The Guardian’s Marina O’Loughlin finds that the food at Lee Westcott’s the Typing Room in what used to be Nuno Mendes’s Viajante at the Town Hall hotel in east London is, with one dramatic exception, “bloody marvellous”.
“The food that issues from [the kitchen] is, with one dramatic exception, bloody marvellous. We don’t order the tasting menu, but by the time we’ve been encouraged to order a dish from each of four sections by a twinkly Russian waiter, we might as well have. Our ‘snacks’ are choux profiteroles topped with a sultry black olive emulsion and stuffed with a rich courgette and basil mixture that cleverly apes creme patisserie; and a lettuce leaf brimming with gorgeousness – the pungency of smoked eel, the pop of raw peas, a whip of wasabi and the sharp fragrance of a lemon almost-curd.
“The presentation is as beautiful as a bouquet. I love this. I’m also keen on raw beef, shredded rather than minced, with a forest of sorrel and crunch of panko on top. And I nearly love baby monkfish, with its curious, pungent accompaniments of fermented endive, glossy broccoli puree, bitter orange and curry spicing.”
Carb loading at Pizza Pilgrims in London’s Soho is the perfect way to prepare for an extreme bike ride (150km in Rajasthan, India for Action Against Hunger), according to The Independent’s Lisa Markwell. The arancini are “piping-hot, with a deeply crunchy breadcrumb crust bursting to reveal tangy, pink-tinged risotto and a superbly stringy stretch of smoky cheese”.
As for the pizzas, “the Margherita is exemplary” but the most impressive is the porchetta calzone, “which combines slivers of scented pork with sweet passata that is simply San Marzano tomatoes crushed up, and a crunch from putting the whole bundle, briefly, in the fryer”.
Adam Simmonds’ food at Pavilion in Kensington “engages you, at times even surprises you, but never at the cost of how it tastes”, according to Anna Murphy, writing in The Telegraph. The starters were “girlishly lovely in their presentation” including pork belly, which came with “black pudding, langoustine, smoked pineapple (1970s in a good way) and slivers of lardo”. Meanwhile, lamb with smoked aubergine purée and anchovy salsa verde “was another picture-perfect plate-full with upwardly mobile tendencies” including “two faultlessly rosy-pink slabs of lamb loin, another of darker belly, plus a mini-Mr Whippy of goat’s curd over which there were draped, like abandoned lingerie, delicate fronds of sea aster”.
The Observer’s Jay Rayner visits <font color="red" Quattro Passi in London’s Mayfair, hoping to find an acoustic haven away from all the hard surfaces and polished concrete that is so ubiquitous in current restaurant design but the disappointment doesn’t end there.
“I cannot recommend Quattro Passi to the hard of hearing. Happily, on this occasion they need not feel excluded, because I cannot recommend Quattro Passi to anybody. Few restaurants have left me feeling so angry, and it has nothing to do with the acoustics. Because few restaurants sum up the shameless, disfigured, toxic economics currently at work in certain central London postcodes as much as this one. It is a business seemingly designed to milk a luxe economy that values pointless fripperies over real value. It is an insult to good taste in three courses,” he writes.
“Of course, a kitchen at this level can do basic things. They can make good breads. They can grill a bit of fish. They can make a pistachio ice cream. But none of that is good enough, not for £282. An amuse bouche brings a stodgy croquette, the size and colour of a cat’s turd, on a thick tomato purée full of metallic tang. Apparently the brown item is made of aubergine; I’m grateful for the heads up or I wouldn’t have known. It is a dull vegetal thud.”
AA Gill says there isn’t much that will surprise you at <font color="red" Dalila in Battersea, but the quality of ingredients and careful preparation will all please.
“The menu is pretty much your standard, brain-numbing Pelmanism of too much that’s too similar, with the comedy addition of a prawn cocktail,” he writes in The Sunday Times. “I expect, like most people, we order from the menu of memory: hummus, fattoush, labneh. The good thing about Lebanese food is that the cold mezze always go together to make a moreish and licentious orgy on the plate: everything gets naked and jiggy with the hummus. The main course of grilled meats was spectacular: kafta meshwi (minced lamb with onion and parsley) and chicken flavoured with a sunny panache.”
Despite a disastrous pudding, the Evening Standard’s Grace Dent says she’ll always admire the spirit of places like the <font color="red" Bonneville on Lower Clapton Road, East London.
“I ordered a Twinkle – Prosecco, vodka and elderflower – to begin, which wasn’t remotely bubbly. It’s twinkle had been quashed. It should have been called ‘a Dud’. We ordered a board of perfectly passable charcuterie, rillettes, cornichons and toasted sourdough and a bottle of organic house red. Service was delightful; cheerful and diligent. The sharing plate for two people of chicken on a bed of cabbage and bacon was beautifully moreish – we could have eaten twice the amount. I only counted one leg and half a breast. Two people can easily eat a full chicken; if anyone wants proof of this, I’ll meet them at Chicken Shop, Whitechapel.”
Also writing in the Evening Standard, Fay Maschler visits Ozz near Marylebone Station, where head chef Emerson Amelio D’Oliveira has definite talent, but the team are being garrotted by misdirected energy and ambition. “In these first courses you can see quite literally where the chef is coming from – a Brazilian background, then training in quite fancy French kitchens. The assemblies are pretty but too stiff and posed like old-fashioned photographs with dribbles and blobs of saucing crying out for a spirited game of join the dots. Of necessity, heat levels tend towards tepid but ingredients are noble and Stephen fantasises about hanging his vegetable composition on the wall of the gallery.”
Writing in The Times, Tom Chesshyre describes 2 Blackburne Terrace in Liverpool, launched earlier this year by Sarah and Glenn Whitter as “a top quality B&B” which is great fun and perfect for a quiet hideaway. “The Whitters’ love of modern art and interior design shines through from the moment you step inside. Paintings with bold splashes of colour, aquamarine velvet sofas, anglepoise lamps, abstract sculptures . . . every detail has been well-considered. 2 Blackburne Terrace is a tasteful oasis that’s bound to go down well with the Wallpaper* magazine crowd.”
Hambleton Hall, Oakham, Rutland
Fiona Duncan of The Sunday Telegraph praises Hambleton Hall, near Oakham, Rutland for providing peace and quiet in luxurious surroundings, with no gimmicks and no razzmatazz.
“Beautifully decorated by Stefa Hart, who with her husband Tim has owned and run Hambleton Hall since 1980, the house exudes a feeling of controlled and carefully orchestrated wellbeing without ever feeling unnatural or overly theatrical. The flowing country house good looks are matched by the surrounding gardens and the beautiful view of Rutland Water from the lovely flower filled terrace,” she enthuses.
“Few other hotels can match Hambleton Hall for its sense of continuity, with the head chef, restaurant manager, sommelier and general manager having notched up more than 80 years of service between them. Of all the best luxury country house hotels in England, it is the only one that has not changed hands, or materially changed since it opened.”