There’s a whole new quarter opening up in the centre of London! The recent opening of the grand new Corinthia hotel looks set to cement the return of the grand Northumberland Avenue – in recent...
Press Reviews (553)
Michael Stadlen (11th February 2012)
Adrian Anthony, known to many as AA Gill tells of his love of writing, and how he’s “firm but fair”.
Jay Rayner (22nd November 2010)
Lest you be tempted by their new look (“Waynetta Slob in Gucci… the tacky knock-off stuff”), Jay spares you a visit to this notorious chain by confirming the widespread prejudice: “it's a nightmare – the sort that has you awakening with the bed sheets bunched in your hands”. “Not everything is appalling” – the steak is “fine” and service from “a nice Hungarian”. They throw into sharp relieve however, the other dishes and accoutrements (“flaour of surgical support hose”, “desperate and dry”, “odd”, “nastiest things I've put in my mouth since a game of truth or dare at college”, “vile”). Tourists “save yourselves!”.
John Lanchester (22nd November 2010)
In “one of most beautful parts of the country”, this “pretty” village pub which “would be idyllically peaceful if it weren't for the roaring M6 in the near distance”. “Money has been spent on every aspect of the operation” by the landed owner who farms hereabouts and the “simple but luxurious” interior is “[without] bling, just classy”. The slightly “elaborate” modern British dishes take “superb ingredients” and according to John Lanchester “do slightly more with them than I would if it were my place”. A “lavishly generous” twice-baked soufflé is “excellent” and actually arrived “too hot to eat” (a good thing). The verdict on the main course is delivered by a nearby “posh woman” at “table-rattling volume”:“not the best partridge in the world, but it's very nice and the purée is good”. Pud is “lovely”. Overall it’s “good value for this level of cooking”. The final verdict comes from the cabbie: “It's my local and it's great… they look after us very well”.
Fay Maschler (11th November 2010)
David Sexton (11th November 2010)
Pascal Wyse (26th July 2010)
This restaurant “takes you from Scarborough to Piedmont in seconds“, it has that "touch of alchemy that stands between an OK bowl of pasta and a dish that shoots you down a wormhole all the way to Italy." A restaurant where "all the passion comes out in the food," which seems to have as much character as the chef/patron Giorgio Alessio, by the sounds of it.
Marina O'Loughlin (26th July 2010)
Marina reviews snack venues with a difference. She could "happily grab lunch for the rest of (her) days", at Mooli's (home-made Indian Rotis), however Banh Mi Bay, (Vietnamese baguettes) is "disappointing". Giant Robot is "funky“ and “fabulous“; especially good is 'the slider' a mini-burger with meatball contents. The Bountiful Cow is a “Holborn favourite“ where Marina hails the 'Bountyburger' "arguably the biggest burger in town". Moo Grill produces a delight with the 'Argentinian lomito', and where "Boss Jose is as ebullient and generous as his sandwiches."
Lisa Markwell (26th July 2010)
5/10 & 6/10
Lisa reviews two mexican food joints. Chipotle which is "quick-casual in the same way that McDonald's is quick-casual" - "but a decent pit stop." And then El Camino's new branch in Soho, where the decor is less fast-food and more "authentic (Latino)" and if you are a big fan of chilli sauce you will feel "right at home" but again the food lacks imagination.
Tracey MacLeod (26th July 2010)
Food 2/5, Service 1/5, Ambience 3/5
Faced with an option of unshaded pavements offering “a gruelling al fresco option“ or an “featureless air-conditioned box“ inside, Tracey Macleod goes on to describe the “worse thing (she's) eaten in (her) professional career“. “Never trust a restaurant that calls itself 'gourmet'“; a “soulless experience“.
Jay Rayner (26th July 2010)
"The dream neighbourhood restaurant"; "someone with good taste who knows how to cook," "cheery, efficient waiters", and a layout like a "classic Italian trattoria". "The sort of dinner that can restore your faith in the often grisly business of getting food cooked for you". Jay Rayner is hoping that his cynicism is unfounded and that the reasonable prices won't eventually be this restaurant's downfall.
Zoe Williams (26th July 2010)
“Predominantly beige“ is a phrase that could go a lot further than describing just the decor in this restaurant; “ They’re not like people, restaurants; just because they haven’t offended you doesn’t mean you have to like them.“ reports Zoe Williams.
Matthew Norman (26th July 2010)
“An amalgam of Thirties Warsaw..and mid-Eighties Eastbourne hotel“. Matthew Norman finds “the lack of effort...astonishing“ in both the service and the food.
John Walsh (19th July 2010)
Food 4/5, Ambience 3/5, Service 4/5
This “dead-chic brasserie“, “by the people who made the Café Anglais look cool“ has a “terrific“ three-course lunch menu, with main courses so gorgeous that John Walsh “felt like buying an easel, brushes and oils and painting them.“ Some details need ironing out – such as an un-chilled glass of wine – and the price is a little high, but chef David Collard has “a rare eye for beautiful display as well as flavour“.
Zoe Williams (19th July 2010)
The restaurant has “an upstairs 'posh' experience, plus a less intimidating room downstairs with a very similar menu.“ The downstairs menu is of a justifiable price and the restaurant is expert in handling the “beautiful produce of the area “. Simon Hulstone food “has character“.
Matthew Fort (19th July 2010)
An upbeat report of Toby Gritten's restaurant – “fine, judicious cooking going on here, and thoughtful dishes well-made from very carefully sourced ingredients,“ with “a clever and thoughtfully priced (wine) list“, an atmosphere of "open, cheerful ease", – and all at a very reasonable price.
Allan Jenkins (19th July 2010)
Allan Jenkins finds “Gauthier's Ducasse-trained pedigree and hunger for more (Michelin) stars shine through in the quality of the cooking,“ but the jury is out on whether he is “good enough to take pride of place among the likes of Bruno Loubet and Pierre “. He sums up the meal as “three sublime plates of food out of eight“, but the dishes were “surprisingly small“, the service patchy and the surroundings a more “subdued and safer establishment“ than the previous inhabitants - Lindsay House Restaurant .
Giles Coren (19th July 2010)
“Currently serving the best food for 50 miles around“. They have made the "space work nicely“ and the daily-changing menu is "just dreamy".
AA Gill (19th July 2010)
Food 2/5, Atmosphere 3/5
“A French restaurant that has lost its way “ the starters “exceedingly bland“, the mains and dessert somewhat better, however AA Gill “expected rather more from Gauthier“.
Andrew Neather (15th July 2010)
If you want honest Russian grub, or "a Russian in London with a hankering for food just like your mum makes it," this is the place to find it. However, "Russian cuisine in London still awaits its Jamie Oliver".
(15th July 2010)
"Trullo has the utility chic look that has designers reaching for their mood boards", and "cheery" service. Plus "Trullo's excellent value for the standard of its dishes".
Fay Maschler (15th July 2010)
"An agreeable industrial feeling" is conveyed by the layout of Redhook, but unfortunately the "dull" and rather overpriced menu, and well meaning waiters with "a degree from the University of Irritating Questions" do not add much to the overall experience.
(15th July 2010)
Lisa Markwell (12th July 2010)
12/20 & 16/20
The critic visited the restaurant twice. The first time the food was slow to come out and the four courses were served "luke warm" and tasted average to good, "but a bit dispiriting at £35 a head (without drinks)." He goes back as "there was real skill in the cooking", and "the dining space had just been reconfigured to add many more tables". This time on the dishes receive compliments; "simple ingredients at their peak, allowed to shine" and simply "frikking good". In conclusion, "once front of house is up to speed, Dock Kitchen will be unmissable."
Simon Hattenstone (12th July 2010)
The critic feels let down as he "love(s) good Japanese food – so light and elegant and nuanced – but this isn't good; I'm not so sure it's even Japanese." He says; "don't get me wrong, the food isn't bad, and we ate it all – but at this price you want good, with trimmings." The atmosphere is also not rated, in-fact "there is no atmosphere at Wabi; no warmth, no passion, no generosity, no care."
Tracey MacLeod (12th July 2010)
Food 3/5, Ambience 2/5, Service 4/5
The critic enjoyed her meal, with a "menu (that) ticks all the foodie boxes" - including a Middle Eastern inspired dish which "tasted actively fantastic" - at a reasonable price. The restaurant is suffering from a lack of customers at the moment, and the critic worries that "unless it attracts the Carluccio's crowd, it isn't going to take off. And it would be a real shame."
Matthew Norman (12th July 2010)
One of the only Syrian restaurants in London this is a “truly great neighbourhood restaurant“, with “fun“ mezze starters." The un-elegant “décor partly explains the apparent lunacy of the prices“ for "immaculately fresh, and usually well prepared and cooked" food. Worth a visit even though the noise of the juicer forced Matthew Norman to change tables.
John Walsh (5th July 2010)
Food 4/5, Ambience 3/5, Service 4/5
A former chef from Kensington Place, it seems, left a couple of years ago to set up this café-restaurant “in a quiet square in Chichester”. And to good effect, it seems: the food turns out to be “superior, perfectly judged [and] confidently flavoured”.
Guy Dimond (25th March 2010)
The critic visits the latest outlet of Mark Hix's restaurant empire, situated above “the designer-label haven of the Selfridges ground floor”. Despite enjoying impressive aerial views and some successful dishes (special mention to chicken kiev and bergamot posset), he finds service “dizzy, slow and confused”, and prices ranging from “cheeky” to “rapacious”.
Jay Cheshes (4th January 2010)
This is the most unequivocally damning of the critiques so ar of the Midtown offshoot of the St James’s legend so far, and it does make one question whether Richard Caring’s empire – normally so sure-footed – really intended to provoke quite so many discordant commentaries with this high-visibility Big Apple opening.
Adam Platt (17th December 2009)
New York Magazine’s reviewer (probably second most influential in the Big Apple, after the man from the Times) notes good times coming back to the city. “Downtown demigods like David Chang and April Bloomfield [ex-River Café] are opening ambitious new ventures farther uptown (Má Pêche, in the Chambers Hotel, and the Breslin, at the Ace), and for the first time in years, Danny Meyer is rolling out an ambitious upscale restaurant (Maialino, in the Gramercy Park Hotel) instead of a burger joint.”
Steve Cuozzo (10th December 2009)
Perhaps you need to be a Brit? AA Gill – “the supposedly fierce critic of the [Sunday] Times of London” – gave Richard Caring’s new Upper East Side venture four stars, says this prominent local reviewer, but he feels entirely differently about it. In a piece headlined “Snooty & the Feast”, he says that “Le Caprice sure doesn’t have much use for us locals. Unless you’re an ocean-hopping regular at Caprice Holdings’ celebrity-full London joints, forget about Twittering epiphanies from this beautiful, boring, restaurant any time soon”.
AA Gill (30th November 2009)
“The great London restaurant that was my father's favourite, and the abiding lunch spot for journalists, has transferred to the city that in many ways inspired it”, says the critic. The newcomer, at the Pierre, is “recognisably the swanky cousin of the original”, and the menu contains “all stuff you want to eat”. “The big difference here are the customers: no hacks selling their services cheap to PRs; no Jeffrey Archer; no Snowdon. Here, it’s a room full of those impossibly coiffed and preened midtown mesdames, the terrifyingly maquillaged and taloned charity dames, with their daytime Birkins and memorial teeth, planning good-deed events on behalf of people they hope never to have to meet”.
Nick Lander (23rd November 2009)
The ever-gallivanting critic brings us news on the two recent London-interest openings in the Big Apple. He proclaims Le Caprice, at the Pierre, to be an establishment which “exudes elegance and comfort”, and gets everything else right too. No such praise for the self-consiously ‘sceney’ Monkey Bar, in which our own Wolseley team have a one-third share: the critic seems to think that the $120/head spent on dinner there was pretty much wasted.
Charles Campion (15th October 2009)
“Gloriously unpretentious, they are the kind of dishes you would expect from a gourmet peasant. The meal from Monsieur Koffmann was the best food I have had all year”, says the critic. What a shame the pop-up restaurant on top of Selfridges – briefly run by the man who used to run the fabled Tante Claire – is not to be a permanent installation!
AA Gill (14th September 2009)
The restaurant at this bijou Edinburgh hotel seems “fashionable place for the nouveau riche, nouveau suave and nouveau single who want to push lunch around a plate”, says Gill. He cannot really complain about the food; the kitchen – “overseen by Giorgio Locatelli” – produces “an undemanding collation of Italian-style favourites”, but he finds the décor even more offensive than the “trollopy” clientele; inspired by the hotel’s namesake, the dining room is “[a]n eye-jarring, migraine-inducing swatch of jazzy pattern.”
Jay Rayner (7th September 2009)
This Camberwell restaurant – a “simple, brightly lit room with communal tables and benches” – has “a reassuringly short menu” of “really nice and really distinctive” Xinjiang cuisine, says the critic.
Matthew Fort (7th September 2009)
Nigel Howarth and Craig Bancroft – owners of several “brasserie-pubs” and Northcote Manor in Lancashire – have taken over this Yorkshire pub. They “give serious thought to the kind of food we like to eat” and the food has “a discrete polish” that places it above much gastropub fare. From his visit, the critic proclaims this a “fun, good value” place “with terrific grub”.
Victoria Pesce Elliott (27th August 2009)
The dining room of this export from London town is a “gorgeous” place with “moody lighting”. The critic has a “divine” meal that “feels healthful and indulgent at the same time”, complemented by an “exceptional” wine list. This being Miami Beach, however – Mid Beach, if you want to be technical – service is “cute and a bit snooty without much in the way of knowledge or savvy.”
Guy Dimond (27th August 2009)
Be warned: “this cheeky new namesake” at the 02 has no connection with the “legendary” New York bistro of a rather similar name. “[It] does have a vaguely American theme” and service is “sweet and willing”, but the menu – “a mix of English pub grub and US shopping mall favourites” – offers dishes at not insignificant prices that can “resemble a ready meal”.
Lisa Markwell (25th August 2009)
The critic visits the rebranded ‘Hut’ “to see whether [it] can regain some kudos”, having “been overtaken in terms of fun and quality by other chains.” She finds it delivers in terms of quantity – “the Everything Buffet is a greedy eater’s dream” – but the quality is only “OK”. The best she can say about the place? “I'd take my kids there – even if I'd have to talk them into it.”
Marina O'Loughlin (20th August 2009)
The dining room on the first floor of a “super-louche hang-out” in Soho, may or may not be called Andy Campbell @ 23 Romilly Street. Nothing about this place is particularly clear, but the critic “just lov[es] the whole eccentric shebang”, from the “boudoirish decor” and interesting clientèle, to the warm welcome from the man himself. The food seems a little beside the point, but is “perfectly fine” and appropriately “oddball”.
Jasper Gerard (10th August 2009)
The critic has an arduous journey to the top of Snowdonia, home to Summit, “the world’s only £8 million restaurant to forget the food” – the menu “includes Knorr Cup-a-Soup”. Fortunately, the trip is not wasted as he comes across Castle Cottage, “a delicious rebuke to the monstrosity on the mount.” He is impressed by the approach here: “[fr]om plain cord carpets to freshly made rolls, Castle Cottage is a study in simplicity and a lesson for rural restaurants.”
Matthew Norman (27th July 2009)
The intrepid critic eventually has lunch in a new ‘pop-up’ restaurant; a “tarpaulin-covered wooden structure” on a multi-storey in Peckham. Once the grill is fired-up, he has a surreal “picnic” in the rain that would be “paradise”… if he was “19 and into bad art, LSD and urban deprivation tourism.”
Frank Bruni (17th July 2009)
A “fabled 1930s hot spot”, in Midtown, recently relaunched by Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter, with the help of our own Messrs Corbin and King (of Wolseley fame). It’s more a “clubhouse” than a restaurant, aimed at “a certain fame-focused, power-obsessed sect of Manhattan society” – a place for “back stratching and social climbing”. In its Big Apple sort of way, the Monkey Bar turns out to be rather like the Wolseley: it is one of the city’s “best-looking restaurants”, and the food, though “intentionally unimaginative”, is mostly well-executed.
Jay Rayner (13th July 2009)
The critic has a “depressing” experience at a restaurant attempting to be “a slice of Manhattan in a corner of Essex”, in an airport hotel. Despite a couple of good dishes, he pronounces it “an ill-focused understanding of what a good restaurant should be, matched to a complete inability to deliver it.” (No criticism of this reivew to say: like so many British, even London, hotel restaurants then?)
Jay Rayner (15th June 2009)
There may be “minor stumbles”, but this turns out to be a “seafood restaurant which knows exactly what it wants to be and [generally] does it very well”.
Terry Durack (26th May 2009)
The Independent’s man “can’t quite believe it”, but such “relentless” bad press for Ramsay means he’s “beginning to feel sorry for him”, hence this visit to his “sterile chic” flagship to “judge it on its merits” (As opposed to...?). The key question – does it deserve three Michelin stars – is never posed directly, but despite strenuosly balanced praise – for cooking that’s “crafty”, “harmonious”, “classic”, “sophisticated”, “well-edited and flavour-first” – the answer is fairly clearly written between the lines. Other restaurants out there are “more ground-breaking (Fat Duck), more personal (Hibiscus), and more exciting (Texture)”. “I bow to the execution, although it doesn't steal my heart.”
Zoe Williams (26th May 2009)
The design is – according to the critic – a reminder of “what restaurateurs thought places ought to look like in the 1980s – Paris-via-Manhattan”. It’s “definitely not tacky, but nor is it the kind of place you’d want to linger for hours and hours” – a “conundrum”… “given the speed of the service” Some of the food is “utterly lovely”, but some “a let down”. “Look, it’s fine”, she concludes, “and if it were in Cheadle it would probably already be in the top five”. But during “hard times” and “in a restaurant-heavy town” she wonders “if it has the oomph.”
Jasper Gerard (26th May 2009)
The critic’s dinner at the restaurant of this hotel in “Jane Austen country” doesn’t get off to the best start: “[s]treakers at Lord's can scarcely feel more underdressed than I do, entering tie-less.” He finds the décor “a little confused: flock wallpaper and funky crockery.” “There is no confusion in the kitchen, however. Michelin-starred head chef Hywel Jones is assisted by this year's Roux scholar, Richi Desai.” The result is a “top notch” meal, featuring the “utterly scrumptious” foie gras-enriched signature dish.
Matthew Norman (26th May 2009)
The critic has made two visits to Sir Terence Conran’s latest venture – a “theatrical underground space”, in an “eccentric” going on “actively distasteful” Tower Hamlets location. “The good news is that the second meal was every bit as excellent as the first” – a “genuinely impressive” experience delivering “proper, old-fashioned, artery-clogging French cooking at (comparatively) moderate prices”. But whereas in March it was “heaving”, this time it had “twice as many staff as diners”. How ironic that “after decades of coining it” with “ersatz and mediocre clip joints” Sir Tel has created an “authentic labour of love” but “the punters aren’t buying it”.
Jay Rayner (26th May 2009)
The “chocolate box” setting “couldn’t have been any more perfect” at this “ancient black-beamed cottage”, which enjoys “lovely” views and looks so good that “all [the food] has to do is not fail”. After years of “variable quality” a takeover by a TV producer (Sophie Ellis Bextor’s father) generally goes down well with Jay. Even if the dishes “feel at times like a bunch of things your mate, who can cook a bit, has refined over years of trial and error”, prices are “reasonable” and “most of them do the job well”.
Giles Coren (26th May 2009)
8/10, 7/10, 6/10
John Walsh (26th May 2009)
Food 3/5 stars, Ambience 3/5 stars, Service 3/5 stars
“Too much pub and not enough gastro” – or vice versa – is a problem considered by John Walsh, but a place like this “low 17th-century inn, painted in a subtle, eau-de-nil shade” is a reminder of “how the joint concept is supposed to work”. The menu “promises familiar porky and fishy ingredients coaxed into sophistication” and he leaves “feeling sated with food and wine and carpet-bombed with conviviality.”
Jay Rayner (16th March 2009)
A recent “boring” visit to Ramsay’s LA gives the critic a peg on which he can hang his views of the chef/TV phenomenon more generally. “Ramsay is a skilled technical French cook… [who] makes great television”, he says, and “Gordon Ramsay Holdings is also exceptionally professional and without doubt has done huge things for the restaurant business in London. The heft and reliability of their gastro pubs stand as a testament to all of that.” (We’re not sure about that last point, but let’s move on.)
Jasper Gerard (23rd February 2009)
“I've had funkier nights out in the House of Lords bar than [the one at] the Montagu Arms”, says the critic, and “the bar makes the dining room look happening”. The food at this recently Michelin-starred New Forest inn, however, is “terrific”.
Giles Coren (16th February 2009)
“The Wykeham Arms is destroyed” concludes Giles in an excellent and withering review of somewhere he “used to love” – “a great old English institution [turned] into a shameful clip-joint”. Aside from the steak like “elderly narwhal” and eggs at breakfast “tasting of a wet fart in clean underpants” it’s the “pretentiousness and ineptitude” which really stick in his craw. “We asked for chips, but they didn’t do chips. It was all so Hyacinth Bucket. Focaccia sandwiches but no chips. It’s a Hampshire pub, for God’s sake”. [Instead, he advises, go to The Black Rat down the road.]
Matthew Norman (16th February 2009)
“Relentless gushing… is tiresome…but when there’s nothing to kick… what’s a chap to do”. So gushes a delighted reviewer regarding his “impeccable”, “perfect” meal at this “handsome, redbrick inn” in a “picturesque setting, atop a valley in bucolic Oxfordshire”. “The service was as warm and charming as the light, pretty dining” and the food?: “fantastic”… “fabulously rich”… “the best pud’ ever”.
David Sexton (11th February 2009)
The critic has an up-and-down meal at this South Kensingotn neighbourhood restaurant, but the “oddity” turned out to be the service – “strangely old-fashioned and a touch obsequious”. “You either like this treatment or you don’t. It is, evidently, a place for habitués who respond to such cosseting, perhaps expecting it wherever they go. It’s not our neighbourhood, though, and we left looking forward to our next impersonal chain, where it’s all plonked down and you’re left alone to get on with it.”
Frank Bruni (4th February 2009)
“[C]ould any of New York City’s grand promises sound more elegant, timeless and deliciously grown-up?”, wonders the critic, than “[d]inner at the Plaza” – the great hotel (now largely condominums) overlooking Central Park, which has recently relaunched its historic dining room.
Matthew Norman (2nd February 2009)
The critic visits a restaurant which has long had quite a `name’ locally, and finds far too much “fussiness and contrivance” on the food front. “In fact, the joint best feature (with outstanding service) is the ambience.” “Buried beneath the facetious crockery, baby-food purées and other affectations that were passé long ago is, I suspect, a cracking neighbourhood restaurant, and Bristol could use one of those. But this hyper-ambitious style of cooking needs the genius of a Blumenthal to avoid appearing daft. If this irksome yet likable place can thrive without a cheapish set menu, and keep charging £8.50 for poached egg, good luck to it. But I've a feeling there's more chance of my becoming solicitor general in a Gordon Brown government.”
Terry Durack (2nd February 2009)
The brothers Gary and Colin Manning – proprietors of 60 Hope Street – are, says the critic, “the likeliest lads in Liverpool to nail the Zeitgeist”. They have recently added to their portfolio this “modern, pan-Asian noodle bar”. “HoSt needs a bit more art, heart and character”, he concludes, but “there is still enough light, bright, tasty, recession-friendly food to draw a crowd”.
Jay Rayner (19th January 2009)
“Small plates cost around £6”, at this Japanese restaurant, just north of Oxford Street, which – says the critic – you visit “for spankingly good fish and sweet waitresses who know their spoken English is close to unintelligible and will do everything to make you feel at home”, and also for a bill which, “while hardly small, feels reasonable.”
David Sexton (17th December 2008)
“We are supposed now to be lovingly rediscovering the lost greatness of British regional food at its best”, notes the critic, but this elegantly-designed British mini-chain “often serves as a powerful reminder of how it fell into such disrepute in the first place”. A stew, for example, was “hopeless… more a failed soup. Almost weirdly without flavour, it would have disgraced any home kitchen”. And a side-order of mushy peas was “close to inedible”. He doesn’t find the overall ‘offer’ to be without its saving graces, but he still feels that “[w]hat [the place] needs now is an overbearing French chef”. [This may be the first newspaper review, incidentally, to chime with a theme we seem to have been developing recently – that this whole British-restaurant food movement risks getting vastly overhyped.]
Jenni Muir (17th December 2008)
“The Connaught hasn’t put a foot wrong with its recent revamp: a stunning new fine dining restaurant from acclaimed French chef Hélène Darroze, which we awarded five stars when we reviewed it in the summer; two hot new bars, including the Coburg, which was runner up in the Best Bar category in the Time Out Eating and Drinking Awards 2008”. So the fact that the latest venture shows merely “okay-ness” comes to the critic as “quite a surprise”. The menu, for example, “is flecked with a tedious collection of dishes that hotels throughout the world seem to think compulsory”, and the set midday meal “a second-rate set menu that cynically aims at credit-crunched ladies who still like to lunch”.
Jay Rayner (8th December 2008)
The Ellington, we discover, “is the dining room of a new hotel run by a new company which proclaims Norman Lamont as a board member”, with some involvement of notables from Le Gavroche too. The food may be “tribute to old-fashioned, back-breaking mis en place: everything had been prepped within an inch of its life. Vegetables diced and julienned”, but the Ellington turns out to be “a gem”, let down only by a poor and expensive wine selection. All in all, however, “in these straightened times, when we need to save up for our pleasures, this new restaurant does at least offer something soothing and reliable at a price that is attainable for some, if not all”.
Tracey MacLeod (10th November 2008)
Food 4/5 stars, Ambience 2/5 stars, Service 4/5 stars
First a bit of biog: “Robert Thompson is a gifted young chef who has regularly been tipped for De Niro-style greatness. Still only 26, he was talent-spotted early at Lincolnshire's Winteringham Fields, rising through the ranks to become head chef and winning his first Michelin star at the preposterous age of 23. Last year he moved to another famous address, Cliveden, to head up the fine-dining restaurant Waldo's. But then he broke with the conventional narrative. After a short and unhappy stint in Berkshire, Thompson has headed south – about as south as it's possible to get in Britain – to take over a restaurant in the uncharted gastronomic waters of Ventnor, on the south coast of the Isle of Wight. Not since John Profumo went to the East End has anyone chosen to bury themselves away so dramatically after an unfortunate experience at Cliveden.”
AA Gill (2nd October 2008)
The critic visits the restaurant “regularly voted the finest… in the world”. This may be “a title that is hostage to ridicule”, but the crtic is taken by its “complete and utter lack of ponce in the decor department”. And, although the place is “notorious for the chemistry of [Ferran Adria’s] cooking”, it turns out to be “just very, very good… intense, and obtusely original”.
Jasper Gerard (2nd October 2008)
The critic visits a “store and fabulous café”, in which a share has been “snapped up by Richard Caring, who owns Le Caprice and The Ivy”. He “wants to spread the Bill's model across the country”, apparently. so it’s lucky that the critic concludes that “[e]very high street should have a place like this”.
Terry Durack (16th September 2008)
The “biggest trend of all”, says the distant critic, is that “New York dining goes ever more casual”. “Even the Lyon-born chef Daniel Boulud, who first opened the grand, high-end Daniel in 1993, has gradually lightened up – first with the chic, contemporary Café Boulud in 1998, then the Franco/American DB Bistro Moderne in 2001, the first to give the burger gourmet status with foie gras and truffles. Now, with Bar Boulud, he returns to his Lyonnais roots with a charcuterie-strong menu of down-home bistro classics. But don't expect red-checked tablecloths and wobbly tables. This is New York, honey, so designer Thomas Schlesser has turned the long narrow space into a vaulted tunnel of blonde wood, with seating mixed up over long bars and stools and sought-after booths.” The star of the show turns out to be “the dedicated charcuterie kitchen”. Cheese are good too, but main courses tend to “yawny”.
Jay Rayner (8th September 2008)
The critic is one of only two non-Chinese diners at this East End Szechuanese restaurant, which he procaims a “true gem”.
Tracey MacLeod (2nd September 2008)
Food 3/5 stars, Ambience 3/5 stars, Service 4/5 stars
The critic visits a seaside restaurant largely “papered with old magazines”. “It's riotous, playful and totally unexpected, in this oh-so-tasteful corner of Suffolk, where the appreciation of modern design has been most famously expressed by the repeated vandalisation of Maggie Hambling's scallop sculpture on Thorpeness beach.”
S. Irene Virbila (29th August 2008)
“Just when it seems as if fine dining is going the way of the dodo in Southern California, this sophisticated Londoner arrives and dressing up for dinner seems fun again”. The lady from the LA Times rather likes the Sweary One’s new American outpost.
Jasper Gerard (5th August 2008)
The critic visits a potential answer to the waste problem. “It’s a farm café in Bristol. Many of St Werburghs City Farm supplies come from surrounding allotments; if they run out of vegetables, they pop over to one of the old boys tending his turnips and buy some more. Suppliers are paid with free meals.” It’s not just the concept which he finds “great” – the food turns out to be pretty good too.
Charmaine Mok (26th June 2008)
The critic has a “stunner of the meal” at this new Shoredtich Vietnamese.
Jasper Gerard (23rd June 2008)
Some elements are “comically bad”, and “if the quality of pub and restaurant grub were not so dire in this pocket of Kent, the joint might struggle”, but the critic finds enough “eccentric inventiveness” to “make it work - just”. “If it improved on delivery, this could become a fun haunt.”
Nick Lander (23rd June 2008)
“You need to make a reservation in advance and complete and sign a form at reception”, but it turns out that non-members can dine at this Mayfair gaming club, whose chef had two decades’ experience at nearby Harry’s Bar.
Mike Steinberg (9th June 2008)
The critic is unimpressed by the Sweary One’s Big Apple outpost. He finds the food “uneven”, and it is served in a room which “is minimalist in the way a conference room is mimimalist”. “[Is this] the best one can expect for $360 [for two, including tip])?”, he wonders. (On the same page, incidentally, regular restaurant man Nicholas Lander finds himself in Beijing. The main feature of the restaurants turns out to be that they are very large.)
Jonathan Gold (9th June 2008)
Not exactly having been bowled over by a trip to Royal Hospital Road a few years ago – “Ramsay might as well have been cooking in a dreary provincial city like Dieppe or Clermont-Ferrand” – it’s perhaps no surprise that the critic is hardly bowled over by Ramsay’s new LA outpost. It is “in its opening days”, he observes, and “the workings of the kitchen are obviously going to improve”, but “as the mastermind behind Kitchen Nightmares, Ramsay might want to take a look at what’s happening in the restaurant that bears his name”.
Matthew Norman (3rd June 2008)
Will the good people at the Guardian never learn that, as Wilde observed, no good deed goes unpunished? They keep trying to show they’re not capital-centric, and to find good provincial restaurants, and what happens? They end up in places like this “absolute shocker” (which John Prescott has apparently described as “my favourite Chinese restaurant in the world”). All very laudable of course, but just how interested are the readers in an account of a place with “the values of a fifth-rate Pekingese restaurant circa 1974”?
Frank Bruni (8th May 2008)
The critic finally gets a table – but did he manage to pull it off the statutory three times, one wonders? – at a tiny and unpretentious East Village joint that’s become “the most talked-about new restaurant this year”.
(1st May 2008)
No restaurant reviews as such in this week’s Time Out, which is given over to wine, and places to consume it.
Zoe Williams (28th April 2008)
The critic has a rather up-and-down experience in the popular dining facility of the well-known Lakeland kitchen shop.
Terry Durack (28th April 2008)
Inspired by the news that Ms D is to take over at the Connaught in June, the critic ventures to her Parisian base. He decides, in short, that he “like[s] madame's cooking. It is high craft, but the craft is designed more to maximise flavour than be decorative”, and his meal is “genuinely dazzling”.
Jasper Gerard (28th April 2008)
Having finally gained access to this airside restuarant, the critic is “pleasantly surprised that Plane Food is (a) finished and (b) a proper restaurant, off the main drag and bursting with light”. (“Ramsay, apparently, was equally surprised when he saw it on a fleeting tour of his restaurant: really it is becoming another day, another opening of a McRamsay's”.) And, by airport standards, he’s impressed by the food too.
Fay Maschler (24th April 2008)
Oh heck! Trouble at t’top of London restaurant scene. In Time Out, Gordon Ramsay dismisses Fay Maschler’s reviews (and those of AA Gill) as “all personal’, and – on the same day – she gets her retaliation in first with this review of his new gaff outside Paris. In a mixed account, she dismisses his pressed Vendée chicken as looking like a “tumour” and at least one of the menu conceits as “distinctly vieux chapeau”. Where will it all end?
Frank Bruni (17th April 2008)
After two lacklustre ventures in the Big Apple in recent years, Alain Ducasse is making an act of atonement to the city, according to this critic. His new outlet, in the swanky St Regis hotel, may not not trying for the fireworks he went for at Essex House, but it is “a qualified victory… not through-and-through rapturous, but… first-rate”.
Jay Rayner (15th April 2008)
The critic visits a restaurant where one of the cooks was recently a finalist in the prestigious Roux Scholarship competition. As Wilde noted, however, no good deed goes unpunished, and he is rewarded with an invariably unsatisfactory meal suggesting “a need to return to the… virtues of simplicity”.
David Sexton (10th April 2008)
The critic finds “small, canteen-style tables … grimly close together” and a lack of “random generosity” at the latest venture from “the formidable catering company that is Gordon Ramsay Holdings”. Service is “haphazard”, too. The menu, however, is “short and appealing”, and – though it had its faults – “this was much the best food I’ve ever found in [an aiport]”. “But”, adds the critic, is an ambitious full meal what one needs in transit?”
Frank Bruni (20th March 2008)
A review of a modest Gallic bistro on the fringe of SoHo, where one overview comment may well be of wider relevance on both sides of the Pond – “this scrappy restaurant, where you can hear the bell every time a dish is ready and heat from the kitchen steams diners’ eyeglasses, will charm many people turned off by the vacuous polish and higher prices elsewhere”, notes the critic. Wouldn’t it be nice – in both NYC and London – if we could generally have a bit less emphasis on “vacuous polish”, and a bit more on the food, and at reasonable prices too?
Tracey MacLeod (17th March 2008)
2/5 stars for food
The critic visits Delia Smith’s brasserie at Norwich FC. “[A]s the brainchild of one of Britain's most famous and influential cooks”, she concludes, “it needs a bit more work to earn promotion to the Premier League”.
Giles Coren (17th March 2008)
Away from his usual magazine slot, Giles Coren is sent to review the restaurant which recently led to a great ‘freedom of the press’ victory in the Northern Irish courts, and finds it just as bad as in the offending review. His own piece is particularly notable for the description of chicken dish as “thin strips of mole, poached in Ovaltine”. Sort of stays with you, doesn’t it?
Jay Rayner (4th March 2008)
The critic ventures to the Downtown venture whose chef originally launched Gordon Ramsay’s Midtown flagship. He thoroughly likes Neil Ferguson’s new establishment, and his sacking by Ramsay – after the flagship’s initially poor reviews – is hailed as a liberation.
Dorothy J Gaiter and John Brecher (4th March 2008)
“Ordering the Tasting Menu Can Mean Being Treated Like a Rube [bumpkin]” – the headline tells the story of this interesting peregrination round the wine-matching menus at the four biggest-name New York restaurants – Jean Georges, Per Se, Le Bernardin and Daniel. The piece – as interesting for its implications about the spirit of the times as for the specifics of the Big Apple’s top-end dining scene – concludes that “[n]ow that pairings have become routine, some restaurants see it simply as a way to move some wine and move along the diners”.
Frank Bruni (7th January 2008)
Ms Spicer’s conclusion is all the more interesting in the light of a brief end-of-year re-review by Frank Bruni (who, famously, dissed the place on opening). He finds this “glossy” venture improved, but his overall conclusion is remarkably similar to the lady from the Sunday Times – “much of the expertly prepared food still lacked the glimmers of surprise and sense of real adventure that might have made them (sic) as exciting as they were coolly impressive”.
Kate Spicer (7th January 2008)
Mr Gill’s stand-in starts off her review by noting that “to emphasise here [meaning in New York, presumably] how famous Ramsay is would be obtuse. He has broken America in a way Robbie Williams and Oasis never did…”
Faye Maschler (12th December 2007)
She awards it 4/5 stars, as she does two bistros she also raves about: the celebrated Benoit (now an Alain Ducasse property) and another that’s very handy for the Gare du Nord, Hier et Aujord’hui.
Frank Bruni (12th December 2007)
Neil Ferguson left the Gordon Ramsay empire when his cooking failed to win many plaudits for the latter’s high-profile opening ‘at the London”, in Midtown. Well Ferguson is now back in the Big Apple, cooking at this “scruffily elegant” Downtown newcomer, and the critic seems very happy with the result.
Faye Maschler (12th December 2007)
Ms Mascher, however, has had a great time at a new hotel restaurant just off the Place Vendôme (Pur’ Grill), whose chef has done time at the Crillon, Taillevent and the Grand Véfour, as well as at the Martinez in Cannes
Frank Bruni (15th November 2007)
He concludes that it “exists to affirm its patrons’ ability to throw away money”
Michael Winner (1st November 2007)
Our hero dines at the famous talking shop. The company was “superb”, but the food was “pretty awful”.
Mark Bolland (17th October 2007)
The critic ventures to Clapham – a voyage whose enormity consumes much of the review – to assess the restaurant recently hailed by the AA as the best newcomer in town. He find a restaurant that’s arrived, with “a certain buzz to it”. Both food and service, though, are rather up and down.
(25th September 2007)
Time Out devotes its coverage this week to its annual Eating & Drinking Awards. Judged against the results of the Harden’s survey, they generally seem broadly comprehensible, with the particular exception of the award to the National Dining Rooms. This is not the first time that proprietor Oliver Peyton has got an award for a restaurant which – as judged by the feedback to the Harden’s survey – is actually quite poor. We don’t imagine he’s gone round distributing bundles of used fivers, so it can only have something to do with his gift for the Blarney. Or maybe the judges were just lucky.
Giles is away (25th September 2007)
Giles Coren was away.
Marina O’Loughlin (29th August 2007)
It’s perhaps no great surprise that Ms O'Loughlin finds this Leicester Square casino “magnificently tacky”. More of a turn-up, though, is food – presented in a style which is “a cross between a grill and a bit of the old ‘fayn dayning’” – which is “positively bearable” (as long as you avoid the “revolting” truffle mash, that is).
Fay Maschler (17th July 2007)
“Homely cooking” (“from the days when tea was a proper meal”) is apparently the inspiration for Oliver Peyton’s café and the refurbished Wellcome building – the brand is also seen at Heal’s (Tottenham Court Road). Mrs M seems to have enjoyed her visit.
Nicholas Lander (2nd July 2007)
Nick Lander’s piece on the mega-hyped American newcomer is a number-cruncher’s delight. Its 80,000 sq ft food hall seats 350 “making it one of the largest café/restaurants to open in London this year”. We learn also that “Fortnum & Mason’s five restaurants will seat 600 by the autumn; the Fifth Floor restaurant at Harvey Nichols seats 450. Harrods dwarfs both, with 28 eating places that can accommodate 1,839 shoppers at any one time”.
AA Gill (25th June 2007)
The reaction against the hype which engulfed this American food mart in Kensington has already well set in. The restaurant floor is “very American”: “it has no coherent design but looks as though it has been constructed in a weekend by competing gangs of shopfitters”. “Dotted at random round the edges are counters selling sushi, pizza, smoothies, waffles, ice cream and sweet stuff.” None impresses our critic. “Altogether, the experience here is of eating in a railway concourse in the company of bored, neurotic, overweight people who’ve just had babies they don’t like.
Michael Winner (18th June 2007)
Mr Winner fearlessly visits a rather ordinary café near his Kensington office, and also the much-hyped new US food-retail import Whole Foods. The latter takes him “almost back to the quality of food I ate during the Second World War”.
Nicholas Lander (4th June 2007)
The critic – who has acted as consultant to the project throughout – gives an interesting insider’s account of choosing the restaurants recently installed at the relaunched Royal Festival Hall.
The Bingham is a boutique hotel with an attractive view over the Thames. If coming by car, parking is awkward, but the nearby Poppy Factory appears to allow visitors in the evening. The dining room has a wide outlook over the Thames, and on a nice evening (as this was) you can sit on the terrace. The only drawback to this is the uncomfortable outside chairs. The tasting menu was £65 (£105 with wine pairing). If you stick to the a la carte then three courses would have set you back £45.
Charm opened in the spring of 2010 in a parade in King Street, which is better known for its down-market Indian restaurants than up-market Thai places. As you enter, a cosy lounge bar gives way to a dining room on the right. The décor is much smarter than I was expecting, with leather banquettes and chandeliers. The restaurant is the first London venture of a gentleman who owns two restaurants in Eastbourne. There was some very odd muzak playing, ranging from instrumental jazz through to a range of songs from the 1950s through to modern ballads; it was if someone had put a jukebox onto a random play setting.