Harden’s review of the reviews

Jay Rayner in The Observer reviews Jean-Georges at The Connaught, where prices are as stupid as Donald Trump, but at least the food is good…

“I try to avoid the flouncier excess of chef worship and napkin sniffing, but with Vongerichten I fail. I have spent atrocious amounts of my own money at his flagship high-end restaurant in New York.

“Other chefs have attempted to marry French classical cooking with Asian flavours. Vongerichten has succeeded. He has a blissful way with acidity and chilli heat. I have always been disappointed by his diffusion lines. I actively hated Spice Market in Leicester Square.

“This new place in the Connaught called, bravely, Jean-Georges, as if it were a direct sibling of the [NYC] Trump Tower site. To be fair the prices here are of a similar magnitude. They are stupid in the way Donald Trump is stupid.

“Warm beignets of Comté cheese and black truffle to make things better. So that’s mini doughnuts of seriously pokey cheese and truffle dredged through the deep fat fryer? Get in. Tuna tartare on avocado with a spicy ginger sauce, is a Vongerichten classic… the fontina cheese and black truffle pizza … preposterous, of course, the item I will be eating as western civilisation collapses.

“For dessert, somebody has made a leaf out of chocolate, because playing with food is required at £12 a pop. They’ve filled it with caramel and nuts. It’s a Snickers for someone who wouldn’t dream of being seen eating one.

“Back home I’m asked how dinner was. I say it was really nice at £120 for two. “Unfortunately, it cost £275.””

Marina O’Loughlin in The Guardian gives us her thoughts on the Strand’s veteran India Club…

“The India Club is a curio, a living, breathing museum piece, a pearl: even the bill arrives yellowing at the edges.

“A succession of stainless-steel dishes: fresh, crisp poppadoms with little bowls of coconut and mango chutneys, a strident lemon pickle and sliced raw onion; onion bhajis and vegetable pakora; a mini masala dosa…prawn bhuna… verges on nasty: the prawns with the translucency of the long frozen, the sauce both syrupy and harsh with green peppers. Their greatest culinary crime is naan, clearly recently liberated from its supermarket plastic shroud. Lamb, randomly, is genuinely fine, a dark brown, resonant, gingery stew.

“I go back again and again… I go back because I marvel at its cheapness bang in the centre of London. But mostly I go back out of deep affection.”

It’s not like Fay Maschler to eschew the new in favour of reviewing an established restaurant, but the Evening Standard is tempted to City spot The Don by their grouse menu…

“We are here for the grouse or — at £36, down from an initial £38 — one of us is. The description of accompaniments — celeriac, blackberries, parfait, Hermitage jus — suggests that a not egregious amount of fiddling around with the creature (always a hazard) has been going on.

“My recommendation based on this outing is start with crab — brown and white meat — and caviar, where the constituents are presented on shiny scallop shells accompanied by very pleasing tiny blinis, and follow that with grouse. Then summon the cheese trolley further to plunder the notable wine list.”

Meanwhile the Evening Standard’s Grace Dent heads to Fulham newcomer Rigo’…

“The danger phrase, ‘our chef will be taking you on a journey’, along with a portentous, ‘I’ll fetch someone to tell the stories behind the cocktails’, surfaced before we were seated. Rigo’s opening ‘snacks’ involved a lump of dried moss and a story about the moss. Its texture and taste was that of dry, muddy shredded wheat.

A perilously delicate tart hewn from half a dozen multi-shaded centres of Camone tomato with stracciatella was delicious. It arrived with a story about why the chef loves leftover tomatoes; sadly without a large side portion of STFU… a deconstructed Black Forest gateau, because, as we all know, all classic puddings benefit from an autopsy.

“They took me on a journey. In Parson’s Green, no one can hear you screaming.”


Kathryn Flett in The Telegraph takes herself off to the revamped Battersea Power Station, where Danish pizza concept Mother has set up shop…

“This no-fun zone is, of course, one of those pseudo-public open spaces which are, in fact, owned by other bits of the world.

“And then, underneath a railway arch – a slice of blessed Victorian artisanal integrity – we find Mother, the first UK outpost of a hip Danish pizza chain – a (forgive me) Scandizza joint… we share a plate of “sliced-right-now” prosciutto, salame and capocollo… the cold cuts turn up with a big focaccia.

“The fact is, despite the way it looks, this place isn’t notably kid-friendly; the flavours are off-kilter, adult-orientated. It’s as bogus, ultimately, as its surroundings. Conceivably more so because of the earnest veneer of authenticity. (But the staff are lovely).”

Over at the Telegraph Keith Miller gives his verdict on a favourite Southsea local, Restaurant 27…

“Restaurant 27 has been open for eight years; this year, it received the cautious (and relatively new) accolade of a Michelin Plate, awarded for “fresh ingredients, capably prepared: simply a good meal.

“We realised at some point that what it reminded us of was a posh restaurant in a soap opera. It’s technically assured and ­beautifully presented… an amuse-bouche of smoky little red pepper croquetas with burnt onion mayonnaise… a “shoulder of lamb sandwich” was flaky and ­intense… rolled up in a thin layer of crisped-up bread, and served with a piercingly sweet-and-sharp mint sauce.

“There is plenty to like about Restaurant 27…The staff are charming and patient and skilful… The food is immaculately sourced… a sort of harmonious opposition of opposites.”


And Tom Parker Bowles in The Daily Mail reviews Il Piccolo Mondo, a Cambridgeshire Italian which has found favour with our guide reporters in the past, but hasn’t graced the survey in recent years, perhaps it’s having a revival?

“An Italian restaurant that charmingly combines robustly executed regional classics with the occasional drizzle of old-school Giovanni Toro Britalian.

“Calamari wears a light batter, and is fried, in clean oil, with a steady hand. Extra points for lots of those lovely tentacles too… the children’s tomato pasta is sublime. A bolshily sexy spaghetti alla puttanesca, so splendidly salty and lasciviously fishy that it would make a whore blush. Again, the pasta is both beautiful and beautifully cooked.

“Saltimbocca looks as dreary as a monk’s underpants, but the veal and Parma ham are hewn  from superior beasts, and the whole thing sings merrily of sage, lemon and white wine.

“Il Piccolo Mondo is that rarest of things – a genuinely good Italian restaurant. And nearer to King’s, Cambridge than King’s Cross. Add in a well-priced, carefully chosen wine list, and the sweetest of service, and you have a Cambridgeshire cracker.”

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