Harden’s review of the reviews

⦿ Jay Rayner of The Observer reviewed London Shell Co, a floating restaurant aboard a 30-year-old barge which is moored at Paddington over lunch and voyages along the Regent Canal while serving dinner in the evening.

It began as a pop-up on dry land, led by actor-turned-sommelier Harry Lobek and his sister Leah. In the small, diesel-powered kitchen at one end is Stuart Kilpatrick, an alumnus of the Mark Hix empire, and his pared down, less-is-more approach, making big platefuls from humble ingredients, is evident.”

“Sizeable pieces of cod come breaded and deep fried with a smooth pot of a dill mayonnaise the colour of freshly cut grass, full of flavour but no grassy bits to get stuck in your teeth. Smoked cod’s roe, a little pink, but properly granular and rugged, as if it could grout a bathroom if there was nobody around to eat it, comes alongside nutty, brown crackers made with the slight lactic tang of buttermilk.”

“Most pleasing of all are discs of ox tongue, cooked so they hold their integrity until your fork gets involved, with cubes of pickled root vegetables, and a horseradish cream that makes you wrinkle your nose.”

⦿ In The Guardian, Marina O’Loughlin reviewed Pomona’s 6/10, a southern California-style joint in Notting Hill “aimed at women who dream of dream of being Elle Macpherson when they grow up” – and which she expected to hate.

But real kicks come from an unexpected source, the vegetarian ‘small plates’: fresh kernels of sweetcorn toasted into nuttiness with clouds of cool Mexican queso fresco and coriander leaves (annoyingly translated into SoCal “cilantro”). And who knew I could be thrilled by raw brussels sprouts, shaved into angel’s hair shards and dressed with a spritz of citrus, hazelnuts and pungent wafers of Spenwood ewe’s milk cheese? God help my lard-loving heart, I love this.”

“Pomona’s is pretty much a distillation of everything that sets my teeth on edge: west London, Cameron-esque entitlement, yummy mummies in nappy valley ghetto squads, specious nods at ‘healthy’ food…  And yet I thoroughly enjoy it. As our Californian pals might say: go figure.”

⦿ Grace Dent of ES magazine reviewed Perilla 4/5, an “elegant, earnest room [which] is the epitome of modern Newington Green”.

“While Perilla isn’t a clean-eating restaurant, swimsuit models could eat there without fretting about post-lunch bloat. There are no sides and not much is fried. The most waistband-tightening item on offer is a marvellous seaweed bread that arrives brushed with lamb fat, with a generous fistful of wild garlic butter. We ordered and ate two baskets.”

“The standout dish for me was a simple, barbecued piece of mackerel served with raw mackerel and cucumber with sea kale on a sharp, curdish base.”

“Perilla is a little bit Clipstone and a tiny touch Noble Rot, but is not a copycat of either.”

⦿ Fay Maschler of the Evening Standard reviewed Winemakers Deptford 4/5, “a charming little restaurant” behind a wine importer, shop and bar, “so seductive that after only the first bottle my companion is hollering, ‘This is the Noble Rot of the South East.'”

“Aged middle-white pork, pink from curing, swims with a life raft of squeaky greens in a pool flavoured by Shaoxing wine with peanut pickle strewn on top. A tranche of wild sea bass lying on purple sprouting broccoli, scattered with toasted almonds, reaps reward from the moat of velvety curry sauce. Both are a delight.”

“Head cheese served in clingfilm-thin slices is garnished with fine shallots softened in a punchy vinaigrette. The appearance of the chopped meat in jelly resembles elaborate pink and green embroidery; masterful.”

⦿ In Time Out, Tania Ballantine reviewed Stevie Parle’s Roman-inspired Palatino 3/5 in Clerkenwell, where she was disappointed by slow service and over-salted meat dishes

“The pasta was a delight. A simple dish of little-seen tonnarelli (‘guitar spaghetti’) was served with one of my all-time favourite sauces: cacio e pepe. As in, cheese (a nicely sharp pecorino) and pepper. It allowed the beautifully al dente pasta to sing. Then came rigatoni – the short, fat tubes – topped with veal ‘pajata’, a classic from the capital city. What’s that? Oh yes, intestine. The taste and texture is a little like kidney, set against a mellow, celery-studded sauce.”

⦿ Also in Time Out, Dave Faulkner reviewed Ceru 4/5, a “cute little Levantine diner” in South Kensington.

“Shish taouk, chicken tikka by another name, was perfectly cooked and plenty for two. Persian kaftas (beef patties) came slightly dry but were lifted by a tarator (tahini and lemon) sauce. Elsewhere, the zucchini and feta fritters were too stodgy to finish but a failsafe go-to of halloumi with harissa and grilled peppers more than saved the day.”

⦿ Kathryn Flett of the Daily Telegraph reviewed Webbe’s at Jerwood Gallery 3/5, a “no fuss, semi-self-service (you choose, you pay, it’s delivered to the table) set-up” inside an art gallery in Hastings.

I order the seafood board – potted crab, soused herring, squid and prawn fritto misto, mackerel pâté and cured salmon… It’s all pretty much perfect. The vinegary herring sets my teeth on edge. So, restaurant or café? Well, the mayo is in sachets and the pepper is un-grindable; it’s prettily presented no-frills good food with some cracking art attached.”

⦿ In the Mail on Sunday, Tom Parker Bowles reviewed Bibendum 4/5, which he found an “unashamedly old-school blast of high-end delight” under the “immensely talented Claude Bosi”.

“A starter of duck jelly with caviar and smoked sturgeon is, at £39, eye-wateringly expensive. But earth-shatteringly good, inspired surf and turf that looks divine and tastes ambrosial. That amber jelly contains the quacker’s very soul, seasoned by a luscious dollop of caviar and cubes of gently smoked sturgeon. It’s Louis XIV comfort food, wonderfully soft and wobbling.

“‘My Mother’s Tripe and Cuttlefish Gratin’ [is] a generous riot of chew, crunch and squidge. It’s balls-out peasant cookery, far more interested in succour than sophistication. Lustily seasoned, with just the mildest whiff of filth, this mighty mélange is served with a great wodge of dense, succulent pig ear and ham cake, thick with slivers of cartilaginous organ and salted swine.”

⦿ Tim Hayward of the FT reviewed Kiln, Ben Chapman’s Soho Thai, which he found “‘authentic’ to such an extent that, at times it alienates… Strictly for the nerds.”

When you cook on charcoal, it doesn’t add flavour — I couldn’t detect smokiness in anything I ate here.

⦿ In The Times, Giles Coren reviewed Radici 7/10, Francesco Mazzei’s southern Italian in Islington, where he loved everything he ate and drank apart from the calf liver involtino that was “absolutely revolting… cirrhosis on a stick”.

“There was terrific burrata with broccoli stems and anchovy, roast octopus sliced over cannellini beans and a beautiful seafood fettucine fill of bright purple baby squid crowns. The pizza calabrese was excellent, charry-tasting and fat with smears of ‘nduja sausage.” 

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