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Reviews: Grace Dent would stay at Mollie’s Motel & Diner again; William Sitwell is sure that the food is not good enough at Beaverbrook’s Japanese Grill

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Reviews: Grace Dent would stay at Mollie’s Motel & Diner again; William Sitwell is sure that the food is not good enough at Beaverbrook’s Japanese Grill

The Guardian’s Grace Dent checks out Soho House’s Mollie’s Motel & Diner in Oxfordshire, and although “a bit weird”, says she would stay again

For around 70 quid, you can stay overnight in a sparse but tasteful room, a kind of Scandic minimalist retreat room overlooking nothing, with a comfy bed, an aggressively good shower, a TV and very little more. If you wish to sink a few Mollie’s margaritas, you can park up, have dinner and drink, kip and eat waffles, bacon and maple syrup for breakfast the following morning.

We hung out three times at Mollie’s Diner, using it as a base for other eating around the Cotswolds. Quite simply: I’d stay again. At lunchtime, a buttermilk chicken sandwich with chipotle mayo, ketchup and iceberg lettuce was hot, fresh and alluring. Sweet potato fries were pleasantly ever-so slightly overdone and satisfyingly smothered in Mollie’s barbecue sauce. A cod burger, featuring a clonking chunk of actual breadcrumbed fish, was how the McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish was possibly supposed to taste at one point in time. We drank excellent cocktails that evening from 9pm-10pm, perched in the bizarre “bar” area that is actually an entrance lobby, but after a few martinis, you won’t be fussy.

Price: about £20 a head, plus drinks and service. Score: food: 8/10; atmosphere: 7/10; service: 8/10

The Dining Room
The Dining Room

The Telegraph’s William Sitwell is sure that the food is not good enough at Japanese Grill at Beaverbrook in Surrey

A plate of ‘yellowtail tiradito’ had its Peruvian dressing in the form of some distracting yuzu foam, which presented the unusual situation of having a beautiful piece of fish covered in washing-up lather.

The monkfish came as featureless bits of fish hidden in slimy mushrooms. A selection of sashimi – some griddled, some rare, some raw – was not as good as a respectable local lunchtime sushi bar. A line of eight dragon rolls (sushi rice topped with crispy prawn and avocado) was dull and disappointing, memorable only for how many you had to get through.

One other thing did rescue the evening. A man called Giovanni Tallu. He was plucked from Annabel’s club in London where he had worked for almost 22 years. For Beaverbrook, this is like signing Gareth Bale. A more charming, entertaining and helpful sommelier you will be hard-pressed to find.

Tell you what, Joel and Ollie, improve the food, do fewer covers and put the Japanese place – and Mr Tallu – into the art-deco, pale-wood-panelled little cinema. Then you can turn the dining room into a modern British grill. And you won’t have to ask a High Court judge for the thumbs up.

Score: 3/5

The Clunie Dining Room
The Clunie Dining Room

“The Fife Arms is perfectly absurd and I love it – even if the cooking doesn’t quite live up to the surroundings,” writes the Sunday Times’ Marina O’Loughlin, reviewing the Aberdeenshire hotel’s Clunie Dining Room

There are Scottish-isms on the menu, as you’d expect: quite a lot of deer (shot, we’re told, on the local estate), langoustines, meat from the organic Wark Farm (by appointment to the Duke of Rothesay, as HRH Prince Charles is known round these parts), honey from Invercauld Estate. But the chef has clearly travelled beyond the Highland confines and is going all nouveau-northern: fermented kohlrabi, celeriac purée and shaved raw cauliflower with the langoustines, poor things; they’d have fared better left more to their own devices and away from the heat. The unholy cacophony of sunflower seeds, dill ragù and truffle egg cream deafens more cauliflower, this time wood-roasted.

A dedication to seasonality means ingredients are repeated frequently. Deer (studiedly not venison; perhaps to underline its wildness) turns up in various dishes. In one, the meat – braised, it says, though it looks and tastes pot-roasted – comes on a thick, jammy pond of San Marzano tomatoes with gremolata, and a couthie side dish of roasted root vegetables: a curious mash-up between Neapolitan ragù and Sunday roast.

They put chips of smoked roe deer with ember-roasted leeks, plus a skirl of salmon roe and “ember cream” for good measure; they put black pepper in a cheesecake and samphire sabayon on smoked cod. There seems to be little care whether individual ingredients sing to each other or just squabble. There’s quite a lot of the latter. Perhaps it’s art.

Price: £142 for two, including 12.5% service charge


The Observer’s Jay Rayner finds the Fishmarket in Edinburgh “both hugely enjoyable and utterly baffling all at once”

Three big langoustine – thumping great beasts of a sort that too often get sent away to Spain or France because they have eyes and claws and British people don’t hold with that sort of thing – come grilled in garlic butter. The meat pulls from the shell. There are implements to get at what’s hiding in the claws. It’s a lengthy business, as it should be for £16. A smoked haddock chowder, herb-flecked and spoon-coatingly thick, is notable for the bite in the cubes of potato. This is butch farmhouse cooking, pursued with acute attention to detail.

Which leaves the fish and chips. This is where it all gets a bit weird. Because the Fishmarket is the love child of Ondine I want to dribble and rave and cheer. But I can’t. The fish is fine, but here fine isn’t good enough. You’d try it and go yeah, that’s a piece of fried fish in batter. But you wouldn’t tip your head on one side, dab at an eye and admit undying love, as you might over, say, a plank of the same at the Magpie Café in Whitby, where it arrives looking like a golden galleon in sail. Given the lineage and the price – the smallest, when not taken away, is £12 – you need to be able to feel you can leap to your feet and applaud.

Price: starters £7-£11; mains £7-£36 (the latter for a whole lobster); desserts £5; wines from £17


The Mail on Sunday’s Tom Parker Bowles finds cooking “to dazzle and delight” at the Royal Oak at Whatcote

Crisp Cotswold legbar egg arrives in a lacy nest and lasciviously oozes over hogget with serious bleat. The flavours here are big and bold, although the technique is equally restrained. Best of all is a pig’s head and black pudding lasagne, a symphony of softness, with discs of just-chewy pasta embracing a round of sublimely fatty pork, and gently crumbling black pudding. A sharply sweet cider reduction battles gamely against all that porcine excess, while a neat sextet of toasted hazelnuts add much needed crunch. For all its richness, it’s a discreet, elegant, beautifully thought-out dish.

There’s a pheasant Wellington that combines sous-vide breast (pheasant, with its tendency towards the dry, is one of those rare meats that actually suits the water bath), spread with a muscular duxelle, all wrapped in golden pastry. A splodge of Ducasse-like potato purée (more butter than spud) and purple sprouting, spiked with quince, add stellar support. Pollock, so often so dull, still wears that elusive scent of the sea, and comes with bottarga-sprinkled monk’s beard, and the most gentle of curried dressings. Once again, every element is precisely crafted, yet the cooking is never prissy. Flavours whisper, sing and holler. Balance is all.

Price: About £40 per head. Score: 4/5


xier

“My lasting impression was of imaginative cooking shackled somewhat by a compromised, overly finicky set-up,” writes Jimi Famurewa in the Evening Standard, reviewing Xier and XR in London’s Marylebone

Butterhead lettuce salad was huge fans of foliage beneath a flaked layer of salted ricotta, mildly cloying mustard dressing and honeyed breadcrumbs that all collectively cried out for the sharp poke of something savoury. A square of Parmigiana (strangely on the menu as the Google Translate-worthy ‘roasted cheesy aubergine’) was stodgy, rich and possessed a comforting ketchup tang. Pulled beef cheek came adorned with chopped pickled walnuts and neat loops of shallot and jalapeño but the tender meat, slopped in a characterless brown jus, had that strange sous-vide ‘wetness’ on the tongue. Not bad necessarily. Just a bit of a slog.

It may well be that this upstairs chef’s table represents a purer manifestation of Scotto’s vision. For now, the bigger, more accessible half of this two-pronged attack on the hearts, minds and bellies of London diners feels authentically personal but hazily rendered. Because two restaurants in one is only impressive if both blossom as clearly defined, satisfying places to visit. Dividing may not always be the best way to conquer.

Price: £93.50. Score: ambience: 3/5; food: 3/5.


gloria1

Ed Cumming of the Independent finds hipness, but no hospitality, at Gloria in London’s Shoreditch

Drinks came at once, as did the starters: a generous bowl of San Daniele ham and a sad half-burrata, as devoid of creaminess as if it had been left in the airing cupboard all day. As the starters were cleared the waiter pointedly took our dirty cutlery and put them back on the table, like someone who has invited too many people for dinner by mistake.

Then the waiting began. It was 40 minutes before the mains arrived, during which time nobody refilled our water, nobody asked if we wanted more drinks, nobody removed the empty leather bread basket.

It must be said the mains, when they arrived, were pretty good: a pasta al tartufo served in its pan, and a spicy salami pizza, its soft dough adorned with the requisite leopard spots.


The Times’ Giles Coren says food is “fresh, homemade and refreshingly different” at Master Wei in London’s Holborn

I tend to drop in [to the Holloway restaurant] for cold starters… and slurp down cold liangpi noodles with cucumber and chunks of tofu-like wheat gluten, hand-shredded chicken in special sauce, and crunchy “refreshing black fungus”, with maybe a warm pulled pork burger served in a brown paper sleeve for heft. If I have time, then a big nourishing bowl of the bianbiang noodles in special chilli sauce with chunky beef or the wider hand-pulled noodles with pork mince and veg. I’ve never taken anyone there or written about it. It’s cheap, quick, unlicensed and far, far too good to share.

But now there’s one in Midtown. And it’s ace. They serve booze at this one and I discovered that an ice-cold, crisp albariño is exactly what I want to be drinking with those excellent pot stickers (pork and seaweed or chicken and mushroom), or sour and spicy pork dumplings in soup, or those wide, seemingly endless belt noodles Xinjiang-style.

The place has a fun and local feel despite the central location, the staff are relaxed and jolly and a bit less intense than in Holloway and the food is as fresh, homemade and refreshingly different as ever. I love Master Wei. I truly don’t know what Midtown thinks it has done to deserve it.

Price: £30/head. Score 8/10


momo

There is “cohesion and an awareness of tradition” at the relaunched Momo in London’s Mayfair, writes Fay Maschler in the Evening Standard

Beetroot is a favoured component. Pieces as shiny as jelly, glowing like jewels, accompany curls of octopus tentacles encrusted with crunch but tender beneath. Heritage beetroot couscous, one of the main courses, has the grains stained ruby red scattered with vivid chips of green pistachio nuts.

Alongside is a bowl of rich chicken bouillon cluttered with al dente spring vegetables. Chicken livers embroidered with sesame seeds come with the green leaves of mulukhiyah, sometimes known as Arab mallow, and are flavoured with pomegranate molasses and Aleppo pepper. I’ve said this before but chicken livers when well handled are under-appreciated chunks of protein.

Classic Momo couscous comes with lamb cutlet, merguez sausage and chicken and pistachio kofta. The rippling grain itself is pale, feathery, seductive, a basic elevated to a high level of sophistication. A tagine seems in order. Lamb tagine with poached spiced pear, prunes and caramelised almonds arrives bubbling in the pot tucked into a raffia basket to keep the simmering going. We revel in it.

Score: 4/5


HOTELS

Godolphin Arms

Ellie Ross of the Times enjoys the superb views and service at the Godolphin Arms in Marazion, Cornwall, but warns that noise can be an issue

Once a coaching inn for 19th-century travellers, this contemporary restaurant with ten rooms has pride of place in Marazion. Centrally located among the town’s galleries and cafés, it sits on the beach overlooking Mount’s Bay and St Michael’s Mount. Recently it has been smartened up with new decor, including modern seascapes (many chosen by Lord St Levan of St Aubyn Estates, the family-owned company that runs the hotel).

The [bedrooms] range from cosy bolt holes (from £100) to spacious sea-view suites (from £195) and are traditional in style, with local art hanging above the beds. There is a soothing pastel colour scheme with white windows and cupboards adding a fresh feel. Throws from Atlantic Blankets and organic Bloom Remedies toiletries (made in neighbouring Long Rock) were a nice touch, but windows rattled in the wind and other guests could be heard in the corridor.

Price: B&B doubles from £100. Score: 7.5/10


scarlethotel

Sherelle Jacobs enjoys the “outstanding” treatments and “free spirit” personality of the Scarlet hotel in Porth Mawgan, Cornwall, writing in The Telegraph

It’s worth booking a treatment, just for the privilege of languishing, spaced out, in the Scarlet’s other-worldly pitch-black relaxation room, with striking white tepees hanging from the ceiling, in which guests can snuggle up. The calibre of treatments is outstanding (no soft, slovenly massages or therapists gabbing about their conservatory extensions during your facial here).

Advanced warning that the Scarlet isn’t without its eccentricities. Some of the rooms have open showers and tubs artfully, if indiscreetly, plonked at the foot of the bed – not ideal if you happen to be sharing your room with a friend. And for some reason, a ‘herbal’ tea is a pot of hot water with wedges of lemon and ginger lobbed in. Arguably, though, it’s all part of the hotel’s ‘free spirit’ personality; whether you’re a yogi, ageing hippy or of a flamboyant disposition – you will fit right in.

Price: Double rooms from £240 per night, including breakfast


whitworth-locke-model-room-june-5

The Guardian’s Tony Naylor discovers an “enlightened vision of the future of city-centre hotels” at Manchester’s Whitworth Locke

The interior design, by New York-based Grzywinski+Pons, is similarly persuasive. It subtly mixes the slimline, ergonomic chic and warm fabric tones of modern Scandi design (one lounge area is surrounded by a low wall clad in felt), with something closer to 1980s Miami. My room has a glitzy brass windowsill, spindly gold clothes hangers, a smoked-glass dining table and is painted an apricot shade I’m calling, LA Sunset.

The detail is excellent. The bedrooms even include magnetic strips to block out the light from any digital displays at night. But, occasionally, Whitworth Locke is too clever for its own good. Salted caramel popcorn rather than biscuits by the kettle? Try-hard. Need to figure out how to adjust the heating at 4.30am? Turn on the smart TV. And why was I up at that time? Manchester parties late and this is not the most soundproofed building. Bring earplugs.

Price: Doubles from £110 room-only

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