Harden’s review of the reviews

Jay Rayner in The Observer loves Stevie Parle’s Roman restaurant in Clerkenwell – Palatino – so much he doesn’t want to leave…

“I don’t want to leave. Ever. I am very happy here in my lunchtime booth, as deep winter daylight falls, the lovely things keep arriving at my table and a fug of contentment settles. I could, for example, suggest that Palatino is a far better Roman restaurant than most of the restaurants in Rome. That would drive people really nuts, wouldn’t it? So let’s give it a go”

“Restaurateurs here [London] know you always have a real choice; that they have to work damn hard to bring you in and keep you there. Palatino, with its tall windows, open kitchen and banquettes upholstered in leather the colour of English mustard, retains its own identity”

“From the list of antipasti, we have sage leaves and pieces of brilliant orange squash sliced gossamer-thin, then deep-fried in a frilly overcoat of the lightest batter. Rigatoni with veal pajata – the intestines tied off and long braised; remember, if you kill it, you eat all of it – comes in an insistent tomato and chilli sauce. The offal is deep and soft without being overly funky.

“The great Roman dish of saltimbocca – literally “leap into the mouth” – is precisely as it should be, the veal beaten out then laid with sage leaves and wrapped in prosciutto, before being sautéed off in a sweet marsala-based sauce. If you haven’t tried it before, try it here… beautiful green pistachio and saffron cake, £1 from which goes to the charity CookforSyria … is a soft, moist, almost souffléd cake on top, with its own crisper base.”

Marina O’Loughlin in The Sunday Times ‘levitates with pleasure’ at Duddell’s, recently opened dim sum parlour in the stunning setting of St Thomas Church, London Bridge…

Meanwhile at The Times Giles Coren heads to the new Nobu Hotel in Shoreditch and is only dimly reminded of his 1990s visit to the original London branch at the Metropolitan Hotel…

Felicity Cloake in The Guardian pays a visit to the latest venture from the duo behind Notting Hill’s stratospherically popular 108 Garage – Southam Street…

“The sister restaurant to the much-lauded 108 Garage at the Portobello end of Golborne. Same road, different world… there appears to be an Asian-American theme, the ground-floor space given over to grilling and smoking, while the upstairs …is dedicated to the cult of raw, apparently in the form of sashimi and ceviche, rather than dehydrated flaxseed pizzas… picanha steak, soft and juicy with smoky, dripping-scented fat and a judicious sprinkling of salt.

“A satisfyingly elastic steamed spring roll, bursting at the seams with soft-shell crab and crunchy salad, hits another bullseye. It feels remiss to come for brunch in the spiritual home of avocado toast and not try it, and Southam Street does it well, topped with a perfect coddled egg and a generous quenelle of what’s called egg wakame butter, but tastes pleasingly like Marmite… dessert: a beautifully molten chocolate moelleux with an unusually subtle matcha-flavoured ice-cream, and a strawberry chawan mushi”

“Southam Street itself, however, feels a bit like a fish out of water. There’s some good cooking here, and, yes, the wallpaper’s fabulous – but if you can’t get chips right, you’re in trouble.”

Grace Dent in the Evening Standard reviews ‘thespian TGI Fridays’ Joe Allen which moved to a new premises in Covent Garden this autumn…

“Joe Allen, I shall explain for Londoners who’ve never eaten a burger downwind from Christopher Biggins, Sheridan Smith and four French peasants from Les Misérables, is a sort of thespian TGI Fridays. And I mean this with love.

“It serves comfort food — chicken parmigiana, lobster roll and calf’s liver on mash — to board-treaders, their agents and all other mill and chaff of this business we call ‘show’. It serves fine, face-melting cocktails.

“When Joe Allen announced it would be uprooting from Exeter Street and moving to Burleigh Street, closer to The Strand, I was the first to declare it over… in visiting the all-new Joe’s I was, as ever, proved to be a complete arse. On a cold Tuesday night the roar of a jubilant, jam-packed identikit Joe Allen hit me as I opened the door.

“Joe’s really has, as promised, been moved faithfully, lovingly and, in fact, eerily. All the posters. All the clutter. This is dependable dinner. It’s a hug on a plate.

“The secret off-menu burger is still there. The grilled swordfish served in a lemony, oily, capery slick of loveliness with a carby hit of smashed potatoes has ended up on my 2017 Best Dishes Ever list. De Niro’s development could have broken this restaurant. Joe Allen said, let’s go on with the show.”

Micheal Deacon in The Telegraph gives three stars to the latest Italian offering from Stevie Parle, Soho pasta spot Pastaio. But he warns: “Do not eat four mains consisting of pasta”. Also reviewed by Tim Hayward in The Financial Times who hails it as: “A homage to the 1960s Soho trattoria. It is bringing careful cooking and crowd-pleasing combinations to a large audience at an accessible price.”


Kathryn Flett in The Telegraph is the latest critic to review Victor Garvey’s new Catalan restaurant Rambla. She’s not quite so effusive in her praise as Fay Maschler was in a rare five star review, but gives the Soho spot three stars…

Mostly a rambling (no pun intended) story about her childhood hankering for crema catalaan, and then hands over to a friend to provide commentary.

“Rambla might be the best Catalan faux-tapas in London and that the canelones, quail and sea bass were perfect. But for the fact there’s no Crema-C (we had more cheese), they don’t serve coffee (nor any hot drinks. Why?) and there aren’t hand-dryers … this would have been a five-star review.”

Tom Parker Bowles in The Daily Mail gives Atul Kochhar’s Sindhu at The Compleat Angler in Marlow four stars…

“Sindhu, an Indian restaurant within The Compleat Angler hotel… chutneys appear – excellent, home-made chutneys with tiny poppadoms – and we know we’re in good hands. But we knew that already, as this is an Atul Kochhar gaff… fried chicken, lustily spiced and beautifully battered, with a sweet, delicate tomato sauce, bolstered by a sly pinch of Kashmiri chilli… lamb seekh kebab, a splendidly soft and fatty cylinder of pure ovine delight.

“Best of all is a Hyderabadi dum biryani. The chicken thighs have been cooked in the tandoor first, which gives them that lovely lick of smoke. Then sealed, like a dead Pharaoh’s wife, in the pot with the rice and gently cooked for hours. The rice is sublime… it’s a menu that skips and gambols across the subcontinent…. Sindhu offers a masterclass in regional Indian cooking. Sindhu is the local Indian restaurant of my dreams.”

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