Review of the reviews: Where the critics ate this week

sartoriaThe Times’s Giles Coren is so annoyed by his fellow diners inability to set aside their phones and enjoy the experience of dining at Sartoria (not to mention Francesco Mazzei’s cuisine) that he can’t taste straight…

“The lighting is low but the tables are well covered by spotlights for menu-reading, the acoustics are perfect, thanks to the deep carpet and soft linen, so that one’s own fascinating chitchat bubbles sweetly over the background simmer. The menu is nicely balanced between accessibility and experiment. The new general manager, Enrico Bucci, is charming, informative and concise, the dear old English sommelier is still there, the wine list is fantastic, the food is clean, smart, comforting and fun … So why was everyone on the phone? Mostly not talking but playing. Dicking about on the internet, I guess. Not engaged in the restaurant experience at all but turned inwards and dead to the world. An insult to staff, establishment and, most importantly, me.”


Yearning for London’s pre-burger-isation days, The Guardian’s Marina O’Laughlin heads to Arthur’s Cafe in Dalston – proper east London caff that stayed in business even as the bombs were dropping. Possibly the most amusing piece of writing is in the comment section beneath where edgarscult implies M O’L is a ‘food bellend’, but here’s a taste of her review…

“There’s sticky toffee pudding of fudgey splendour. I tell Arthur how much I like it. “Yeah,” he says, “can you taste the wine in that?” poking fun at my earnestness. The face he’s making to the pals behind my back confirm, of course, that there is no wine in that. Everything that’s served at Arthur’s is proper. Eggs fried flawlessly: flowing, golden yolks without a hint of snottiness; sausages evenly browned with the odd caramelly burnt bit – rumour has it they come from a butcher who supplies M&S. Butter is real. The stew features boiled potatoes and a somewhat over-robust dumpling. Maybe the coffee isn’t the greatest, but then you’re not supposed to order coffee, but tea the colour of a Geordie lothario.


Over at the Evening Standard, Grace Dent believes she’s got the perfect recipe for beating the January and February blues. Just head to Coin Laundry, a (sort-of) 70s themed restaurant that opened in Exmouth Market in November, offering nostalgic faves like chicken kiev and prawn cocktail alongside loads of board games and prosecco on tap.

“We…picked at a plate of cheese and pineapple on sticks. Don’t worry, this isn’t the hard Cheddar and tinned pineapple affair you might get at your Auntie Sheenah’s birthday. The cheese is breaded and deep-fried and the pineapple is in a subtle jelly form. They’re really rather moreish. In fact, the menu at Coin Laundry is completely great. Crucially, someone here can really cook and has strived to make novelty snacks delicious. Thus there are pickled eggs, Spam fritters, taramasalata with breadsticks and baps stuffed with potato waffle and egg. And most excitingly: chips with curry sauce.”


If Little Lamb and Yo! Sushi had a baby then Fay Maschler reckons it would look a little like Shaftesbury Avenue’s new Shuang Shuang. It’s a place where Chinese hotpots meet kaiten sushi – and with pretty favourable results according to the Evening Standard’s long-serving critic.

“The stocks are brought in jugs and poured into metal pots that sit in surrounds that look disconcertingly like lavatory seats — but posh lavatory seats graduated in steppes. After activating the console and while waiting for the liquid to come to a simmer you can create your own dipping sauce, but take advantage of my research and just ask for the pre-blended house sauce incorporating fermented bean paste, add a spoon of your broth and use the puréed garlic, chopped red chilli, coriander and sesame seeds provided alongside to customise. There is also chilli sauce to add if being macho is important.”


Jay Rayner is the only critic we’ve reviewed this week who made it out of London. Quite a way outside – Paris actually. The Observer’s food writer seems to have found a spiritual home in Au Pied de Cochon, a place with plenty of swagger which knows, from snout to tail, how to fry up and serve a pig…

“It was not my choice of venue, but should have been, and long ago. That’s not because it is one of the best restaurants in the city, or even one of the best brasseries, though it does its thing very well. It’s because a man with my tastes should know about a place named after pig’s feet. So should you. It opened in 1947, opposite the famed Les Halles market, a good place to find leftover pig, and nurses a legend that it has no light switch or lock, for it has never closed. It is open 24/7 knocking out an enthusiastic menu of piggy extremities alongside brasserie staples.”


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