Review of the reviews

Here’s our weekly round-up of what the nation’s restaurant critics were writing about in the week up to 12th November 2023.


The Evening Standard

“A sophisticated, scintillating shot in the arm for London’s Thai scene.”

Jimi Famurewa reviewed Kolae, “a new Borough Market, southern-accented grill restaurant from the creators of som saa that feels, at last gasp, like one of the more confident, distinctive and utterly exhilarating openings of the year”.

“There is familiarity here, in its curry-slicked skewers and funky, fresh-pounded accompaniments” but there’s also “the feeling of being led into thrilling new territories of flavour and possibility”.

The menu is “the sort of tightly focused small plates affair that will probably anger starter-main-dessert absolutists” but – for Jimi – the “shareable, interactive little bites of things” added to the “sense of exploration, variety and a kind of heady, synapse-firing delight”.

“About as authentically brilliant as it gets.” (*****)


Thanks for the coverage of the release of Harden’s London Restaurants 2024, and the news that there are “now 54 venues in London where a couple could expect to receive a bill for at least £300 for their evening out”.


Also in The Standard, a round-up of where you can find a traditional Thanksgiving meal in London.


The Guardian

“The greatest joy here… is the sheer attention to detail.”

Grace Dent was in Brighton this week, dining at Bonsai Plant Kitchen, a “sort-of Japanese, Thai-influenced and deeply experimental restaurant” that’s serving up “absolutely bloody delicious” vegan fare, often using “reimagined meat”.

Bonsai “began life as the pop-up BangBao” and now inhabits “a cool, elegant, black building down a side street” with friendly staff and a “remarkable and unusual” menu of “things from the bincho grill, their “classic” bao buns, rices and sides, plus a few daily specials”.

“One of the biggest compliments I can give any restaurant is to say that it is like nowhere else. Bonsai is a place for vegans to take non-vegans and open their minds.”


The Observer

“Generous portions, huge flavours and a big heart.”

Jay Rayner was in Newcastle, reviewing The Small Canteen – “the name isn’t whimsy. It’s an accurate description” – a “bloody marvellous” place occupying “a flat-roofed, oblong block on a residential corner” of Sandyford.

“Inside, there is room for 15, in a way which some might call intimate, others an invasion of privacy.”

The Small Canteen “serves big food, in the classic bistro tradition; the dishes are rich and generous and designed to get you through the night and a few of the following days, too”.

In an unheard-of move, Jay pleads with chef patron Sam Betts to make his portions smaller and wine mark-ups bigger: “this is no way to do business. The Small Canteen is one of the good places. No. It’s one of the great places. It needs to survive.”


The Telegraph

William Sitwell was in Edinburgh at Heron, a “charming, well-lit and self-assured… gem” on Leith Walk.

“It’s a smart corner building… once an Indian place called The Raj, Heron opened in 2021 and received a Michelin star earlier this year.”

His “plate of the night” was unexpectedly an “intense, sweet, smooth and glorious” Hasselback potato that appeared as an “intercoursal dish”.

“Heron does make Leith proud.” (****)


The Times & The Sunday Times

Chitra Ramaswamy tried out vegan and veggie dishes at Glasgow’s Sylvan; “only fools say veggie food can’t be this good”.


Meanwhile, Giles Coren reviewed Notto, Phil Howard’s lockdown pasta delivery service that opened in permanent Mayfair premises in November 2022; “If this was my last supper, it wouldn’t be a bad one”.


The Independent

Hannah Twiggs investigated the soaring cost of eating out by trying all of the crazily priced dishes on offer to see if they are really worth it.

“The most bonkers offenders” included the £28 Wagyu beef sandwich and the £37 fish and chips at Harrods’ revamped food hall.


The Scotsman

Rosalind Erskine visited Killiecrankie House in Perthshire for the new Saturday set lunch to celebrate her mother’s 70th birthday; it was a “a home from home dining experience” with many “personalised touches” – “an ideal spot for a celebratory meal”.

The former B&B is “now home to five bedrooms, an 18 seater restaurant with open kitchen, a lounge and a cocktail bar” from Matilda Tsappis and her husband, ex-Leiths chef Tom. The pair ran a London supper club (Elia) before moving here.

Dishes on the menu are playful, “nostalgic”, “intriguing” and “picture perfect”. After dessert, they were served irn bru gummies and toffees with edible wrappers – we’re seriously considering a birthday meal of our own there! (9/10)


Gaby Soutar was in Leith at Kitchen Table from the bakery chain Twelve Triangles, “more of a sit-in venture” than their other shops. The “menu of large or small plates” includes Gaby’s “dream toastie, with Baron Bigod Brie, fig chutney, pecan conserve and pickles”.

“This is the kitchen table that I want to sit around all season.” (9/10)


And also…

Tom Parker Bowles in The Mail online was in Aberdeen at Sea Salt + Sole by the train station in Dyce; he rated it as “a salt-of-the-earth Scottish chippie worthy of Rick Stein – just much cheaper”.


In The Financial Times, an article on the trend for restaurants to open ‘mini me’ versions, like the recently opened Bob Bob Bébé.


Bristol Live highlighted neighbourhood spot Bulrush as one of the most “cost conscious” in the latest guide from the tyre men.


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