Harden’s review of the reviews

No egg puns were used in the writing of AA Gill’s review of Egg Break in the Sunday Times, but no punches were pulled either. He hated the place, from the bottom of its ‘Fritzl memorial lounge’ basement to the top of its ‘counter-cultural, recycled, reclaimed, ironic’ name sign. And is this the least appetising sentence ever committed to print?

“There was a vegetable soup with a pickled egg, which was weedy, warm bin water, with added scum, and a pickled egg that was like a boiled golf ball that had been kept in a laundry basket. But the most telling dish was the scrambled egg.”

Over at the Times daily Giles Coren doesn’t break the habit of a life time by having fully one paragraph devoted to the repast at the new look Ivy. Still, we all relish the critic’s turn of phrase, even if it does have very little to do with food, and more to do with the fickle nature of cool. In just five short years he’s gone from demanding a corner table at the Ivy and getting the bar to requesting a bar stool and getting the best table in the house – this will not stand!

“No! I want to hover on a wobbly stool! One that seems to have a life of its own so that however often I swing round to face the bar it swings me back round to face the room again! I want to have nowhere to hang my jacket except the vintage hook under the bar which is loose, so that it keeps falling onto the floor! I want a close-up view of sweaty young men in clogs grating nutmeg onto tiny squid rice puddings! I want to get backache hunching over a small plate of ham that is just out of reach because the stools have all been nailed down three inches too far from the bar because the carpenter had unusually long arms!”

Meanwhile the Guardian’s Marina O’Laughlin heads to Arsenal in search of an elusive taste of authentic Xi’an cuisine – something she has encountered in NYC but not in London. Until now. Xi’an Impression offers something completely out of the ordinary to your average Chinese.

None of this is food for the timid or people who like their chicken sanitised into a nice breaded goujon. The chicken looks like roadkill, little bones in every bite, the meat and skin to be gnawed off. The “hamburger’s” pork glistens with fat and scraps of skin. The food is an education, an occasionally challenging adventure, well worth hauling arse to Arsenal. It really is a trip.

The Observer’s Jay Rayner is out of the country this week and it sounds as though he may have found his home-from-home in the form of Checchino dal 1887 in Rome. A restaurant that specialises in all things offal.

“I have the mixed roasted lamb entrails: the sweetbreads, liver, small intestine and testicles, all of which come lightly breaded and crisp and rich and unctuous. I eat these things not to prove I AM MAN but because, by God, that’s where the flavour is.

And shock, horror. A restaurant critic who doesn’t swoon over Nuno Mendes’s latest effort Taberna do Mercado in London’s Spitalfields Market! Grace Dent’s comments in her Evening Standard mag column could not be further from the opinion of her colleague Fay Maschler who loved the place.

“The next two things brought from the kitchen were actively repellent. I like to think the staff made these up as a prank, and were watching to see if I would be an obedient foodie and play ball.”

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