Review of the reviews

Our weekly round-up of what the nation’s restaurant critics were writing about up to 18 February 2024


The Evening Standard

Hainan House, Islington

Jimi Famurewa was impressed by this “enormously likeable passion project” from “rookie restaurateur Sunny Wu”, who “seeks to illuminate the gastronomic tendencies of Hainan province for no other reason than the fact that no one else is really doing it”.

“The flavours are both mellow and highly unexpected; there is a persistent, twanging bass note of deep, fermented funk. If you embrace the experimental, tactile blur of slurped herbal broths and snaffled quail eggs, then Hainan House, to the uninitiated, can feel like learning a thrilling new culinary language.”


Ixchel, Chelsea

ES Magazine’s Joanna Taylor found the food at this Mexican on the King’s Road, inspired by the Yucatan peninsula, rather a “mixed bag”.

“But would we return?” she concluded. “Let’s say I won’t be sending my compliments to the chef.”


The Observer

Everyday People, Nottingham

Jay Rayner was bowled over by a ramen bar from Pete Hewitt, a 2015 MasterChef finalist, that started life serving “small-plate Americana” before discovering that special ramen nights “sold out quickest. It was, it seemed, what Nottingham wanted.”

“The heart of the menu is a traditional five-strong offering, each at around £15 a bowl. The garlic tonkotsu is made with a creamy, collagen- rich stock that speaks of pork bones simmered for many hours and fretted over continuously. The noodles have bite. The egg yolk is indeed jammy. There is a pungent kick from the burnt garlic oil.”


The Guardian

Kokum, SE22

Grace Dent visited the “newest baby” of ex-Gymkhana head chef Sanjay Gaur, who is also behind the highly rated Dastaans in Ewell and Leeds, and Black Salt in East Sheen.

“Kokum is a neighbourhood restaurant that’s bringing Gymkhana-style newness and experimentation to a corner of south-east London, and at about half the price. By the looks of things, the locals have already found it, and they probably won’t thank me for telling you.”


The Telegraph

The Black Horse, Chipping Norton

William Sitwell ventured to the Cotswolds, where he found “one hell of a perfect pub” rescued from dereliction by the property tycoon Sir Tony Gallagher.

“There’s [a] glorious, tightly written menu of dreams… displaying a knowledge of classic British grub with a nudge of tempting flair.”


The Times & Sunday Times

German Doner Kebab, Shaftesbury Avenue, and Café Kitty, Soho

Giles Coren’s double-header review afforded him the pleasure of juxtaposing “the worst restaurant in the world” with “the excellent new Soho project from the guys behind Kitty Fisher’s in Mayfair and Cora Pearl in Covent Garden.”

“There were shards of burnt roadkill in there for sure, and they gave it a nice, brown, deathy flavour when you got one… It all leaked out of the flavourless pillow and stank my hands up for days. Hideous. Utterly hideous. ‘Vomchuck durch Technik,’ as they say in Germany.”

“Kitty’s by night, on the other hand, was a triumph…. delicious, sweet, tender, perfectly crispy buffalo chicken thighs with Stilton dressing, crunchy ham and cheese croquettes, a butch, chunkily cut steak tartare with shoestring fries, … and a mad alliance of crispy whole (small) sea bass with fat smoky rashers of guanciale and slivers of pickled cucumber.”


Food Leigh-on-Sea

Charlotte Ivers declared her boredom with restaurants declaring their “sustainable” and “seasonal” commitments – “These days sustainability is like veganism was in the 2010s, or cocaine in the Noughties. Everyone’s doing it — and, my God, do they love telling you about it.”

Nevertheless, she gave Food her approval.

“If I had a complaint about the menu it would be that it’s heavy on the umami: every dish seems all-consumingly woody. But it’s done so well it feels churlish to whinge.”


And also….

FT Magazine

Everyday People, Nottingham

Tim Hayward beat Jay Rayner into print by a matter of days with his tribute to this ramen bar, where he found joy and a higher purpose in life – “I was alone, I was delighted”.

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