Sam Herlihy and James Ramsden — the owners of central London restaurant Magpie (and the duo behind Pidgin, in Hackney) have decided to “park” their infamous trolley — a service vehicle that was central to their opening concept, but which has been roundly criticised by the food media. When the restaurant opened in July, they had made a point that “at dinner we serve sharing-style plates from trolleys and trays, dim-sum style.”
But, from Monday next week, Magpie’s trolley will instead “play a supporting role” for a new a la carte menu; guests will be greeted with “drinking snacks” such as Viet-style rillettes and pickles, crispy polenta with brandade and kimchi — from the trolley — before it is “parked up” (/not used) so that customers can order, presumably via waiters, directly from the kitchen.
Evening Standard restaurant critic Fay Maschler had said the concept was “off its trolley,” adding: “The wheeze of presenting small dishes for sharing, either on a trolley or on a tray brought by a waiter to the table, has allegedly been inspired by (or copied from) the restaurant State Bird Provisions in San Francisco.” She was impressed neither by the food, nor the trolley.
In The Sunday Times, Lisa Markwell called the trolley-based concept “a terrible idea;” while Micheal Deacon, in The Telegraph, in a meandering piece, praised its novelty, but implied its inferiority to the food.
The à la carte menu will feature new additions from head chef Adolfo de Cecco including clams with saucisson and chilli crisp; burrata with herb oil, puntarelle and smoked almonds, alongside the continuation of dishes that have been well received: steak tartare, fried chicken ‘coq au vin’; and smoked eel caesar salad.
“We’re excited to finally unveil the á la carte menu — it has been a long work in progress and we think we have some knock out dishes from Adolfo and his team. Feedback has been so positive about our food and drink but there have been enough question marks about the style of service that we decided to make some necessary tweaks in order to let our food shine,” Herlihy and Ramsden said in statement.
Ramsden also told Eater London this morning that the change in direction was as a result of their hearing the complaints, saying:
“It’s been a great few months at Magpie and we’ve been overwhelmed by predominantly enthusiastic feedback, particularly about the food and drinks and staff, but there’s been enough constructive criticism about the broader concept, particularly how the trolley and trays operate, to make it clear to us a modest rejig is necessary.
“We’re not chucking out the baby with the bathwater — the trolley will still play a role with some awesome drinking snacks — but we’re grown-ups, and when enough people tell you something isn’t quite right it seems sensible to listen to them.
“We’re really excited about seeing this place operate without its ‘concept’ getting in the way of great food, drinks and service.”