Harden’s review of the reviews

⦿ Jay Rayner of The Observer visited 108 Garage off Portobello Road in Notting Hill, where he said “dribblingly positive reviews, of which this is another, have stacked up”  – despite the lack of pre-opening publicity.

“There is a touch of the Italian to the menu here, but also a touch of a bunch of other things besides. What defines Chris Denney’s food, I think, is a keen understanding of acidity; of the way brisk sharp notes, carefully deployed, can lift a dish if all the other essentials are in place.”

“Best dish of the lot is a long-smoked piece of short rib, fondant-fancy pink inside, cooked until the connective tissue has given up the ghost, then piled with a fine dice of dill pickles and a few other good things besides. It tastes like the best pastrami sandwich.”

⦿ In The Guardian, Marina O’Laughlin reviewed Mei Dim in Manchester (food 5/10, dim sum 7/10, value 10/10), which she enjoyed as  “an evocation of what Chinatowns used to be like before businesses realised that we wussy Brits were intimidated by blatant rudeness”.

“Xiao long bao (Shanghainese soup dumplings… are little belters: almost translucent, springy wheat dough, pork mince humming with ginger and garlic, an intense broth whispering of many bone.”

“It’s the perfect yum cha adventure, and cheap enough to take risks.”

⦿ Grace Dent of ES magazine reviewed Lingholm Kitchen 4/5, near Skiddaw in Cumbria, “a favourite haunt of Beatrix Potter”.

“Finishing the Huntsman breakfast — Cumbrian home-cured bacon, Cumberland sausage, black pudding, eggs, thyme-roasted mushroom, vine tomatoes, baked beans and toast — is a job in itself.”

“Do go for afternoon tea — dogs are welcome — then stay for a bottle of Northern Monk Eternal.”

⦿ In The Evening Standard, Ben Norum reviewed Baya Bala in Waterloo East, where Ottolenghi protégé Eran Tibi “aims to bring a slice of hip Tel Aviv to London”.

“Some of the food shares the deliciously high-octane energy of the space. An opening gambit of creamy, tahini-rich hummus topped with tender chunks of slow-cooked ox and drizzled with a particularly fiesty olive oil is exemplary. Its accompanying pitta — a world removed from the kind you buy in a supermarket — a warm, fluffy pillow to mop it up with.”

“Unfortunately not all of the small plates are as big hits… Baya Bala needs to up its game”.

⦿ Kathryn Flett in The Telegraph reviewed Street XO 2/5, Spanish superstar chef David Munoz’s ultra-fashionable restaurant in Mayfair, where “it is clear that I am at least 20 years/three dress sizes/a postcode all wrong”.

Dishes included ‘’La Pedroche croquettes, kimchi, sheep milk, toro tuna, XO sauce and ­lapsang souchong tea” (Guess what? It’s just as horrible as it sounds).”

“In fact (if facts are still fashionable), it’s roughly seven (Insta)grams-worth of soullessness; a place in which to be seen eating momentarily titivating food that doesn’t need to exist beyond earning a social media ‘like’ and which rather makes a mockery of Muñoz’s undoubted skills.”

⦿ Her Telegraph colleague Michael Deacon reviewed Veneta 2/5 in the new St James’s Market, behind Piccadilly Circus.

“The tuna was like kissing someone you don’t love any more.”

⦿ Tom Parker Bowles of the Mail on Sunday reviewed the Wheatsheaf 4/5 in Northleach, near Cheltenham – “that rarest of pubs, a place so dependable that you can set your watch by it”.

“There’s always a decently priced bottle of claret too, a great lump of well-kept Colston Bassett, or ripe, luscious Camembert. Despite the resolutely British feel of the place, the menu skips all over Europe. So soufflé sits next to smoked salmon, plum crumble alongside meringue. Quietly Remain, rather than brutishly Brexit.”

⦿ El Pastor, the Hart Brothers’ new Mexican kebab joint at Borough Market, wowed two more critics, led by Tim Hayward of the Financial Times.

“A direct flame on the outside of each chunk of meat creates a kind of crisp capsule of caramelisation, inside which the meat remains almost unbelievably juicy. The effect is even more pronounced in the pastor de pescado, which shows off socking great chunks of stone bass: moist steaming fish bombs inside the crust.”

⦿ In the Sunday Times, David Baddiel – who had never liked Mexican food before – was converted by El Pastor.

“It’s all basically delicious. I am going to single out the prawns coated in mojo de ajo [garlic] and the short rib. I took this dish away with me in the sense that the meat was magically tender and giving and caramelly, and I have thought about it many times since.”
⦿ Giles Coren of The Times reviewed Taste of Sichuan 5/10 in Walthamstow, sister restaurant to Sichuan on City Road, and realised that his guests were not as fond as he is of regional Chinese cooking.
“Then came a huge portion of sliced, pressed pig’s ear in red chilli oil, a crunchy cartilaginous confection which in my opinion makes excellent beer food in small quantities. But a hundredweight of it in a roasting dish is quite daunting.”
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