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 26 June 2023.


The Evening Standard

“A few doors down from the East End’s beigel shops and Bangla curry houses — we have an all-new, affordable institution, built upon principles of soulfulness, succour and the timeless appeal of something sweet.”

Jimi Famurewa reviewed Hoko in Brick Lane, an “all-new, instantly mobbed, Cantonese-inspired cafe” that’s “half diner, half dishevelled cab office” but also “a true-believer riff on the pleasures of the cha chaan teng (essentially, a Hong Kong greasy spoon)”.

Founder Nicole Ma’s business started off with milk tea (which is still served in “slickly designed, clear pouches like lactic Capri-Suns”) and has developed this bricks-and-mortar spot to serve all things fried and sweet, including “hallucinatory, Vegas-era Elvis… HK French toast”.

“A scuffed, egalitarian temple to inexpensiveness, efficiency and the comforting whump of sugar, salt and deep-fried carbs.” (****)


Also in The Standard, news of 64 Old Compton Street, a Soho sibling to 40 Dean Street “promising comforting and familiar Italian dishes” on the site that previously housed Leggero and Clean Kitchen Club. Also opening is Corner, a new “café and small plates bar” at Tate Modern, with a “terrace opening out onto the Southbank”.


The Guardian

“A hugely welcome addition to this particular tourist patch.”

Grace Dent reviewed Lasdun, the “new restaurant by the people behind the much-loved Marksman, a Hackney gastropub that’s been offering thoughtful, hearty cooking and fine ingredients since 2015”.

“The strip between Waterloo Bridge and Tower Bridge is replete with restaurants, and there is food everywhere, yet there’s not a jot you really want to eat.” Lasdun is changing this.

It’s worth putting in the effort to find: the National Theatre is “staffed by mostly uninterested ushers who don’t seem to care whether or not you find Lasdun; it’s not their job”, not to mention the NT is “vast, dramatically dark, multi-floored and has largely useless signage”. (“There is no passing trade.”)

Once she’d located the “rather beautiful, grand room with dark wood floors and formal tablecloths”, Grace enjoyed the “careful, ornate, modern British cooking” followed the brown butter and honey custard tartlet that causes “wildly territorial scenes” at The Marksman.

“If I were meeting anyone on the South Bank, I would not book anywhere else.”


The Observer

Jay Rayner went to York, to eat North African street food at Los Moros, a “simple space of Arabesque tiled floors downstairs and stripped boards up above with a little North African art here and there” that grew from a market stall in the Shambles Market (that’s still there0.

There’s “terrific people-watching opportunities… although only if you get a window seat in the first-floor dining room” overlooking the “the medieval cobbled alley”.

“The food may not all look like the North African dishes you’re used to, but it certainly tastes right. Los Moros was recommended to me by a whole bunch of readers. The readers have good taste.”

Service is “delivered by a young and efficient team who seem genuinely keen to make sure you’re having a fine old time”, the menu is divided in to small and large plates, with a “short but fun” list of desserts.

“It’s where Yorkshire and North Africa meet and decide that, yes, they’re going to get along famously, and would you like to go for a pint?”


The Times

“How far will you go for good fish and chips?”

Giles Coren’s answer to this question was “a cancelled train, ten hours’ driving, a missed aeroplane, two emergency overnights, three more hours’ driving, another plane, a boat, and a bicycle ride”, all in all taking “just over three days”.

Adam’s Fish and Chips is in Higher Town, St Martin’s, which is in the Isles of Scilly. Half-term traffic and train strikes made the journey harder then necessary, but even without them, the Isles are “damned hard to get to”.

Once there, though, he could enjoy the “impossibly long, white sandy beaches populated by nary a soul, and clear turquoise waters like the Bahamas”, the pre-booked “very good fish and chips” (“Adam only catches what he is going to cook that evening”) and “sensational lobster”.

They also visited Ruin Beach Café on “the beautiful nearby island of Tresco” by bike; it was “super-posh, in a kind of Malibu beach way” and they were served “good pizzas” by “beautiful, engaged servers” while they enjoyed “amazing views”.

On St Mary’s, the main island, is Giles’s favourite restaurant of the holiday, The Beach: “it looks out over the water… you can’t book, they are cool as f***, there are about 16 covers out on the deck and the cooking is, frankly, beach perfection”.

“So. The Isles of Scilly: beautiful place, lovely people, excellent food. Never go there.”


Also in The Times and still in Scotland, Chitra Ramaswamy reviewed Cilantro, which she’s been wanting to visit since it “opened in June 2022 in a tiny unit — just 20 covers — on Leith Walk”.

Owner Mohammed Abbas successfully blends the “old-school Bangladeshi curry house with a contemporary focus on freshness, regional dishes, tandoor cooking and… authenticity”; “by the time the plates are cleared, I want to eat it again”.

“Service is faultless: relaxed, warm and intuitive” and the “beautiful, varied Bangladeshi-Indian cuisine” is “cooked with attention, skill, warmth”.

Cilantro “excels as a new hybrid” and “deserves to be a roaring success” especially now “the tram has finally come to Leith Walk”. (27/30)


The Independent

“Dishes are bright and refreshing, but comforting at the same time.”

Kate Ng is delighted with The Union Rye, a newcomer (previously The Union Steakhouse) to the East Sussex town of Rye, a place of “twisting alleys and cobblestone and centures-old houses” that “takes pride in its independent shops and restaurants”.

She’s long thought that the town needed a “Nice Restaurant” (Tuscan Kitchen closed during the pandemic; she’d never managed to visit) and was excited when Marina O’Loughlin recommended this one.

Built in 1401, it’s a “rustic, relaxed space with cosy open fireplaces” and a “warm and welcoming restaurant… headed by chef Ben Dafforn, previously of J Sheekey and Simpsons on the Strand”.

“The Union Rye is the Nice Restaurant that the town deserves.”


The Telegraph

Open-minded as ever, William Sitwell went to Edit, a new low-waste, vegan restaurant in Hackney, which he described as “a district of east London where shaving is banned and pressed shirts frowned upon”.

He sniped about the vegan ethic, the decor (“everything clashes, which, perhaps in these parts, is a sort of design aesthetic”) and the ‘natural’ wine list (“a tiresome concept”). He moaned about the fact that they “brought all the dishes at the same time”.

One concession: apart from the ‘cheeseboard’ (a “horrific travesty”) and a “chocolate pot of rubbery consistency”, the food was “thoroughly good”. (***)


The Scotsman

Rosalind Erskine heard that “Edinburgh’s Queen Charlotte Rooms has an Orient Express themed afternoon tea, served in rooms that have been done up to look like a vintage train” and had to try it out.

“With the sounds of the piano, train and wonderful scenery, plus brilliant staff” it was “a great way to while away an afternoon with friends and family, without leaving the city”. (15/20)

Meanwhile, Gaby Soutar went for lunch at the St Andrews Clubhouse Bar & Grill at the Fairmont Hotel, which has “the best views in Fife” (“St Andrews looked misty from this vantage point, like some kind of fairy tale metropolis”). Best of all, “you don’t have to be a golfer to enjoy” it. (16.5/20)


And also…

“A fever dream.” Tim Hayward in the FT Magazine reviewed Kapara: “For chef Eran Tibi, the food’s the thing — but it deserves better than this Tel Aviv-inspired party restaurant.”


Fay Maschler in Tatler had “a taste of French Riviera elegance” at Socca in Mayfair, where she forced  David Ellis of The Evening Standard to eat andouillette and Marseille speciality pieds et paquets, made from sheep’s trotters and tripe. She’d recommend having lunch in the bright room off the street, and dinner in the “deeper dining room… snug and enclosing” at the rear.


Bristol Post reported on The Ethicurean’s plan to close in mid-October “after a series of summer events”; “with co-owner Matthew Pennington based in Scotland and chef owner Mark McCabe excited to embrace some exciting new projects, the senior team agree that time is right to let go of their beautiful venue in Wrington”.


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