Harden’s review of the reviews

⦿ The Observer’s Jay Rayner found himself in heaven at Temper, barbecue specialist Neil Rankin’s “shot at the big time in Soho, with big London money, and bravado and punch“.

Temper is brilliant. I love the fact that you can smell the wood smoke and the rendering meat from the door. I love the way that smell stays in your hair. I adore the theatre of the fire pit, the glowing embers and the flash and dance of sparks, and the way they pay so much attention to the roasting joints.

⦿ Giles Coren of The Times also reviewed Temper, and agreed with Rayner in every particular apart – strangely – from the smoke. Praising the “magnificent extraction“, he reports that “our clothes do not smell when we get home”.

“Staggering place. Wonderful eating. One of those rare evenings where you stuff yourself to the nuts, turn nothing down, swallow everything that’s offered and then fall back into a taxi afterwards, not regretting a single mouthful.”

⦿ Grace Dent of ES magazine was the third critic wowed by grilled meat, this time at Smokestak 5/5 in Shoreditch – and she voted with Rayner on the joys of taking the smokey aroma home afterwards.

Chivvying in “the era of the grown-up barbecue,” she writes, “Smokestak is further evidence of the infeasibility of my ever quitting London”.

“Here is one of the openings of 2016. It serves heaven-bound sweet buns filled with impossibly good brisket littered with pickled red peppers. And crispy ox cheek croquettes with puddles of chipotle-esque mayo. And crispy pig jowl on toasted challah with an alluring lavender kick. Or a warm, dark mess of girolles on beef-dripping toast.”

⦿ Marina O’Laughlin of The Guardian compared two mid-range burger chains frequented by teens in a double review of Shake Shack and Five Guys both 5/10, both of which had “lovely” staff, although the food was less so.

Shake Shack: “The burgers are surprisingly tiny and weaselly for the price. The meat is uniformly grey, the buns damp and the taste mostly grill.”

Five Guys: “The dog is suave and smoky, its skin popping under the teeth; we’ve chosen jalapeño and onions on top and, with its pappy, sweet bun, it’s like a cinema hotdog with delusions of presidency.”

⦿ In the Evening Standard, Fay Maschler reviewed Luca 3/5, the new restaurant in Farringdon from the Clove Club team, where she questioned the use of British ingredients in Italian cuisine.

“Because Italian cooking is such a familiar favourite from pasta and pizza onwards there is an assumption that it is a doddle to produce. ‘Britalian’, the gawky word that has been bandied about by its founders to describe the approach at Luca, sadly proves that, like Brexit, it is not that easy.”

“The best dishes tried are picked from the bar menu. It is to that part of the operation I’ll be returning. “

⦿ Michael Deacon of The Telegraph 7.12.16 reviewed Victuals & Co 4/5 in Deal, Kent, which he found “friendly, welcoming, unassuming, and warm as a burrow”.

Victuals & Co is not remotely revolutionary. It has no pretensions. It does not mess about. It just serves simple food, and serves it well.”

⦿ His Telegraph colleague Kathryn Flett ventured along the coast to The Empire Room in The Royal Harbour Hotel 4/5 in Ramsgate, where she thoroughly enjoyed a “no-nonsense and all-but-faultless set lunch”

The restaurant “radiates a sort of ‘Brit-hygge’: trad, cosy, welcoming, perfectly wintry-slash-Christmassy and entirely conducive to kicking back with a Whitstable Bay beer or two.”

⦿ In the Sunday Times, Lisa Markwell reviewed Stovell’s 3/5 in Chobham, Surrey, where she found British fine dining in mostly harmonious combination with chef-patron Fernando Stovell’s Mexican heritage.

“The menu is part country classics – game terrine, scallops, beef wellington – part outré Latino, with jicama, ‘gordita’ (a pastry) of crab meat, Veracruzana pollock”.

“Will Brex-Mex take off as a concept? Will Stovell’s win its race for a Michelin star? Don’t bet against the Surrey with the (Mexican) Fringe on Top.” 


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