Here’s our regular round-up of what the nation’s restaurant critics were writing about up to 20th August 2023.
“This is why we put on shoes and go out to eat.”
Parry doesn’t court the TV fame or publish cookbooks but “somewhere among the Basque-style turbot, the smoked potatoes and the wobbly cheesecake, diners and food critics alike developed a deep respect” for him.
At Mountain there’s “more cooking on fire, more muted, industrial-rustic decor, more painstakingly sourced ingredients such as ex-dairy beef and sobrassada” while the menu is “a tad more experimental” than Brat.
“Special mention to the dessert menu, because it’s both complex and surprising, which are two words rarely used in pudding-land these days.”
“Buzzy, delicious, destination dining in the middle of Soho… further evidence that Tomos Parry really knows what he’s doing.”
William Sitwell also reviewed Mountain, and waxed lyrical about the wine list and the “exceptional desserts”, but was less enthusiastic about the combination of Welsh ingredients and Spanish techniques.
“I was dragged up and down the mountain with doses of failure and success, but with its great service team, cheffy brains and good location, I feel this place will boom.” (****)
“A heart-of-the-village kind of bakery.”
Chitra Ramaswamy visited a bakery in Dunkeld for a nostalgic taste of Great British Bake Off history; owner Flora Shedden reached the semi-final in 2015 when she was just 19.
“Inside this restored 200-year-old corner building” Shedden has opened Aran Bakery (as well as a general store) in her home town and is locally “regarded as the force powering Dunkeld’s foodie renaissance”. It’s not hard to see why from the rapturous descriptions of the food Chitra wrote in this review: “the day’s bakes are set out, glistening like jewels in a display case”. “It’s all in the details and the elegant, often northern or eastern European flavours.”
“I ate a pea, potato and parmesan [Danish pastry] as I sat on a high stool at the window… while my son devoured a flawless croissant beside me — and it was one of my top eating experiences of the year.” (27/30)
The Evening Standard
David Ellis was in Soho to review Chung’dam, the Korean barbecue that occupies the site that for 35 years was “Christine Yau’s missed Yming, Soho’s oldest Chinese restaurant”. The décor couldn’t be more different – it’s now “porcelain — white, bright, clean and hard — and not entirely elegant”.
Menu-wise, Chung’dam’s “menu roots around in different toy boxes” with barbecue, “three-tiered treasure chests of seafood and steaks” and “plates of things that have no obvious name” but the waiters assist with “charm”.
“I’ve heard Chung’dam praised over and again, so it may well have been an off-night; we took a late sitting. But… it’s not cheap, and Korean can often be so much more exciting than this.”
Be warned, too, that the bill adds 12.5% for the kitchen staff, but the waiters get nothing unless you add even more service for them. (**)
As well as fond farewells to Le Gavroche (“the restaurant that started it all” closes in January 2024) and The India Club (which “long played an important role in nurturing relations between India and the UK”), also in The Standard, Ben McCormack gave us a round-up of the best burgers in London for National Burger Day, “from Bleeker to Blacklock”, plus the annual offering of where to eat grouse, that “ultra-seasonal, quintessentially British” game bird only available from the Glorious Twelfth of August.
There was more surprises from veteran chef Rowley Leigh, who – after a decade away from the stoves – has announced that, on September 13th, he “will open Chez Rowley inside Notting Hill’s Laylow, offering an Italian-leaning bistro with room for 65 in the Golborne Road celeb-magnet (and former bordello)”.
Jay Rayner visited The Empire Café in Leeds, born again when Yorkshire chef Sam Pullan and his partner Nicole Deighton pulled off the La Strega restaurant sign from the Briggate space they had leased and found underneath “a sweeping red and gold sign for the Empire Café, a name that almost certainly references the Empire Theatre, one of the great music halls of Leeds, which opened just a street away in 1898”.
Their plans for a restaurant called Appys were abandoned in favour of serving bacon baps and Yorkshire tea from a hatch once again, alongside “rotisserie chickens, with the schmaltz dripping into the roasting potatoes below” and “deeper ambitions at play” with good alternative for the veggies (“non-meat dishes are clearly not also-rans here”).
“I loved the Empire Café: I loved the enthusiasm of the staff, its attention to the good things, its sweetly comic attachment to location.”
Kate Ng escaped the hustle and bustle of London Bridge to review In Horto, “a garden oasis tucked behind one of London’s busiest tourist traps” where she enjoyed “hearty, wood-fired cooking” designed for sharing from “a seasonal menu”.
It’s “stylish yet homely, with thought put into making every corner feel like you’re stepping into someone’s al fresco dinner party”; owned by the same people as Flat Iron Square, In Horto is “a quieter, calmer place to sit down and have a meal”.
Despite the popularity of its predecessor Gnom, Lobo has been welcomed locally as “a delightful addition to the burgeoning dining scene”. (14/20)
Gaby Soutar visited the new home of Junk, the street food outlet that scooped three top prizes at last year’s British Street Food Awards; “now they have a presence at Edinburgh Street Food and a restaurant on the Southside.”
“Their stand-alone joint was buzzing on a mid-Festival evening, with a pub vibe inside, thanks to neon lights and black walls.” The “sophisticated take on junk food” (their words) was all “lovely” and the “place retains an irreverent street food vibe, even if we did, conveniently, have a roof over our heads”. Staff “are extra friendly and chatty”. (16/20)
FT Globetrotter published a guide to fine-dining in Copenhagen: the Danish capital is both “one of the world’s great gastro destinations” and an “ever-shifting scene that occasionally bewilders but always bewitches”.