Review of the reviews

Here’s our regular round-up of what the nation’s restaurant critics were writing about up to 3rd September 2023.


The Observer

“The neo-Byzantine, gold-tiled glories of the Criterion on Piccadilly Circus have finally got the restaurant both they and London deserve.”

Jay Rayner visited the new, grand, branch of Masala Zone on a much-revamped site in Piccadilly. It’s the third time he’s reviewed a restaurant on this site, but he believes this one is here to stay.

The “Victorian opulence” of the site, with its “shimmering gold and marble walls” now “gets to cosplay as a grand maharajah’s palace”.

“What makes this whole venture so joyous, so profoundly cheering, is not just the great cooking… but the pricing.”

Jay’s only gripes were the over-effective air conditioning and the request for feedback (on a tablet) after the meal.


The Guardian

“There are no frustrating tasting menus, no minuscule sharing plates, no pretension – and no chance of leaving hungry.”

Grace Dent reviewed Gökyüzü in Green Lanes, which, “with its glut of Turkish-Cypriot restaurants, cafes and baklava shops, remains pretty much a constant” in “a bumpy restaurant landscape”; even with the introduction of “Kurdish and Bulgarian flavours” over recent years, “its vibe remains largely unaltered”.

Gökyüzü now has five branches across north London, and has a “clean, sparkly store front, semi-romantic booths, non-wonky tables and bright, fast service”. Grace defies readers to “walk past those glass cabinets on the way to your seat and not spy something that you’d really like hurled on to a hot grill and brought to your table”. Desserts are “wickedly good”, too.

“There is a sense of theatre about the place, as well as a legacy about dining here that will make you overlook most flaws.”


The Evening Standard

“Out of step with the times, low on meticulousness and lost in the sauce of its own minimalism.”

Having lived through “that period of the 2010s when a strange mania for single-item menus gripped the dining firmament” Jimi Famurewa feels more than qualified to comment now that the trend appears to be back.

Swiss Butter started in Lebanon and has opened in Holborn (in a “big, rattly space”) as part of a global roll-out. The menu options are beef, chicken or salmon, all served with “a great, slopping lake of the much-ballyhooed, eponymous sauce… that, it transpires, is basically just a version of the Café de Paris entrecôte sauce that has been knocking around since the Thirties”.

And that’s it – there’s also a choice of white or brown baguette, chips or new potatoes and just two desserts.

“This combination of meal components… is innately appealing. It is just when you drill down into the specifics… that a nagging wobbliness starts to build.” The sauce has both “overwhelming saline” and “buttery creaminess”. (**)


The Telegraph

William Sitwell was in Wood Wharf in east London where he tried a new spot, Fish Game, whose concept is “seasonal British ingredients get the ash and charcoal treatment”. It hails from restaurateur Roberto Costa who runs the Macellaio RC steak chain.

Inside, the décor is “petrified tree trunks holding glass tables” and the wine list high-end (average bottle £80).

William noted an excess of oil in many dishes, which were theatrically delivered but messily plated (“the chefs seem to approach plating up with the same precision as one pins a tail on a donkey while blindfolded”). (**)


The Times

“I feel sorry for everyone eating lunch elsewhere, because the food is sublime.”

In Edinburgh, Chitra Ramaswamy was feeling nostalgic and took her widowed father to Tanjore, “home to the best south Indian food I’ve eaten in Scotland”.

It’s been open since 2011, and she had been several times before, but thought the place had “seemed to slip off Edinburgh’s radar… just another good restaurant continuing to be a good restaurant”.

The venue’s “canteen simplicity” and “unbeatable lunchtime thali” deserve to be better known; their dosa were “magnificent” – “a single uttapam… dipped into the gravy induces the kind of deep joy that will plague me for years when I look back in hunger”. (25/30)


The Scotsman

Rosalind Erskine visited Spry Wines, a “minimalist” wine bar, for their small plates menu and organic wines. The food “is very good, but don’t go for dinner hungry as the plates, though diverse and tasty, are quite small”; it’s “an ideal place for a quick bite before a show, or lunch with friends or a date”. (16/20)


Gaby Soutar had a culture fix at The Burrell Collection, “which reopened back in March 2022 after a six year and £68.25million refurbishment. It’s light and calm inside, and feels like a spaceship crossed with a church”.

The “casual gallery cafe style” is run by Benugo; it “isn’t bad, but it’s not going to make this a food destination, as well as an art one”.


And also…

In The Financial Times, Tim Hayward reviewed The Portrait, The National Portrait Gallery’s new restaurant in London: “Richard Corrigan deserves his own portrait in the gallery”. He believes that “the British have forgotten that ‘rich’ is a good thing” and that this new restaurant “will remind them”.


Manchester Evening News reported that street food venue Hatch is to close at the end of the month.


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