TELEGRAPH | MARK PALMER
Rating: 6/10 points
Part of the “trying-to-be-ever-so-posh Macdonald Hotels and Resorts group”, this famous hotel “reeks of corporate hospitality”. In recent times, “the old Riverside restaurant was split in two and, once the painters and decorators had done their bit, Timpson's name was put above the door in the smart part overlooking the weir”. (Mr Timpson has been chef here for some years.)
This is a nice and informative review, so let’s précis it. It takes nearly 90 minutes for first courses to arrive. Drink is “not cheap” (with “basic Chablis at £39.95.) Starters include a “one mouthful” quail, which would make a “delicious canapé”. Main courses are good-to-variable. The critic’s own comes in a “not … overly generous portion”, and “certainly not worth the wait” (“however scenic the setting”). Cheese (£8.50) is meanly-rationed. The things the critic remembers most are: “the price, followed by the interminable wait for our first courses”. “Which is such a pity because, never mind the portions, the food really isn't bad at all.”
THE TIMES | GILES COREN
Rating: Meat/fish: Meat/fish: 7/10 points; Cooking: 8/10 points; Campervan parking: 10/10 points; Water: 5/10 points; Score: 7.5/10 points
Ever suspicious of celeb-branding (in this case Marco Pierre White), Giles Coren “was not expecting to like the Yew Tree especially”. It turns out, however, to be “a cute little place, with 17th-century beams, inglenook fireplace, and good old Timothy Taylor on tap”. “Apart from that, it is more restaurant than pub.” And, it seems from his review, a consistently good one too.
THE GUARDIAN | MATTHEW NORMAN
An odd and somewhat difficult-to-follow piece. As the critic says: “it isn't entirely a review at all, being as much a preview of what I suspect The Hole In The Wall is like on an average night as a report on a slightly disappointing meal” (sic). The meal he actually experienced was not thrilling, but he suspects that the involvement of Stephen Bull – the ex-London chef who allegedly “has a long and lustrous record for providing outstanding food at decent prices” – means it’s usually much better.
FINANCIAL TIMES | NICHOLAS LANDER
Not a review, but a (rare) article about the business side of running a major restaurant.
Nick Lander – as so often from his unique (ex-restaurateur) perspective – notes a truth of the trade little observed by the general public: when famous chefs “originally emerge into the spotlight, they invariably have a long-term commercial partner, someone who was either wise or brave enough to spot their potential early on”. His article is based on discussions with Tony Baker, MD (but, it seems, not a financial backer) of Heston Blumenthal. (The article rather suggests that Blumenthal may in fact be a rare exception to the general rule, and not have a backer.)
En passant, Nick notes an interesting truth about sudden success: “I was with Blumenthal when [the award of a third Michelin star] happened and he revealed he had only six booked for dinner that night, just enough cash in the bank to cover the next week’s wages and, in his words, he was the closest he ever came to going “belly up”. Thereafter, “the reservations line began to ring non-stop”.
As last week, Lander – he was briefly a trader, after all – deluges us with numbers, giving some sort of insight into the sort of business a three Michelin star chef can do: “The Fat Duck seats 46… for lunch and dinner six days a week and with 60-65 per cent of its customers choosing the £115 tasting menu, it generates an average spend of between £150 and £200 and an annual turnover of more than £4m. The spend at The Hind’s Head is much lower but its popularity means it is now serving up to 250 customers a day, generating a further £2.5m. The restaurants’ turnover, in a company privately owned by Blumenthal, is significant and there is also additional income from books and TV, handled by two separate agents.”
We also learn that: “There are 32 chefs at The Fat Duck who, together with the restaurant team and the administration, generate a weekly wage bill of between £32,000 and £35,000”.
TIME OUT LONDON | ANDREW STAFFELL
Rating: 4/6 stars
There’s the odd quibble about the food, but Time Out seems – rather surprisingly, given its socio-eonomic leanings – to have had a pretty spendid time dining in the company of the “bankers of Belgravia”. This latest addition to the Olivo empire may serve “peasant food”, but “serve it in the right setting and in they'll flock”. The cooking shows “triumphant simplicity”, which is ‘matched, in a sense, by the décor”
THE INDEPENDENT | JOHN WALSH
Rating: Food 4/5 stars; Ambience 3/5 stars; Service 5/5 stars
The Indie’s man has to penetrate a “huge” front door – “like the portal to an upmarket torture chamber” – to experience Gary Rhodes’s already much-reviewed new restaurant. Inside, the décor is apparently a “paradox of restrained opulence”. Presumably, this meant ‘parody’ – always willing to educate ourselves, we looked in vain for any philosophical musings on the nature of the supposed paradox. But at least, for once, we’re spared the tidbit that this is Rhodes’s effort to regain a Michelin star.
At the end of day, the bill is “colossal”, but “dammit, it was worth it”: this is British cuisine at a high-to-sublime level and you must find someone rich enough to introduce you to it, pronto. (Other reviews have all pronouced the cuisine here French, but it just goes to show.)
INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY | TERRY DURACK
Rating: 15/20 points
Ten years after its opening, this West End Moroccan joint is “still jumping”. In fact, it is still “a great London restaurant”. The kitchen “has its groove back”, and “there is a strong core of professionalism beneath the hippie-go-lucky charm”. It's “busy, loud and crowded, and can be militant when it comes to turning over tables, but like all good restaurants, it has the power to transform”.
SUNDAY TIMES | AA GILL
Rating: 5/5 stars
Mr Gill visits “the best new dining room I’ve seen for years” (which would be the same one, presumably, as Time Out found “a little contrived and, in truth, rather out of date”). It helps, perhaps, that the staff “are all charm and sultry pulchritude”. (“I’ve always thought that equal-opportunities legislation should make an exception for waiters and allow restaurants to employ them by prettiness – it’s such an important part of the ambience”.) The menu is fish and essentially Sardinian, a cuisine which “often has a mordant edge to it, a taste of regret and resentment, of loss and vendetta”. Fortunately, it’s mainly done here “with panache”. And Tiramisu is awarded “best ever in London” status.
SUNDAY TIMES | MICHAEL WINNER
Meaning to go to La Brasserie, in South Kensington, Mr Winner ends up at this Knightsbridge establishment. Fortunately for Mr Winner, it turns out to be a “first-rate” place, where the customers were “pleasant old-school types”.
IN THE PREVIOUS WEEKS PAPERS
EVENING STANDARD | NICK CURTIS
The newish Chelsea spot is, concludes the critic, aimed at “the ladies of the Royal Borough who lunch.” “It's big on small things - salads, soups, sandwiches - with a few token, meaty items on the à la carte menu to appeal to a man's inner Desperate Dan”. “As a place to lunch in Kensington” [which it isn’t, technically speaking], Kicca “is competing in a crowded field, and does not seem to be winning”. “I don't think Daphne's and the other Draycott Avenue haunts of monied females need to look to their laurels any time soon.”
EVENING STANDARD MAGAZINE | MARK BOLLAND
Here’s a new critical index not previously explored. ES’s critic notices the number of chaps who have “gold signet rings on their little fingers”, at this new upmarket chippy. This place seems to pass the test: “you know that this will be a posh, ketchup-free zone”. He broadly likes the place. But then he also describes the same owners’ Embassy restaurant as “excellent”. Hmm.
METRO | MARINA O'LOUGHLIN
Rating: 5/5 stars
“I lurved it. I want to marry it, have its babies.” Metro’s critic really goes overboard for this Mayfair newcomer, which “comes from the same stable as Zuma and Roka”. It “isn't the most technically brilliant, fancy-shmancy cooking in London”, but “golly, it's good”. And “fellow diners as eye candy add to the entertainment”. “There are reactionaries”, she fumes, “who'll say this is a weak copy of the Nice original”, but “it isn't”: “the food is every bit as good.”
METRO | MARINA O'LOUGHLIN
Rating: 3/5 stars
For her secondary review, the critic praises a new City tapas bar: an offshoot of the “rave-reviewed Brighton original”. “OK, this is no San Sebastian”, she concludes, “but the food is fresh, the ham is acorny and addictive, the croquetas are cheesy, silky and moreish, the lomo and chorizo are of unimpeachable provenance, and the cheeses – Idiazábal and, of course, manchego – slip down perfectly with some almondy amontillado”. The “screeching binge drinkers from nearby offices”, however, do not seem to be to her taste.
HARDENS OWN REVIEWS, AS PUBLISHED IN CITY AM