Harden’s review of the reviews

⦿ Jay Rayner of the Guardian reviewed Radici, the new Islington Italian from Francesco Mazzei of Sartoria in Mayfair and, before that, L’Anima in the City.

“Taglierini, fagioli and pancetta. That’s ribbons of a thin tagliatelle-style pasta, white beans and bacon, in a dense, starchy broth of such intensity and such conviction, you could be forgiven for thinking your very soul is lost somewhere in its depths, undergoing respite care. It is the domestic eaten outside the home; a bowlful of muchness, built on very little. It costs £8.

“That number is the remarkable bit, because the chef here is Francesco Mazzei. Over the years, I have associated Mazzei with many things: precision, class, an understanding of comfort. I’ve never let the word “value” get anywhere near his name and that £8 price tag really is value.

“If you do not order Mazzei’s zucchini fritti, exploding from their pot like some desert grass that’s bolted, you are an idiot. They are the thinnest and the crispiest in London. If you attempt to eat these with cutlery, you are either strange or so uptight, you probably carry with you an anti-bacterial hand gel for when you touch your own children.”

⦿ In the Guardian, Marina Marina O’Loughlin reviewed Swan 7/10 at Shakespeare’s Globe on Bankside, now under chef Allan Pickett, formerly of highly praised Piquet off Oxford Street (RIP).

“Tourist restaurants don’t need to pander to locals or regulars… So it’s rare to stumble across a place such as Bankside’s Swan, with its history-plus-view double whammy, a side-order of charitable intent and a credible chef running the show.”

“There’s no holding back French technique: a butch terrine of pork striated with chicken and, randomly, a green flash of broccoli, its rhubarb compote speaking fluent Franglais. Or roast hake, perfectly pearlescent and squeaky-fresh on a bed of tiny, creamy coco de Paimpol beans laced with cockles and the salty bite of samphire, with a buttery, boozy nage that is purest Larousse Gastronomique.”

⦿ Grace Dent of ES magazine reviewed Tamarind Kitchen 2.5/5 in Soho, the “relaxed little sister” of Mayfair’s smart Tamarind.

“The problem with Tamarind Kitchen is that in striving for modern, fancy and minimal, almost everything it serves lacks oomph. An appetiser of moong wada (spiced lentil cake, coconut chutney) transpired to be two small blini-sized discs with a piping of sweetness. The soft-shell crab arrived, tasting mainly of oil, with a dessert spoon of pale, unmemorable potato salad. I drank a fresh mango lassi, which, on hindsight, was possibly the highlight of the visit. The guchi kofta was three mysterious balls in a pale sauce that tasted only of cardamom.”

“I already knew via Instagram that the star of Tamarind Kitchen’s pudding was a chocolate bomb, which magically melts to reveal its innards. I was over that by 2010. This is the folly of trying to be hip in London: we’ve usually seen it all before, and we liked it better the first time.

⦿ Fay Maschler in the Evening Standard reviewed Zheng 4/5, the Chelsea incarnation of a Malaysian that originated in Oxford.

“Roast duck is luscious. A quarter at £12.90 among an array of dishes satisfies four, even if it does leave us wanting more. I like the fact that asam pedas — fish fillets in a spicy herby gravy — doesn’t seem like a typical restaurant offering. It makes no great effort with presentation and cajoles subtly. In its modest way chai pu tofu also delights. Freshly made golden fried beancurd, like a Tempur mattress, supports a topping of dried radish, chilli and spring onions. It offers a textural change of impact too.”

⦿ In Time Out, Laura Richards reviewed Enoteca Pomaio 3/5, a Brick Lane wine bar and restaurant linked to an organic vineyard in Tuscany.

Bruschetta and simple Italian small plates complement the plonk and match the rustic look, with rough-hewn chunks of bread topped with huge helpings. Flavours start on-point, with an interesting cauliflower, lurid green asparagus purée and guanciale bruschetta packing a garlicky punch. Truffle gnocchi smelled divine, but lacked the depth of flavour to back it up. And wild boar ragu, while delicious, was accompanied by two disappointingly stodgy chunks of fried polenta.”

“My advice? Stick to a warming glass of organic wine with Italian meats and treats at the bar.”

⦿ Tom Parker Bowles of the Mail on Sunday reviewed the Biddestone Arms 3.5/5 near Chippenham in Wiltshire, “a proper pub with a proper pub grub menu”.

“Belly of pork comes in a huge wodge, the meat soft and piggy, the crackling as brittle as Riedel glass. There’s a generosity of spirit here. No one leaves The Biddestone Arms hungry. Steak-and-ale pie is solid and respectable, perhaps a little heavy on the shortcrust, but filled with masses of soft beef and gravy. Fresh peas come with julienned spring onion and runner beans, all cooked crisp. A side dish that could star as a main.”

⦿ Giles Coren of The Times  reviewed the Chef’s Dozen 9/10 in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, where he found chef Richard Craven offers 12 courses (hence the name) of “seriously top-notch food” at “incredible value”.  

“Raw fallow buck came as a delictae, ruby circle of chopped, raw flesh, jewelled with preserved ramsons and daintiest leaf-on baby radish. It was deft and sweet and ferrous. A prince among tartares.”

“A brilliant ‘pig’s head and black pudding lasagna’ was perfectly round and involved three custard-yellow slices of fresh pasta, with two disks of pressed head and a middle-layer puck of sweet, purple black pudding. On top were half a dozen glazed whole hazelnuts and a verdant hogweed shot. Underneath, a cider juice. Brightly coloured, perfectly constructed. Delicious.”

⦿ In the Sunday Times, John Walsh reviewed Kiln 3/5, Ben Chapman’s Soho Thai “train carriage of  restaurant”, where he enjoyed most, but not all, of the dishes cooked in front of him.

From the fish dishes, the ‘jungle curry of cod’ stood out. The cod, more correctly called ling, floated in a heavenly green wave of pea aubergines and the wonderful parsley charmingly known by the Thais as ‘stinking’.”

“Wild ginger and short-rib curry from Burma promised a cornucopia of flavours but didn’t quite deliver. In a dark, aggressive, thin-textured broth, the beef had been braised into the realm of disintegration.” 

“Dinner at Kiln is an Asian eat-and-run: a long wait followed by a swift gobble, as you try to taste everything while it’s still hot. But I’ll remember the food for its pungent originality, its confident attack and the visual appeal of its caveman kitchen.”

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