Reviews: Grace Dent thinks Henrock is a Wonderland while William Sitwell turns up the heat at Cincinnati Chilibomb
Grace Dent in The Guardian can't resist the imaginative food or the lavish surroundings at Henrock in Bowness, Cumbria
Of all the Lake District's pinky-in-the-air places that exist only for the fleeting delight of fancy people, lunch at the gorgeous Henrock is the one that truly moved me. If you have a special occasion, Henrock at Linthwaite is one worth scrimping and saving for. Fourteen acres of landscaped gardens feel like something from the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World list; in fact, I fail to believe that Nebuchadnezzar's hanging gardens were prettier than Henrock's cocktail terrace with its dizzying vantage point across Lake Windermere, or, for that matter, the private tarn, the sculpture collection, the outdoor chess or the pretty boules pitch. I felt like Alice in Wonderland.
Surprisingly for a restaurant by Simon Rogan, a man who famously loves British produce and playful experimentation with traditional British cooking, Henrock is definitely and confidently pan-Asian. With head chef Sam Fry at the helm, the menu is a journey of curious, imaginative flavours. A starter of aubergine is glazed to glossy, crunchy, heavenly heights with saikyo miso, festooned with furikake and served with a rich vegetable dashi broth. This is vegetarian cooking at its utter pinnacle.
Another starter of cured salmon is almost as wondrous: a generous, lightly spiced fillet of salmon, pink on the inside, is titivated with puddles of wasabi, avocado and nashi pear, and a smattering of ponzu. A main course of hake – also generous – arrives encrusted with five-spice seasoning, and a mush of broad bean, a fried oyster and a shrimp-and-lemongrass sauce, while gorgeous Herdwick lamb comes with spiced lentils and flavours of wet garlic and sumac.
As for the puddings, they steal my heart to the point where I am planning a return for afternoon tea before I've even asked for the lunch bill. Chocolate, raspberry and peanut tart is all the right levels of exceedingly ornate, sweet, crunchy and dirtily mainstream – a Snickers bar on steroids, if you will.
Price: restaurant menu: about £50 a head for three courses; all-day menu: about £35 a head for three courses, both plus drinks and service
Jimi Famurewa in the Evening Standard finds the purity of flavours at Sumi in Notting Hill a joyous experience
At Sumi in Notting Hill – conceived by sushi master Endo Kazutoshi as a more relaxed sibling to his one-starred White City eyrie, Endo at Rotunda – spectacular provenance and exacting craftsmanship meets an unexpected human warmth and looseness. No sane person would describe it as affordable. But there is something about each determinedly casual part of the experience here that only helps to deepen the impact of the food. Sumi (which, adorably, is named after Endo's mum) is surprisingly welcoming, quietly mind-blowing and, perhaps most radically in the context of a hyped sushi restaurant, legitimately fun.
Konbu garden salad was effectively a supercharged bowl of crudités: intensely chilled radishes, asparagus, celery, avocado and, strangely, olives, all tumbled with a livewire pickled seaweed dressing. Mushroom miso soup – a tangle of, I think, shimeji in a truffled, herb-flecked pond – had the mystical, rounded depth of slow-simmered chicken broth.
The cross-hatched lozenges of hamachi and otoro were both subtly flavoured and insistent; melting like a buttery fillet steak on the tongue before offering a lingering wash of soft, oceanic freshness. Seared striploin of A4 wagyu beef, served with robustly charred puntarelle greens and a marmalade-ish yuzu glaze, had such transfixing flavour clarity that I genuinely started laughing.
Price: meal for two plus drinks, around £260
William Sitwell dares to eat some dude food at Cincinnati Chilibomb in Shoreditch, London, in The Daily Telegraph
Owner Tim Brice, who was once part of the famous crew of maîtres d's at Kensington Place, Rowley Leigh's fabulous restaurant, is now back in the restaurant game after a break of at least a decade, having tried his hand at various things including marketing liquor and working as an usher at the Royal Opera House.
This place is a homage to the seven years he spent as a teenager in Cincinnati, when his father took the family there for his work in the 1970s. The Ohio city is famous for its chilli bars as well as being the place where Jerry Springer was elected mayor in 1977. So the menu recreates Tim's memories of the city and there's even a mural of Springer.
We started with some small plates: tasty, crisp halloumi fries in a fresh, zesty salsa, then chunks of corn with chilli and butter, and charred aubergine with tofu and a red sauce. So far so mild.
Then came the mains: a Coney chilidog meat (basically a hot dog covered in bits of beef and melted cheese), and that invention of Tim's: the chilibomb. It came wrapped in paper and was a sort of dried burger bun covered in more chunky mince. Then the fun started as we ordered syringes of chilli, in increasing levels of heat: Jalapeño, Scotch Bonnet, Ghost…
This place is nuts but if you feel the need for a mad, crazy time and enjoy the strange catharsis of blowing your head off, your table awaits.