Harden’s review of the reviews

⦿ Jay Rayner of The Observer reviewed Claude Bosi at Bibendum, welcoming the former Hibiscus head honcho’s arrival at Sir Terence Conran’s light-filled 1987 classic.

“What emerges is Bibendum redux, a restaurant with a profound understanding of the simple virtues; of a classical repertoire which is robust enough to take a little refinement.”

“The starters list is full of frogs’ legs and sweetbreads and asparagus. A pretty crab dish brings a whipped layer of brown crab meat, topped by finely picked white crab, then a layer of gently understated elderflower jelly. What makes it sing is the temperature: just warm enough to allow the flavours their voice. Main courses include turbot and Dover sole, suckling pig and long-cooked goat. “

“It is all clean, focussed and viciously expensive… Oh, huff and puff all you like. This is Bibendum staying true to itself. It is a room for ‘happy birthday’ and ‘congratulations’ and lips mouthing softly, ‘I love you’.”

⦿ In the Guardian, Marina O’Loughlin reviewed Enzo’s Kitchen 3/10 (pasta 7/10) in Theatreland, a “most peculiar place, like a theme restaurant opened by a junior functionary at the Sicilian tourist board who has never been to London”.

“Fritto misto features Sicily’s legendary red prawns so over-fried, they could be crabsticks. The menu is obsessed with Andrea Camilleri’s fictional Sicilian Inspector Montalbano: “L’Arancina del Commissario con panelle e crocchette”: £8.50 for a selection of fried items whose entire production costs must come to, ooh, a few pence, all limp with grease. Flabby panelle (chickpea pancakes), potato croquettes that would make Birds Eye cringe, arancini (Sicily’s beloved fried rice balls) a soggy squelch of gluey starch… This all comes on a board with half a baby plum tomato and rocket leaves so knackered, they’re basically compost.”

“But wait, what’s this? Sandwiched between this sadness are pastas that are actually pretty damned fine. ‘Chef Enzo’s signature’ is casarecce with Nebrodi guanciale and Bronte pistachios. The dense pasta is al dente, the guanciale suave with fat.”

⦿ Fay Maschler of the Evening Standard reviewed Skewd Kitchen 3/5 in Cockfosters, a Turkish outfit aiming – if not always successfully – “to take the mangal formula forward“.

“The quality of lamb bought from a small Yorkshire farm in the shish and adana is definitely unusually fine. It is rewardingly discernible in chunks of fillet but more thrilling in adana, made with vigorously seasoned, chilli-flaked hand-chopped (very important detail) meat enriched by the smoke that results from fat dripping onto coals snaking its way around and through. Laid tenderly on a long thin slice of lavash it is the star of our meal. Minced lamb pide is a bread longship of strong savour.” 

⦿ In ES magazine, Grace Dent visited Lorne 5/5 in Victoria, and greeted it with the most enthusiastic yet of a stready flow of excellent reviews, saying it “knocks the spots off everything” at the nearby Nova development.

“We’re now mid-April and Lorne is top of my 2017 ‘Best Of’ list. It was from the moment I was served a bowl of calm, pale, oddly orgasmic celeriac velouté, which featured a small central island of poached smoked haddock and seasoned Jersey royals, littered with tobiko fish eggs. The velouté had such depth and the spud and fish so perfectly perched, both were sublime in their own right.”

“Pork belly, crisp and yielding in entirely applicable proportions… was served with an extraordinary crimson cauliflower cheese made with pungent Brie.”

⦿ Also in the Evening Standard, Ben Norum reviewed Radici in Islington, the new restaurant from Francesco Mazzei of Sartoria and formerly L’Anima.

“It’s his most casual and most accessibly-priced restaurant yet, but it’s also the one with most heart. Radici translates as roots, and it is quite clear that this is Francesco going back to his.”

“An antipasti dish of charred mackerel is searingly fresh, its flesh wonderfully moist and skin blistering to the point of crackling. An earthy ragu of tender beef is almost as good as the sloppy, buttery polenta that comes with it. And, perhaps best of all, is soft, slightly rare rolled calf liver, wrapped in bacon and served with creamy mash.”

“Francesco’s abominably addictive zucchini fritti are present and correct. There’s also a short selection of pizzas on the menu, which at first feel like they might be an afterthought. It is imperative you realise they are not. They are bloomin’ bellissimo.” 

⦿ In Time Out, Chris Waywell reviewed Winemaker’s Deptford 4/5, the first restaurant from a wine importer with a bar in Farringdon.

“What Winemakers does so well is take its experience in vino and pair it with a short daily menu of robust yet sophisticated food. Think rabbit grilled over oak with cannellini beans and zucchini fritti, or lamb with farro and capers. The minerally snap of the wines is echoed by the peasant-ish flavours of the pot.”

“There’s not a lot of elbow room. But if Winemakers was in Paris or Rome or Madrid or Athens I wouldn’t care less. And I certainly don’t here.”

⦿ Kathryn Flett of the Daily Telegraph 17.4.17 reviewed Rick Stein, SW15 3/5 in Mortlake, Stein’s first branch in London.

“Hake a la Carlina really was just boring: pan-fried – a quick slap-slap on either side – with some not very capery, one-note tomato drizzle around the perimeter. By the time the late potatoes arrived they were grey.”

“Provençal fish and shellfish soup with rouille and croutons [was] delicious. If I were being picky, the flavour was not sufficiently ‘dirty fish’ to give it a truly Provençal kick.”

⦿ In the Sunday Telegraph, Keith Miller reviewed The Pig on the Hill 3/5, in Westward Ho!, north Devon, a former cowshed with a clearly ambitious chef.

“Too many of those cheffy touches were either misapplied or not followed through.”

“I enjoyed a flatiron steak, sliced as in an Italian tagliata, nicely aged, robustly seasoned, rare as I’d asked, served with triple-cooked chips (now the statutory minimum). But it came with a fussy little mini-shepherd’s pie made with slow-braised beef shin, succulent with bone marrow, topped with a creamy mushroom cloud of fondant potato and served in a tiny saucepan. Again, fine in itself – better than fine – but distractingly, weirdly dissonant with the steak.”

⦿ Tim Hayward of the Financial Times reviewed Holborn Dining Room, the “British brasserie” where chef Calum Franklin’s astonishing “crenellated and corniced” pies have  earned him the reputation as “a Pie-chelangelo“.

“The Lobster Thermidor tart, posed on a ring of pasty – juicy little nuggets are bathed in the rich sauce, barely set. On the plate it looks positively demure. In the privacy of the mouth, it’s shockingly lascivious.”

“Though curried mutton pie could perform solo on any stage in London, a separate juglet of curry sauce is delivered alongside. It is superbly made. Smooth, sweet/hot, creamy and around 89 per cent nostalgia by volume. The pie was brilliant without the sauce, superb with it, staggering when dipped in…”

“Go. Now. Implore you. Eat Franklin’s Pies.”

⦿ Giles Coren of The Times reviewed the Tame Hare 6/10 in Leamington Spa, opened last year by Johnny Mills, formerly head chef at the Ebrington Arms in Chipping Camden.

“There was a brilliant, good-sized list of wines for well under £30, and the standard of cooking was high. The celeriac soup was smooth and aromatic, not a hint of clagginess or fibre, and its swirl of wild garlic pesto was a shimmering, punchy declaration of the beginning of spring.

“The smooth, bright quenelle of duck liver parfait was light and sweet and came with a well-made oblong of confit leg meat.”

⦿ In the Sunday Times, George Reynolds reviewed Dum Biryani 4/5 in Soho, founded by Dhruv Mittal “to rehabilitate the delicate, time-consuming biryani” .

“The prawns are outstanding: salaciously juicy and sweet, with a grating of fresh coconut offsetting a tangy sauce of real ardour (spicing remains enjoyably, uncompromisingly robust throughout).”

“Quality doesn’t decline with the curry of the day, nor with the accoutrements for the main event: peppery poppadoms humming with the unmistakable saline-sour thrum of chaat masala; fried okra paired with spiced yoghurt to provide a duo of contrasting textures; a delightful, luxuriant sauce of peanut and sesame seed with baby aubergine. Really impeccable, thoughtfully composed, skilful cooking.” 

“Weirdly, it’s the signature biryani that lets the side down. Perhaps it’s a question of stylistic preference, but both the chicken and lamb incarnations feel a little on the soupy side.”

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