Harden’s review of the reviews

⦿ The Observer’s Jay Rayner finds a trip to Soho’s new Test Kitchen rather hard work, but thankfully is able to salvage his day through the restorative power of pastry at Maison Bertaux…

“The strawberry tart at Maison Bertaux in London’s Soho should be available on prescription as an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress. The sweet pastry shell is crisp. There is a modest layer of crème pâtissière topped by nubile strawberries, in turn topped by Chantilly cream and then more strawberries. The £4.80 price tag is modest given that it really does make everything better.

“I retreated there after a joyless lunch at the Test Kitchen, which occupies the site that was until recently the original Barrafina tapas restaurant on Frith Street.”

⦿ Her colleague may have needed prescription pastry after his disastrous lunch, but if anything Marina O’Laughlin needs some downers to keep her feet on the ground. The Guardian’s restaurant critic is flying high after a dazzling visit to Where the Light Gets In. Which is in… Stockport.

“Let’s get it out of the way from the get-go: Where The Light Gets In serves the most exciting food I’ve had in years. And it’s not in London, Copenhagen or Portland, Oregon; it’s in Stockport. Never have I trudged so dutifully to a destination only to exit at the other end quite so starey-eyed and evangelical.

“Stockport: seriously? Before high horses are clambered upon, chef/owner Sam Buckley is equally wry about the location. It is, simply, not where you’d expect this kind of firecracker creativity in £65-a-head, tasting-menu-only format.”

⦿ At the ES Magazine Grace Dent is pleasantly surprised by the authenticity and deliciousness of Mark Ogus and Owen Barratt’s ‘Jewish Soul Food’ at Monty’s Deli in Hoxton.

“Lunch at Monty’s was supposed to be a quick chat and a sandwich. ‘Just tea for me,’ I said, non-committally before shifting quickly to sipping Kiddush wine, then onto a glass of Pinot Noir. The lunchtime crowd were as young, beardy and earnest as one might imagine. After wine we ordered a plate of plump potato latkes served with sour cream and apple sauce. This was followed by a relatively humble but delicious salt beef mensch slathered in house mustard, which appeared with a fearsome pickle. The meshuggener came with chopped liver. The pastrami classic was stuffed with coleslaw and Russian dressing.”

⦿ Meanwhile the Evening Standard’s critic-in-chief heads to Bermondsey’s new French rôtisserie spot Pique Nique, from the madams and monsuiers behind the nearby (and brilliantly authentic) Gallic bistro Casse-Croute.

“A deep-fried croquette, a perfect sphere with a thin bone used for the “stalk” of the bonbon, is up first, then a scoop of creamy chicken liver pâté, a chance to make use of the excellent in-house breads — baguettes and loaves — but following that the only disappointment in the look-at-the-many-things-you-can-do-with-a-chicken spread; consommé that looks to have been bolstered with Marmite or beefed up with Bovril. Compensation lies in a skewer of sautéed peppered giblets astride the cup but the home cook in me grieves for the limpid, luminous stock winking with eyes of fat that all those carcasses could have, should have, produced. 

“Happiness is fully restored by a skin-on slice of chicken breast with creamy morel-studded sauce and a pile of incredibly rich, smooth-as-silk potato purée seemingly made with the Joel Robuchon recipe — almost as much butter as spud — in mind.”

⦿ As a result of a boardroom shake-up The Times’s Giles Coren ended up having two of his best meals out at Covent Garden’s new Tandoor Chop House and an exciting recent edition to Westminster, The Other Naughty Piglet.

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