Harden’s review of the reviews

⦿ The Observer’s Jay Rayner reviewed Chop Chop in Edinburgh, which confirmed his view that dumplings are the ultimate comfort food – “While you are eating dumplings nothing bad can happen.” Opened in 2006 by Jian Wang, from Dongbei in northeast China, Chop Chop excels in its dumplings, although its other dishes were more variable in quality.

“If there is a standout from the dishes we try, it is the jiao zi filled with that classic northern Chinese mix of lamb and cumin, the gossamer skins breaking to release gusts of meatiness with just a hint of lanolin and the aromatics of the roasted spice. They’re so good we order another bowlful, chasing the slippery little blighters around the glazed bowl with our chop sticks.”

⦿ Fay Maschler of the Evening Standard reviewed Farang 4/5, a modern Thai streetfood outfit from former Begging Bowl sous chef Seb Holmes that has just began a six-month residency at San Daniele Italian restaurant in Highbury, which she recommended with enthusiasm.

“Wild betel leaf wraps of prawn and pomegranate listed as miang bites are absolutely the way to start the meander through Farang’s small and large plates. They are cracking, crackling parcels of both expectation and delivery with a powerful chilli finish that raps your knuckles and sorts you out for what follows.”

⦿ ES magazine’s Grace Dent reviewed El Pastor 3/5 in Borough Market, where she was was perhaps the first reviewer to be disappointed by the Mexico City-inspired tacqueira from Sam and Eddie Hart, the brothers behind the Barrafina tapas bars. “I think I hit a bad day. I’m a Barrafina tub-thumping devotee. I know it’s better than this.” 

She enjoyed the sesame tuna tartare, the “seriously lovely” chicken chipotle-cumin adobo rub tacos, and “excellent” grilled corn with lime zest and chipotle. But these were outweighed by the disappointments.

“Service throughout lunch was loveably, laughably chaotic. Missing margaritas, tortilla boxes delivered empty, multiple orders taken. A round of tacos with sweet confit pork, pork rind, chicharron and salsa lacked any discernable magic.”

“I’m still puzzled by the soggy piece of short rib that arrived, reportedly with a guajillo rub, which may well have been washed away as the wickedness of short rib is all in the stickiness, the darkness, the moistness warring deliciously with firmness. It had none of these things.”

⦿ Time Out’s Tom Howells reviewed 108 Garage 4/5 in Notting Hill which, he noted, a “publicist’s wet dream of a backstory has resulted in a rather lovely spot that… is already an utter bastard to get a table at.”

“The place is muscular, atmospheric and ever so slightly ’90s.”

“A single veal sweetbread, lightly seared and set atop charred cabbage, is an earthy riot. Roast octopus sees an eldritch limb, yielding and offset by sweet slivers of golden turnip, tahini and a translucent radicchio leaf. It’s so fresh it deserves a slap..

 â¦¿ In The Independent, Kirsty Major reviewed Firedog, a Greek and Turkish-inspired joint in Fitzrovia wherethe small plates trend has reached the breakfast table.

“There are tomatoes with purple basil olive oil, hung cheese with sour cherry compote, wood-roasted tahini with caroub molasses, candied pumpkin yoghurt, grilled halloumi, feta and sujuk with charred spring onions, all presented on individually designed clay plates. The meal is served with a selection of flat breads…”

⦿ In The Sunday Telegraph, Kathryn Flett reviewed the Jolly Sportsman 4/5, at East Chiltington near Lewes in East Sussex, which lived up to its own description as”fine cooking, not fine dining“.

Eschewing refined elegance for stylish fuel-stoking, successful pub food is food that knows its place and never eclipses a great time. That was that food…”

⦿ In the Mail on Sunday, Tom Parker Bowles reviewed Menu Gordon Jones 5/5 in Bath, where he found “Prices are ridiculously low for cooking this sensational, and service warmly impeccable. Jones has restored my faith in the tyranny of the tasting menu, a chef at the very peak of his considerable powers.

Roquefort and broccoli ‘Cuppa soup’ has intense depth that belies its ephemeral espuma texture. It comes with a cheese and onion madeleine as light as a virgin’s sigh. Fun rather than gimmicky, a dish of substance. Just like the suckling pork belly, lasciviously soft and squishy, brushed with peanut butter and served alongside a ball of densely chewy rice.

⦿ Giles Coren of The Times reviewed Palatino 7/10 in Shoreditch, Stevie Parle’s celebration of Roman cuisine, where the tonanarelli cacio e pepe was revelatory to somebody who had never enjoyed eating in Rome.

From nowhere came a silkiness, a depth, a poetry that I have never encountered in a bowl of spaghetti before. I was so nice finally to taste the dish I have always suspected the staff were eating in the kitchen while I was choking on the bowl of 20 quid tourist vomit they serve out front.”

⦿ In the Sunday Times, Josh Glancy reviewed Lake Road Kitchen 5/5 near Ambleside, “the Noma of the north” which “has packaged up the story of the Lake District and sold it to alienated city dwellers” – and managed to make nearby L’Enclume look a little dated.

“James Cross has a near-religious devotion to food. He mortgaged his bungalow in Birmingham to start this restaurant. He pours his soul into every morsel.”

“The Norwegian king crab with nasturtium was perhaps the most addictively saline thing I’ve ever tasted. Even better was the steamed monkfish with chicken dripping… I’m told the dropping contained the life juice of 70 chickens ,cooked and drained especially for each pot”.

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