Harden’s review of the reviews

⦿  The Observer’s Jay Rayner reviewed The Salt Room, Brighton, overlooking the beach from the unpromising ground floor of the Hilton Metropole.

“Good things are sometimes found where you least expect them, and this restaurant is a very good thing indeed.”

“Most pleasing of the starters is the fish soup. A bowl arrives containing a soft, long-cooked octopus tentacle, a piece of seared mackerel, a splodge of bright orange, garlicky rouille, another of coal-black squid ink and leaves of toasted seaweed. The hot fish soup, with a ripe tomato and shellfish base, is poured over the top to meet the ingredients. It becomes so very much more than itself. It’s an awful lot of excitement for £7.50. Main courses are just as ambitious.”

“Desserts include something called the Taste of the Pier at £18 for two… obviously an exercise in whimsy [but] also a masterclass in technique.”

⦿ In The Guardian, Marina O’Laughlin reviewed Soho Umbrian old-timer Vasco & Piero’s Pavilion 8/10, to find out why, almost 50 years on, it is “still rammed, service after service”. 

“Pasta is made in-house daily: tagliatelle, yolk-yellow and dressed with a judicious amount of rich, vinous, slow-cooked beef and pork ragú; daringly al dente orecchiette, the chewy little ears laden with a forest’s-worth of wild mushrooms and just a lick of cream to pull the whole dish together.

“Generosity, too: we query if our starter portions of pasta have been mistakenly served in main-course sizes. They haven’t. Umbrian truffles feature in season: I love the posh-prole play of floury borlotti beans under a fat, rough Tuscan sausage stuffed with pecorino, wrapped in pancetta and roasted before being anointed with black truffle butter.”

⦿ Fay Maschler of The Evening Standard reviewed La Dame de Pic 3/5, the new London outpost near Tower Hill of grand French chef Anne-Sophie Pic’s empire.

“The surroundings are astounding, the route to the … restaurant a magical stroll along grey marble floors beside tall white walls washed with light, creating seemingly evanescent bas-reliefs.”

” Ingredients involved in the main courses might send you scurrying to Google. Themes and memes emerge which include a predilection for the flavours of peppers, pine, citrus and anise. Exhilarating as this sounds, the dishes we try are curiously muted and consequently disappointing. “

“Royal sea bream (dorade?) bears scant evidence of its marinade, which allegedly includes Tasmanian pepper and Meyer lemon and the Amabuki sake ice-cream and Petrossian caviar garnish make it seem like a woman self-consciously wearing labels rather than one just dressed well.” 

⦿ Her Standard colleague Ben Norum reviewed Hai Cenato in Victoria, “the ninth London restaurant Jason Atherton has opened in six years”. 

“Whatever you do, make you sure order the pheasant risotto which sings with rich, earthy stock. Deep, meaty flavours also abound in an aged beef bolognese served with corzetti (rounds of pasta) and lavished with a sage burnt butter. A small plate of grilled octopus and squid is another winner thanks to tender flesh, a punchy green chilli salsa and more super stock — this time used to braise lentils in.”

“Jason Atherton has done it again. [It’s] a high-octane Italian with cooking that’s less casual than the setting.”

⦿ Grace Dent of ES magazine reviewed Bleecker Burger 1/5 in Victoria, which – far from being a good choice after a Valentine’s Day film – would be “a memorable place to split up”.

“It’s like a Five Guys if three of them ran away and the remaining two battled on in a state of depression. That’s acceptable as it’s just a burger joint, except this one charges £32.50 for burgers, fries and drinks for two.”

⦿ In the Mail on Sunday, Tom Parker Bowles review Kyoto Kitchen in Winchester 4/5, where he enjoyed “a lunch of rare grace and poise”.

“Tataki to start, good quality beef fillet, marinated in soy, sake and mirin, the outsides swiftly seared. Served with a delicately acidic ponzu dip, thick with gentle garlic. Tempura next, serious, grown-up tempura, succulent prawns clad in elegant tatters of batter, and fried with a truly expert hand.”

⦿ Tim Hayward of the Financial Times visited the latest star of the booming Bristol food scene, Shop 3 Bistro in Clifton, run by New Zealand chef Stephen Gilchrist and his West Country partner, Kathryn Curtis.

The starter fish soup was a masterful local interpretation of a bourride, with hefty chunks of fish and a rich broth.”

“The service was some of the most charming, unaffected and professional I’ve experienced in too long a time.”

⦿ In the Sunday Times, Sophie Heawood reviewed the Laughing Heart 4/5 in Hackney, which she found “really is a chefs’ restaurant. They make very fine food, created to demonstrate exactitude and precision”.

“A ballan wrasse crudo (raw fish like sashimi, flavoured here with Amalfi lemon and shallots) tasted so fresh it must have been fished and iced that morning”.

“Dorset mussels were the most perfect little pals, naked and pert as babies’ bums, bathing in an almost and sea-lettuce milk. They looked and tasted like a holiday.” 

⦿ Giles Coren of The Times visited Banya No 1 in Shoreditch for a Russian steambath with vodka, beer and snacks.

“I felt AMAZING and charged back into the bar for a couple of vodkas and a plateful of the pork-filled pelmeni. They were bland, heavy, piggy and absolutely delicious. I emptied a ton of them into my now very smooth belly and headed off to be exfoliated in a different way, this time with honey and salt that was rubbed hard into my body by a muscly fellow.”

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