Harden’s review of the reviews: Where the critics ate this week

The Guardian’s Marina O’Laughlin once dismissed Balham’s Chez Bruce as ‘ultra-bourgeois and a little dated… onefor the Bufton-Tuftons, with their florid, claret-hoofing faces and fear of the new, I sniffed”. Not so anymore. The critic now seems to understand why it has been Harden’s reporters’ favourite restaurant for the past decade – “I’m forced to suspect that my younger self might just possibly have been a bit of an arse.”

“All around us, people untroubled by the vagaries of which vape to use or how to wax a beard or which trainers go with tweed are having a delicious time. Even on a rainy weekday lunchtime, the place is buzzing with the hum of smoothly delivered satisfaction, professionally trained staff. This is a meal of generosity and luxury, one that encourages you to wallow in the sheer, sybaritic pleasure of it all. Once you’ve availed yourself of the bespoke wooden trolley groaning with perfectly kept cheeses, and cut with a generous hand, you find yourself falling into a baked apple charlotte with whipped nutmeg custard just so you can have another glass of sharp-sticky riesling.”

Meanwhile The Evening Standard’s David Sexton heads to much newer pastures as he delivers his verdict on The Frog in Shoreditch, which opened just last month. He opts for the seven course tasting menu which, at £45, is a relative bargain.

“… small dishes, all high impact, followed rapidly, with urgent queries after every one as to whether it had been enjoyed, an assiduity possibly flattering at first but pure FFS by the end.” We can’t help but agree with David on this one – we aren’t talking about The Frog, but restaurants in general – enquiries during and after each course (though well meant) are a nuisance. Just let us eat and chat in peace!

The Standard’s critic was also out at Holloway’s new pizzeria Pizza Lucia this week. His verdict? “So this is the real thing, as Italian as it comes (somewhere between Rome and Naples, one of the owners suggested): Holloway Road never had it so good before.”

Over at ES Magazine, Grace Dent hops the central line all the way out to South Woodford to try the (relatively) new kid on the block, The Woodford. It was hailed ‘London Restaurant of the Year’ at the Evening Standard’s recent awards at Taste of London, but Dent doesn’t seem to mind being in (fairly mild) disagreement with her colleagues describing it as ‘fancy, finicky, at times old-school fusty… but definitely likeable’.

The Observer’s Jay Rayner is the first broadsheet journo to review Petit Pois Bistro – a newcomer to Shoreditch’s Hoxton Square earlier this month that opened in fairly under the radar style. Despite its lack of PR, foodies are already onto the place, and Rayner is pleased to report that its small, traditionally French menu does what it does very well. In fact, the critic describes the bistro’s chocolate mousse as ‘the best three minutes you can have in London for a fiver right now’.

And over at the Sunday Times, AA Gill pays a visit to the Tate Modern’s new building Switch House and its Level 9 restaurant. He didn’t like it much, but he does love a bowl with a concept…

“The menu is one of those lists put together by a committee to include edible cultural signifiers, trendy favourites and politically neutral ingredients. A note at the bottom says that the steak knives are hand-finished in Peckham, which doesn’t make the steak taste different, and that the olive bowl is designed around the concept of sharing. I love a bowl with a concept. The salt cellars reflect the exterior of the building, apparently, with a velvety roughness, and all the staff are paid a London living wage.”

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