Harden’s review of the reviews

⦿ In The Observer, Jay Rayner reviewed Aquavit, the St James’s offshoot of an “award-garlanded” Swedish restaurant in New YorkAnd, oh boy, check out that swagger.

It turned out to be “a proper Nordic noir thriller but for all the wrong reasons… It’s altogether more Trump Tower than Wallander. Everything is shiny and golden and glossy and thinly varnished.”

The small dishes were “reasonably priced at £6 or £7 and thoroughly encouraging“, and included “profoundly, indecently, lovely” gravadlax and excellent mackerel tartare. But the main dishes were expensive for “gussied-up farmhouse food” of no more than bistro quality, if that.

“Aquavit loves itself. There is a hum and purr of self-satisfaction about the whole enterprise. It is polished, in places literally so. But polish and swagger and a few good smörgÃ¥sbord dishes do not a finished article make.”

⦿ The Guardian’s Marina O’Loughlin reviewed Breddos 8/10, a former market stall serving “unspeakably delicious” signature tacos at a permanent address in Clerkenwell.

“Everything arrives at once in a great, untrammelled blurt of hot-sour-sweet-crisp-gooey-chewy shoutiness.”

“The kitchen elevates street food to an art… What seems to drive the Breddos boys is a kind of ferocious creativity.”

⦿ In the Evening Standard, David Sexton reviewed Passione e Tradizione 4/5, a “little Italian gem” that opened just before Christmas in a Turkish-dominated stretch of Haringay.

We shared excellent, obviously freshly prepared and not frozen crisp-fried calamari, elegantly presented with  sweet soft chilli jam as well as a mayonnaise, alongside great, fresh, herby garlic foccacia. 

“Then we had fresh pasta as good as any ever, one with a deep partridge ragu (it would have been criminal to smother this with Parmesan), the other with an incredibly generous grating of profoundly aromatic black truffle (for just £15).

⦿ Michael Deacon of The Daily Telegraph reviewed Spinach 4/5 in East Dulwich, which he liked despite a name which “sounds like some kind of smugly self-denying vegan hellhole”. In fact, the menu includes both meat and fish.

“It’s a pleasant little cove of a place, relaxed, candlelit, music burbling unobtrusively in the background.”

“The butternut-squash flan was beautiful. Small, but so springy and soft, and light as a cloud.”

⦿ In the Financial Times, Tim Hayward urged readers to experience the Japanese Yamagoya ramen residency upstairs at Shuang Shuang hotpot restaurant on Shaftesbury Avenue.

“This is perhaps the best ramen I’ve eaten in the UK. It’s probably because I’m more greedy than ethical, but I honestly couldn’t give a toss whether the food’s being made by a little old Japanese geezer in a headband or a global conglomerate. When it’s this good, it stands by itself.”

⦿ Tom Parker Bowles of the Mail on Sunday reviewed El Pastor 5/5, the Hart Brothers’ new tacqueria in Borough Market.

“We drink mescal, two kinds, both smoky and fresh. And dig into an iron casserole filled with carnitas, pig braised in pig fat, with still more chicharrón for crunch, and pile into those tortillas lavished with salsas. True Mexican magic. Short rib, decadently bovine, comes with nuggets of marrow, and habanero fire. All soft and pliant and fecund with fat.”

⦿ Tony Turnbull of The Times was equally enthusiastic about El Pastor.

“You walk through the deliberately low-key steel-shuttered entrance and enter a portal to another world, like the set of one of those Bacardi adverts from the Eighties where suddenly everything is brighter and louder and everyone is having a good time.”

“They make their tortillas daily, importing indigenous criollo corn in grain form, which they process and grind on site. The result is a tortilla of wondrous flavour,the tastes and smells of all of Mexico distilled into a single bite.” 

⦿ In the Sunday Times, Damian Barr reviewed The Parsons Table 4/5 in Arundle, West Sussex, where he found “nothing overly Frenchified”.

“Pulled ham-hock croquettes were three perfectly round, not-so-little musket balls f pink slow-cooked meat, peppered with mustard. They must never take these off the menu. Accompanying them was a reassuringly non-luminous piccalilli, in which every component crunched.”

“The Orchard Farm pork chop is thick as an airport bestseller and just as juicy, but the pale fat was begging to be seared.” 

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