Harden’s review of the reviews: Where the critics ate this week

UntitledThis week saw a double helping of reviews for Richard Caring’s latest Mayfair venture, the lavishly appointed and ludicrously (yet somehow brilliantly) named Sexy Fish. Both the Evening Standard’s Grace Dent and the Telegraph’s Joseph Connolly paid the Berkeley Square newcomer a visit, and opinion was very much divided. Grace, being the meeja dahling that she is, thought she’d found her spiritual home, while Connolly considered it a ‘glittering la-la land… with no bread’.

Evening Standard: “…the more discombobulated I’ve watched London foodies become at the raffishness of Sexy Fish, the more I’ve admired Richard Caring of Caprice Holdings for his clear intention to pee all over Chiltern’s Firehouse’s flames. You may have noticed your lack of invite to Sexy Fish’s chic, exclusive opening party at which Rita Ora, clad in a mermaid-style frock, treated a celebrity crowd to a medley of her hits. Perhaps you didn’t receive a pretty, silver, mega-exclusive Sexy Fish keyring, as Anna Wintour, Tracey Emin and David Walliams did? Perhaps you feel a tad put out?”

Telegraph: “Now, look: you have to call a restaurant something – and I have lost count of the places I have been to with dumb and wacky names (one of the standouts being Trinity Cabbages & Condoms in Bicester) – but, still, one can only goggle at Caring alighting on this one. “How about… I don’t know… Sexy Fish…?” And because nobody dared to collapse into delirious laughter, they ran with it. So what is the vibe they are chasing? How sexy is a fish? Was some demented person fantasising over Nicola Sturgeon, do we think? Or Colin Salmon, the suave chief of staff in the Pierce Brosnan Bond films? No: here we have a game of two halves, son: the fish is on the menu; the sex… well, just witness the glitzy opening party.”

 

Meanwhile, over at the Times Giles Coren does something he’s never done before. He has Chinese for breakfast at Islington’s new Chinese Laundry. At first the delicious ‘milky buns’, ‘tea eggs’ and ‘egg hug dumplings’ seem genuinely authentic, but slowly something dawns on Coren…

“So anyway, Peiran and Tong Tong, who lived their whole lives in China until university (I’d guess they are about 30) decided to stay here and open a restaurant furnished impeccably to the taste of their nostalgic imaginations. As I thought about their interest in the history of the mid-century, their attention to detail in clothes and decoration, the beautiful analogue pop music, the reimagined street dishes and the mild politicisation of the breakfast table, it occurred to me exactly what Peiran and Tong Tong are.

“You’re hipsters, aren’t you?” I said.

“No!” She laughed.

“You are!” I said. “You’re Chinese hipsters!”

And they are. Whatever they say. For they have done exactly what hipsters do, and they have done it brilliantly. So welcome to Chinese Laundry – Britain’s first Chinese Hipster Restaurant.”

 

The Observer’s critic-in-chief Jay Rayner stops by Brad McDonald’s (of The Lockhart fame) latest offering, Shotgun, in Soho and finds a reason to actually get behind the US barbecue trend.

“In the modern age of flash and bravura, every new restaurant must have its Instagrammable dish; that food item which, like Prufrock’s patient etherised upon a table, is designed to be held forever in a pixilated, electronic glow. And here it comes at Shotgun. It’s listed as pig’s ear and sour pancakes, and that’s exactly what it is: a whole pig’s ear, complete with the mechanics for joining it to the skull, alongside soft lacy folded pancakes, like antimacassars that have been tidied away. The ear is so anatomically intact that it looks like the plate has been genetically modified to listen into your conversation.”

 

Marina O’Laughlin at the Guardian doesn’t have such a successful time on her latest visit to her Scottish homeland. A trip to Edinburgh veggie stalwart Henderson’s new offshoot Henderson’s Vegan leaves the reviewer feeling she can die happy if she’s largely managed to avoid eating vegan cheese.

There’s a thick, blowsy chickpea pancake filled with what tastes like spiced mashed potato, as though someone had tried to make dosa having only ever heard about it via Chinese whispers. And cashew nut fritters that you could fire from the castle’s cannon to pretty devastating effect, with a curiously sweet, pink “satay” sauce that seems to have wandered over from a pavlova by mistake. And the rice – oh, man, I’d forgotten rice could be like this: bulbous, beige grains that require as much chewing as cud.

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