Review of the reviews

Our round-up of what the nation’s restaurant critics were writing about in the week to 3 March 2024

Evening Standard

Camille, Borough Market

Jimi Famurewa kicked off the Gallic theme that dominates the week’s reviews with his visit to “a supremely creative and confident new-wave bistro” from the team behind Soho’s Ducksoup, where he found an appetising menu to back up his theory that “modern London’s urbane food cognoscenti now tend to eat like Gascon farmhands”.

There was “nothing especially light or newfangled” about the cuisine – but that was precisely Jimi’s point, as he sang the praises of dishes such as “rosy pink slices of Hereford onglet in a peppercorn Café de Paris butter so dark and rich it’s practically a makhani sauce”.

Bistro Freddie, Shoreditch

Seconding the theme, Jimi’s colleague David Ellis headed east, where Dominic Hamdy has followed up Soho’s Bar Crispin with Bistro Freddie – named after his “half Alsatian” father. “The bistro, all cream walls and wood panelling, and candles spilling their wax over old wine bottles, is perhaps half French, half English; a measure of Casse-Croûte with a pint of Andrew Edmunds poured in.”

It’s already a big hit, full for lunch and dinner every day. Chef Anna Søgaard is wowing fans with signature dishes including a chicken and tarragon pie, and according to The Standard’s fashion editor, Victoria Moss, “The whole fashion industry, despite being on Ozempic, is in there at the moment.”


The Guardian

Whyte’s, Hackney

There’s nothing fancy about this place, reported Grace Dent – “I’ve sat in plusher minicab office waiting rooms” – but she was bowled over by chef Whyte Rushen’s “comfort-food classics: burgers, spag bol, fish and chips”, which “quickly pivot into postmodernism” by topping oysters, say, with pickled onion Monster Mash, or serving tempura of octopus tentacle in a “puddle of chip shop-style curry sauce.”

The former pop-up specialist, now at his first permanent site, changes his menu frequently – “as I write he is going through a French period, offering confit trout with brown shrimp butter and braised rabbit with chocolate sauce and buttered cabbage”. All in all, Grace rated her meal “weird but still pretty wonderful”. 


The Observer

Suffield Arms, Norfolk

Unrepentant townie Jay Rayner found himself thoroughly at home in “an outpost of urban sensibility… cos-playing as an English country pub” – the second restaurant in the area from London-based art dealer Ivor Braka, who also owns the nearby Gunton Arms

North Italian chef Alberto Mesini cooks a Spanish-inspired menu that’s “full of sunshine, soft winds and tidy ideas… So just your basic early evening in Granada, even on a grey winter’s day in Norfolk”.

If not quite Gallic bistro cooking, it’s still “solid and satisfying, rather than the stuff of thrills and gasps” – as exemplified by a venison tagine or a venison and pancetta ragù served with tagliatelle, which “source their star ingredient from the deer park surrounding the Gunton Arms, where you can first admire the wildlife and then later eat it”. 


The Times & Sunday Times

Joro, Sheffield

Giles Coren humble-bragged that he was not the first but was possibly the last reviewer to visit this pocket-sized venue in a shipping container –  “the only restaurant in Britain that you enter through the loos” – that after eight years is finally about to move to appropriately swanky new premises at Oughtibridge Mill, on the edge of the Peak District.

“The vibe is faintly reminiscent of Gareth Ward’s revered Ynyshir in Ceredigion,” Giles reckoned, and he was fulsome in his praise of both the cooking and the “soft-drink pairing menu, which was revelatory” – “I left Sheffield stuffed and sober, delirious with the thrill of such good food for so little money and very excited about coming back to try the new place in the summer.”

Clearly going through what Doctor Johnson would diagnose as a “tired of life” phase, Giles concluded: “I have no use for London at the moment. Next week I’m in Oxford, the week after in Weymouth.”


Osteria, North Berwick

In Scotland, Chitra Ramaswamy was impressed by this “stalwart, you might even say the formidable nonna, of North Berwick’s burgeoning foodie scene”, run by chef Daniele di Marco, his wife Daniela, her father Angelo and brother Stefano.

“No on-trend blackened hispi cabbage frosted with parmigiana here. I love Osteria’s resolute conventionality. It’s been too long since I’ve encountered butter curls in a restaurant. How retro, and delightful.”


Whyte’s, Hackney

Charlotte Ivers joined the throng eager to sample Whyte Rushen’s “hipster twist on the classic French bistro”, casting her eye grumpily over the sartorial approach of both chef and audience – all bushy beards, lumberjack shirts and baseball caps. The menu’s “ironic touches” – oysters topped with Monster Mash, steak tartare with Rice Krispies, foie gras “nuggets” and so on – also raised her hackles.

Which brought her neatly to a happy reversal: “The thing is, while this place is too clever by half, nobody could claim this isn’t just really good cooking. If you’re a purist, you’ll come here wanting to hate it. But once you’ve eaten the food, you won’t be able to.”


The Telegraph

The Greyhound Inn, Pettistree

William Sitwell heaped superlatives on “food of fabulous power and flavour” from “a kitchen rich in talent and confidence” in this classic country pub. “Much more of this and Suffolk will be Britain’s new culinary heartland.”

The menu itself “is an education. At its heart was the most beautiful dish of venison I have ever eaten. It had everything you might need to convince a waverer, or even a plant-munching refusenik, as to the worth and enjoyment of eating deer.”

Having lectured us on the delights of “gutsy, hearty, flavourful food”, William rather ruined his point by admitting his failure to appreciate tripe, whether in Suffolk or in the heartlands of Gallic gastronomy. “When I first tried tripe with chef Henry Harris in Lyon 25 years ago, it tasted like deep-fried suitcase. It’s no better now. With whomever, however and wherever you try it.”

Back of the class, Sitwell!


The Scotsman

Lyla & Tipo, Edinburgh 

Perhaps it was by design, perhaps a mix-up, but two 2023 openings from Fife-born Stuart Ralston – described as a chef “on a roll”, with restaurants Aizle and Noto already to his name in the city – were reviewed on successive days.

Gaby Soutar visited the seafood-focused Lyla, which occupies the Royal Terrace site of “the late and much lauded chef Paul Kitching’s restaurant with rooms, 21212”.

Her hunch that this “was going to be something special” was happily confirmed by “a succession of lovely things… like an album of greatest hits.”

Her colleague Rosalind Erskine headed for Tipo, whose “light wooden tables, Scandi-style chairs, pink tiled bar with open shelving and lime washed walls” form the backdrop not to Nordic-inspired dishes but Italian.

Still, it’s not your typical “family-friendly” Italian affair with good classics (like Osteria, above, perhaps), but something “a bit more grown up in its look and offering”.


Daily Mail

Rambutan, Borough Market

For Tom Parker Bowles, the unmistakable scent of frying curry leaves “whisks me straight back to Galle, that idyllic southern Sri Lankan town” – giving him the chance to boast of having just returned from “a few days spent at the Galle Literary Festival, a most splendid affair”.

His “healthy interest in Sri Lankan food” is now “a full-blown obsession” – one throughly satisfied by the sensational flavours at Rambutan.


Financial Times

Scotti’s Snack Bar, Clerkenwell

Tim Hayward made a bee-line to one of his recent haunts, a “tiny Clerkenwell caff with no menu” that serves a “superb schnitzel”.


Meanwhile, in How To Spend It – the FT’s surely ironically named glossy supplement – Ajesh Patalay became the latest London journalist to fawn over “the capital’s most fêted restaurateur”, Jeremy King, ahead of this month’s launch of Arlington (or “Not Le Caprice”, as he calls it), his summer re-boot of Simpson’s in the Strand, and the unveiling later this year of his all-new The Park.

In a sort of metafictional preview, we learned that Jeremy works through his pre-launch fears by drafting a fake review of the restaurant in advance – “not just any review. The worst possible review by the most acerbic critic, whose remarks become a withering commentary in his head”.

This is how it opens: ” ‘One of the most eagerly anticipated restaurants of 2024 sees the return of Jeremy King and [maître d’ and director] Jesus Adorno to Le Caprice; oh sorry, we’re not allowed to call it Le Caprice, but really it is.’ ” 

So far, so pretty so-so. Sadly, we don’t get to share the full self-venting of Jeremy’s spleen.

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