Harden’s review of the reviews

Marina O’Laughlin’s idea of hell is Victoria’s new Nova development, and although Stoke House may not be its most hellish corner you’d still need a pitchfork to the Guardian’s restaurant critic anywhere near it again…

“The music is deafening, the place full to the rafters: my hell doesn’t seem to be other people’s. The menu makes a song and dance about being “pocket-friendly”, but we manage, with two cocktails each, no wine and no dessert, to ramp up more than a ton of a bill. The staff are lovely despite it being open from breakfast to fall-down; the cocktails are decent. Ach, who am I kidding? To get me near the place again, I’d need to be pitchforked.”

Its ‘wellness shtick’ will annoy the hell out of many, but Grace Dent at ES Magazine is a fan of Maple & King’s healthy eating offering…

“For me, of late, only Pret is really nailing the on-the-go salad game. I am a slave to its teriyaki salmon salad with a cup of green tea. The new veggie boxes stuffed with greens, edamame and chipotle chickpeas are a godsend. The growing Maple & Co group, first in Fitzrovia (Maple & Fitz) and now in King’s Cross, clearly aims to have a good punch at this market. At lunch, there are half a dozen good, ambitious salads, like the Bi Bim Bap which is shredded carrots, courgette, mushrooms, pickled cucumber, spring onions, toasted sesame seeds, red and brown rice, and spicy Korean gochujang dressing. The Miso Healthy comes packed with vermicelli noodles and a miso star anise dressing. The Mexican Stand-off is a glorious bowl of bulgur wheat with black beans and a coriander-lime dressing. Choose a salad then add a protein, if one desires, such as tahini chicken, halloumi with herbs, poached eggs or five-spiced tofu. There’s a soup called Take My Broth Away and myriad cold-pressed juices with things like ‘anti-inflammatory’ and ‘detoxifying’ written beside them as their ostensible aim.”

Though the food is excellent at Islington’s new Westerns Laundry, The Observer’s Jay Rayner can’t help but feel the overpriced wines spoil the experience…

“Yeah, I know; I keep banging on about this. One day I might look back at the summer of 2017 as the time when ideologically driven wine heads kept writing overpriced lists in the service of some bizarre ideology, and I might even feel nostalgic. But with Westerns Laundry the problem is particularly acute. The food – small sharing plates, a bit of British, a touch of Spanish – is bright and light, well-executed and well-priced. Small plates are £7 or so; the most expensive dish, a substantial piece of turbot, is £19. And then along comes the wine list, to make it just that bit more expensive both than it deserves to be and you want it to be. “That’s why we serve everything by the glass,” the waiter said, cheerfully. How generous of you. We might have priced you out of a whole bottle, but you can still have a glass. Cheers.”

Over at the Telegraph Matthew Bailey heads out of London to Chew Magna’s wonderful gastropub The Pony & Trap

“Entering the 200-year-old pub, we were led through a reassuring interior of lowish ceilings, nooks, crannies and snug banquettes before arriving at an open oak-beamed back room looking out over that view.  The atmosphere was relaxed and welcoming. Service was friendly, attentive and knowledgeable, while the soundtrack to our meal veered wildly yet pleasingly from indie favourites Bon Iver and Sigur Rós to Dire Straits.

What can be home-made, is: complementary handmade crisps arrived with sour cream and chives; sourdough bread came with sea-salt-sprinkled butter, churned right here.”

And at the Times Giles Coren says he would rather get in a fight with the staff at London’s Ginza Onodera than spend his own money for ‘loveless dross’…

“After two decent cocktails (at £17 a pop) it was mostly downhill. There was a yellowtail carpaccio special (£15) that they kind of forced on us and brought very quickly, and which was drenched in truffle oil that stank the place out, and a seaweed salad (£15) with far too much fresh tofu and not enough acidity in the dressing. It wasn’t quite inedible, but wasn’t a patch on the one at my local, Jin Kichi opposite Hampstead Tube station.

“My bill was £276.75, which would have been fine for a great Japanese meal but was just stupid for this loveless dross. If I were a normal person, paying with my own money, I would either have been really miserable or refused to pay and got into a massive fight.”

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