AA Gill scores the food a perfect five at the reopened Locanda Locatelli, nestled within the Hyatt Churchill hotel London W1, and finds that while the the menu has had a discreet makeover, “it’s similar in style and essence, it’s still expensive… and the cooking is as clever and on point as it always was”.
Writing in the Sunday Times, he says: “The antipasti were quail on a liver crostini with balsamic dressing, tuna and borlotti beans with onion and a calf’s-foot salad. The Blonde had green-bean salad, with a cloud of the last of the summer truffles. They are all softly and seductively welcoming.
“I had the tagliatelle with goat ragu, and just a touch of chilli: rich and passionate without being strident. The Blonde went for a ravioli of cod and chickpeas that was even better. For main course, I had simple fillets of john dory with potato, punctuated by pungent green olives, and she had calf’s liver with balsamic vinegar, charred pine kernels and raisins. None of this is revolutionary or intuitive; it’s just excellent ingredients, interpreted with care, respect and authentic flair.”
Nothing could be more Corbynist than a pizzeria that isn’t going to be around very long, says Giles Coren in the Times as he reviews Pizza Locadeli in Islington.
“I’m not going to waste time describing pizzas when I could be drawing shaky political parallels, but these are thin, crispy and technically perfect, retaining their rigidity under molten cheese right to the last slice. My kids plotzed for their prosciutto e funghi without the funghi (£11), which was attacked in the usual fashion: ham first, then the melted cheese sucked off piece by piece, then tomato sauce licked off, then a slice each of the base, eaten backwards from the crust in, the remaining slices used to replaster the walls.
“I had a calabrese (£11), featuring nduja (squishy hot sausage) and burrata, while Esther, who is not eating carbs because she thinks she is fat, had the “Tartufo” (£15) with taleggio and shaved black truffle, but with a gluten-free base made from (I think Plaxy said) lupin flour. Just now I went back to get a menu and quickly scoffed a perfect little salad of burrata and roast squash (£7), with a cheeky “Marinara” (£11) on the side that was positively trembling with pungent capers and anchovies.
“Look, it’s just a pizza joint. But it’s a gorgeous one. The building is sleek and pretty and so are the staff, the prices are fair and the cooking is spot-on. My guess is that Giorgio and Plaxy will do more of these, and if there’s one round your way when Corbyn wins the general election in 2020, will the last person out of the country please grab me a calabrese with extra sausage.”
The Guardian’s Marina O’Loughlin doesn’t really know what “new Baltic cuisine” is, but when it is good as what is served at Two Cats Kitchen in Birmingham, she doesn’t care.
What the hell is “New Baltic Cuisine” when it’s at home? If what we eat at chef Niki Astley’s (no, that’s Niki) intriguing Two Cats Kitchen is anything to go by, it would appear to be whatever he wants it to be, loosely influenced by a number of hot-ticket chefs, a bit of nouveau-Scandi posturing and the fact that his girlfriend comes from Latvia. It also seems to be a determined attempt to make himself stand out in Birmingham’s culinary scene. And guess what? It works. Like a dream.
After excellent, crunchy-crusted sourdough, almost honeyed with meadowsweet, and sunshine-yellow smoked butter comes auksta zupa, a Latvian beet soup usually made with fermented milk kefir, a kind of Baltic Yakult. Astley has substituted buttermilk, soothing balm to the shoutiness of dill; in the cold soup’s shocking pink depths are dice of egg white, on top a peppery nasturtium flower. Brilliantly lurid, it’s a properly bracing opener.
Better still is a chopped, raw tartare of beef “noisette”, a richly mineral rump cut. It clings to the edge of its plate, dotted with smoked duck, hazelnut, acerbic little jolts from pickled swede and fermented apple, crunch from croutons and hazelnut. It’s smoky with “coal oil” (a borrowing from Simon Rogan), and freshened by oyster leaves, that plant tasting spookily like its crustacean namesake. This teeters towards the sublime.
The Evening Standard’s David Sexton reviews Anna Hansen’s newly opened Modern Pantry in Finsbury Square, and finds the restaurant fussy, but a pleasure to be in.
“Turmeric and ajowan-marinated Cornish squid, lemongrass braised cherry tomatoes and lemon mash (£9.20) was delicate, citrussy and aromatic at once, with lots of tender, quite lightly spiced squid (ajowan is a thymeish-flavoured seed used in South Indian cooking): memorably good. Devilled quail, shaved kohlrabi, crispy vine leaves & capers, yuzu crème fraîche (£9.80) worked a treat as well, the meat cooked just enough without any dryness, the devilment scarcely perceptible at first but gradually releasing its heat afterwards, while the fine shaved kohlrabi, dressed with plenty of crème fraîche perked up with a touch of yuzu, the trendy Japanese citrus, provided a kind of ultra-refined coleslaw, extra tang and texture coming from the tiny capers and crunchy leaf. They were attractively served in different dishes, generously portioned too.”
You’d have to be a ‘hard-hearted, self-regarding, po-faced schmuck’ not to like the Talbot in Knightwick, Worcestershire, says Jay Rayner in the Observer this week.
“You would, I think, have to be a hard-hearted, self-regarding, tiresome, po-faced schmuck not to like it. Not because it’s a gastronomic palace. It really isn’t. The food is great, in a solid, trustworthy sort of way that speaks of a kitchen with an instinct to feed and the skill set to do it. You would have to like it because, in an age when gastropubs across the land are mostly fuelled by the dull beep of the Brake Bros truck reversing up to the back door, it’s bloody lovely to find a place that cooks everything from scratch because they can’t see the point of doing otherwise.
“The menu is long. Being a pub, a lot of things come with chips and salad, or salad and chips. You can have them in any order you like, really. Those chips are sizeable, without being lazy chunky ones, and properly fried; the salads are almost as well dressed as I am. A pea and rocket soup, finished with a spiral of cream, is a deep, nourishing thing that makes you feel you’re being thoroughly good to yourself without being puritanical. A slab of their pork, orange and cognac pâté is all earth and depth, and comes with their own lightly misshapen oatcakes. On the side is a zingy pot of chutney, which is mostly lightly pickled runner beans; in another week with another glut from out back I suspect it would be something else. Where their kitchen garden is concerned, I imagine you get what you’re given.”
The Telegraph’s Joseph Connolly reviews Sackville’s, just off Piccadilly – ‘a siren call to expense accounts’.
“Because he had never had it before, my guest wanted wagyu. This is not a dog owner’s command to his apparently disconsolate pooch, but a breed of Japanese cow that is lovingly massaged and fed upon lager and delicacies – quite possibly truffles – and generally lives a far better life than you ever will, matey. I thought the steaks were so expensive because they were served with shavings of truffle. Wrong – that comes in at an extra 30 quid. Well, blimey. But the wagyu rump (£38) did arrive with a couple of slivers. And how was it? Large, creamy – due to its extensive marbling – and rare, as requested. My guest’s eyes were closed, seemingly in ecstasy. “So tender. The knife just sinks in. Superb flavour. You don’t have to cut it – you could just suck it.” Mercifully, he didn’t.”
Grace Dent, also writing in the Evening Standard, reviews the Cinnamon Club, but says while there are many things to love, the food isn’t one of them.
“A smoked Herdwick lamb escalope and galouti kebab mille feuille was a mound of sparrow-nibble-size lumps of meat that could have been delicious if style hadn’t hijacked substance. A main course of roast cauliflower in a truffled achari sauce arrived in a watery puddle, vivid yellow but untroubled by truffle, the naan forming a lid over the dish, a bit like a chain pub’s version of a pie.
“A plate of Romney Marsh lamb arrived on a slightly congealed corn sauce with pickled root vegetables and cashew sauce. A bowl of home-style split yellow peas with cumin lacked any discernable oomph. The Cinnamon Club is much more fun to flounce into than Trishna in Marylebone. It’s easier to book than Gymkhana on Albemarle Street. It’s far less buttoned-up and bumptious than Chutney Mary on St James Street. But dinner in all these places leaves me enraptured. There are simply better places in London currying my favour.”
Waking up in one of its water-view rooms of the Salcombe Harbour hotel is like coming round in a postcard, says James Ashton of the Evening Standard.
“A balcony box of slippers, rugs, books, binoculars is provided. Should you ever need to come back inside, our room ticked the boxes of luxury and convenience. Decked out with calming splashes of blue, oatmeal and white, it featured a giant bed opposite a flat-screen TV, Nespresso machine, full minibar plus White Company goodies in the bathroom and an iPad loaded with the hotel app to answer most queries. Only the light settings were a bit fiddly and the wi-fi was having an off-day.
“Our hosts were not afraid to embrace a nautical theme, with maritime photography down the stairwells. Guests must share a love of all things blue and white, as well as a passion for seafood, or they are staying in the wrong place.”
Tony Naylor of the Guardian enjoys the opportunity to swerve Britain’s overpriced chain hotels and spend the money saved at local independent coffee shop by staying at Igloo Hybid in Nottingham.
“I was intrigued by Igloo Hybrid, a new “ho[s]tel”, which includes several private double rooms (some en suite), family rooms, pod-like “sleep boxes” for two (decorated by local graffiti artist Small Kid), and dorms with up to six beds. Private rooms start at £29, and, naturally, are basic. You have to bring your own toiletries and, unless you rent Igloo’s thin ones, your own towels.
“You are politely asked to strip your bed. But wherever you stay, you get a memory foam mattress and a guarantee, from personable owner Bettina Kristiansen, that there won’t be any stag dos rampaging around on Saturday night. Bring ear-plugs anyway, because the thin walls of this former office building do not block out the general noise from the adjacent rooms, never mind any late-night larking about. I liked my loosely beach-themed room, though.”
Despite enjoying the fun of the Stein experience, the Times’ Tom Chesshyre found St Petroc’s Hotel & Bistro to be “slightly tired” round the edges.
“St Petroc’s is an oasis of calm in the heart of Padstow. It has been in the Steins’ hands since the late 1980s, and is one of the cornerstones of their steadily expanding empire; more than 450 people now work for the company and on a busy day an extraordinary 2,500-plus meals might be served.
“The ten rooms are along creaking corridors in the 16th-century main building, and they come in four categories: cosy, comfy, generous and master. Expect exposed beams, sloping floors, oatmeal carpets and bright splashes of purple-pink colours from throw cushions. Bathrooms are smart, with magnolia-coloured tiles and Molton Brown toiletries.”