Harden’s review of the reviews

Jay Rayner in The Observer reviewed Fishers in the City, Edinburgh

“Fishers in the City could be a truly terrific fish restaurant, if it weren’t for the small things that aren’t terrific. All the essentials are here: there are oysters, left unmolested, or grilled with a bone-marrow crust… soup is a cream-ballasted chowder, made with salmon and smoked haddock… some of it genuinely makes you sigh, and rest your elbows on the table.

“There are grinning mussels and a brilliant green velouté flavoured with breezy notes of tarragon. It’s serious and confident cooking… a hot shellfish platter for one… is a monumental thing. A salad of sweet, nutty new potatoes and rocket makes you feel like you’re getting your greens.

“There’s the starter of salt and pepper squid which is simply too salty, as are the chips. It takes a quite terrifying amount of salt to make chips completely resistible. The kitchen here manages it. Fishers in the City is like one of those old televisions that needed to be thumped on the side to stop the picture wobbling. I hope they can give the operation the friendly whack it needs.”


Felicity Cloake in The Guardian heads to Joro, Sheffield 25/30

“Lunch in a shipping container on the Sheffield bypass isn’t exactly how I imagined this gig. Jöro is an “urban restaurant influenced by nature”, though hopefully not the flora and fauna of the A61… the most stylish shipping container I’ve ever had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours in.

“Jöro is, of course, all about the fashionably “small plates”, a phrase that immediately makes me feel famished… a mysteriously translucent seeded cracker that turns out to be made from potato starch and studded with tiny gems of blackcurrant, fig leaf and goat’s curd… blend of clever and confidently competent cooking… our waiter seems to know as much about every dish as if he’d cooked it himself.

“Some dishes are merely extremely good … others are downright extraordinary… quietly harmonious flavour pairings. Our two stand-outs are both vegetable-based: for me, onions roasted so slowly they’re deeply, almost outrageously sweet. The puddings are worth getting overexcited about, too: a wonderfully soft, clean yoghurt sorbet with a sherbetty yoghurt meringue.

“Nordic nibbles in a shipping container on a trunk road in Steel City? Jöro sounds as beautifully bleak as a BBC4 drama, but don’t be fooled.”


Marina O’Loughlin in The Sunday Times gives her verdict on Home in Leeds

“Our five-course menu — seven, if you count amuses and petit fours — brings a celebration of autumn on every plate. The ochres and russets and umbers of piccalilli and pumpkin and wild mushrooms, used like brushstrokes on a canvas of deliciousness. Take smoked eel, glazed with a rarebit of blow-torched Lincolnshire poacher cheese, two blasts of intense savouriness jostling for supremacy, each winning. It comes with a tiny hummock of crisp roots bound in a Marie Rose sauce like Tinkerbell’s Russian salad, for lightness.

“Make no mistake: this is ambitious cooking… it’s not short of technique or chutzpah. But there’s a lack of attitude, a dearth of swagger. Dare I say that might be the influence of a female partner, the chef Elizabeth Cottam? But, just as crucially, Cottam’s co-owner, Mark Owens, has a background in some of Yorkshire’s most brilliantly unpretentious foodie stalwarts: the Star at Harome; the Box Tree in Ilkley.”


Fay Maschler in the Evening Standard delivers a very rare five star review for Soho’s Rambla

“Victor [Garvey] and I have become friends — and to review friends, if not exactly an unknown situation in the restaurant business, is ticklish.

“Jamon de bellota gran riserva (first rate) with pan con tomate… pestle and mortar used to make alioli at the table. Spinach croquetas are perfect spheres with a crisp shell. Mussels and clams opened in white wine with Serrano ham and spider crab butter (such a clever idea) are £7… black pudding sliders with tart green apple slaw — exactly what is needed in the circumstances — in toasted brioche.

“These prices seem like soft opening or soft in the head but are apparently here to stay. Five Spanish wines come in at below £5 a glass. Pricing induces holiday spirit, as does the décor, with its bright tiles and natural linen loose covers on chairs and benches. It is not often that authenticity is handled with such a keen collector’s eye for gastronomic advances.”


Grace Dent in the Evening Standard reviews Chelsea’s fairly new Bahraini restaurant Villa Mamas

” [Roaya] Saleh seems very much a pupil of the Martha Ortiz, Asma Khan, Selin Kiazim School of Women Getting S*** Done, which I’ve got untold time for. Elystan Street is a definitely elegant, slightly out of the way back road, but its slight obscurity is its beauty. It’s an oasis of well-heeled London loveliness… with a gorgeous little terrace of wooden benches outside and pretty blankets to snuggle in while picking at warek enab — vine leaves stuffed with rice, tomatoes and herbs.

“Service is bright and effusive. After one bowl of kaskhe bademjoon I was already probably Villa Mamas biggest fan. This ‘eggplant explosion’… is soft aubergine layered with sweet heavenly caramelised onion, chopped walnut with a milky whey sauce… the tahcheen looked wondrous, somewhat shepherd’s pie-like in appearance: a cake of fragrant saffron rice with chicken, pine nuts and barberries. It was hit and miss at Villa Mamas but I’ll be back as I’m already hooked on the high notes.”


Keith Miller in The Telegraph reviews the London outpost of Brighton’s The Coal Shed

“The new London sibling of a successful Brighton restaurant of the same name (itself an offshoot of the Salt Room)… a quintessentially soulless mixed-use development between City Hall and Tower Bridge … what it feels like is being trapped in a 3D simulation of reality… part 21st-century brasserie, part gentleman’s club. There’s a clear affiliation to sleek contemporary steakhouses of the Hawksmoor/Foxlow genus.

“The menu isn’t just about steak, though grills do predominate. “Fire-roasted shellfish” was a big bowl of impeccably sourced seafood, smoky from the grill, strewn with woody late samphire. Highly commended was a juicy, flaky hunk of halibut in a light curry sauce, fringed with slices of crisped-up cauliflower and perched on a sort of nest of kedgeree. Most of the cuts of steak are sold by weight, and it can be hard to find a manageable size if you’re not sharing. Chips rustled, a béarnaise sauce was whipped up to a delirious lightness, a simple side of “butterhead” lettuce.

“Just what the doctor ordered, assuming she’s not a cardiologist. So why didn’t it set my heart aflame? Why feature steak so prominently – and why  serve it in such an inflexible way?”


Michael Deacon in The Telegraph gives just two stars to Manchester’s Rabbit in the Moon “Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs’s restaurant: The most bonkers place I’ve ever reviewed”…


And Tom Parker Bowles in The Daily Mail would happily compare Bristol’s Pasta Loco to Borough Market’s Padella…

“They specialise in, yup, you’ve guessed it, fresh pasta. And there’s an admirable and forthright simplicity to everything they do… their pasta is very good. Very good indeed. In fact, I would happily compare it to Padella, that ever crowded Borough beauty… salt cod fritters, the size of a fork’s head, so light I fear they will float away… when you crunch through the crisp coating, the gently salted filling is as soft and ethereal as a mermaid’s sigh… curried goat tortellini, a mouthful of such cross-cultural genius that I’m rendered temporarily speechless”

“A ‘risotto’ of orzo, stained black with squid ink, with plump cockles, and charred tentacles, and cool, sharp slivers of fennel. Again, the pasta is gloriously al dente, the acidity is beautifully judged, the whole dish possessed with a full fathom five marine profundity. Even puddings, a sharp quince crumble with a surprisingly delicate Pedro Ximinez ice cream …share the same expert, no-nonsense clarity of purpose seen everywhere else.

“All this hand-formed joy for about the same price as lunch at Pizza Express. Bristol shows exactly why it’s such a fine eating city – there’s a fierce local pride here, mixed with raw talent and an utter lack of posing and pretention. No place for edible pseudery here.”

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