Euan Ferguson, Time Out (Rating: 5/5 stars)
Is it us, or is TO getting a bit 5-star-happy of late? And what’s all this about heaping praise on a gastropub only five minutes’ walk from the square where the infamous ‘Sloanes’ – traditionally TO bêtes-noires – have their eponymous rallying point?
But no one can accuse TO of stinting on warnings to its readers of a what they might find. Just in case they don’t know what ‘Pimlico’ is really like, readers are warned that “this is SW1”. Nuff said, you might think. Surely most TO readers once went to that reviled postcode. To see Buckingham Palace? To picket Parliament? To break the windows at Harrods? Or something?
But no, health warning is piled upon wealth warning. The establishment is “set on a street filled with Bentleys, stately antique shops and high-end boutiques”, and, worse: “[t]he Orange fits right in”. Yes, it’s “every bit as up-at-heel as you’d expect in Pimlico” Still not Understand What That Means? Well, you might even see “a lot of shirt-jean-brogue combos” and possibly – avert you eyes, TO reader – “a few prospects for Tory Party selectors”.
Sounds like Hell on Earth, doesn’t it? But don’t worry – “The Orange is distractingly handsome enough for you not to notice”. (Particularly if you hide behind your copy of the Guardian, presumably.) And, get this: “good cooking is good cooking, whether in Pimlico or Peckham.”
OK guys, enough! We got the point. TO felt obliged to review a place on the fringe of what any fool knows is a posh area. It’s not the end of the world.
Amazingly, despite all its social handicaps, “[t]he Orange got just about everything spot on. Indeed, “[a]long with the Princess of Shoreditch [also blessed with five stars, but without the stigma of an SW1 location], it’s a late contender for gastropub opening of the year”.
Fay Maschler, Evening Standard (Rating: 4/5 stars)
The name may be “terrible”, but the critic hails this “great addition to the restaurants of Charlotte Street”, where the chef comes from Sicily… via Bolton (Lancs), the (once-celebrated) A-Z restaurant group, and Bloomsbury. “When you meet Busciglio he doesn’t sound Italian at all, but he looks and cooks the part.”
Meals “are conceived as an unfolding celebration”, and almost all dishes please the critic, with “balance” a key virtue. Overall, the “refit of white walls and mirror panels does its best to maximise a tight space… But in culinary creativity and affection for his homeland, you get chef Busciglio’s message — [the restaurant is] a small thing but mine own”.
Marina O'Loughlin, Metro (Rating: 2/5 stars)
“Every time this charming, fêted chef-turned-restaurateur [Mark Hix] opens a new joint, the critics rave and the world flocks. Me, I find the cooking ordinary and the welcome, unless you're part of Hix's meeja-fabulous world, a bit chilly. Is everyone oot o' step but me?” In a couple of sentences, the critic summarises the problem we’ve referred to a number of times on this site. Hix is just too ‘in’ with too many journos to get balanced reviews.
Hix’s new Soho site “looks great”, she says. She even likes the “witty pieces of modern British art everywhere”. It is, however “impossibly loud, the would-be hipsters all attempting to out-bellow each other”, and the food “isn’t good enough, ranging from ordinary to, well, grim”. The basement bar, however, is “worth five stars in its own right” (but, inevitably, there are “rumours this will be a private members’ club”).
David Sexton, Evening Standard (Rating: 3/5 stars)
The critic finds this “pleasant” new Kensington operation, led by Philip Howard of Square fame, something of a “puzzle”: the generally successful cooking is “full-out French luxurious”, but the sort of rich people who live round here “don’t really crave really rich food”. Even though this is “a bargain for the area”, he remains unsure as to its prospects. (We hope this analysis is right – our own review ended on a very similar note!)