Review of the Reviews

Our round-up of what the nation’s restaurant critics were writing about in the week up to 28th April 2024

The Financial Times

Alberta’s at The Windmill, Brighton

Tim Hayward was “blown away” by Scottish chef Alistair Munro’s cooking at a “rackety, seedy Regency locals’ boozer” – a meal which prompted Tim to define an emergent new class of food-led pub: “Not as solid as a gastropub, but more formal than a residency. Longer-term than a pop-up…, inexpensive, independent, local, un-hyped and run on an intoxicating blend of joy, soul and buzz.”

Named after the chef’s grandmother, Alberta’s offers an eclectic and eccentric menu with . “big nods to the American South, some Italian influences, tacos, some killer fried chicken and then a slew of huge deli sandwiches and a Hainanese poached chicken.”

“This is the precise list of things that a well-informed food nerd has been obsessing about these past few years,” enthused Tim. “It was like someone had taken my private obsessions and poured them on to a menu.” To cap it all, Munro had the technical skills and elan to pull off these disparate dishes: in short, it was all “bloody lovely.”


The Evening Standard

Lita, Marylebone

Jimi Famurewa had little interest in what felt like the “kajillionth venture broadly steeped in the cuisine of southern Europe” to open in London, until he was persuaded to give Lita a try by Insta-raves – “And I don’t think I have ever been happier for my gut instinct to have been so completely wrong.”

Irish head chef Luke Ahearne’s cooking was “nothing short of staggering”, and included two puddings – a Mayan Red chocolate ganache with coffee, popcorn ice cream and salted caramel, and a spin on lemon meringue pie – “that are easily the best I’ve had in months”.

Despite the “vertiginous lunacy of a bill” that includes wines starting at a heady £54 a bottle, Lita is “an impeccably crafted, legitimate contender for launch of the year”. So it comes as a relief to learn from Jimi that there’s supposedly an entry-level set menu on the way.


Otto’s, Bloomsbury

Jimi’s ES magazine colleagues David Ellis and Joanna Taylor doubled up as David initiated Joanna into the charms of La Grande Bouffe at a French restaurant that is by no means new, but which has suddenly caught the attention of reviewers.

Boasting that this was his 19th visit – some of which he can barely recall through the alcoholic haze – David reports that “astonishingly”, the experience is different every time. “It is a menu of duck and lobsters, every part of them squeezed and crushed into extraordinary dishes, of sweetbreads, of livers, of scallops, of blood sauce, of caviar, of crêpes Suzette… each course more improbable than the last.”

Often described as “mad” – including by the Standard’s headline writers, and the Times’s a few weeks back – David prefers to call Otto’s “spellbinding”. “You come for last meal-on-earth territory. I’m just getting an awful lot of practice in.”

Joanna was quite happy to call it “mad” – “That’s because it is.” But she certainly enjoyed the “sheer, incomparable indulgence” of the squeezed duck and lobster juices, while the “crisp, featherweight potato clouds named pommes soufflé are nothing short of a miracle”.


The Guardian

Sekkoya, Canterbury

Poor Grace Dent suffered the indignity of a meal in a glossy, Insta-friendly modern Chinese restaurant where the cuisine “makes a trip to Wagamama seem like a street-food jaunt with Anthony Bourdain”.

Steamed gyoza “came swimming in soy and a black, sticky snot that was apparently truffle”; an aubergine bao came in a poor-quality bun and the tempura batter fell off the aubergine; while masala cod came with a green marinade that “tasted of precisely nothing: no garlic, no ginger, no chilli, no coriander – nothing”.

“Sekkoya is a prime example of why the term ‘pan-Asian’ fills me with such foreboding these days. It’s the sort of Asian food that was invented for British people and that you’d get at a Cantonese restaurant in Braintree in 1994.”


The Observer

Medlock Canteen, Manchester

Jay Rayner thoroughly approved of this new all-day venture in Manchester’s Deansgate Square development, a “smart, utilitarian” place which describes itself as “a cross between a French bistro and an American diner” and offers “familiar dishes that are the best versions of themselves”.

“What you will not get are gimmicks or spins or, God help us, twists. Nothing is twisted. Nothing is spun. What you read on the menu is exactly what you get.”

A case in point was the rotisserie chicken: “no special rubs or sauces”, just dark, sticky, deeply savoury gravy – “the best kind”, according to Jay. “Even if you don’t order any chicken, order that and pour it over everything. Pour it over a friend.”

Rhubarb pie, cooked in a deep fryer, is “a school dinner pudding raised to a place of glory and wonder. You could easily get yourself through double maths thinking it.” 


The Times & Sunday Times

Juno Omakase, Notting Hill

A £600 (for 2) meal in a “tiny windowless room” with six seats, upstairs from Los Mochis Mexican restaurant, prompted Giles Coren to ponder one of the mysteries of high-end Japanese dining: “The poorer we get, the more omakase we seem to be eating (although ‘we’ is going to mean two very different sets of people there).”

Defying what he called “the paradox inherent in omakase”, Giles and his fellow diners had a great time drinking and laughing together, thereby missing out on the “performance element of the meal”, where the chef explains every mouthful.

“Look, the Mexican-accented Japanese cooking was wonderful,” he said. It included “the best pudding I have ever eaten anywhere, a sort of matcha tiramisu served upside down and submerged in a wooden box/bowl, dusted with essence of pure green. Cool, creamy, nurturing, not too sweet, utterly sublime.”

The booze and chat meant that he remembered for less of a Japanese meal than is usual “after solemnly masticating my way through the courses, silent and sober as the grave”, but “I had a much, much better time.”


Ranjit’s Kitchen, Glasgow

Chitra Ramaswamy made a long overdue visit to this Punjabi café on Glasgow’s “ever more hip Southside”, run by Ranjit Kaur, her sons, and a “tiny, fiercely loyal team” who call her “Auntie”. “Many say it’s the best vegetarian Indian restaurant in Glasgow. I’m sorry but I disagree. It’s also better than any vegetarian Indian restaurant I’ve been to in Edinburgh.”

She made sure she visited on a Thursday – “saag day” – to have her “lunch of dreams”. “Ranjit’s is the real deal. None of that restaurant-finish swirl of cream. This is spicy, silky, garlicky, thick like the thickest soup, with a mild chlorophyll tang that translates simply as the taste of dark green.”

The café is “a hymn to multiculturalism”, welcoming “anyone with the good sense to come for the daal of the day. Which is £6. And huge. And includes two rotis. If I had to define social cohesion in action, Ranjit’s Kitchen would be it.”


Geranium, Copenhagen

Hitting her stride as the Sunday Times’s restaurant reviewer, Charlotte Ivers joined the international jetset to visit the “new Noma”, where you are fast “disabused of any notion that Scandi cooking is losing its supremacy. The global super-rich are still flooding in”.

Named the world’s best restaurant in 2022, Geranium is “located on the top floor of an innocuous office block, dumped in the middle of a grey car park, sandwiched alongside the national football stadium… To a British eye, there’s something of the regional hotel conference room about it.”

The only option is an 18-course tasting menu costing £481 and consisting of dishes that “taste like simple food, as if each ingredient has just become more of itself. As Dolly Parton once said: ‘It costs a lot of money to look this cheap’.” 

The highlight was a carrot sorbet with a white chocolate panna cotta-type cream, that made Charlotte want to cry – “which is also a deranged thing to say. But eating at Geranium seems to make you want to come out with a lot of deranged things.” 


Daily Telegraph

The Cloudberry, Cranbrook

William Sitwell made a trip to a village near Sissinghurst in Kent, where a couple who chucked in decent jobs in London have opened their “dream restaurant”. “Toby had wanted to do it ever since his parents had taken him to one at the age of five, and Bev liked the idea ever since Toby mentioned it on their first date.”

It’s a “cute and charming” little place with just 16 seats, “emitting a comely warmth you might get from a Tuscan osteria”. William wanted to smash the chunky, pub-style wine glasses, but pronounced the cooking delightful and confident. “Everything displayed Toby’s ability to knock out steady, reliable dishes, served by the charming Bev.”


Daily Mail

Yang Guo Fu Malatang, Hammersmith

Tom Parker Bowles found his way to the debut UK outlet from a 6,000-strong global Chinese hotpot chain, whose unheralded arrival in the UK was first reported by Harden’s two months ago.

“Despite its immense size, YGF retains something of a cultish reputation, each new opening greeted with social-media hysteria, a thousand tremulous TikTok videos and queues that spill way out of the door.”

Tom was impressed by the spicing, and gave the joint three-and-a-half stars.


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