Home in Leeds is “a little star”, writes Marina O’Loughlin in the Sunday Times
“Our five-course menu — seven, if you count amuses and petit fours — brings a celebration of autumn on every plate. The ochres and russets and umbers of piccalilli and pumpkin and wild mushrooms, used like brushstrokes on a canvas of deliciousness. Take smoked eel, glazed with a rarebit of blow-torched Lincolnshire poacher cheese, two blasts of intense savouriness jostling for supremacy, each winning. It comes with a tiny hummock of crisp roots bound in a Marie Rose sauce like Tinkerbell’s Russian salad, for lightness. Or Yorkshire mallard, the gamey duck breast daringly rare but silkily tender; underneath a swoop of “marmalade”, on top, salt-baked albino carrots, puddles of orange carrot purée and an almost sausage roll of other ducky bits. It’s a play on that old duck à l’orange cliché, given an exhilarating cattle prod of modernity.
“Make no mistake: this is ambitious cooking. From the crumbed cube of suckling pig on puréed piccalilli that sets the scene, with its petals of pickled onion cradling mustard seed and curried apple, to a pumpkin bavarois that is a flourish of Halloween showmanship: cinder toffee, clotted cream ice cream, weeny cubes of candied pumpkin — it’s not short of technique or chutzpah. But there’s a lack of attitude, a dearth of swagger. Dare I say that might be the influence of a female partner, the chef Elizabeth Cottam? But, just as crucially, Cottam’s co-owner, Mark Owens, has a background in some of Yorkshire’s most brilliantly unpretentious foodie stalwarts: the Star at Harome; the Box Tree in Ilkley.”
A few niggles overshadow the great cooking and good service at Fishers in the City in Edinburgh, says Jay Rayner in the Observer
“We order a hot shellfish plater for one and it is a monumental thing, as it should be for £50. Two people could get major satisfaction out of one person’s portion. There is half a small lobster and a sizeable crab claw, a couple of fat scallops still clinging to the shell, and a brace of langoustine. There are clams, and all of it glazed in a garlicky, parsley-coloured butter emulsion that will repeat on you for days. A salad of sweet, nutty new potatoes and rocket makes you feel like you’re getting your greens. So yes, there are good things here at Fishers in the City.
“But… there’s the discovery that all the good things in the seafood platter are supported by an enormous pile of mussels, the cheapest item in the seafood restaurant’s fridge. There’s the starter of salt and pepper squid which is simply too salty, as are the chips. It takes a quite terrifying amount of salt to make chips completely resistible. The kitchen here manages it. Over salting feels like a nervous tick that no one is managing.
“For Edinburgh, honour is saved later that evening by a quick supper at the Fat Pony, the new place from redoubtable restaurateur David Ramsden. We grab a few small plates: there’s smokey spiced lamb shawarma on warm fluffy flat bread, blissfully silky little pork gyoza, and an impeccable charcuterie board with pickles and chutneys and, for company, a quite lovely bottle of flinty Godello. Service is slick, prices are reasonable and absolutely nothing goes wrong. Is all that too much to hope for?”
The Times’s Giles Coren eventually gets round to reviewing Serge et le Phoque in London’s Newman Street but wasn’t paying a great deal of attention.
“Serge et le Phoque. A restaurant in a smart new hotel called the Mandrake in Soho that the great Fay Maschler liked a lot, to which I trotted off with my mother because if Fay liked it I reckoned my mum would. And she did.
“Charming French waiters and chefs, bit of a sparse room with uncovered Formica tables, but delicious foie gras with slices of multicoloured giant radishes and toast for my mother (who has no weak stomach for its mode of production) and a wonderfully erudite and utterly French warm salad of skate with potatoes, capers and mustard vinaigrette for me.
“There were some crispy squid that were a bit on the bendy side… indeed but then excellent fish tempura and chips for my mum and for me a roasted quail with a dandelion salad, and on the side a zippy bowl of sweetcorn with XO sauce – the original S et le P launched in Hong Kong, weirdly, and Asian punctuation marks bespaff the Franco-Italian menu at irregular moments.
“Friends tell me this place hums at night with terrific cocktails, ‘stellar people-watching’ and ‘all sorts of naughtiness’. That’s as maybe. I just went for a quick lunch with my mother to talk about important stuff and didn’t pay much attention beyond what you’ve read here.
Some dishes at Jöro, Sheffield are merely extremely good, while others are downright extraordinary, says Felicity Cloake in the Guardian
“I am not one to complain, but lunch in a shipping container on the Sheffield bypass isn’t exactly how I imagined this gig. Even the taxi driver hasn’t heard of Jöro and, after trying to deposit us at the Jurys Inn hotel, has to be guided in with the help of my phone, a fact that feels ever so slightly ominous, given they’ve been open 10 months.
“We come resolved to be moderate, but Jöro is, of course, all about the fashionably ‘small plates’, a phrase that immediately makes me feel famished. Hearing the panic in our voices, the waiter suggests the eight-course tasting menu might be more cost-effective if we’re really as hungry as we claim.
“It’s a wise choice. Not only does he recommend a glass of superbly peachy white rioja made by a Spanish sushi chef and that I’d never have picked in a million years, but he proceeds to fill the table with food: superb sourdough (proper decent slabs of it), a beautiful yellow smear of cultured butter (not nearly enough of it), cubes of homemade black pudding, obscenely crisp breaded short rib, and a mysteriously translucent seeded cracker that turns out to be made from potato starch and studded with tiny gems of blackcurrant, fig leaf and goat’s curd. This blend of clever and confidently competent cooking sets the tone for the entire meal, and the service; our waiter seems to know as much about every dish as if he’d cooked it himself. (Maybe he has: it’s a dinky operation.)
“Some dishes are merely extremely good – quietly harmonious flavour pairings such as chargrilled mackerel with tangy kohlrabi pickled in whey left over from a batch of homemade ricotta – others are downright extraordinary. Our two stand-outs are both vegetable-based: for me, onions roasted so slowly they’re deeply, almost outrageously sweet, fetched back from the brink by a treacly, slightly medicinal syrup, crumbled Yorkshire blue and shards of crisp chicken skin. My friend falls hard for her celeriac “steak” (spoiler: it’s not), a dense slab topped with a bronzed squiggle of Lincolnshire Poacher and black autumn truffle that looks unnervingly like every eight-year-old’s favourite brown emoji, but tastes a lot better, even to this truffle sceptic.”
The Evening Standard’s Fay Maschler finds authenticity handled with a keen collector’s eye for gastronomic advances at Rambla in London’s Soho
“Spinach croquetas are perfect spheres with a crisp shell; escalivada made with smoky grilled tomatoes, onions, aubergines and red peppers, arranged in strips of colour and dressed with warm garlic vinaigrette are another safe haven for vegetarians and a delight for anyone.
“The Chinese cooking technique called velveting often used for shrimp or chicken means the main ingredient dusted in cornflour, lightly fried then basted with sauce until it acquires a velvety sheen. Hake with an anchovy and Cava cream is prepared this way and served with morel mushrooms. For £7. Sea bass a la plancha with a Jerusalem artichoke soubise accompanied by port-poached salsify — another stunner — is £9. Mussels and clams opened in white wine with Serrano ham and spider crab butter (such a clever idea) are £7.
“Meat dishes include braised oxtail canelones with Nevat goat’s cheese in a chafing dish big enough for two to share at £5 and black pudding sliders with tart green apple slaw — exactly what is needed in the circumstances — in toasted brioche, presented as three for £5.
“These prices seem like soft opening or soft in the head but are apparently here to stay.”
The Coal Shed’s London sibling has expanded the menu to appeal to a more varied crowd, belies the Telegraph’s Keith Miller
“Despite CS’s [Coal Shed’s] kinship with the Salt Room, which does specialise in fish, it’s chiefly on the flesh of landlubbing creatures that it’s set out its stall. (There’s a slightly old-fashioned ‘dude food’ tendency at work, come to that: burnt ends with mash, iceberg with bacon, onion rings etc). Most of the cuts of steak are sold by weight, and it can be hard to find a manageable size if you’re not sharing. (Other dishes to share include a couple of whole roast fish, tempting Moroccan-style smoked goat and a Sunday lunch special of mountains of sirloin, served with ‘all the trimmings’ including Yorkshire puds the size of boxing gloves).
“My friends had gone with fish, so I was faced with a choice between manically over-ordering and confining myself to the few cuts available in smaller, pre-ordained quantities. In the end I had a standard-issue 250g fillet, the steak of Procrustes as it were, grilled against the grain in one longish cylinder so the outside had attained the chewy consistency of those cherry shoelaces served in the sweetshops of yore, while the meat inside was mulberry pink and butter-soft.
“Chips rustled, a béarnaise sauce was whipped up to a delirious lightness, a simple side of ‘butterhead’ lettuce, or lettuce as we used to call it, supplied a series of what the Italians call scarpette (‘slippers’) for scooping up the coppery juices. Just what the doctor ordered, assuming she’s not a cardiologist. So why didn’t it set my heart aflame?
“Over puddings and cheese (all good), we pondered the question. The restaurant offers great steak and grills, gutsy seafood, a few more recherché options. I suspect that if you went with a group – even a group of hardened carnivores – once you’d seen the beguiling alternatives to steak on the menu, you wouldn’t all want to share. So why feature steak so prominently – and why serve it in such an inflexible way?”
The Evening Standard’s Grace Dent is hooked on the Bahraini cuisine at Villa Mamas in London’s Chelsea
“After one bowl of kaskhe bademjoon I was already probably Villa Mamas biggest fan. This ‘eggplant explosion’, as it’s subtly subtitled on the Villa Mamas menu, is soft aubergine layered with sweet heavenly caramelised onion, chopped walnut with a milky whey sauce. Yes it’s £7.95 for a relatively teensy portion but this is aubergine at its very highest self. I very, very much regret not ordering the tahcheen, which began tormenting me from other tables the moment we opted for the machbous deyay, a fragrant, hearty chicken pilaf. Yes, this pilaf was indeed great. Soft and warm and in places sweet.
“But the tahcheen looked wondrous, somewhat shepherd’s pie-like in appearance: a cake of fragrant saffron rice with chicken, pine nuts and barberries. You are not allowed to eat another diner’s dinner. I know this now. But I will go back. The lamb sabzi, which again for £20.50 was the sort of portion one might absent-mindedly eat while waiting for dinner, was a pleasant enough herby stew of basil, mint, coriander and Persian watercress armed with kidney beans.
“The puddings tasted disappointingly pre-made and felt rather loveless. We tried three in a search for greatness: a fridge-cold rose water rice pudding; some saffron ice cream with ‘candyfloss’ that my guest remarked resembled back-of-the-sofa fluff; and Elba, a Bahraini crème caramel so stonkingly perfumed it will knock those with a flimsy British palate onto one’s arse. It was hit and miss at Villa Mamas but I’ll be back as I’m already hooked on the high notes.”
Tom Chesshyre of the Times says the Pentonbridge Inn in Penton, Cumbria, is “a fine addition” to the local culinary scene with “well-designed and stylish” rooms
“The interior of what was previously the Bridge Inn in Penton, a tiny hamlet 17 miles north of Carlisle, has been given a smart makeover with striking art, bright North African carpets on a new slate floor and comfy velvet sofas. Gerald and Margo Smith, owners of Netherby Hall, a grade II listed manor house in nearby Longtown brought in Jake and Cassie White to oversee their revamped nine-room inn. The Whites previously worked at Marcus Wareing’s two Michelin-starred restaurant at the Berkeley Hotel in London; Jake was the head chef and Cassie was the pastry chef.
“The Whites have introduced a first-rate seven-course tasting menu (from £50). This changes with the seasons, with much of the produce coming from the big kitchen garden at Netherby that the couple helped to plant. My seven-course extravaganza began with roasted langoustines with celeriac and broccoli, followed by Jerusalem artichoke in pasta with cabbage and shallots, and Orkney scallops, and monkfish with a spicy sauce (my favourite dish). Next was medium-rare beef fillet, a delicious pudding of G&T and grapefruit, and another that combined banana, maple and walnuts (Cassie’s pastry skills are top notch).
The décor at the newly launched Titanic hotel strikes the right balance between heritage and innovation, says Glenn Patterson of the Guardian
“The hotel is in one of Belfast’s true architectural gems, the former headquarters of Harland & Wolff, known locally as the Drawing Office. There are in fact two drawing offices here – at right angles to the beautiful sandstone facade. The first is now the Titanic Hotel’s largest function room; the second is the main bar. The hotel has augmented the already abundant natural light – skylights run the length of both rooms – with more glass along the entire front of the hotel.
“My room is a blend of art deco black-and-white and brass-cornered wooden furniture. I could have wandered into a state room on a White Star liner, and if that screams ‘theme!’, it is one that has been come by honestly. One of those old photos tells how the original building was constructed from the same materials that went into the Harland & Wolff ships. There are, it has to be said, touches too muches. The restaurant’s chandeliers are made of rope and black tyres, for example – but in the main the decor strikes the right balance between heritage and innovation.”