Harden’s review of the reviews

Jay Rayner in The Observer doesn’t so much review Marylebone newcomer Fancy Crab as eviscerate it…

“Fancy Crab isn’t good. It’s a terrible waste of their money and our money and everybody’s time.

“The restaurant’s shtick is the enormous red king crabs, fished from the cold waters of the North Pacific around Alaska, which can grow to be five feet across, and have legs like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime.

“They’ve put effort into the decor, from the huge blow-up of a king crab on one wall to the way the beast has been subtly included in other works of art, in a Where’s Wally? sort of way.

“Obviously you know it’s going to be nose-bleedingly expensive. That doesn’t mean it can’t also be good. Fancy Crab… is designed to take the mess out of crab, which is like trying to take the rum out of a mojito or the meaning out of life… It’s a restaurant predicated on one idea: that a single really expensive ingredient will make your life better. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but it won’t.”

Marina O’Loughlin in The Guardian heads to Islington’s revamped and rehomed Prawn on the Lawn, which has taken over a bigger premises just around the corner from its old fishmonger site…

“Inside this cool, tiled and blackboarded little temple to the piscine, you could close your eyes and swear it’s the ocean you’re hearing, rather than the rumble of traffic trundling past the Sainsbury’s opposite.

“This is all about the joys of letting good ingredients speak for themselves.

“Masses of white crabmeat are stirred through crunchy spiralised noodles of mooli, flecked with seaweed and lubricated with sesame oil. This is such a genius little dish, so much more than a salad: bracing and luxurious all at the same time.

“I’d go back for the crushed potatoes alone, boiled and then fried into fluffy-crispness, gorgeously salty and dusted with a secret house spice mix. Even pedestrian old taramasalata is a sensual treat: pungent, pleasingly oily and smoky, served with wands of seaweed powder-dusted flatbread for scooping.”

Fay Maschler in the Evening Standard is one of the first critics to give her verdict on Core by Clare Smyth. Knowing the chef’s fastidious attention to detail it’s no surprise that Ms Maschler has mostly good things to say…

Clare Smyth MBE not only held and retained the three Michelin stars originally awarded to Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in 2001, but in the four years before she left Royal Hospital Road in 2016 she had the title chef-patron. This is often described as a notable achievement for a woman; more straightforwardly it is just a very impressive achievement.

“Smyth is now doing her own thing… topped and tailed in haute cuisine style.

“A canapé tart of exquisite brittleness holding a confection of smoked tomato tartare with macadamia nuts and black olive seeds… a work of art… life-affirming malty sourdough bread offered with “virgin” Isle of Wight butter.

“Protein is found almost taking a backseat to vegetables in main courses of Charlotte potato and lamb braised carrot. Roscoff onion expertly stuffed with rich oxtail and its accompaniment of sliced beef short rib tips the balance back in favour of meat. Roast grouse…a miscalculation with its flabby, liverish result not remedied by a forcemeat ball with gizzards however jauntily it’s presented in a cradle of red cabbage leaves.”

Grace Dent in the Evening Standard offers her opinion on Ollie Dabbous’s latest venture Henrietta…

“I go gingerly in my approach to booking such spots [hotel restaurants]. I will always make time for the work of Ollie Dabbous. Not, I’ll add, due to the much rhapsodised over but now culled Dabbous, but due to Barnyard on Charlotte Street, now closed, which sealed in my mind that this was a man who understood feeding people.

“His influence is present in simple things like grilled flatbreads with sesame labneh titivated with spring blossoms and pickled vegetables. Faffy, whimsical — yes — but also ferociously delicious. “

“Henrietta, for all its yearning, still has a sense of the multi-purpose breakfast room… if you’re in Covent Garden this is a steady choice for lunch or dinner. Henrietta is handy, fancy and the sort of place you can take your Aunty Sheila. This is its gift and also its problem.


Meanwhile Michael Deacon in The Telegraph reviews Michael Caines’s newly renovated, once-private home, near Exmouth Lympstone Manor, now a country house hotel and restaurant. The critic has this gem to share…

“’The beef… imagine eating a fillet of Wayne Rooney’.”


Tom Parker Bowles in The Daily Mail also reviews Henrietta, also drawn-in by Dabbous’s name, and he too is pleasantly surprised to find a decent hotel restaurant…

“Lunch at The Henrietta… can often feel like running through Covent Garden Flower Market with your mouth opened wide… Because there’s edible flora everywhere, lavished and scattered with verdurous aplomb….And petals, lots of pretty petals in the gaudiest of hues. Herbs too, fistfuls of herbs… romantically monikered meadowsweet, lovage, chervil and calamint … macho coastal weeds too.

“A merrily unpretentious room – all terracotta tiles, handsome oak floor and a tiger (albeit painted on the ceiling) – that wallows happily in a flood of midsummer sunshine. Every dish has colour and lusty vitality, but never sacrifices substance for mere style.
It’s Dabbous’s name that draws me in. And he doesn’t disappoint… real charm and substance… smiling service and a cracking wine list (plus a quietly learned sommelier)… a hotel restaurant to relish.”

“ Smart, sexy and assuredly sassy, lunch with Henrietta is an unexpected blast.”

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