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aqua nueva

Fay Maschler, Evening Standard (Rating: 2/5 stars)

The critic visits the just-opened Spanish restaurant at the top of the former Dickins & Jones store on Regent Street. Her heart sinks when she learns of the chef’s stint at El Bulli, but is pleased to find a menu that’s “relatively conservative in style and... quite restrained in price.” She notes, however, that whilst “Spanish cooking is the cuisine of the moment... it is tricky to get right”, and not all the dishes on her first visit succeed.

On her second visit she tries the terrace and the tapas, which is “served slowly and with ceremony” (“managing completely to miss the point about tapas”), and again, the dishes don’t quite work. The shortcomings of the food combined with the “bland verging on bleak, shopping mall interior” and “unnecessary formality” all make for a “disappointing outing”.

Needoo

Marina O'Loughlin, Metro (Rating: 4/5 stars)

Even with all the hot openings currently bubbling up in London’s restaurant scene, Metro’s critic is excited by this new canteen “in a run-down Whitechapel street”. Why? Because the “former, long-standing manager of Tayyabs” is at the helm, and this place is the “spiritual baby” of “one of London’s most important restaurants”.

Like its inspiration, the newcomer serves excellent Punjabi-Pakistani cuisine for low prices. It cannot offer “sophistication or slick service”, she warns us, but “[w]ith food this good, and prices this silly, I’d happily eat in a skip”.

(One of the other newcomers the generally perspicacious Ms M refers to, incidentally, is aqua nueva. On the basis of her experience of the group abroad, she proclaims that “socks are going to knocked off”. Ms Mascher has already had the opportunity, however, to make clear that her hosiery remained very much in place throughout.)

Polpo

David Sexton, Evening Standard (Rating: 3/5 stars)

Russell Norman (ex-Caprice Holdings) has, we are told, opted for “a smaller, more personal place” for his first solo venture. The Venetian restaurant in Soho “actually delivers much the same format” as the previous resident, Aperitivo, with former Bocca di Lupo chef Tom Oldroyd bringing to bear his expertise in “Italian tapas”. The critic is consistently impressed by the tastiness of the “little bites” and “meatier dishes” he samples. Prices are “[m]odest” (though we are warned, “as in all small plate places”, it’s easy to rack up quite a bill), and he deems this place “a winner, for sure”.

Pix Pintxos

Guy Dimond, Time Out (Rating: 2/5 stars)

This Notting Hill bar “claims inspiration from the pintxo bars of northern Spain”, but, for the critic, “the food just wasn’t up to scratch”. The snacks “looked the part” but “just didn’t deliver in flavour” – and were all served at “room temperature”. Service was “sweet” but “lacked professionalism”, and the large space became too loud as it filled up.

The French Café

Guy Dimond, Time Out (Rating: 4/5 stars)

This is, TO tells us, the area’s first French restaurant. It’s a “good-looking place” that becomes a “full-blown bistro” at night. It offers “modestly priced” French wine and an excellent prix fixe: “good French home cooking – in the best sense”.

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