Harden’s review of the reviews

The Guardian’s Marina O’Laughlin is back in her native Glasgow, but the locals may not want to hear what she has to say about Dennistoun’s Bilson Eleven.

“How dare I? How dare I be critical about a small, new indie restaurant, its name an elision of the chef/owner’s two sons (and the number of tables they, er, used to have)? Where it’s clearly the work of the bleeding inevitable passionate maverick who has dedicated his life, soul, savings? I usually don’t dare: these are the reviews I hate to write, so I spend an uncomfortable first few courses of Bilson Eleven’s £49 tasting menu frantically trying to look on the bright side, make allowances. Warm bread with butter whipped with malt: nice. Amuse bouche referencing a ploughman’s lunch: not bad, with its bendy little horseradish and salmon cracker and ramekin layered with ham hough, pickled onion and cheese foam. Oh god, foam. But, yeah, not bad.

“But there are also monstrosities: a mushy great slab of sous-vided monkfish is crusted with peanuts and assaulted by two sugary sauces, one of caramelised cauliflower and one of mulched-up raisins. What. Were. They. Thinking? It’s so clunky, so cloth-palated – super-sweet and murky, then the peanuts – that I can’t eat more than a forkful.

“The gloves come hurtling off.”

Fay Maschler over at the Evening Standard pays three visits to Islington’s new Louisiana-style pub-restaurant Plaquemine Lock which is helping to fill the capital’s void for authentic Southern cuisine left behind by the disappearance of Brad MacDonald’s Shotgun and The Lockhart (RIP)…

“When you do go, don’t omit from the order — which you make at the bar in exchange for your credit card and a numbered oyster shell — a salad of round lettuce with spicy pecans, blue cheese dressing and chives. The floppy leaves, also know as English, make the best salad and the assembly is big enough to feed three or four. Po’ boys, sandwiches originally handed out to striking streetcar conductors, wrapped and served like fast food in a basket, have the requisite soft rolls and are going down well with children at the next table.”

Meanwhile the Observer’s Jay Rayner takes a trip to Leeds an Indian street food and craft beer combo that could well be coming to a high street near you soon. The Cat’s Pyjamas indeed…

“There is little on the menu that will startle. There’s a rogan josh, a saag paneer and a whole tandoori chicken. Some of the descriptions are a little eager to please, bigging up the wildly popular antecedents of each dish. They love it so you will. But the essentials are all there. Pani puri, six for £4.50, are crisp, hollow, deep-fried bowls, enough for a mouthful, even mine. They are filled with spiced potato, onion and tamarind chutney, and the gaudiness of pomegranate seeds. They are extremely pretty, as if auditioning for the part of an earth mother’s costume jewellery. Into the spiced dipping sauce on the side then into your mouth whole; there’s no other way. The puri swiftly collapse, giving up the soft filling and with it a memory, of the brilliant ones served at the long-gone and much-missed Kastoori of Tooting. This is high praise.”

ES Magazine’s Grace Dent is the second critic in as many weeks to review Holloway’s new Westerns Laundry, after Jay Rayner paid the place a visit last week and found himself stewing over the price of their wines. Dent is much more inclined to like the place, in fact it may well be one of her favourites this year…

“With regards to chef David Gingell’s food, I can state plainly that this was one of 2017’s greatest dinners. His cuttlefish croquettes were good at an obscene, semi-evil level. Hot, crisp, prettily noir with a sucker punch of the sea. Some simple grilled mackerel appeared in a slick of miso, chilli and spring onion alongside a plate of first rate paleta ibérico. For a week afterwards I pondered the splendour of the turbot, served in a soupy semi-stew of ginger and seaweed.”

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