Review of the reviews

Here’s our weekly round-up of what the nation’s restaurant critics were writing about in the week up to 18 June 2023.


The Guardian

Grace Dent reviewed Lilienblum, the “most recent opening” from Israeli chef Eyal Shani that had Jimi Famurewa at The Evening Standard impressed but perplexed last week; did Grace feel the same?

The headline “Somehow, it all works” doesn’t bode well; nor does the sub-heading “The chef writes dish descriptions like someone shouting their sitcom ideas at you from the back of a dance tent”.

She admits that Shani’s “chaotic spirit has not been quashed” and that head chef “Oren King’s skill and judicious use of flavour” produces “a sort of elegant, earthy, Ottolenghi mashup of Honey & Co and The Paloma” that she is planning to recommend to others looking to eat out near Old Street.

There’s also credit given for the desserts, not least because they are “a very reasonable £8, and completely worth saving room for” but that there’s a “definite reach here to make puddings as important” as the other courses.

“Nothing at Lilienblum is straightforward, but what saves it from being annoying is the cooking.”


The Observer

After last week’s seafood in Suffolk, Jay Rayner had more of the same – with a Spanish twist – on the South Bank this week, at La Gamba, the “extremely solid and pleasing take on the Spanish repertoire from the team behind Applebee’s, the fishmongers and seafood restaurant operator over at Borough Market”.

Along with Lasdun from “team behind the terrific Marksman in Hackney”, La Gamba will henceforth be Jay’s “answer to an infuriating question” (“that question being: where can I eat before seeing a show at the Southbank Centre?”)

It’s “in a prime spot, overlooking the Thames”, “fronted by the kind of big terrace you find outside the restaurants overlooking the sea along the Costa Brava”. The menu feels “personal” to the Galician chef Juan Cabarcos (not hard given the restaurant competition around here, which is at best “reliable. In a grinding, it-must-be-a-Thursday-evening-in-Guildford sort of way”).

Unfortunately, at dessert, “the whole cheery train comes tumbling off the olive oil-slicked tracks” with yet more of the ubiquitous Basque cheesecake, “bought in” ices and “terrible churros” – luckily the ever-present chains of the South Bank  can offer an alternative.


The Evening Standard

“A sustained act of Italian make-believe.”

Jimi Famurewa was in east London, specifically Clapton, where Leo’s has just opened, to considerable industry excitement: the “masterful, detail-oriented vibe-setters behind Juliet’s Quality Foods in Tooting are… involved here” as is “the pedigree of chef-founder Peppe Belvedere — formerly of P. Franco, Brawn and Bright”.

Despite the impressive parentage, “some of the food we had at a recent midweek meal felt, well, a touch discordant and ordinary”. The menu felt somewhat unsatisfying: it has only “a dozen or so cooked items, tends towards the snacky and perhaps doesn’t really lend itself to a sharing concept”.

The “skill level of Belvedere and his kitchen team is clearly sky-scrapingly high”, however, so “Leo’s still has the potential to make its own history”.

“The issue is the degree to which certain regional specialities work when shorn of context.” The “beautifully constructed, weightlessly fluffy” tiramisu helped end the meal end “on an unequivocal high”. (***)


Also in The Standard, news that Hide is to “combine its two food offerings into one this summer”. The ground floor restaurant and first floor, fine-dining, Above at Hide will now be (from August) considered a single space offering both menus – or, as the press release put it – “blending the finesse from upstairs with the barefoot luxury of the ground floor”.


The Telegraph

William Sitwell went to Liverpool to review Röski: “I’ve been wanting to go to for a while; chef-owned by the winner of MasterChef: The Professionals back in 2012, one Anton Piotrowski”.

It’s an eight-course, tasting-menu-only affair, but at lunch “you can sneak in the express version – five courses with optional cheese and petits fours – and be in and out in just two hours. Phew.”

Nestled among clinics in a row of “handsome brick-built Georgian houses”, Röski is “a restaurant at ease with itself, confident and cheery. And the staff are the same, delivering wholesome plates of great flavour with panache and charm”.

The stacked Lancashire haggis toastie course (pictured on the pass, above) was “simply quite the most quirkily scrumptious thing I’ve eaten in ages”. (*****)


The Scotsman

In Glasgow, Rosalind Erskine visited the up-and-coming Whiteinch (the art of Dumbarton road beyond the roundabout) and Haylynn Canteen, a “breakfast and brunch joint inspired by the lazy weekend eating scene (with great coffee) in Australia” that opened during the pandemic.

The “changing menu, minimalist decor (with pop art on the plain white walls and simple seating) and outdoor benches” plus food from chef Robbie Morrow make it “well worth a visit” (15/20)

Meanwhile, Gaby Soutar had a “heavenly lunch” with loch views at Tamburrini & Wishart, the restaurant at Loch Lomond’s Cameron House that’s a collaboration between Martin Wishart and Paul Tamburrini. From the humble-sounding ‘snacks, bread and broth’ starter to the towering chocolate dessert, the weekend set lunch (at £45) felt “indulgent” and ”decadent”. (18/20)


The Times

Chitra Ramaswamy visited Tipo in Edinburgh’s New Town, climbing the stairs of the “handsome Georgian tenement and the room… flooded with first-floor northern light”.

“When it comes to the building and team, the calibre is high indeed” – from chef Stuart Ralston (“of Aizle, Noto and Great British Menu fame”) and his brother Scott (former chef for the Compass Group) come this “modern Italian small plates restaurant”.

The menu is “minimalist” with “an emphasis on house-made pasta and cured and aged charcuterie”; the snacks sections served up “simple, easily identified, smack-you-in-the-mouth flavours” while “elsewhere… the flavours are more muted and the balance slightly off”.

“In that alarming small-plates-somehow-adding-up-to-£130 way, it’s on the expensive side. Still, all the ingredients that could make Tipo great — from the simple beauty of its produce to the sublime elegance of its New Town setting — are here.” (26/30)

Also in The Times, Giles Coren bravely took an overcrowded train to Batcombe, Somerset, checking out the latest restaurant catering to the London masses who have shipped out to the country and still expect top-quality dining options.

The Three Horseshoes has gathered together big names of “the Nineties and early Noughties in one big, offally, wine-stained, slightly boastful lunchtime belch”. Executive chef Margot Henderson of Rochelle Canteen in Shoreditch is probably the biggest name.

The “sprawling old coaching inn” has strong “Shoreditch aesthetic” inside and out and the menu is “generous on the capital letters and ampersands, bit mean on local colour” (“There is just no compromise at all on the east London aesthetic. And why should there be?”).

Giles summed up the place as having “some good food, a lovely spot and willing staff” and being “sleek and brisk, original and quite hard-edged” with “almost comedically urban” food. The former Hoxtonites will love it.


The Independent

Harden’s Top 100 UK Restaurants is name-checked in Joanna Whitehead’s review of Forest Side in Cumbria, which – unsurprisingly – she decided is “quite simply sublime”.

Walking through the painstaking steps taken to produce the tasting menu, such as the 72 hours needed to create Paul Leonard’s take on the Waldorf salad (“almost a pudding – and not a lettuce leaf in sight”, pictured), and the aim to “source 90 per cent of produce from within a 10-mile radius of the establishment”, Joanna asks “Is there still a place for fine dining restaurants during a cost-of-living crisis?”

And the answer? “As employers and buyers, producers and supporters of local food, they’re invaluable to the economy.”

And also…

A review of Ploussard in the FT Magazine recommends the “brilliant flavours in nappy valley” — “Northcote Road has a great indie scene. Visit during school holidays and you’ll have it all to yourself.”


Tom Parker Bowles seems to regularly reviewing for The Daily Mail again, behind a paywall of course: a few weeks ago he was at Min Jiang (“remarkable Chinese restaurant high above London’s Hyde Park”), and more recently at Straker’s, the “social-media-savvy dining spot in London’s Notting Hill” which he tried to ignore, not being a “social-media-savvy” type (“Big on Instagram and Tik Tok. Five words to fill the gut with gloom.”) but ended up going and seemed to enjoy himself. Anyone prepared to pay to peek behind the paywall can follow the link on his name to read more.


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