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Sushinho

Jan Moir, Are you ready to order?

“Even before Sushinho had served what turned out to be our Worst Dish of the Year, this lacklustre new fusion restaurant in Chelsea did enough to make even the most fizzing festive spirits nosedive into the pits of despair.” Right from the off, the critic can’t be accused of mincing words in her review of this Brazilian/Japanese newcomer.

Babylon

Marina O'Loughlin, Metro (Rating: 2/5 stars)

Richard Branson’s relaunched Kensington restaurant is now claimed to have “‘a dramatic new interior reminiscent of the iconic fashion brand Biba’, the legendary designer store that once graced the same building”, but the critic opines that it is “less iconic Biba and more ironic flouncemeister Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen… It looks like it's been done on a Changing Rooms budget to resemble a Bromley branch of Oasis”. Service is “gratingly overfamiliar”, too, and – in the absence of any set menu – the critic endures “a lunch of deeply questionable quality that costs an arm and a leg”.

Canteen Baker Street

David Sexton, Evening Standard (Rating: 2/5 stars)

“We are supposed now to be lovingly rediscovering the lost greatness of British regional food at its best”, notes the critic, but this elegantly-designed British mini-chain “often serves as a powerful reminder of how it fell into such disrepute in the first place”. A stew, for example, was “hopeless… more a failed soup. Almost weirdly without flavour, it would have disgraced any home kitchen”. And a side-order of mushy peas was “close to inedible”. He doesn’t find the overall ‘offer’ to be without its saving graces, but he still feels that “[w]hat [the place] needs now is an overbearing French chef”. [This may be the first newspaper review, incidentally, to chime with a theme we seem to have been developing recently – that this whole British-restaurant food movement risks getting vastly overhyped.]

Best restaurants of 2008: Part 1

Fay Maschler, Evening Standard

The critic kicks off her two-part review of the year.

Kettners

Charmaine Mok, Time Out (Rating: 4/6 stars)

This West End stand-by has emerged from refurbishment “as the properly seductive Soho brasserie it always had been”, says the critic, the designer having “successfully brought Parisian glamour to the Big Smoke… The effect is something of a ‘Sex and the City’-style townhouse cocktail party, complete with plush carpeting”. The food has its ups and downs, but – overall – the review is something of a hymn of praise.

Espelette

Jenni Muir, Time Out (Rating: 3/6 stars)

“The Connaught hasn’t put a foot wrong with its recent revamp: a stunning new fine dining restaurant from acclaimed French chef Hélène Darroze, which we awarded five stars when we reviewed it in the summer; two hot new bars, including the Coburg, which was runner up in the Best Bar category in the Time Out Eating and Drinking Awards 2008”. So the fact that the latest venture shows merely “okay-ness” comes to the critic as “quite a surprise”. The menu, for example, “is flecked with a tedious collection of dishes that hotels throughout the world seem to think compulsory”, and the set midday meal “a second-rate set menu that cynically aims at credit-crunched ladies who still like to lunch”.

Trishna

Anjali Wason, Time Out (Rating: 4/6 stars)

Oh dear, can we have a ban on comparison-reviewing of this Marylebone newcomer? “Anyone who’s eaten at the legendary Trishna restaurant in Mumbai [please, not again] might feel a tad disappointed upon walking into its newly opened London counterpart”, notes the critic. The London restaurant is “unimaginative”, and has a “slightly aloof, wannabe-chic atmosphere”, but the food “has successfully captured the essence of the mouthwatering seafood typical of the western Indian state of Maharashtra”.

J Sheekey Oyster Bar

Jenni Muir, Time Out (Rating: 5/6 stars)

“Like Paris’s Le Grand Colbert or Café Florian in Venice, J Sheekey is in danger of becoming an institution whose uniquely local appeal stretches far beyond London”, begins this [in our view rather OTT] review of the recent addition to the undoubtedly popular Theatreland fish restaurant. Apart from the observation that wines are “not a bargain”, though, it’s odd how the supposedly street-credible TO doesn’t at any point refer to the rather high prices.

Taste of McClements

Charmaine Mok, Time Out (Rating: 4/6 stars)

“If you thought the days of elaborate tasting menus had just gone down the plughole”, says the critic, “grab your nearest and dearest and head to Kew, where John McClements’s (of Ma Cuisine Le Petit Bistrot et al) newest endeavour is set. At once his most ambitious and most modest project, the 16-course tasting menu is yours for a relatively bargainous £29”. The cooking, inevitably, is not entirely consistent, but “[f]or a first-class experience without the ponce, this is a fine choice”.

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