Harden’s review of the reviews

Alan Pickett’s (sort-of) eponymous solo venture Piquet in Fitzrovia gets a double dose of restaurant reviews as both the Standard’s Fay Maschler and Tracey MacLeod of the Independent pop by to try the chef’s Gallic-influenced British dishes. The Indy’s critic finds the service surprisingly stiff and the venue strangely deserted. Fortunately the food also receives a double helping of praise.

Tracey MacLeod: “Only one other table was occupied, and staff outnumbered customers by two to one. It’s mystifying. On paper, Piquet has everything going for it… So why isn’t Piquet packing them in? There’s certainly no problem with the food. Much of what we ate was memorably good.”

Fay Maschler: “…classic but also savvy, energetic and with an ear to the ground. Loin of venison, braised cabbage, elderberries, chestnuts is another main course — six, including this, are under £20 — that proves the point, as do fully supported roasts of the day served from the carving trolley at lunchtime at £17.50. Pickett has done long, loyal toil in serious kitchens and now we customers can benefit from the exuberance and generosity his own place bestows.”

Meanwhile, the Guardian’s Marina O’Laughlin returned to Bethnal Green’s Brawn to discover how its getting on under the solo ownership of Ed Wilson, formerly group chef of Terroirs. Guess what? She falls in love with the place all over again – particularly the pannacotta…

“With the texture of clotted cream, only the teensiest shimmy of wobble, it’s thickly freckled with inky vanilla seeds and sits in a pool of sharp-sweet juice from its macerated raspberries and strawberries. It is, genuinely, sublime. I know, I know: it’s only pudding. But turning something this simple – a dish that has become a stiff old jelly of a cliche – into this sigh-inducing showstopper takes serious chops.”

Over at The Observer, Jay Rayner is encouraging seafood fans to drop everything and head to the Seafood Hut in Oban. We’re climbing into our private jet now…

“Do I need tell you that in its clanky, knockabout, “a little bish here and a little bash there” way, the Seafood Hut is perfect? Of course not. It’s what those of us who are obsessed with the best the depths can offer dream of. You want to be there now. It can leave even the most cynical of us muttering about the joys of ruggedness and how you only really need the essentials… Ee-Usk – it’s Gaelic for fish – is directly across Oban’s harbour from the hut. It’s been on the tip of the North Pier for a couple of decades now and does look clean and well-mannered by comparison.”

And The Times’s Giles Coren learns that drinking top-shelf drams and back-of-the-list vino really does stave off a ferocious hangover. The only problem is he’s left with a £500+ bill for four people at Mac & Wild, a new Scottish restaurant in Fitzrovia, where his hamburger main cost a scant tenner. That’s quite a booze bill Giles…

“I had always disregarded that particular theory as pretentious, unprovable bollocks sprayed around by tedious oenophiles… You go round to their house and they make a big song and dance about opening a bottle of 1927 Chateau Vagine that they cunningly purchased for only 15 grand at auction 10 years ago, and then they pour you a thimbleful and expect you to make it last all night. Not much of a surprise that you wake up feeling fresh as a daisy.

“But the thing is last night I got absolutely mashed on wine at £87 a bottle and whisky at £17 a shot, literally poncing-fags-off-strangers-and-showing-my-penis-to-policemen drunk, and yet this bright October morning here I sit, feeling on top of the world, kids dressed and packed off to school, lovely walk to the office, tapping out this shimmering, pellucid prose. I haven’t even had a coffee yet.”

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