Review of the reviews

Our weekly summary of what the national and local restaurant critics were writing about in the week ending 11 December 2022.


The Times

“I’m so thrilled with it that I’ve just booked a table for 20 for the Times Comment Christmas dinner.”

Giles Coren wasn’t reviewing Bouchon Racine, he just wanted to pop in during the soft opening to check it out. “All sorts of fun foodie people were there and, oh, it is all so exciting.”

What’s all the fuss about? Henry Harris (“may his name be whispered as a blessing wherever a good, coarse pâté is plonked on a well-dressed wooden table with a fresh baguette and a glass of beaujolais”) has just opened a bouchon – Giles roughly translates this as “Small Restaurant above a Pub” – above a Clerkenwell pub.

There have been a few other revivals, “but this time he’s here to stay, personally and totally, just he, himself and him (and a couple of others…), with 100 per cent commitment and he really, really means it”.

Suprisingly, especially at lunch, “it is quite possible to hop lightly around the menu and get out for the sort of money I’ve been whanging on about on my cost-of-living-crisis jag these past few months” – “the chicken liver pâté is being given away” but you’ll need to share “the best, yellowest, nuttiest crème caramel in England” to squeeze in under £40 without booze.

“It’s not Racine all over again but Racine modernised, Racine 2.0 – the menu and mentality transferred to a working London district, a modern village.” (28/30)


The Evening Standard

“Quietly remarkable.”

Jimi Famurewa wasn’t expecting to find anywhere remotely “grounded, soulful and fully realised” in Nine Elms, just up the road from the “gleaming airport mega mall of already-ubiquitous brands, suspicious security guards, and acres of “coming soon” hoardings” that is Battersea Power Station 2.0.

But there, “opposite the shimmering fortress of the US Embassy building”, he discovered Evernight, “the brainchild of chefs Lynus Lim and Chase Lovecky” and it’s “a dim-lit slice of careful Japanese cool and beauty” – “that it is also what feels like London’s gazillionth spin on an izakaya only makes this all the more impressive”.

“Izayaka food is kind of a deliberate Jive Bunny megamix of varied Japanese dining styles, but there is a processional logic to the elements” – following the established pattern (“pickles, raw fish, fried things, a vast rice dish”) will “all amount to a profound emotional crescendo, and the magical feeling of being sated rather than stuffed”.

“Nine Elms still doesn’t make much sense. But Evernight has put it firmly on the capital’s culinary map.” (*****)


Also in The Standard, another festive collection of round-ups, including eight restaurants wher you can have an alternative Christmas dinner, “from West African treats to a new pub without a roast potato in sight”; the best Christmas Day meal kits “from Tom Kerridge to the Roux family” and the restaurants launching a £15 festive menu (Bubala, Humble Chicken and Coal Rooms).


The Guardian

Grace Dent ventured to “quaint, quirky, charming” Lewes in East Sussex, where she dined at Fork, “a small neighbourhood restaurant with a heart that is bursting with ambition”.

It’s “a chef-led independent restaurant with modern aspirations: it’s fancy and imaginative, rather than hearty.” Tables in the “small and intimate” rooms are quite close together (“your neighbour’s elbows may well be in your soup”), the “team are enthusiastic and just the right level of earnest, and the clientele are locals”.

“This is the sort of place I dearly want to succeed, and times are perilous right now for restaurants, so if you can support places such as Fork, please show willing.”


The Observer

“Just so damn lovely.”

Greek Cypriot food for Jay Rayner this week, and a trip to a “mostly residential street” in Maida Vale to review Tsiakkos & Charcoal, which “reminds me of my sun-kissed time Greek island hopping so many years ago. It is the heavy waft of charcoal smoke and the encouraging top note of rendering fat”.

“There is no signage on the turquoise frontage… If the door is ajar, you may see a cluttered desk against the wall just inside… Do not be put off. Go inside. Walk past the front room’s open kitchen with its charcoal grill, tended by a couple of bearded men, to the half wood-panelled dining room at the back.”

He’d not heard of the place before Josh Katz of Berber and Q tipped it as his favourite cheap eats spot in an Evening Standard article, saying “It feels like you’re eating inside somebody’s home… The food is much like the restaurant: simple, rustic and packed full of charm and character”.

Jay didn’t have much more to add, other than not apologising for revealing what must be many people’s favourite hidden gem: “journalists aren’t in the business of keeping secrets. We’re in the business of telling you things you ought to know. Tsiakkos & Charcoal is one of them.”


The Times

“An excellent addition to the street, the city and the times.”

Chitra Ramaswamy watched the crowds hedaing to the panto at Kings in Glasgow while lunching at Roya, the “brand new restaurant by Mehrab Fakouri, the talent behind Saffron by Paradise, which is among the best restaurants I’ve eaten in this year”.

“If baba ghanoush is the yardstick by which to judge Middle Eastern restaurants… we’re on to a winner.” There’s a hint of “the Ottolenghi effect” with a multitude of regional cuisines on the menu, but in “Scotland’s biggest, most diverse city… there’s always room for more”.

It’s worth mentioning that “dessert is an unexpected banger” if you’re planning a visit: the “baklava ice-cream sandwich… turns out to be a divine merging of all the good things: warm pastry, cold vanilla ice cream, nuts, honey, dates”.


The Telegraph

“The borsch was a revelation of the ‘I like green eggs and ham!’ variety.”

William Sitwell reviewed “Ukranian Neo Bistro” Mriya, “on a nondescript stretch of London’s Old Brompton Road”.

It’s staffed by “some of those who have fled that vast East European country after the Russian invasion earlier this year” and found each other on social media, and led by celebrity chef Yurii Kovryzhenko and his partner, Olga Tsybytovska, who were stranded in the UK when the invasion began.

William enjoyed the “fine, unfancy normality about the place” – normality which is a “a dream for UKranians right now. Book a table and make sure this dream continues”. (****)


The Independent

“Sparks are flying.”

Sean Russell dined at Ekstedt at The Yard a year after it opened, and found Niklas Ekstedt’s cooking to be “an eclectic mix of flavours words can’t quite describe”.

Yes, it is “expensive. It’s not the sort of place you pop into for a quick bite to eat”. But he’d recommend for that “a once-a-year, if that, kind of experience” that’s “wonderful”.


The Scotsman

Following on from her visit to the Glasgow branch of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society last week, Rosalind Erskine stayed on the whisky theme with a trip to the year-old Johnnie Walker Princes Street, where she had lunch in their 1820 Rooftop Bar.

“It’s hard to not be wowed by the complete transformation of the former House of Fraser building, which now houses a bright and shiny shop, events space and two bars – including the 1820 rooftop bar that has beautiful views of the castle.”

Her Scotsman colleague Gaby Soutar reviewed 1820 on opening and described it as “a bit like an Eighties vision of the future, with neon strip-lights”. Not much has changed to the decor, but the music has moved on a decade and the menu has evolved, and Rosalind has no complaints.

“From the service to the finishing touches… it’s clear to see that while whisky is at the heart of this venue, it doesn’t overshadow the food.”


And also…  

For The FT Magazine, Tim Hayward was at The Plimsoll in Finsbury Park (“the setting leaves something to be desired, but don’t let that put you off”) where he had “the most spectacular, inventive, beautifully crafted food”.


The Bristol Post reported on the re-opening of the original Woky Ko branch in Wapping Wharf, which will now be known as Daily Noodles. All three Woky Ko outlets were closed last month by owner Larkin Cen, who is aiming for the new concept to offer more “simple, “back-to-basics” dishes”.

Also in The Bristol Post, news of The Metropolitan, a new Clifton restaurant serving brunch all day and Asian-inspired dishes in the evening.


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