Review of the reviews

Our summary of what the national and local restaurant critics were writing about in the week ending 26 February 2023.


The Guardian

Grace Dent dropped in to Beckford Canteen in Bath on “only the second official day of service” – “a time when no chef wants to see a restaurant critic” but she’d been invited to a launch event and was enticed in by the menu “like an ant towards a blob of jam on a worktop”.

“This is a menu that demands to be gobbled up” – a “delicious paean to modern British classics and comfort foods” chef George Barson, former executive chef at Kitty Fisher’s in Shepherd Market, London who has also “worked with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at the River Cottage Kitchen, Nuno Mendes at Viajante and at Dinner with Heston”.

A dish of “astutely judged monkfish served with a silky curried butter” and confit potatoes is “already shaping up to be one of [Grace’s] dishes of 2023”.

“No hype, not a place to see or be seen, just a charming place where the food is dead good.”


The Observer

“Expect dramatic bursts of harissa and tahini, labneh and dukkah. Expect to be cared for.”

Jay Rayner discovered Kino, the “smart, modern” brasserie space at Opera North in Leeds, which gives extended residencies to local food producers; the current incumbent (until April) is MorMor, a “Leeds-based street food business that describes itself as making “Levantine-inspired modern small plates and mezze”. That pretty much covers it.”

“MorMor at Kino is… an agreeable night out, which is not to damn with faint praise. You may not flop back in your seat, your eyes and various other body parts moist with excitement. But you will feel that somebody gave a damn.”


In Jay’s News Bites, he noted that “Tommy Banks, head chef and proprietor of the Black Swan at Oldstead in Yorkshire, has launched a new podcast called Seasoned, focussing on the intricacies of running an ambitious restaurant supplied almost entirely by his family’s farm.”


The Evening Standard

“Masterfully conducted comfort.”

David Ellis reviewed Hawthorn, the new incumbent on the old Glasshouse site in Kew; there’s a lot that’s similar to its fine-dining predecessor, from the decor and staff to “faithfulness to the… ideal of the fantasy neighbourhood restaurant”.

“Locals — regulars — will be sated. Even the tables and chairs remain the same. Other inheritances are less welcome: the entirety of one wall, for instance, still appears to be covered in gold crêpe paper.”

“There are no claims of being revolutionary” and it isn’t exactly cheap (“three-course lunch for £45, supper for £65” with wine “expertly chosen and incredibly fairly marked up”) but it is “extremely good”. Even David’s friend, who never “breaks the Circle Line lasso” would return. (****)


David also reviewed Doppo, a Soho newcomer that’s “neutral to look at… two neat squares over two floors of plain white walls, parquet floor, not flash but with a certain quiet elegance” offering up Tuscan-influenced, “mostly light, elegant cooking done with a sureness of touch, a certainty of purpose” and a strong wine list.

“I tend to assume places with a telephone number but no website will come in cheaply. Not so here.” We couldn’t find any evidence of social media pages either, but you can book online through OpenTable. (****)


Also in The Standard, a peek inside JOIA, the newly opened Battersea Power Station restaurant from Portuguese chef Henrique Sá Pessoa; part of the new art’otel, the 85-cover site is on the 15th floor, “giving uninterrupted views across much of the capital”.

 Plus a round-up of the capital’s best margaritas, “from Hacha to Side Hustle”


The Times

“Hold on to your hats, this is a posh one.”

Japenese Mayfair newcomer Humo is run by chef Miller Prada, “a protégé of the one, the only Endo Kazutoshi” (who happened to also be there when Giles Coren visited).

The courses on the menu are names after the “four stages of the life of a fire”, which hints at the 4m fire pit that everything is cooked or smoked on (not that you’d know, thanks to the “exemplary” extraction that leaves “just the gentlest, foresty whiff of exotic wood smoke”).

“Fun puddings”, “spectacular” cutlery, a “sleek, elegant, charming” sommelier and a hug from Endo made it a great meal, just a bit pretentious, and not in any way to be attempted on Giles’s self-imposed budget; the bill was “just the right side of two hundred quid, if you leave off the saké”. (25/30)


Also in The Times, Chitra Ramaswamy was in Scotland for “a spot of rural luxe on a thickly wooded route through the Tay Valley” at The Grandtully Hotel, refurbished and re-opened in 2018 by the team behind Ballintaggart (farm and cookery school-with-rooms) up the road.

At the hotel, there’s a “relaxed fine-dining restaurant, a small shop… and a bougie bar with an ever-changing market menu” Chitra and companion ate in the “bougie bar”, the Tully by Ballintaggart, which was “buzzing” with “well-heeled locals” on a Friday night.

“It’s all very bistro-chic with tiled walls, wooden floors, a panelled bar and wood-burning stove.” Head chef Jordan Clark serves up “local seasonal produce, of course, but also pickling, butter sauces, seriously impressive fish cookery and the occasional drop-in flavour from east and southeast Asia”.

A few main course niggles aside (the ‘bites’ and starters were impressive), “the Tully bar has won my heart”. (29/30)


The Independent

“It’s calming. It’s compelling. It’s completely addictive.”

Lucy Thackray experienced an omakase “masterclass in mindfulness” at the tiny (11-seat) new “exclusive Japanese joint” Mayha in Marylebone.

Sat at the “buffed walnut-wood counter” she watched “a couple of chefs… industriously sculpting, chopping, fanning and sizzling” to prepare the “multi-course feast that changes depending on the whims of the chef”.

“The overall vibe is impressive, but somehow relaxed, confident and unshowy. This isn’t theatrical “pan-Asian” dining made for Instagram… it’s understated Japanese fine dining which takes its heritage seriously, but isn’t afraid to add a twist here and there.”


The Scotsman

Chef Dean Banks has added a gastropub to his “rapidly expanding empire”; The Forager in Dollar, Clackmannanshire, which Gaby Soutar tried out in her review this week.

The “foraging theme only seems to extend as far as the branding”, as the menu only “features the prerequisite pub classics, like fish and chips, Sunday roast, pies” along with some “fancier bits” that Gaby recognised from Dulce, another Banks venture (although here the portions are bigger and the dishes cheaper).

“Scotland has another excellent country pub and I’d be happy to see out the rest of the winter in this space.” (15/20)


Rosalind Erskine tried out four-year-old Damasqino in Glasgow’s Merchant City, in spite of not eating lamb or coriander; there’s a 35-seat restaurant and attached takeaway, both busy on a Thursday night.


The Telegraph

“Cardiff should give Tommy the keys to the city.”

William Sitwell was in Cardiff’s Pontcanna suburb, which he likens to a “sort-of Fulham”, with “culture oozing from the arts centre… gastropubs and restaurants, independent coffee shops and stores”. It also has Tommy Heaney, “a heavily tattooed, diminutive Northern Irishman who, at least twice a day, performs miracles in his kitchen” in his eponymous restaurant, Heaney’s.

There’s also a new, less formal place next door called Uisce, which means water in Gaelic.

William and his family “went for the short tasting menu, six courses ending with ‘treats’, which is in acceptable tasting menu-length territory”; there was even a kids’ menu “with impeccable fishcakes, battered buttermilk chicken, mashed potato and broccoli. Heaney understands kids”.

The menu delivered “a cluster of courses of beautifully balanced, delicate, elegant and deeply tasty dishes”, including a loin of lamb, which was “the greatest mouthful of lamb… I can remember tasting” (“Sheep farmers should stand outside… and applaud him for the honour he does to their produce.”) (****)


And also…  

The FT’s Globetrotter gave “an expat’s guide” to the best Japanese restaurants in London: “from udon noodles in the City to yakitori skewers in Hampstead, via a 10-course kaiseki menu in Marylebone, these tried and tested places are the real deal”.

The review in FT Magazine covered Mount Street Restaurant: “historic fare with a modern twist in a sumptuous, Bond villain-ish setting”. “You don’t have to be a food historian to appreciate this stuff, but there are a lot of nested insider jokes going on here.”


Bristol Post reviewed the full English breakfast at the new Aqua Grand Café in Clifton: “there was no disaster but I felt disappointed by the lack of ambition”.


Birmingham Live reported that chef Andy Sheridan has announced plans to close his city-centre restaurant About 8, and re-locate it to Liverpool. His Barnt Green restaurant Black & Green will stay open and a sibling restaurant will soon open, next to a pub in rural Gloucestershire.


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