Review of the reviews: Marina laments confit duck ‘with the tenderness of a blowtorched pterodactyl’

Marina O’Laughlin in The Sunday Times is baffled by the existence of Beach Blanket Babylon in Notting Hill (as are we all). The venture, with sites in W11 and Shoreditch, has never scored above a 1/5 for food in our survey and has long since been dropped from the pages of the guide…

“Today, the undeniably handsome Georgian townhouse feels less “sexy count’s exquisite torture dungeon” and more “1990s video game”; we’re plonked right beside that loud, large party in an otherwise deserted restaurant: do we now have to beat level two?

“The menu is short — normally a good thing, a sign of concentrating on a few things and doing them well. Not this one: it’s like the result of a stressed trolley-dash around Iceland (not the country).

“One pal tries her overcooked salmon’s sauce and says, startled: “It’s a Müller Corner!” I have a taste and it could be a new flavour: possibly Vanilla and Lemon with Undertones of Sugary Fish. This is dismal but, astonishingly, not the worst dish. That accolade goes to “Moroccan confit duck leg”. This poor bird is not confit, it’s cauterised, with all the luscious, juicy tenderness of a blowtorched pterodactyl. It comes on a bed of couscous and dried apricot drenched in honey, so sweet it makes me long for some Scottish tablet as a palate cleanser.”


Jay Rayner in The Observer finds himself intoxicated at Parsons in Covent Garden – but it’s the fine seafood he’s drunk on, not the wine…

“A small fish restaurant, recently opened by the team behind the wine-based bistro 10 Cases. If I didn’t know it was a new fit-out, I might have guessed it was a repurposed pie shop or a retired public convenience. Parsons is one of those seemingly quiet, understated places that whacks you between the eyes.

“…fish cookery to take on any of London’s seafood temples… you can build a killer meal from a bunch of gastronomic accessories. Goldilocks chips, fried to golden brown… potted shrimp croquettes… a massive flavour bomb inside a crisp panko breadcrumb shell… clam chowder… gently hinged between soup and stew. It’s a powerful interplay of smoked bacon, shellfish and potato and cream and indulgence. I’m intoxicated by the food.”

“Every now and then a place like Parsons comes seemingly out of nowhere and delivers plates of food you just can’t forget.”


Grace Dent in The Guardian feels lucky to be able to leave Cumbria’s Another Place, a new multi-million-pound ‘lifestyle hotel’ in Ullswater with a nod to ‘free from’ eating…

“Alarm bells go off when the sample menu online lists vegetarian crumble as the sole main-course nod to “free-from” eating. Let me get this straight: you want people to drive somewhere so out of the way even local taxis can’t find it, and to pay hundreds of quid for a weekend, yet expect them to assemble evening meals out of side dishes of “chunky chips” and “wedge salad – hold the Caesar dressing”? At dinner, it’s the death of a thousand paper cuts. And I want it to be great. Come on, Cumbria, we can do this.

“A shallot tarte tatin is a stodgy affair, with no depth or ochre hue to the onion. It arrives on undressed rocket, which for me is just trolling. It’s all just fine – but then, I can leave in an hour; some people are here for a week. I’ll always feel conflicted when the Lake District tries to do “modern” hospitality.”



David Sexton in The Evening Standard gives four stars to Kensington newcomer Enoteca Rosso

“Mysteriously transported from Milan. Enoteca Rosso occupies premises that used to be a bank and then for a while transformed into a spa. The aesthetic is … quite hard-edged and urban… the food from head chef Flavio Militello… is distinctively north Italian, tending to the rich and the unctuous.

“Lardo has become a Hackney hipster fad and never seduced me in this form. Here the Lardo di Colonnata IGP … was indecently good, an essence of pig, aromatic and silken, ethereal even. Black ravioli containing burrata and served with a light basil pesto, were interesting and unusual… service can be quite erratic, even intermittently absent.”


Will Self in The Evening Standard reviewed Stockwell Continental, the latest venture from the people behind Waterloo’s Anchor and Hope and Lambeth’s Canton Arms…

“The Anchor & Hope team has expanded its … opened a sort of upmarket pizza bar-turned-café… [it] operates as a café in the day serving proper Italian coffee.

“Stockwell Continental’s sole decoration … rows of hipster lightbulbs… a magnificent little dish of sheep’s ricotta and roast pumpkin… we munched pizzas baked in the giant yellow-and-black oven hunched at the back of the restaurant. All was tasty and well-presented.”


Michael Deacon in The Telegraph is one of the first major restaurant critics to deliver his opinion on one of The Ivy’s many spin-offs as he visits The Ivy, Tunbridge Wells: “Wetherspoon’s could hardly have served us quicker”.


Time Out gives four stars to fully plant-based Shoreditch newcomers Essence Cuisine.



Tim Hayward in The Financial Times apologises in advance if his review of Rochelle Bar & Canteen at the ICA ‘warps towards sophomoric overanalysis and aesthetic hyperbole’. Good job too because his article produces these gems…

“If I was of a more spiritual mien, I’d say smoked cod roe “centred” or “anchored” me. Its fresh flavour, during the limited season when it’s at its peak, is the ideal way to start a meal. Few things recalibrate my dials with quite such accuracy, and the accompaniment of crisp radishes is an elegant refinement in a pre-starter nibble.

“But then there was the Rochelle poached chicken and carrots with green sauce — easily the most thought-provoking dish I’ve eaten in years. And, as you cut into it and raise the fork to your mouth, you’re profoundly and totally absorbed. Conversation dies and, for the time you’re interacting with the plate, you can think of nothing but chicken — flavours, smell, sensations, history, context.”



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