This week we bring you the chance to compare and contrast two different restaurants as the Observer’s Jay Rayner and Tim Hayward in the FT both review Nuala, while Kathryn Flett’s Telegraph article and the Evening Standard’s Nicky Haslam deliver their opinions on the revival of Roganic…
Jay Rayner in The Observer, likens restaurant reviewing to “going down the bookies” as he reviews new City-fringe bistro Nuala…
“Nuala … on paper, has everything going for it… the bang-on-trend fire pit, the certified way to shout authenticity in 2018.
“…a kitchen in touch with its inner, grunting caveman…a cracker laden with… a frothy mousse of bright green chervil and… smokey cod’s roe. Other restaurants should come and study the Nuala wine list to see how it’s done.
“I’m happily slumped, like a well-used sofa. This is a good place to be… squid… crisped bacon… almond cream… is that rare thing: a unique dish … not an echo of anything else.
“… the “fireplace pumpkin” [is] a mess of a dish… a pronounced lack of enthusiasm… [Desserts] amount to little more than … creamy things in a bowl… trips and failures at the end … some beautiful moments.”
Read Tim Hayward’s take on Nuala in The Financial Times…
“…a new benchmark for hospitality.
“It’s a matter of record that Davidson is an excellent chef making adventurous and interesting food, but he also runs a room like the very best maÃ®tre d’ and has designed his own restaurant to please customers rather than inspectors.
“I once found a £50 note on a deserted beach. This was an equally inexplicable, uncomplicated joy.”
Grace Dent in The Guardian heads to Manchester where she finds ‘high-end but not off-puttingly pretentious British dishes’ at Wood…
“Wood resides in a purpose-built, pedestrianised space with an arts complex, five cinemas, two theatres and a gallery… the epitome of safe: CCTV-monitored, neon-lit and wholly sanitised.
“…high-end but not off-puttingly pretentious British dishes such as belly pork with sage… tiny nods to ingredients that make MasterChef critics such as myself coo: tar, romanesco, burnt onion.
“Prices might be viewed as punchy for Manchester. Service is bright and adorable. Wood seems to have taken flight beautifully.
“…huge, plump, beautifully coloured scallops… devoured in moments and talked about for weeks… wild mushroom ravioli… singular and vaguely Smurf-shaped. With puddings, you take your chances. There’s a lot to love at Wood, and I’ll definitely go back.”
David Ellis in The Evening Standard advises you not to overlook Bistro Mirey, a pop-up that went permanent in Fulham late last year…
“…it’s been almost entirely overlooked, which is nonsense. French cooking is delicious but it hasn’t been revolutionary since, well, the French Revolution. It’s Ito’s Japanese influence which makes things tick.”
“…stuffed full of edamame and black sesame, the steak tartare is the best I’ve had in ages. The experimenting is across the menu.
“Mirey and Ito are precise in their taste. It is fusion food, I suppose, but unlike the usual cliched fare… This is a place which feels tremendously honest… They deserve to be the kind of busy that wears out waiters, and not just as a neighbourhood place.”
David Sexton in The Evening Standard heads to Peckham’s South African-influenced newcomer Kudu…
“Kudu, converted … from a former chicken shop, is a good-looking place… a clubby, sociable mood.
“Kudu is an object lesson in how to create a restaurant that’s informal and contemporary yet also stealthily luxurious… although the name … suggests fully South African cooking, that element’s actually not much more than a pleasing inflection to a Modern British style.
“…full of totally on trend ingredients, some of them foraged, also incorporating Japanese flavours… every dish here has lots to say, an amazing set of statements about what tastes right, right now. Kudu aims to be stand-out all the way and it succeeds.”
Keith Miller in The Telegraph enjoys the Bangkok bustle of Smoking Goat in Shoreditch (the original in Covent Garden closed in January)…
“…the new branch of TSG occupies what was once a gogo bar… you can see where the magic happens: a little row of wok-topped terracotta bowls, aglow with charcoal.
“’Everything comes from Cornwall!’ said our server, glassy-eyed with pride. The portions were massive, the flavours bold, the presentation artless and studenty.
“…outstanding dish was … “d’Tom Yam” broth with mussels and velvet crabs, keen-edged and fragrant… a pretty good place to eat out, but it’s an absolutely perfect place for a Night Out… touches of delicate, exquisite originality… sheer, simple enjoyment.”
Micheal Deacon in The Telegraph gives four stars to Darwin in Clapham, where “The venison made me feel like Henry VIII”…
Tom Parker Bowles in The Daily Mail is very happy at The Fordwich Arms in Kent, even if the locals are less so…
“The locals are not happy… The Fordwich Arms, formerly a good old-fashioned … Kentish boozer …has gone all posh.”
“… a good pub with a rather fine restaurant. There’s a purity to Smith’s cooking, mixed with discreet, pared-back art.”
“… sensibly priced, beautifully executed modern pub grub… pheasant dumplings in a roasted onion and herb broth is sublime.
“Much as the loss of traditional pubs can be sad, the new Fordwich Arms is cause for celebration. You can still get your pints, and eat assured, elegant and often inspired modern British cooking. In the most civilised of surroundings.”
Kathryn Flett in The Telegraph finds it difficult to fully express her admiration for the food at Roganic, the bill however is an ‘event’ in itself…
“I have neither the space, time, nor adjectival reach to describe each dish, but suffice to say we consume everything punctuated by countless oohs, amazings and I-didn’t-expect-thats, each dish building on the mini taste-quake provided by its predecessor.
“Particular standouts were the artichoke broth with (whisper it) a hint of the popular bacon-flavoured snack, Frazzles; the blissful poached halibut with its mustardy brassicas and tarragonic punch. And the duck, too, was very special and the beetroot sorbet both smart and successful. And on. And on…
“And yet here comes the caveat: this is ultra-modern, super-priced event dining from which nearly every traditional trope of “event dining” – getting dressed up to play a walk-on part in a grand theatrical room, for example – has been deftly filleted and the “event” (the bill remains an “event”) is reduced to the stuff on your plate.”
Nicky Haslam in the Evening Standard is equally enthralled by the parade of miniature marvels at Simon Rogan’s latest iteration of Roganic…
“To tell the truth, the whole thing was pretty fin, raffinée and delicately surprising. And surprisingly substantial: with a pause in this parade of bon-bouches for a little warm loaf of wholemeal bread with sweet butter, we couldn’t possibly have stuffed in the menu’s last item, tea cake, which I’m sure is far less Edwardian nursery than it sounds.
“But it must also be said that these mere mouthfuls didn’t come cheap. They worked out at about 10 quid a pop. So maybe Roganic, however delicious its every morsel, is somewhere to go once in a blue moon.”