Monday, January 16, 2012

Restaurant Crowned By Gordon Ramsay As Best In Britain Goes Bust

(Pic: Ramsay with Pheasant head chef Jay Scrimshaw, left)

Gordon Ramsay has again confirmed the view that chefs make rubbish food critics after a gastropub he crowned Britain’s best local restaurant went into liquidation.

The Pheasant made it to the final of The F Word three years ago with Ramsay heaping so much praise on the eatery, you’d think he’d just necked a fistful of Prozac and found himself slumped in a trough full of dove-fetched ambrosia.

With his usual wide-arsed bluster straight from the TV producers’ bumper book of overdone-to-the-point-of-cremated sound bites, he ranted and raved over chef-owner Jay Scrimshaw and his trendy nose-to-tail eating.

But his judgement was seriously called into question when restaurant critics then visited the thatched inn in Keyston, Cambridgeshire, and found it more of a turkey than a pheasant.

Far from agreeing with the celebrity chef that it was the best local restaurant in Britain, the Daily Telegraph’s restaurant critic Jasper Gerard questioned whether it was even the best restaurant in the sleepy village of Keyston.

He called the decor “rubbish”, slated the service as appalling, and said the warm salad of confit duck tasted like road kill, and was so chewy he wondered whether they’d instead served up the Dunlop tyre that squashed it.

Of course, the TV exposure proved a big boost for a while, which Jay and his wife Taffeta were quick to seize on, even inviting customers to park their private planes in the next-door farm.

But media fairy dust only lasts for a while, and needs word of mouth rather than word of gobshite to fall back, so it’s perhaps no surprise that the two Rosette pub (pic below) closed its doors this week, blaming the tough economic conditions.

The couple said on their Facebook page: “It is with a heavy heart that Jay and I must tell you that The Pheasant at Keyston Ltd has gone into liquidation.

"We have enjoyed every moment of our six-and-a-half years working here and have tried very hard not to let it go under. But unfortunately, due mainly to the current economic state, this has become harder and harder.”

They said the Pheasant will reopen on January 20 as part of Huntsbridge Ltd, which also owns The Old Bridge at Huntingdon.

The firm’s owner John Hoskins told local paper The Hunts Post: “Jay and Taffeta are a very nice young couple. They did very well in Gordon Ramsay’s competition but unfortunately their business has gone into liquidation.

“It is very sad. It is a tough time to run any business and people will be surprised that this has happened. It was well-known and seemed to be successful.”

But to be fair to the couple, the Pheasant is certainly not the first restaurant lauded by Ramsay in his many TV shows to close, and as long as he remains in the media spotlight, it will be far from the last.

His TV mission to rescue ailing eateries on both sides of the Atlantic is more like the kiss of death than a recipe for survival.

At the time the Pheasant was crowned, half of the 20 restaurants taken on by Ramsay for his Kitchen Nightmares USA show had closed, and a further 12 out of 22 eateries in five series of the UK version had either shut or been sold.

The owners of the Black Pearl seafood shack in New York dubbed Ramsay a "jerk" after it closed, and said they hoped naively they would gain from the nationwide publicity.

"The sad fact is, from the beginning, it was clear that the show was a joke," they added. "From the very first day they were initiated, the changes Gordy Ramsay made were ridiculed by the press, hated by our regular customers and were the direct cause of a 50% drop in revenues. We were never able to recover financially."

The harsh truth is a restaurant needs bums on seats and effective cost control rather than the meddling or endorsement of a celebrity chef to succeed.

And you only have to look at Heston Blumenthal’s failed makeover of Little Chef, which has announced it is to close 61 of its 161 outlets and shed up to 600 staff, to see that in full beam.

No doubt the sacrificed wage slaves now heading to the dole queue will be delighted that the millionaire chef will remain on the payroll as a consultant despite the mass redundancies.

MORE: Gordon Ramsay a cut above the rest?

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Tony Goodjohn said...

Awful report & such a shame! I always found the food & service excellent at the @Pheasantkeyston. Gutted for Jay & Taf.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention the mass of good reviews The Pheasant had while Jay and Taffeta Scrimshaw owned it. I ate there dozens of times and the food and service was always excellent. Any restaurant would be lucky to have Jay Scrimshaw cook for them.

Anonymous said...

A party of 4 of us had lunch on Sunday 26th August 2012 and we found it to be one of the worst lunches we have had recently @ The Pheasant Keystone. Menues were "Gloryfied" and rubbish served
enough said. We shall NOT return nor recommend it to our friend. If they concentrated on a good Englash Sunday lunch (which is suitable for this location) customers would flock in.

A Group who like good food.

Justin said...

To point out that over half of Ramsay's "Kitchen Nightmare" restaurants have failed is a little obvious -- being that they are ALL failing restaurants that he attempts to rescue from the brink of bankruptcy. It's a wonder he saves any of them when you see the condition they're in (or at least, when you see how they're portrayed on the show). Some of them would literally be better off burning to the ground. And the "Black Pearl" is an exceedingly bad example to use, being that their clueless owners had already run the business into the ground before Ramsay got their. And it didn't take any editing or TV manipulation to make them look like douchebags. They took care of that pretty well without any special camera tricks.

A shame about the Pheasant though. But, unfortunately, running a restaurant is about more than just cooking. You have to be able to run the business-end of things too. And, unlike most businesses, you can actually run a seemingly successful restaurant and still fail miserably at it, if you can't make the numbers add up (which is why so many restaurants try to cut corners to save money and end up serving cheap and/or frozen food). Because when you're successful, you're spending a lot of money on supply as well. So, whether or not the Pheasant's cooking was as good as Ramsay made it out to be is only one factor as to why it may have closed. And you'll often find that artistic-types (like most chefs) don't always have the best business sense, and may require a business manager to handle their affairs so they can devote themselves to their craft. Don't know if that was the case for the Pheasant. Just wanted to point that out.