Review of the reviews: “Joy Free” Jay Rayner sums up his visit to Farm Girl Café

Jay Rayner in The Observer reviewed Farm Girl Cafe, the third branch is now open in Chelsea for dinner [and it’s safe to say he DID NOT like it…]

“The menu at the Farm Girl Café features lots of initials. There’s V for Vegan, GF for Gluten Free, DF for Dairy Free…. There should be TF for Taste Free and JF for Joy Free.

“… a cartoon version of a farmhouse as imagined by someone who hasn’t been in one. 

“…fills quickly … with blonde-tressed Chelsea women just bubbling with intolerances”

“… globe artichoke… smells of a long Sunday afternoon in someone’s overheated suburban front room… cork floor tiling … somehow repurposed as food… vegan calamity… extraordinary display of dismal cooking”

“We do not stay for dessert, because we have suffered enough.”

“It’s not just the dismal cooking that pains me here. It’s the squandering of ingredients and of people’s time and the tiresome narrative of “wellness” with which it’s been flogged.”


Overindulgence Stockholm syndrome sets in for The Sunday Times’s Marina O’Loughlin on a visit to The Ritz…

“We choose the Menu Surprise — “six seasonal courses designed by Chef John Williams” — because, well, you’re a long time dead. The kitchen is almost certainly aware of the “new Nordic” or kaiseki or farm-to-table, but they’re not letting any of that get much in the way of doing their thang.

“If there’s an opportunity to boost that luxury quotient, it’ll be taken: golden-crusted fillet of turbot with slender white asparagus, romanesco and green onion has its innocence comprehensively sullied by a sauce of champagne and caviar: dramatic and voluptuous.

“The cumulative effect isn’t overkill, but a kind of overindulgence Stockholm syndrome. You wonder why the hell you weren’t born to all this.”


Grace Dent in The Guardian loves the unpretentious Red Lion in Soham, where the daily changing menu is a gentle cuddle, rather than a ‘journey’…

“…where [Brexit] leaves expensive ventures such as the restoration of the Red Lion is wildly debatable.

“I came to sip homemade sloe gin out of a tiny, delicate glass and eat smoked almonds in the cosy back bar.

“…pleasingly stodgy apple crumble with cream… Neal’s Yard cheeseboard with local chutneys. Why wouldn’t you come to the Red Lion?

“… if you’re an ardent food bore … don’t bother… just a big, friendly, stone-floored, tastefully hewn ye olde boozer with a local woman ferrying out plates.

“The daily changing menu is a gentle cuddle rather than a “journey”… Good hospitality doesn’t have to be pretentious, star-chasing or aimed at Londoners. I loved the Red Lion dearly.”


Another week, another attempt to fill the void left by Grace Dent at the ES Magazine. This time Frankie McCoy heads to the dining desert of Hampstead to review newcomer Cafe Hampstead…

“There are no good restaurants in Hampstead.

“… a new independent restaurant on Rosslyn Hill ‘inspired by the café culture in Tel Aviv’. I’m hoping for a Palomar 2.0.

“Café Hampstead was promising enough… and it was promisingly packed. That menu, though. It was just weird … there was a pizza section… Not just pizzas, but fusion pizzas.

“A bit pierce film and microwave… harmless gastropub fodder.

“It was the Israeli snacks that stood out… a lamb sausage roll pie … precisely as delicious as that sounds… the pizzas had me screaming for Brixton’s sourdough-flipping shipping containers. 

“This restaurant is dysfunctional.”


Lizzie Rivera in The Evening Standard delivers a five star rave for Hoxton’s Cub, from mixology master Ryan Chetiyawardana (AKA Mr Lyan) and Silo chef Doug McMaster…

“…it will change the way you think about dining out… the perfect destination for bad decision makers.

[the only choices you have to make are whether you’re a meat eater, vegan or vegetarian and whether you’re drinking alcohol or abstaining]

“King Oyster, smoked celeriac and kelp, which was the meatiest non-meat dish I’ve ever tasted.

“… design is modern luxe, with high and bright yellow leather banquette-style seating… a very cool living room-style feel and a menu that takes a couple of hours to get through… the food is from sustainable sources and the design is as eco-friendly as it gets.”


Michael Deacon in The Telegraph gives three stars to Farmer, Butcher, Chef in West Sussex: “I felt like a pasty office drone with a Debenhams manbag”…





Tom Parker Bowles in The Daily Mail suggests you skip the food and head straight for the bar at the new-look Kettners in Soho…

“Soho’s great survivor… original features have been buffed and polished and brought back from the dead… a studiedly expensive shabbiness to the place… lived-in Edwardiana.

“Mains are fine, if a little uninspiring. Kettner’s omelette… with good-quality smoked eel and salty shards of crisp bacon… beautifully wobbly inside, it’s Rowley Leigh level.

“A lunch, then, that doesn’t ever offend… occasionally even delights… but on the whole, unlike the room, it’s hardly memorable.”


As ever Giles Coren ponders at length (this time about why he visits restaurant incognito when ‘I could be whooping it up with hot chicks over free cocktails and just being a little nicer about the food than it deserves’) before going on to review the new Hankies in Marble Arch…

“I got there first and immediately regretted coming.

“Inside it is prettily done enough, with extravagant, architectural copper light fittings and very pretty glasses and crockery, but it was completely empty. Depressing.

“We loved the crispy duck with masala cashew nuts, mint and watermelon and a plummy-tasting dressing that folded into a hanky. 

“Then came the keema, an oval dish of juicy, rich, braised goat mince with ginger and tomato and a pickled egg on top that was lovely in a hanky but less so in the truffled naan with vintage cheddar, which was an abomination that must be put away and never again see the light of day. Unlike the beautiful chilli lamb chop in paprika and mustard oil, which was red and blackened and full of fatness.”


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