Harden’s review of the reviews

⦿ In the Observer, Jay Rayner reviewed Skosh, in York, which he found “the ideal of what an ambitious, independent restaurant should be”.

“Neil Bentinck, formerly the head chef of Van Zeller in Harrogate, is a modern British cook who also manages to riff on the flavours of Japan and the Middle East without confusing either himself, or us.”

“Most extraordinary of all is a dish of mackerel and eel, skewered separately, then barbecued with a sweet savoury soy glaze until the meat is just firm and the skin crisp. Alongside is a thick, foamy cream flavoured with the iodine and brine of oyster. That in turn is piled with shaved and pickled kohlrabi and finished with the peppery hit of nasturtium flowers. I am willing to declare it one of the best dishes of the year, and I’m eating it in February.”

⦿ Marina O’Loughlin of The Guardian reviewed James Cochran EC3 8/10, declaring Cochran “a great chef. Really: quite quite remarkable” — although let down by service that is “all over the place.

“I’m experiencing actual joy at his hands, at the ministrations of his pork shoulder, braised until it yields to the touch of a fork, but with skin expertly blasted into almost-cracknel so the whole thing comes together like a heavenly, pig-based crème brûlée.”

“Then there’s his fried chicken, the kind of thing to have the Colonel grave-whirling like a jealous, frock-coated dervish. Its jerk-spiced crispness, its buttermilk-brined tenderness, the sting of scotch bonnet peppers tamed into some kind of fiery-mellow preserve, the popcorny crunch of toasted maize.”

⦿ In the Evening Standard, Fay Maschler reviewed The Other Naughty Piglet 4/5, sister restaurant of Brixton’s Naughty Piglets, in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new theatre in Victoria, The Other Palace.

“Grilled pear, Jerusalem artichokes, hazelnuts and blue cheese set a sort of template for the layers of flavour and contrasts of texture which also distinguish Devon crab with finely sliced wilted white cabbage scattered with dried seaweed and peanuts, and more dramatically, XO linguine topped with a cured (by salt) egg yolk the colour and shape of an apricot.

“XO based on dried shrimp, salty ham, garlic and chilli is umami in a bottle and it galvanises the creamy sauce around the twirl of fine, probably homemade, pasta.”

⦿ Grace Dent of ES magazine reviewed Holborn Dining Room 4/5, the Rosewood Hotel’s brasserie, which she declared was “my personal idea of heaven”.

“I’d happily spend eternity eating chef Calum Franklin’s pies. Or his beef Wellington, which arrived at the table like a beautiful edible challenge. Or the rabbit pâté en croûte, rich with pistachio, smoked bacon and mustard seeds.

“Then there is the gaspingly good curried mutton pie with mango chutney — or, my firm favourite, the chicken and girolle pie in a nettle sauce.”

⦿ In Time Out, Kitty Drake reviewed L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele 4/5 in Stoke Newington, the first international branch of a Naples original founded in 1906 and made famous in the film Eat, Pray, Love. Be prepared to queue, she warned, and lower your expectations to maximise your enjoyment of the excellent pizzas.

“Thin, crispy and served with beautiful burnt bubbles in the dough, what makes L’Antica’s pizza really special is its softness. The sauce itself is exceptional: best appreciated on the marinara (just tomato, garlic and oregano), it’s fresh and sweet and just a little bit tart. Best of the two , though, is the double mozzarella. Properly luscious, it arrives bigger than the plate it’s served on and oozes puddles of wonderfully stringy cheese.”

⦿ Keith Miller of The Sunday Telegraph reviewed Tabure 4/5, a “newish, modernish” Turkish restaurant just off the old market place in St Albans.

“A bulgar wheat salad was adorned – to its advantage – with little cubes of beetroot. A roast supreme of chicken came with a succulent stuffing of dried apricots and barberries. A stew of white beans and beef sausage had a smoky, spicy, distinctly Armenian ­accent. Most dishes were prettily and pungently strewn with fresh herbs.”

⦿ The Mail on Sunday’s Tom Parker Bowles revisited The Wolseley 5/5 on London’s Piccadilly, “still an eternal treat”.

“Nothing, of course, has changed. It never does. Forget the ravens leaving the tower. If chicken soup and Wiener schnitzel fell off the menu, London would truly crumble. Service is so seamlessly smooth, you barely notice it’s there.

“We eat smoked salmon, from Severn and Wye, cut thin, and delicately smoked. Plus chopped liver, rich and robust. Kedgeree, another Wolseley classic, the egg cooked just so, the spicing more soft gasp of Far Pavilions than fetid curry house roar. I devour steak tartare, good fillet, expertly chopped, with a raw egg yolk perched on top. It’s not tartare without that unctuous slick of saffron gloss.”

⦿ Giles Coren of The Times reviewed Luca 8/10, the “Britalian” restaurant in Faringdon serving classic Italian recipes made with the best British produce.

“This strike me as a very good idea. Certainly better than the other way around. Nobody wants a steak and kidney pie made from mozzarella, sea urchins and spaghetti.” 

“Oh, My. Giddy. Aunt. The parmesan fries. Like cheese puffed from an aerosol into a deep-fat fryer and sprinkled with fairy dust: deep, round, salty, prickly. And the aged ham ‘Mora Romagnola’, oh yeah, soft like Italian ham always is but with the density and complexity of iberico de bellota.”

⦿ In the Sunday Times, Lisa Markwell reviewed La Dame de Pic 3/5 in the City, which is “all muted lighting, foams’n’emulsions, decanted wine and eye-watering prices. Oh, and quite terrible music.”

“Let’s start with curry and coffee butter. It really is challenging. It takes a certain self-confidence to marry coffee with curry – and it nearly comes off. There’s something (probably coincidental) about the former that reminds me of old-school British curry powder, which has its charms, and the bitter coffee is mercifully faint – but spectacular sourdough doesn’t need a folderol like this.”

“If dinky, show-offy ensembles are your thing, they’re done here to an examplary standard… La Dame de Pic is not for me. It’s for those folk who like to tick off every haute restaurant and starred chef in whichever town they happen to have alighted.

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