David Parkin finds a celebrity chef story hard to digest

HE’S back!

Just when you thought it was safe to go out for an Italian meal, Gino D’Acampo is opening another restaurant in Yorkshire.

I thought the TV “chef” might have learned from his previous experiences in the county.

His partnership with Individual Restaurants – the group behind Piccolino and Restaurant Bar & Grill – saw eateries bearing his name open on Park Row in Leeds and Parliament Street in Harrogate as well as at Thorpe Park on the outskirts of Leeds

They followed the formula of the rest of the chain that were modestly titled Gino D’Acampo: My Restaurant.

It was a tried and tested formula: average food, poor service in a restaurant with walls bedecked with black and white photographs of the eponymous chef with his celebrity pals.

I think most diners believed the cheery Gino would be in the kitchen straining his conchiglie (leave it) before it was served by a rather glum, underpaid member of the waiting staff.

To be fair to Gino, at least when he did open his restaurants, he did bring a smattering of celebrity pals to the launch party.

I was once walking through Leeds city centre when I met a rather breathless lady who was in a hurry.

“I can’t stop, I’m off to the VIP launch party for Gino D’Acampo’s restaurant,” she told me.

“Are you going?” she asked.

I said no.

“Oh. They are all going to be there.”

I asked who “they” were.

“Holly and Phil, Peter Andre and everybody.”

I enquired whether “everybody” would also include Alison Hammond and Gordon the Gopher.

Seeing I didn’t share her excitement, she headed off in the direction of the bright lights of Park Row.

Suffice to say that none of the restaurants that bore Gino’s name are still around. 

Individual Restaurants renamed them either Riva Blu or Piccolo and Gino made his displeasure at the decision known when he opened his new restaurant, Luciano, catering to the glitterati of Cheshire, in Alderley Edge last year.

That sounded like his partnership with Individual Restaurants was at an end.

This week it was announced that the celebrity chef’s latest project will see the opening of a new restaurant at the refurbished Marriott Hotel off Boar Lane in Leeds.

To be honest, I’d forgotten that the Marriott was still there.

It will be hoping that a £1.5m investment in a project that includes a marble bar, lounge area, cicchetti bar, deli, 160-seater open plan restaurant, and outdoor terrace, will put it back on the map.

Let’s see.

But what it won’t be short of is hoopla from its new restaurateur who has already described the venue, which will open in the spring, as “upmarket” and “something else”.

I wish it well.

You never know, you might see me at the launch party with Gordon the Gopher.


GARETH Bale’s retirement from football this week prompted the inevitable question from the media: Is he Britain’s greatest ever footballer?

The simple answer is no, but he has achieved a great deal all the same.

The BBC’s tributes to him were led by BBC Wales football correspondent Rob Phillips, an eloquent orator who delivered a wonderful elegiac overview of the career of the Welsh winger who played for Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, Real Madrid and, most recently, Los Angeles FC.

I first met Rob when we worked together on the South Wales Echo and he was covering Cardiff City’s exploits through thin and thinner – well before their dream of the Premier League came true.

His lilting Celtic tones and bardic delivery was yet to grace the BBC and mainly reserved for badgering newsroom colleagues on a weekly basis to contribute to the office National Lottery syndicate.


I’M still trying to find anyone who went to the launch event for the Leeds 2023 Year of Culture.

‘The Awakening’, which was a show held at Headingley Stadium last Saturday evening, supposedly attracted 10,000 people.

Even the BBC’s tub-thumping coverage of the event failed to confirm whether this size of audience really did turn out in driving rain and chilly temperatures.

Good luck to those behind this year-long celebration of the city which was actually born out of the failure of Leeds to secure the title of European Capital of Culture – they didn’t bargain on Brexit.

Last weekend’s event was hosted by the impressive Gabby Logan, the Leeds-born broadcaster who is also the chair of Leeds 2023.

Her involvement is a massive plus for the organisation as she is a brilliant communicator: slick, professional, warm, spontaneous and with no hint of ego.

Like the opposite of Gary Lineker.

One mistake I hope that Leeds 2023 doesn’t make is trying to compare the city to its northern neighbours, Manchester and Liverpool.

For so long Leeds has tried to outdo Manchester in particular.

It needs to focus on being individual and ploughing its own furrow, rather than looking over the Pennines and making comparisons with a city that it can’t really compete with.

You might think I’m being disloyal and too critical.

But when it comes to shopping, restaurants, hotels, event venues, theatres and the arts and sport, there is no comparison worth making.


ONE thing that did strike me when reading the programme of events for Leeds 2023 is an outdoor artwork that will be displayed in the city centre from March to December.

“Prepare to see City Square like you’ve never seen it before,” the brochure boasted.

I presume that is the city’s main square without roadworks and easily accessible for both pedestrians and motorists.

Chance would be a fine thing, as my grandmother used to say.

The shambles that is City Square is quite an achievement.

Not only have Leeds City Council failed to communicate the benefits of such a project but they have left both drivers, train and bus passengers and visitors and people who live in the city, completely confused.

A railway station that is one of the top three busiest in the UK outside London already had woefully inadequate facilities for cars and taxis.

A pick up and drop off area with space for a handful of vehicles and a tiny short stay car park has been made worse by long queues of cars along Whitehall Road.

One traveller told me the other day that the work going on in City Square means that anyone getting a train from Leeds Station needs to add half an hour to their journey time.

When I criticised the work last month I said that while lots of readers had chipped in with comments, the silence from Leeds City Council was deafening.

I tried to understand what they are trying to achieve by reading their press releases about the project but was left even more confused by the gobbledegook.

Suffice to say if you want to cycle from one side of the city centre to the other, then the work going on will make your journey much better.

But if you want to work in the city centre, live in the city centre, shop in the city centre, visit the city centre, travel on a train to or from the city centre or drive into or through the city centre, then good luck.

Actually, I did receive a response from the city council.

At the end of a long, relaxing lunch at Sous le Nez before Christmas with tailor James Michelsberg and two of his long standing customers, Richard Larking and David Knaggs, we repaired to the balcony of the Blackhouse bar and restaurant for a cigar and medicinal negroni (drinking two of them kills all known germs).

As I took a sip of my Italian cocktail, invented in Florence in 1919 by Count Camillo Negroni, I noticed a number of women who were sitting around a table in the restaurant, waving at me.

I thought they were fans of this blog until they pointed to a fellow diner on their table who I recognised as Martin Farrington, director of city development at Leeds City Council.

I nearly choked on my Monte Cristo as Martin rose from his seat and made his way out towards me on the balcony with an icy glare that reminded me of Roy Keane in his pomp.

After saying hello and asking him if he’d enjoyed his Christmas do, there was a lull in the conversation.

“Did you see my recent blog about the state of City Square?” I asked, deciding to grasp the nettle.

He said he had and said it wasn’t the council’s decision when work takes place as they have to do it when the Government gives them the funds.

I did make the point that I’m sure the Government didn’t give them instructions to make the work as disruptive as possible to motorists, train travellers and anyone else daft enough to venture into City Square, but decided that discretion should be the better part of valour and wished Martin the compliments of the season before returning to a discussion with James Michelsberg about waning standards of male dress in the workplace.

Have a great weekend.

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