ROTR was on holiday last week – here’s a two-week summary of what the nation’s restaurant critics were writing about up to 6 August 2023.
The Evening Standard
On 26 July, Jimi Famurewa reviewed Gengelly’s at The Earl of Derby of Telegraph Hill, a “handsomely restored Victorian drinking hole on a south-east London backstreet that manages to balance new wave culinary seriousness with the sort of gently anarchic, community-minded bonhomie that is hard to preserve.”
“The British-inspired menu from a chef duo is a rollicking success.” (****)
This week, Jimi visited The Good Front Room, chef Dom Taylor’s “splashy, Caribbean-inspired newcomer” at The Langham, a six-month tenancy of the Palm Court dining room that he won on Channel 4’s Five Star Kitchen.
In the wake of the diversity row over Straker’s that erupted last week, it’s “serendipitous” to find “a chef from an under-represented background, cooking with heart, soul and skill in a place where you would not necessarily expect to find him”. This “dynamic, big-hearted cooking, deserves a forever home”. (****)
On 30 July, Jay Rayner was in Chester at a branch of The Botanist, where his inner “insufferable snob” came out at the sight of the “famous” hanging kebabs [pictured] (“both utterly naff and utterly impractical. If you want someone’s dinner to get cold, bring it to the table swinging in the air from a hook”).
Much of the realisation of the menu was “underwhelming” and involved a lot of sweet chilli sauce.
He did concede, however, that “the menu has something for everyone, even the ones dragged here against their will” and that it wasn’t “all dreadful”. In fact, he had an “expertly cooked” sea bass and “the service is a true joy”.
This week, Jay fared slightly better, with lunch at Pavyllon, the newly opened restaurant at The Four Seasons from chef Yannick Alléno (who boasts “15 Michelin stars across 17 restaurants worldwide, whose number includes two other Pavyllons”).
After some technical issue with booking, he had “the £55.50 five-course lunch menu, which manages that rare and blissful trick of showcasing brilliant ingredients and technique without ever losing sight of the imperative to feed”.
The whole affair was fancy and “lick-the-plate delicious” and – even better – free due to a fire alarm test that refused to go off, so the whole restaurant was comped their meal.
It’s “so perfectly curated that the quality really does speak for itself” with food on the menu “an ever-changing single sheet” (a “little more complex” at dinner).
“The vibe is simple, sometimes laughably straightforward – and always delicious.”
This week, Grace embraced the “Liberace levels of camp and self-aware daftness” and even “liked the food” at Manzi’s, the new and “vast, marble-clad, all-day seafood brasserie” from the Wolseley Group that’s truly a “venue for all reasons”.
Even if there’s “a whiff of the cruise-ship dining room” about it, “old-school glamour will never stop being attractive.”
On 29 July, Chitra Ramaswamy was in Edinburgh at Kuzina, a “glitzy little chandelier-studded, green velvet-banquetted anti-taverna” that is “the capital’s first fine-dining Greek restaurant”.(“There will be no gyros here.”)
Unfortunately, the “food is perplexing, overwrought, disappointing, on two occasions perilously close to inedible — and really expensive” although the “small, solely Greek, wonderful” wine list rated a mention, and the staff are “so lovely”. (19/30)
This week, Chitra investigated “the UK’s first 100 per cent vegan hotel”, on the outskirts of Pitlochry. Saorsa 1875 Is a “three-century-auld inn” that “presents from the outside as a traditional Highland Perthshire hotel: an imposing Scots baronial building with bright red gables”.
Inside, there’s a distinctly “right-on ethos, with its vegan wines, on-site yurt for yoga retreats and duvets made of recycled plastic bottles”. Service could be better but the food is “exciting”. (21/30)
The menu is “all about lobster (the nip) and chicken (the cluck)” and “chef Jim applies nothing to his produce but the flame of charcoal” to which you add your chosen sauce. The ‘Hail Roger’, “a version of a Caesar salad [pictured], was epic. Seriously, reason alone for a trip to Whitstable”. (****)
This week, William was at Notting Hill newcomer Empire Empire, where he had “one of the finest Indian meals I’ve eaten in ages” (“such is the fresh offering, the light touches of the kitchen, the lack of heaving sauce and the fragrancy of rice”). (****)
Gaby Soutar took a trip to Wild Kabn Kitchen on the banks of Loch Fyne, where Welsh chef William Hamer has set up “in a romantically addled-looking greenhouse” within the Ardkinglas Estate; it was the ideal antidote to recent excess “glossy city-centre chains”.
“You know a meal is good, when you get a bit emosh at the end.” (19/20)
Gaby also reviewed “new Asian street food spot” Ho Lee Fook in Glasgow, which was hard to find but provided a takeaway “trio of joy” with plenty of leftovers’ (16/20)
It “isn’t exactly the Wee Lochan, but the food will transport you right back there and it’s that familiarity that will keep people coming back for more sold out dinners”. (13.5/20)
In The FT Magazine, Tim Hayward reviewed The Midland Grand Dining Room Restaurant, calling it “a superb station restaurant” – “at last, a St Pancras restaurant that will make travellers feel excited to have arrived in London”.
There was also a review of Cadet from the P Franco team: “I’ve found one of the best chefs in London. He’s working in a wine bar.”