“A serious, sweetly traditional restaurant, serving very clever but still gutsy food, at significant prices, in laid-back surroundings,” writes Jay Rayner, reviewing Edinburgh’s Grazing by Mark Greenaway in The Observer
The menu writing pulls the under-utilised trick of not telling you everything. Compressed discs of deeply piggy ham hock (or “hough”, as here) served at room temperature, do indeed come with the advertised fried quail’s egg and a fanned slice of dehydrated pineapple, the sharpness of which does bring something to the plate. But what makes it is the sizeable dollop of a foamy pea mousse. It turns the dish into a giggly take on pea and ham soup. The cleverness does not overwhelm its more obvious appeal, which is just how fun it is to eat.
The simplest of the dishes is a square of pork belly, slowly rendered over half a day, with crackling like glass, a “toffee apple” sauce, a few greens and a big welcoming pillow of mash. It’s meat and two veg that’s had a facial, its nails done and a full blow-dry. It is drop-dead gorgeous. Even so, it is overshadowed by a sensitively cooked hake fillet, the skin crisped and given a spritz of acidity. Alongside is a shellfish boudin, wrapped in a roll of striped and silky pasta. The whole dish is brought together by a ripe bisque that tastes of the best of shells that have been roasted down to their essence, then lifted from their sticking place by a glug of booze. Simmer all that, strain, reduce again, then bolster with cream. And hurrah: a sauce that puts the headrush into lush.
Price: starters, £9.50-£11; mains, £25-£29; desserts, £9.50; wines, from £25
The Evening Standard’s David Sexton discovers carefully executed cooking with good ingredients at modest prices at the Buxton in London’s Shoreditch
A pork and prune terrine (£6) was good stuff, coarsely chopped, moist and meaty. Gnocchi with wild garlic, pesto and Parmesan (£6.50) were hearty too, a bit heavy and crusty, given more crunch with roasted pine nuts, strongly scented by big leaves of the garlic, which also reappeared in a garlic and thyme-infused creamy butter served with some stout bread. Three langoustines, halved and served warm (£12), were flooded with melted garlic and parsley butter, either adding lots of zing to these tender little crustacea or overwhelming their delicate freshwater taste, or perhaps a bit of both.
For mains, tagliatelle with courgettes and “house ricotta” (£12) was a creamy offering of spring vegetables, with lightly blanched courgette neatly cut both into thin strips and discs, supplemented by fresh peas and skinned broad beans, that was blandly satisfying. A homemade chicken, ham and leek pie, served in the baking dish with a tangy endive salad (£12.50) was perfection of its kind: excellent pastry, big pieces of high-quality chicken and chunks of bacon, it seemed, rather than ham, making for a really good pub dish. The Buxton isn’t just a pub, though, and providing attractive food at a good price for its guests means it faces the constraints familiar to all hotel restaurants, aiming both to attract diners who can choose to eat anywhere and to fulfil a need for more daily sustenance.
The Times’ Giles Coren falls in love with Folkestone in Kent after visiting Pick Up Pintxos at the Waiting Room and Annapurna
The hand-formed croquetas (£4.50) were only roughly cylindrical, golden with darker patches, crisp and hot and filled with a béchamel that redefined the concept of “goo”, oozing from the carapace like the serrano-scented lava of an eruption on Mount Olympus. The salt cod fritters (£4.50) were cubes of sweet, lightly salted fish in batter shaped like a cartoon explosion, rough edged, crackling, that sat in stiff pats of a bright yellow aïoli at once lightly balanced and floral but then again so sharp it would blow the monocle from the eye of a stone field marshal. And then a rhombus of the freshest hake (£12.50) cooked in parsley sauce, half of it covered in a powder of serrano ham that came on like a kind of pig bottarga, the other half in an olive powder that was harsher, grassier and met the serrano beautifully, angrily, in the middle.
The momos [at Annapurna] were delicious and incredibly cheap. Ten steamed chicken dumplings for £6, heavy in their sticky white case but light and delicate in the filling, with the truly spanking fresh tomato and chilli chutney. Then £7 for 10 chilli buffalo momos in their chewy wheat flour cases “prepared in true Nepalese style”, stir-fried with vegetables in a tangy sauce. Then a wonderful Kathmandu dahl, black and nourishing. But best of all was the vegetable pakora, in which nuggets of every imaginable vegetable were suspended in a wondrous beefy crunching vessel of golden deliciousness.
The Telegraph’s William Sitwell finds “tasty, scruffy food” at Delamina in London’s Marylebone
The menu is divided into vegetables, meat, fish and seafood, and we started by sharing a pita balagan, ‘grilled and topped with today’s larder’. This was basically a chunky, rustic-looking pita bread covered with things like soft cheese, mushrooms and tomato paste.
It was not pretty; it looked like the dissected insides of a goblin’s brain (one might imagine). But God, it tasted good: magnificently rich and moreish with scatterings of crispy kale on the board on which it came.
I then had lamb chops with a chimichurri sauce. This was no oil painting either, misshapen and heavy chunks of meat served atop charred Hispi cabbage. I could have done without the cabbage. It’s a sort of east London affectation that doesn’t travel west well.
As Retsina should stay in Greece and beards in Hackney, so Hispi cabbage should be refused entry to west London. But the lamb may travel freely because it was wonderfully tender, charred at the edges and succulent.
Price: Lunch for two: £60 without drinks and service. Score: 4/5
You won’t leave Bob Bob Cité in the City of London hungry, writes the The Guardian’s Grace Dent – bankrupt, perhaps, but not hungry
There are oysters gratinée teamed with black truffle hollandaise, and a good, fresh salade de tomate with silverskin anchovies. There’s a small, fat bowl of Scottish rump beef steak tartare with soft-boiled quail’s egg and, from “les grillades”, a ribeye steak with shallots at £32 and lobster thermidor at £48.50. Perhaps the best thing on the menu is the relatively simple grilled sea bream, its skin rubbed with lemon and saffron, that comes served with roasted cherry tomatoes – a snip at a mere £35.
The language of Bob Bob Cité’s menu is a sort of restaurant Esperanto: thick slices of smoked salmon on a fancy, caviar-strewn potato salad are “chunky saumon fumé” – despite that sounding like something deluxe one might buy in Aldi for a cat. The vegetable pie has been sent to Siberia, returned to London via Paris, and is now on menu as “Le ‘Pie’ du Maraîcher”. It is a delicate, flat, delicious, prettily embossed, heart-valve-clogging dish of Jerusalem artichoke and king oyster mushrooms in a sea-green Champagne and truffle velouté.
Price: about £70 a head, plus drinks and service. Score: food: 8/10; ambience: 8/10; service: 10/10
The Herald’s Ron Mackenna reviews Six By Nico in Glasgow, and while dishes are beautifully presented, he says they lack “any real sparkle”
Crunchy, smooth and salty coley croquettes; taramasalata (uh?) with olive tapenade, and a piece of that Catalonian coca bread with olive oil, get the juices flowing before we embark on the latest iteration of the signature six-course set menu that, at £28, has created this restaurant’s enduring (so far) buzz.
A paella of all things appears. In teensy, weensy miniature, of course. A scorched tiger prawn reposing languidly on the rice’s otherwise pale creamy colouring, pickled fennel, too, saffron and orange emulsion lapping gently.
We’re already at the pork cheek with sobrasada, white bean, spiced aubergine and – taa-raa – ironically as they are now appearing absolutely everywhere in Scotland – a single grilled padron pepper. This course, in its juicy, unctuous, sweetly porky savourings, is the best thing we’ll eat tonight. Sticky tasty and spikily seasoned.
We both look up and say it at the same time, confirming that while the earlier courses were all beautifully presented they lacked any real sparkle, not all of the flavours promised on the menu jumped out onto the palate. Save the paella and that was too orangey, and pickley.
Price: £28 for six-course fine dining. Score: 23/30
Each dish is as thrilling as the last at Endo in London’s White City, writes Tom Parker Bowles in The Mail on Sunday
There are 18 dishes in all, each as thrilling as the last. Wagyu beef from Gunma in Japan, the sort that is more buttery fat than meat, and melts in a molten meaty puddle on the tongue. Dutch eel wrapped in nori, otoro with English white asparagus, grilled razor clam with seaweed butter. We sit for the most part in rapt awe, struck blissfully dumb by Endo’s art. This is easily the best sushi and tempura I’ve eaten in London. Even better than Umu. The absolute obsession with harmony and balance, ingredients and the season.
Of course, such perfection and purity come at a price. It’s £180 for the set menu, which is hardly given away with a packet of scampi fries. I’ve eaten less well, though, at three times the cost. Because the whole dinner is one magnificent symphony, made up of individually harmonious movements. On their own, the dishes delight, every mouthful possessed with the very quintessence of each ingredient. But as a whole, Endo dazzles. This is revelatory cooking, verging on the sublime. Prepare to be astounded.
Price: £180 per head. Score: 5/5
The Evening Standard’s Jimi Famurewa is unable to get over the starters at the Soak in London’s Victoria
Tenne went for cured venison tartare on sourdough – a disconcertingly shiny, dark-brown sludge, dramatically unveiled from a glass cloche, billowing smoke, garnished with flowers and blobbed with egg yolk purée. It could only have tasted more oppressively smoky if it were served in a pub ashtray. This was followed by my cider-pickled egg, hazelnut and chicory salad, a misery of fridge-coldness and faint brining, with the feel of a deconstructed service station sandwich.
Salted cod was, I suppose, marginally better; a plump, just-about-cooked hunk of fish next to a vast, strangely compelling kind of herbed, watercress velouté, dotted with dainty mushrooms and thin shattered panes of chicken skin. Then came the surprise of a burger – hefty, griddle-crisped patty, gently funky fermented garlic mayo and an added Jenga tower of thick ‘pommes neuf’ chips – that was inarguably good. And there was a serviceable tarte au citron, perhaps lacking the requisite wibble but lemony enough and nuzzled by a melting, mellow scoop of raspberry ice cream.
Price: £55.50 for two. Score: ambience: 2/5; food: 2/5
The Sunday Times’ Marina O’Loughlin declares AngloThai in London’s Clapham is serving some of the most interesting Thai food she’d eaten in the UK or Thailand
More subtle are the fish dishes: monkfish “crudo” dressed comparatively simply in fish sauce caramel and a tiny scattering of snipped coriander stalks. And a murky broth with a startling clarity of flavour: beefiest, smokiest eel, brown beech mushrooms, mussels and quantities of liquoricy Thai basil. But again, the subtlety is comparative, like saying that beside Tabasco, HP is a bit of a wallflower.
If there’s anything that could be called a main course, it’s gaeng om: described as a northern ox cheek curry but really more of a soup brimming with fat branches of lemongrass, lime leaves, masses of dill, fish sauce-salted ox cheeks, hen-of-the-wood mushrooms and a proper assault of aromatics fried in rendered beef fat. It’s a biff-pow of a plateful, a sensory overload. Instead of rice, there are grains of toasted barley fattened in soothing quantities of coconut milk. Well, I say soothing – I’m not sure that the full Stephen Yaxley-Lennon of yogurt and milkshakes would be capable of chilling this baby out.
Price: £150 for three, including 12.5% service
The Daily Mail’s An Inspector Calls is unimpressed by the millions that have been spent on the newly opened the Langley hotel in Iver, Buckinghamshire
Owned by mega-rich, Yemen-born Khalid Affara, the Langley, built in the 18th century, was once the hunting lodge of the 3rd Duke of Marlborough. But, my goodness, it’s an acquired taste. Global glitz is one way to describe it, and I’m sure there’s a market for those happy to pay more than £400 for a room (plus £28 pp for continental breakfast).
We all have our bugbears, and one of mine is fake books – like the ones in the Churchill Bar here, where, inevitably, there’s another repro portrait, this time of the great man, above the fireplace. Our room is on the top floor. It has two pokey windows and no bath, which I think is unacceptable at these prices.
Everything in the room is top-notch in a characterless sort of way, with sumptuous duvet, pillows and sheets, though we’re surprised to get only two small bottles of complimentary water.
Price: doubles from £445 (rooms only). Score: 3/5
The overhead planes are irksome, but the Hampton Manor, near Solihull in the West Midland, offers “chic style, fine food and attentive staff”, says Richard Mellor of The Times
Grade-II-listed Hampton Manor, in Hampton in Arden, is as lovely a country pile as you’ll find anywhere: Tudor gothic turrets, mullion windows and a clock tower ringed by 45 acres of parkland (walks and wellies available). Everything is blessedly quiet – except when planes rumble overhead.
[The bedrooms are] huge with high ceilings, they are the particular passion of Fjona Hill, who, with her husband and co-manager, James, oversaw the manor’s two-year overhaul after it had served for decades as a care home. An effortlessly stylish array of touches are her hallmark, from retro rocking chairs and chests to bubble lamps, leaning ladder shelves and William Morris wallpapers. “Henrietta Maria” has woodland-scene wallpaper, a freestanding bedroom tub, and its bathroom occupies one of those towering turrets. Like its counterparts, it has a large TV and 100 Acres smellies.
Price: B&B doubles cost from £190 a night. Score: 8.5/10