Nico Ladenis - RIP

One of our most influential chefs of the 1990s, with a commitment to the view that the customer is NOT always right. He died on 10/9.

Here’s an article he wrote for the Good Food Guide in 1984


Very sad to hear. He was one of the gods on the Mount Olympus of London gastronomy in the 1990s.

I remembered reading Nico Ladenis’ autobiography, “My Gastronomy”, sometime in the early 90s, and salivated at his description of roasted green pigeons from East Africa. So, I trudged to his then-newish restaurant, Nico at Ninety, Mayfair, in 1995 (after it was awarded 3-Michelin-stars) and ordered the roasted pigeon item on the menu.

I remembered the waiter who took my order warning me that, since I’d ordered pan-fried foie gras for starters, having the pigeon dish as the main course would be “too rich”.

I also remembered telling the well-meaning waiter then that I “flew all the way from Singapore to have this dish”, so I’ll stick by my choice.

I then tucked into the pan-fried foie gras - two lobes of them, absolutely gorgeous. Best I’d ever had. They were also so rich that I felt really, really sated towards the end.

Then, the main course came: three whole pigeons - each stuffed with foie gras, basted in a sauce quite similar to the one I had for my starter! I remembered feeling rather horrified then - knowing full well that I couldn’t possibly eat anymore of those!

I could also clearly recall a chapter in Nico Ladenis’ book: how he’d look at every plate that was brought back from the dining room into his kitchen, so he’d know if the customer enjoyed his meal. There was one episode where a customer hardly touched his food and, when Chez Nico went out and asked why, the customer had voiced his reservations. Chez Nico took out the money the customer had paid, tore up the bills in front of the customer, and told him to get out and never return!!

Afraid that the same thing might just happen to me, I remembered dissecting the pigeons, deboning them and tried to re-arrange the food on the plate to make it look like I’d done some justice in eating it. But to no avail.

I remembered asking the waiter for the bill, paid for it in cash and rushed out without waiting for the change. :joy:

Ever since then, I’ll always listen carefully if a waiter warns me of my orders.


Great story Peter!


It seemed funny now when I think about it - but back then, I really found out what the expression “my heart was in my mouth” meant when I scooted down Park Lane, half-expecting Nico Ladenis to run after me with a cleaver.

BTW, a young Marco Pierre White was his sous chef in those years.


A terrifying possible scenario to be sure…

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