Tracey MacLeod, The Independent (Rating: Food 4/5 stars, Ambience 4/5 stars, Service 5/5 stars)
Accompanied by her editor and food editor, the critic makes “a not-so-surprise visit” to Hix’s latest opening in Soho. “[I]t would be embarrassing if I didn’t like his new place” she notes (as they both write for the same magazine). But, knowing this “inspirational” restauranteur “exemplifies all that’s best about the British food renaissance”, she feels it’s unlikely to be a problem. And, phhewww, for her, Hix’s “most ambitious project to date” is a resounding success, from the “experienced” service, to the “quirkiness” of the design (a “high-ceilinged”, “midtown Manhattan” style room “softened by Georgian panelling, Ivy-style leaded windows and sturdy wooden tables”), to the “glorious” menu (with many dishes “like old friends”).
Giles Coren, The Times (Rating: 8.5)
Hix “wants everybody to have great food and a spanking night out”, says Giles, and he seems to have succeeded with his new Soho restaurant, where the “captivating buzz” is “not just New Yorky” but “television New Yorky”, in this “rugged Geogian” space that was formerly Aaya. The critic is – as maybe we all should be – watching his waistline too much for puddings nowadays, but still leaves here happily “stuffed” with “lovely” dishes from the “king of British food gathering”. All this plus the downstairs – “possibly the most comfortable [bar] in London”, with “the bonhomie and booziness of an old-fashioned pub lock-in”.
Jasper Gerard, The Telegraph (Rating: 4/5)
On the site of Japanese restaurant Aaya, Hix “has opened a big, serious West End restaurant” that, according to Jasper Gerard, “shows off his culinary credentials” (but not before Jasper is shown around personally by the main man, so – perhaps – denting the anonymity of the experience?). The menu “reworks Chop House favourites while offering more fish” and the results show he is “as accomplished with net as with cleaver”. He, like Giles Coren at The Times, leaves “stuffed” (but managed pudding), and liked the “suitably raffish basement bar”.
Toby Young, The Independent on Sunday (Rating: 16/20)
This place doesn’t serve Italian tapas, we are told, but “Venetian” “chicheti” – all part of “the spiel” that has “created an air of authenticity” around this new Soho “bacari” (a bit like a tapas bar) – a place the critic seems to feel is likely to succeed. It has a “rustic, cheap-as-chips feel” and produces some “excellent” (and particularly speedy) dishes.
AA Gill, The Sunday Times (Rating: 3/5 stars)
After regaling us with his Out of Africa-esqe week shooting a baboon, the critic visits John Torode’s latest opening in the “little gastrocluster of aching trendiness” that is Spitalfields. The dining room has the kitchen in the middle, and so a room that “ought to be rather splendid” is turned into “an awkward, cramped corridor”. Service is “nervous” but he finds the menu “interesting and smart”, the “star” of which is the roast chicken. “Pudding is pies and tarts. I’m tempted to say so are the customers”.
Bjorn van der Horst’s high-end restaurant and bistro that opened in the depths of the crunch “had disaster written all over it in thick black marker pen”, says the critic. So he is pleased to see that the Clerkenwell venture has survived. This is not down to prices (rather “steep”), or service (“charming” but “a little slack”), but because “what comes out of that kitchen is just so damn good.” On his visit an “admirably small” menu produces some “enormous” flavours.
Fishy Fishy, Brighton
This recently-opened restaurant in Brighton feels like “a tribute act to FishWorks” to the critic, in both its menu and “deliberately artless” interior. “It means well” and “service is endearing” but, on his visit, the food is inconsistent and belies “amateurism”.