09|
|Moza||101 Trafalgar Rd||10.7.09|
|Milano's Pizza||106 Trafalgar Rd||3.8.09|
|Kerala Zone||119 Trafalgar Rd||26.5.09|
|Mister Chung||166 Trafalgar Rd||22.7.09|
|Yummy Yummy||180 Trafalgar Rd||15.7.09|
|Queen Anne Coffee Shop||University of Greenwich||24.4.08|
|Curry Royal||9 Woolwich Road||14.5.09|
|New Hong Kong Garden||22 Woolwich Road||5.3.09|
|Greenwich Cafe||27 Woolwich Road||27.2.09|
|Bengal Spice||44 Woolwich Road||25.6.09|
|Morleys||117 Woolwich Road||15.7.09|
|Millennium Pizza||119 Woolwich Road||10.2.09|