Harden’s review of the reviews

Giles Coren in the Times revisits Restaurant Gordon Ramsay (the original on Royal Hospital Road) and finds the three Michelin star level service to be just a bit much…

“Smartly redone a couple of years ago in the art deco style, it must look great when empty, but it was so rammed with waiters that I couldn’t really see it. Like a logjam of London taxis in theatreland, they were.

“And they talked too much: endless inquiries about whether we’d been there before, welcomes if not, welcome backs if yes. (Pointless and a bit rude. You should either know or find out beforehand – this is meant to be three-star service.) Then the lengthy explanations of the menu (essentially, “We have food”), which you’d only need if you had never eaten in a restaurant before in your life, and an inability to answer any supplementary questions with anything but a reiteration of what was already written on the menu.

“This was my first three-starred Michelin meal in a while and reminded me that while one star can represent a guide to quality of sorts, any further stars signal little more than the playing of an elaborate game that is mostly about having the right shoes and shirt. And if you don’t, it all comes crashing down.”


Marina O’Loughlin in The Sunday Times realises she wouldn’t be happy to eat great food anywhere when she encounters the unusual decor of York’s Arras…

“Dear Lord, the decor. Previously much-loved Le Langhe, anyone expecting the predecessor’s bland, woodsy informality is likely to be startled. Stark white walls are plastered with the leeriest murals, street art of the noisiest kind. I ask our charming server how this has been received: “People either love it or hate it,” comes the reply, “I hate it.” From the large glass skylight issues a flood of lurid blue light that does nothing either for dishes or diners: Smurfette is not a good look for me. Pinstriped armchairs look invitingly comfortable, but we sink into them way too far and end up eating elbows bent, four years old again.

“Before Arras, if you’d asked if I’d be happy to eat great food pretty much anywhere, I’d have answered, hell yes. Seems I’m shallower than I thought. But I don’t think the environment the duo have created here does their excellent cooking any favours: at best, it’s a jittery distraction; at worst, pass the Rennies.”


Jay Rayner in The Observer reviews Margot Henderson and Melanie Arnold’s takeover of the café at the ICA on The Mall, Rochelle at The ICA…

“The uncluttered space is made up of clean white lines and daylight. A nose bleed in here would be a shocking outbreak of colour. It is and has always been a self-consciously gutsy, old-fashioned kind of cooking.”

“The kitchen at this Rochelle Canteen produces the kind of food you like to think you cook at home, but never quite do. It is solid and sustaining. It is British cooking, by way of summers in the Dordogne… this is the kind of food I most want to eat, most of the time. These are big-boned dishes, made of ingredients that taste of something, served in platefuls designed for appetite rather than photography.”



Fay Maschler in the Evening Standard pays a visit to the recently relaunched Club Gascon in Clerkenwell. It reopened in October following a major refurb of its kitchen and dining room…

“The premises, once a Lyons Corner House, have been stripped back. Attack and invention are palpable right from the start with the presentation of MIAM which apparently stands for ‘mon invitation à manger’ or, in other French words amuses-bouches, brought unbidden to the table.

“Foams are not resisted… in tweely described Dover sole, crab and friends billows of bubbles contribute to a not-altogether-welcome retro feel. Desserts … of citrus soufflé with confit kumquat and frosted vinegar and a gilded chocolate confection called Millionaire are straightforwardly delectable.

“I would love to give Pascal Aussignac four or five stars… but at present there is too much anachronistic folderol.”


Ben Norum in the Evening Standard reviews the reincarnated Santo Remedio which reopened in Bermondsey this summer after a successful crowdfunding campaign…

“A triumphant return in London Bridge. With a mosaic-tiled bar, multi-coloured wallpaper, bright cushions and walls clad with Mexican imagery and trinkets, the look is as vibrant as the food.

“Highlights of the menu … include earthy beef barbacoa tacos or a sweet and tangy confit pork version laced with orange juice and coca cola… a superlative guacamole, topped with optional crunchy grasshoppers for extra authenticity.

“The vibes are electric, the margaritas splendid and the mezcal plentiful… though this second site is more polished than the first, it still feels undeniably personal – and all the more loveable for it”


Grace Dent in the Evening Standard gives her verdict on Pufferfish at Mahiki…

“All-new Pufferfish at Mahiki Kensington, a mock-Polynesian raw bar and sashimi palace, open from 4pm, which transforms into an upscale party palace as the evening progresses.

“Pufferfish sounds like a sexual term millennials might use for something revolting, surprising and non-consensual that requires wet wipes… it only offers a few maki rolls, tempura, a limited raw bar and hot meats with a kimchi or miso slant… Pufferfish does offer, bizarrely, a supergreen salad that it makes a fuss of mashing tableside.

“The seared salmon sashimi with truffle ponzu was dinner’s highlight. The cod tempura in a squid ink-laced batter resembled lumps of coal but were semi-edible. We could smell the pudding before we saw it. A burnt fondant appeared with a melting inner that felt non-temptingly carcinogenic. It wasn’t exactly a party, but I’ve been laughing about it ever since.


Micheal Deacon in The Telegraph 23 November 2017 reviewed Noizé: “Like my waiter’s accent, it’s as French as you could wish”


Keith Miller in The Telegraph thoroughly enjoys pop-up Forza Win’s permanent new digs in a former Peckham granary…

“A brand-new restaurant in a nicely refurbed but still faintly draughty former granary in Peckham… in fact they’ve been going for five years, popping up here and there until they settled where they are now… maybe FW’s reinvention as a “normal” restaurant is a timely one.

“Food was simple and good, as promised. It wasn’t noticeably regional, or even pedantically Italian. A big bowl of clams came with plenty of slurpable, winey broth. Pasta dishes were exceptional. Pappardelle with slow-cooked pork and porcini were deeply autumnal, consoling and bounteous.

“Forza Win is now officially my second-favourite contemporary Italian restaurant in a reclaimed industrial space.”


And Tom Parker Bowles in The Daily Mail poses the question: “Do we really need another Nobu?” as he reviews Nobu Shoreditch…

“There’s muzak, and then there’s plain noise pollution. And here, that line is not just crossed, but trampled.

“There are some decent enough dishes. Tiny tacos filled with crab and tuna with jalapeno salsa stand out, bright, fresh and punchy, a taste of old Nobu. Ceviche is OK, if a little meh. Not so much a passionate smack on the lips as sterile peck on the cheek.

“As the night goes on, the lights move from dim to plain dark, and the music thuds ever louder. There’s a flurry of fine, if largely forgettable, dishes. By the end, the only thing that really stands out is the size of the bill… nearly £250 for food is not just steep but bleeding precipitous.

“I’m not sure who it is aiming to attract. It’s too expensive for the kids down Hackney way, and too noisy for those who don’t balk at £100 per head bills. The original Nobu was a bona fide game changer. But things have moved on.”



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