Harden’s review of the reviews: Where the critics ate this week

Buttermilk Popcorn Chicken (with Kimchee Mayonnaise) by Sim Canetty-Clarke HR (2)AA Gill is back at the Sunday Times’s Table Talk column with a bang as he reviews London’s hottest new opening – Richard Caring’s improbably named Sexy Fish. He finds its a tale of two restaurants; the ostentatious room itself which ‘comes on like one of Ron Burgundy’s pick-up lines’, and then there’s the food on the plate which shows off some truly accomplished cheffing…

“You couldn’t come up with a better-appointed space to infuriate the current restaurant orthodoxy. It is big, bloated and has the look of a grand French cafe with Botox and breast enlargements…The overall style is simply too much of everything. Conspicuous opulence, designed to attract the itinerant entitled. It’s so aesthetically, socially and gastronomically incorrect that I’m rather warming to its brazen chutzpah.”

 

Meanwhile over at the Times, Giles Coren finds a pub he’s happy to drink in. Well, it used to be a pub anyway, now it’s a modern Japanese outfit called Wazen recently opened near King’s Cross – and for that Coren seems very grateful…

“I think our unique, 1,000-year tradition of ubiquitous drinking houses where food was not only not served but positively frowned upon, was one of the grimmest things about Britain. I think the smashing out of the frosted glass and the taking down of the curtains, the serving of food, the encouraging inside of women and children, and the shift of focus so that alcohol now forms only a part of the hospitality offering rather than being the sole point of a business whose most visible end products were vomit, violence, obesity and death, is the most glorious achievement of the past 20 years of our social history.”

 

Grace Dent’s opinion of a restaurant can often be rescued by a really good cocktail or glass of wine, so then, the pairing of the Standard reviewer with Les 110 des Taillevent should be as complimentary as wine and cheese. This recently launched London outpost of a Parisian brasserie has 110 wines by the glass, as well as traditionally Gallic cuisine…

“These are the busiest sommeliers in London — they’re forced to work like cocktail bartenders. That’s got to be worth seeing. We all know sommeliers usually spend at least half of every evening warming their bums on the radiator and pointing sadly at the second least expensive Malbec on the wine list. This is a joke. Please don’t stop bringing me wine. You people are my favourite emergency service after the fire brigade.”

 

Left flailing when she discovers her original destination, the new Ox Club in Leeds, is yet to open, Marina O’Laughlin scours the city for somewhere else to excite her readers. She finds Pintura, which while busy and grand in scale, doesn’t exactly strike the Guardian critic as the most authentic Basque tapas spot…

“So is this the work of passionate individuals so in love with the food of the Basque country that they couldn’t wait to introduce it to Leeds? Or a company with a concept? Three guesses. No, make that one. It comes from hospitality group Leelex, also responsible for the city’s Oporto (because they heart Portugal?), Neon Cactus and Cielo Blanco (because they heart Mexico?). Plus sundry other outlets. Well, you get the Pintura. That said, I guess the food is better than you’d expect from a joint where balance sheet, not chef, calls the shots. Portions are tiny, prices are not.”

 

Over at the Observer, Jay Rayner uncovers a tiny, no frills Korean diner in the wastelands of south London (about a mile down the road from Elephant & Castle). Here they serve the currently über-hip Korean fried chicken in dozens of different guises – all of them make CheeMc worth the trip…

“Next come the two chilli chickens. The point about the heavier crisp overcoat is that it can stand being drenched and still crunch. The yangnyum, or sweet chilli chicken, tempers the heat with sugariness. It’s for those who don’t want their scalp to sweat. The serious stuff is the goochoo, which is a hit of fire and salt and all the good things. Our waitress says: “Don’t cry” as she delivers it, but it’s really not one of those pointless macho challenges. You can still taste hen through the full-frontal assault.”

 

And Fay Maschler heads to Brixton to visit the long-awaiting Nanban. MasterChef winner Tim Anderson’s Japanese-influenced venture has taken quite a while to arrive and has been preceded by a series of pop-ups and residencies. Find out what the Standard’s critic-in-chief makes of the real deal…

“Modest prices encourage experimentation and the cheapest dish, grapefruit shichimi salad at £3, turns out to be a thrilling pinnacle in the collection of dishes brought more or less all at once (annoying) when I go back for dinner, this time sitting upstairs in one of the booths with wheels — they are worth requesting when booking for more than two people.”

 

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