Harden’s review of the reviews

AA Gill’s Table Talk column in the Sunday Times is back after a summer hiatus and we discover he’s been in Italy all this time – lucky him. Perhaps the holiday has brought out his softer side as he gifts the reborn Locanda Locatelli at the Hyatt Regency hotel a rare five out of five for food…

“On our first night back from Italy, the Blonde and I went for dinner to see what had risen from the ashes. The room looks much the same, with its banquettes and dark mirrors, charming staff and charmless diners. The menu has had a discreet makeover. It’s similar in style and essence, it’s still expensive, and it’s still northern, and the cooking is as clever and on point as it always was. The bread basket is one of the finest in London and often undoes the appetites of greedy diners.”

Over at the Times proper Giles Coren is talking pizza and Labour leadership politics as he takes his family to test Islington’s new pop-up joint Pizza Locadeli…

“Nothing could be more Corbynist than a friendly, good- value pizzeria based on sound essentials that isn’t going to be around for very long. But it’ll be there till Christmas (unlike Corbyn?), so get there while you can. It’s a wonderful space with high ceilings, rococo mouldings and gold cornices, big windows and a great wood-burning igloo of a pizza oven at the centre of the open kitchen.”

If you were wondering what exactly ‘New Baltic’ cuisine is (and aren’t we all?) then catch Marina O’Laughlin’s review of Birmingham’s Two Cats Kitchen in the Guardian. Mind you, she’s tried it and the critic’s still not 100% sure what it means…but it works ‘like a dream’.

“Astley honed his craft during a series of pop-ups throughout the city, in coffee shops and bakeries. With his magpie approach, he may be making it up as he goes along, but he’s doing it with intelligence, flair and (apart from the mutton and that pudding) a fine eye for food’s inherent beauty. He’s moving Brum from balti to Baltic, brilliantly.”

Meanwhile the Observer’s Jay Rayner heads to The Talbot in Knightwick, Worcestershire, to find proper pub food – much of it served with very good chips and salads ‘almost as well dressed’ as the reviewer himself – (we’ll have to keep an eye out for this self-confessed stylishness next time he appears on the telly!)…

“You would, I think, have to be a hard-hearted, self-regarding, tiresome, po-faced schmuck not to like it. Not because it’s a gastronomic palace. It really isn’t. The food is great, in a solid, trustworthy sort of way that speaks of a kitchen with an instinct to feed and the skill set to do it. You would have to like it because, in an age when gastropubs across the land are mostly fuelled by the dull beep of the Brake Bros truck reversing up to the back door, it’s bloody lovely to find a place that cooks everything from scratch because they can’t see the point of doing otherwise.”

Back in London the Evening Standard’s Grace Dent loves the initial glamour of waltzing into the newly relaunched Cinnamon Kitchen, but after that feels the food doesn’t quite live up to the subtle splendour of the Westminster Library’s £1m refurb’.

“By now, you’re possibly thinking, yes, Grace, but what about the food? This place specialises in imaginative, contemporary, luxurious Indian cuisine with a particular emphasis on game and fish. It’s almost like I’m skirting around the subject. Well spotted: I’m floundering because the food was not face-slappingly fabulous.”

And David Sexton fills in for Fay Maschler at the Standard this week. He takes a seat at Anna Hansen’s second Modern Pantry outpost but finds it wise to keep a menu to hand when deciphering this new restaurant’s adventurous fare…

“The menu sticks closely to the Modern Pantry format, and there’s no doubting the care and expertise of the execution. Our starters delighted us… The mains we tried proved too much for us, though. Squid ink-battered Cornish cod, coriander and poppy seed besan chips, seaweed relish, brown crab mayonnaise… So this was basically fish and chips recreated as an exotic amusement. Why? The real thing done well never fails… Likewise, oloroso-marinated onglet, cassava chips, greengage chutney, hijiki and bone marrow juice was steak and chips by other means.”

Share this article: