Our weekly summary of what the national and local restaurant critics were writing about in the week ending 25 September 2022.
The Sunday Times
Even the most cynical of critics will be won over by Water Lane, insists Marina O’Loughlin: it’s “just the most serene and beautiful place, billows of flowers framing ornate grade II Victorian greenhouses. It even smells gorgeous: resinous herbs and wood smoke scenting the air”.
Perched on the Kent-Sussex border, “this small wonderland is an “ongoing restoration project” from partners Ian James and Nick Selby (of north London’s cult Melrose and Morgan delis)”. (“The whole place has serious CV chops.”)
Inside the walled gardens there’s a “neat but riotously fertile” kitchen garden, and “the restaurant turns out to be an open kitchen housed in sea containers” offering a menu “to wallow in”. Marina and pal had “a greedy, leisurely blowout” but other guests were dropping in for a quick drink.
Unsurprisingly, “anyone in search of urban edge should steer clear”.
The Evening Standard
“One of the city’s most purely enjoyable restaurants.”
Jimi Famurewa reviewed Forza Win, now open in Camberwell after closing in Peckham, and which, “on a recent evening a mere fortnight into its existence, already had the warmth, confidence and fully-realised, clattering soulfulness of a restaurant that had been there for decades”. Jimi’s wife had “real old-school Italian restaurant flashbacks”.
“An open larder of shelved produce does most of the decorative heavy lifting” and much of the menu provides “faintly beige, starchy comfort”. The “appealing sanity of the prices” adds to the joy.
If you go, end your meal with a Custardo: “a gorgeously warm, proprietary miracle elixir of espresso and housemade créme anglaise that lands somewhere between eggnog and a cold climate affogato… witty, beautifully executed and… wildly addictive”. (****)
David Ellis wrote eloquently about the late Andrew Edmunds; the veteran restaurateur “knew the secret of a perfect lunch” and his eponymous “British-French bistro is the unchanging ideal” of what one should be.
“It is a relief that his restaurant is set to carry on: in a part of town where uncaring developers greedily crawl, it is a stalwart, an unfailing old reliable. I think it is a gift. From him to us.”
Also in The Standard, London’s best restaurants for a second date, “from Bar Crispin to the Tamil Prince”, and the best fish and chips in London: their future is threatened by “soaring energy bills and the rising cost of ingredients”.
Grace Dent followed the crowds to The Tamil Prince, and agreed with all of her fellow critics; the “sharp, bold reworking of the desi pub concept into the here and now” has produced a place that’s “just plain great”.
The Tamil Prince is “firing out a menu of a similar standard to the likes of Gymkhana in Mayfair”, with “flaky, soft, luscious rotis that are heavenly proof that God’s chosen carbohydrate is bread”. It;s also “dog-friendly… the cocktails are imaginative and redolent of cardamom, rose water and lime” and “the staff are upbeat”.
“In the current climate, the desi pub may just be what the industry needs. Curry and a pint: name a more iconic duo?”
Also in The Guardian, Tony Naylor wrote about how to choose a environmentally aware restaurant, as they “can be horribly wasteful places or they can be impressively green”; Anna Berrill added to the foodie commentary with an article exploring what chefs think of restaurants on TV (“their T-shirts are too white!”).
“With the really good places, the moment always comes early. At Lebnani in Reigate, the first reassuring sign comes very early indeed.”
Jay Rayner sums up Lebnani as “a small but perfectly judged, perfectly run restaurant, with its pretty half-tiled floor in white and blue and its turquoise cushioned banquettes and its open kitchen pumping out the smells of good things grilling over charcoal”.
The menu covers the “classic repertoire of the eastern Mediterranean” but here “it comes with an especially light, fresh touch” and “sunshine”, with almost the “entire wine lis… from the great houses of the Bekaa Valley and Mount Lebanon”.
Chef-patron, Beirut-born Jad Youssef was behind the Yalla Yalla group of Lebanese restaurants in central London, and now runs this and one other, much fancier, restaurant in Hong Kong.
“There is a tremor underground as the author of Animal Farm turns over in his grave. And everyone else who ever went to a pub, in all the 1,500-year history of pubs.”
Giles Coren, recalling Orwell’s Moon Under Water essay on the perfect pub, went in search of that perfection at The Frogmill near Cheltenham, recent winner of the National Pub & Bar awards’ choice award.
The lovely stone buildings of the pub are “like a small town”, with a car park that “puts Heathrow Terminal 5 to shame”. The sweet staff are overworked serving a menu that’s “just a roster of nationless midmarket pub standards”, served from the freezer.
“It’s just, I’m sorry, not the best pub in the United Kingdom. Although I am not saying it is the worst. Quite. Indeed, what it is, really… is a big Instagrammable dark kitchen on a dual carriageway with fake flowers, too few staff and supply chain issues.”
The meal did fall with Giles’ new £40 per head budget, though. (11/30)
In The Scotsman, Gaby Soutar reviewed Glasgow newcomer Fat Lobster, on the site previsouly occupied by Mussel Inn, and owned by the same team as Tabac. The offering is seafood, with organic wines or citrusy cocktails (“taste bud CPR”) – “a decent addition to Glasgow’s seafood restaurant scene, which must be one of the best in Scotland”.
Also in The Scotsman, Rosalind Erskine visited Tiffney’s, also in Glasgow, “a hidden gem” that’s “clearly well loved by those in the know”. The self-appointed “home of dry-aged beef”, it’s “cosy and traditionally classy”. Not “a cheap night out, but there’s no denying the quality of the steak and service”.
In The FT’s How To Spend It, a first look at The Audley in Mayfair, now owned by Swiss gallerists Iwan and Manuela Wirth who recently bought the Groucho Club and already own the Roth Bar & Grill in Somerset and the Fife Arms in Scotland.
News of closures in the Manchester Evening News: chef Mary-Ellen McTague has been forced to shut her Chorlton restaurant The Creameries after “a combination of the hangover from the pandemic and rising costs made the business no longer viable” while “Trailblazing Northern Quarter restaurant”
V Rev announced its “sudden closure, just days after reducing hours in a bid to make it work”.
More closure news in the Birmingham media, with Opheem chef Aktar Islam closing his Argentinean-inspired steak restaurant Pulperia this Friday, September 30th, citing the cost of living crisis.