One of London’s most fashionable restaurants, used by film stars and members of the Royal family, has become the first in the country to be fined for falsely claiming that meat used in a number of its dishes was organically farmed.
Julie’s Restaurant and Bar was fined £7,500 after its managing director, Johnny Ekperigin, admitted three offences under the Food Safety Act 1990.
The restaurant, in Holland Park, west London, quickly became an institution – initially with the Sloane Ranger and ”Hooray Henry” crowds and latterly with a more bohemian film set – since opening in 1969. It was named after the 1960s interior designer, Julie Hodgess.
Prince Charles, nowadays a vigorous champion of organic food, is believed to have been a regular diner when he was a bachelor and Captain Mark Phillips held his stag night at Julie’s, which boasts a warren of private dining rooms.
With French colonial furniture and sumptuous divans, it is popular for both stag nights and first dates among London’s elite and, according to one food critic two years ago, “the whole place reeks of sex”. Prince Michael of Kent is said to have taken the one-time Royal Ballet principal dancer Bryony Brind, with whom he developed a close friendship, to their first dinner there.
Now, according to the restaurant’s website, patrons include Gwyneth Paltrow, Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell.
West London magistrates court was told that Julie’s claimed three of the dishes on its menu – marinated roast chicken, sausages and spice-crusted rack of lamb – used organic produce. But environmental health officers on a routine visit seized delivery records and discovered that none mentioned that the meat came from organic sources.
Environmental health officers from Kensington and Chelsea council estimated that Julie’s saved £4,184 by buying chicken that had not been produced organically.
Mr Ekperigin, who was also ordered to pay £4,297 costs, was warned that he faced a prison sentence if he was brought before court again on similar charges.
But he denied that he had used non-organic meat in an attempt to save money. He told the court: “It was purely a mistake and I had taken my eye off the ball.”
The Soil Association, one of the approved bodies for certifying organic produce, said it thought the prosecution was the first of its kind. But Steve Belton, its inspectorate director, said he believed that there was “a growing problem” of restaurants taking advantage of the public’s interest in organic food and he called on local authorities to carry out more inspections.
Fiona Buxton, a Kensington and Chelsea cabinet member for public and environmental health, said: “For many visitors to the restaurant this has led to a betrayal of lifestyle. Consumers buy into the idea of organic food either due to the health implications or in support of good animal husbandry. Julie’s Restaurant has cheated them of these values.”
Article by Nigel Reynolds for The Daily Telegraph, UK, December 19th, 2006
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