Review of the reviews

Our summary of what the national and local restaurant critics were writing about in the second week of 2023.


The Guardian

“British hospitality’s approach to vegetarians and vegans has pivoted 180 degrees since the bad old days of the pub-grub microwaved veggie lasagne.”

Inspired her late father’s reactions to her teenage vegetarianism, Grace Dent‘s article was about the rise and rise of vegan (and vegetarian) offerings on restaurant menus across the UK: “meat-free diets are these days catered for everywhere I go, from fine dining and fancy to KFC’s vegan Quorn patty”.

“What changed, I think, is that restaurants saw there is money in them there tofu-eaters” (Guardian-reading or otherwise).

She gave particular mention to “one of 2022’s best openings…  Chantelle Nicholson’s Apricity, which features a vegetable-heavy menu” and the “vegan fake egg, no-duck donburi” (pictured) at Wagamama.

Condolences on your loss, Grace.


The Evening Standard

David Ellis revealed the “37 hottest restaurants for 2023”; the “top tables and hottest trends” include ” a Tel Avivian spot where anything goes to Tom Sellers’ latest luxury launch”.

In addition to these, Josh Barrie reported on the forthcoming “disco-themed Indian restaurant” Empire Empire, which will open in Notting Hill in March, with “drinking, dancing and dining all under one roof” and dishes evoking “the northwestern cuisines of the old Punjab Empire, from Bihar across to Afghanistan”. Founder Harneet Baweja owns the Gunpowder restaurant group and Empire Biryani, which sells meal kits and takeaways.


Also in The Standard, where to celebrate Lunar New Year as we enter the Year of the Rabbit on January 22, and 25 chefs revealed their favourite budget restaurant.


The Observer

“Seriously good.”

Jay Rayner started the year with a visit (or three) to Mandarin Kitchen “in the small Chinatown at the southern end of Queensway” where he “made a bit of a happy mess” like he and his family used to before their visits to the theatre.

“In a city where restaurants come and go, Mandarin Kitchen has thrived… and this year will celebrate its 45th anniversary.”


The Telegraph

“Delivers food that borders on the miraculous… just too damn good to share.”

Taking a break from his usual West London hangouts and Cotswold pubs, William Sitwell visited Speedboat Bar on the edge of Chinatown, the “latest venture from JKS Restaurants” teamed up with chef Luke Farrell, who grows his own Thai herbs and vegetable in Dorset.

The decor and food aim to “evoke the punch-you-in-the-face vibe of loud and funky gaffs in Bangkok’s Chinatown” (“we’ll have to take their word for it”).

“The spice is tantalising. I’m like a fish taking a juicy worm. Yes. that hook hurts, but God that worm tastes good. I keep eating.” (****)


The Independent


Sean Russell reviewed year-old Eksedt at the Yard, “tucked away on the ground floor of the Great Scotland Yard hotel… all low lighting, muted colours and rustic chic” with a semi-open kitchen where you can “watch the Nordic fire masters in action as they cook up your meal”.

“It’s not the sort of place you pop into for a quick bite to eat. It is – for most of us at least – a once-a-year, if that, kind of experience.”

“Words simply don’t do it the justice it deserves. It’s a menu of smoke, and each dish adds to the next.”


The Scotsman

Rosalind Erskine paid a visit to the “family-run” Ristorante Pieno on Glasgow’s Hope Street, after hearing that it was named the city’s best restaurant in the 2022 Food Awards Scotland, “after just a year in business”.

The menu offers pasta and “a fantastic selection of pizza, rice and meat dishes” plus a vegan menu, and portions are “huge”.

“While there’s alot of competition for good Italians in Glasgow, Ristorante Pieno is a real gem from the staff to the variety and quality of food. It’s also good value for money in an ideal location.” (8/10)

Meanwhile, Gaby Soutar reviewed Orrin, which had passed by the eagle eyes of her Elgin-based family; the “modern Scottish” place opened in November 2021 in a “a smart Victorian shop front” with cooking by “local Andy Fyfe, who once worked under the late Alan Gibb, when he was the executive chef at Gleneagles”.

Her chosen dishes were “luxurious and rich” and all the food wasn’t in any way “ground-breaking, but it makes you feel special”. (8.5/10)


And also…  

Tim Hayward in The FT Magazine reviewed the “seafood with grace and transatlantic flair” at Saltie Girl, “the UK outpost of a successful Boston seafood operation [that] offers brilliant ingredients, from world-beating langoustines to Spanish tinned clams”.


Marina O’Loughlin might no longer be at The Sunday Times, but she’s still busy reviewing meals and posting them on social media – on January 1st she was at The Sportsman’s first ever New Year’s Lunch, and shared some tasty pics on her Instagram.


The Bristol Post commented on the sudden closure of Klosterhaus by the D&D London group: a staff member claimed they were only given 48 hours’ notice of the restaurant not reopening after New Year.


Manchester Evening News reported on the new restaurant with “one of Greater Manchester’s best views”. ‘Wine-led’ Climat, “run by the team behind Covino in Chester”, occupies an 8th-floor rooftop space and “already feels relaxed and confident”.


Fay Maschler for The Tatler published a trio of reviews just before Christmas 2022, inclusing a “convivial birthday feast” at The Sportsman and “accomplished cooking” from “talented chef Alex Dilling… at Hotel Café Royal


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