Review of the Reviews

Our round-up of what the nation’s restaurant critics were writing about in the week up to 2nd June 2024

Evening Standard

The Hero, Maida Vale

“This might just be the best-looking pub in the world”, pronounced David Ellis in his review of the latest project from the team behind the Pelican in Notting Hill and the Bull in Charlbury.

Noting that pubs serving high-quality food are “decidedly the thing at the minute”, David stressed that The Hero was well behind the most prominent current example, the Devonshire off Piccadilly Circus, in the food stakes.

“But Christ, is the Hero a looker. It’s a Dezeen wet dream of stripped wood and plaster walls, of barley leg stools and candle-topped tables…. The main dining room, a floor up and due to open at the end of June with an entirely new menu, is a proper knockout — Sessions Arts Club but with, here’s hoping, better grub.” 


The Guardian

Roe, Canary Wharf

Grace Dent was won over by this new 500-cover operation in Canary Wharf that “is bigger than some former Soviet-era Russian states”, she said, but still manages to hit the gastronomic high notes with a menu that “dances rather daintily and deftly between ‘pub grub’, ‘fever dream’ and ‘Noma’”. 

A “marginally less edgy version of Fallow”, its Mayfair parent, Roe specialises in “massive, assertive flavours” that suit its “football pitch” scale, prepared with “geeky precision” in a “heavily populated open kitchen”.

The menu of “crowdpleasers cooked as you’ve never seen them before” ranges from 35-day dry-aged steak with XO mushroom sauce and burger containing both beef and venison, to pillowy flatbreads with various toppings, “rather terrifying-sounding snail vindaloo with mint yoghurt” and a baked potato dish that Grace vowed to eat every time she returns. 


The Observer 

Gerry’s Hot Subs, Exmouth Market

Jay Rayner found messy satisfaction at a new North American-inspired sandwich spot from Andre Blais, the Ottawa-born and Detroit-raised veteran of moules-frites specialist Belgo in the early 90s and US smokehouse Bodeans 10 years later. 

At his new place, Andre pays tribute to his father Gerry, a native of Montreal, with its culture of smoked-meat sandwiches, as well as the wider North American tradition of the submarine, aka the hoagie or torpedo. 

“My, it’s good,” Jay smacked his lips at one of the many combinations he tasted, declaring: “happiness is a handful of lunch and dressing running down your forearms.” The Philly cheesesteak was possibly as good as that served at Passyunk Avenue. “That’s the point: these subs are good enough to be debated.”

Given the Montreal link, a side order of poutine was all it should be, “chips under a swamp of starch-thickened gravy and proper squeaky cheese curds”, while “the £6.95 Caesar salad is seriously good, in a city which regularly defames that worthy dish.”


The Times & Sunday Times

Under the Table, Edinburgh

Claire Sawers was enchanted by a modern European bistro in a New Town basement, bankrolled by an unlikely “sugar daddy” in the form of Hollywood’s Joe Russo, director of Avengers and Captain America, a “hardcore food geek and Scotland fan” who fell in love with chef Sean Clark’s cooking upstairs at the Table.

Where the Table is a fine-dining restaurant with a £100 evening-only tasting menu (£110 on weekends), Under the Table is a bistro with mains for less than £20, open for lunch, dinner and Sunday roasts. Not only is it good value, Claire said, but  “Clark and his team have come up with another marvel.”

“My onion tart — neat caramel coils of onion served on a frankly stupendous blob of whipped goat’s cheese, with a luxurious creaminess that’s giving me giddy flashbacks to meals upstairs.”


Sune, Hackney

Charlotte Ivers ventured for brunch to this Scandi-inspired venue off Broadway Market in Hackney, which she found to be “everything you think Sune is going to be… High ceilings, exposed fittings, artfully distressed wooden floor,” and a clientele who “all look as if they used to take drugs, but are now more focused on getting little Toby into a nursery where they teach Chinese and baby yoga”.

Ouch! Was this going to get nasty? But no, Charlotte had nothing but praise for Sune’s ugly food and natural wines – the latter “something that sends m’learned colleague on the daily paper [ie Giles Coren, absent this week presumably on half-term duty] into fits of despair”. 

Her pick of the small plates was a croque monsieur spread with beef tartare, apparently a favourite of the chef to soak up a few beers after a long shift. “It’s the sort of stodgy, cloggy mess you’d fall upon after a drink or three, or even more so the morning after. It tastes wonderful, despite looking as if someone could have dropped it on the way to the table.”

In conclusion: “This is undoubtedly one of the trendiest places in London, but you don’t see its stuff on Instagram. This is taste-first food.” 


The Telegraph

Zekki, Wiveliscombe, Somerset

William Sitwell found himself in “Wivey, gateway to Exmoor”, where self-taught Cypriot chef Tim Zekki has created a “gorgeous and charming flavour bomb of a place” in his tiny, 30-cover restaurant.

Pursuing a philosophy of “more is more”, he serves small plates “of no fixed abode with influences from Greece and Asia, the Middle East and Spain, for which he gathers local ingredients (Longhorn beef from a nearby farm, seafood from Brixham), cooks them – then does his best to squirt and drizzle over every sauce, it seems, he’s ever come across from Tokyo to Nicosia.”

The meal kicked off with a typical example, wonton crackers with mackerel pâté and ponzu. “Wow, these were moreish.”


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