I first met the food writer AA Gill when I started as head chef at Le Caprice.
Its co-proprietor Jeremy King introduced this monocle-wearing guy who was sat at the bar on his own as Adrian, the new Sunday Times food critic. “Great, nice to meet you,” I said hurriedly, “I had better get back in the kitchen, but see you soon.”
He never reviewed us, but still used Le Caprice and The Ivy like a canteen and, well, why wouldn't you? But Adrian respected the whole philosophy behind what Jeremy and his business partner Chris Corbin had created, far more than the star-studded crowd they pulled in.
I discovered after a few years at the helm of those restaurants that he was becoming one of the most feared restaurant critics, along with Fay Maschler and Jonathan Meades. Adrian certainly never held back; he always wrote – impeccably and very often hysterically – exactly what he thought.
The Times was one of the two papers I bought religiously at the weekend, and its Style magazine was the one I always pulled out from the mostly unwanted and unread pile. I know I'm not the only one that turned to Adrian’s reviews for a funny and juicy Sunday morning read.
While we were writing the books on The Ivy and Le Caprice together, Adrian would often be waiting at the staff entrance at 7am to capture exactly what went on behind the scenes in what was then one of the busiest restaurants in London.
Those two books were my first, and what a great opportunity to share the experience with an iconic critic like Adrian. We didn't sell that many copies, but we had a lot of fun making it with the designer Suzi Godson and our two photographers Harriet Logan and Henry Bourne.
I have opened quite a few restaurants since then, which he reviewed, of course. They weren’t all complimentary; I remember one in particular that started along the lines of, “I've reviewed Mark Hix’s restaurants several times and he won't give a shit if this one isn't a good one.” Hey, you have to take the rough with the smooth.
His death a couple of weeks ago means he will be sadly missed by avid Sunday Times readers and restaurateurs alike. Well, maybe not the ones whose businesses he put on the line after a giving them a good slating, but that's the tough industry we are in.
Still, I knew him and loved his work, so I thought I should say a proper goodbye.