David Parkin on rude foodies, an inspiring story and a lockdown treat

HERE’S one for you.

Who is the rudest restaurateur you have ever encountered?

When it comes to Leeds, some might say up until the closure of La Grillade a few years ago, it was an easy choice.

But even the irascible Gallic patron of the Wellington Street institution that operated for more than three decades had many plus points.

Guy Martin-Laval, who is now back in his native France, certainly knew how to run a good restaurant.

For those of us who knew him well, he was a generous and welcoming host with an establishment that served what I believe were the best steaks I’ve ever had.

Whether all his staff experienced such warmth is probably a moot point.

His occasional outbursts at customers usually had some foundation – if they were too loud, too drunk, disrespectful to staff or didn’t show enough manners.

Let’s say that despite his foibles not many people chose not to go to La Grillade because of the owner.

Except if the owner had banned them.

Which wasn’t a very long list but generally made up of accountants and lawyers who had courageously but rather foolhardily attempted to represent his interests.

One restaurant that has been around a lot less time than La Grillade in Leeds is Home.

It is run by an owner who has fast earned a reputation as the catering equivalent of Dennis Wise.

It was memorably said of the pugnacious former Wimbledon and Chelsea midfielder that “he could start a fight in an empty room”.

But there is no such thing as empty rooms any more when you’ve got a mobile phone and access to social media.

Liz Cottam of Home has been involved in several spats on Twitter with diners and would-be diners over booking deposits and whether children are allowed in the restaurant.

When the restaurant started to charge a significant deposit per diner to book a table it caused a few issues.

But I can understand why a small establishment with a limited number of covers and high costs for staff and ingredients would do something to discourage diners from booking and then not turning up.

When restaurants reopened after the UK lockdown earlier this year, restaurateurs were hit hard by people doing just that.

So I get it.

What I don’t get is enforcing it and having an argument into the bargain.

If you can do business – or come to think of it, live life – with a smile on your face then things will never look too bad.

I get the feeling that a smile may be a stranger to Liz Cottam’s visage.

I’ve only ever been to Home once.

I think I’d had a bit too much to drink earlier in the evening and don’t particularly remember the experience – except when the bill arrived it sobered me up.

I’m not a big fan of Michelin star restaurants

And those restaurants that don’t have one – but all the boring “foodie” types tell you should have one – are often even worse.

You get treated with disdain and receive a similar-sized bill but don’t get the opportunity to show off to your friends that you’ve been to a Michelin star restaurant.

The only reason I mention all this is because of the recent experience of a friend of mine.

Neil Muffitt runs financial recruitment firm Woodrow Mercer in Leeds and his young team of staff recently all chipped in to buy him a £50 voucher to use at Home restaurant.

When he booked a table via email he made sure to mention that his wife Alison has an allergy to egg yolks.

The reply to his email acknowledged his booking but said egg yolks weren’t an allergy they catered to so they would speak to the chef and point out which dishes contained them.

He was happy with that but then Home replied to say around 50% of their dishes contained egg yolk but given that changed with different menus, they offered to extend the date of his voucher.

Neil, quite happy with this approach, then asked when a good time to visit would be.

To which he received this reply: “Unfortunately, due to the nature of the menu which changes spontaneously, it’s hard to guarantee that there will be a suitable moment in time. It’s well documented which allergies and dietary requirements that we work with. If we were to say yes to creating a menu with a large number of changed / altered dishes for one person, we’d have to create bespoke menus for anybody enquiring with allergies outside of our recognised ones.

“It may be worth either looking at bringing a friend or potentially gifting the voucher to someone else.”

Neil replied: “Thanks for your response which I have to admit was not what I expected.  Having eaten in some very nice places, including a decent number of Michelin starred restaurants, we have never come across this before.

“This voucher was bought for me by my staff, most of whom are under 25 and may not have been able to afford to eat in a restaurant such as yours, and so it  doesn’t seem right to gift it to somebody else. Can you return the £50 and I will use it to take them all out as a thank you?”

Quite reasonable, in the circumstances, I thought.

To which he received this reply: “I’m afraid not Neil.”

Neil and Alison eat out regularly and rarely have a problem with establishments coping with her allergy, never mind the curt reply they received from home.

They would be far too polite to say it, but they’ve been to better places than Home such as L’Enclume in Cartmel and The Black Swan at Oldstead and there weren’t any issues.

But then I don’t think the issue at Home is due to the menu, it is the approach of the person running the place.

I should make it clear that Neil didn’t contact me to complain about the restaurant, but to offer me the voucher that he couldn’t use.

It was when I read the email trail that went with it that I felt rather queasy and lost my appetite.

If you do fancy a trip to Home and want to take the voucher off Neil’s hands, then I’ll happily put you in touch with him.

At least it will mean he is able to take his staff out as a thank you and you will get a decent dinner at Home.

Just don’t upset the owner.


I HAD tears running down my face for half an hour on Tuesday evening.

That was while watching Rob Burrow: My Year With MND On BBC2.

Made by the team from BBC Breakfast who have been reporting on the former rugby league player’s diagnosis with Motor Neurone Disease, this was a frank and moving documentary which didn’t hold back from showing the devastating effects of MND, not just on sufferers but also on those closest to them.

The stoicism, energy and good humour of former Leeds Rhinos player Burrow’s wife Lindsey and his parents Geoff and Irene was humbling.

Burrow has chosen to use his diagnosis to highlight a relatively little known disease for which there remains no treatment and no cure.

If you ever saw Rob Burrow play rugby league he was by far the smallest man on the pitch.

He often looked about half the size of some of the giants he faced.

Alert to everything going on around him, he was in a state of constant motion.

His sharp brain and brave heart ensured he performed to the highest level in a sport where his physical size had seen him written off from an early age.

The documentary shows how quickly MND has affected the 38-year-old who has now lost the ability to speak and needs help to walk.

Rob’s wife Lindsey said that when he was diagnosed with MND his first comment was: “Well at least it has happened to me and not one of the children.”

That sums him up.

I might have shed tears during it, but after watching this programme I felt uplifted.

The fortitude, positivity and good humour of Rob Burrow was awe-inspiring.

The loyalty and support of his former teammates was stirring.

And the grit, determination, love and warmth of his family was heartwarming.


WITH Covid-19 continuing to provide plenty of hurdles to us going out then it stands to reason that most of us are spending a lot more time staying in.

(I worked that one out myself by the way.)

Staying in provides its own challenges.

I’ve applied to Leeds City Council to install a new bottle bank at the end of my drive.

One of the simple pleasures of the last few weeks has been watching the new version of All Creatures Great and Small on Channel 5.

Given this is the TV station behind shows called “Britain’s Favourite Biscuit and World’s Scariest Animal Attacks 2 then I have to say I didn’t hold out a great deal of hope for it.

Particularly when I remember growing up with the original TV recreation of the books about the adventures of vet James Herriot in the Yorkshire Dales.

Christopher Timothy, Robert Hardy and Peter Davison starred in the show which, if I remember rightly, was aired on a Saturday evening.

Or was that Juliet Bravo?

I even remember that James’s wife Helen was first played by one actress and then changed to Oxo mum Lynda Bellingham part way through – like they used to do regularly in US dramas such as Dallas and Dynasty.

But nostalgia, as they say, isn’t what it used to be and I’ve become a huge fan of the new All Creatures Great and Small over its short six week run.

Samuel West makes a fantastic Siegfried Farnon and like all the actors, plays his role seriously but with warmth and enthusiasm.

It is perfect Sunday night TV.

Given it airs on a Tuesday, I have been recording it and watching it on Sunday evenings.

I’m now looking forward to the Christmas special.

My only issue is that indomitable housekeeper Mrs Hall is now played by an actress who looks too young for the role.

When I watched the original I used to fancy Lynda Bellingham as James’s young wife.

I now fancy the battleaxe housekeeper.

And she’s younger than me.

I blame lockdown.

What I have also enjoyed about All Creatures Great and Small is the wider cast of characters from the farming community.

Tough but fair, gritty but with a heart of gold, you can still find them in the Yorkshire Dales.

It reminds me of a story William Hague told about becoming the Tory MP for Richmond in North Yorkshire.

A rural constituency – that Chancellor Rishi Sunak now represents – Hague recalls a visit he made to a local farmer.

Having driven across a cattle grid, down a long drive, over another cattle grid, past a duck pond and up to the gate of the farmyard he saw the farmer in a flat cap, leaning on his gate.

Hague said to him “You’ve got a long drive.”

The farmer replied: “Aye lad, well if it wasn’t that long it wouldn’t reach.”

Looking to move the conversation on, the MP asked: “Have you lived here all your life?”

To which the response was: “Not yet.”

Have a great weekend.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top