Review of the Reviews

Our round-up of what the nation’s restaurant critics were writing about in the week up to 7th July 2024

Evening Standard

Julie’s, Notting Hill

Was Dylan Jones pulling rank, or rolling up his sleeves to show the guys on the shop floor how it’s done? Either way, the editor-in-chief of the Evening Standard cropped up as restaurant critic, heading to the revival of a famously louche left-over from the boho 60s and 70s where, under the old regime, he had once “managed to lose my wallet, my job and my girlfriend in the space of six hours”.

Julie’s has been resuscitated by Holland Park resident Tara MacBain, who has brought in ex-Brawn and Pelican chef Owen Kenworthy “to turn it into an urban version of a neighbourhood French brasserie”. The relaunch has been a success, in Dylan’s judgment. “By which I mean it’s chic without being annoying, and welcoming without having been dumbed down. It’s not arch, not fiddly, not overdone, but just somehow right.”

The air of luxury, with dozens of staff on hand to look after you, combined with an interesting and ungreedy wine list and very good cooking, to make it “the kind of restaurant where you are almost required to have a good time”.

“I can’t wait to go back”, Dylan concluded, before adding a gratuitously back-handed compliment: “And guess what? It’s almost as good as The Park.”


The Times & Sunday Times

The Park, Bayswater

… speaking of The Park, Giles Coren became the first of national restaurant critic to review Jeremy King’s “huge. Mahusive” ‘New World Grand Café’, set in an “empty concrete box the size of Slovenia” on a “not very promising corner of town, between the arse-end of Oxford Street and the main road through Notting Hill Gate. Embassies and brothels mainly.”

The interior mixes “mid-century California drawing room chic” with New York diner; the menu, King classics with New World surprises. But as is usually the case with Jeremy King restaurants, from the old Ivy and Caprice days via the Wolseley to the recent Arlington, it is the ambience and the crowd that really count.

“There are literally no bad tables. It’s a miracle: everything is a corner or a den or a snug. The light is beatific. Favourite faces from previous restaurants float welcomingly along the aisles. It is truly Heaven’s refectory.”

OK, Giles, so who were the faces? Well, for Jeremy’s 70th birthday bash the place was “teeming with quality: Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Charles Dance, Brian Cox, Jonathan Pryce, Zoe Wanamaker, Clive Owen, Damian Lewis, Nigella Lawson, Ruthie Rogers, Claudia Winkelman, Trevor Eve… I went back the next day for the all-important, paying-my-own-way visit, and it was a more regular crowd. But Jamie Theakston was in. So there’s that.”


Urban Tandoori, Bristol

Charlotte Ivers took her mother to an Indian restaurant down a sidestreet in central Bristol that has achieved global fame (and a write-up in the New York Times, no less) via its cheesy TikTok videos of owner Sujith D’almeida and his staff singing and dancing to hit records.

It’s a “silly, warm, magical” place that aims to do little more than bring a few minutes’ happinesss into people’s lives – an aim in which it apparently succeeds.

“The grub is decent, at the upper end of what you’d expect from a classic local British Indian place,” says Charlotte. Palak kofta, samosa chat and mustard paneer tikka “are all perfectly edible, and the beef sukka — fenugreek, cardamom, fennel seed, cumin, coconut cream — that I get on the waiter’s recommendation is excellent”.

The Guardian

Chez Roux, Portland Place

Grace Dent wondered what Michel Roux Jr was up to at his new restaurant in the Langham Hotel, when he made quite clear with the closure earlier this year of Le Gavroche that he was more interested these days in occasional television work and looking after his grandchildren than in slogging away in a restaurant kitchen.

There was certainly little sign of his presence in this kitchen, serving up a “menu of posh comfort food for the weary, moneybags traveller”. Some of the dishes met with Grace’s approval: “the crisp, soft, lemon sole meunière with lemon, capers and brown shrimp is utterly delicious, as is the rare Buccleuch beef fillet in a rich cognac and peppercorn sauce”. Others failed to hit the spot, including a dessert of ‘creamy vanilla rice’ that was in reality just cold rice pudding – which is tolerable “only if eaten from a tin during a power cut”.

“Somewhere out there, the great Michel Roux Jr was lying on his sofa, watching telly, eating snacks and nowhere near his restaurant. His was by far the better evening.”


The Observer

Goda, Finchley

Jay Rayner followed an Instagram tip to a Turkish grill in Finchley with a purpose-built rotisserie that was – as he had hoped – just the sort of place he likes, leaving his fingers and cheeks liberally smeared with animal fat. 

Missing out on the house speciality, a whole spit-roast lamb feeding 10 and costing about £345, that needs to be ordered in advance, Jay was eager to try a roasted lamb’s head, “partly because I want to know if there’s really good stuff on there, and partly because I regard myself self-importantly as the sort of person who will always explore the outer reaches of any menu… Disappointingly, it turns out that heads, along with quails and that whole lamb, must be ordered two days in advance.”

So he had to make do with lamb neck and ribs, and was not disappointed at all. Far from it: “in the rib world championships, pork and beef get all the attention, but quietly I’m coming to the conclusion that lamb is where it’s really at. Being smaller and more compact, there’s just greater textural contrast and more in the way of flavour.” 

The spit-roast chicken also passed muster, and the accompaniments were generally fine, despite the “dull” hummus and taramasalata, while the  six-strong red wine list managed to be comically eccentric, jumping from an Argentinian Malbec at £37 via a barolo at £169 to a 2001 Château Mouton-Rothschild, Pauillac, at £2,400. Jay reckoned Efes beer was probably a better alternative.


Daily Telegraph

Kolae, Borough Market

William Sitwell declared himself “exquisitely tortured” by the southern Thai cooking at the Borough Market sibling of Spitalfields favourite Som Sea – even if the subtler flavours were drowned out by the spicing.

“The instrument of delightful, moreish terror is a dried prawn and shrimp paste relish. It sits in a small earthy mound seemingly sprouting little white flowers in a pretty bowl, and you dip in a radish or some beetroot or cucumber. And then it blows your head off.”

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