Review of the Reviews

Our round-up of what the nation’s restaurant critics were writing about in the week up to 17th March 2024

The Evening Standard

Morchella, Exmouth Market

Jimi Famurewa dined at this new spot from the team behind Newington
Green’s Perilla on just its second evening, and found “not so much a restaurant quickly finding its feet as it is one already dancing a complex backwards bolero in roller skates”.

The atmosphere captured “the pleasurably messy spirit of a raucous Basque taberna”, while menu highlights included a “deconstructed spanakopita… just a two-bite log of spinach and feta, a thin scrim of shattering pastry, and an ephemeral surge of twanging garlic and lactic acidity”.

Jimi was mightily impressed: Morchella “re-imagines loosely Mediterranean dishes with both rustic muscularity and a sense of visual drama, [and] traffics in the sort of rare brilliance that it’s hard to keep secret for very long.”


The Lore of the Land, Fitzrovia

Also in the Standard, Joanna Taylor used the new Netflix series The Gentlemen as a hook to visit the pub its director Guy Ritchie opened five years ago – not neglecting to mention that it’s apparently frequented by the Beckhams, David and son Cruz.

The “dark turquoise walls, time-worn wood panelling, and an eclectic jumble of artworks” lend the place “the cosseting allure of a trademark London boozer”, she said, while the menu of “modern British” food rather puzzlingly produces “dishes such as ras el hanout-spiced monkfish tail with brussels sprouts, harissa and whipped feta [and] south coast-caught brown crab risotto with a cherry harissa dressing”.


The Guardian

Camille, Borough Market

Grace Dent was relieved to find an influencer-free zone at this hot spot in
Borough Market – a “gratifyingly traditional, classy dining room that could be from the 1950s”.

“Chef Elliot Hashtroudi… seems to have taken his experience from St John, packed it into the boot of a Citroën 2CV and driven the back roads all the way from Bayeux to Marseille while smoking Gauloises and trying to work out what everyone’s grand-mère is cooking.”

The result, she says, is “copious amounts of garlic in the sauces and dressings” that will render you “whiffy and unsnoggable”. Speaking of whiffy, Grace also noted “wild amounts of methane in the gut” as a result of eating Camille’s Jerusalem artichoke.


The Observer

Omni Café, Whitley Bay

Jay Rayner also worried about pongs this week, issuing a general apology to fellow travellers on the train home from Newcastle for the smells issuing from the takeaway cartons he resorted to after massively over-ordering at a “Vietnamese-inspired café tucked into the end of a shopping parade just outside Whitley Bay”.

Omni Café was recommended to Jay by readers – “I can see why,” he says:
“the food is cracking”. Chef Corrie Thomas and her husband Lou spent years living in Vietnam and travelling around southeast Asia, and have re-created the food they discovered there, to serve in a “faux beach shack of a dining room”.

“I went to Omni for the beef and peanut curry; I stayed for everything else,” Jay writes, listing spice-dusted shrimp crackers and sweet-sour pickled vegetables among his favourites.


The Times & Sunday Times

Catch, Weymouth

“Oh my God! Omigodomigodomigod – as the girls outside my daughter’s school squeal when they run up to their friends to show them something mundane on TikTok…” gushed Giles Coren from the train home from Weymouth – “I think I just went to the best restaurant in the world.”

Chef Mike Naidoo’s sustainable fish restaurant, upstairs from a fishmonger’s shop in the Old Fish Market on Weymouth’s quay, had just given him, he said, “one of the happiest working afternoons of my life”.

And it wasn’t just the day-boat fresh fish and seafood that was so special. The “warm, golden brioche” served alongside it was possibly even better. “I’ve never seen bread this good. I’m almost angry. Who has done this?”

Mike’s wife, as it turns out: Tija, from Slovenia, whose pastry also left Giles “reeling at the quality”. All in all, then, a “dreamy” experience – and one not to be missed at £40 for a four-course set menu.


Steak Barn, St Andrews

Chitra Ramaswamy lunched in a “vast rectangular barn, originally a sawmill” on Balgove Farm in Fife, which serves beef fed on the farm’s lush grass, butchered in- house and barbecued “on an immense braai (a South African grill) made by a local blacksmith”.  

The steaks arrive “charred in all the right places… Beautifully seasoned and rested. My juicy sirloin tastes, in that elemental way, of an animal that’s lived and died well. Which is to say of the land itself; soil, grass and air.”

Not so appealing is the apple crumble, which “comes with a custard that tastes peculiarly savoury, meaty even, as though it’s been hanging out within dripping distance of a tray of resting steaks”.


Liu Xiaomian, Soho

Charlotte Ivers confessed her new-found addiction to the mouth-numbing flavours of Chongqing, to which she has returned three times at this new restaurant off Regent Street, in Kingly Court.

“One bite and your whole mouth is tingling and sensitive”, she says of the “novel delight” of tasting its wontons and broth for the first time. “It is no exaggeration to say I have thought of these dumplings every day since.”

Xiaomian means little noodles and they are, Charlotte says, “perhaps the best noodles I have had in my life. On the way home I walk past a ramen restaurant and feel sad for everyone inside.”


The Daily Telegraph

Climat, Manchester

William Sitwell found his way with some difficulty to a restaurant on the top floor of a city centre office block, where he was happy to encounter “fine grub” from a kitchen which showed signs of “nimble thinking”.

Its menu of snacks, plates, sides, sweets and cheese was seemingly designed to encourage you to order so greedily “that they can then shower you with glasses and carafes of wine”.

“On a glorious day,” he concluded, “with rooftop views to boot, the confident and civilised Climat made us feel like we were the lords not just of hundreds but of all creation.”


The Daily Mail

Café Kitty, Soho

Tom Parker Bowles found himself at the new offshoot of Mayfair’s Kitty Fisher’s, “in one of those last pockets of old Soho, with the sex shops flogging ‘marital aids’, and the handwritten ‘model upstairs’ cards stuck to grimy walls at the bottom of shabby staircases”.

Giving the place a positive if pretty perfunctory review, Tom himself is not on top form, relying on his companion to sum up the “boneless buffalo-chicken bits”, as “wings for people who don’t want to get messy”.


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