Harden’s review of the reviews

⦿ AA Gill of the Sunday Times opened his review of The Magpie Café 5/5 in Whitby with the bombshell that he has cancer, an announcement that – uniquely perhaps for a restaurant review – was trailed by a front-page report.

“I’ve got an embarrassment of cancer, the full English,” he wrote, promising to let his readers know “if ever things start tasting like licked battery terminals” as a result of chemotherapy.

Ten years after declaring the Magpie Britain’s best chippy, he upped his praise: “This is, all things considered, without pretension but with utter self-confidence, still the best fish and chips in the world.” 

“The fish is generous, fresh off the boat, battered with a loving authority. Beef-dripping twice-fried chips are thick, crunchy and floury. The curry sauce is authentically indigenous, free from any Asian aspiration. 

⦿ The Observer’s Jay Rayner reviewed Yosma in Marylebone, where he found a “far better than average” rendition of the Turkish mangal cooking he loves.

“True, Yosma is more expensive than some of the Turkish cafés of Green Lanes, but not by very much.”

“Stay for dessert. Hell, come here just for dessert… künefe, a glorious syrup-soaked pastry with a golden glazed dome of shredded filo, baked in a silvery dish. It’s beautiful to look at, even better to eat.”

⦿ Marina O’Loughlin of The Guardian reviewed The Wilderness 8/10 in Birmingham, an experimental pop-up-gone-permanent from chef Alex Claridge – “a talent: a serious, serious talent.

“It’s like a stage set, and the food is every bit as dramatic: this is dinner as theatrical performance.

“From the thin toasts with a whorl of rich chicken-liver pate licked with blackcurrant jam that act as curtain-raiser to the chocolate skulls finale, it’s both technically assured and risk-taking.”

⦿ Fay Maschler of the Evening Standard visited Smokestak 4/5, streetfood star David Carter’s restaurant in Shoreditch where “once inside, it is as if you have plunged into an opera about barbecue”.

Brisket is the standout dish. “Its open texture, deep flavour and soft-as-silk potential is maximised by low and slow-cooking, basting and respectful resting in oiled butchers’ paper. Three thick, almost impossibly succulent, treacly-edged slices are served with punchy ketchup.”

⦿ In ES magazine, Grace Dent reviewed Park Chinois 2/5 in Mayfair, “one of those top-end luxury, opulently furnished, hysterically priced affairs” for the super-rich.

“On the positive side, it’s very beautiful.”

“Just for fun, we ordered a £10.50 panna cotta, which transpired to be possibly the world’s worst. A MasterChef amateur foray.”

⦿ Michael Deacon of the Daily Telegraph reviewed The Goring 3/5 in Belgravia, which he declared “good but not dazzling”.

“I had the saddle of Cumbrian fallow deer with venison sausage. Though it wasn’t especially large, this proved to be a beast of a dish: stonking thick slabs of meat you could fuel a platoon with. Yes, this is how we British like our dinners: extremely filling and extremely brown.” 

⦿ Tom Parker Bowles in The Mail on Sunday revisited Roka 5/5 in Charlotte Street, where he always orders two particular dishes.

“First, lamb cutlets, kankoku fu kohitsuji, if we’re going to be formal, cooked pink and plump as pillows. I gnaw them until the bone gleams.

“Then there’s kani no kamameshi, a great wooden pot full of king crab and splendidly gloopy rice, a deeply soothing Japanese risotto, where the nursery meets the narcotic. But at Roka, temptation is found at every turn.”

⦿ Giles Coren of The Times joined the chorus of approval for Kiln 9/10, Ben Chapman’s rustic Thai in Soho, where he was bowled over by the prices: “seven or eight quid a dish. Some even less. Staggering value. Utterly staggering.”

“First onto the counter in front of me came skewers of cubed hogget, aged, tightly cut, rolled in lots of pepper and turmeric, eggy with yellow fat, tarry with fire. Tremendous.”

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