Harden’s review of the reviews

⦿ Jay Rayner of The Observer reviewed The Holy Birds in Shoreditch, which serves duck, goose and guinea fowl, “but mostly, to be honest, chicken“. The quality of the poultry was not to be questioned, but he was far from impressed by the cooking.

“Sure, the skin is dark, but only in places. Elsewhere it’s soft and floppy. Secondly, it tastes not of garlic or herbs, but salt. Roasted chicken skin should be one of life’s filthy pleasures. This is a disappointment fashioned from calories.”

⦿ In the Guardian, Marina O’Loughlin reviewed The Crown at Burchetts Green in Berkshire, where she warmed to chef Simon Bonwick, his nine children and his “classic French technique”.

Generosity is a keynote… Plates are clean and unmessed with, untroubled by today’s trends for the splatter, crumb and blob. Food looks like what it is: it’s all deliciously old-fashioned.”

⦿ Over the holiday period O’Loughlin also enjoyed The Laughing Hearta late-night Hackney wine bar that offers “drinking food: massive, in-yer-face flavours, with an unabashed and unstinting use of salt and fat”.

“Chicken-liver paté, silky enough to just creep off the plate, comes with a veil of agar-jellied walnut liqueur, melba-thin toast and wafers of crisp chicken skin. This, well – this is just a great, great thing. As you can see, it renders me virtually speechless. I want a tonne of it, applied to my body like a mud pack.”

⦿ Grace Dent of ES magazine reviewed Anzu 2/5, “a Japanese brasserie serving British ingredients in a Japanese style” in St James’s Market.

“The lump of daikon with yuzo miso was deeply reminiscent of a municipal lavatory toilet-freshener block. We ordered a charshu pork ramen: flappy pork, purposely cold noodles with an ultimately nauseating-after-three-slurps chicken-based broth.” 

⦿ In the Mail on Sunday, Tom Parker Bowles reviewed Smokestak 4/5 in Shoreditch, where he was bowled over by the finesse of the barbecue cooking.

“Beef rib wears its smoke like a silk slip, the fat gently melting into the meat, giving it a texture perched happily between the firm and coquettishly yielding.” 

“If Pitt Cue were the UK pioneers, and Neil Rankin the High Priest, then it’s at Smokestak where this much maligned art really comes of age.”

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