Harden’s review of the reviews

⦿ Marina O’Loughlin of the Guardian reviewed Popolo 8/10 in Shoreditch,”run with utter grace by Jonathan Lawson, [an] ex-Theo Randall chef”.

“The main flavour here is Italian classics, flawlessly realised… and dishes that straddle cuisines. Some appear to be the result of a particularly febrile imagination: cool, thick labneh studded with a hectic combination of crisp-shelled fried olives, puffy chickpeas, mint and morita chilli. Italian-Middle Eastern-Mexican fusion? Why not, if it works this beautifully?”

“Believe me, Popolo is very much the real thing.”

⦿ In the Observer, Jay Rayner reviewed Wilsons in Bristol, a “gorgeously uncomplicated” exemplar of the city’s booming restaurants, “small, independent, idiosyncratic and single-minded“.

“A noble piece of beef appears to have been briefly seared then roughly chopped. It is laid with dollops of oyster cream, with punchy wasabi leaf for foliage. It is a smart riff on steak tartare.”

“I spot strands of butter-yellow tagliatelle hanging out to dry. There are myriad Italian specialists who would kill to produce pasta like this, all bite and silk. It is served in a rich parmesan cream under fistfuls of shaved truffle. If you’re going to bother eating truffles, this is how it should be done, clinging to perfect pasta.”

“Lunch was …close to perfect.”

⦿ Nick Curtis of the Evening Standard reviewed Mere 4/5 in Bloomsbury, from former Le Gavroche head chef Monica Galetti, where he found the food “sophisticated but unpretentious and expertly executed” if “a little lacking in wow factor”.

Squab came in the shape of two small lozenges of soft pink breast with a rhubarb glaze (unexpected but delightful sweetness). Crunch was supplied by a ras el hanout pastilla, like a highly worked, delicately spicy spring roll.”

“Blood orange pudding, [an] amalgam of mousse, yoghurt sorbet and meringue which threw up new explosions of taste with each mouthful, culminating in torn chunks of orange and grapefruit at the bottom.” 

⦿ In Time Out, Laura Richards reviewed Quo Vadis 3/5, a Soho institution that has recently celebrated its 90th birthday.

“British standards from the kitchen are still given modern flourishes and fans will be relieved to see old favourites like the smoked eel sarnie and a ‘pie of the day’ still on the menu. A gamey pheasant pie with lashings of silky mash on the side was perfect comfort food and plenty to share between two.”

⦿ Tim Hayward of the Financial Times re-visited another Soho stalwart, Andrew Edmunds in Lexington Street, where “not an iota of the original character has been lost”.

“Chips are not really what you expect to see here but alongside a peerless piece of hake, its skin roasted to the texture of nori, were the Edmunds interpretation.”

“At this, the original British bistro, the food is excellent, but the place rates so high on character, warmth, hospitality and romance they they could frankly order in from Veggie Pret around the corner and it would remain, for me, one of the best tables in town.”

⦿ In the Mail on Sunday, Tom Parker Bowles reviewed Joro 4/5, a “hyper-seasonal” Scandi-style restaurant from chef-owner Luke French in Krynkl, a reclaimed shipping container in Sheffield.

“Then come the langoustines, vast Faroe Island beauties, exquisitely poached, the silken flesh all aquiver, the startling purity of flavour flattered by a gentle koji butter. Koji is a rice fungus. Whatever. These babies are sensational. And these boys can really cook.”

“This is not showy cooking, rather assured and quietly confident. Even the more robust dishes, striploin of Lincoln Red Beef say, is made better by tiny nuggets of deep fried fat, the very essence of roast beef.” 

⦿ Giles Coren of The Times reviewed Hai Cenato 6/10 (pizza 9/10), the new Italian restaurant in Victoria from Jason Atherton, “who is surely alone in having opened only successful restaurants”.

“The pizza bianca with confit lamb neck, ras el hanout, yogurt and mint was the best pizza I’ve ver had. Amazing dough: salty, nutty, chewy… You hardly needed the lush rich meat and dairy toppings. Astonishing. Stand-out. Worth the trip alone.” 

⦿ In the Sunday Times, Katie Glass reviewed My Neighbours the Dumplings 3/5 in Hackney, a “shabbily beautiful” venue serving “Asian comfort food”.

“The big deal here is dumplings. They make thousands fresh by hand every week in a labour of love.”

“The really impressive thing for me is the mix of textures, like a physical sweet-sour combination. When it’s bang on, you can’t but get excited about the consistencies clashing in your mouth. The best was pork belly, a fatty slab of gooey meat with a thick layer of salty crackling.”

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