A major round up of UK restaurant reviews in the last two weeks.
The Field Kitchen, Riverford Farm
Riverford – with its five farms in Britain and its new outpost in France – is “the progressive face of ethical business”, says the critic. “It's gone large scale without much in the way of compromise and created a robust economic model…
Plus it's home to a bloody good restaurant” (where, it turns out. the traditional empahsis on meat over vegetables is reversed).
Warehouse Kitchen & Bar, Southport
For his last review for the newspaper, the critic visits a long-running North Western success-story, owned by Steven Gerrard, the Association footballer, which offers a menu “congregating favourites from the east with a retro clutch of 70s classics”. Let’s just say that the tone is more than a teensy bit sarky.
Tom's Terrace, Somerset House
A review where you really – surely not Mr Rayner’s intention – don't need to read beyond the first two sentences: “I have been to more tawdry catering ventures than Tom's Terrace, the new al fresco venue at London's Somerset House, but really not that often. Indeed it gives me absolutely no pleasure at all to award the restaurant, officially overseen by Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens, the title of this year's laziest restaurant concept”.
The Independent, Tracey MacLeod (Food 3/5, Ambience 2/5, Service 3/5)
“Just when it seemed that chain cafés and bars would choke the life out of London’s creative heartland”, notes the critic, Soho “has been revived by an infusion of exciting, independently-owned new openings”. The lastest arrival is the creation of the chef who made his name at Roussillon in “patrician” Pimlico (really?).
“If Alexis Gauthier has fashioned the new restaurant after his own image, it’s very hard to tell what he might be like”, she says, so devoid is the place of personality. Name-checking her famous guest (don't you hate it when critics do that?), she adopts his description: “like a Harley Street doctor’s waiting room”. Although the meal has its ups and downs, she doesn’t doubt Gauthier’s skills as a chef, “[b]ut the chef/patron’s gifts as a cook don't compensate for the awkwardness and sterility of the experience. Geographically, Gauthier may be in Soho, but spiritually, it’s Mayfair all the way”. (We're not sure we understand what the critic means by that: one may not like the character of Mayfair’s restaurants, but most of them do at least have one!).
The George & Dragon, Wiltshire
The Independent, Lisa Markwell (Rating:11/20)
Another review – this time of a “rustic pub room with city prices” – where you can hear the bell tolling even in the opening paragraph. She starts off being conned (for such is the implication) into accepting bread for which there is an unexpected charge – “the first of several moves that make the meal slightly uncomfortable”.
Brasserie Joel, Park Plaza Hotel
The Independent, John Walsh (Food 2/5. Ambience 2/5, Service 4/5)
The critic begins with the oddity of an hotel restaurant that charges a cover for “water (water!), bread, butter and amuse-bouche”, and is also surprised to find that the menu of this new mega-hotel by Tower Bridge is composed of “utterly predictable brasserie dishes”. The food has its ups and downs, but the conclusion is crystal-clear: “I'm sure Mr Antunes can do much better”.
Angels & Gypsies
The Independent, Lisa Markwell (Rating:15/20)
Given her preconceptions of Camberwell, the critic is surprised by the “serene, churchy theme” of this new Spanish restaurant, which she finds “full on a Tuesday night”. And no wonder: it turns out to be a “destination restaurant in south London easily good enough to tempt my north-of-the river friends. (As a PS, the critic provides some local knowlege that a new Chinese canteen called Silk Road, nearby, does “some of the best dumplings in London”.)
The Waterside Inn, Bray
The Telegraph, Matthew Norman (Rating:6/10)
On his first visit for his new employer, the critic visits one of England’s grandest restaurants. He finds the service “flawless”, as you rather hope given the jaw-dropping prices described. The food, though, doesn’t live up, and some dishes are positively “drab”. “Retaining three [Michelin] stars for 25 years is a mighty achievement and this is a supremely well-run restaurant. But the day Michelin takes its first step down Austerity Age Avenue, by inviting the inspectors to think about value, will be a gloomy one indeed for The Waterside Inn.”
The Walnut Tree, Abergavenny
The Telegraph, Zoe Williams (Rating:8.75/10)
This is a restaurant of long standing whose modern-day reputation precedes it. Fortunately, it turns out that “the reputation is deserved – it's a beautiful place”.
The Telegraph, Carolyn Hart (Rating: 8.75/10)
Despite a turbulent past with a certain well-known critic, Aqua Nueva has fought to earn its place this year. This critic thinks that with Alberto Hernández at the helm the menu “has plenty to recommend (itself )” even with the unreliable prospect of an “eccentric fusion of Japanese and Spanish food”. The decor is not so commendable - a teen's dream - “you almost expect Harry and Chelsy to leap out from behind the artfully arranged pillars and tables bearing overwrought candelabra on a nightly basis”.
However there is a “trump card”; the two roof terraces, from which the critic describes the skyline as being “one of the most romantic sights in the world”.
The Times, Carolyn Giles Coren (Rating: 8/10)
The critic takes up much of his review musing on the difference between the city that never sleeps, and our own dear capital, on which subject he is (in our view) extremely accurate as well as very amusing. “In New York there really is a ‘restaurant scene’, he opines. “There really are hip dining rooms, hot tables and places you’d flay your mom to get a reservation. People can impress each other in New York simply by telling each other where they had their tea. But that isn’t really so in London.” This, of course, “is because New York takes itself so seriously. It is the core personality disorder of the modern American, and of the New Yorker in particular. New Yorkers are just so pleased with their city and with themselves and with their mutual co-identification.”
And it’s not just the ordinary citizenry: “[t]he worst of it all is the restaurant critics. I think I have never read a book so vain, pompous, self-serving and silly as former New York Times critic Ruth Reichl’s 2005 memoir, Garlic and Sapphires… in which she details the years she spent dressing up in increasingly elaborate disguises to sneak into restaurants four, five, six, seven or more times before forming her final impression, boshing out 500 very ordinary words and attaching an arbitrary row of stars.” Wow. Critical royalty. Slain!
Moving to the notional subject of the review, he concludes that “Bar Boulud is a sprawling set of rooms with very low ceilings and the slightly bomb-shelterish feeling that comes with being jammed under a massive business hotel”. The food, though, turns out to be “really honest”.
The Times, Giles Coren (Rating: 4.33/10)
The critic visits a novelty-driven Japanese in Soho where the food “started well and then rapidly fell to bits”.