Review of the reviews

Here’s a jumbo edition of our round-up of what the nation’s restaurant critics were writing about in the two weeks up to 15th October 2023; we’ve been busy writing UK Restaurants 2024!


The Guardian

Last week, Grace Dent was in Edinburgh and ate a life-changing lunch at Tantra, “far and away the oddest restaurant I’ve been to this year”

“At no point during lunch did I have a clue what was going to happen next, and I loved every second of it. These people are true mavericks.”

There’s “elevated” Indian cuisine with “really rather good” curries, theatrical cocktails (“Tantra loves dry ice”) and “sizzling plates” all in a “cavernous” space painted black with “flashing neon blue lights” and loud music. “Once visited, never forgotten.”


This week, Grace was in Hoxton, eating “expensive” food and “world-class chips” at NYC-import Llama Inn on the roof of The Hoxton hotel.

“Everything at Llama Inn is memorable for one reason or another. You’ll be bombarded with sweet, sour, soy, mayo and nutty umami pastes at every turn.”

The menu is “inspired by south American and Peruvian tastes” some of it “genuinely innovative and delicious”, served in “an understated, pale, mature dining space” by lovely staff.

“I’d even go back if someone else was paying.”


The Observer

Last week, Jay Rayner ate Sunday dinner at Vervain in an “empty” Birch, “a big chunk of redbrick hotel set in 200 acres of grounds on that southern edge of Croydon known as Selsdon”.

“Ambitious chef” Lee Westcott is in charge here, also overseeing “bells-and-whistles restaurant” Elodie, which Jay “purposefully ignored”, asking whether Westcott can “make the everyday interesting” at a “utilitarian brasserie”?

Things started slowly but picked up with the arrival of starters; “each of the dishes carries the big fat thumb print of a chef who understands the fundamentals of these dishes, but knows how to add wit and drama”. “Serious attention has been paid to the non-meat options” too.


This week, Jay tried out one of six eating and drinking options at The Hippodrome in Leicester Square; Chop Chop, in the basement, is run by Four Seasons, of which Jay is a fan.

Jay was delighted to discover General Manager William Sin, “a Soho legend who for 26 years was at the wonderful and much-missed Y Ming on Greek Street”, working there.

The familiar roast Cantonese meats, dim sum and seafood area all there on the short menu, and there’s a “little robot waiter” taking plates away.


The Telegraph

Last week William Sitwell reviewed Grassfed, “a new and compact space under the train arches” in “gentrified Camden”, where the menu is “a sweetly simple offer of mainly beef, cooked over coal, with sides”, accompanied by “cheerful, competent service and a tidy wine list”.

“It’s the creation of chef Paul Foster, who also has a restaurant called Salt in Stratford-upon-Avon” which he crowdfunded in 2017. (****)


This week William visited another gentrified spot, Jesmond in Newcastle, where he ate at Lovage.

“The menu is seasonal, Mediterranean-style, and the chef’s ingredients net is wide.” The couple who run the place (“he in the kitchen; she on the floor”) “have planted a firm flag of assured confidence”.

“Neat, delicate, exact, good and honest cooking, served with professional grace and modest enthusiasm, along with a well-thought-out, nicely priced wine list and thus a massive thumbs up from yours truly.” (*****)


The Evening Standard

Last week, Jimi Famurewa reviewed Kokum, a “thrilling new restaurant in East Dulwich” with “with an unexpectedly illustrious pedigree” that “shows a path forward for Indian restaurants” (****)

This week, Jimi reviewed Mauro Colagreco at Raffles London, part of the multi-billion redevelopment of the Old War Office. His summary? “High on cost, low on laughs, you’ll leave bored and broke.”

“Colagreco’s entry into London dining is unquestionably a landmark moment” but “for those of us who value fun, spiritedness and surprise in a restaurant… it doesn’t come close to fully justifying the pure, vertiginous madness of its prices.” (***)


The Times & The Sunday Times

Last week, Charlotte Ivers found “a perfect Polish restaurant in Boston, Lincolnshire — the most Leave-voting town in the UK”. The dumplings at Swojskie Jadlo “are wonderful”. This week, Charlotte had “dinner with the ghost of a Soho legend. And five lawyers” at “technically perfect Andrew Edmunds.


“As satisfying as it gets.” Chitra Ramaswamy reviewed Smith & Gertrude in Edinburgh; “with a laser focus on quality meat and cheese, many of which you won’t find anywhere else in the city, this gorgeous wine bar knows exactly what it’s doing”.


Last week, Giles Coren enjoyed “superlative Italian cooking of fine British ingredients” at Fish Game, in Canary Wharf, a “pretty, modern Italian restaurant from the charming restaurateur behind the Macellaio chain, Roberto Costa”.


This week, Giles had “terrific value, awful service” at Happy Lamb, which now has two London restaurants and one in Birmingham.


“Right up there with addictive books, mind-bending live gigs or escapist afternoons at the cinema, a great restaurant meal can transport us far from our reality.” Claire Sawers reviewed Taisteal in Edinburgh; “fine dining without the scary bill”.


And also…

Tom Parker Bowles in The Mail online reviewed The Portrait Restaurant by Richard Corrigan, at the newly reopened Portrait Gallery.

“Pity… the chef who must match that vista, and carry diners back to earth without a dull, bathetic bump. In the hands of the merely average, every bite would reek of anticlimax, each morsel steeped in dismay. But Richard Corrigan is a long way from average, and The Portrait is one of those rare restaurants that can match the splendour of its surroundings.”


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