AA Gill, The Sunday Times (Rating: 2/5 stars)
Mr Gill’s visit to the latest addition to the Farringdon “foodie ghetto” is something of an ordeal. His three hour dinner in the fine dining section of Bjorn van der Horst’s Gallic restaurant consists of “expensive” and “exemplary” cuisine. Although it is obviously “made with great craft”, he complains that it is “unnecessarily complicated, hysterically presented [and] tweely conceived”. The décor (“deeply unattractive”) and service (“incomprehensible, but also patronising”) add nothing to the experience.
The Drapers Arms
Giles Coren, The Times (Rating: 8/10)
The critic compares this recently re-opened Barnsbury gastropub with St John Bread & Wine, where the chef came from, and finds it has all the “Clerkenwell class without having to risk a trip to Clerkenwell.” The menu is “a thrilling review of St John greatest hits”, but with the “added bonus” of being a “spacious Victorian pub” with a “lovely garden”. “[I]t’s quite a bit cheaper than St John, too.”
Lisa Markwell, The Independent on Sunday (Rating: 15/20)
Yet another critic enjoys the experience at Conran’s latest restaurant, in the eponymous architect’s “elegant 1930s sugar cube” of a building, on Fleet Street. In the “genteel opulence” of the dining room, “service is seamless” and the “mainly Anglo/French classics menu” produces a “delicious meal”. But, as the 130-seat room has “only half-a-dozen tables in use” on a Friday evening, she wonders whether it is “extremely canny to open a crisp, formal restaurant in this area in the teeth of a recession [...or...] sheer folly.”
The Restaurant at St Paul’s
Tracey MacLeod, The Independent (Rating: Food 4/5 stars, Ambience 3/5 stars, Service 2/5 stars)
The critic finds the “small and pleasingly plain” new restaurant in the cathedral’s crypt “almost Scandinavian” in aesthetic, with the “high quality” accessories adding a “touch of luxury”. The “short menu is full of lovely stuff”, and the food is praised for its “imagination and execution”. Unfortunately, the sole, neglectful, waiter leads her to “echo the verdict of congregations down the ages, great church, shame about the service.”
Jasper Gerard, The Sunday Telegraph (Rating: 3/5)
The critic appreciates Fergus Henderson’s Smithfield trail-blazer for leading “the revival of meaty, masculine, English food.” However, with the “white and clinical” lack of ambience and the “efficient but... didactic” service, he has “never had a great time here”. “[W]hat’s so amazing about great hunks of slain animal presented without dressing?”.
Frank’s Cafe & Campari Bar
The intrepid critic eventually has lunch in a new ‘pop-up’ restaurant; a “tarpaulin-covered wooden structure” on a multi-storey in Peckham. Once the grill is fired-up, he has a surreal “picnic” in the rain that would be “paradise”… if he was “19 and into bad art, LSD and urban deprivation tourism.”
Restaurant Nathan Outlaw at Marina Villa Hotel, Fowey
Zoe Williams, The Telegraph (Rating: 5/10)
Why is it that so many people who write about restaurants for national newspapers have such trouble with simple, easily verifiable facts (and especially as they relate to guidebooks)? This particular critic confidently tells us that the chef, Nathan Outlaw, “has two Michelin stars for this restaurant”. No he doesn’t. Well, not in our 2009 copy of “Michelin Great Britain and Ireland” anyway. There are only six such places outside London, and this definitely ain’t one of them. It has one star – still an achievement, but a much more commonplace one. Drawn, anyway, by the lustre of the stars – one illusory, one not – the critic finds a “rickety” restaurant, where some of the food is “intricate”, but some “shocking”, with both main courses sampled “shambolic”.
Jay finds this “likable” restaurant offers “wonderful value”. The “artfully plated dishes” are “evolved and complex” and almost all “deliver”. The only complaint is that the experimental efforts can sometimes seem “derivative”.