Harden’s review of the reviews

Jay Rayner in The Observer enjoys a knowing attempt to bring the street inside at Borough Market’s El Pastór (from Barrafina founders, the Hart bros)…

It’s “a fun space of bare brick and shiny metal and colourful murals; a knowing attempt to bring the street inside”, with “tequilas in worryingly large servings” and  “pork shoulder, marinated and roasted for 24 hours until it’s so much tangle and thread, with the sweet hit of caramelised pineapple, more guacamole and white onion”. All in all you get “the sense you could mislay an evening here very easily”.

 

 

Marina O’Loughlin in The Guardian also heads to London’s SE1 as she reviews Flat Iron Square’s Lupin…

This new venture from chefs Lucy Pedder and Natasha Cooke, who met working at Medlar, is “utterly simple, completely seductive”, “the house style comes across as less true Brit and more West Coast US”- but “this is a find”. And the food? “Cornish crab thermidor, oligarch-rich with cream and cheese, spiky with mustard, as over the top as anything at a Victorian banquet. Even that bastion of clean-eating probity, the courgette, is lubricated with ricotta, jolted with chilli and fried into crisp little croquettes, virtue most emphatically and successfully sullied. Desserts follow the classics-with-a-good-zhuzhing formula. Smoky rump of lamb with matching smoky slump of aubergine and charred longstem broccoli.”

 

David Sexton in the Evening Standard test drives another London newcomer. Finsbury Park’s Walnut is “a bold venture which deserves to prosper”…

The restaurant in Finsbury Park’s Arts Building “feels bright, spacious and welcoming, for once a truly industrial adaptation rather than a stylistic affectation” and “the menu has the essentials.” “A substantial plateful of terrific, small, halved, char-grilled chorizo sausages from Dingley Dell Pork in Suffolk, served with a yolky aioli (£4.50), was an immediate delight. The food is rich, parmesan and truffles re-appearing, not shy of unctuous cream and butter. Lemon polenta cake was good, sweet, citrussy and crunchily grainy.”

 

Oh dear. ES Magazine’s Grace Dent did not enjoy her trip to Dinings’ new SW3 outpost, delivering a scathing 2/10 review about the “triumphantly terrible food”…

“On reflection, we should have gone to Daphne’s,” she writes. “It was a menu where one can whip through £200 in no time at all, to a naff Euro-dance backing track, barely troubling one’s stomach lining. Tar-tar chips (Japanese for tiny tasteless taco) topped with room-temperature toro fatty tuna and jalapeño mayonnaise… the sort of food that puts one off eating. We were presented with £50 worth of unappetising offerings staged dramatically in wooden boxes like a Game of Thrones set prop.”

 

When Fay Maschler reviewed Chinatown’s new Xu (from the folks behind Bao), she surmised that it needed a little more time to settle in following its launch. Matthew Bayley at The Telegraph comes to much the same conclusion a month later…

“A recent frustration of mine… is the spread of restaurants where you can’t make a reservation. How… can you just knock off and stand for an hour in a queue at 5.30pm with a bunch of hipsters if you have a real job? So when the Bao team opened a restaurant where you can actually, you know, get a booking, I was on to their online-reservation system… more swiftly than Theresa May regretted her snap election.

“It is beautiful: art-deco curves, grooved dark-wood panelling, ceiling fans, and green and pink leather banquettes. Cuttlefish toast: imagine the world’s greatest prawn toast: fresh, inky black and deeply salty, the whipped cod roe was a smooth intensifier of flavour. Char siu Iberico pork, with leeks and sesame, was a great hunk of juicy, darkly burnished meat, which made for a fantastic, glossy mouthful of sweet and savoury. I’d like to tell you about the desserts. Except there weren’t any.

“Xu is a couple of tweaks – and a pudding menu – away from being truly excellent. Maybe even worth queueing for. ”

 

Tom Parker Bowles in The Daily Mail reviews Andrew Wong’s “jammed-to-the-rafters” Pimlico canteen, A Wong. He’s been a few times, but the “quality never falters”…

“The restaurant, on a particularly unlovely stretch of Pimlico pavement, is small, smart and understated, with an open kitchen and slick, knowing service”. The spirit of Sichuan, with the poise of a high-end chef… street food dressed in couture. A Wong is not just an astonishingly good modern Chinese restaurant, which ranges across the regions with skilled, knowing aplomb. But one of the country’s most thrilling restaurants, full stop.”

 

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