Jason Atherton’s newest outpost, Social Wine & Tapas – headed by Laure Patry – is the best tapas joint the Independent’s John Walsh has encountered outside of Spain.
“This is, basically, a very fancy wine bar with a long menu of small dishes to share while trying umpteen wines in small 125ml servings,” he says, before eulogising about the food.
Having enjoyed “an orgy of piggery jiggery-pokery: Basque-region ham croquettes resembling arancini balls, a jamon-manchega toastie with quail’s eggs (basically a croque monsieur with a touch of Brideshead), Cecina salami and fat slices of Iberico bellota”, panfried duck egg with confit leg and cassoulet “was deliciously upbeat, while chargrilled carrots with burnt aubergine, miso and walnut pesto “was stunning, the truncheon-sized carrot a miso-flavoured, nut-crunchy delight, the aubergine divine”.
When Jason Atherton, one of London’s leading restaurateurs, opens a wine bar next to Selfridges, you take notice, says Time Out’s Guy Dimond. But he feels the service doesn’t quite match up to the brilliant food, yet.
On an early inspection of Social Wine & Tapas in Marylebone, he says: “Although it’s styled as a no-bookings wine bar, everyone was tucking into full meals: a smart decision, because the food is terrific. The Josper grill sears colourful vegetable assemblies, the deep-fryer turns out a lip-puckering salt and pepper squid, and poached egg with oxtail was a triumph of texture and flavour.
“We enjoyed the food a lot, and would have ordered desserts, but we simply couldn’t face another hour of trying to flag down inattentive waiters. Let’s hope they sort out the service here soon, because the outstanding food deserves far better.”
Meanwhile, writing in the Evening Standard, David Sexton says the knock-out food at Atherton’s new venture is a delight, and proves yet again he has excelled his mentor Gordon Ramsay.
“Seafood & rabbit Spanish rice (£9) was the star, enough for a meal in itself: richly savoury rice (a fish stock?) with pieces of rabbit, more of those chipirones, some mussels, a hint of chorizo, beautifully saffron-suffused: like a paella gone to heaven and refined before being returned.
“The pièce de resistance we had to try was rose veal & foie gras burgers, pulled pork, avocado, pickled cucumber (£12): two natty little burgers, transfixed with a little skewer, sitting on a board: the different meats had been cunningly combined, the foie gras melted in for richness rather than as an identifiable separate texture, to make a micro-hamburger of delight.”
The Times’ Giles Coren visits Leicester House in London in the site of what used to be the St John hotel but doesn’t expect the French-Vietnamese brasserie to last all that long.
“The blackened squid with salt, pepper, lime and chilli were fine apart from the not being blackened. Slices of rare venison with asparagus, black radish and whatever muoi tieu is (a waitress said a kind of vegetable, the internet says a dipping sauce) were all fine and dandy, and there wasn’t much wrong with a big bahn mi (which is a filled baguette) full of grilled pork belly, duck liver and mayo.
“But then there was a soggy imprecision to the fried quail (with, wait for it, “salt, lime …”) that spoke of oil not hot enough, and batter maybe overbeaten, and I was a teeny bit grossed out to find wonton full of crab in a rich, sticky broth made with the bones of four-footed things.
“I very much hope I am proved wrong, but this time next year I fully expect to be back here, on the site of what used to be Leicester House.”
Marina O’Loughlin would almost be prepared to swim to Greenwich for Stevie Parle’s clay-baked duck at Craft in Greenwich.
Writing in the Guardian, she says: “Parle himself brings the bird, wrapped in pale clay and looking for all the world, on its nest of pine, like a giant pupa. Tap, tap with the truncheon, and the clay parts to reveal more layers, hay and fermented cabbage. The larval impression intensifies as cabbage is peeled apart, trailing strings of ducky goo. It’s all very Alien. But out of this vaguely disturbing carapace emerges a luminous “butterfly”: a roast duck, bronze-lacquered in honey and miso, almost too perfect-looking to be real – like one of those plastic Japanese window-display foods.
“It’s whisked away to return, jointed and carved into pristine chunks, with wafers of purple pickled carrot, roll of cabbage, a sweet-savoury pear (from, I think, its “broad bean and barley miso”) and “fireplace potatoes”, sliced into an armadillo shape, like hasselbacks – nutty, crisp, bewitching – roasted in Craft’s own-cultured butter in the ashes of the wood-fired ovens. The duck alone is worth the schlep to Greenwich. Hell, with its tender, rosy flesh, sticky skin, fat basted away to nothing, and the whole suffused with a subtle smokiness and sweetness, I’d almost swim there for it.
“It’s hard for the rest of the menu to keep up with this barnstormer, but keep up it does.”
The Telegraph’s Zoe Williams also plumps for tapas this week, and finds that José Pizarro’s new location in London’s new Broadgate Circus serves food that’s been “watered down to be city friendly”.
“The most successful dish was broad beans and peas (£7) with fried breadcrumbs, a beautiful poached egg and some beads of chorizo – springtime goodness tumbling over the elementally loveable fried-bread-and-pig-products.”
“The menu is divided between 10 small dishes priced between £4 and £8, and four in the mid-teens. Almost nothing disappoints; much makes us sigh; a few make me dab the moisture from my eyes,” he writes in the Observer.
“A piece of toast comes heavily smeared with sweet, crushed peas and piled with a mixture of pea shoots, shaved violet artichokes and grated Bermondsey hard press, a smooth, salty cheese that’s planning to be mates with Gruyère when it grows up. Fresher still is a salad of cos lettuce, with halved radishes, rounds of pickled cucumber and a sharp buttermilk dressing. This is a salad for people suspicious of them. It’s a mound of revitalisation and briskness.”
The Independent’s Amol Rajan asks whether La Gatta Pizzeria on New King’s Road in London’s Fulham might aerve the best pizza in London.
“Luca La Gatta, who looks a bit like the Italian footballer Andrea Pirlo, came here in 1997 without a word of English to wash dishes in a Pizza Express, before working in Via Caracciolo in Clapham. He has just opened this place, combining the above like an alchemist, to produce the best pizzas I’ve had in years,” he explains.
“It’s not dirt cheap, but then this isn’t dirt. The wine list is very reasonable, too. But what makes this a 9½ place rather than a 9 is a deconstructed tiramisu that has Dessert of the Year 2015 all over it.”
The Grove in Norfolk is a sensible choice for those seeking wholesome British fayre, says the Telegraph’s Leah Hyslop.
Crayfish tian was “a perfect, unpretentious little starter – plump crayfish, crunchy greenery and an amazing depth of flavour from the prawns… Sometimes it is nice to be reminded how good the simplest food can be.”
Hotel du Vin Wimbledon, transformed from Cannizaro House, is “buzzy and fun, but the food is pricey”, says Tom Chesshyre of the Times
“The 49 rooms are elegant yet restrained, with shades of grey and unobtrusive patterned wallpaper. Beds are sleigh-shaped and come with tan-coloured leather frames. Original features such as old fireplaces and cornices have been kept. All rooms have mini-bars offering the likes of “very naughty nutty nougat” and “dark chocolate smoothie” bars, alongside bottles of wine and champagne — in keeping with the hotel name.
“As well as a standard Hotel du Vin menu, with French influences such as soupe à l’oignon, escargots and moules frites; there is also a “Taste of Cannizaro” side menu.
We tried Cannizaro starters: perfect scallops, and an unusual pork belly dish with octopus, rhubarb ketchup and pork popcorn (which strangely worked). Our mains of roast rump of lamb (slightly overcooked) and beef bourguignon (also overcooked) were from the other menu. The chocolate tart with artichoke ice cream and the rhubarb crumble were excellent.”
Isabel Choat of the Guardian applauds the makeover of the Three Daggers in Edington, Wiltshire – a pub with rooms – which has created “a genuine sense of conviviality” and a welcome for all the family
“The pub proved a big hit all round for our son, who darted about the playground in the adjoining field while we sat in the pub garden. Above the pub, via a separate entrance, the three guestrooms share a living room with TV, board games and kitchen area stocked with cereals, juice and milk so we could feed him first thing, before breakfast was served downstairs.
“The decor in the living room and bedrooms is pared back and subtly stylish, with natural carpet, white walls, canvas prints of local landscapes and cream brick tiles in the bathrooms. A spare child’s bed had been made up, although the huge double bed was easily big enough for the three of us.”
Caroline Shearing of the Telegraph says staying at Batty Langley’s hotel is akin to residing in “an exquisite private home, albeit one with deeply cosseting service”
“All 29 rooms are individually styled, dotted with antiques and injected with an inventive sense of humour: a loo hidden behind a wall of bookcases, plumbing that cuts a mad dash across the ceiling and a shower that surely takes its inspiration from a car wash. Most bathrooms feature free-standing tubs and some include a separate shower.
“The decadent air extends to breakfast in bed on an oversized tray loaded with options ranging from fresh pastries, thick fruit smoothies and smoked salmon bagels. A room service menu of light dishes, ranging from risotto to soup of the day, is also on offer.”