Harden’s review of the reviews

The Observer’s Jay Rayner doesn’t so much review Plaquemine Lock in Islington as write it a love letter. The Cajun-Creole-influenced pub comes to us courtesy of Jacob Kenedy (of Bocca di Lupo fame)…

“A celebration of the food of the Louisiana basin… The walls are painted a hot, sultry yellow overlaid by naive murals of life on the bayou; of plantation houses and river boats.”

“Gumbo, by the cup and bowl, is as it should be: a deep, luscious stew of sausage and chicken, with crawfish added late on so they don’t tense up, in a reassuringly thickened liquor so profound it can give focus to an aimless life. Southern fried chicken …comes with a vibrant slaw of the sort deep-fried food demands, and the revelation of pickled watermelon.”

“It’s not effete and it’s not prissy and it’s all the better for it. You know what: this dangerous love affair may just work out after all.”


Get your money’s worth from Marina O’Loughlin in The Guardian this week as she heads to the City’s latest hotel and restaurant hub The Ned (reviewing all nine restaurants in two days!)…  

“It’s a bit like a cross between Harrods food hall and Vegas. People who dislike London will welcome it as an avatar for all that’s wrong with the bloated, metropolitan elite-germinating capital: at a reported cost of £200m, it’s a hosanna to consumption, to pin-striped hustlers, to bears and bulls and money, money, money.

“My task is to eat at every restaurant from breakfast to late night; one that, after two days in the place, starts to feel more than a little Sisyphean. The Cecconi’s menu reads well, Italian greatest hits from pizzette to tiramisú. With the exception of a splendid vitello tonatto – shell-pink, tender veal, properly sultry mayonnaise, dribble of unnecessary herb oil – and a bearable veal Milanese, however, it singularly fails to deliver.

“Brunch and “afternoon tea” are in Kaia (“Asian-Pacific-inspired”) and Malibu Kitchen (“brings Californian food to the City”), and aren’t much of an improvement. [Kaia] has, apparently, been devised with input from a much-followed foodie Instagrammer. It shows: the plates are divinely pretty. But it’s less attractive on the palate. The “classic British dishes” at Millie’s Lounge delivers us the worst overall experience.”

“It’s a mall for people with more money than taste: over six restaurants, two good dishes is not a happy average.”


Hackney’s Il Cudega is now open evenings too, the Evening Standard’s Fay Maschler heads to London Fields to check it out…

“There is a sweet story behind this crowd-funded operation in one of the three railway arches that make up Fount London… Luca and Gianni have been friends since they were eight, growing up together in the hamlet of Carimate near Lake Como. Their deli and restaurant are dedicated to the produce, wines and culinary traditions of Lombardy. The passion is palpable.

“The product turns out to be exceptional, with vivacious personality and a whiff of the soft crumb of just-baked bread missing in other pastas… risotto alla Milanese, a rippling golden pond flecked with saffron. Parmigiana di melanzane is aubergine, tomatoes, garlic, cheese and herbs scooped from a large baking tray rather than sealed into a little dish of its own and is all the more succulent, successful and homely for that.”



Has every critic now been to Chinatown’s new Xu (from the estimable JKS Restaurants stable)? It seems like there has been a review a week for this Taiwanese venture. This week its the ES Magazine’s Grace Dent giving her verdict. Perhaps she read one too many good reports, because it seems the hype has surpassed the experience…

“A few of the 200 or so restaurants that plop annually on to London’s landscape arrive fully pre-imbued with hotness. They ping to life festooned with praise, laden with influencer-driven merry piffle, often before the stoves have been fitted. Xu, a Taiwanese 1930s-style restaurant/teahouse on Rupert Street, is such an arrival.

“Tiny lunchtime foie gras terrine ‘gold coins’ embossed with a layer of Shaoxing wine jelly, a terrine of wobbly, glistening, numbing beef tendon… tea is available, but the cocktails are serious. Try a Daiga, a tiny, fearsome, delicious sipping glass of amontillado sherry, cognac, Chinese mushroom and liquorice root. I guarantee the world will feel better within two tiny mouthfuls.”

“Almost everything about Xu makes my heart thump at its chutzpah. The set-up is undoubtedly a huge labour of love for the owners. I wish I’d loved the food more than I did… Xu is both one of the most important openings of 2017 and at the same time disappointing.”


Keith Miller in The Telegraph reviewed Butley Oysterage, a beautifully simple 50-year-old fish restaurant in Orford, Suffolk…

“One of a fringe of excellent, no-nonsense seafood specialists running up the UK’s east coast… a citadel of bourgeois solidity.”

“Into the smoke go, for the most part, local fish and seafood of impeccable pedigree. If you don’t like fish, they also do succulent duck breasts and a rubicund smoked ham… there wasn’t a huge amount of cheffery on display – just sure judgment and patient craftsmanship over time.”

“The pièce de résistance, really, was my smoked fish hors d’oeuvres – just several chunks, and a few entire specimens, of eel, mackerel, salmon and more, arrayed on a biggish plate, with not much adornment beyond a bit of horseradish for the eel. All around you, earth and water (both sweet and salt) are seeking balance. Fire and air, in the tiny temples of the Orford Smokehouse, complete a timeless elemental package.”


Time Out reviews Kiri

“Everything was wonderfully fresh and meltingly good, especially the lovely, brightly coloured tuna. And it wasn’t just the raw stuff that was delicious. The black cod was great; perfectly cooked and with a subtle amount of miso.”

“It really is more hit than miss… Being surrounded by chains, this spot is a genuine haven.”

And Foxlow 

“Foxlow’s a fine choice for a solid night out (and some sensational mac ’n’ cheese).”


Tom Parker Bowles in The Daily Mail reviewed the Wife of Bath, a quintessentially English Kent inn which was taken over by Mark Sargeant (Rocksalt) and turned into a restaurant inspired by northern Spanish cuisine…

“Sargeant has taken over this pretty house in the pretty Kentish village of Wye, and made it his own. The room is daubed in a discreetly expensive grey, with lots of blonde wood, Spanish woodcuts and the odd cast-iron bull. Iberia, by way of Conran… the [flamenco] music doesn’t irk, thanks, perhaps, to the radiant warmth and charm of the service, and the easy, unpretentious feel of the place. It’s been open only a few months, yet already seems lived-in, and comfortable in its own skin.

“The menu makes fine reading… dishes have both verve and confidence.

“A plump ‘bon bon’ doesn’t ooze in the Barafina style, rather  clads chorizo – studded mashed potato, light as a wink, in a crisp crust. Rather like the morcilla croquette, gently spiced and mildly ferric, with a rich tomato sauce.

“Throw in a wine list that offers real value, plus the heaven-sent service I’ve already banged on about. And you have a restaurant to relish… Just like Chaucer’s eponymous lady, this Wife of Bath is a real goer.”


And The Financial Times reviewed Xu and Henrietta.

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