Review of the reviews

Our weekly round-up of what the nation’s restaurant critics were writing about up to 25 February 2024


The Evening Standard

Tashas, Battersea

Jimi Famurewa confessed that it took a trip to Sydney in January to convince him of the attractions of the Antipodean brunch.

“And now I have fallen pretty hard for Tashas — a Battersea-based, first UK outpost for restaurateur Natasha Sideris’s South African café chain and a place that is meticulous in composition, breezy and generous in effect, and dusted with enough intangible, southern hemisphere magic to turn even the terminally brunch-averse into true believers.

“We finished with a dessert so good it was basically hilarious: a flawless, miniature tarte tatin, ethereally rich, inlaid with sticky pecans, and served with a racy, pourable measure of cognac caramel. 

“Brunch may not be your bag; the mere thought of the portmanteau might enrage you. But I cannot see a universe where most of us will not be charmed by the gloss, rigour and sun-warmed generosity of Tashas.”


The Observer

Good Old Days Hong Kong Cuisine Ltd, Reading

Jay Rayner followed up a friend’s tip to visit a “spartan” 14-seater ex-burger bar in Caversham on the outskirts of Reading, which was taken over by the Sung family following the Chinese government’s 2021 crackdown in Hong Kong.

“And so to the backstory, told to us by Nicola Sung, who takes all the orders and delivers all the dishes. Her dad, Pui, is the chef. He had his own restaurant in Hong Kong for many years, before cooking at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, and then at the city’s gilded Four Seasons Hotel. It feels like finding a senior chef from the Ritz, now doing their own thing in your local caff, and doing it all rather splendidly.

“Good Old Days is a modest place and so are the prices which, with a nod to lucky numbers, generally end in a three or an eight. The vegetable dishes start at £6.30. Only the seafood offering reaches the dizzying height of £9.80. If you want to splash out more, get a £15 jar of their absolutely banging homemade dried shrimp, pork and chilli-boosted XO sauce. Bring your own booze. Or if you happen to live nearby, get the food to go. Because in truth, Good Old Days is a takeaway that just happens to have a few tables. And it’s a damn fine one at that.”


The Guardian

The Dover, Mayfair

Grace Dent headed to “the Dover, a New York-style Italian restaurant on Mayfair’s Dover Street”, largely on the promise that it “was a place one could hear and be heard. Having now been, I can attest this is true: velvet curtains, wood panelling and not one but two tablecloths on each cover make every table feel like its own private island, where diners can hear their friends and, crucially, be unheard by other tables. This is gold dust. Privacy is romantic.

“The food is far better than I’d envisaged. This is basic comfort food served with aplomb: starters of prime beef steak tartare, nicely seasoned and pretty to look at, with a truffle and hazelnut salad, or prawns in marie rose sauce ornately arranged to resemble Mount Vesuvius.”

“This is a restaurant to keep up your sleeve for people who are sick and tired of restaurants – sick of the noise, sick of concrete walls, sick of sharing plates and of dishes arriving ‘as they’re cooked’ – and for those who are tired of opaque menus and feel with general dismay that the golden age of dining is behind us. This is a place to dress up nice, open a door to 1970s upscale but naughty New York and eat a slice of baked cheesecake brulee.”


The Times & Sunday Times

Otto’s, Gray’s Inn Road, WC2

Giles Coren was invited as a guest “to quite the most extraordinary (and extraordinarily huge) meal currently available in London”.

“It’s a famous and famously crazy restaurant — top of some lists of the best restaurants in Britain, entirely absent from others — presided over by a wonderful crazy man called Otto Albert Tepasse.”

“But, listen, you can’t afford La Grande Bouffe at Otto’s. And nor can I.”


Fallachan Kitchen, Glasgow

Chitra Ramaswamy found herself at “the most exciting chef’s table in Scotland” – a 12-seater “open on select nights a month. It’s located under an old railway arch, which means our scenic journey through multiple courses is rhythmically punctuated by the overhead rumble of passing trains. How apt. There’s industrial chic, and then there’s actually industrial.

“Mastermind of all this is Craig Grozier, a private chef who has been on the scene in Scotland, and beyond, for more than two decades. Thank God he has gone public. His food is innovative, technical, serious yet playful (thoroughly Glaswegian then), and deeply grounded in the Scottish land and surrounding waters. I’m talking walnuts pickled in Tennant’s and woodruff foraged from the slopes of Kelvingrove Park. Terroir is a thing, also yeast. Grozier has a decade-long relationship with Islay’s renegade whisky distillery Bruichladdich, the fruits of which are dropped through the menu like apples in an orchard. Or, to be more Fallachan about it, brambles in Queen’s Park.”

“It’s only February but I think I’ve found my restaurant of the year.”


La Palombe, Kensington

Charlotte Ivers enjoyed her meal at the new venture from James Chiavarini, owner of long-established Italian Il Portico nearby.

“For this place, Chiavarini wanted something homely and rustic, and the comfort food of rural southwest France seemed to fit the bill. Plus there are a lot of French people in Kensington. There’s also a Basque thread through the menu — we have gildas (skewers of olive, anchovy and pepper) to start, and there are a fair few Spanish wines kicking about. It’s a joyful mix.”


The Telegraph

Paro, Covent Garden

William Sitwell gave a real stinker of a review to this Indian restaurant inside the Lyceum Theatre.

“You arrive in a place of dark brown panelling, cheap wobbly tables and uncomfortable chairs; a room with all the charm of a bailiff’s storage facility. Plastic flowers drip from the ceiling, more clumsy than colourful, and the staff rush around in a spirit that is more like crossing a busy road in Hanoi than the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. 

“Yhis is your typical old school curry house offering… just bowl after bowl of indeterminate slop.”


The Daily Mail

Mambow, Clapton

Tom Parker Bowles headed east both geographically and gastronomically – and was mightily impressed by “Abby Lee’s electrifyingly good modern Malaysian place in Clapton, East London, every bite is a belter, each mouthful a heady jamboree”. 

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