Review of the reviews

Here’s our regular round-up of what the nation’s restaurant critics were writing about up to 8th October 2023.

The Observer

“Completely compelling.”

“On a shopping parade in the heart of inland Cambridge” Jay Rayner checked out Fin Boys, “a curiously briny restaurant” to find so far from the sea.

Chef Richard Stokes and (ex-Bibendum and Chez Bruce chef) Jay Scrimshaw have developed this place from a fish shop serving occasional dinners into a full-blown restaurant, following the no-waste ‘fish butchery’ “espoused by the Australian chef Josh Niland”.

Inside, it’s “monkishly unadorned” – Jay recommends you sit at “the deep-varnished wooden counter” to listen to the chef and watch them cook on a simple “four-ring induction hob” – no Josper here.

They serve “an à la carte for most of the week, and an £85 six-course tasting menu on Friday and Saturday evenings… boosted with Japanese umami-rich flavours”.

“Fin Boys is that entrancing combination of inventive cookery and seriously good ingredients.”


The Evening Standard

“Each jolt of heat, riptide of sweetness and unfurling wave of umami… still has the power to take your breath away.”

Jimi Famurewa visited the new home of Chishuru, a “quietly glamorous, carefully curated 50-cover space” in Fitzrovia that’s “a sizeable step-jump from its distinctly humble beginnings” and the “original Brixton premises” where Adejoké Bakare first opened.

“Chishuru 2.0” is “an inviting, split-level hall of textured coral walls and terrazzo-flecked tables” but “at its core, this restaurant is what it always has been: a containment facility for the whirring dynamo of Bakare’s blazing, intuitive talent”.

Even if, as Jimi felt on his Day 9 visit, the new Chishuru is “in its nascent, water-testing phase”, “Bakare is still one of the most blisteringly gifted and original chefs in the city. She will only get better and better”. (****)


Also in The Standard, news that Claude Bosi’s new restaurant Brooklands has opened on top of the Peninsula hotel overlooking Hyde Park; plus, Danish-Japanese chain Sticks’n’Sushi has revealed plans for its tenth – and largest ever – site in Kingston.


The Guardian

“A tiny, semi-orderly explosion of flavour.”

Grace Dent was at Palmito, a “sort-of Latin American restaurant” with just 20 seats on the Brighton/Hove border. Chef Diego hails from Ecuador, but his menu takes inspiration from “southern Europe and south Asia, plus anywhere else that happens to float his boat”.

The result is “jumbled yet delicious poetry, an intoxicating bombardment of 24 different small plates” – much of which is vegan and “never predictable or half-hearted”.

“They could get away with cutting the menu by two-thirds, and make it less erratic and with fewer pivots, but that wouldn’t be anywhere near as big, bold and frothy.”

“A little Latin America with a dash each of Lyon and Leighton Buzzard, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.”


The Telegraph

Despite not being known as a friend of the vegans, William Sitwell was looking forward to trying out Studio Gauthier, “Alexis Gauthier’s new vegan restaurant”, a spin-off from his eponymous Sogo restaurant, which went vegan in 2016, and a place where he can “show off his several years of experimentation and practice”.

The vegan alternatives to caviar, tuna and other luxury foods were “kind and compassionate” and “clever” but just not as nice as the real thing.

William felt that the whole meal was a “carb overload”, and a “weird glimpse into the future of PC dishes mimicking those old shameful dinosaurs”. (**)


The Scotsman

Gaby Soutar ate small plates and drank interesting wines at the “restaurant, bar and wine shop” Redwood in Dunkeld; it’s “a lovely space” in “a former post office” and feels “hip, but low key, like being in a bohemian friend’s flat”.


Meanwhile, Rosalind Erskine enjoyed “old school glamour” at The Strathearn at Gleneagles, which offered “elegant fine dining with a touch of theatre in luxury surroundings”. The hotel is “best known for being home to Scotland’s only two Michelin Star restaurant, Restaurant Andrew Fairlie” but the “grand dining room” served up a proper treat to Rosalind and her guest.

“This type of experience is a real life reflection of the joy that a good meal and excellent service can bring to an evening.” (18/20)


And also…

In The FT’s How to Spend It, a retrospective on The National Theatre, which “finally has dining spaces worthy of its epic architecture”: “Brutalist design, brilliant food”.

Also in The FT’s Globetrotter section, a round-up of “the best of the City of London’s church cafés: from crypt to cathedral… coffee stops in beautiful and historic places of worship”.


In The Times, Chitra Ramaswamy visited Amuse by Kevin Dalgleish in Aberdeen, a “sexy spot” with a “star chef”, and asked “why the steep prices?”

Also in The Times, Charlotte Ivers reviewed Coq d’Argent, “the restaurant in the City of London that perhaps more than any other captured the essence” of the place: “truffles are expensive and expensive is good”.


Two regional newspaper articles this week focused on reviews by national critics (both of which we published in ROTR last week); Bristol Post agreed with Jay Rayner’s opinion on Sam & Jak in Cirencester, while Manchester Evening News celebrated William Sitwell’s review of Higher Ground.


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