Harden’s review of the reviews

⦿ Marina O’Loughlin of The Guardian reviewed Lorne 7/10 in Victoria, which lived up to the impressive CV of its founding partners, Katie Exton (sommelier and front of house) and Peter Hall (chef), who have worked at the Square, the River Cafe, Chez Bruce, Brawn and San Francisco’s celebrated Benu.

It’s the beef short rib that would make me a devotee. As this humble cut arrives at the table, the inches-thick slab trembles and jiggles on its bone more like panna cotta than a fibrous chunk of protein.

“I’ve no idea how many hours they’ve cooked it for (in a lot of good wine) but it has been denatured in the best possible way, slumping under the fork into a joyful mess of fat-basted tenderness. There’s pear for crisp bite, just-cooked cavolo nero for persuasive contrast, onion vinaigrette for sultry sweet-sourness. This is the cure to whatever ails you, comfort and contentment on the plate.”

⦿ Jay Rayner of the Observer visited Le Cinq at the George V Hotel, a “classic Parisian gastro-palace“, hoping to experience “moments of joy and bliss, of the sort only stupid amounts of cash can buy” at £520 for two, with “modest” wines. He was, to put it mildly, stunningly disappointed.

“In terms of value for money and expectation Le Cinq supplied by far the worst restaurant experience I have endured in my 18 years in this job. This, it must be said, is an achievement of sorts.”

“A main of pigeon is requested medium, but served so pink it just might fly again given a few volts. It comes with brutally acidic Japanese pear and flavourless watercress purée. A heap of couscous is mined with a tiny portion of lamb for €95. Like the watercress purée, it tastes of little. It comes with gummy purées, unpleasant spherifications of lamb stock and mushy, one-note “merguez” sausages which are nothing of the sort. A sad, over-reduced sauce coagulates on the plate.”

⦿ Ben Norum of the Evening Standard reviewed The Game Bird at The Stafford in St James’s, which he welcomed as a rare hotel dining room that eschews French cuisine.

“James Durrant’s menu reimagines British classics in often playful ways — and is not as game-focused as the name might have you believe. One highlight is the restaurant’s selection of cured salmon. There are a handful of different varieties available, ranging from classic London Cure to a sweet and smoky Balvenie-marinated, oak-smoked number. The best bit is that it’s served straight from the restaurant’s salmon trolley — what do you mean you don’t have one of those at home — with a big array of condiments ranging from chopped egg yolk to pickles and mustard.”

“There can be only one highlight, however: a decadent chicken Kiev. Yep, that’s right. A chicken Kiev like your Mum used to buy from Iceland. Only it’s not like that at all. Made with Norfolk black chicken, carefully cooked so as to be supremely juicy, stuffed with as much truffle-laced butter as its cavity can hold, breadcrumbed and fried until crisp, it is a triumph of both engineering and flavour.”

⦿ In ES magazine, Grace Dent reviewed Brasserie Zédel 4/5 off Piccadilly Circus, a “gargantuan, French, reasonably-for-London priced, art deco basement brasserie [that] brims with joie de vivre”.

“Admittedly Zédel’s food is in parts excellent and in others so-so. The trick is to treat Zédel like an ongoing investigation, revisiting time and again, chucking yourself upon its hospitality until you nail the perfect dinner.”

“The perfectly decent steak haché with sauce au poivre et frites is a burger without bread, but said with an accent that sounds like something Claude Bosi might serve at Bibendum. Eat it with a large glass of Pinot Noir 2015 plus a basket of french bread and a pat of butter you really didn’t mean to hoover up, plus a vow to be up early doing squats. There’s a great Comté for afters. The tarte tatin is sticky and appealing.”

⦿ In Time Out, Tania Ballantine was wowed by Farang 4/5, chef Seb Holmes’s Thai residency (until July) in a Highbury former Italian.

“Farang serves some of the most tastebud-smashing Thai food that north London has seen in years. Possibly ever.” 

“They’re an ingenious lot. To make the beef curry, they marinate a huge hunk of beef cheek, then slow-cook it for six hours in the old pizza oven. What’s not to love about that? The wobbly, spoon-soft meat then simmers in a rich, aromatic base, all coconut and spice. End result? Depth, intensity and alternating waves of heat, salt and sweet.”

⦿ Tim Hayward of the FT reviewed Breddos, a former street tacos joint gone permanent in Clerkenwell, which he “loved for its complete inability to understand the rules”. 

“Kung Pao pork belly can be an unadventurous order in a Chinese restaurant. Replace some of the chilli heat with Sichuan pepper, bird’s eye chilli and a topping of spring onion and you have … well, I’m not sure. It’s not in the Mexican textbook but now it’s too late to kiss Ava Gardner, it might be the most interesting thing that will ever pass my lips.”

“Chilmole is a Yucatan speciality made from dried chillies, burned almost to ash and then ground into a black sauce, but topped with fresh shredded Brixham crabmeat, moist, generous and clearly brought from the boat at life-threatening speeds. Bewildering, and close to genius.”

⦿ In the Mail on Sunday, Tom Parker Bowles enjoyed lunch at Hai Cenato 4/5, Jason Atherton’s new Italian place in Victoria.

“Atherton is a brilliant chef and an equally inspired restaurateur. He now has more restaurants than his mentor, Gordon Ramsay, which must be sweet, as they’re not exactly the closest of friends.”

“We eat soft octopus with gloriously caramelised edges, sitting on soft lentils with a verdant whack of fresh pesto. Comfort and class, a dish where winter slides into spring. Sea bass crudo is well cut and splendidly fresh, chunks of blood orange adding sharp sweet allure. It’s a light, lithe dish, beautifully made. Campenelle pasta, shaped liked chanterelle mushrooms, is studded with fat cockles and clams. There’s a very Sicilian crunch from fried breadcrumbs, and a bracing jolt of lemon. Deeply satisfying.”

⦿ Giles Coren of The Times reviewed two Soho restaurants he had missed, starting with Bo Drake 4/10, a Korean-Mexican barbecue joint featuring the slow-cooked meat with lots of smoke that he enjoys.

“But it was awful. Why?”

“Would all the new barbecue food be this bad if you looked at it sober and alone on a Monday morning?”  

⦿ Nearby Hoppers, though, lived up to its brilliant reviews and Coren’s high expectations.

“The food is spectacular. My goat roti was a 6in disc of wonderfully buttery pastry full of ground spiced goat. Hot, spicy, rich, faintly floral. Eye-rollingly special.”

⦿ In the Sunday Times, Lisa Markwell reviewed Ferdi 3/5, the Mayfair “spin-off from a Parisian place where the supermodels and celebrities go“.

“We wonder at tomato bread with olive oil for £7 (at Barrafina, where this dish is an art form, its costs £3.80).”

“The portions are all doll’s house-sized… but taste good nonetheless. But if you want fries with your burger (and who wouldn’t?), you’ll pay another £6 for them. Perhaps I’m missing the point: this is about the scene, not the food.”

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