Harden’s review of the reviews

⦿ Jay Rayner of the Observer reviewed Box-E, an 18-seater set inside a shipping container on Bristol’s Wapping Wharf, by Elliott Lidstone, former head chef of L’Ortolan and then of the Empress pub in Hackney.

“I’d go so far as to say there’s a defined Bristolian style. It’s rooted in the love of the small bistros of France, championed by the late Keith Floyd in his glorious pomp, who made his name here. The cooking is led by ingredients and seasonality and any other ethical markers that could make you feel better about yourself.”

“Thick slabs of ox tongue, the crisped surface yielding to something altogether softer within, lie on cubes of Jersey Royal potatoes, the two introduced to each other courtesy of a dressing made with dollops of nose-tickling Dijon mustard. A duck egg, as rich as the top 10 of a Forbes magazine billionaires list, is baked with truffle oil and a bird’s nest of crisp, shredded leeks.”

“Slices of onglet, a fleshy, butcher’s shop pink inside, dark and charred without, are layered with radicchio, wilted in the pan and dribbled with a powerful savoury jus.”

⦿ The Guardian’s Marina O’Loughlin reviewed Bar Douro 7/10 in Flatiron Square near Borough Market, opened by Max Graham of the Churchill port family, which she hails as a “Portuguese Barafina”.

“It’s a little star: excellent produce, beautifully cooked in an azulejos-tiled room with barstools-only dining around an open kitchen and served at curvaceous marble counters.”

“There isn’t a duffer among our choices: not dense, homemade bread stuffed with pimento-rich chouriço; nor a muscular octopus tentacle, its suckers charred, its interior snowy, lolling on a bed of suave sweet potato puree; nor crisp croquetes of alheira, a pungent, fatty and garlicky pork-free smoked sausage of Jewish origin, blobbed with lemon-laced mayonnaise.”

“The super-moist olive oil cake, studded with blobs of quince paste and sweetened requeijão (like ricotta), is a beauty.”

⦿ David Sexton of the Evening Standard reviewed Treves & Hyde 3/5,  at Leman Locke “aparthotel” in Whitechapel.

“Head chef is George Tannock is good and lets his ingredients speak for themselves, a real feat since the presentation of the food here is MasterChef-meaningless-fussy, no doubt obligatory now, especially in a boutiquey context like this. After zillions of episodes of this fatuous and harmful programme, nearly every restaurant diner now believes she has been shortchanged unless there’s a ludicrous construction and multiplication of ingredients on the plate, more or less regardless of taste. Cooking used not to be like this. It’s a blight.”

“From the starters, seared tuna, edamame, carrot and nori seaweed crisp was excellent. Cod, cockles and kale, polenta, beer-pickled shallots was generous, a good steak of cod, reportedly straight up from Brighton, topped with tangy cockles, surrounded by some helpful greenery and loose polenta turned purple by puréed wild rice.” 

⦿ In ES magazine, Grace Dent reviewed Lahpet 3/5 in Hackney, a street stall-gone-permanent from part-Burmese chef Dan Anton.

“The fabulous thing about eating in London is that no territory is truly off-limits. Burmese food is blossoming here in several different ways.”

“The Mandalay fritters were thick, satisfying wodges of kidney bean with ginger. I could personally have coped with more ginger. The shrimp and watercress fritter was equally subtle and served with an unobtrusive tamarind dip. The tea leaf lahpet from a Yangon recipe was an exquisite pile of beans, tomato, chilli and garlic. That was the winning dish.”

⦿ Time Out’s Tania Ballantine reviewed Plot 4/5, a British small-plates specialist in Tooting Broadway Market.

“Walnuts candied in Wandsworth honey appear, with waxy goat’s cheese and sweet, earthy chunks of roasted beetroot, as the first of a terrific procession of plates. Next up, the must-order oxtail croquettes. They’re not gamey in the slightest (if you’re generally frightened of things made from tails), but mild, meaty and moist. Four fatballs of wonder. Each with a crunchy, deep-fried coating that begged to be broken into.”

⦿ Keith Miller of the Daily Telegraph 15.4.17 reviewed Da Michele 4/5, the Stoke Newington branch of a claimant as the world’s first pizzeria in Naples.

“The menu is an object lesson in concision. Two pizzas, a margherita and a marinara; some drinks. No extra toppings, no salad, no puddings, no saucy little slug of limoncello afterwards.”

“Our pizzas were nigh-on perfect – as hot as Hades from the oven, pillowy soft, charred a little round the rim. Was it good? Hell yes. Was it better than Pizza Pilgrims or Yard Sale, or the original Franco Manca? Certainly it had that air of hallowed authenticity, while also being somehow thrillingly delicious. “

“What concerned us was that this incarnation of Da Michele looked as if it had been kitted out with some serious venture capital – as if it was a chain in the making.”

⦿ In the Independent, Kate Snow reviewed Jetty 14/15, a “hidden jewel” in Bristol’s Harbour Hotel & Spa.

“The menu is seafood-heavy and pleasantly surprising. It’s innovative, but won’t have you googling every other ingredient as many over-thought descriptions might.

“Expect unusual and unpretentious pairings such as the duck and squid main dish – served as a sliced duck breast with a slice of squid stuffed with slow cooked duck leg and extra salt and pepper crispy squid and wilted chard.”

⦿ In the Mail on Sunday, Tom Parker Bowles reviewed The Crown 5/5, a “rambling, low-eaved pub” in Burchetts Green near Slough, where chef Simon Bonwick cooks alone in the kitchen while four or his nine children run the front of house.

“Langoustines, so blessedly fresh they haven’t even seen the fridge, are tumbled in the lightest of mayonnaise and served on a plain white plate, perched upon a square of crisp toast. Purity, pleasure and precision.”

“Confit chicken oysters are mixed with chunks of just-translucent scallop, and drenched in a gravy (or jus, if you must) of such ridiculous richness and depth that it not only covers the lips with sticky delight. But coats my entire day with savoury glee. The flavours may be big and bold, but the technique is elegantly expert.”

“For a one-man operation, it’s a downright miracle. Bonwick is the sort of chef I adore most, a man still in love with the tireless clatter of pots and pans. His average working day is 19 hours long, and his margins must be minuscule. He’s certainly not doing this for fame or fortune.”

⦿ Giles Coren of The Times reviewed StreetXO 2/10, hip Madrid chef David Muñoz’s Mayfair offshoot, which he found frankly “terrible“.

“I should never have come here. StreetXO is an overreaching foreign knockoff serving puerile and out-of-date comedy dishes in a cheesy Swiss nightclub environment with staff dressed up so stupidly that it is impossible to have any respect for them, or for yourself in the moment of being served by them.”

⦿ In the Sunday Times, Lisa Hilton reviewed Lorne 4/5 in Victoria, which she described as “a very good restaurant in a very bad location”.

“A special starter was veal sweetbread with mushrooms, delicate, dense and meltingly gorgeous, while cuttlefish with violet potatoes and a sparky bisque romesco was as charismatic as a mollusc can get.”

“Guinea fowl with boudin noir was a lesson in texture: warmly spiced, slippery blood pudding gliding over bouncy, nutty, flavourful bird. The plate was perhaps a little too much of a composition in brown, but I could have picked up the plate and licked it anyway.”

“The staff were just lovely, and for food and wine of this quality it is fantastically well priced. Victoria may be deathly, but go now…”



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