Fay Maschler in the Evening Standard, heads to another of London’s many ‘baby roll-outs’ as she samples the second Smoking Goat…
“’Nu-Thai’ is what the cool kids call it, I am told, food from white boys who have travelled widely in South-East Asia.
“New place, groovy food, stripper ghosts, Shoreditch, buzz, buzz, buzz. Drinking Foods â€” the equivalent of starters â€” kicks off with larb-spiced chicken heart skewers. Northern Thai-style beef sausage is judged soggier and less vivid than the smoked sausage with turmeric at Kiln, the establishment that is invoked and praised more than once for comparative precision of preparation.
“Northern Thai-style duck larb is a sprauncy assembly, glistening, quite labyrinthine, shocking when a mouse shit chilli, aka prik kee noo suan, lurks in a mouthful… the best of what we try is smoked brisket drunken noodles, where flavours in the slippery, shiny mass sing out distinctly.
“I get the feeling that the operation is almost paralysed by the notion of authenticity.”
Jay Rayner in The Observer coins the phrase ‘Gravy Moderne movement’ at The Cartford Inn, Lancashire…
“The Cartford Inn… knows exactly what it’s doing.
“If you were to assess the Cartford Inn based solely on its interior design and architecture you might conclude it to be either charmingly eclectic or exhaustingly confused… firmly a part of the Gravy Moderne movement (I’ve just invented it, but not before time). It describes a kitchen anchored in French classical technique, but one that puts all that knowledge and skill in the service of a recognisably British pub repertoire.
“The kitchen can clarify a consommé, make a silky duck-liver parfait and rustle up a perfect choux bun the size of a baby’s head… they are also cheerleaders for the pasty, the suet pudding and the fish pie. Hence Gravy Moderne. It’s like the Paris-born Bistro Moderne movement. Only, you know, with more gravy.
“’Dessert of the day’… is one of their choux buns. Oh gosh and oh my. A choux bun of this size and this crispness takes skill. It is filled with layers of both a vanilla and a caramel crème pÃ¢tissière, with whorls of extra caramel. Because this is a dessert item that does not understand the word enough. The wine list is priced to encourage second and third bottles. It’s a serious contender for my dessert of the year.
“(If you’re looking for the birthplace of the Gravy Moderne movement, examine the menu at the Anchor and Hope in Waterloo).”
Rhik Samadder in The Guardian, reviewed the new Square Mile outpost of Neil Rankin’s meatopia gill house, temper city…
“A week before my visit, Neil Rankin’s first temper restaurant (Soho)… picked up best newcomer at the Observer Food Monthly awards. His second venture is a step into new territory – and a stumble into identity crisis.
“Cursed by comparison… with the confusion of someone invited to a retro, pan-Asian fusion barbecue, I try to wrap my head around ‘squid and samphire pakora’ and ‘dashi chip shop chicken’.
“’Korean haggis’ is the sort of madness you’d scribble on a pad at 4 am, so I can’t not order it. Weirdly, it’s decent: lung-y and oaty, with the pepperiness substituted by gochugaru chilli. Implements are perfect for Asian fare, yet trying to eat bavette with a fork and a spoon is like living an Alanis Morissette lyric.
“’Dry goat’ sounds as appetising as ‘old shoe’, but this heap of caramelised shreds, musky, toasted and looking like a mound of American tobacco, knocks me backwards. For meat lovers, it’s a bowl of the best crisp bits… sensational.
“There’s so much going on here, you don’t know where you are… something here doesn’t quite add up.”
Grace Dent in the Evening Standard delivers a whopping 9/10 verdict on Ceremony, the new modern British joint in Tufnell Park which ‘happens to be vegetarian’…
“If you want a good reason to kill pigs, it is the landscape of vegetarian restaurants which is, even now, a bit joyless; all hairy toes in Birkenstocks… the fact that Ali and Joe at Ceremony were opening for boozy brunches and dinners of hearty British classics, in a neighbourhood joint with a sit-up bar and raffish cocktail list, won me over. Ceremony looked noisy. Ceremony looked fun…
“And no children after 7 pm. These people understood me. Thank God, as the restrictive eating, holier-than-thou brigade tends to raise mini-savages.
“Snacks of hot, fresh, cloud-like courgette fritters, a bowl of vegetable crisps and a plate of raw radishes and beetroot with a vibrant romesco sauce arrived… along next came a charred leek rarebit; a mini roasting tin full of oozy, unctious leek, mustardy cheeses and breadcrumbs… sweet potato curry… chimed heroically and fragrantly with coconut milk. It is the stuff of dreams… right now they appear to be turning away walk-ins â€” because it feels like when, if one decides to make a vegetarian restaurant resolutely non-vegetarian feeling, well, like Field of Dreams, you build it and they come.”
Michael Deacon in The Telegraph reviewed Mayfair’s new Japanese Cubé but gets slightly derailed by the ‘hipster pricing’…
“Pleasantly unassuming – apart from the hipster nonsense with the pricing. Something odd has happened to menus… A dish is no longer priced at (say) £18.50. It’s priced at 18.5. I just don’t get it. Nobody talks like this. People say, ‘Eighteen pounds fifty,’ not ‘Eighteen point five pounds’.”
Emma Henderson in The Independent reviewed Atul Kochhar’s Indian/British fusion restaurant in an old Amersham coaching inn, Hawkyns…
“Indian restaurants have been a much loved permanent fixture of our high streets since the 1960s. So why has it taken so long to merge the two: British classics with the colours, heat and spice of Indian food. That’s what twice-Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar has done with a new menu. Amersham couldn’t be more quintessentially English if it tried. ”
“For any curry fan, the menu forces you to make difficult choices, from the heritage beetroot starter with avocado, pomegranate and sweet potato chatt to the madras spiced mackerel with mooli remoulade, fennel and apple… the soft shell crab starter … is the size of a child’s hand. More tough choices come when you see the gin menu.
“Sea bass with bombay aloo, kachumber and coconut turmeric foam – solidified the fusion flavour partnership for me… braised pork cheeks and belly vindaloo – which comes with coconut savoy cabbage and chorizo fondant potato… cardamom chocolate fondant… chocolate lends itself wonderfully to spice.
“The restaurant sits inside a traditional 16th-century Elizabethan coaching inn and has been thoughtfully brought up to date.”
Tom Parker Bowles in The Daily Mail dines at South Ken’s Polish stalwart Ognisko with Fay Maschler and “Hoppy” – Simon Hopkinson…
“We start with the house vodka, cold, crisp and clean, and pert pickles with crunch and punch… black pudding, stuffed into tiny, delicate and divine pelmeni dumplings, lavished with butter, and made from the most wonderfully chewy dough. Apple adds a shriek of acidity, making each mouthful both robust and surprisingly delicate.
“Chicken livers, beautifully cooked, just pink, slathered in cream with a sly chilli sigh… speckled with dried cherries, elegantly tart, and sat atop the most delicate of potato pancakes. Again, a humble ingredient made very great indeed.
“Flavours here may be big, but they’re never brutish… bavette, cooked bloody, chewy and faintly ferrous, with a vast pile of chilli and horseradish-spiked salad. The chips are hot and golden and crisp, lustily salted and eaten by the fistful… such is the generosity, the unadorned, unpretentious art of this kitchen, that I’m already thinking of coming back… eating at Ognisko is something of a revelation.
“Modern, handsome Polish food that never loses that essential national soul. There’s a deftness of touch, a knowing levity, an absolute belief in the quality of their ingredients. With Woroniecki at the helm, we’re in the safest of hands.”