Review of the Reviews

This week’s Review of the Reviews is the last one for 2022 – we’ll be back in the New Year with a two-week round-up.

Here’s what the nation’s restaurant critics were writing about in the week up to 18 December… it seems to be very Mayfair-focused; maybe our regular critics were treating themselves for Christmas.


The Observer

Jay Rayner tried out the “newly renovated” Barley Mow in Mayfair, which, despite its location (in an area where “it’s hard to find a lip that has not been filled or a colon that has not been irrigated”) maintains “vestiges of normality” like decent beers on tap and football on the telly (not that Jay watched, of course).

The Barley Mow has been bought and refurbished “by Cubitt House, a company that has for a while now been giving glossy, robust makeovers to a group of central London pubs, including the Alfred Tennyson in Knightsbridge and the Princess Royal in Notting Hill. These are pubs for people with very clean boots”.

The “gorgeous etched glass windows and the deep dark varnish sheen of the bar” downstairs gives way to the first-floor dining room “where the tablecloths are thick and there’s a honeyed amber glow from the art deco ceiling lights”.

Ben Tish, formerly of the Game Bird, “has come up with an offering as butch and beguiling as the fit-out” – the bar menu offers hearty snacks like the hot meat bun (“shirt-destroying messy”) and fresh cockles in the shell in a “hot liquid swamp of garlicky parsley butter” (“huge shell-suckage opportunities”), plus full meals and “real” dessets.

Price-wise, it’s “pretty pokey” but also “really nice”.


The Evening Standard

“Richard Caring’s all-new, marble-carved middle finger to restraint and propriety” is how Jimi Famurewa summed up Bacchanalia, the new Mayfair opening with an interior he described as “one of the most jaw-dropping I’ve ever experienced”.

It’s also not the “tacky, high-profile calamity that many detractors might be anticipating”. Instead it’s a “study in richly textured, operatic escapism”, complete with waiters dressed in togas.

The “luxurycore” menu is a “sprawling repertoire of big-ticket Greco-Roman sharing platters” with occasional misfires but an overriding “pronounced ruggedness and simplicity”. Portions are “enormous” but so are the prices (wine starts at £60 and “rockets” from there).

“By the beard of Zeus, it is anything but boring.” (***)


Also in The Standard, ten 10 of London’s top chefs shared their tips for cooking a perfect Christmas lunch – “everything from stress-free veg to turkey alternatives and the ultimate roast”.


The Guardian

Despite the name, which “sounds less than delicious”, Grace Dent went to Saltie Girl (which is apparently “old Maine colloquial for mermaid”), recently imported from America, where there are branches in Boston and Los Angeles.

Unlike its Mayfair neighbours Apricity and Bibi (“outstanding examples of modern, innovative dining and fine service”), Grace found Saltie Girl to be a “highly expensive US import that sells shrimp cocktails, tinned fish and seafood towers” to a “wealthy but not massively discerning audience”.

“The service is delightful, the room is pretty and they’re doing some interesting things with tinned fish” – although, as the picture shows, to serve the dish of prime bonito (already £31 a tin) the chef “has simply opened the ring-pull and charged a big mark-up”.


Also in The Guardian, an article with contributions from 15 chefs and food writers on the best things they ate in 2022.


The Times

“Why have so many excellent restaurants sprung up in Notting Hill?” was the title of Giles Coren’s review this week (is he angling for another week off his self-enforced £40-a-head budget, we wondered). He couldn’t be bothered to write a potted history of the area, but still managed three paragraphs on what he should have written.

He’s had “three unexpectedly good meals” there recently; first off was Caia, “in the shadow of the Trellick Tower, where they make a big thing of their sound system and the clubby vibes” (which you can avoid if you eat around 6pm). It has “shared heritage with Fiend, Chris Denny’s wonderful restaurant” nearby, and “shows a similar focus on tight, bright flavours, post-hipsterish references (ash, foam, fermentation) and urgent salt-sweet/fat-acid confrontations”.

Rachel Johnson recommended a pub on All Saints Road called The Pelican, so he took a visiting relative and found it “Brilliant. Utterly brilliant. A massive great pub beautifully redone: warm and soft-toned, full of glorious winter light, bubbling with welcome and a cosy dining room in the back”.

The head of a brill, deep-fried and “served on a sweet, sticky lobster sauce” was “extraordinary” – “the most interesting thing I have ever eaten in a pub”.

Kuro Eatery on Hillgate Street “might be my favourite of them all” – it “looks, in all its sparse angularity, like a Nordic coffee shop” (and is an offshoot of a local one) but “the food is so good you can’t ignore it”. He ate “two of the most precise pasta dishes you’ll find even in the new Notting Hill” (including spaghettoni with clams, pictured) at this “slick, stylish and bright” spot, cooked by chef Andrianos Poulis (formerly of Cornerstone).

There’s also Straker’s (“you won’t get a table for 1,000 years”) and Dorian (reviewed last week) to prove that the W11 postcode is up and coming.


The Scotsman

Rosalind Erskine was in Glasgow, “on the site of a 1910 butcher shop” complete with “original Edwardian tiling” (it was also once a Velvet Elvis and “the Glasgow outpost of 6 Degrees North”); the latest incarnation is Gaga, “a collaboration between Julie’s Kopitiam owner Julie Lin, and Marc Ferrier and Ken Hamilton of nearby institution The Thornwood plus Ken’s son Fraser Hamilton who ran cocktail bar Sweet Liberty on Miami Beach”.

The food is South East Asian and the cocktails are “fun and flavourful”. “It’s lovely to see Gaga continue to thrive and, a year on, it’s hard to imagine it not being part of Glasgow’s west end culinary scene.”

Also in Glasgow, Gaby Soutar braved the Christmas shopping crowds on Buchanan Street (“Beware, all ye who enter at this time of year”) to try out five-month-old Scamp, “owned by the people behind two other west coast venues, the excellent restaurant Eighty Eight on Dumbarton Road and wine bar Hooligan on Lynedoch Street”.

The small plates menu was refreshingly “non-festive”, with a “barbecue twist to many of the options”


And also…

In The FT Magazine, a review of The Seaside Boarding House, Dorset and its “rich, comforting cuisine to steady you beside the storm-thrashed Lyme Bay” – “navigate there at full speed”.

In The FT’s How To Spend It, an investigation into “the dish of 2022” – from salad dressing to “Sleepy Chicken”.


Manchester Evening News pulled together tributes from around the world for Paul Kitching (RIP), who died last week.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to our readers; we hope you’ve enjoyed our critics’ round-ups in 2022.

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