Harden’s review of the reviews

⦿ Jay Rayner of The Observer hit the jackpot with a visit to Riley’s Fish Shack“two full side-access shipping containers fitted out steampunk-style” overlooking St Edward’s Bay in Tynemouth, near Newcastle, which he declared “the eating experience of the year”.

“It is the pristine quality of fish cookery you always hope to find in one of those fancy, raised pinkie finger London places, but rarely do.”

“It is every boho, middle-class food fantasy made real. And you know what: it’s bloody fantastic.”

⦿ The Guardian’s Marina O’Loughlin reviewed The Cauldron 7/10 in St Werburgh’s, Bristol, “not so much neighbourhood bistro as a scene from The Sorcerer’s Apprentice bit in Fantasia”.

“Vast cast-iron cauldrons, ideal for cartoon cannibals, bubble away over glowing charcoal and beech logs; meat is grilled on open fires. The short menu fizzes with eccentricity, from jalapeño peperonata to baked apple ‘from mum’s yard’.”

Somehow, she concludes, the approach works – “Mad: a bit. Delicious: absolutely.”

⦿ Fay Maschler in The Evening Standard reviewed The Laughing Heart 4/5 wine bar and restaurant in Hackney, where the “daily-changing list is as compelling to roam through as a Mediterranean market with a Japanese stall tucked in.”

“Creamed cod’s roe dolloped on one side of a bowl is almost obliterated by the mixture of dried ground fish, sesame seeds and chopped seaweed the Japanese call furikake.”

⦿ Grace Dent of ES magazine was bowled over by the food at Phil Howard’s Elystan Street 5/5 in Chelsea.

“Our two main dishes were both archly wonderful. A hungry person’s portion of roast grouse on a celeriac-and-pear purée, festooned with pickled elderberries, was, my companion said, the greatest grouse he’d ever eaten. My fillet of John Dory on crushed butternut squash, with a sweet slick of black rice, pickled walnuts and trompettes was oozy, smeary, plate-lickable cooking.”

⦿ The Financial Times’s Tim Hayward also enjoyed Elystan Street, where he found “the chef’s treatment of a piece of cod was the greatest compliment you can pay to a fish short of actually proposing to it”.

⦿ In a generally happy week for reviewers, Kathryn Flett of the Daily Telegraph also found gastronomic joy at Sardine 5/5, chef Alex Jackson (mentored by Stevie Parle)’s Mediterranean-inspired venue near Old Street: “even in late October I’m confident enough to say that Sardine is my favourite restaurant of the year.

“The vibe is pleasingly (modish-buzzword alert) ‘hygge'”; the food “unfussily delivered and flavour-rammed”. 

⦿ Her Telegraph colleague Michael Deacon hoped for similar success at The Art School 2/5 in Liverpool, where the glass ceiling glows purple at night – “it’s a bit like sitting in a greenhouse built by Prince.”

“For the first two courses, we thought we’d hit the restaurant jackpot.

“The chef had serious talent. The glorious turbot proved that. Yet we were nowhere near as impressed by the meats.”

⦿ Tom Parker Bowles of the Mail on Sunday visited Langans 4/5 in Mayfair, the place to be seen in the 1980s.

“You don’t come to Langan’s looking for Atherton-esque artistry, nor Brett Graham brilliance, rather a decent lunch, in a fine room, among the gossiping ghosts of a now-distant age.”

⦿ In The Times, Giles Coren reviewed a gaggle of London restaurants. Calcutta Street 6/10 in Fitzrovia was a “top place with good value” Bengali home cooking. Yosma 7/10, a modern Turkish restaurant in Baker Street, was “magnificent“, as was The Barbary 7/10 in Neal’s Yard, although “food not as exciting as the Palomar”, its stablemate.

Smoke and Salt 6/10 in Islington was “a fun night out for foodie millennials with good jobs“, while 8 Hoxton Square 6/10 served “the best chips I’ve ever had” and “delicious” wine.

Albion 4/10, from the Conran group, on the site of the former Turmills nightclub in Clerkenwell, is “big and airy and full of light, I suppose. But then so is B&Q.

⦿ AA Gill of the Sunday Times reviewed Jikoni 4/5 in Marylebone, where he found Indian dishes with colonial influences from Portuguese Goa, French Pondicherry and British East Africa: “Religion and politics, relentlessly, endlessly, circularly, get everything wrong. But cooks get it right, and I find that eternally heartening.”

He recommended the big plates rather than the small: “A fantastic spiced scrag-end pie, made with marsh mutton — dense, meaty, confident, moreish, but not overwhelming. And a daily rice dish and a lobster khichdee, a light, bright broth with coconut chutney and a generous corpse of lobster.”

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