Review of the reviews

Our round-up of what the nation’s restaurant critics were writing about in the week to 10th March 2024

Evening Standard

Singapulah, Chinatown

Jimi Famurewa was frustrated by Ellen Chew’s new venture, where an “otherwise perfectly serviceable opening” was marred by a sense of “not quite delivering on its advertised promise” to showcase the best of Singaporean ingredients and cuisine.

The signature laksa, for instance, had a “transcendent, complex broth”, but
it was let down by a measly sprinkling of “(not especially delicate)

Perhaps, Jimi suggested, “things had gone awry in the flailing rush to
open”, leaving plenty of “room to improve”.


Big Night, Hackney, & Alley Cats Pizza, Marylebone

Joanna Taylor tested out a couple of newbies heavily backed by the
influencer brigade, to see if they lived up to the hype.

A big thumbs-up for Big Night in Morning Lane, which certainly managed
to live up to its own name, even on a Sunday evening when “we find
ourselves doing shots – not out of choice but because they come with the
snacks”. The “juicy pork koftas” and skewered lamb offal that star on the
menu “offer a kebab-like fix”.

At Alley Cats Pizza the rain-soaked queue was proof positive of influencer
power, but the food itself was rather mixed. The hyped New York-style
pizzas were “thin and blistered with bottoms so crisp they’d make Mary
 weep… in fact they might even be a touch too crunchy”, while
“plump squidge-and-they’ll-scream meatballs in a luscious tomato and basil sauce” were balanced out by “slabs of undercooked, salt-deprived garlic bread” and flavours that “leave little to the imagination”.


The Guardian

The Blue Pelican, Deal

Grace Dent found “one of the most intriguing and punchy menus you’ll come across on the entire south coast” from chef Luke Green, whose masterpiece was a “quite unforgettable offering of utterly heavenly roast pink fir potatoes with walnut miso and cavolo nero”.

Not only is the Blue Pelican a “very classy, experimental, neighbourhood
Japanese restaurant”: the venue also looks the part, so you feel you’re
“walking into Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa, a cacophony of tasteful
blues, chilli pepper-coloured chessboard floor, striped cushions”.

“Deal has got itself a little smasher of a place”, which locals will have to share with “down-from-Londons”.


The Observer

Paradise Food, Harrogate

Jay Rayner headed to a garden centre on the edge of Harrogate to sample a
“late-career venture” from Frances Atkins, who for two decades, was chef-
proprietor at the highly regarded Yorke Arms up on the moors at Ramsgill.

Now 74 – “I know this because she told me, unasked, as a way of explaining
what she regards as her limited trading hours” (mostly breakfast and lunch,
closed Sundays and Mondays) – Frances told Jay she couldn’t just retire: “‘I’m like a hamster on a wheel, I can’t stop.’”

And she remains a whizz in the kitchen, knocking out “Yorkshire portions” of food that is “gorgeous to behold”.

“Three sizeable cubes of pork belly have the crispiest of cracklings and the
softest of meat. They stand in an honour guard around a cylinder of the
smoothest of black puddings. So all the superlatives… It’s both precise and
generous cookery.”


The Times & Sunday Times

Wilding, Oxford

Perhaps the Times managing editor pulled off an expenses coup, sending Giles Coren and his Sunday colleague Charlotte Ivers to Oxford simultaneously – although Giles tried to muddy the issue by referring to the city in an elaborate but not wildly funny joke as Bumwiddle-on-Thames.

He lunched at “Wilding, a big, mazey restaurant that used to be a Café Rouge and before that a Dome, where my friend Catherine Kenyatta, granddaughter of the liberator of Kenya, used to work, back in our Bumwiddle days.”

There was no doubt, Giles said, that it was “the best restaurant in Bumwiddle”, but he was more exercised by the tortuous mark-up process by which “in the end I stupidly paid £140 for a 2013 Grand-Puy-Lacoste that I now know you can get for £60 at Majestic or £39 from Bordeaux Index”.


The Punter, Oxford

Charlotte Ivers had no such qualms about calling Oxford Oxford, and went so far as to name-check the Thames as the Isis, which as Giles would know as an Oxonian graduate is the local student custom.

Still, she found The Punter’s menu struggled to name things correctly, so a
massaman curry was not at all what it claimed to be: instead “it’s a decent
approximation of a pub Thai green curry”.

“Whatever was going on with the curry, the rest was a solidly decent veggie lunch” – but she’s still looking for “somewhere really good” to take her vegetarian mum for a meal.


Le Bistrot, Edinbugh

In Scotland, Chitra Ramaswamy came across a real “find”, if not a hidden one. Le Bistrot is in plain sight just off the Royal Mile, on the ground floor of the Institut Français, occupying “a beautiful, light, airy, high-ceilinged room” in a Palladian “grande dame” of a building.

The menu was just perfect: “all the bistro classics but not so many you start to lose faith”. “Ragoût de boeuf à la bière is the best I’ve encountered in Scotland” while “coq au vin is splendid: a massive corn-fed supreme, skin all papery, dark and crisp, in a demi-glace to die for”. “Come hungry: the portions are huge.”


The Telegraph

The Devonshire

A little late to the party, perhaps, William Sitwell joined the chorus of critics
showering “unanimous praise” over this ultra-gastro pub just off Paccadilly

“The meat is exceptional, the wood-fired oven the largest such weapon I have ever seen, the decor classic and unobtrusive, the service skilled and smart and old-school,” he said, struggling to come up with something new to say. Then he had a brainwave: “even the loos are traditional, furnished with Thomas Crapper porcelain.”


The Daily Mail

Laghi’s, Birmingham

Tom Parker Bowles went gleefully off-piste in Edgbaston, where he discovered “yet another Brummie beauty” in the shape of an “old restaurant with a new chef”: “traditional”, family- run Italian Langhi’s now with Stu Deeley, winner of MasterChef: The Professionals in 2019,
running the kitchen.

“If the starters were mighty,” (and they were), “then the pasta is better still. Seriously, as good as you’ll find at the likes of The River Cafe, Riva, Luca and Locanda Locatelli. At a fraction of the price.”


The Independent

Tiella, Islington

Hannah Twiggs dropped into Dara Klein’s tiny and rustic Puglian-inspired
long-term residency at Islington’s Compton Arms, supposedly the model for
George Orwell’s ideal pub in a famous 1946 essay.

She thoroughly approved of the “small but mighty” menu, “the mightiest of
which is … a great hunk of fall-apart braised ox cheek, the slivers of meat as
silky as the risotto it sits on, salsa verde a welcome chop through the


Financial Times

Camille, Borough Market

Tim Hayward notched up another vote in favour of this “dream Parisian market café” brought to life in London’s own foodie HQ, asking: “why have so few, if any, done this before?”

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