AA Gill, The Sunday Times (Rating: 4/5 stars)
Another rave, or something pretty close, from one of Mark Hix’s many self-confessed friends in the media for the “relaxed yet sophisticated“ restaurant the former has recently opened in Soho. Even if “preparation is a little careless, a touch smilingly amateur”, the critic likes “the fact that Mark is a top-notch chef who thinks that if the crust falls in, or the bottom drops off, well, it’s just dinner. And there are more important things to worry about and be enthused by than a tepid dab and shy whelk.”
The critic would like to lash out at an establishment so identifed with the City and its works (and workers), but it turns out that this City Italian is “an infuriatingly good restaurant”. He finds the room “glacial” – “this must be the planet's grandest canteen” – but chef Francesco Mazzei’s food is “soulful in the extreme, bursting with the vibrancy of (primarily southern) Italian cooking, and worth the slightly eye-watering cost”.
London’s gone “pizza crazy”, says the critic. The latest incarnation is this Shoreditch outpost of the Soho House group, and ‘[a]ll you really need to know is that Pizza East is, like almost everything Nick Jones opens (not everything, but almost everything), absolutely bang on the money”. The staff are “all terrific” – “I’d marry all the girls, and half the boys”, and “[t]his will probably be seen to have been the most successful and influential restaurant opening of 2009.” (Successful perhaps, but influential?)
Dans le noir?
John Walsh, The Independent (Rating: Food 1/5 stars, Ambience 1/5 stars, Service 2/5 stars)
“Within four minutes of arriving, I was dying to leave.” The critic is not impressed at all by this restaurant where you eat in the pitch black. In fact, eating here is quite possibly “the most shameless (and expensive) gustatory illusion since the Feeding of the 5,000”.
Fire & Stone
Lisa Markwell, The Independent on Sunday (Rating: 6/20)
The critic pays a first-anniversary visit to the West London shopping centre, which boasts “a whole array of eateries”, and visits “a pizzeria that's bustling but [unlike some of its competitors] not packed”. Mistake. It turns out that this is “one of those creative pizza places, where the classic Italian model of thin base, tomato and, possibly, cheese has been distorted out of all recognition”, and even the more standard ingredients come “coated in a gloopy balsamic reduction”.
“A thrilling place to eat? Absolutely not. But exactly the kind of restaurant any hectic city needs.” The critic visits the City-crypt ‘veggie’ that recently brought meat dishes onto its menu. He is generally pretty impressed, and finds it odd that the “only truly weak dish should have come from the more practised vegetarian side”.
The Walnut Tree, Abergavenny
Jasper Gerard, The Telegraph (Rating: 4/5)
Shaun Hill’s “whitewashed roadside coaching stop” seems “a modest affair for such an immodest reputation, notes the critic… But this has been a foodie destination since 1963 when Franco and Ann Taruschio ran an Italian restaurant celebrated throughout Wales”. Hill tells the critic he offers “basically the same food I did at Gidleigh Park, just without the expensive rooms”, and – from the ubeat tone of the review – it seems that the latter rather agrees.
Brasserie Black Door, Newcastle
Tim Auld, The Telegraph (Rating: 5.5/10)
“The atmosphere was buzzy and informal. But the food was overpriced for what it was, and the chef should look to his laurels” – the critic is unimpressed by the standards at this locally-celebrated brasserie, located in a former biscuit factory.