Here’s our regular round-up of what the nation’s restaurant critics were writing about in the week up to 13th August 2023.
“Two people at the top of their game. Near perfection.”
Chitra Ramaswamy awarded what we believe to be her first 10/10 across the board this week, dining at Eòrna, a “tiny-in-numbers, titanic-in-ambition fine-dining restaurant” in Edinburgh’s Stockbridge that served up “one of my most memorable dining experiences”.
Owned and run by just two people – chef Brian Grigor and sommelier Glen Montgomery – with a simple concept of “a single 12-cover chef’s table with a single dinner service each night”, the “double act” serves up “a deeply sensory experience, a thrill and, at times, a total laugh”.
“It’s a bit of a thing now: chef’s tables, communal dining… an evolving seasonal tasting menu… just one seating for dinner. Eòrna, though, does it with complete integrity and a level of ease and sophistication that comes only with years of experience and hard graft.” (30/30)
The Evening Standard
“No point denying Farringdon is all foodie again: there’s Bouchon Racine and Brutto down the road; Club Gascon and St Barts holding up the Michelin end” and now this place has opened, “owned and operated by the Landsberg family”. Meat comes from their “600 acre farm up in Argyll”, seafood from their “Loch Fyne oyster farm” and wine from their “vineyard in Provence”.
The menu is “all nose-to-tail stuff, elaborate touches on the simplest dishes” and there’s apparently a refreshing “reluctance to ripping off diners”; the only gripe David had was the décor and odd muzak: “vibes cannot have been high on the agenda”.
“Origin is, for all intents and purposes, the Square Mile’s Chez Bruce, and that is a very, very good thing indeed.” (****)
Also in The Standard, Josh Barrie on the rise of Croydon as a foodie destination in the wake of Birch’s opening (with restaurants Elodie and Vervain run by ex-Pensons chef Lee Westcott), plus a round-up of London’s best rooftop restaurants to enjoy now that summer might be back, “from sky-high seafood to more casual south-London plates”.
“Sometimes the sheer likability of a place trumps everything.”
Jay Rayner was in Wrexham to record BBC Radio 4’s Kitchen Cabinet, and dined with the team at Lisbon Tapas, where he had the “sense of a place that is genuinely pleased to see you, and wants you to have a nice time”.
After over a decade of recording all over the UK, and always being in charge of where to eat, Jay (now) sees this as “a chance to snuffle out restaurant joys which might otherwise not find their way into a column like this”.
Here, for a mere £25 a head, the “twinkly-eyed” waiter delivered “roughly 75% of the small plates” on the menu, covering all the usuals including seafood. (“The Portuguese are good at seafood. They don’t muck about with it.”)
“It’s as if the Famous Five have gone into hospitality and asked Peter Rabbit and Mrs Tiggy-winkle to run the cottage garden: a quintessentially English, picture-book, farm-to-plate experience.”
There’s a bakery and deli (plus a “gift shop full of dangerously lovely things” and lots of countrified workshops), but Grace ate in the “more formal restaurant, where chef Hugo Harrison serves a short, set-lunch menu” that’s “rather delightful”.
“Everything was fresh, wonderfully sourced and delicious” but portions were on the meagre side (“I may have eaten my emergency car Mars bar on the way home”).
“It feels like early days at Malverleys, which is tentatively making steps to be a top-class, cost-effective restaurant producing lovely food from less pricey items.”
William Sitwell was in south-east Cornwall at the long-awaited Crocadon, the 120-acre farm (with a restaurant, bakery, microbrewery, pottery etc) where “the distance from farm to fork is measured in mere yards”.
Owner Dan Cox is following the “ethos championed by, among others, Simon Rogan’s celebrated Lake District establishment L’Enclume”; there’s smoking, fermenting, tasting menus, small plates and “Noma-like” interiors. “All these influences converge at Crocadon, then Dan Cox ups the ante.”
“I can honestly say this was a collection of magnificent, original and quite breathtaking food.” (*****)
Kate Ng was in Rye, “one of my happy places”, celebrating the fact that the charming town finally has “a Nice Restaurant” again (Tuscan Kitchen closed post-Covid)
The Union Rye, in a building that dates from 1401, was taken over by Rajh Siva (who also runs The Plough near Winchelsea), is a “rustic, relaxed space with cosy open fireplaces” and a “warm and welcoming restaurant… headed by chef Ben Dafforn, previously of J Sheekey and Simpsons on the Strand”.
“Dishes are bright and refreshing, but comforting at the same time. I highly recommend going with a group of family or friends so you can order plenty.”
Rosalind Erskine visited The Gardener in Glasgow, one of a handful of Ashton Lane properties still owned by “the G1 Group, now known as The Scotsman Ltd” (no relation).
They offer a discount on your meal if you have tickets for the cinema next door, but even that wouldn’t entice her back; the cocktails were good, but the small plate food was bland and served so slowly she missed the beginning of the film. (9/20)
The menu is “short and succinct – with pasta featuring heavily” and portions were generous enough to take leftovers home for lunch the next day. (14/20)
In The FT Magazine, Tim Hayward shared his opinion on “why a minimalist menu can ruin my meal… Anticipation is a huge part of the restaurant experience – but chefs don’t seem to care”.