Review of the reviews

Here’s our regular summary of what the national and local restaurant critics have been writing about in the week ending 8 May 2022.

*****

The Guardian

“Spring Saturday lunches don’t get much better than this.”

Grace Dent finally ventured to Tallow in Kent, just outside Tunbridge Wells; owners Donna and Rob Taylor “left the excellent, if somewhat outback gastropub The Compasses Inn in Crundale” last year and she vowed to get to their new place as soon as it opened.

Situated in a “a tall, narrow building painted a rather gothic dark grey”, Tallow serves food that’s “unquestionably good” (“get-in-the-car-and-go good”) from a menu that appears “reassuringly straightforward” but is actually “much more surprising”. To finish, “as at The Compasses, the desserts at Tallow linger”.

“Donna and her staff have a bright style that leaves you unequivocal about the fact that they really care.”

*****

The Evening Standard

“Almost all the dishes at this opening… are marked by the kind of searing, almost psychoactive heat that should be approached with extreme caution and light, breathable fabrics.”

Jimi Famurewa reviewed Plaza Khao Gaeng, the “uncompromising southern Thai curry joint” that is “the flagship of JKS’s shiny reimagining” of Arcade Food Court; it “makes almost no concessions to Western palates and sensibilities (controversially, there’s basically nothing suitable for vegetarians).”

It’s definitely “not for everyone,” but “in forensically recreating the brusque funk, fragrance and fire of an oft-mistranslated food culture, it bursts through into new stratospheres of pleasure” with “food to quicken the pulse, dampen the brow and leave you gasping for more”.

“In every sense, it may just be the hottest new place in town.”

Also in the Standard, a round-up of the best Mexican restaurants in London; “still think London doesn’t do good Mexican food? Think again, says Clare Finney”.

*****

The Mail on Sunday

Tom Parker Bowles for YOU Magazine lived almost next door to The Pelican “perched on the end of Notting Hill’s All Saints Road” for years, and it “never seemed to get it right,” either closed or notorious or just “really, really crap”.

Even with the “expensive facelift, all buttery leather banquettes, gleaming mirrors and a terse, St John-esque menu”, Tom was doubtful until “friends began to sing its praises” so he gave it a try.

From the “stew/mince” section of the menu to the perfectly cooked trout, it’s “it’s all so very English, but in the best possible way. Long may this Pelican soar”.

*****

The Observer

Jay Rayner reviewed NoMad London, in the “magnificent” conversion of the Bow Street Magistrates Court (“where Oscar Wilde was once held”), where everything is beautiful, and also “art-directed to within an inch of its life”.

“I had a lovely time at NoMad. But bloody hell it’s expensive.” Starters “top out at £30”, main courses include “a roast chicken for two at £98” and the “serious thumper of a wine list, clearly constructed by a total nerd” featured nothing “below £38 a bottle”. The bill for two was over £300 – and they could have stayed the night for a mere £495 more.

“Do the punters care” about the impressive wine list or the “serious, precise effort that has gone into the food” (with the exception of desserts, which are “mostly assemblages of crumbed things and iced things”)? Jay doubts it.

*****

The Times

Having ‘jokingly’ slated Nuno Mendes’ Taberna do Mercado (and all Portuguese cooking) way back in July 2015, Giles Coren has avoided his restaurants ever since, but felt it was time to make amends. He reached out to the chef on email and received a positive response (apparently his review “made it to the Portuguese main media news” at the time, but Nuno got the joke and bears no ill will).

So off to Lisboeta it was; Charlotte Street is “a beautiful spot for a restaurant”. Downstairs there’s a “long eating bar and lively open kitchen full of hairy blokes (none hairier than Nuno, who looks like Aquaman’s dad)” and on the first and second floors, there’s a “gloriously fresh, light-filled eating space, very southern European, very comfortable and bright”.

He devoured most of the petiscos (small plates – some “so good we ordered another plateful while still chewing the first lot”) and “left room for the majestic arroz de marisco”.

And the infamous pork fat custard? “You may shudder and spit, you may roll your eyes and call it life-changing. I doubt there is a position in between.”

“Long story short: Lisboeta is a great restaurant, in a beautiful building, with top-class service, serving very good modern Portuguese food.”

Giles “loved it all so much that I went back the very next day for a walk-in counter lunch with my wife”. (27/30)

*****

The Sunday Times

Marina O’Loughlin reviewed The Walmer Castle in Notting Hill, which has been taken over and relaunched by Piers Adam, owner of Mahiki in Mayfair, “the posho copping-off joint beloved of frisky aristos”. He also owns the Craigellachie Hotel in Speyside, which is why the former boozer is now a Scottish restaurant and whisky bar.

Glum haggis bon-bons (“slimy deep-fried dollops”) set a “tone for a meal that doesn’t cheer up much with the arrival of successive dishes”. With sliders, monkfish tacos and chicken paillard on the menu, “frankly, the idea that there’s anything much that’s genuinely Scottish about this place is comical”.

“Worst of all is a “hot artichoke dip” that tastes of nothing at all — perhaps light halitosis — and has the texture of loft insulation.” Food aside, the interior has been given a fun and “striking refurb” and “staff are lovely”.

“I blame owners and management, whose attitude seems to be that we should be grateful for them scattering their stardust over this storied boozer (previous owners: Guy Ritchie and David Beckham).”

*****

The Scotsman

Gaby Soutar reviewed the new fine-dining offering, Bridge 15, at The Bridge Inn in Ratho; 28-year old chef Tyler King heads up the kitchen, with previous jobs at Prism in Berlin plus Edinburgh’s Number One at The Balmoral and Castle Terrace under his belt.

“Despite the starry new addition, they still offer a gastropub menu to those on the cheap seats next door.” Portions were generous, “fine-dining in pub” sized, and plates were “majorly busy” with flavour and flourishes.

“We were impressed by what we had for dinner, though it was conspicuously quiet in the room.” Bridge 15 is “pitching itself as a destination restaurant, and I hope people start gravitating towards it”.

*****

And also…

“While London restaurants struggle, the north is steaming ahead.” In The FT Magazine, Tim Hayward rates The Pack Horse, Hayfield, as “one of the best examples of the post-pandemic restaurant renaissance”.

*****

The Bristol Post reported on new Italian restaurant Magari, recently opened the in the shipping containers at Wapping Wharf.

*****

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