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Polpo

Nick Lander, Financial Times

The critic is pleased to discover that London now has its own ‘bacaro’ – a traditional Venetian wine bar. The narrow premises on Soho’s Beak Street have been given many “clever details” by owner Russell Norman (ex-Caprice Holdings), and have an “air of authenticity”. The critic enjoys the ‘chicheti’ (Venetian tapas) and “satisfying” larger dishes, and hopes that the place will soon have a “genuine buzz”.

Avista

Zoe Williams, The Telegraph (Rating: 7/10)

In a Mayfair hotel dining room full of “stylish” types, the critic feels underdressed, so she focuses on the food: this turns out to be mostly “very special and amazing”, with some bizzarely “enormous” desserts at the end.

Bocca di Lupo

Jasper Gerard, The Sunday Telegraph (Rating: 4.5/5)

It is the dining room of the much-lauded Soho Italian – a notably “entertaining” space, where there is a “sheer enjoyment” rarely present in the “starched dining rooms of London” – that wins over the critic, rather than the kitchen. He likes the “tapas” style, and the “authentic and powerful” dishes, but some of them are certainly not for “delicate consitutions”.

The Harwood Arms

John Walsh, The Independent (Rating: Food 4/5 stars, Ambience 3/5 stars, Service 4/5 stars)

The “tired-looking” façade of this gastropub – on a “bricky suburban street” in Fulham – belies the excitement within. The critic discovers “a heftily English menu” and “cooking that perfectly balances the wholesome with the excitingly full-flavoured”. The “glorious” food is complemented by a “cooly appealing” interior and “attentive” service, making for an “utterly satisfying lunch”.

Sushi-Say

Lisa Markwell, The Independent on Sunday (Rating: 17/20)

The critic visits this little Japanese in Willesden, once with friends, and once with her children. On both occasions, booking a table is a “stand-off”, but is seemingly worth the effort. On her first visit she enjoys the “moreish” food (complemented by the “terrifyingly smooth” sake), and notes the “elegant touch[es]” such as “ pretty little embossed plates”. Her second meal is equally a success, with her children giving their “lip-smacking approval”.

Clarke’s

AA Gill, The Sunday Times (Rating: 3/5 stars)

The critic decides to revisit the Kensington stalwart, and is seated in the “uncompromising basement”. The experience is “not that pleasant or welcoming”, and he finds the food “prim” – it “just doesn’t particularly care if you like it or not” – and “righteously dull”.

The Wild Garlic, Beaminster

Matthew Norman, The Guardian

Last year’s Masterchef winner, Mat Follas, appears not to have succumbed to the obvious pitfalls with his Dorset restaurant. He has “nimbly avoided” design flaws – such as poor lighting and acoustics – “that often ruin otherwise impressive restaurants”, and resisted “the temptation to impress with techincal wizardry” in the kitchen. The short and “perfectly judged” menu produces “one of the most pleasing meals [the critic has] eaten in years”.

The King John Inn, Tollard Royal

Giles Coren, The Times (Rating: 8/10)

The critic finds a refurbished pub in Wiltshire with “good, simple, modern home cooking” and “terrific”, “knowledgeable” service – his one complaint is that “it was only half-full on a Friday night. It should have been rammed.”

World Service, Nottingham

Jay Rayner, The Observer

The intention of this Nottingham restaurant, we are told, “is to present highly evolved, ultra-modern food”, but what has actually been achieved, with all the foams and jellies, turns out to be a “perilously dated” style. The critic “can admire the effort” that has gone into each over-complicated dish, but finds the results less focused and accomplished than at Restaurant Sat Bains, not so far away. (Sat Bains, however, is quite a lot more expensive, which qualification is not stated.)

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