Harden’s review of the reviews

Rok Smokehouse and barThe Evening Standard’s Grace Dent seeks out Shoreditch’s latest smokehouse venture, Rök, concerned that it may be a another tedious, cavernous, edgy-by-numbers barbecue joint, which – she says – it absolutely is not.

“Rök is small — 40 seats — and elegantly formed, dispatching gorgeous, highly devourable sharing plates of exquisite British produce with a Nordic influence… The menu has one pudding and one pudding only. It doesn’t need another as not liking the wood-roasted peach would be an excellent Blade Runner-style test of whether you’re a human being or not.”


Her colleague Fay Maschler on the other hand has a much harder time seeing the merits of Estiatorio Milos, a new Greek fish-focused restaurant on Regent Street. With side dishes at £12 and wine starting from £44 this place needs to work extra hard to prove it’s worth the money – it doesn’t pull it off.

“Fried fresh calamari is lightly done, prettily piled up and tangled with fine shreds of lemon zest but the £22 cost is not satisfactorily exemplified — even factoring in over-staffing of kitchen and front-of-house and the obvious heavy investment in surroundings. The price simply militates against enjoyment.”


Meanwhile the Telegraph’s Zoe Williams heads out of London to York where she finds an attention to detail she hadn’t quite been expecting at The Star Inn The City.

“The genius was all in the sideshows: shallot butter made a treat of the spinach, while brown crab and a citrus hollandaise made it playful and memorable… They make it look simple. It isn’t: getting things this right takes a particular kind of imagination, precise and ambitious.”


The Times’s Giles Coren leaves the big smoke too and reviews the St Tudy Inn, Cornwall. As he usually (and entertainingly) does, Coren uses his column to wax lyrical about many things before getting down to the nitty gritty of a restaurant review. This week he laments having to give restaurant recommendations.

“I always hate it when people ask me where they should eat. Given my job, I recognise it comes with the territory and I ought to be better, but I become paralysed with self-doubt… What we need is some kind of impartial barometer, a metric that digests the opinions of all the nation’s diners and spits out the parameters of acceptability at the end.”

Er, hello Giles?! We feel rather hurt that you didn’t pick up a copy of Harden’s to help in your arduous task.


Up in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival, The Observer’s critic-in-chief Jay Rayner stops off at Contini Cannonball for lunch. Clearly he hadn’t had his funny bone tickled by any of the stand-up acts.

“There is then, lots to admire about this place. But I do find myself only admiring rather than loving Contini Cannonball. Professionalism is good. Professionalism is great. But when it leaves you feeling a little over-charged for what feels more like a product and less like lunch, there is a problem.”


And we find ourselves in agreement with Marina O’Laughlin. Critics are divided on Nuno Mendes’s latest offering, Taberna do Mercado in Spitalfields, but the Guardian reviewer is firmly with the ‘yays’ and so are we – sure it’s bold, but that’s refreshing.

“Desserts are where Mendes really unleashes his firecracker imagination. Often riffing on traditional, egg-laden doces conventuais, his translations are playful, occasionally eye-popping, always enchanting. You may have heard about his port-caramel take on abade de priscos, a dense, Iberian sorta-flan in which substance and gloss are lent by lard.”


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