Review of the Reviews

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

The Evening Standard

The Shoap, Angel

Jimi Famurewa thoroughly enjoyed himself at this “hybrid cafe, food shop and bar that bills itself as ‘London’s first Scottish deli’”, from Glaswegian former economist Gregg Boyd – a “brilliant … invigorating, daft and wholly original” fiefdom comprising “shelves and fridges heaving with Irn-Bru, Lorne square sausage, Gordon and Durward tablet and more”.

Jimi’s top billing went to “the gonzo glory of Scottish tacos: two
Archbold’s potato scones, heaped with punchy veggie haggis and roused
by blobs of hot sauce from Edinburgh’s Leithal”.

Boyd sees the project as a sort of “Scots community centre”, but Jimi
insists there’s more to it than that. “He has also created a new category of
hospitality business that has caught the prevailing mood of unfussy
cultural authenticity that can be seen in everything
from Guinness fetishisation to English caff revivalism”.


Cantinetta Antinori, Knightsbridge

Needing to lift her spirits, Joanna Taylor slipped into holiday mode at the famous Tuscan wine dynasty’s Knightsbridge restaurant, where she found herself amid “decor that mixes the Orient Express and a Far Far Away castle”.

As the name and postcode suggest, “this is not the place for a cheap and
cheerful supper. In fact, a dinner here may set you back more than flights
to Pisa.”

The food, though, is excellent, with the “Kobe beef carbonara … a
deliciously quirky surprise” and the pistachio tiramisu something “I would grab on to any day”.


The Guardian

Dream Xi’an, London EC3

Grace Dent visited the latest “culinary paean to the capital of Shaanxi province” from chef/owner Guiding Wei, of Master Wei and Xi’an Impression – this one in a former Gourmet Burger Kitchen in an ultra-touristy location by the Tower of London.

“I have yet to leave any of Wei’s places not delightedly flecked with umami, sweet, hot and vinegary sauces,” she said – and this was no exception, with at least 12 biang biang noodle dishes on the menu. “Once eaten, biang biang become a compulsion. You have my warning.”


The Observer

Cuubo, Birmingham

Jay Rayner discovered “as exciting a new restaurant as I’ve encountered in a long while” at ex-Simpsons chef Dan Sweet’s crowdfunded transformation of his former takeaway Qbox on Harborne high street.

It’s a tiny place with just 20 seats and a short menu, “but it bursts with huge flavours, big ideas and massive ambition. Dinner here was an introduction to a storming talent announcing itself to the world, one clever, delicious, well-priced dish at a time.”

The chef’s rare technical skills and good taste are displayed in the “soft,
creamy, rich and deep liquor” that forms the basis of a white soup of
caramelised onions, “as pale and interesting as a Dior model and just as
poised”, and again in a celeriac cream sauce, “this time with a pointillist
explosion of herb oil”, combined with slabs of salt-baked then roasted


The Times & Sunday Times

Camille, Borough Market

Giles Coren insisted that he “loved Camille. The space, the staff, the chutzpah, the menu, the beer, my second bottle of wine and about two thirds of the cooking” – before complaining at length that he had been misled by fellow-critics into thinking it would be “somehow very French (more than one literally wrote, ‘Oh là là).”

“It’s painted red and they have baguettes,” he conceded. “But that doesn’t make it Café Rouge. Thank God… Sorry, but where is the terrifying garlicky French food? Not an escargot or coquille St Jacques in sight, nor a whiff of andouille or boudin blanc or any of that.” 

The terrine, meanwhile, was “more St John than Jeanne d’Arc. Which is not a criticism. Just an observation.”


Paz Taqueria, Edinburgh

Chitra Ramaswamy found a “more than welcome” addition to Scotland’s thriving taco scene, an ultra-minimalist space with a short menu of five antojitos (“little cravings” in Mexican Spanish) and seven tacos on Thistle Street in Edinburgh’s New Town.

Her pick of the seven was Chicken tinga, with pulled roast chicken, tomato, onion, adobo and chipotle chillies, “then all the bits and bobs that make a Mexican party in your mouth that you never want to leave. It’s hot, sweet, tangy, palate-punching, gone in five sloppy bites. Everything you want from a banging taco.”


Fumi, Brighton

Charlotte Ivers conjured up a puzzling review of newish Japanese restaurant: puzzling because she says she’s reviewing the “opening”, when Fumi opened in July last year; and puzzling because she says it provides “a good meal – mainly”, gives it a respectable three stars, then proceeds to trash its cuisine comprehensively.

She kicks off with the cocktails, which sound “promisingly oriental — yuzu, whisky, lychee. But each tastes like a variation on Fanta.” Next comes a ‘kanzuri chicken maki’ which reminds her of “air freshener, bleach and a pile of soil”. 

Pork roasted in red wine and soy sauce and eel donburi both display “the sweet stickiness of a child’s birthday bash, the unholy gloopiness of the school canteen…You can’t keep the British spirit down”, while a side of tempura vegetables “owes more to a Brighton fish and chip shop than a Tokyo night market”.

Put simply, the cooking is “incorrigibly British” – “it hits the same brain receptors as a 20-second TikTok video. There’s no subtlety here, no elegance. This is dopamine food.”


Daily Telegraph

Arlington, St James’s

William Sitwell joined the great and the good of the media world to “smooch and hug and nod and wave and relish being there” at Jeremy King’s revivalist venue – “#notlecaprice. Because, lol, of course it is”.

Of course, he stressed, the actual food is not the point of such an institution. Nevertheless, and to his credit, William become the first reviewer to puff up his chest and offer a criticism of the great place, taking aim at “a pair of off-kilter puds”.

“The treacle tart was a thick gingery, citrussy wedge, not the breadcrumb-
textured beauty it should be, and my guest, who has a house in New
Zealand, insists that the hokey pokey coupe is, in fact, hocus pocus. The
true NZ version is nothing more than vanilla ice cream, pimped up with
nuggets of honeycomb, while at Arlington it comes covered in chocolate

At this point, William lost his nerve a little, adding that the dish was “delightfully, simply, delicious.”


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