Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: Starbucks hits Italy and 'overmilked' supermarkets

The news, reviews and trends from September 8-9.

10 September 2018
chainscoffeefairtraderestaurant openingsupermarkets

Food news

Caffe Milano

Starbucks has finally entered the Italian market – and it's doing it in grand style. The debut location near Milan's famed cathedral boasts a "heated marble-topped bar, beans shooting along glass pipes into a massive roaster, six speciality coffees and seven types of brewing," writes the Times, which notes that despite the hundreds-strong queue of people hoping to be one of the first through the doors, locals complain that the coffee is too expensive compared to neighbourhood joints.

Profits and staff decline at John Lewis

The John Lewis Partnership is readying to announce that it has made no profit in the first six months of this year, compared to £26.6m profit last year. The report is scheduled for Thursday and comes on the back of an article in the retailer's staff magazine that 1,838 people have been made redundant in the year to the end of June, "nearly three times the level in the previous year, as it cut costs amid a profits slump," reports the Guardian. However, its in-house design and buying teams for own-label goods have grown alongside hires for the new Westfield White City opening, so that the overall decrease in employees is around 700.

 

Retailer rejects online shopping tax

In other John Lewis news, its chairman, Sir Charlie Mayfield, has said that there is no need for the so-called 'Amazon tax,' which would levy more money from online businesses. Speaking to the Telegraph, Sir Mayfield said: "The free marketeer in me struggles with the notion that ­businesses should be penalised ­because they have business models that use fewer buildings and fewer people. That seems like fair competition and the challenge should be for others to rise to it. However, if some businesses are gaining a tax advantage simply through the way in which they’re employing people, then that’s a different matter and one that potentially has issue of competition and morality too.”

 

'Overmilking' supermarkets

In a contrasting statement, Tesco's Dave Lewis seemed to advocate for the Amazon tax to create a fairer playing field for retailers. However, the CEO was more vehement in emphasising that Tesco is not a cash cow and that business rates must be reformed. "We believe businesses should pay taxes, as it is the responsible thing to do, but should the government be laying a heavier burden on a shrinking industry?” the Times quoted him as saying.

 

Will Côte get cut?

Côte Brasserie's parent company has made an annual loss of £93m in the year to July 2017, according to the Times. Despite Côte's accounts "showing a 13.9% jump in turnover to £150.2 million, with gross profit up 12.2%," parent Taste Midco increased losses from £19.8m to £93.2m. Nevertheless, an insider told the Times that Côte was not being shopped around.

Glasgow-based chefs turn up noses at Michelin

Glasgow may not be considered a dining hotspot, but it has never had a more diverse variety of high-quality cuisine, according to two of the city's top chefs, Peter McKenna and Ivan Stein. The pair, who run the kitchens at the Gannet restaurant in the Finnieston, say that obsessing over Michelin stars distracts from the "terrific restaurants with consistently high quality." The Times adds that the Gannet was recently highlighted by Condé Nast Traveller as one of the top 10 restaurants in the world.

 

Fair trading for Fairtrade

The Telegraph reports on Kantar Worldpanel's reveal that shoppers spent £86.9m on Fairtrade alcohol last year (a rise of 27%), while Fairtrade ice-cream sales went up 68%. In fact, the overall Fairtrade market grew 8.1% to £832m, with food giants such as Sainsbury’s, Mondelez and Nestlé spending more than £10m on licences to use the Fairtrade logo in the UK.

 

Food reviews

Casa do Frango, London SE1 1TU

Jay Rayner relives his Portuguese piri piri highlights, before pronouncing the sauced up birds at this joint "small, meaty, very flavourful and, at £9 a half, good value." While there are three marinades, the signature piri piri is "salty and spicy in all the right places." Accompaniments include chips, fresh tomato salad and African rice "planted with shards of crisp chicken skin."

 

Edinburgh Food Studio, Edinburgh EH16 5DX

Marina O'Loughlin pops in to see how well this food research hub/event venue has managed its extension into the restaurant world. The verdict, in a word, is "awesome." Helmed by James Murray, whose CV includes Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and Lyle's, dishes of particular note are the "chunk of snowy halibut with lightly scorched, spiced cauliflower, wilted wild garlic and a kind of pil-pil emulsion from the fish’s own fats," and the girolles and spelt that "turns out to be so spellbindingly good, so ripe, so buttery, so deep and brown and savoury, so satisfying that I gawp at it like an idiot."

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