Reviews: Giles Coren deems Sorella a ‘great local restaurant’ and Jay Rayner has a ‘spot on’ experience at United Chip


, , , , , ,


Sorella, Clapham: “The crockery was all rather Fred Flintstone. Pasta bowls appeared to be solid stone. Almost too heavy to lift” Giles Coren says in the Times.

It is an excellent restaurant. We started with crispy arancini balls, four of them truffled and two of them black with squid ink, as well as some slices of an excellent, chewy salumi of pork and fennel made right there in the restaurant and two kinds of sweet, aromatic prosciutto. These we ate with some top-class homemade sourdough, also made in-house.

From this excellent start, things only improved. “Cacklebean egg yolk & spiky artichoke” sat on a wonderfully seaweedy bed of slowly reduced cavolo nero, the yolk a firm, luminescent gel, with shards of crisped garlic and a scatter of well-dressed salad leaves – a sharp and elegant vegetarian dish with a rich, chewy soul.

Continue reading

Reviews: Jay Rayner says the food at Farm Girl Café is so bad that a Yorkshire terrier started to look appetising while Marina O’Loughlin has an absolutely fabulous time at the Ritz


, , , , , , , , ,

Farm Girl

The Observer’s Jay Rayner says the food is so bad at Farm Girl Café in London’s Chelsea that a nearby Yorkshire terrier started to look appetising.

From the small plates we order the whole (completely out-of-season) globe artichoke, which apparently is gluten free. It’s tough to see how it would be anything other. It has been prepared by someone who either hates globe artichokes or has never met one before: boiled until it is as soft and rank as Grandma’s cabbage, only with none of the glamour. It is just so much mushy leaf matter, and smells of a long Sunday afternoon in someone’s overheated suburban front room. The damn thing could be disposed of without the aid of teeth or, better still, using a composter. That would remove the middle man, which in this case happens to be me.

“Paola’s Market Veggies” arrive in a bowl, with a grainy, deathly “carrot hummus” thickly smeared up the side, like someone had an intimate accident and decided to close the loo door and run away. At the bottom is a “cashew aioli”, which is the kind of discharge you get when you torture nuts. It tastes of raw garlic and nothing else. There are sticks of celery and hunks of cauliflower to dredge through this, alongside “seeded crisp bread” which is neither of the last two words. It is dense and hard and tasteless, as you imagine cork floor tiling might be, if it had somehow been repurposed as food.

Finally, from the small plates, comes tostadas piled with jackfruit, the latest hip, unconvincing replacement for meat. It is a fibrous tangle that gets stuck in your teeth on top of a violent, acidic sludge of guacamole. The jackfruit is described as being barbecued. This means it has been smeared with a blunt barbecue sauce of the kind they serve at pubs with a flat roof. Each of these dishes costs about £8. After this vegan calamity, this extraordinary display of dismal cooking, I find myself eyeing the Yorkshire terrier, greedily. Just hand him over, give me access to the grill, and five minutes.

Marina O’Loughlin, writing in the Sunday Times, says the Ritz is deliciously naff but absolutely fabulous.

Cooking here is intricate and flawless, a curled-lip pfft to fashion: take foie gras with a wafer of pain d’épice sandwiched by heady, sweet wine gelée and flanked by improbably perfect pistachio-dotted rhubarb. It could have been designed by Fabergé and tastes every bit as exquisite as it looks. We choose the Menu Surprise — “six seasonal courses designed by Chef John Williams” — because, well, you’re a long time dead. The kitchen is almost certainly aware of the “new Nordic” or kaiseki or farm-to-table, but they’re not letting any of that get much in the way of doing their thang. So they will slow bake a whole celeriac in a prison of dough and serve it in a baroque arrangement of wintry forest greens, pine branches and rowan — all very Swedish star chef Daniel Berlin. But then it arrives via trolley and two servers, who prise crust off perfumed root (worrying shades of cranial autopsy) and serve it doused thrice: with snowy, fragrant goat’s butter, a sticky veal bone and madeira reduction flecked with black truffle, then a final flurry of freshly grated Périgord truffle, an inky snowdrift of sheerest luxury.

If there’s an opportunity to boost that luxury quotient, it’ll be taken: golden-crusted fillet of turbot with slender white asparagus, romanesco and green onion has its innocence comprehensively sullied by a sauce of champagne and caviar: dramatic and voluptuous. A pneumatic Bresse duck is presented to the table in an ornate casserole, glossy on its nest of hay and scattered with a confetti of lavender. It then returns, cloched of course, a precision-cut section of gently smoky breast with braised celery — why? — and an apricot stuffed with foie gras. The cumulative effect isn’t overkill, but a kind of overindulgence Stockholm syndrome. You wonder why the hell you weren’t born to all this.

Caf Hampstead

Frankie McCoy reviews Café Hampstead: ‘A bit pierce film and microwave’ he says in the Evening Standard.

Café Hampstead was promising enough, with green floor tiles and faux art deco lamps; a shiny curved bar and inoffensive muzak (‘I bet they’ve paid someone to make their playlist,’ said my boyfriend, who personally crafts the nine-hour-long playlists for his own restaurants). And it was promisingly packed. On a Sunday evening we were surrounded by the blow-dried bobs and intelligent specs of mothers and husbands driven 300m from home.

That menu, though. It was just weird. As expected from a café inspired by Tel Aviv, there was hummus and harissa. As expected from a café in Hampstead that calls itself Café Hampstead, there were crowd-pleasers of schnitzel and cod. Then, though, there was a pizza section, at a restaurant that had in no way suggested Italian leanings until the word ‘pizza’ blundered into phonelit view. Not just pizzas, but fusion pizzas: ‘Egyptian-style’ with calamari and cumin; a minced lamb, labneh and za’atar Druzi. The latter was, quite frankly, awful. Besides the wedge of dry lemon skulking in the middle, it tasted like a supermarket margherita — Basics, not Taste the Difference. With a sprinkle of mince and a white squiggle of Philadelphia Light labneh, it would be rejected from a Pizza Express 7th birthday party.

Café Hampstead serves a potluck supper. I’ll happily go Hampstead native for more lamb arayes but the pizzas had me screaming for Brixton’s sourdough-flipping shipping containers. This restaurant is dysfunctional. At least, that’s what my new therapist says.

The Telegraph’s Michael Deacon bemoans the lack of background music at Farmer, Butcher, Chef in the Goodwood Hotel in the West Sussex, but is happy to sing the praises of the steak.

The food, as you may well have guessed from the name, is very meaty. Essentially you have two options. One: the à la carte – featuring, for example, game pie (served cold), beef-dripping chips (hot enough to take your tongue off), ale-glazed beef brisket (soft and sweet), and cheese and potato pie (bit dry: could have done with a nice moat of gravy).

Personally, though, I would recommend the second option: the Butcher’s Boards, which are for sharing between two. Each Butcher’s Board is a tray laden with dishes made from either beef, pork, or lamb. I chose the beef.

In no particular order, my board featured the following. Crispy beef shin: soft, straggly strands of meat inside a cube of hearty crunch. Glazed peppered brisket: also a cube, dark and purplish, wobbly in texture, full in flavour. Beef dripping mash: a dreamy swirl of cream-white potato. Pickled ox tongue: slippery, slithery, and served with a bowl of gem lettuce salad. The salad looked very small and lonely, surrounded by all that glowering meat.

The main dish, though, right in the centre of the board, was the skirt steak. Or rather, steaks, because here it was carved into 10 longish, skinny strips. No faulting the flavour: skirt tends to be more intense than other cuts, reflected in its furious colour, pink as a colonel’s cheeks.

On the other hand, it’s also very flat, and it did feel a bit odd, eating steak in such thin strips. Less manly, somehow, than a regular steak.


‘I could be whooping it up with hot chicks over free cocktails and just being a little nicer about the food than it deserves’ Giles Coren says of Hankies, London in the Times.

I got there first and immediately regretted coming. It occupies the ground floor of a faceless hotel in the W1 diplomatic zone and is entered through a very dull side door on Upper Berkeley Street. Inside it is prettily done enough, with extravagant, architectural copper light fittings and very pretty glasses and crockery, but it was completely empty. Depressing.

We loved the crispy duck with masala cashew nuts, mint and watermelon and a plummy-tasting dressing that folded into a hanky just as Peking duck does into a Chinese pancake, but with the jammy touch of deep- fried chilli beef. Then there were fat, fresh cubes of cod in a crust that was golden with turmeric, and very good bhindi bhel.

Then came the keema, an oval dish of juicy, rich, braised goat mince with ginger and tomato and a pickled egg on top that was lovely in a hanky but less so in the truffled naan with vintage cheddar, which was an abomination that must be put away and never again see the light of day. Unlike the beautiful chilli lamb chop in paprika and mustard oil, which was red and blackened and full of fatness, served with a little slice of yellow lime or possibly, if Amandip’s right, of bergamot.

Writing in the Telegraph, Keith Miller is won over by the honest ingredients and imaginative dishes on offer at the Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire.

Our food was ambitious, imaginatively conceived and confidently realised. It might have been more varied texturally – they love a velouté – and at times the more unusual ingredients, from “house pickles” to pickled fennel seeds to “lamb bacon” to gorse, might have been more liberally applied. I wouldn’t have minded more than one mahonia bud, either, come to that. But the balancing of flavours, whether in individual dishes – we especially liked a smooth romanesco soup spiked with little astringent cubes of russet apple and chewy nuggets of black garlic – or across the whole six courses, was superb. And, thanks I guess to that grill, they’re excellent at cooking meat (viz my fallow deer leg) and fish (my friend’s hunk of cod).

When we asked to see the menu again so I could take some photographs of it, not that they are any use as I have an iPhone 5C, they had substituted lamb for venison. “They obviously got a Google Alert that venison’s not fashionable any more,” scoffed my friend. But it’s really not that kind of place. It’s in sincere pursuit of a particular strain of excellence, founded on craft, good taste and a localism that’s passionate but pragmatic (our cod came with “salty fingers”, a sort of fat samphirey coastal succulent, sourced like the cod from the excellent Flying Fish in Cornwall).

It’s very slightly the sort of place where you can imagine David and Samantha Cameron stopping off on the way from Holland Park to the Cotswolds – but then I suspect he was a bit of a Mash W1 man, too, back in the day.


Fay Maschler, writing in the Evening Standard, finds more superb Spanish cooking from Nieves Barragán Mohacho at Sabor in London’s Mayfair.

You have to start with pan con tomate. That is an order from me. The scarlet intensity of the topping bolstered with chilli brings in the castanets. A wafer of cured meat sits on top cheering. Piquillo croquetas served under a shower of grated zamorano (nutty sheep’s milk cheese) heralds the Spanish affection for high-quality tinned food — the process actually benefitting the action — here of sweet red peppers. We consider arroz con salmonete (rice with red mullet) because word has got out about the gravity of its stock but choose instead chipirón (small squid) in its ink with cod and aioli, a striking composition in black and white.

I go in a four to dinner at upstairs Asador. That way, sharing one of the long tables with strangers loses its terrors. The menu chalked on a blackboard hanging above the open kitchen with its copper cauldrons and eponymous oven is also designed for divvying up between friends. There is a choice of only two main courses, lamb cutlets with arrocina (small white haricot) beans at £24.50 or suckling pig at £38/95/190 for quarter/half/whole. “I am a vegan,” squeaks Hannah, but she isn’t really.

Among the first courses, pulpo á feira, octopus cooked in the copper pans along with cachelos, potatoes cooked to winning softness in the octopus water, is a must. “Superb,” confirms Joe, one of my Irish potato correspondents, “but next time I would go for sweet not spicy pimenton sprinkled on the octopus”. Empanada Gallega, a pastry turnover filled with braised cuttlefish, is a work of art.



Tom Chesshyre of the Times reviews Ellenborough Park, Cheltenham – a 16th Century manor.

[Rooms are] elegant and traditional, but with a modern makeover that includes patterned wallpaper, beds with Hypnos mattresses, gowns and marble bathrooms with underfloor heating and fancy 100 Acres toiletries. Antiques, exposed beams and old gilt-framed pictures remain. Of the cheapest rooms, numbers eight and nine in the main house are the best (from £143 B&B).

Salmon sandwiches, hot dogs and burgers are offered in the lively Horse Box bar (especially lively on race day). In the wood-panelled restaurant expect refined dining such as venison with black pudding and grilled veal chops with Hereford snails. My ham, duck egg, pickled radish and pig’s head starter was pleasingly salty and moreish, while my main course of Cornish hake with white beans, coconut and crab was subtle and a decent portion. The extravagant violet meringue was a bit sickly sweet for my liking. Three courses are from £50.

This is the best place to stay on race day and the outdoor heated pool is great, but it can get a bit boisterous in the bar.

Reviews: Giles Coren has the worst meal ever at Ella Canta while Marina O’Loughlin calls Bombay Bustle a ‘beautiful newcomer’


, , , , , , ,

Ella Canta

Giles Coren reviews Ella Canta, London W1 in the Times: ‘The rest of the food is utterly filthy. I’d say this is the worst restaurant I have ever reviewed.’

I first heard about Ella Canta towards the end of last year and liked the sound of it. And according to the website, “Mexico’s natural bounty is chef Martha Ortiz’s inspiration. Her art is a response to the colours, textures, stories and spirit of her beloved country. Modernist expressions of customary cuisine.” So how could I not go?

The guacamole and tortilla chips (£9) [are] nutty and crisp and the guac pepped with ricotta and pomegranate seeds for a red, white and green effect. On top is a “gold grasshopper”. Same as all the other grasshoppers I’ve eaten: dry, faintly shrimpy, like chewing the cardboard sarcophagus of a long interred prawn.

Continue reading

Reviews: Fiona Duncan is delighted about the frivolity and naughtiness of Kettner’s Townhouse while Kathryn Flett says Roganic has the promised wow factor but finds the experience lacking


, , , , , , ,


The Telegraph’s Kathryn Flett says Simon Rogan’s food at the newly opened Roganic in London has the promised wow factor, but finds the experience somewhat lacking.

I have neither the space, time, nor adjectival reach to describe each dish, but suffice to say we consume everything punctuated by countless oohs, amazings and I-didn’t-expect-thats, each dish building on the mini taste-quake provided by its predecessor.

Particular standouts were the artichoke broth with (whisper it) a hint of the popular bacon-flavoured snack, Frazzles; the blissful poached halibut with its mustardy brassicas and tarragonic punch. And the duck, too, was very special and the beetroot sorbet both smart and successful. And on. And on…

Continue reading

Reviews: Mark O’Flaherty finds Chris Simpson’s food at Gidleigh Park matches up to the location while Grace Dent says Roganic is already a place for chefs


, , , , , ,


Mark O’Flaherty of the Sunday Telegraph says the food from newly arrived chef Chris Simpson at Gidleigh Park, Chagford, Devon, matches up to the location, architecture and interior design of the hotel.

I slept in the Drago suite (from £505 per night) with a river-facing balcony, a fabulously comfortable bed and a complimentary decanter of Madeira wine. Downstairs, (Chris) Simpson (formerly of Restaurant Nathan Outlaw in Port Isaac, Cornwall) was a few weeks into his stride. By all accounts, he’s doing his own thing, creating something rustic and rooted in the culinary traditions and produce of the South West, Much of it struck me as refined gastropub stuff – just the kind of thing you’d want, perhaps, somewhere like this, And an indulgent weekend on the country might be the last bastion of the £145, seven-course, three and a half hour tasting menu. I rarely eat this like in cities anymore, but in the wilds of Devon it was a holiday in itself.

Continue reading

Reviews: Marina O’Loughlin is baffled by the ‘bizarre’ Beach Blanket Babylon while Grace Dent is ‘trolled’ by Another Place


, , , , ,

Beach Blanket Babylon

“Our meal is so grim that I’m baffled it still exists at all,” says Marina O’Loughlin reviewing Beach Blanket Babylon in London’s Notting Hill in the Sunday Times.

I’d eaten at this bizarre restaurant in the past and vowed never again. It may have wowed the younger me with its daft decor: dank brick chamber after chamber, linked by chained mini drawbridges; fireplaces in the shape of lions’ mouths; faux-rococo furnishings. But even then I knew the food was bad. Today, the undeniably handsome Georgian townhouse feels less “sexy count’s exquisite torture dungeon” and more “1990s video game”; we’re plonked right beside that loud, large party in an otherwise deserted restaurant: do we now have to beat level two?

Continue reading

Reviews: Grace Dent visits Indian Accent in her first review for the Guardian and Marina O’Loughlin reviews struggling restaurant Norse


, , , , , , ,

indian accent

Indian Accent, London W1: ‘Curry sauce as an aperitif? I bloody loved it’ Grace Dent says in her first review in the Guardian.

If you find yourself in Mayfair drubbing through someone else’s expense account, well, I cannot recommend Manish Mehrotra’s teensy-weensy blue cheese naan enough. His style of naan, smaller than a Farley’s rusk and thinner than a slice of Mother’s Pride, appears as an amuse-bouche with a Lilliputian pewter jug of curried coconut sipping sauce. Pinky in the air. Glug, glug. It is a cutting stereotype that all northern women love gravy, but at this, Mehrotra’s third opening (after New Delhi and New York), I drank curry sauce elegantly, as an aperitif, and I bloody loved it.

Continue reading

Reviews: Giles Coren has the best mouthful of his life at the Bell Inn while Fay Maschler explores a new take on Indian food at Indian Accent


, , , , , ,

Bell Inn

“On the final day of 2017, I had not just the best mouthful of the year, but the best mouthful of my life” Giles Coren of the Times says about the Bell Inn, Oxfordshire.

The pub is old and small and cosy. Sixteenth century, in fact, so built halfway between the foundation of the church (called St Matthew’s, Langford) and now. In fact, very possibly by the same guys who put the two flying buttresses against the north side of the north aisle at the behest of some long-dead Tudor benefactor.

Continue reading

Reviews: Kathryn Flett raves about the rice pudding at Llewelyn’s while Hattie Garlick expresses concern for “adult” art at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons


, , , , ,


In search of a locals restaurant the Telegraph’s Kathryn Flett heads to Llewelyn’s in London’s Herne Hill where she finds sublime rice pudding.

Llewelyn’s is double-fronted and airy, all blonde wood and white walls and, on our visit, clearly a destination of choice for the daytime buggy-wielding brigade. It’s been a while since I’ve visited Herne Hill, and with a menu ¬including “clementine and cranberry fizz” at £7 and grilled plaice and chips at a gulp-making £16.80, it appears that the local gentrification process is now well under way.

My starter of deep-fried squid and aioli delivered the three necessities – springy squid, crunchy batter and a garlic sucker-punch – entirely successfully, while my partner’s cold roast beef on duck fat toast with horseradish and watercress was apparently “bang on”. The tender and delightfully gamy braised rabbit with bacon, pumpkin mash and salmoriglio (a punchy ¬Sicilian, garlicky, mustardy, olive-oil-based vinaigrette with bells on more usually served alongside fish) made for at least one very happy bunny – aside from supermarkets’ collective aversion, I have no idea why we don’t eat more of it.

Continue reading

Reviews: Grace Dent visits the new yet “eerily” similar Joe Allen while Giles Coren falls in love with Westerns Laundry


, , , , , , , ,

Joe Allen

Grace Dent of the Evening Standard reviews Joe Allen in Covent Garden, London: “it’s still up to its old tricks” she says.

Put that theatrical person together with their acting buddies in a restaurant and it’s safe to say that five dancers from The Lion King, picking at Waldorf salads between performances, could make more noise than a Hawker Siddeley Nimrod landing at Farnborough Airshow.

Luckily, if you love, or loathe, these sorts, they’ve always been easy to find, or avoid, in London at dinner time. They’re in Joe Allen. Well, they were in the old Joe Allen on Exeter Street — an American-style brasserie that had been indulging them for 40 years. Joe Allen, I shall explain for Londoners who’ve never eaten a burger downwind from Christopher Biggins, Sheridan Smith and four French peasants from Les Misérables, is a sort of thespian TGI Fridays. And I mean this with love. It serves comfort food — chicken parmigiana, lobster roll and calf’s liver on mash — to board-treaders, their agents and all other mill and chaff of this business we call ‘show’.

Continue reading