Review of the Reviews

Our round-up of what the nation’s restaurant critics were writing about in the week up to 26th May 2024

The Guardian

Brett, Glasgow

Grace Dent found “comfort food with the chef’s foot fully on the gas” at this modest-seeming wine bar – the younger sibling of feted Cal Bruich nearby – which “holds a fig leaf over its fanciness” but is “very possibly Glasgow’s best restaurant right now”.

“I’ve seen bigger places than this struggle to send out a club sandwich, yet here they make some of the most complex and intriguing starters I’ve eaten all year. A generous bowl of Orkney scallops, fried until golden and served in a macadamia nut cream, come in a scallop consommé with finger lime and coastal greens.”

Chef-director Colin Anderson, formerly of Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London, is responsible for “sensational” specials such as prime chateaubriand, with a side of jersey royals drenched in a wild garlic and chicken butter emulsion or monkfish tail poached in butter with confit fennel, bergamot gel and brown butter sauce. “The service is great – warm, relaxed, proud of how delicious the food is, and always there, while also not being there at all.”


The Observer

Sam’s Montpelier, Cheltenham

Jay Rayner enthused over the “larky, excitable and very jolly cooking” found at chef Sam Price’s small plates spot, where the menu is divided into ‘Earth, Land, Sea and Heaven’ (the latter being desserts, as you’ve probably guessed), at £7.50-£15.50 a pop.

“Behind the high street crowd-pleaser vibe, behind the clatter and the groove, is a place serving dishes that deserve our attention,” said Jay, singling out “fat pebbles of pig cheek first braised until spoonable, then placed on a face-cream-soft purée of cannellini beans” and topped with a jammy madeira sauce and fragments of crackling, a cake of braised and shredded lamb shoulder with rösti, and smoked duck breast served pink, but with crisped skin.

The only misfire was a pistachio parfait, which tasted fine but had somehow mislaid the all-important flavour of the pistachio. 


The Times & Sunday Times

Jincheng Alley, Holborn

Giles Coren was spellbound by the authentic Sichuan cooking he found at an “elegant” Holborn restaurant aimed squarely at well-heeled Chinese tourists and “itinerant Weibo-directed foodies” – and emphatically not at Westerner locals. On three visits, Giles was consistently cold-shouldered, leading him to reflect: “It’s always odd when one’s race makes one invisible, and I suppose one should be grateful, as a white man in London, that it happens so rarely”.

The menu alone – “roasted pig feet with chilli and cumin powder (£14.80), wok-fried spiced suckling pig with dried chilli (£28.90), boiled pig blood pudding, tripe, pork luncheon meat and bean sprouts in chilli sauce (£17.80), fried rabbit with fresh red and green chilli (£21.80), boiled chopped entrails of pig soup (£15.80)” – is “a clarion call to anyone with a yearning for real Chinese cuisine”.

And it lived up to its promise, with cooking that is “authentic, some of which will thrill you, some of which may scare you, but almost all of which I found exquisite.” 

The kung pao chicken – “probably the most widely known and bastardised Sichuan dish on your local high street” – was revelatory, and Giles also dived happily into some less familiar, more beak-to-claw dishes. Baby pigeons, heads and all, had meat that tasted “sweet and chocolatey” meat, and deep-fried rice crust with yuxiang sauce was a delicious surprise, while cold boneless chicken feet – “not only an extraordinary feat of butchery (whole, white, three-toed, rubbery, scaly feet with no bones!), but the sort of thing I love, slippery, cartilaginous, slathered with a mala sauce of fiery heat and sweetness” .


Ottolenghi, Bicester Village

Charlotte Ivers offered a pretty damning account of this spinoff venue from the influential Israeli chef and writer at a grim shopping mall people by bored super-rich teenagers, which she characterised as “cashing in” on his “real, culture-changing success”. 

Part of the problem was that, through his books and TV shows, Ottolenghi has educated us in how Middle Eastern food should taste. “This place is playing his classics and it’s a bad cover version,” she said. The aubergine was undercooked, “everything tastes of turmeric”, and the mac and cheese “tastes like pasta made by adding boiling water to a bag of supermarket dust”.

In his mission statement back in 2011, Charlotte reminded us, Ottolenghi declared “I want drama in the mouth”. “I’d settle for a hint of plot,” she retorted.


Daily Telegraph

The Blue Pelican, Deal

William Sitwell hailed this Japanese-inspired seaside spot as “a rather fabulous achievement”, advising diners who don’t recognise items on the menu: “just order loads and dive in” – head chef Luke Green spent five years in Japan and has “a talent for matching his Tokyo skills with Kent’s coastal produce”.

Dishes such as cuttlefish skewers with XO sauce and asparagus with koji butter and charcoal dust hit the spot, but best of all was “a diversion, miles from Japan” in the shape of croquettes of reblochon cheese and Bayonne ham. 

“These were utterly gorgeous: rich, soft-centred golden-crusted balls… They would sweep the board at a canapé convention, get gold at the 2024 World Croquette Contest and, dining solo, I was aahing and oohing in such a way that people might have thought I needed medical attention.”


Daily Mail

Oma, Borough Market

Tom Parker Bowles took his turn in heaping praise on the latest venture from David Carter of East London stars Smokestak and Manteca, “one of those rare restaurateurs who cannot seem to put a foot wrong”.

“The cooking is nothing short of inspired,” he said of the menu put together by chefs Nick Molyviatis (ex-Kiln) and Jorge Paredes (ex-Sabor). “It’s Greek food, Jim, but not as we know it,” with elements of Mexican, Italian, French, Chinese and Italian gastronomy all making an unlikely but delicious contribution. 

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