Review of the reviews

Here’s our weekly round-up of what the nation’s restaurant critics were writing about in the week up to 21 January 2024


The Evening Standard

Jimi Famurewa reviewed Kebhouze, the new Oxford Street kebab joint from Italian businessman and “internet personality” Gianluca Vacchi which claims to be the UK’s biggest “despite the fact 220-cover Green Lanes behemoths like Gökyüzü exist”.

The interior design seems to be a “cluster-headache of cherry-red corrugated metal, throbbing neon signage, and hip hop cranked to sternum-juddering volume”; your order is announced by a “computerised, Squid Game-style voice over a tannoy system”.

Some dishes were “at least vaguely competent”, while others were “basically inedible”; the whole venture appears to be “a calculated bet that — at a time when Greggs is planning to open 160 new branches in a year — cheapness and convenience will trump haphazard quality”. (*)


In a new “review in a few” feature, ES Magazine’s Food and Drink editor Joanna Taylor concisely reviewed Gaia, the new Greek restaurant in Mayfair. Despite the substance-over-style décor and £28 desserts, “when confronted with its warm, Mediterranean hospitality” she found “an utterly delicious experience”.


Also in The Standard, an interview with Tom Booton, “six months after the Dorchester renamed its grill for him”, a round-up of supermodel Kate Moss’s favourite London restaurants over the years, recommendations for ushering in the Year of the Dragon this Chinese New Year, and news of a new restaurant from the Manteca team: Levant-inspired Oma will open in Borough Market this spring.

In other news, Fortnum & Mason is hosting a restaurant pop-up for the first time in its history: from 6-25 February, Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver’s famous institution St John is temporarily relocating to Piccadilly while their Smithfield home is undergoing refurbishment. Trevor Gulliver has described the collaboration as a “frivolous jaunt” – even redecorating the space to match the all-white aesthetic of St John.


The Observer

“10,000 Instagram reels just waiting to happen.”

Jay Rayner was in Manchester, at Fenix, the “modern Greek” restaurant in the new St John’s development, which is so sharp-edged and brittle you could cut your finger on it.

Inside, it’s quite the opposite, “an orgy of rounded, undulating faux sandstone walls” and “sanded olive wood” – as over-the-top as you’d expect from the company behind Tattu (the one with “a faux cherry blossom tree in the middle of the dining room”) – “like the cantina from the original Star Wars, only with added hummus”.

“Too often when millions have been spent on the decor, the food becomes an afterthought.” Jay’s heart sank further when the waiter announced that the food is modern Greek “with an Asian twist”, but the food “really is all sorts of delicious and, in its own way, thoroughly comforting”.

There are “terrific” larger dishes for sharing (which “may well translate as “for fighting over””) and “desserts include a cinnamon-spiced crème brûlée, which is as accomplished as any I’ve ever been served”.


The Guardian

“A West African trailblazer in its own right.”

Grace Dent reviewed Akara, Akoko’s “new, more casual, younger sibling” in Borough Market (“hiding slightly up a back lane and away from the £12 aubergines”);

The namesake akara are, “of course, on the menu” – “here they are plump, voluptuous and stuffed with the likes of sweet, spiced barbecued tiger prawns… each akara comes in its own little box, so don’t order them to share, as we did”.

“This isn’t stand-on-ceremony food, this is a dig-in type of dinner – although your servers will happily explain the cooking process if you ask them to.”

“This is a confident restaurant taking its first tottering steps, offering modern, playful, imaginative riffs on food that clearly means so much to Akokomi.”


The Times & The Sunday Times

Charlotte Ivers reviewed “new high-end Italian” Dear Jackie: “where the beautiful people will be going next — that’s the word on the fancier streets of London… the filthy rich will love it”.


Chitra Ramaswamy visited the new Sushisamba in Edinburgh, which was “wow factor-y on entry thanks to a wraparound bar” and altogether “exciting — on paper”.


The Scotsman

Gaby Soutar visited Montrose House, a “white late-19th-century building” that “looks huge from the street, but is relatively titchy inside”; “the Radford family, owners of Edinburgh’s Michelin-starred Timberyard, and their head chef, James Murray, have taken it over”.

There’s a wine bar offering small plates and a three-course menu, and a “15-cover fine dining area” upstairs that’s “like being in a culinary spa” (“Even if the chef had offered me a massage, I probably couldn’t have loved this place more.”)


Rosalind Erskine reviewed Ardnamurchan, a “well-heeled” spot near Glasgow’s Theatre Royal; it has a “modern Scottish hotel vibe” and a menu with “a decent mix of meat, veggie options and seafood, all from Scottish suppliers or with a Scottish addition”.


And also…

In The FT Magazine, Tim Hayward asked “Want to feel young again?” His answer is “Eat out in central London… I am 60. In many top restaurants, I am also the youngest diner in the room.”


In The Independent, Francesca Specter wrote about the rise of solo dining and where to try it, and Clare Finney explores why the best chefs are opening restaurants in art galleries, where “food for the heart meets food for the mind and delivers a truly satisfying feast”.


Tom Parker Bowles for The Daily Mail visited Ixchel on London’s King’s Road, and found a “Mexican magnet for gilded young carousers” that serves food “a cut above the usual half-baked Mexican mediocrity”.


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