Harden’s review of the reviews

⦿ The Observer’s Jay Rayner reviewed Tandoor Chop House, an Indian “concept” restaurant off the Strand, where he found the quality of the food was mixed and the prices high.

“The best dish is the Dexter ‘dripping’ keema naan, a charred flatbread piled with highly spiced minced beef. Black pepper chicken tikka brings sizable cuts of bird which have been shown a good time courtesy of the flames.”

On the downside, “tandoor broccoli tastes like it has been forced through flames powered by pure paraffin”.


“I could see why you would go to the Tandoor Chop House once. But having been there… I simply couldn’t see why I’d go there again.”

⦿ Marina O’Laughlin of The Guardian reviewed The Patricia 7/10 in Newcastle, “a little belter, an informal but ambitious bistro” named after the grandmother of chef-owner Nick Grieves, who “worked in the likes of The River Cafe and Simon Rogan’s Fera“.

“The smoothest chicken liver pate under a cap of the most limpid, glossy madeira jelly, is served with a hefty pillow of good brioche. Brussels sprouts, fried until nutty and toasty, come buried under a foamy blanket of 36-month-aged parmesan with a touch of sweetness from caramelised onion: cauliflower cheese’s foxy little cousin.

These are dishes from a chap who loves eating in restaurants, who gets that it should be about pleasure… Sweet little clams are given a dose of extra brine from sea kale, smoky salt from bacon and a base note from reduced wine…. not complex for the sake of complexity, but entirely happy.”

⦿ Fay Maschler of the Evening Standard reviewed 108 Garage 4/5 in Notting Hill, owned by Luca Longobardi, once branded “the Mafia’s banker“, where she was enthralled by the cooking of former art student Chris Denney.

“He’s not shy of mixing culinary metaphors sometimes in one dish, not in itself particularly innovative these days but he does it with pitch-perfect intuition and ingenuity.”

“We decide not to share. Why would you want to give away any of the beautifully crafted agnolotti filled with minced lamb hearts bathing in a broth flavoured with root veg and coloured by pink shallots, or let anyone take a piece from the sautéed veal sweetbread accompanied by January King cabbage with hazelnuts cradled in one of the charred leaves?”

⦿ In the Times, Giles Coren was equally impressed by 108 Garage and Chris Denney’s “incredible, astounding cooking. Quite stunning.

“Jacob’s ladder, blackened and pearly pink, juicy and high, collapsing under a deep green sort of pickled pesto; a rhombus of ruby red hogget glistening fresh from the sous-vide, sweeter than mutton, with salt-baked swede, bronze fennel and a grating of salted ricotta; and roast cauliflower with buttermilk and asiago – the best cauliflower cheese you’ll ever eat.”

⦿ Michael Deacon of the Daily Telegraph joined the chorus of critical approval that has greeted Mexican grill El Pastor 3/5 at Borough Market, although he took exception to the no-bookings policy.

“Personally, I don’t know who’s madder. People who willingly wait outside a restaurant for an hour and 20 minutes. Or the people who cause the problem in the first place, by launching a restaurant that doesn’t take bookings.”

⦿ In the Sunday Telegraph, Keith Miller reviewed Cambium 7/10, at Carey’s Manor Hotel in Brockenhurst, Hampshire, which sources much of its produce from the surrounding New Forest.

“The big question with restaurants in hotels is whether they can forge an identity of their own… It was all a few notches less imaginative than I’d hoped, but considerably more solidly well-crafted than I’d feared, as close to the posh end of the gastropub sector as to the promised ‘fine dining’.”

⦿ Tom Park Bowles of the Mail on Sunday reviewed the West House 4/5 in Biddenden, Kent, where he was impressed by “big flavours, sound technique“.

“A starter of steamed Maldon rock oysters is elegant proof that cooked oysters do have a point. That primeval roar of the sea is soothed by a whisper of fish sauce and nudge of coriander, more mermaid’s gasp than cur’s oath. A perfect curl of pork crackling adds texture and oink. This kitchen sure loves its pig. Again, a dish designed to delight, rather than merely impress. Unpretentiously confident, and uncompromisingly fine.”

⦿ Comedian David Baddiel made his debut with the Sunday Times, reviewing Ben’s Cornish Kitchen in Marazion.

The seared scallops “taste like the whole Cornish thing – the salt and wind and smuggling and beauty and not-quite-England-any-more-ness is all packed into the flesh of these lightly cooked bivalve molluscs.”

“I resolved when starting this, my first restaurant review, to focus on the puddings – which were a crowning glory – as I wanted to strike a blow against most restaurant reviews, which miss them out because (I assume) liking pud denotes a lack of serious, grown-up foodie intent. I now realise it’s because the reviewer always gets to them last and then there is no space left.”


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