In last Saturday’s Telegraph appeared what in my view was an unbalanced and inaccurate report on our restaurant at Forman’s Fish Island and the breakfast offered during the Olympics by sports writer Jim White.
Here are our comments on the article in question:
1. Cost – The main gripe was that the breakfast was £75 per head and everything else seemed to stem from that. Indeed our gourmet dinner on the opening night quoted at £999 was also criticized on the basis of cost. Yes, it is not cheap and aimed at the corporate market – however, compare this with the official Olympic hospitality dinner on the opening night at £7,500 and ours was a positive bargain. Even deducting £2012 for the cost of a ticket to the opening ceremony, the official Olympic dinner was 5 times the cost of ours. We believed setting our prices at approximately 20% of the official prices was fair and indeed the most expensive lunches and dinners with us were the ones which sold best. The breakfast itself was actually £37.50 for a full English with croissants and pastries, breads, granola, fresh fruit, yogurt, coffee and juices. There was an option of a paying a further £37.50 to add unlimited sparkling wine which Jim decided to take. This detail is left out of the review.
2. Value – Jim White complains that for £75 there was a choice of only fruit salad, dried up and poor quality full English on a wooden board, which itself was questioned, coffee served out of a plastic cup, fold up chairs that you’d find at a function and that he would have preferred McDonald’s. Well that just about sums it up! He clearly has no appreciation of quality cuisine – the picture of the food on the wooden board looks very appealing and the vast majority of diners with Forman’s are highly complimentary about our food. We do NOT have fold up chairs and we do NOT have plastic cups, our linen is linen. This is not opinion, it is an out and out defamation. Nor did we only offer fruit salad. In addition, another detail that was not mentioned was that all diners were entitled to free entry to our Fish Island Riviera site, for which others were paying £25 alone. It also included entry to the Muhammad Ali exhibition ‘In the Rings with Ali’ which was opened by Ali’s brother, Rahaman, the week prior.
The article also suggested that we were offering English sparkling wine rather than champagne because it is cheaper. We were not. Our restaurant specialises in English wines and we are proud to promote them to the food loving public. Both Chapel Down and Nye Timber have won more awards than many Champagne houses, but are not allowed to be referred to as Champagne as they are not produced there.
3. Quality – when the Telegraph’s food photographer came here to photograph the food, I asked her what she thought of it and she said it was delicious. I hope you agree that in the photograph it looks rather nice. We had a great many compliments during the Olympics and have every confidence in the quality of our food.
4. Numbers of guests – we were criticized for having few guests here. It is true that there were few guests, certainly in the first week. This is nothing to do with the price of our food. The Counter Café, adjacent to us, produces excellent quality food in a different style of setting and is much more affordable, yet it was empty too. LOCOG, the Olympic organizers, were deliberately steering people away from us, and channelling them through Westfield shopping centre, with all its fast food restaurants, and so there was less footfall than on a normal summer’s day. We had been forced by local authorities to spend thousands upon thousands of pounds in planning for the masses of Olympic visitors in the streets and congestion and yet there was nothing. When we put up signs on lampposts so that guests could find us either from Hackney Wick station or from the Victoria Gate of the Olympic Park, LOCOG tore them down and so no-one could find us without immense difficulty.
5. The area. Jim White complained about the area he had to walk through from Hackney Wick station to get to us. The Olympics was sold to the tax-paying public on the premise of it being about regenerating east London. That is exactly what Forman’s has set out to do in its own little way. We have made a massive investment at our own cost which results in local people being employed and assists the regeneration of the area. The post industrial zone from Hackney Wick to us is now the creative epicentre of London and it is unfortunate that Jim White only seems comfortable walking in more salubrious areas and thinks we should have to lay on transport specially for him, as he suggested.
6. Personal criticism of Lance Forman. Jim White wrote that I, Lance Forman bragged on TV that “Olympic hospitality would accrue £1million during the Games”. This is factually incorrect too. I said that the cost of the temporary structure for hospitality was in the region of £1m. This is a nasty personal slur. I have taken a risk, employed people, helped to create wealth in a deprived part of East London.
When a newspaper publishes an article by a sports writer, you might at least expect them to get the spelling of the word ‘Olympic’ right. In this hatchet job of a piece even they managed to misspell it as ‘Olmypic’ in the title, perhaps the paper should put its own house in order before it criticises others.