Harden’s review of the reviews

⦿ The Guardian’s Marina O’Loughlin reviewed Trump Turnberry 6/10 in Ayrshire, where she arrived with “prejudices fully erect” and is told in a whisper, “We’re not allowed to talk politics.”

“Yes, there’s a lot to loathe. I hate that the hotel celebrates Scottishness in a way only a tourist can love: charming doormen waft you indoors in full kilted regalia, complete with soaring feathers in bonnets. [But] try as I might, I can’t hate the whole glittery, meretricious shebang, because the staff are lovely.”

“Yes, I hate some of the food: a silly deep-fried egg that manages to have solid yolk and mucousy white, in a gummy pool of ’36 month-aged parmesan velouté’, like liquidised tinned macaroni cheese, with crisped ‘two-year aged Tuscany ham’: a salty picked scab. Or a hunk of tragically overcooked halibut on what seems to be microwaved hummus plus swamp of exhausted spinach.”

But other dishes were much better: “I like smoked ham bound with goose liver into a silky, meaty hummock, with tendrils of celeriac rémoulade and sweet golden sultanas.”

⦿ Jay Rayner of The Observer reviewed The Peach Tree and Momo-No-Ki, a British bistro, Japanese ramen house and Cuban bar sharing one space – and one-and-a-half kitchens – in Shrewsbury.

“It’s utterly bonkers and shouldn’t work but, in its own sweet, charming, understated way, it does. Indeed, it’s rather good. And why the hell not?”

“Piggy Bits in Korean BBQ sauce [is] a bowl full of crisped pieces of porker… It’s £6.50 worth of smacked lips and crunch.”

“A huge plate of roast chicken… reminds me of the late Michael Winner: it’s stupidly rich, quite absurd but means well and generally makes the world a better place.”

⦿ In the Evening Standard, David Sexton reviewed Lorne 3/5 in Victoria, “an ambitious first venture” from sommelier Katie Exton and chef Peter Hall, both alumni of The Square under Phil Howard.

“You can drink delightfully at fair prices here. The menu doesn’t match up — as is often the case with Modern British — meaning heritage ingredients have been hopefully assembled rather than compellingly fused, connotation and visual appeal mattering more than substance.”

“Guinea fowl, boudin noir, mushroom, calcot (£21) was the best of the main courses, despite a rather horrific appearance: the mushrooms, clearly including dried ceps, had been reduced to a thick black gunge which looked like something that might worry a doctor or even a plumber. It had, however, an intensely fungal flavour,  going well with the bird, a fatty slice of black pudding, and the trophy ingredient, soft-cooked Catalan green onions.”

To conquer Wilton Road, Lorne needs to get all of it right. This food was fussy, not to say wussy, lacking in guts, not the accompaniment needed by the singing wine list.

⦿ Grace Dent of ES magazine was “rather smitten” by Farang 4/5, a new-wave Thai pop-up from ex-Smoking Goat chef Seb Holmes in what used to be Highbury Italian San Daniele .

“A grilled piece of onglet arrives with a gorgeous sunrise-coloured puddle of roasted chili jaew dipping sauce. It is Looney Tunes-style ‘Wile E Coyote drinks from a vase of flowers’ hot, but I’ve come to see this as a challenge. We move on to a bowl of delicate yellowbean wontons laced with chive, then two specials: grilled herring fragrant with lemongrass, and a delightful plate of mar hor — a sticky mess of pork, shrimp and nam pla served on pineapple. 

“Farang’s turmeric roti, which arrives collapsed under the weight of its own marvellousness is a thing of wonder.”

⦿ In Time Out, Tania Ballantine reviewed Popolo 4/5 in Shoreditch,  “one of the most brilliant Italian restaurants to open in London in ages”.

“The kitchen has the small-plates creativity of Bocca di Lupo, the commitment to ingredient quality of the River Café and the borrow-from-the-Med-and-Middle East approach of Morito.”

“The food is stunning. Pasta – in dainty, tapas-sized portions – was cooked to al dente perfection, the sauces invested with depth and intensity. The technical prowess here betrays the classical training of head chef and co-owner Jon Lawson (an ex-kickboxer, he came to cooking late in life, training under Theo Randall).

“Iberian influence comes from Lawson’s Spanish mama: if there are croquettes on the menu, snap ’em up. Each shell was tantalisingly crisp, its centre silken. Opening one up is a bit like cracking an egg.”

⦿ Also in Time Out, Anna Kibbey Calcutta Street 4/5 in Fitzrovia, a pop-up-turned-permanent serving “full-throttle cooking that’s much more faithful to tradition than your average local cuzza”.

“Skip the street food snacks. Instead, cover your tiny table with hearty, spice-fuelled mains, for it’s in home-style dishes that Calcutta Street really delivers. Bengali cooks are famously resourceful, so an ordinary-looking bowl of root veg becomes a fine, fragrant panch mishali tarkari with the addition of coconut, fresh tomato and panch phoran (Bengal’s traditional five-spice mix). The prawn malai kari, with its trio of whole tiger prawns in a coconut, coriander and green chilli sauce, on the other hand, was a showstopper from the off, bristling with fresh spice.

“I’d also go back for the kosha mangsho, a traditional mutton curry here made with lamb, unashamedly spicy but bursting with aromas and a depth of flavour that can only develop from slow cooking on the bone.”

⦿ Keith Miller of the Daily Telegraph reviewed La Bonne Bouffe, 4/5 in East Dulwich,  which offers a “mixtape of bistro standards – choucroute, merlu au beurre noir, steak hâché, saucisse aux lentilles, oeuf à la neige”.

“Everything [was] pretty flawless… Service was pleasing – slow, yet somehow slow in a deeply urbane way – but not perfect.”

“La Bonne Bouffe is good, I think: quite good by any standards; very good for a neighbourhood joint.”

⦿ In the Mail on Sunday, Tom Parker Bowles reviewed Ferdi 2/5, the cult Parisian burger joint that has opened a branch in Mayfair’s Shepherd Market.

“There are better burgers, well, everywhere. In places you can actually exhale without upending the table. The room is annoying rather than endearing, and while the food is never actually disgusting, the good stuff (charcuterie, herring pearls) has more to do with sensible sourcing than any higher culinary power.”

“As for the prices… I know we’re in Mayfair, but there’s criminal, and then there’s locked up for life. With no question of parole. Kitty Fisher’s, just over the road, is twice as good, at half the cost.”

⦿ Giles Coren of The Times reviewed Margot 7/10 in Covent Garden, a “proper Italian restaurant”, barely six months old but “a ready-made classic… an overnight Ivy or Caprice”.

“My red mullet main was a cracker: three meaty wedges of warm, ruby-skinned fillet, fanned over a cool, creamy burrata sauce, speckled with green olive oil and black slashes of squid ink, plus half a very small gem lettuce, grilled. Perfect.”

⦿ In the Sunday Times, Sophie Heawood reviewed Aster 4/5, D&D’s restaurant in the new Nova development in Victoria.

“The food is a combination of Nordic and French, thanks to its executive chef, Helena Puolakka, a ‘proud Finn’, who has provided a recipe for ‘gravadlax à la Helena’ to prove it. As well as the customary salmon, dill and spices, the recipe also contains three tablespoons of brandy. Perhaps this is the basic equation of how to turn Nordic ingredients French: Scandi plus brandy.”

“The risotto is a thing to behold, a great big splodge of sickly golden slop, as if a Norse god has heaved onto the plate. It tastes rich and buttery, laced with a little twirl of pickled squash as well as pecorino.”

“The char is a revelation. Outside, it looks like any old clean white fish, but once inside your mouth, the hot-smoking process has taken it somewhere else entirely; into a dark barn of a place.”

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