Harden’s review of the reviews

le chabanaisAA Gill heads to Le Chabanais hoping to recapture the nouvelle cuisine magic he discovered at Roger Vergé’s Le Moulin de Mougins in Monte Carlo so many years ago. However this new venture, on Mayfair’s Mount Street, an offshoot of Le Chateaubriand in Paris, singularly fails to impress the Sunday Times’s critic-in-chief.

“This is a horrible, inhospitable, lifeless, brassy knocking-shop of a restaurant that’s gone way beyond mockery, with a good fish (the best Dover sole I’ve had for ages) in the middle.”


Over at The Times resident restaurant reviewer Giles Coren gives us a bumper week with write-ups of Jason Atherton’s Social Wine & Tapas, Mark Sargeant’s Morden & Lea, and new north London gastropub The Canonbury Tavern.

Social Wine & Tapas opened on Marylebone’s James Street in June. “It’s an odd sort of place to find a new posh sharing restaurant, and at first a bit of a disappointment to be sucked in through the wine shop that occupies the front to the dark tables of the cavernous, multilevel interior, where you can’t see all the half-naked tourists copping off outside the crappy restaurants opposite, which is the whole point of James Street. But then this being an Atherton place, everything they put in your mouth is belting.”

Morden & Lea also launched in June this year, on Wardour Street (south of Shaftesbury Avenue). “I guess we’re a bit too deep into Chinatown for hipsters of the “cruise in, grab a slider, stroke my beard, cruise out” variety to have found the place yet. But I’m sure they will.”


It sounds to us like The Observer’s Jay Rayner is smitten with something other than the food at Amoul’s Kitchen in London’s Little Venice.

“I assemble my own meal from the menu of mezze and mains and ask her [Amoul] if we have missed any greatest hits. She considers my list. Even bound beneath the dull snowfall of chef’s whites, her hair tucked beneath her cap, she is a strikingly elegant woman. In a reversal of the usual way of things, I find myself craving her approval. Have I chosen well? She gives a light nod and suggests one extra dish.”

Incidentally he also rather enjoyed the food.


Meanwhile his counterpart at the Guardian Marina O’Laughlin is in for a surprise at east London dining room Ink. The room may be starkly white and lacking any discernible flavour, but that certainly can’t be said of the cooking.

“’The pork,’ he intones, ‘is cooked for 16 hours in halibut juice.’ Now, I’ve been doing this gig for a while, and very little surprises me. But that? That drops my jaw and boggles my eyes, the full Hanna Barbera. How do you juice a halibut? There’s no flavour of fish in the fine, treacly meat, and the whole thing is intriguing, thought-provoking, a conundrum to be parsed.”


In the Evening Standard last week the venerable Fay Maschler paid a visit to the latest offering from Irish chef Robin Gill (of The Manor and The Dairy in Clapham). The Manor was a hit with Ms Maschler in her column last year, and so too is Paradise Garage in Bethnal Green.

“Young chefs, heavily stamped passports, small plates, unclothed tables, tattoos, Zone Two Tube stops, fizzing lactic acid, S&M butter, no offal left unturned, seeds and weeds, ponderous stoneware, recherché wines, obscure music tracks, approachable bills; it’s commonplace now. And thank the Lord for that.”


The only paper to brave the trip outside of London this week was The Telegraph, with critic Zoe Williams heading to Buckinghamshire to visit a new country pub. And The Pointer in Brill may just have pulled off the rarest of gastroboozer tricks – providing a dining space and a bar that look like what they’re meant to be.

“This is proper beam-ceilinged, enveloping pub loveliness at the front and chic, plush and hush at the back. The Pointer is, in short, a real find: charming, expert and understated.”


And Grace Dent hopes the owners of Sackville’s in Mayfair will wear her Evening Standard review as a badge of honour. This new truffle-inspired restaurant may be “obscene” but it works, she says.

“Particularly obscene is the burger called The Sackville, which has a patty made from heart of Wagyu rib-eye, topped with plentiful seared foie gras and truffle mayo, wrapped in a brioche bun. It is £38. Truffle fries are an extra £6. For £30 Sackville’s will shave an extra 10g of truffle on to any burger — or any other dish — should one glance at one’s truffly entrées and truffly sides and think, ‘Hmmm, I feel this dinner just isn’t quite truffly enough.’”

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