Pips Dish and Some Fishy Behaviour
There’s something exciting about the unexpected. When I first started trying to find Pips Dish, I almost ended up taking myself to a music venue. In fact, the pop-up is in an old Citroen garage on Upper Street, in the opposite direction to the *other* garage. You walk through a kind of yard into what was obviously a large garage at one time but is now home to Pips Dish.
The kitchen is in one corner of the large space, the rest of the room is mostly set out with tables, pretty vintage china and colourful gingham table-covers. There are just four other people there, although it’s obvious from the place settings and reservations that more are expected.
We sit at a table with a couple of lively women who chat away and excuse our need to take multiple shots of the food and the room. Our starter arrives, celeriac and sorrel soup, a thick creamy and well flavoured base topped with fresh, tangy, citrusy sorrel. I love the combination, though my dining companion thinks the celeriac is slightly overpowered by the sorrel, which is raw. My experience of cooking with sorrel is that it turns a rather unfortunate khaki shade and if anything has a more pronounced flavour…so it makes sense to me. In any case, this is minutiae, detail that you probably wouldn’t worry about unless you were writing a review. And, all about personal taste.
The soup is quickly dispensed with and we chat happily to the other guests at our table. No one else has shown up yet, which seems a little strange, but perhaps everyone dines late in Islington?
Our first fish, grilled sea bream, is stuffed with a lemon and served with boiled potatoes and a salad. Quite simple, quite perfect. I’m happy and the hedonist who doesn’t eat meat is in pescatarian heaven. Mackerel comes with a spicy but very fresh tomato salsa to cut through the oily flesh. Again, perfectly cooked…and very tasty.
Dessert for me, a pear meringue dish with chocolate sauce is just sufficiently gooey and decedent. The Hedonist feasts on cheese with what look to me like peter’s yard crackers.
At this point the chef for the night comes across to talk to us. The girls on our table have been tweeting to pip and have discovered that out of 30 bookings only 6 have shown up. Some have cancelled at the last minute, others just not bothered.
Gentle reader, please stop for a moment and ponder just how many of these no-shows could possibly be justified. So far as I know there’s no flu epidemic in the UK right now. Nor was there a tube strike. The weather was not great…but it wasn’t raining or snowing…just a little chilly. And anyway, we are British, we are supposed to know how to handle cold damp weather! I can’t believe they were all on a wait list for Dabbous and got a table at the last minute. Right now, I suspect the cause was nothing more sinister than apathy and ignorance. Apathy, well, I can do little about that. But, I hope that this particular post is read and shared a little and people begin to think about the effect of not bothering to show up or cancelling at the last minute.
OK, if you are running a restaurant in Soho, you just lose an hour or so when your table could be used while you wait for a booking that might just be running late. You can probably use most of the food that you have for lunch or dinner the next day. But for a pop-up running a one night a week fish feast, there’s not really much chance to use up left over stock. Much the same is true of venues slightly off the beaten track where footfall isn’t going to fill empty tables and most diners are there with a reservation. So, if 80% of your reservations don’t show – you’ve paid for food and staff to cater for that. And, surely if you are running a restaurant or a pop-up, it stops making any kind of economic sense. You can try putting the prices up to compensate for the people who haven’t shown up. You can take a booking deposit, non-refundable if you don’t get a day’s notice. Or you can go out of business.
My dining companion tells me it’s a trend and puts it down to the impersonal booking services offered by the likes of OpenTable where you book through a computer rather than talking to an individual on the phone. I wonder if the increased popularity of ‘no-reservation’ restaurants has something to do with it. And, I am saddened at the ignorance of those who think it’s smart to book three or four places on one evening and then see how everyone feels. The end result is that we lose good restaurants and pop-ups, food is wasted and prices are forced up. I’d rather we all had to pay a deposit than those of us with some respect for the venues subsidise apathetic, thoughtless individuals. It really isn’t cool to double, triple or quadruple book – and then decide on the night, leaving the unlucky, unchosen venues with wallflower tables, wasted food and bored staff.
Rant over, we had a fabulous meal. This is great, simple cooking using excellent, fresh ingredients. It’s a byob venue with no corkage, so the costs are extremely reasonable. Those who didn’t show missed out
Pips Dish has a fish grill every Thursday, regular supper on Friday and Saturdays and a Sunday Lunch with prices ranging from £15 to £30 for three courses.
Disclosure: We dined as guests of Pips Dish.