Review of the reviews

Here’s our weekly round-up of what the nation’s restaurant critics were writing about up to 14th January 2024.


The Evening Standard

David Ellis grumbled about the travel time to the new permanent Clapton location of chef Abby Lee’s Mambow, but even with a “bad beginning” (“queuing has not been planned for” and there was a “50-minute wait for starters”) his review “soon gave way to love” like the best of enemies-to-lovers romantic comedies.

“The sense of the place is fun” with a “menu where spice is layered for detail, not distraction”.

Lee “has achieved a triumph”; this is a “Malaysian masterpiece undeniably worth the schlep”. (****)


Also in The Standard, a round-up of London’s best French restaurants, “from L’Escargot to Les 2 Garcons” and “from three-Michelin-starred temples of haute cuisine to neighbourhood bistros”; plus the annual list of where to find “haggis and bagpipes, cranachan and ceilidh” for celebrating Burns Night on January 25th.


The Observer

“A thigh-slapping, salt and chilli-boosted Chinese restaurant.”

Jay Rayner reviewed The Hunan Man, recently opened near Goodge Street, after drooling over images of the dishes online.

“Happily, the dishes coming out of the kitchen here, run by veteran Hunanese chef, JianRen Zhou, look just as good on the white-clothed tables as they do in the pictures.”

The “shiny, glossy, fragrant things” draw influence from several provinces, but “I quickly find such distinctions fading from view. I simply get swept up in the drama”. On the waitress’s suggestion, Jay ordered “the diced chicken with chilli peppers… It is the best version of Chongqing chicken I have ever had the good fortune to try… deep-fried until shatteringly crisp”.

It’s not for the faint-hearted; there are dishes of pig intestines (“offered three ways”) and one dusck dish that comes “complete with head and bill”.

“The menu has uncompromising depths that need to be explored… This place needs multiple willing mouths. It needs a gang. Find some friends.”


The Guardian

“Too tongue-in-cheek silly to get mad at.”

Grace Dent tried out the “ridiculous” and “glitzy” new Bébé Bob in Golden Square and described it as “a rotisserie restaurant wearing a fur coat and Rigby & Peller knickers”.

It’s a “pared-down spin-off from the nearby well-established Bob Bob Ricard” and doesn’t let the family down; the menu offers a choice of chicken (Vendée) or chicken (Landaise), like a “boss-level KFC”, while the “list of starters could easily be a paean to Margo from The Good Life entertaining Mrs Dooms-Patterson.”


The Telegraph

“The best thing to come out of Peru since Paddington.”

William Sitwell reviewed The Llama Inn, the Hoxton hotel sibling to “Erik Ramirez’s famed New York eatery” and declared it “simply sensational”.

The new spot takes over the “beautifully bright, light and airy” terrace on the seventh floor, has “breezy, well-versed service and professional intent”.

From the Peruvian “street food made posh” starters to the “successful saucy creativity” and the great work with cabbage and ceviche (“I’m a convert”), Wiliam was impressed. (*****)


The Times & The Sunday Times

One swing and two misses in The Times this week: Chitra Ramaswamy reviewed The Radhuni, “on the high street of a Midlothian commuter town on Edinburgh’s outskirts” which has been declared ‘the UK’s best curry house’.


Giles Coren discussed the various luxury venues that he gets sent information about, and reviewed Canton Blue at The Peninsula, where “the food doesn’t pass muster”.


Charlotte Ivers tried out The Spence, the main restaurant at Gleneagles Townhouse that’s open to the public: “Even American tourists deserve better than this”.


The Scotsman

Rosalind Erskine visited Ballintaggart for one of their feast days: their 2024 calendar of communcal  dining experiences “full of seasonal and local ingredients” has been released.


Gaby Soutar reviewed The Shoregate in Crail, “one of the East Neuk’s newer food destinations” and a restaurant with rooms that opened mid-2022. With views down to the sea and a menu of local and seasonal Scottish food, she felt like a lobster in a creel, but definitely not one that wanted to leave.


And also…

In The FT Magazine, Tim Hayward reviewed Dear Jackie, The Broadwick’s “delightful, deeply romantic” basement restaurant: “like 1970s Bournemouth, but with great food”.


Tom Parker Bowles in The Mail reviewed “good old Rome comforts” at Garum, an “unrelentingly lovely” Italian in an inauspicious location in London’s Bayswater


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