Monthly Round-up of National Critics’ Restaurant Reviews by Oliver Thring (December 2012)

‘I wanted spicy, crunchy, floppy, hot, sour, peppery, jammy – and it was supplied,’ says Fay Maschler at Naamyaa Café on St John Street. Salmon sashimi with Thai pesto ‘possessed some personality’, while minced beef and chilli was ‘fiercely spiced’. [link]

She also visited a freezing Coya, Arjun Waney’s new Peruvian place on Piccadilly. Sea bream ceviche with chilli, corn, coriander and a ‘punchy’ tiraditos of yellowtail were both ‘thoughtfully assembled’, while quinoa with coriander, mint and pomegranate was ‘a sparky manifestation of this blameless pseudocereal’. [link]

AA Gill went to Honest Burgers. ‘As with all ­burgers, the first bite is the best: it is all front-­loaded, it doesn’t hold anything back, there is no mystery in a burger or in ­honesty, and that was that.’ [link]

Matthew Norman loathed the ‘sepulchral and egregiously named’ Downtown Mayfair, off Savile Row. Tuna tartare was ‘spectacularly tasteless’ and veal ravioli alla Piemontese ‘an offputtingly strange creation’. Worse, ‘I suffered a shock when the bill arrived’. [link]

But he loved L’Enclume in Cumbria: the ‘lack of stuffiness is admirable’. Oyster pebbles were ‘staggering’ and venison with baby fennel, crystallised fennel gin, mustard mayonnaise and charcoal oil was ‘a minor miracle’. ‘The clearest expression of culinary genius I’ve experienced since The Fat Duck.’ [link]

Zoe Williams was impressed by Luke’s Dining Room, the Cookham Dean restaurant where 19-year-old Luke Thomas runs the kitchen. ‘Very original’ smoked salmon came cured in beetroot, and chocolate mousse was an ‘accomplished performance’. [link]

She also went to Le Caprice: ‘I wasn’t bowled over’ by a smoked rabbit salad, and ‘wasn’t wild about’ a shrimp burger, either. ‘I loved the atmosphere so much that I want to pretend I liked the food more than I did.’ [link]

Following dodgy starters, ‘the mains were gorgeous,’ says Zoe at the South Place Hotel in the City. Cod with butter and basil emulsion was ‘perfectly fresh’, and skate came with butter browned to ‘incomprehensible deliciousness’. ‘It’s even good value, if you avoid the mixed grill.’ [link]

The decor of Bodo’s Schloss on Kensington High Street is a bit ‘Alpine Party Props,’ says John Walsh, and ‘there’s not a lot to say’ about the food. Chicken schnitzel came in a cold frying pan with ‘freezing lumps of potato salad’. ‘Give the food a miss.’ [link]

Tracey Macleod visited The Pompadour, the Galvin brothers’ new restaurant in the Caledonian hotel, Edinburgh. It’s an ‘exquisite meringue of a room’. Though the food is ‘very good indeed’, this was a ‘slightly underwhelming experience … Suitable only for special occasions.’ [link]

Lisa Markwell recognised the ‘artistry’ of Sushi des Artistes and its ‘genuinely imaginative flavour combinations’, which included foie gras with a Jidori hen-egg omelette. But the bill is ‘hefty’ and ‘I cannot ever imagine coming back here.’ [link]

‘A pretty decent mainstream joint’ is Andy Lynes’ verdict on Flavour by Scott Levi. It claims to serve ‘Tuscan Italian and French cuisine with slight hints of the Caribbean’. A ‘decent chunk of monkfish’ came with an ‘aggressively seasoned’ tomato coulis. [link]

‘A jolly good place to go and eat,’ says Jay Rayner at Stovell’s in Chobham, Surrey. Deconstructed beef wellington was ‘a smart idea’, while desserts ‘do the thing’. [link]

‘The stock at Tonkotsu is … a deep, rich, intensely life-affirming thing,’ he adds. ‘It is what greed is for.’ And though ‘it is rather expensive, at least you know your £11 will buy you something very good indeed’. [link]

‘With the exception of a pair of outstanding puds, everything we order is a bit, well, close but no cigar,’ says Marina O’Loughlin at The Rose Garden in Manchester. ‘Burgundy-fleshed pigeon’ came with ‘a heavy dod of mulchy black pudding’, but she loved date and Guinness pudding. ‘It’s a like, but it ain’t love.’ [link]

Nor was she keen on Sushi des Artistes. The food is ‘absurd’ and ‘prices cause me to lose all feeling in my fingertips’. [link]

‘As fried chicken joints go, it’s finger lickin’ good,’ coins Guy Dimond at Wishbone in Brixton. The prices of side dishes ‘raised our eyebrows’ but ‘this is no high-street chicken joint’. [link]

A newly teetotal Giles Coren visited Yipin China in N1. He enjoyed spiced snails, boiled beef which had ‘a terrific heft and gaminess’ and what the menu called ‘fish-fragrant pork slivers’. ‘A great place for the macho competitor to show he can at least still take his food like one.’ [link]

He also went to Colbert. Snails were ‘unbelievably good’, bayonne ham came with ‘the best celeriac rémoulade ever’ and prune tarte was ‘excellent’. [link]

And click here for Nick Lander’s best restaurants of 2012. These include: the Almadraba Park Hotel in Roses, Spain; Quo Vadis; The Sportsman at Seasalter and Catalina in Rose Bay, Sydney. [link]

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