Fay Maschler, Evening Standard (Rating: 4/5 stars)
“Imagine every London Tube station with a terrific restaurant attached” and you get a “heavenly” glimpse of the future, according to Fay Maschler as she visits the newly-opened downstairs restaurant section of this much-lauded Charing Cross wine bar. It has a basement doorway to the tube below and is decked out with “agreeable Froggy tat”, comfortable banquettes and larger tables that “encourage and enable sharing”. According to the critic it holds much the same “terrific” appeal as the bar above; a “fascinating wine list” and food from “an English chef who distils what we believe we like about French food better than the French.” It’s a rave: “I may have tasted a better fish soup … but, if so, I can't place it.” (But be warned – “the natural wines are not cheap”.)
Guy Dimond, Time Out (Rating: 5/5 stars)
On his visit to the basement dining room of this Charing Cross wine bar, the critic is pleased to discover that “[t]he kitchen is still very much on form despite the extra workload”. As in the bar, a kitchen capable of “magnificence” offers “a selection of ‘small plates’” – for example a terrine that was “robust, coarse-textured, and exploded with flavour” – plus main dishes which are “even bolder… ethereal… brilliant”! All this, plus “passionate” and “very well-informed” service and an “exceptional” wine list. (Just beware the ‘natural wines’: those he tries are invariably unpleasant.)
David Sexton, Evening Standard (Rating: 2/5 stars)
After navigating “the daftest entrance of any restaurant” – and a lift –the critic finds himself in the Japanese half of the “whopping operation” on Regent Street. It dawns on him that it’s “an operation in the manner of a nightclub, not a nosh house” – a “pottily opulent” space filled with “swishy-looking types” that’s “not really about eating” but “going out, seeing and being seen”. But, when he returns on an empty Monday lunchtime, he enjoys “a really satisfying, carefully prepared and well-served lunch at a modest price”.
Marina O'Loughlin, Metro (Rating: 3/5 stars)
Apparently the recession has engendered a “renaissance” in “street food”, part of which is the “Vietnamese banh mi” – “the king of sandwiches”. The critic reviews the “sweetest-looking” of the operations to serve this dish, tucked away on a sidestreet near Goodge Street. This “little cutie” is so little that there is no seating inside, and this is not somewhere she would “go too far out of [her] way for” as the sandwiches are “not quite there”; the bread tastes “mass-produced” and “the fillings are on the ungenerous side”.
Guy Dimond, Time Out (Rating: 4/5 stars)
More an interesting – if you like that sort of thing – potted history of this nowadays famed East End institution than a review, the critic reveals the origins of this Pakistani legend, and his own experiences there over the years. These days he finds a mix of people queuing up at this Whitechapel spot, with “[t]he food (and its low prices) remain[ing] the main draw” (particularly the “the famous barbecued tandoori lamb chops”).