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Jo allen

The Telegraph’s Kathryn Flett awards five stars to London’s Jo Allen having found that it has retained its fun despite losing its original site.

Rather like America itself in 2017 – making its journey from 1965’s Mad Men to today’s madmen, if you will – the new Joe Allen looks entirely familiar while also being utterly different – a feeling made more poignant by my lunch date with Joe falling the day after the Las Vegas shootings. But I’m happy to help you out, US pals: this week, I’ll be judging you entirely on your off-menu burgers and pecan pie.

Happily, as soon as I set foot inside I could tell that it’s all still there. All that’s good and fun about J A remains deep in the DNA of the place; among the playbills and monochrome pap-snaps of the stars at play, in the warmth and chattiness of the welcome (“So, what do you think? Same but different, right? Good!”), in the (fully-loaded, cheese and bacon, medium-cooked ) burger and the comfortingly roof-of-the-mouth-clagging pecan pie, accessorised with a lovely Hells lager, all the way from Camden Town.

We shared a starter of crispy squid and then my guest followed it with lobster bisque (“Delicious!”) and the duck salad (“Yes, very good”), and the cheesecake (“Light, but still too much for me”) and in between courses we people-watched a cast as satisfyingly sparkly and diverse as you could expect on a Tuesday lunchtime – and the bill was a treat, too.

Perversely, in this case the fact that there is nothing much to “review” is the very best sort of review. Not only has my love of a fine burger remained true and constant since the late 1960s, it turns out that the 2017 version of Joe Allen is in fact the perfect place in which to escape 2017.


Tapas restaurant Untitled in London’s Dalston is inventive and affordable, according to the Evening Standard’s Fay Maschler.

Rob Roy, apparently from South Africa rather than the anticipated Scottish Highlands, has worked with Albert Adria at Hoja Santa — where he headed the kitchen — and also Tickets + 41 Degrees in Barcelona. Tapas, aka small plates, are his form but the function here is Japanese. In the evening a list of 11 dishes all priced separately comes with the enticing invitation to “eat the whole menu for £52.50 (recommended for two people)”. To be clear, that is a lot of interesting evolved food at £52.50 for two.

Mussels on leek — the menu description — bob and beckon in yuzu beurre blanc, a very un-dairymaid froth of a sauce. Boneless chicken wings with sweet kimchi deliver trademark irresistibility with none of the fiddle. Cured duck with liquorice teriyaki sauce toys with the taste buds in a charming persuasive way but the two masterpiece assemblies are lamb brioche and aubergine with miso and hazelnuts.

A disc of gingery jelly decorated with tiny sage leaves tops the cylinder of soft bread that encloses supple slow-cooked lamb. A bite offers no resistance to instant total pleasure. The aubergine assembly, a lush, plush, woodsy version of nasu dengaku, is described — concisely — by my pal as having the umami turned up to 11. Here is where The Highland Rogue (Rob Roy) has taken on the Japanese and conquered them.


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Marina O’Loughlin revisits Le Colombier in Chelsea, a restaurant praised by her predecessor AA Gill, for her first review in the Sunday Times.

I once went to Le Colombier in Chelsea, inspired by Gill’s unusual hymn of praise. “I think I’ve found it,” he wrote, “that secret little restaurant.” It was “as close to ideal as you can get”, he said, all “hum and warmth, that fug like a friendly arm round your shoulder”, before exhorting us not to go and spoil it for him. So off I schlepped, only to be utterly bemused. I expected to have my socks knocked all the way back up the M1, my world rocked, my senses zapped into oblivion. Instead, posh middle-aged people in quite a lot of corduroy munched away on fatty rillettes, oysters, poncified lamb chops. Pfft, I sniffed: how old-school — not a creditable jambalaya in the house.

Now, 20 years later, I’m back to see if age has withered it further, or if my own withering has made me better inclined. This glossy former pub is still going strong, even if much of its clientele, well, aren’t quite. It’s a long time since I’ve been in a restaurant where my party seems the youngest by decades. There’s poignancy to the fact that it also appears to act as an unofficial canteen for the neighbouring Royal Marsden Hospital.

The food? It’s everything that the younger me singularly failed to understand. I don’t think the menu has changed much, other than a seasonal appearance of roast grouse, defiantly un-Frenchified, rôtie à l’Anglaise, perfectly comme il faut with its waffled game chips, bread sauce, red wine sauce and garlicky green beans. And it’s extremely fine, a mid-season bird just gamey enough before teetering over into rankness. Actually, I could continue purring “comme il faut” about the rest of our meal, like a terrible, cigar-breathed, cravated old bore: it’s almost a pastiche of a kind of utopian brasserie offering, the sort you hope to find in Paris and rarely do.

We have half a crab in its steel cradle, balanced on ice, with thick, wobbly, mustardy homemade mayonnaise; rosy-cored steak au poivre with proper frites and more green beans. We don’t even attempt to get newfangled: it wouldn’t be possible, even if we wanted to. This is not show-offy, complicated food, but it takes a lot of skill to get it this right.


The Times Giles Coren heads to Shoreditch in London to try out Adam Handling’s the Frog E1 and enjoys elaborate cooking despite the distraction of another diner tapping away at his laptop.

The review you are about to read of the Frog in Spitalfields is one of those restaurant reviews that only I can provide, for it begins in ignorance and confusion, then moves through prejudice and rage to a finale so deeply embarrassing, I will be some years getting over it.

What wasn’t normal was the guy at the table next to ours typing away on his laptop for the whole meal. The whole meal! Tap-tapping away like he was in the office, pausing briefly to fork food into his mouth and then cracking on with the emailing. I know this happens in Soho House-type club environments and office/hospitality crossover spaces, but NOT WHEN I AM TRYING TO HAVE MY DINNER!!!

Then I drank a barrel-aged Negroni with a proper big spherical hipster ice cube in and ate some sourdough bread with butter that had been whipped with chicken fat to sensational effect and then sprinkled with crispy chicken skin, and settled down a bit.

After that came two “snacks” I had ordered…that made me even happier: some smoked cod and crème fraîche in a little rolled pastry, and a cube of crispy beef incorporating American mustard with some very dill-scented pickle for that posh Mickey D’s flavour you simply cannot beat.

Then “Mac & cheese – the Frog way”, which I found spellbinding, being a proper stack of al dente macaroni right out of 1970s after-school tea, with at least three different cheeses in different stages of melt, puffed with air, high and tangy, and then two slices of roast lamb with crispy Jerusalem artichoke that was …

Sorry, I don’t know what it was because I was so distracted by the guy who was STILL ON HIS COMPUTER!!!! So I went back on Instagram Stories and filmed myself (with the perpetrator and his girlfriend both unwittingly in the background) shouting, “I mean, I’ve been sitting in front of a screen all day, too! I don’t want to look at these ****bags bringing their ****ing office to the ****ing restaurant! Stay at work and get a ****ing Nando’s, you ****heads!!!”

And then I finished the lamb and ordered some cheese doughnuts and the girlfriend of Laptop Guy got up and went to the loo. Then she came back. They talked quietly for a bit. Then Laptop Guy turned round to me and smiled and said, “Hello, I’m …”

Yup.

“… Adam Handling. We thought it was you, but we weren’t sure. My girlfriend just saw your Instagram feed.”

HIS GIRLFRIEND JUST SAW MY INSTAGRAM FEED.

“I’m sorry about the laptop,” he said as my very soul leaked out of my trousers and onto the floor.


WinemakersDept

The Guardian’s Felicity Cloake finds seriously assured cooking at Winemakers, Deptford, London.

The closer we get to Winemakers Deptford, the clearer it becomes that I’ve invited the wrong people to dinner. This south London high street, with its happy jumble of bike cafes, Vietnamese travel agents and serious boozers advertising rooms “by the night”, looks and feels as if it’s in the hipster stage of gentrification, and I don’t think my parents would mind me saying we ain’t no hipsters.

We are swiftly brought good bread and an unsolicited bowl of water for the terrier; even the noise seems to drop, though that might just be the softening effect of the first glass of wine. Not that it’s what you would call easy-drinking, exactly; the Winemakers partners with small producers who make “regional wines that reflect local flavours” – just as it does in its first location in Farringdon.

Our first round includes a startlingly tannic, nutty orange wine from Slovenia that the affable waiter and I agree puts us in mind of vermouth, as well as an unfashionably fuchsia hued Sicilian rosé that tastes of cherry drops. The staff are knowledgeable and chatty – a godsend on a list studded with so many obscure names – kindly bringing us a sample of a favourite inky grolleau, only for us to reject it in favour of a more classic, silky southern Rhône. (As I said, we’re cool with not being cool.)

I’m relieved to find no mention of “small plates” on the brief menu, although I would make the case for reclassifying the oozy, rich crab croquetas as bar snacks.

I can’t help coveting my mother’s poached Yorkshire partridge: juicy as you like, paired with a sweetly meaty, house-made cotechino sausage, for which I would happily travel south of the river, finished with fine slivers of sharp pickled fennel. This is seriously assured cooking.


Jay Rayner of the Observer says Paul Foster’s Salt in Stratford-upon-Avon is “terrific”

Starters are various plays on raw and textured. Two pieces of mackerel are only lightly cured, and paired with the sweetest of skinless English cherry tomatoes, in a light vinaigrette, with puffed rice for crunch. A finely chopped tartare of venison fillet is dressed with what they call a BBQ mayonnaise. But that’s mayo from a very classy barbecue indeed. It is smoky and deep, the kind of thing you could spoon neat into your mouth. Texture comes not just from a dark toasted rye crumb but from cubes of salt baked swede and rings of lightly pickled onion. There is attention to detail here, an ability to build flavours in layers.

A piece of cod, seared to golden on top, is laid on a light, frothy, lawn-green parsley sauce blitzed through with oyster, so that one element of the dish appears to have leaked the essence of itself into the other. Alongside is a fresh tangle of greens and cabbage. It manages that trick of being both invigorating and indulgent. In a dish of roast rump of lamb with braised and glazed lamb neck, the killer detail is the dollops of creamy whipped smoked cod’s roe. It’s a logical extension of putting salted anchovies with lamb, the big whack of umami from the roe only punching the flavour of the meat. Some dishes are cooked to be admired. Others are to be eaten with vigour. This is both.