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Mediterranean Restaurants in Golders Green

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      16.05.2001 23:35
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      - well, if you have sufficient cheek, that is. This is a restaurant that, as far as I know, is one of a kind. Essentially, it has no prices. Nope, that's none at all - not even for drinks. You simply eat your mean and pay what you think it's worth. Sound bizarre? Now,I looked into this when I did an article on it, and as far as I know, there's nowhere else like it in the world. And yet, in the ferociously competitive London restaurant market, where profit margins are the size of Ally McBeal, it's been consistently profitable for twelve years. It breaks every single economic rule, and yet gets booked up weeks in advance. So who are they and how do they do it? Well, they're called Just Around The Corner, they're about ten minutes from Golders Green Tube and they works something like this. The owner's theory is that other restaurants tend to hide behind fixed prices and allow themselves to get away with dodgy service or the odd dodgy meal because they'll still get the cash. At JATC, it doesn't work like that. They know that the second their service slips, or a meal gets served lukewarm, they see it in their takings. So the result is actually exemplary service and first rate food. That's not to say it's not all a little strange. Assuming you can find it - it's hidden away on the Finchley Road and I walked past it twice when I first went there, you'll find a tiny, woodpanneled interior with lots of low lighting and candles, and lots of little tables tucked into cosy corners. It is what I believe is usually termed intimate, but nicely so. You'll probably get effusively greeted by the owner, a Mr Vasos, who puts in the hours to make sure people feel welcome and looked after. He can be a little over enthusiastic, but is very sweet. The menu is the strangest bit. It took a while to get used to absolutely no prices at all, and to stop thinking that you could have chicken but not du
      ck cos it was cheaper. When the food came it was absolutely delicious. I can especially recommend the crab-stuffed profiteroles with hollandaise sauce for a started and the lamb en croute as a main course. That alone should tell you this place is good: I haven't eaten there for about a year. The next moment of strangenes comes, inevitably, when you pay your bill. You'll get a list of what you've eaten, just without prices or obviously a total. It is then totally up to you what to pay. By this point, any half decent person will have decided that leaving a derisory amount, or just walking out, just isn't an option - everyone's been too nice and the food is too good, and you can't bear to take advantage like that. When I first went, with a party of four, we decided on £20 each plus tip, for a three course meal with wine. Possibly we underpaid, I certainly thought so afterwards, and it's one of the few downsides of this place that walking out wondering if you've left enough is not necessarily the best way to end an evening. This may account for why, according to Mr Vasos, he makes 20% more here on average than he does in another restaurant he owns which he says is similar but with prices on the menus. So, a sneaky psychological con trick or the most honest of restaurants? Well it's a question that certainly makes for an interesting argument over dinner. But when you're actually sitting here, enjoying their excellent food and hospitality, there's no question as to which is the right answer. I heartily reccomend this place - always assuming, of course, that you can find it.

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