Reviews: Peckham's Kudu; Momo on Heddon St and more
The Times' Giles Coren is blown away by the food at Kudu in London's Peckham
The bread was a round, browned briochey affair in the manner (I am told) of Afrikaner mosbolletjies, all puffed up in a deep iron skillet and sprinkled with sea salt, served with, if you can believe, a cast-iron frying pan full of sizzling melted butter, garlic, almonds, baby shrimps and dill. A foaming riot of salty-sweet, fishy-fruity, nutty-pungent flavour into which I plunged first a torn, warm hunk of perfect bread and then considered plunging my whole face.
Then two skewers of peri peri duck hearts with a hint of black on the edge but deep purple sweetness in the meat with fresh apricot and a scatter of crunchy Middle Eastern dukka; white asparagus, but not very white, steamed a little (I assume) and then charred, with a taramasalata dip, dyed green with wild garlic, and breadcrumbs for crunch; long, slender, curling, worm-like Parmesan churros with smoked crab mayo for dipping and a big pinch of smoked paprika cast over it all for redness and pepper; and then the parfait, which I definitely didn't order, like a fool, because it was thick and unctuous without any of the sliminess I detest in a parfait, like a chicken ice cream, with nutty shards of seed cracker and a deep purple relish of some sort, a chutney? It had a pruney flavour but cubes of crunch. Was it red cabbage? I forget. But it was bloody lovely.
Cooking: 9; vibes: 9; service: 9; score: 9. Price: Absolutely ridiculous. About £45/head for top-class food and plenty of good wine
Grace Dent finds the rebooted Momo in London's Mayfair "an unexpected joy", she writes in The Guardian
The "classic Momo couscous" comes with a small platter of lamb cutlet, spiced chicken thigh and merguez, for £26. It arrived with great fanfare and a clattering of crockery, was as watery as I recalled, and, by and large, a bit style over substance.
The dish that melted my heart and righted two decades of hurt, however, was harira, a velvety, spicy, dal-like Moroccan soup brimming with cinnamon, turmeric and ginger. It turned up with spoons of clarified lemon paste and a harissa so hot, it could blow your (new, tighter) face off. Quail pastilla was outstanding, too: a delicate, rich, sweet Moroccan filo pie, as sugary as it was savoury, with nougatine pieces and a potent, blackcurrant sauce. For vegetarians, there's green asparagus tagine with spiced rhubarb or heritage beetroot couscous, and I shall never forget the frankly weird teff "pancake". It was a bit like injera flatbread, but also a bit like chocolate Swiss roll, albeit one covered in boiled Brussels sprouts and chunks of Jersey royal, and came with a jug of green harissa bouillon
About £45 a head, plus drinks and service. Food: 7/10; atmosphere: 9/10; service: 9/10
Soutine in London's St John's Wood is "a masterclass in getting things right", according to the Mail on Sunday's Tom Parker Bowles
The handsome mahogany fixtures and panels, the winding bar, the specially commissioned mural with its scenes of late 19th-century Lord's (just down the road), the marble-topped tables. Vintage travel posters, paintings, etchings and prints crowd the walls. Hordes of immaculately drilled waiters wear black waistcoats, and pristine white shirts and aprons. No one does service better than Corbin and King, and this is front of house in the most traditional sense. Their staffing bills may make the accountants tremble. But it sure keeps the punters coming back.
Paper place mats are Provençal rose pink, the menu font a beguiling mix of Gothic and Art Nouveau. And the contents of that menu are joyously predictable, less mittel-European, perhaps, than the Wolseley, more regional French. But there's a schnitzel, and firm, clean, mustard-heavy pickled herrings. Alongside brasserie stalwarts like a rich, mildly sweet soupe à l'oignon, searing hot, splendidly garlicky escargots and fiery radishes with a great mound of butter. They have the chopped chicken salad too, a Wolseley classic, with a whisper of tarragon, and hot, crisp, salty French fries, and a coq au Riesling served in a cast-iron pot. The creamy, mushroom-studded sauce is divine, and the legs plump and succulent. Although the breast, like most pot-cooked breasts, errs towards the dry. Petits pois à la française and baby Gem salad are exactly how they should be. You eat well here, and happily.
About £25 a head
"They have a particularly acute feeling for texture" at Emilia in London's Mayfair, writes Keith Miller in The Telegraph
There's mortadella, and the surf-and-turf classic vitello tonnato (a Piedmontese dish originally, but it was popularised by Romagnol food writer Pellegrino Artusi), and some spectacularly good tortellini stuffed with smoked eel and Jersey royals, swimming in a fine, pure, slightly sharpened stock.
You could say they are applying the same level of distillation and refinement to cucina Borghese, a cheffier and more urbane style of Italian cooking than we're used to here, that Rose Gray did to the cucina povera of Tuscany and Liguria at the hallowed River Café. Everything from a simple mackerel scapece to a sort-of bagna càuda (another Piedmontese dish), to the tortelloni, to a wild strawberry granita with fennel ice cream, to a witty signature dish of haunch of venison (geddit?), served on the night we were eating with chard, walnuts, a burnished meat reduction and a buttery carrot purée, was just superb.
Rating: 4/5. Price: Dinner for two £150
The Evening Standard's Jimi Famurewa discovers "innovative, wantonly desirable and admirably veg-forward barbecue" at Lagom in London's Hackney
Scotch egg was notable for sausage meat spiked with extra lardons, and crispy potatoes were skin-on nuggets of joy that dissipated the littlest one's post-nap crabbiness. There was half a chicken, too - a brined, smoked and violently branded Fosse Meadow bird with an effective honeyed sweetness - but it was unceremoniously upstaged byâ¦ a plate of cauliflower. Oof, this thing. Looking uncannily like a buttermilk-fried piece of meat, it was a head-turning, deeply golden saucepot of a mega-floret, long-marinated in a quince and Scotch bonnet syrup and somehow dry-fried so everything attained an insane, smoky-sweet depth.
Ambience: 4/5; food: 4/5
The Telegraph's Kathryn Flett reviews the best meat-free food she's ever eaten in a London restaurant at Amrutha in Earlsfield, London
Our smiling waitress rattled through the 12 dishes: a Miss Piggy-pink beetroot gazpacho for use as a dip, a Kermit-green curry, a bowl of rice, a spicy chickpea-based daal with lentils, a spinach and tomato salad, another of "massaged" kale with a mango dressing, a pile of deep-fried mushroom, aubergine and broccoli Âpakora to be dipped into the gazpacho, a piquant guacamole with radish, a spiralised beetroot salad, a zing-wow tamarind and coconut dip for the chickpeas and a dense-yet-light "cashew cheese".
"There must be a better name than this for something so tasty," observed Jason - "Casheese, maybe?" - and "This beet gazpacho has a 55-mile flavour contrail behind it that just keeps blooming and developing." That was almost the least of it. Every single dish was an object lesson in terms of how veganism, done properly, is far from a culinary compromise. That the sum total of all these potentially subtle flavours sang together in a harmony of both complexity and Âpurity made me very happy; that this was happening in SW18 made me want to surf Rightmove.
Rating: 4.5/5. Price: Dinner for two £55 (with BYO and service)
It's a shame the food isn't better at Hello Darling in London's Waterloo, writes Fay Maschler in the Evening Standard
Globe artichoke with aioli arrives as the untrimmed thistle-head boiled and cold with a knife stuck in the top. Theatrical maybe, but not alluring. We are left to scrape the hairy choke from the base (it can be done beforehand). Not much evidence of whipped feta but a palate-hammering amount of black olives dresses sliced heritage tomatoes of different hues. A slow-roast tomato ragu surrounding pieces of halloumi cheese deep-fried in crumbs looks and tastes more like baked beans.
Prices for meat plates seem reasonable but that description becomes irrelevant when pork belly at £9 and confit duck leg at £9.50 are blast-cooked or anyway overcooked to a tightness and toughness that makes them more or less inedible. Smoked haddock Scotch egg served with tartar sauce has so much potato in the mix that it comes across more like fish pie. Someone in the kitchen seems to have the job of sprinkling clumps of microherbs on all the assemblies as if that will somehow perk them up.
It is a shame that the cooking isn't better as the spirit is merry, the staff are delightful and 99p added to each bill goes toward planting a fruit tree to "counterbalance the carbon footprint and food waste in a meal and help end developing world poverty".
Jay Rayner describes Ashburn SW7 at the Holiday Inn London - Kensington Forum as "a dirty stain on its postcode" in The Observer
Salt-and-pepper squid turns up looking like badly made goujons of fish that have only just been emptied out of a freezer bag bought on Facebook Marketplace. The heavy breadcrumb shell falls off to reveal half centimetre-thick pieces of chewy squid. A "garlic aioli" is stiff and yellow and tastes only of acidity and profit margin. Bang goes another £9.
There's a couple of dishes from across Asia among the mains. I wonder hopefully whether someone in the kitchen has been allowed to cook from within their own culinary tradition. Hmmm. The beef rendang, advertised as being made with "exotic spices", is a mud-coloured slippery splatter of a stew, with a blunt hint of tired spice…
Much worse are seabass fillets, which manage to be both overcooked and have floppy undercooked skin. Alongside is a coffin of crushed potatoes with raw onion, which looks like it has just been turned out of an enamel bowl. The splodges of salsa verde are astringent and harsh. A bowl of chips is just so much blisteringly hot but undercooked potato.
Starters £6-£14; mains £13-£23.50; desserts £6.95; wines from £24.50
Newly opened, the Langley near Slough, offers international style luxury that has little to do with the history of the 18th century former hunting lodge, says Fiona Duncan of The Telegraph
The decoration is glamorous, international and has very little to do with the location, except for the reproduction portraits of the Spencer Churchill family that create an unfortunate feeling of shallowness, as do the walls of faux books in the clubby library which has a huge humidor. The fine winter garden, once full of plants, is now an events space.
All the rooms display a style one could describe as ‘glossy international', with specially designed and made furniture, wardrobes, bedside tables and beds with huge headboards, some of which stand in the middle of the room. There are double-ended baths in the slick marble bathrooms. They are extremely comfortable and very luxurious but they hardly evoke the history of the house; rather they are 'standard high-end luxury'. Photographs along the top-floor corridors show the house in the 1920s, full of charm, personality and homeliness. A history of the house is provided in each room but there are not other books. The wall-mounted televisions are enormous.
Rating: 7/10. Price: Doubles from £425 per night, including breakfast
Taxidermy, tartan walls and modern art give the revamped Fife Arms hotel in Braemar, Aberdeenshire, a shot of wild drama, says Genevieve Fox of the Guardian
Mounted twigs fashioned as antlers form a frieze around the walls of the reassuringly traditional Flying Stag, the hotel's public bar. More than 500 stag antlers, sourced by the owner of the local horn shop, are locked together either side of the mounted stag over the bar. And as for the bar, it stocks more than 180 whiskies, including single malts from Royal Lochnagar, the distillery up the road from Balmoral.
If the antler motifs in the bar were unsettling for visitors up from the Great Wen, then the flock of stuffed birds suspended from the ceiling in the stairwell up to our bedroom had a Hitchcockian edge. More twig trophies lined the corridors, and a glass case of stuffed peculiarities dominated the ante room between our plush suite and the main staircase. This overall effect was one that echoed and celebrated local nature, yet gave a fantastic, other-worldly air.
Price: from £250 per night B&B
Ellie Ross of The Times find great food and service at Merchants Manor in Falmouth, Cornwall
Halfway between Falmouth's beaches and its high street, this luxury spa hotel offers sea views, fabulous food and stylish decor, from its chandelier-hung entrance to its 41 comfy rooms. The original house dates from 1913, when it was home to the Carne Brewery family; traces of its brewing past are evident in the stoneware beer bottles in the award-winning restaurant. A six-year restoration has resulted in a perfect amalgamation of heritage and modernity.
Nine classically styled bedrooms (including some with balconies and roll-top baths) are in the original house with quirks such as turret windows. There are 30 contemporary rooms in a newer wing. Two boutique residences that opened last year, Landlubber and Lookout, each sleep four (from £250 a night). Made from reclaimed timber, they feature rustic oak floors and walls, bedrooms in cool blues and floor-to-ceiling windows. Landlubber has its own tropical garden, while Lookout has perfect sea views; both have outdoor hot tubs. Bedrooms are in cool blues. Still-warm sourdough bread with hand-churned butter and milk in the fridge is a welcoming touch.
Rating: 8.5/10. Price: B&B doubles cost from £140
Good food and a comfortable bed at Farlam Hall, near Brampton, Cumbria impresses Mark Campanile of The Scotsman
Farlam Hall is a country manor with all the luxury that implies. There are 12 comfortable and individually decorated en-suite bedrooms - plus a self-catering cottage - and guests have a choice of drawing rooms with roaring log fires in which to relax. It's featured in the Good Hotel Guide since 1976 and the Good Food Guide for longer. So definitely not budget.
Highlights of our two-night stay included starters of a terrine of chicken and wild mushroom and smoked salmon and smoked trout mousse, tenderloin of pork and a beef fillet medallion as mains, and lime and ginger cheesecake and chocolate torte for dessert. Staff are happy to recommend suitable accompaniments from the wine list - the dessert wine suggested for the chocolate torte was sensational. Coffee and petits fours are served back in the drawing rooms and it's tempting to linger - if only to prepare for the daunting prospect of standing upright again. Breakfast was of a similarly high standard - I've eaten a lot of full Englishes in my time and this is one of the best. My partner's kippers looked tempting too.
Price: B&B double rooms from £195 per person based on two sharing