Review of the reviews

Here’s our weekly round-up of what the nation’s restaurant critics were writing about in the first week of 2024.


The Evening Standard

Jimi Famurewa opened his first review of 2024 with a bold headline: “Welcome to London’s best new restaurant”.

He was reviewing Donia, a Filipino spot that’s taken over the top floor of Kingly Court near Carnaby Street, following in the sizeable footprints of the original Darjeeling Express and later Imad’s Syrian Kitchen, and according to Jimi, living up to its predecessors, albeit “the gastronomic equivalent of a band playing a pub back room like it’s Wembley Stadium”.

“The cooking level is so high and the flavours have such ripping, multi-layered potency, that a meal here can feel like a prolonged loop-the-loop of pure, unbridled pleasure.”

He describes Donia as a “rare, glimmering jewel of a reasonably-priced and utterly unforgettable new spot”. (*****)


David Ellis and Josh Barrie look ahead to restaurants opening in 2024, “from a stylish Singaporean import to a high-end Japanese taking over an old Tube station” as well as their reductions for the trends we’ll be seeing in the year ahead.

Also in The Standard, an article from Mike Daw on what it was like to cook at Le Gavroche for one of the famous restaurant’s last meals: “Gavroche’s greatest legacy is witnessed in the chefs who came through its kitchens: Marco Pierre-White, Gordon Ramsay, Marcus Wareing, Jun Tanaka, Monica Galetti, Pierre Koffmann, Rowley Leigh, Paul Rankin, Bryn Williams. They all cut their teeth here.”


The Observer

“It’s a food adventure playground; a place to experiment and dip and dive and spread.”

Jay Rayner was in Guildford, reviewing Gordo’s, a new-ish (est. 2021) Mexican restaurant that “may well be exactly what you need in these, the darkest, dreariest days of the year, when all the things to look forward to in winter have passed”.

“It feels like the product of a tight budget, a focused imagination and a commitment to the fundamentals of looking after people” with a menu “built around the familiar and the classic” in which “all the constituent parts have a beguiling freshness and vivacity”.


The Guardian

Grace Dent was in Spitalfields at King Cookdaily for some “futuristic vegan cooking” that focuses on “the fresh, the crunchy, the al dente and the fibrous”.

It’s a “befuddlingly low-key” and “inconspicuous, easy-to-miss glorified kiosk with a few seats”, serving “a mere 11 dishes” but enjoys a “revered status among plant-based diners”.

“King Cookdaily will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for many this is the sort of cooking that makes you question why you’re cluttering your innards with flesh.”


The Times & The Sunday Times

Giles Coren reviewed Wild, one of several restaurant options at Bull in Burford: it’s “brilliant and beautiful… Bull is the antidote to hotels. It is unlike any of the others I’ve been to — and I’ve been to a lot”.


Charlotte Ivers went on her ideal Lake District holiday with trips to Kysty and Lake Road Kitchen… and no rambling.


The Independent

Hannah Twiggs reviewed Malaysian chef Abby Lee’s Mambow at their new home in Clapton, and is “delighted that it’s brilliant”.

It’s “a masterclass” in Malaysian food: “Lee doesn’t shy away from serving lesser known dishes you don’t often find in London” – there are dishes with tripe, dishes with “sambal belacan, Malaysia’s famously butt-burning chilli sauce” and Chef Lee’s famous pandan crepes. (*****)


The Scotsman

Rosalind Erskine visited timewarp town Luss on the “bonnie, bonnie banks” of Loch Lomond for a “seasonal lunch in cosy surroundings” at the dog-friendly Loch Lomond Arms Hotel.

“The menu takes full advantage of the fresh, local bounty available from the surrounding natural larder.”


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