How exciting: Harden’s mentioned by major restaurant critic! “The moral of this story is: never trust any restaurant book except mine. Harden’s London restaurant guide 2009 summed up, via readers’ views, La Figa as ‘an absolutely stunning local Italian’. Stunning is not the word I’d use. Revolting, ghastly, pathetic and dreadful come to mind.”
Well, never let the facts get in the way of a good story: that’s what last year’s guide said. The current guide is rather less upbeat. But the big point here is the intellectual dishonesty of mentioning books only when you disagree with them. Even the Editors at Harden’s don’t agree with everything in Harden’s all the time.
The last time we can recall Mr Winner mentioning guidebooks, it was how they’d all omitted a particularly deserving place (the French Horn at Sonning); needless to say, Harden’s – alone – hadn’t, but he didn’t think to mention us on that occasion!
Giles Coren, The Times (Rating: 7)
After a bit of a wait, our hero finally gains admission to the critical-rave (now no-booking) Soho newcomer. His review is a nice corrective to some of the overdone early-days crits: “The food is Venetian and nothing to get over-excited about. The chef is from Bocca di Lupo, two minutes up the road, but the cooking is not in that league. It’s like old-fashioned Soho trattoria stuff served in fashionably small portions for sharing… [M]any of the dishes were blurred, indistinct and erratically seasoned. But I had a lovely time.”
Apsleys (Heinz Beck)
“There are 57 varieties of reason to loathe Apsleys: A Heinz Beck Restaurant”, says the critic, “among them the use of that name to justify charging triple-star prices for the work of underlings while its owner does the real business in another land [Rome, Italy]. But the worst of it is a room of such hideously overbearing opulence to inspire a parasexual fantasy featuring gelignite… ‘My God”, said my friend clocking the horror, ‘one glance and it sucks the soul out of you.’”
We won’t bore you with the details, but the upshot was that “the blame for this excrescence lies with the boss back in Rome for whoring his name, and with a greedy, misguided hotel for pimping it under the comical misapprehension that anyone but the most devoted of foodies will ever have heard it”.
City Cafe, Leeds
“[A] serious operation trying to offer something many notches above standard hotel slurry and sludge dining” – this city-centre dining room inspires something of a hymn of praise.
Zoe Williams, The Telegraph (Rating: 7.5/10)
“Everything was well within the tolerance of ‘excellent’ until we got to the puddings, which screeched into mediocrity” – the critic is pretty impressed by this airy sheen gastropub.
Toby Young, The Independent on Sunday (Rating: 13/20)
The critic celebrates his 35th birthday – is he really so young? – at the “dining concept” of this trendy hotel, just north of Oxford Street. “I’m too old ever to return to Suka”, he concludes, “but it isn't a bad way to celebrate my birthday”. “If I'd been paying, on the other hand, I think I’d have leapt under a bus.”
Jasper Gerard, The Telegraph (Rating: 3.5/5)
“Restaurants are improving all the time, especially in the sticks”, says the critic, and this “snug, beamed cottage in a horseshoe bay” – where the chef-patron “is half Maori, a quarter Chinese and a quarter Malaysian” – is part of the ameliorating trend.
Age & Sons, Ramsgate
Tracey MacLeod, The Independent (Rating: Food 4/5 stars, Ambience 3/5 stars, Service 4/5 stars)
“The once-thriving royal resort of Ramsgate should, in theory, be the perfect destination for a daytrip to the seaside”, says the critic, but “the flood of wealth which washed over south-east England during the last decade has largely by-passed this far easterly corner”. (“As my fellow day-tripper Harry said, taking in the blighted landscape, ‘Suddenly I see the point of Brighton’.”)
The benighted town, however, “does have a restaurant of which any seaside town would be proud”. “Age & Sons was opened last year by brother and sister Toby and Harriet Leigh (their uncle is Rowley, the erudite chef/patron of London’s Le Café Anglais)... The Leighs have converted the three-storeyed building into a flexible social hub that functions as café, restaurant, bar and music venue. The ground-floor café is a family-friendly haven serving an all-day menu. Upstairs, there’s a slightly smarter restaurant which radiates quiet good taste”, and which serves “modern British cooking with a distinctly Kentish twist”, and at “reasonable prices” too.