Newcomer Award Catey winner the Staith House on North Shields Fish Quay impresses the Telegraph’s Alastair Gilmour both for its upcycling and fresh-faced menu.
“I’m impressed by the redeployment of vintage brick and timber. The bar counter has clearly been marinated in fathomless North Sea fishing trips while brass portholes, a ship’s bell, and a miscellany of maritime artefacts have been salvaged from a local vessel called Marigold which give the pub a nautical air that’s thankfully not too overstated,” he says.
“A fresh-faced menu that alters daily (and often by the hour) depending on availability offers “meat from the farm and fish from the sea” – better than the other way round. I consider Isle of Lewis mussels, game stew and 35-day aged rump of beef, then order grilled fillet of Shields mackerel, samphire and gooseberries with hunks of home-made bread and home-made butter (made with home-made salt). I’m taken aback at the sheer quality. My accompanying sauvignon blanc from Touraine in the Loire – perfect for moments of loafing like this – is ripe green fruit in a glass.”
David Baddiel writing in the Sunday Times doesn’t want to share the sharing plates at Ninth in London Fitzrovia.
“It is, I have to say, going well. But then it goes through the roof with the arrival of the sea bass. Fish — cooked fish, that is — is my benchmark of grown-up food. If a waiter can present me with a non-raw portion of something that once swam, and I don’t think, after one bite, “Should’ve had the meat,” I’m in a good restaurant. What is so brilliant about the way that the sea bass is cooked — apart from how the salt from the crust doesn’t just lie on the top of the flesh, like it normally does, but seems to have penetrated all through the fish, so the sea taste lives in every bite — is that it seems to be almost not cooked. It’s so tender and melting it’s virtually sushi, yet warm and cooked through, not seared. It’s like a magic trick.
“I’m expecting a wobble soon, but none comes, except from my stomach. Broccoli with a crumb-covered soft egg confirms that Tanaka is a genius with vegetables. OK, a ratatouille doesn’t quite have the effect on me that the ratatouille made by the rat in Ratatouille has on Anton Ego (I continue my search for that sublime moment). But then, for dessert, I have an île flottante that makes me feel as if I am floating on an island not of custard and meringue but of sweet (but not too sweet) bliss.”
“Uncompromising and self-confident and, above all else, clever,” says Jay Rayner reviewing Indian street food and craft restaurant concept Bundobust in Manchester for the Observer.
“There are cylinders of crisp, lacy dosas, the colour of ageing ivory, wrapped around a filling of a spiced potato and onion fry with, on the side, a deep, soothing lentil soup to dip them into, and a little pot of fresh coconut chutney. The bhel puri is an addictive mixture of puffed rice and deep-fried samosa pastry, spun through with the sticky kick of a tomato and tamarind chutney; bundo chaat is another mess, this time of chickpeas and potatoes, more fried samosa pastry, turmeric noodles and more tamarind chutney. Both are served cold, and are the perfect accompaniment to a beer like the Cloudwater, with its caramel tones and layers of its own soothing spice.
“Their golden tarka dal, served over pillows of basmati rice, is punchy with onions and garlic, and fistfuls of roasted cumin. For those who feel a night out like this is not complete without something shoved inside a brioche bun, there’s the bhaji butty. It’s a classic thick and crisp onion bhaji layered with their own spiced ketchup and a coriander and green chilli chutney, which makes you blink and sigh.”
If you’re looking for somewhere lively and busy Israeli restaurant Bala Baya in London’s Southwark is the place, believes the Telegraph’s Michael Deacon.
“The food, as so often these days, comes from a sharing menu, with each dish brought out as soon as it’s ready. First, a creamy hummus topped with braised oxtail, served with a pitta bread as thick as a hot-water bottle. Then came stuffed peppers with citrus yogurt, cherries and smoked freekeh. (Freekeh is a type of grain popular in Middle Eastern recipes, rather than, as you might assume from its name, a long-lost Prince demo.) The peppers tasted tart and sour. Imagine biting into a sulky teenage jellyfish.
“I liked the ‘Crispy, Sticky, Crunchy’, as the menu called it: fried chicken, bitter orange, butternut squash, kimchi and harissa (a chilli paste). It was everything it promised to be, not to mention addictive. Essentially, posh KFC.
“Put anything that sounds disgusting on a menu and I will, in the noble pursuit of copy, try it. It was for this reason that I ordered ‘Offal & Pearls’ – the principal ingredient of which was listed as ‘calf’s brain’. ‘Calf’s brain!’ beamed the waitress. ‘You’re going to be more clever after this!’ Clever enough not to order calf’s brain again, I hope. It was a pallid, squidgy mush, tasting of lukewarm frogspawn.”
The Evening Standard’s Fay Maschler recommends trying the food but focussing on the wine at Enoteca Turi on London’s Pimlico Road.
“Baked artichokes with spelt wheat, Pecorino sauce, parsley reduction and grated marinated egg yolk (Lazio, apparently) are spindly branches needing more thump from the Pecorino sauce and more texture contrast between vegetable stalks and wheat berries. Marinated rabbit, seemingly bludgeoned into submission by the process, comes with “organic English ricotta” — I wonder if the Italians have their own version of Stilton? — red chicory and a blob of black garlic purée.
“In the main course oxtail has been unwisely prised from its bones and is zapped by an over-reduced and thus over-salted sauce. But the pasta course we choose to share — cheese and black pepper (cacio e pepe) tortelli with parsnip purée and diced, seared cuttlefish — is masterful, delicately balanced, delectable.
“Another treat is setteveli (seven veils), a layered confection of chocolate and hazelnut heaven served with olive oil ice cream. Apparently it is a tribute to the winning dessert in a 1997 World Pastry Championship held in France. And then there are the wines. A dish of pasta, an indulgence of dessert, a glass or three of wine; that would be my approach to Enoteca Turi.”
Marina O’Loughlin of the Guardian is not a fan of the Wildebeest in Stoke Holy Cross, Norfolk, despite the plaudits it has received elsewhere.
“The Wildebeest comes garlanded in plaudits, including from the Observer. Voted for by regular people, though: whatevs. Owners G&D Ventures also run Warwick Street Social in Norwich and The Ingham Swan up near the coast, and make a big noise about providing local food for locals. The menu: well. It’s an age since I’ve come across anything quite so verbose, a garrulous antithesis to the terse contemporary menu model. A starter features scallop-sized discs of chicken mousse with a claque of cheering accompaniments. Both the mousse and grimly overcooked “garlic butter-poached langoustine” are rubbery. Mushrooms are compost-slimy. “Langoustine blancmange” – oh, please – is an indistinguishable blurt of something creamy that might have once snogged a crustacean. Truly fine deboned “crispy barbecue chicken wing”, though: the kitchen’s a whiz with the deep-fryer.
“These are the kinds of dishes that happen in provincial catering colleges and stuffy Michelin frotteurs, larded with the ambitions of TV cookery shows: the overplayed number of ingredients and techniques crowding each plate, the tortured “Nailed it, chef!” culture of Great British Menu. Or ludicrous MasterChef.
“Normally, I’d go with the flow: I know that this excess, with its gels, soils, foams, is often conflated with haute cuisine. But the execution just isn’t good enough.”
A health scare for Giles Coren of the Times means that he may soon be off the junk food but there is just enough time to enjoy the tacos at Breddos in London’s Clerkenwell, and enjoy them he does.
“There is only one thing that will do at a time like this … Tacos!” Because after my emergency appointment with my GP (which is next week), I may never be allowed to eat junk food again.
“I went down to Breddos in Clerkenwell, whose tacos I knew to be formidable, from when the founders – Nud Dudhia and Chris Whitney – plied their wares at the legendary streetfood market, Dinerama, near Old Street.
“Now they have their own shop and while it is not the kind of penumbrous, moody old dive that a great taco place ought to feel like (I prefer the cavernous, teeming brick arches of El Pastór to the somewhat wipe-clean American fast-food look of Breddos), the tacos – their soft, compellingly plain shells made from flour ground on site – were as epic as ever.
“Oh my God, the crunchy nut sweetbreads with pea mole and habanero, like a three-Michelin starter zapped by an angry Gandalf and fired from an Uzi. The kung pao pork belly with sichuan pepper and bird’s eye chilli – nobody else could have thought of that, nobody! Or the fat, orange, organic egg, coddled (or maybe fried) then eased onto your tortilla with macadamia nut mole and queso fresco and surprisingly right with a grapefruit-flavoured pale ale.”
Writing for the Belfast Telegraph, Joris Minne visits the Bullitt Hotel’s Taylor & Clay restaurant – a simple and straightforward choice, the ideal venue for a long lazy Saturday get-together.
“I could go on about the various mains but the tomahawk pork chop with firepit vegetables will stay in my mind for a long time. A big blackened chop from a sizeable animal cooked over that wood fired asador was as good as I’ve had in Florence and paired to barbecued baby gems and roasted roots and peas proved heavenly, remarkably light and unfatty and bursting with fine porky flavours.
I tasted others’ offerings including the wagyu beef burger (crumbling, dark and very good), flat iron with béarnaise (sensationally well cooked, sliced and presented as if styled by Trish Deseine herself), grilled hake (pearly and slippery) and cornfed chicken, again moist and salty and perfect with those crispy fries.
Beyond the sinister façade of Dakota Deluxe Glasgow, Tom Chesshyre of the Times enjoys the hotel’s sophisticated interiors and seriously good food.
“The 83 rooms, spread over five floors, are reached along a warren of dark corridors, with stripy carpets and low ceilings. Interiors are sleek, with slatted blinds, chaises longues and a grey colour scheme; the dimly lit masculine style of the public areas continues in the bedrooms. Expect monsoon showers, espresso machines, blackout blinds.
“The restaurant, which is in the candlelit basement, features classic dishes such as French onion soup, seared scallops, braised beef in chianti, and steaks. My sashimi starter with a wasabi sauce and slices of ginger was beautifully presented on a bed of ice. To follow, my shellfood platter of scallops, oysters, clams, langoustine, razor clams and cockles — served with butter, garlic and lemon — was a blowout of the first order.”
The Northgate in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, is the fourth property from the Chestnut Group and Fiona Duncan of the Sunday Telegraph is impressed.
“With its spacious, moody and amatory cocktail bar (with a team of six barmen), arrestingly decorated dining room, elegant chef’s table in the kitchen and nine glamorous bedrooms, The Northgate is hard to categorise, which is exactly Philip Turner’s intention. He wants to avoid the standard classifications of pub, hotel, restaurant or guesthouse, but be “simply eponymous with a great experience”.
“Even if, for me, it’s all a bit instant and metropolitan, there’s no doubt that the experience is, if not great, damn good. The young sneaker-wearing staff, overseen by general manager Garth Wray, are enthusiastic and professional; the food, from highly experienced chef Daniel Grigg, is a cut above; and the rates are fair. My pearly room, Duncombe, was large and luxurious, with steps down to an attractive bathroom with blue-grey tiles on the walls, a rainforest shower and deep bathtub.”
Despite its roadside location, the Guardian’s Liz Boulter is bowled over by the comfort and top-notch food at the 16th century Corner House restaurant with rooms in Canterbury, Kent.
“The house-made ketchup is the clincher. Two diminutive jars in tomato and mushroom varieties by the side of a classy full English breakfast: slow-roasted tomatoes, tasty bacon and sausage and the best black pudding outside Lancashire. The orangey-red tomato ketchup adds fruity depth with none of the usual sugariness, while the mushroom one brings a pungent earthiness.
“The bedrooms, two on the first floor and a suite in the attic, are as wonky and low-beamed as you’d expect of 470-year-old spaces, made cosy and restful with paint from you-know-who in chalky greys and greens, chunky oak furniture and curtains that resemble plaid blankets (in a good way). There are pops of colour from red cushions, and stylish accessories including a floor-standing Anglepoise lamp.”