Harden’s review of the reviews

⦿ Jay Rayner of The Observer reviewed The Other Naughty Piglet, a branch of Brixton’s Naughty Piglets inside Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new theatre in Victoria, The Other Place, where he found “a kind of modern British cooking with wallops of umami”.

“Sometimes the cleverness is textural. A pile of white crab meat sits atop a heap of white cabbage so finely shredded that you don’t know where crab ends and cabbage begins. The divine is located here in the detail: the crushed peanuts scattered throughout, the smear of peanut paste – not quite a butter – underneath, the splashes of yuzu on top. The flavours come in layers.”

“What undoes this, sadly, is another all ‘natural’ wine list… I reject a glass of natural Lambrusco for being essence of farm yard and as murky as urban canal water.”

⦿ In the Guardian, Marina O’Loughlin reviewed The Con Club 6/10, a “thoroughly decent” former Victorian working men’s club in Altrincham from David Vanderhook, who also runs the George Charles pub in Didsbury and Lime bar at Salford Quays.

“Every dish surprises by being a whole lot better than expected: arancini made with fine, al dente arborio rice, fried with a lightness of touch and packed with woodsy, aromatic mushrooms. Mussels, plump, grit-free and perky in quantities of cream, herbs and wine. A chunk of sirloin trimmed like a New York strip, pink and juicy with the chew of good, grass-fed beef.”

“Goosnargh duck breast is the evening’s star dish, blasted until crisp-skinned, tender and rosy inside, sliced across the grain and laid on a bed of boozy lentils, rubbly with roasted roots.”

⦿ In the Evening Standard, Ellen E Jones joined the chorus of critical approval of Popolo 4/5, chef and former kick-boxing champion Jon Lawson’s Italian joint in Shoreditch.

That Tuscan beach holiday classic, panzanella [was] as good as any I’ve had at home or abroad. The recipe calls for olive oil and fresh tomatoes, but these chunks of sourdough seemed saturated with nothing so much as pure Mediterranean sunshine.”  

⦿ Grace Dent of ES magazine reviewed Yard Sale 3/5 in Walthamstow, the third venue after Clapton and Finsbury Park in a chain offering “delicious, no-frills pizza“.

“Yard Sale really is as far down the no-frills route a diner can go without entering ‘humanitarian food drop’ territory. Stand up and order food at the counter. It will be delivered without fanfare. Eat it with your hands and then sod off.”

“Restaurants like Yard Sale play wild and loose with the term hospitality, for there really isn’t anything hospitable going on other than providing light bulbs to read the menu… It’s good pizza, I must stress. Yard Sale hasn’t built momentum to this level by serving up doughy old tat.”

“For now, Yard Sale will not deliver three miles away to my living room, but when that occurs I’ll skip ‘the experience’ and let them serve directly to my sofa. Let’s be honest: I think they’d prefer that.”

⦿ In Time Out, Dave Calhoun reviewed Perilla 5/5, formerly an Anglo-European pop-up in Dulwich and Clapton now gone permanent in Newington Green.

“Seaweed bread brushed with roasted lamb fat was as good as it sounds, and a fish soup with flaked cod, mussels and blood orange was great. Another winning dish was a light and surprising cuttlefish bolognese. The punchline was that there was no pasta in it; the traditionally stringy bits were actually strands of spindly green monk’s beard.”

“The vibe you get from this place [brings together] a love of food, a love of sharing it, a total lack of airs and graces and an earthy welcome.”

⦿ Keith Miller of the Sunday Telegraph reviewed Sky Kong Kong 7/10 in Bristol, an “organic Korean cafe” in an “impeccably grim location just off a roundabout, next to a Premier Inn”. 

“The soft, wriggly, starchy noodles worked perfectly with the Sunday roast flavours of the accompanying meats. The mackerel was simply done, but super-fresh. Everything was easy on the eye: vivid and colourful, arranged with precision and panache.”

“SKK feels more like a supper club that has stumbled on a permanent base than a restaurant in any conventional sense. It has a distinctly amateurish air: amateurish, that is, in the old-fashioned sense of something done for love rather than money.” 

⦿ Nick Lander of the Financial Times reviewed Mere, former Le Gavroche chef Monica Galetti’s new place in Fitzrovia.

“Well-chosen dishes and wines conspire to underline the collective experience behind Mere.”

“With squab pigeon, its breast glazed with rhubarb, with a pastilla of the leg and cauliflower and chard, and lobster with mashed potato and cabbage, Galetti follows the well-worn principle of intelligent cooking, that of matching expensive ingredients with much cheaper ones. It is all done to great effect.”

⦿ In the Mail on Sunday, Tom Parker Bowles reviewed Elystan Street in Chelsea, from chef Phil Howard, formerly of the revered Square in Mayfair.

“Howard cooks in thrall to the seasons. And tonight the menu teeters on the cusp of spring, giddy with wild garlic, morels and monk’s beard. But I start with one last thump of winter, a vast, generous ravioli, stuffed with beautifully braised oxtail, rich as a Cheyne Walk widow.” 

“Prices may be steep, but with Howard at the helm, this is no mere neighbourhood gaff. Rather, one of the country’s great chefs, freed from the manacles of Michelin.” 

⦿ Giles Coren of The Times reviewed Farang 9/10, chef Seb Holmes’s new-wave Thai pop-up in residence at an old-wave Islington Italian called San Daniele – making it “the very first example of an old man’s restaurant serving young man’s food”.

“We found room somehow for the staggering, bright-red jungle curry of fresh Cornish dayboat fish, which mixed glorious, fruity monkfish chunks with slices of salmon, pre-smoked by Seb right there. Yes, a smoked salmon and monkfish jungle curry. Revolting on the page – beyond awesome in the mouth. Fiery with spice and happiness”.

“What a place to go…. Bullseye!”

⦿ In the Sunday Times, David Baddiel reviewed Palatino 3/5, Stevie Parle’s Roman restaurant in Clerkenwell, where he particularly enjoyed the “know-how around pasta”.

The bombolotti, half-sized rigatoni, was beautifully cooked, right in that sweet spot between crunchy and yielding, as was the spaghetti in the cacio e pepe.”

“The pork chop arrived with a hefty rind of fat, which, in combination with the anchovy cream sauce, was somewhat overwhelming by the end… but the first mouthfuls were exquisite.”

Share this article: