Harden’s review of the reviews: Read Marina’s last review for the Guardian

Marina O’Loughlin delivers her final review for The Guardian before moving onto her new role at the Sunday Times. She heads to an old favourite, Clerkenwell’s Quality Chop House, where the chicken liver parfait is as rich and luxurious as an expensive pot of night cream from Selfridges…

“Shaun Searley: that rarest of creatures, a supremely talented chef who appears to be ego-free. His treatment of grouse is ravishing enough to render me temporarily speechless… sybaritism in a little copper saucepan… chicken liver parfait; I’ve spoken of this parfait before, but seriously, I’d happily apply it to my face nightly, as rich and luxurious as anything in Selfridges’ cosmetics hall.

“The tiniest, most fragile tartlets filled with a jam of beetroot and savoury Devon Blue cheese custard dusted with a crunch of walnut… afterwards, Salisbury honey tart, sweet and wobbly as an ingenue, and Capezzana ice-cream doused with what seems like too much of the eponymous olive oil until you taste it and sigh.

“It’s an almost pitch-perfect meal. Even butter – primrose-yellow, cultured, made in-house from raw Guernsey cream and served with superb sourdough – is a thing of enchantment. Staff are always brilliant, professional, enthusiastic.”

For those who are feeling nostalgic, here’s Marina’s Guardian review of the Quality Chop House from 2013.

Jay Rayner in The Observer reviews Angkor Soul, Stockport, one of a tiny number of Cambodian restaurants in the UK…

“Sweetly understated… vivid, extremely fresh Cambodian home cooking… summer rolls, the translucent rice paper skins wrapped around bulky king prawns, with minced pork… alongside a sweet-sour dipping sauce… soft pockets of loveliness which make you feel virtuous and clever for having decided to order them.

“Crisp-shelled chicken wings, under a powerful, chilli-spiked sweet-savoury glaze, are a six-napkin job… sandwiches which, in the Vietnamese style, are enclosed in baguettes… vehicles for flavour bombs… steak in a powerful lemongrass paste … the sort of sandwich you want the makings for at home, on standby for emergencies, because it will make most things better.

“An order of Cambodian mee noodles brings one of those spiced broths you could get lost in… a little diamond in Marple.”

Fay Maschler in the Evening Standard, heads to Serge et la Phoque at Fitzrovia’s new Mandrake hotel. The restaurant is an import from Hong Kong, although the food has Mediterranean roots, courtesy of Charles Pelletier and Frédéric Peneau…

“The original Serge et le Phoque opened in Wan Chai Market in Hong Kong four years ago. One of several things that impresses on the restfully short menu is the relatively modest price of dishes. No national style of cuisine dominates, which you might say is quintessential London. Mediterranean is actually the neatest catch-all category but well-defined: nothing extraneous added, no ingredient not pulling its weight.

” Pigeon vivaciously roasted and helpfully carved sits on a bed of arroz negro made more emphatic with black pudding… gazpacho to which pieces of peach and skeins of burrata lend a hand is much liked. Not everything sings. There is heavy-handedness with pasta.”

Grace Dent in the Evening Standard, gives a rare 10/10 to Mexican chef Martha Oritz’s first London venture Ella Canta (she sings), which opened at the Intercontinental Park Lane last month…

“I reserved excitement about iconic Mexican chef Martha Ortiz taking over a space in the InterContinental Hotel Park Lane… a loveless carbuncle on a roundabout.

“A Frida Kahlo cacti-strewn dreamscape… nacionalista guacamole topped with a gold-embossed grasshopper… vampiro sea bass ceviche in a mango-sangrita sorbet was wonderful, zingy and welcomely non-stingy… a dashing, bearded man in braces appeared carrying a tray of various tequlias, mezcals and salted orange segments… nopal cactus salad, shouting with citrus, was highly decent… corn and huitlacoche cake with a chamomile mystic sauce.

“I don’t know who I am any more and I blame Martha Ortiz.”


Michael Deacon in The Telegraph reviews The Lampery in London’s Square Mile (named for Samuel Pepys and his fondness for Lampery Pye), but finds it’s “not the jostling, mead-sodden 17th-century tavern I’d expected”…

Kathryn Flett in The Telegraph reviews The Plough, near Faversham…

“There is, clearly, commendable ambition and energy being expended to ensure that this particular Plough does not rust. The modern rural Plough has a tricky balance to maintain… all smacked of a kitchen that could cook but may have been understaffed.”


And Tom Parker Bowles in The Daily Mail finds a proper pub in The Dering Arms in Pluckley, Kent…

“Reassuringly solid flagstone floor, stuffed pheasants, mounted antlers, whirring clocks and sporting prints… the sort of pub in which time doesn’t so much fly as saunter and stroll… a proper pub, with locals wandering in and out for a pint, a sandwich, a gossip and chat.

“The cooking here is old-fashioned hearty, and blessedly free from any modern affectation. Sussex smokies are blanketed in …cheesy, creamy mustard-spiked goo, bubbling and blistered brown by the grill. The bowl is polished clean by wads of good bread… there are a couple of piscine mishaps. But somehow, it doesn’t seem to matter.

“This is generous, well-priced country pub cooking with occasional flashes of inspiration.”

Share this article: