Here’s our weekly round-up of what the nation’s restaurant critics were writing about in the week up to 23 July 2023.
The Evening Standard
“This Balearic beauty is a grill on fire.”
Jimi Famurewa is the first of our regular critics to review Mountain, “Tomos Parry’s spanking new, instantly thronged successor to the Michelin-starred Brat” in central Soho – he snuck in “on only the fourth proper day of trading”.
It’s a “smoke-wreathed pleasuredome” where even a fire alarm in the middle of service didn’t shift diners from their meals, a “bold, brooding expansion of Parry’s signature, Basque-accented approach” with “oceanic flavour depth and cloud-skimming technical brilliance”.
“There is a magnetic, tactile sensuousness to so much of the food” and “hidden complexity in so many dishes… that consistently took my breath away”.
“So rousing, so unforgettable and, yes, so deserving of the fuss and attention currently engulfing it.” (*****)
Also in The Standard, an article on “restaurants worth travelling for” by David Ellis began with The Suffolk in Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast, which he describes as “somewhere for treats; not challenging treats, but the good old-fashioned ones, done extremely well, priced reasonably”.
A “delightful small restaurant”.
Jay Rayner was in Deptford in search of oyster excellence at Sharkbait & Swim, a “restless, mildly eccentric seafood restaurant” that “occupies a red-brick railway arch” in Deptford Market Yard. The “plump and pert” bivalves served here compared favourably to the best oysters he’s ever eaten, in New Orleans. (“High praise, indeed.”)
The open kitchen “can seat around 20 at high-top tables, as long as diners don’t mind a bit of armpit and elbow intimacy”; covers double in summer so it’s a good time to go.
Chef-owner Steve McClarty was homeless at 17 and taught himself to cook with YouTube videos before enrolling in catering college; he worked at Google and with Jason Atherton before settling in Deptford.
The most expensive dish here is a whole sea bream, lightly battered and deep fried – even the oysters are £15 for six, “a good price for anywhere within the M25, and most places outside it for that matter”.
The new branch is “a bright, light, glass-fronted, chic, youthful modern brasserie” with a “varied, plant-based, all-day, thoughtfully written list that makes my heart go boom”.
“It ransacks the cuisines of the world, taking flavours, dishes and cooking styles from every corner, and makes them all vegan without even mentioning the dreaded V word.” (“Notably, it also offers a garlic- and onion-free menu.”)
Grace “preferred the small plates to the big ones, because they’re where much of the ingenuity lies”, and the “main courses are what you could call hearty”.
It’s “a lovely welcoming café wrapped around a corner where others have failed to stick”; inside it’s “all giant paper lampshades, clean white interiors and a diverse clientele with tiny dogs”.
They produced a “solid vegan spin-off” of a BLT, and there were a few disappointments but “local independent cafés such as Foodstory are a vital force in the movement… I love what this vibey, upbeat BYOC café stands for”. (21/30)
William Sitwell reviewed the third, newly opened, branch of London Shell Co; the first land-based venue from the team behind the Regent’s Canal barges known for their seafood is a combined fishmonger and seafood bar in Swains Lane, by Hampstead Heath.
It’s “jolly, breezy, upbeat and very enticing” – he particularly enjoyed the fish counter, that “tempts like a glistening, spilling treasure chest”, and the pudding menu (“Dessert is a horrid word, up there with doily and moist.”)
“The more London Shell Co roll their concept out, on barge or land, the better it is for us all.” (****)
“A fabulous upgrade.”
Lucy Thackray took her father to The Portrait Restaurant, the new Richard Corrigan-led dining space at the National Portrait Gallery. It’s right “at the top of the Trafalgar Square building, in a former glass-edged event space where windows are filled with a pleasing cityscape of London rooftops”, and opened earlier this month, “the final touch to a major three-year renovation of the gallery”.`
The gallery’s “glow-up” is impressive and the restaurant is “rather corporate-feeling but convivial” – the designers have clearly “kept the design light and minimal, letting the view, and the food, do the talking”.
The menu is full of “instantly intriguing things… much of it is what you’d expect from Corrigan – earthy flavours from the UK and Ireland, plenty of fish and veg present, but with a few curiosities thrown in”.
Service is “quick and efficient”, and while “there are no bargain bites”, remember that the gallery is free – and there are fixed-priced set menus – so a day out here can be pretty good value for central London.
Also in The Independent, an article on Alex Dilling at Hotel Café Royal, which is raising its prices 11% in August and also introducing a £330 minimum spend per table that could see solo diners paying double the £165 set menu cost to eat there; the restaurant responded to criticism by saying “they keep one to two tables for [pre-booked] solo diners for every service without the minimum spend”.
In Edinburgh, Gaby Soutar was in the “grand Georgian space, in the five-star Intercontinental The George” that was formerly The Printing Press but has now “been taken over by upmarket chain, Le Petit Beefbar”.
It’s “spendy for little old Edinburgh”, serving what “could be the priciest burger in the Capital” (Burger Bomb, £23 not including chips, £6) but “they are pushing all the buttons here. Salty, savoury, rich, filthy, feral”.
“I didn’t want to like this place as much as I did. There’s a certain soullessness to these international chains. Still, it’s hard to resist the beefy magic.” (16/20)
“Sylvan offers a decent, delicious alternative to eating meat that’s filling and surprising. Plus the restaurant is one you’d want to linger in, no matter what the weather, making it easy to see why it’s become such a well-loved eatery.” (16/20)
In The FT Magazine, Tim Hayward wrote about “why the best restaurants are all diners at heart” – “if a restaurant can’t welcome everyone, how can anyone feel welcome?”
Manchester Evening News revealed pictures of the new Greek restaurant from the group behind Tattu that’s opening in the city this November. Fenix will “focus on modern Greek and Mediterranean cuisine”, boasting “cutting edge light technology” that will “mimic the setting sun and rising moon across the Greek Isles”.