We had our doubts about last year’s series of ‘The Apprentice’. Was this hardy perennial running out of steam at last? Had the contestants become too generic and predictable? Were the tasks insufficiently varied and interesting? Something was wrong.
On the basis of this opening episode, it seems the producers might just have thought so too. There are a few minor tweaks in the format – for example, tonight’s project managers have to volunteer on the spur of the moment in the boardroom. But mainly, the casting seems better. What we have here is a simple selling task, and we’d hate to say too much beyond that.
But suffice to say that early rows, backstabs and amusing incompetencies abound. A couple of this year’s business-bots seem to be genuinely unhinged. And another of them is a dead-ringer for Stella English, which suggests a remarkable degree of magnanimity on Lord Sugar’s part. Early days, but this looks like it could be fun.
Counter Vauxhall Bar & Brasserie
Like King’s Cross before it, dingy, dirty Vauxhall has long been a hub you pass through via tube, train or bus en route to somewhere better. But things are ever-so-slowly changing, as the railway arches and its surrounds become populated with restaurants of serious aspiration, alongside the area's numerous clubs. Counter is the smartest addition yet – a beautifully designed space with echoes of art-deco whose mirror-adorned walls and comfortable booths are picked out in grey, with warm yellow lighting creating a cosy vibe despite the industrial surrounds. Its premises span the entire length of one arch, but it’s been cleverly divided into two dining rooms so as not to feel cavernous. With the main entrance just yards from the tube and train exits, lots of punters are likely to be frustrated commuters who’ve missed their connection – and that’s what the long, four-sided bar is for, its upbeat cocktail menu peppered with local references, such as the Vauxhall Vesper. Once ensconced, there is much on the French/US brasserie-style menu to tempt you to stay longer. Everything we ate was commendable and well-meaning without blowing our socks off. A bulbous deep-fried duck egg with frisée, beetroot cubes and crunchy croûtons was a little overcooked on the inside, a little undercooked on the outside, while a small fillet of mackerel, though expertly cured in gin and lime, lacked flavour despite a scattergun salad of almonds, chard, cucumber and pear. A main course of beautifully t