Review of the reviews

Happy New Year! Here’s our weekly round-up of what the nation’s restaurant critics were writing about in the fortnight over Christmas 2023.


The Evening Standard

In a departure from the usual ‘best meals’ lists from our favourite critics, The Standard has produced a list of the worst meals of the year, compiled from the reviews of Jimi Famurewa and David Ellis.

To balance the negativity, they also published a best meals list, and teased the new restaurants to look forward to in 2024, from Arlington on the former site of Le Caprice, which “is being resurrected by Jeremy King” – at the same time as his Kensington Palace Gardens “show-stopper” The Park AND the revival of Simpsons on the Strand – to new hotel ABC at the Emory, which will have celebrated French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten at the helm of its restaurant.


Also in The Standard, a tribute to Australian chef – and the man who introduced us to avo toast – Bill Granger, who died at the age of 54. Plus, a round-up of Going Out’s biggest interviews of the year, from Tom Sellers to Richard Corrigan.


The Observer

Before Christmas, Jay Rayner reviewed Café Kitty, in the Boulevard Theatre in an 18th-centuty Soho alleyway, on a site that “what once was a sister venue to the Raymond Revuebar” and is now “one of the most innovative and intimate of performance spaces in London”.

Originally opened in 2019 and shuttered by the pandemic, it has now been “taken over by Underbelly, producers of comedy on the South Bank… which has converted the whole theatre into the Kit Kat Club. They like offering a total, rounded experience, do Underbelly”.

As well as this team, the restaurant comes from the chefs “behind the much-adored Kitty Fisher’s in Mayfair and Cora Pearl in Covent Garden” – Jay loved the famous crispy potatoes which are included on the small plates menu here: “these are very good small things”.

Despite a “flimsy” Welsh rarebit, “the main feeling is of a new space in Soho, which manages to feel both tucked away and right in the heart of things at the same time”.


For his final column of the year, Jay provided the time-honoured round-up of the “culinary highs and lows” of 2023: “plenty of places were worth rave reviews in 2023, although sadly it was goodbye to some old friends, too”


The Guardian

Grace Dent is back with a review of 2023; her favourite restaurants are those where “chefs let their freak flag fly”.

There are fewer opportunities for restaurants in London to experiment, but she has discovered “delightfully odd, fiercely unique places” around the UK, but she does add that “before I am banished from London completely for restaurant treason, there have been some wonderful openings in the capital this year”.


The Independent

Hannah Twiggs believes that “2024 is set to be another huge year for an industry that has been battered by crisis after crisis”. Her round-up of the “UK’s most exciting restaurant openings in 2024” includes “a comeback King, sushi masters and contemporary cuisines”.


The Times & The Sunday Times

Charlotte Ivers reviewed The Star Inn at Harome, North Yorkshire, “possibly the perfect pub, actually… a boozer that may as well have come from Richard Curtis’s imagination”.


The Scotsman

Gaby Soutar visited The Steak Barn at Balgove Larder in St Andrews for “a hearty lunch”; there were “hefty portions”, “gorgeous” steaks (as you’d hope, given the name) and “the stodgy pudding trinity of sticky toffee, apple crumble, or chocolate brownie” for dessert.

Before New Year, Rosalind Erskine visited Lunar, a southside Glasgow cocktail bar with a drinks menu that’s “highly creative… using seasonal ingredients”. There’s also “mocktails that look as good as their boozy cousins, there’s no excuse not to visit, even if you’re doing dry January”.


And also…

In The FT there was a round-up of the best restaurants of 2023 and a review of the “undifferentiated international hi-luxe” fare at Il Gattopardo in Mayfair, where “even food critics can choke at the menu prices”


Tom Parker Bowles published two reviews over the holidays: first, a visit to Squisito in Lewes, East Sussex, an “unfussy Italian place with heart” recommended to him by wine master Olly Smith. In his second review, he “savours the fresh flavours” at Faber, a buzzy new seafood restaurant in London’s Hammersmith.


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